This weekend I thought my brother Songbae was coming down for the whole weekend and I excitedly planned a BBQ to welcome him to our new house. He had after all given us the beautiful leather club sofa and chair that make our living room so comfy and welcoming. Plus he is always so busy that we rarely get to spend time with him – and his birthday was just a few weeks ago. So, it all added up to cleaning house, planning appetizers, and making a perfect birthday card – but in true crazy Lee fashion, Songbae emailed on Thursday and said that he had to fly back to San Fran early and that he would only be down for the fundraiser banquet in LA Friday night.
Initially I was pissed.
But then I got over it. It was a relief to back off the cleaning and cancel the BBQ. And in any case, it is a Lee family trademark trait to be flexible; we all excel at flying by the seat of our pants and enjoy the occasional opportunity to do so. AND Songbae totally made it up to me.
First of all, both Chad and Bella had backed out of the fundraiser dinner for Friday night, which left me with two dinner tix at the Omni Hotel for two friends – that little switch dramatically changed the nature of my Friday night. Since Chad was staying home, he could take care of the pup who wasn’t feeling well and the kid who needed to be dropped off at 5:45 am for her cross-country meet Saturday morning. I was no longer going to be a mom OR a wife, but simply my brother’s tag along sister for the evening with fun girlfriends in tow.
And I could accept my brother’s invitation to stay at the Omni Friday night, which meant I no longer had to worry about driving or bedtime curfews. So, when I left my house Friday afternoon, I packed for all eventualities and told Corrina to do the same. This meant having fancy clothes and casual clothes, glasses and contacts, bathing suit and laptop, rum and root beer, and cheese, crackers, and salsa. And Songbae’s birthday gifts and birthday card.
It all worked out extremely well.
The NAKASEC fundraiser dinner was excellent: braised short ribs, mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies. The company at our table was delightful and diverse. And the end of the presentations and entertainment coincided perfectly with the arrival of strawberry cheesecake and coffee. And as hard as I laughed when Corrina got pulled up on stage to beat on the Korean drums for the finale, there was much more laughter in store…
After the rousing performances with dinner, we all strolled around California Plaza in the mild LA weather, taking pictures with the MOCA sculptures, and just generally giggling and unwinding. We ended up on the outside terrace bar of the Omni, each having our own night caps. Finally Songbae stood up to stretch, and said that he’d better make his way over to the after party at the Korean Resource Center. Without realizing that Korean + party = alcohol + karaoke, Susan, Corrina, and I, all decided to tag along.
We were told it would be a $10 cab ride – a straight shot down Olympic to Crenshaw. We all piled into a cab and Songbae immediately befriended the driver, Jacob, who happened to be an Armenian engineer who had been driving a cab in LA for only one week. We soon discovered that as nice a guy as Jacob was, he didn’t know how to get on Olympic or which way to head towards Crenshaw. (!!) Songbae basically pushed half his body through the little cabbie window separating the back from the front seat and began punching buttons on the GPS according to Susan’s directions; I was in the back with the light on and a map; the cab crawled slowly along, and Corrina scouted for a likely person to ask for directions. Luckily, Jacob was a very nice guy and Songbae too generous to mind the ultimately outrageous $20 cab fare – and we got to the Korean Resource Center in one piece.
Boy, Koreans sure know how to sing and drink. The party was well under way – and so we tried to discreetly move along the edges of the main room foraging for shrimp chips and escargot and sake. No chance. We all danced some, sang a little, and laughed a lot. The highlight of the evening was watching Songbae and Corrina belt out Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.” I had never before noticed how many times that refrain was repeated at the end of that song. Whew. It was repeated many many times. Enough times for about half the room to put on their coats and say good-bye is all I’m saying.
We finally made it back to the hotel, thanks to sweet, sober, non-profit worker named Caroline; it was unfortunate though that the rearview mirror on the driver’s side of the SUV fell off while we were driving. That’s right. It just fell off. And hit the road.
After a slightly scary stop in the road with Songbae running against traffic to retrieve the mirror, it was determined that our own levels of drunkenness had nothing to do with the fallen mirror. Some other drunk person had clearly knocked off the mirror earlier in the evening and propped it back on the car. I hope Caroline didn’t get in trouble with her dad… It was his car.
Back at the hotel, it was time for birthday presents (Brooks Brothers!), fortifying snacks (stoned wheat thins, salsa, and jack cheese!), more drinks (spiced rum and root beer!) and generally lots of melting into soft pillows. By the time we were all thoroughly melted and beginning to dread our 7:15 am wake up calls, it was getting dangerously close to morning.
And because we wanted to maximize our time with Songbae, we had actually made breakfast plans for Saturday morning, before his 10 am board meeting. By 7:50 am, Corrina, Songbae, and I were up and strolling out of the Omni (it was a bright day!) and walking the three blocks to the Hilton where we met Jimmy by 8 am. We were pretty impressed with ourselves and with breakfast at the Checkers Restaurant. It was fantastic! I think it was the best fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had, hangover not withstanding.
Then, it was time to hug Songbae good-bye. After only a brief bit of lazing back in the hotel room, Corrina and I hit MOCA next. I don’t know where we found the energy, but I thoroughly enjoyed a second opportunity to cruise around the Gordon Matta-Clark show. By noon, Corrina and I were flagging. And feeling like we’d lived a lifetime together in the last twelve hours. But we hauled our butts back down to OC and felt very not guilty about napping away the rest of the weekend.
My brother may cancel a lot of plans, but when he sticks around he sure knows how to make friends and have a good time! Thanks for a great weekend, Songbae.
Check Corrina’s post about this very same evening for photographic proof.