For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt absolute comfort sitting in quiet contemplation, staring out the window of my dad’s car, chasing that unending summer sky. I’d sit there, in the back, losing myself to Ohio’s beautiful boredom; a meditative blur of corn fields.
We’d drift between lanes, soaking in the last drops of a waning afternoon sun, and almost float atop an asphalt mirage. Cupping a hand over my brow to block out the setting sun, I’d spot the back of his neck between the break in the headrest and driver’s seat. Folk music would play quietly on NPR, loud enough for him to hear it, but quiet enough to still hear him mutter curses to the cars beside us.
During those drives, I learned a lot about people. It became pretty clear that we’re all trying to get to this undefined nowhere, our siren song. Some rush it, some go it slow, others cut you off along the way, but we’re all without a map. Yet somehow, like baby turtles following the moon, we still know the way.
Speeding down I-70, undoubtedly coming home from one of his “secret missions”, he’d start in on the same old stories. Tales that re-lived his greatest adventures, but no matter how many times I heard them, they never faded. He’d jump back and forth, over continent and timeline: that time he spent all of his money on a trip across Europe, when he “only had a few puffs” off that Alaskan fisherman’s joint, or how he got held at gunpoint jumping box trains in suburban Ohio.
I think every father wants to be superman, in their own way, but there was nothing else he had to do. Just being there as a child, getting lost in his nostalgia, had been my greatest adventure. All I could really do was paint my future, waiting impatiently for adventure to seize me; like it did him. It’s all that really mattered. In my opinion, it’s still the only thing that does. We must unapologetically chase life, loving fearlessly along the way, like some character out of a Kerouac novel.
Watching the yellow dividing lines of the interstate rhythmically blur into one, I popped back to reality. We were weaving through the cramped streets of Busan, a bustling metropolis the size of Los Angeles. It’s a city tucked between Korea’s southern coast and the country’s rolling mountain side. The sun had been blotted out by a cloud of smog that day. All of it came from the north. It was my first official glimpse into how incredibly toxic the world’s desire for “stuff” actually was. We’re effectively aerating Nike shoes and Apple computers creating clouds of pollution.
I came to discover that Koreans have dubbed this biblical phenomena the yellow dust. I’ve been keeping my ears open for the seven trumpets too, but I doubt I’d hear it over the car horns.
Earlier that day, I’d noticed all the cars were covered in a blotchy yellow film. I thought nothing of it, I just thought it was pollen, like back home; I was wrong. It was the remanence of these rolling plumes of toxicity that’d drifted down, over North Korea, from the Chinese border. Our cab was covered in it too, but I was more concerned with its erratic driving.
Every-time the vehicle turned to dodge a moped, or a rear bumper, my shoulder slammed into the passenger door. Inertia is a bitch, particularly for a large human, even when you’re expecting it. Sitting shotgun was Min, the same guy that’d walked up to me at the train station. He told me through Papago, the translating app that wasn’t worth a damn, we were on our way to the office. I wasn’t paying attention, I’d lost myself in the canopy of concrete high rises, this jungle of buildings sewn together with telephone line.
It blew me away, this network of copper wire and glowing neon. All for what, a city wide web of tacky advertisements, but the haze of purple and yellow neon was a welcomed contrast to the sterilizing sameness of cityscape architecture. Despite the visual noise, all I could really think about was how I’d come back one day and tell my dad, on a long car ride, all the stories I’d managed to catch; the falling stars they are.