Sunday, October 28, 2007

Travelogue #4: I Got Seoul, But I'm Not a Soldier

October 28 2007


Population-wise, it's the third biggest city in the world, right behind Tokyo and New York City. If you include its greater metropolitan area, Seoul/Incheon teems with more than twenty-three million people walking the streets. Twenty-three million people. There's no way I can wrap myself around that number. To me, it only means one thing:
alot of fucking people.

Saturday night in Seoul. I join three of my fellow teachers for a bus into the city. It shakes and rattles through traffic-lit tunnels. David strikes up a conversation with two Canadian women dressed in Halloween garb and I pop myself into the fray. White people. White women. Not such a common sight in Bundang, at least in my very limited three days here.

One has witchly facepaint and somehow starts talking about her failed acting career, from her early 90's experience as prostitute in Wiseguy, the short-lived Kevin Spacey mob series, to her stint on All My Children. I don't remember if she told us she was an extra on that show, or if she played a prostitute as well. She seems kind of distraught. Maybe playing prostitutes can do that to you.

The other Canadian is dressed as Medusa. She's from Nova Scotia. Both are English teachers. Medusa is kind of cute, I won't lie. I can safely and confidently say that this is the very first time I'm talking with a Nova Scotian woman dressed as Medusa on a bus bound for Seoul.

We get to the city proper and stumble upon some street food. Looks like traditional sausages, but they taste like something wholly new. Delicious, flavorful. I tell my mom this story, and she tells me maybe I was eating dog. Very funny, mom. But if she's right, then I love myself some dog.

Outside it's cool but not cold. Koreans walk through very narrow streets, illuminate signs climbing three and four stories above, cars honking and weaving through the foot traffic, motorcycles threatening to clip you if you slip up. So. many. people. Women here often walk arm in arm, and it's not because one is drunk or both are lesbians, it's because that's what women do here. Even men sometimes, arm over shoulder, just because. It's a night out. It's Seoul. It's Korea. To paraphrase Montell Jordan, this is how they do it. Sha na na- na- na- na.

So we go to Water Cock. Seriously. (Author's Note 9/1/08: I was wrong. The place was called Jazz Rock. Water Cock was a different establishment right above it. My bad, but hey, I was new!) It's an intimate hipster lounge/bar nestled into an alley.

There, amid the blast of Rolling Stones , Yo La Tengo and Tom Waits posters on the walls, I talk to a short-skirted Korean girl who recently traveled through Europe. Her favorite spot? "Amsterdam!" she says with a tee-hee giggle. I ask if she's ever visited the US. She hasn't, but she wants to go to..."Las Vegas!" Another tee-hee.

This girl smoothly flirts with the Americans across the table. "Can I write on your hand?" she asks one. "Can you teach me how to tie a tie?" she asks another. Good thing she didn't ask me. My ex-girlfriend's 10 year-old brother taught me how to tie a tie just last year, and I don't know if I remember quite how it's done. But forget that. I sip my Hite beer and listen to the plinking keys of a song I don't know. This is the Water Cock. (Author's Note: Um, no, it's actually Jazz Rock.)

Later we wander out into the night. At this point, there's six or seven of us. We're supposed to meet the Canadians but circumstances beyond our control make that impossible. Those circumstances include us rounding the same streets two or three times, like video game characters. Haven't we seen this food vendor stand before? Haven't I already seen those posters advertising the Click Five coming to Seoul?


Every restaurant is crowded and few can seat us. One rooftop spot looks cool but we can't get up there. We settle on a green-lit diner that serves us fried chicken and fries. A little reprieve from the Korean traditionals.

Among our group tonight is a girl from New Zealand who speaks English, Korean, French, and Spanish. She has a very distinct accent and I ask her if she likes Flight of the Concords; she chuckles and say yes, it's funny, that her friend Jason introduced her to the show. She also has a lip ring. She wants to be an interpreter. Seems like there's interesting personalities everywhere I turn here; I hope that pattern continues.

The clock inches past 4, past 5. The night is winding down. Into the cab. A little taste of Seoul, but I'm sure I'll return and get a better perspective. The Han River to our right. Back to the apartment at 6am. Hazy twilight through the windows.

Good night.


Travelogue #3: Chum, Chum, Chum!

October 28 2007

Last night at an apartment party, a Korean woman who works at Seoul Language Institute taught me how to play a traditional game called "chum chum chum." As is true with anything involving adults and balloons, alcohol was involved.

To play chum chum chum, one person points his finger one direction, then deeper in the same direction, and finally, towards the same or opposite direction. During this pointing, the other player nods her head towards the outstretched finger, until the third time where she must guess which direction to point her head. Both players chant chum, chum, chum with each point and nod.

In the end, the nodder must nod in the opposite direction to where the finger points; if she doesn't, she's the loser.

The winner gets the privilege of smacking the loser across the head with a balloon.

I smacked a balloon across the head of a Korean colleague at SLI. She closed her eyes tight upon impact, but I was gentle.

Chum. Chum. Chum!


Travelogue #2: First Day Blurs...I'm in Korea!

October 26 2007

Seoul Language Institute- Bundang. I'm here. Now. At work. I'm on a computer with a keyboard inscribed with little Korean characters beneath the keys; if I press the wrong one, I'm suddenly typing in Korean.

This is my new reality.

I just taught my first class, a pack of eleven-year olds, some quiet, some misbehaving. For an icebreaker, I let them quiz me on my background, my favorite sports, my family. I then quizzed them right back; one girl in a goth-inspired t-shirt has a favorite movie and it's called, "I don't know..." The kid in the back adopted the name "Mikey" for use in the classroom, but he wanted me to call him "Ja-Kora." I didn't know if he was playing me or not, so my solution was to slur both names together into a Mikey Ja-Kora hybrid and hope he wouldn't notice.

I definitely felt like a new teacher, but when I said "Quiet! One at a time!" the kids did follow my heed, though they slipped up a few seconds later. They're testing me, but they're doing so gently. If I was in the Teach for America program, the kids would probably test me by tossing a graphing calculator at my head. So in short, I'm good. I'm ready for more, and I'll get it in my later classes.

This is only my second full day in Korea. My life so far has been a flash of samgyeopsal, kimchi, soju, karaoke, and red-faced drinkers.

Samgyeposal is pork belly meat; kimchi is pickled pepper. I enjoyed both. With chopsticks, no less. That's right; I learned how to tie my shoes at an embarrassingly late age, but now I'm kind-of-sort-of using chopsticks. I am a man. (Full disclosure: My chopsticks technique still needs work. A kindly older man at a resteraunt leaned over me and offered me a fork. I guess he thought I was struggling.)

*I forgot the name of the food above. Can somebody help me out? (Author's Note 9/1/08: The food is dak-galbi, and it is delicious.)

Last night I mumbled through Eminem "Lose Yourself" amid a backdrop video of a Korean dude preparing for a boxing match. As is traditional courtesy here, I haven't had to pay for a single meal, drink, or taxi so far; the tab has been generously picked up by my co-workers. Late at night, I wander illuminate streets and alleys I've never seen before, but will see regularly for the next year. Korean characters on every sign. I'm not in Germantown anymore, Dorothy.

* I know, I know. This sign is German, not Korean. But it just so happens our boss at the school decided to host a going-away party for the departing teachers at a German bar. So on one of my first nights in Korea, I'm eating sausages. and for some reason, chips and salsa. Because there's nothing more German or Korean than chips and salsa.

It's too soon to have developed perspective on what I've seen and what I'm seeing, but I'm sure I'll have time in the future to put things into sharper focus and write more concretely about my experiences. But again, this is only day two.

I'm a wide-eyed rookie. Just don't tell the kids in my classes.


Travelogue #1: The Flight with Richard Farnsworth

October 23 2007

I'm not very bright, am I?

Sitting in the Chicago airport...hear guys speaking Korean, I think, because I hear "yo" at the end of their sentences and I think I hear somebody say "annyong" which is the beginning of hello...I keep saying I think because I don't know shit about Korean.

I figure now would be a smart time to take out my Korean Phrasebook and see if I can discern any words I hear around me. I keep the Phrasebook in the laptop case...I think. Fuck, where is it? I scramble through the case, through my backpack. No way. No way did I just lose my learn-Korean book on a plane to Chicago. No way. I'm not even in San Francisco yet, much less Seoul. No way.

God. I lost it. I hear my mom's voice in my head: "Not surprised," this voice says lightly, "it wouldn't be you if you wouldn't lose anything." Then my dad, same words, different tone: "not surprised."

I need to stop losing things.

I don't know how to inflate my travel pillow. I huff and I puff but I put nothing but slobber on that plastic nozzle. I must be missing some simple step...I think about finding a pretty girl to help me out. "Excuse me, miss, can you please inflate my travel pillow?"

Have you heard a better opening line? Never.

I didn't go to sleep last night- trying to force myself into an easier transition to Seoul time, which is fourteen hours ahead of Memphis. I'm tired, but hopefully I'll get some sleep on the way to San Francisco, travel pillow or no.

October 24 2007 I-Don't-Know-What-Time

We're crossing the Bering Strait. Yeah. The Bering Strait. I know this because I'm watching the digital map unfold in the seatback in front of me. Four hours aboard, seven to go till arrival in Seoul.

An attractive Korean girl just so happened to claim the seat next to mine. Either she was irrepressibly turned on by my red-eyed traveler's charisma, or else her seat was assigned. Either/or. I guess she's a Korean-American rather than straight-up Korean because she's reading that new Stephen Colbert book. I drum up some small talk before the flight takes off, and I learn than she's visiting her grandmother in Seoul for a couple weeks. She graduated from University of Maryland- College Park in 2004. Now she's an engineer.

She makes faces when I tell her I'm on my way to teach English for a year in Bundang, faces that say you're-kind-of-crazy-dude rather than you're-kind-of-crazy-and-cool-dude.

Our pilot's name is Richard Farnsworth. Seriously. Doesn't it sound like, with a name like Richard Farnsworth, the dude was born for to sole purpose of being a pilot. I tell this to the girl, but she smiles a just-being-polite smile. I consider asking for her name, but she puts on her headphones. Whatever. She didn't think the Farnsworth thing was funny? Well, fine then. I'll entertain myself by watching Robin Williams pretend that he's a priest.

I think it's starting to hit me, that is, the whole distance thing. I nap, I wake, I watch Knocked Up, I nap, I wake, I sit. Steady suction of air in the cabin, that sound, that hum, with every beat I become farther and farther away from home.

I'm looking for a song to speak to how I feel now, but I can't quite find one. Every one I've first heard far away from here, from this seat, from this flight. Another world. Coming, going.

October 24

About to land.

God, am I really doing this? For a year? Me?


Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm Moving to Korea for a Year (And So is This Blog) !

a prelude:

Eight years ago, my sister almost poisoned me with cough syrup. She called it an accident.

My parents and I had come to visit her in Seville, where she was spending a semester abroad as a college junior. In the course of the trip I developed a nasty cough, and my middle-school-grade Spanish made reading a medicine label a struggle.

"I know what I'm doing," my sister told me, pouring three tablespoons of thick red liquid into a plastic cup. I mumbled that three tablespoons looked like too much, but Anna wouldn't have it. She knew Spanish better than I did. "I'm twenty-one, Alex," she explained.

She wouldn't turn turn twenty-one until the next month, but that wasn't the point. The point was that she wanted to take a nap, and that our conversation was over.

So I sipped and slurped the red stuff down. All three tablespoons of it. Hours later, my cough was gone.

Thank you, Anna? Not quite, for my body then fell into a deeper-than-sleep sleep. We're talking mornings blurring into afternoons blurring into evenings blurring into mornings again. We're talking hibernation. For only a few seconds did I manage to lift my eyelids. "You could have killed him," my dad said in the next room. Anna claimed she was sorry, but then she laughed. Not funny, my mom said, but my sister couldn't stop laughing.

Apparently there's a big difference between three teaspoons and three tablespoons.

I soon awoke from my near-overdose and forgave my sister. My parents and I had a few days left in Spain, and we spent them touring museums, walking cobblestone streets, and watching pick-up soccer games. But when I remember that trip today, I don't think about the Dali painting with the melted clocks; I think about teaspoons and tablespoons and cough syrup and almost dying.

What can I say? Even as I get older, I'm prone to my share of not-so-adventurous travel mishaps. Last winter I tried to "float" on the Dead Sea. It was January and it was cold, but I sucked it up. I lay my back against the flat water, only to see my sandal fly off my foot and my hand smack red against the rocky sand below me.


I haven't been the best traveler, but I'm willing to grow. I'm ready to grow.

And that's one of the reasons why I'm moving to Korea for a year.

This Tuesday I leave. The flight runs from Memphis-to-Chicago-to-San-Francisco-to-Seoul. I'll teach English to pre-teens and teenagers in a government school in Bundang, South Korea. This will be the first time I'm outside the United States for more than ten days. I'll be gone a year.

A year.

I'll be Buzz Aldrin to my friend David's Neil Armstrong. He's taught in Korea since June, and he's recruited me to join him. When I first learned of the opportunity, I didn't have a full-time job. I didn't have a grad school plan. I didn't have much.

The idea of Korea seemed so random, so out-of-nowhere. Korea? Me in Korea? The guy who doesn't know a single word of the language? The guy whose sister almost killed him with cough syrup?


Me in Korea!

Why not? Those are the words that echo in my ears. Why not? I like teaching. I like kids. I want to see more of the world. I want to learn more and live more. I want to grow as a person, as teacher, and as a writer.

I want to be surprised.

Why not?

For those of you who've read "Writing the Ship" in the past, I thank you. When I graduated college, I was scared by the idea of writing new material with no deadlines and no audience. This blog gave me a forum in which to create something new during a time where, really, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I'm not saying that I know the next five years of my future, but I do at least know the next one. Well, I know that's in Korea, if not much else.

"Writing the Ship to Korea" will be a learn-as-I-go process. I don't yet know how frequently I'll update, though I will try to keep pace with the twice-a-week routine I maintained in the US. The blog will shift in tone; most likely, it'll become messier, less structured, and more stream-of-conscience. In other words, I expect to write more "travel diary" style entries than columns/essays/stories. Truth is, I don't know. Yet.

Please do keep checking the site. My ambition is to keep an honest travelogue here that'll take you along for adventures both thrilling and benign. So join me.

Thanks, or as the Koreans say ...


I have no idea how to pronounce that.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Corporations Kill People. Michael Clayton Kills Me.

a rant:

Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton is an incredibly simplistic movie that's being rewarded with inexplicably awesome reviews.
, the barometer of modern film criticism, lists 123 positive notices and only 13 negative ones for Clayton. Geoff Berkshire of the Chicago Tribune calls the flick, "an engrossing intellectual thriller with a shrewd grasp of crowd-pleasing storytelling ... the kind of Hollywood movie we could use a lot more of." More?

No thanks.

Michael Clayton stars George Clooney as the title character, but who are we kidding? The movie stars George Clooney as George Clooney. He wears snappy suits and skinny black ties and he might as well be on his way to a Vanity Fair photo shoot, albeit with gray hair. As Michael Clayton, Clooney furrows his brow as a sneaky behind-the-scenes lawyer, the kind whose job description toes the line between just-business and murky morality. Clayton's mission is to crack the suddenly-bonkers Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), a formerly hotshot attorney who loses his head over a multibillion dollar class-action lawsuit and switches allegiances with damning consequences. But is Arthur really bonkers? Or has he learned something about the U/North corporation that makes him legitimately question everything?

The theme of Michael Clayton is pat: corporations are evil and corporations kill people. Period. Forget substance. Forget nuance. Forget suspense. Corporations are evil. That's all you need to know about Michael Clayton.

I can enjoy a movie with political undertones, but when those undertones are so transparent and one-dimensional, that's when I have problems. By the end of the picture, Tilda Swinton's Karen Crowder becomes Michael Clayton's adversary, and we still know nothing substantive about her character beyond a concern for money. That's it. Swinton is an actress of capable range, but she's not asked to do much in Michael Clayton, and that's a shame.

James Berardinelli argues that, "Michael Clayton builds to a fitting conclusion and doesn't need surprise twists or cheap theatrics to get to that point." That's one way to put it. But without twists and theatrics, Michael Clayton is boring, the highest crime in cinema. Gilroy takes the conspiracy-happy DNA of the Bourne movies (he scripted the enjoyable trilogy) and tries to implant it, sans jittery-camera action sequences, into Michael Clayton.

It doesn't work.

I wish I stayed home and watched Friday Night Lights.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

My (Your) Life as a TV Show- Live on Justin.Tv?

a column:

When I was a college student, I imagined my life as a tv series, complete with recurring characters, plot twists, and a soundtrack of hummable indie rock. Think the Truman Show, except without the sucking.

Freshman year was Season 1: nice-guy friends becoming vindictive bullies, romantic interests disappearing into nightclub shadows, and alcohol toasted to dreams realized and deferred. Brush that dirt off your shoulders, homie.

Season 2, sophomore year, new characters, new conflicts, new slang, when you notice the strife. Throughout college, motion pictures of memory would play before my eyes, flickering and flashing , sometimes intelligible, sometimes nonsensical, clumsy kiss feed the ducks stolen glance in the bookstore cold grass on the quad her eyes meet mine it's over and it aches. My college experience. Watch it on DVD.

Or don't. If my college life really was a television show, it would need a damn good editor, for nobody should be subjected to me reading Entertainment Weekly in my underwear. For every moment that I dramatically touched the hand of the girl of my dreams, there were fifty other moments when I ate a bagel-wrapped hot dog at Einstein's and studied for a class taught by a professor who looked like Luis Guzman. The Shins don't mix with eating bagel dogs. If my show was "live," we'd have problems, Houston.

Framing my life as a tv program is probably a consequence of my narcissistic, pop culture-infected mind. But I'm not alone. Recently, my friend Jordan introduced me to a lifecasting server called Justin.Tv. Wikipedia calls lifecasting " a continual broadcast of events in a person's life through digital media." In other words, the user puts up a webcam and lets it run for the whole world to see, capturing the user as she's sitting at her computer, doing her laundry, or dancing to "Crank That."

In July 2007, musician Jody Marie Gnat began "lifecasting" her, well, life for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Uncensored and unedited. Forget my allusions to The Truman Show or "motion pictures of memory". Jody Marie Gnat's lifecast has no need for plotlines or memories, for she's always streaming. She's always moving forward. She's always live, and anybody with a computer can watch her.

As I type this very sentence, a ponytailed guy named Roger struts through a studio and talks camera plans for a music video to be shot with Jody. This is all happening live! And that' s just a little bit scary.

If my friend Jordan is right, Justin.Tv will become the next mySpace, the internet's next big thing. On a superficial level, the website is undeniably cool, but what's at stake? Everybody's already got a blog, so will we soon have our own web tv shows? And do all of us really have something worth saying?

In the blogosophere, we can at least edit and polish our comments before we publish them. But if you're Jody Marie Gnat, everything you do is out there. Live. Immediately. Some of us fear that our government is Big Brother, but it looks like we're turning into Big Brother ourselves. Watching. Watching. We can't stop watching.

Here's hoping that some of our episodes stay in our brains rather than our computers.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The First Real Kiss

a personal essay:

New Year's Day 2000. All that talk of Y2K and nothing changes but the calendar. The traffic lights blink the way they always do and the clocks don't even skip a second. I wake to a weirdly warm morning, fog encroaching the streets. My headache is gone. Last night I downed two cans of O'Doul’s Non-Alcoholic Beer. Amid the tv glow of Dick Clark, I sipped and chugged, sipped and chugged, my sister cheering me on. By midnight I was in bed and I was wasted.

I'm fifteen years old, too short for my age, a high school freshman who really, really wants a girlfriend. This is my chance, this first night of the year, stars in the sky, the air cool but not cold. I squeak back and forth on this hammock, Molly Kentz beside me, our legs close to touching but not quite. Sometimes she ties her brown hair into a curly bun, but tonight it's straightened, shining, falling down her shoulders. We first kissed two weeks ago, round one in spin-the-remote, shy tongues turning wet and aggressive. She smiled afterwards. It was my birthday.

"Hey, Jenny," I say, breaking the silence, noticing my friend walking around the pool just in front of us, her eyes down, her body in shadows. She doesn't answer, disappearing back into the house. That's where they are now, about six of my friends, watching that stoner comedy Half-Baked. Out here, it's just Molly and me.

"Well, okay," I mutter.

She smiles.

I know what I want to say but the words are garbled in my throat. My lips quiver.

Finally: "Want to go see a movie on Friday?"

"Sure, sounds fun," she says with another smile.

And it happens. Tongues swapping mouths just because, no truth-or-dare, no spinning of remotes, just because. I look up at the black sky, the clustered stars, and then the second floor window. It’s them. They’re watching us; they’re not watching Half-Baked. You can’t make out their faces, but you know they’re laughing and going oh my God. Like celebrities in a cocoon, Molly and I kiss again. My friends are paparazzi, their cameras are pointed fingers and waving hands.

“Want to go inside?” I ask. “It’s getting cold.”

We slowly make our way around the pool and back into the house, our hands periodically crossing and caressing and separating once we walk into the ping-pong room. We find the paparazzi, cameras now in tow. Jenny is at the computer, the top left of the screen flashing with instant messages. The others are gathered around the ping-pong table. I try to suppress any lucky-me smiles. A blonde girl, Miranda, who denied me a date back in October, wants to talk. We sit at the top of the carpeted staircase, Molly giggling with two girls in another room.

“So, you like Molly?”

“Sure, yeah,” I say. “Yeah.”

“Are you guys going out now?”

“We are.” My eyes wander down the staircase. “I think.”

“Well alrighty then,” Miranda says, standing with a smirk. “That figures.”

I meet Molly at the ping-pong table. We sit atop it, my hand gracing the small of her back, down toward her jeans. She’s my girlfriend. Our legs are touching now, conversation swirls around us. I don’t know Molly too well; really, I don’t know her at all. But I’m fifteen years old, I got drunk off non-alcoholic beer last night, and I really like kissing her. My hand slips under the seat of her jeans. She’s my girlfriend.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Don't Forget to Give Me Back My Black T-Shirt!

a personal essay:

Four years ago, I went to a Ben Folds concert and bought a t-shirt that would change my life. Or so I thought.

Folds was a piano man extraordinaire, a smirk-rock icon for gently goofy guys like me and cute hipster girls in tortoise-shell glasses. This t-shirt would empower my half-hearted wardrobe and equip me with a readymade conversation starter for said girls:

That a Ben Folds shirt?
Sure is.
I love Ben Folds!
Let's make out!

And so it went- in my head, at least, for reality was crueler. Those Ben Folds-loving girls disappeared from my life the moment I left the show. My t-shirt got nobody talking. Nobody. I wore it on campus. I wore it at Little Five Points. I wore it at Lenox Mall. Either nobody cared for Ben Folds, or nobody cared for me wearing a Ben Folds t-shirt. In the words of a great philosopher, where was the love? Where was the love?

The love was at Costco.

"Cool shirt," said a girl with several earrings. She returned to her cell phone quickly. I looked down at my chest, for I'd forgotten I was sporting the shirt I was sporting. It had been two years since I bought it. Two years. The girl had gone, but I was in business. Costco. Go figure.

But then came another dry spell. No comments, no matter where I'd go. Not even a casual fist pump of conciliation. No "Ben Folds rocks and you and I know that!" Nothing. I accepted that Folds had a small cultish following, that I'd have better luck with Vote for Pedro apparel. But I didn't want the wandering eyes of Napoleon Dynamite fans. I wanted Ben Folds pussy.

The shirt grew old, faded, tattered, especially in the front. It had become part of my half-hearted wardrobe, rather than an exception to it. I stopped expecting anything....until comment #2. September 2007. "Ben Folds is awesome!" shouted the voice.

I turned around and saw not a hipster girl in tortoise-shell glasses, but a dude.

A dude.

"Thanks, man," I said, and that was that.

This exchange also happened at Costco.

Damn you, Costco.

In the end, my Ben Folds shirt was not the subtle-but-lethal opening line I'd hoped. But that's okay. I learned that there were better, more mature ways to approach girls, like, for example, talking to them.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Breaking Up With Facebook for a Week, Part 3

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

an experiment, concluded:

So I'm back- back on Facebook after a week away from its clutches. And I feel...older. Disconnected. Out of college.

I know that Facebook's not just for students anymore; in a recent cover story, Newsweek highlighted members of the website in their thirties. But still I associate the social network with higher education, and I think I always will, because the site did originate with that audience.

On one hand I like the idea that even as I become an adult I can keep tabs on acquaintances who've graduated and those who are still in school. But on the other hand, I don't know. It's one thing for me, a months-ago graduate, to skim profiles of college juniors but it's quite another if I'm skimming those same profiles when I'm ten years out of college. Will the future me really need to know that a friend-of-a-friend from his freshman dorm sent her son to kindergarten?

We're growing up, but will Facebook? Will it mature with its original users, catering to the elderly among us come 2067 with LARGE PRINT and jokes about fishing? Or will Facebook stay young and hip, leaving the classes of the 00s behind with their walkers and pills and get-off-my-lawn wrinkly fists?

Only Mark Zuckerberg knows.

As for me, I return to Facebook with a degree of caution. I'll try to remember the lessons of my week without it - particularly how important it is to keep attached to good friends outside its bubble. Wall notes and status updates can only tell so much.

I'm not quitting the site. I'm not. I might log-in with less frequency, but I still want to know what's cooking with the people in the center, and in the margins, of my life. Facebook's not the most intimate way to accomplish that, but it is the easiest. In 2007, it's hard to avoid the easiest anything.

I suspect you feel the same way. Unless your name is Michael.