I rarely drink. For someone who likes putting up batches of limoncello and umeshu, this may surprise some people but it’s true. It works out to an average of once or twice a month, and usually half a glass or less at a time. I’ve never been drunk enough to puke up (thank goodness) and for about 5 seconds a year I wonder if I missed out on some formative university experiences before deciding, nah, not even. Plus, where people become rambunctious or weepy when imbibing I merely get sleepy. Sleepy drunks aren’t terribly interesting.
So for a long time I didn’t understand the appeal of drinking. But now that I am marginally older I am starting to get it: good sleep is underrated. So underrated. These last few weeks in the States, some of the nights I spent awash in waves of stress and anxiety, the sounds of the N-train rumbling past my window keeping me steeped in pseudo-sleep. I used to be a deep sleeper (still am, mostly) but there are more nights in recent memory where my brain has continued to fret and churn and I wake up just as exhausted as when I first began.
This is where the alcohol came in. On my brother-in-law’s and Y’s suggestion, to get some sleep on the plane I downed a glass of wine on the plane back to Japan the other day, and it knocked me out right after a bowl of bibimbap. But not before I scrawled a two-page journal entry, which I’ve transcribed below. I’ve omitted nothing and you can see the way I ramble on pages when I’m less than coherent – actually, who am I kidding? I am writing this right now in a haze of sleepiness, so incoherency is still the name of the game.
Enroute to Incheon@Asiana
Bibimbap for food w. tube of gochujang & a packet of sesame oil. Rehydrated soup (doenjang), anchovies, daikon radish pickle, a Kitkat. white wine gulped down. I can feel the blood rushing to my face.
Woke up incredibly groggy – I am desperate for sleep and my brain is wired with conversations I imagine having – hoo-whee the alcohol is hitting me at this altitude. My head is starting to spin a little Not drunk but feeling significantly more relaxed. It’s actually sort of miraculous how quickly it hits. I’m starting to understand – or maybe just in this instant, I get why people have a night cap. I get why people drink to help themselves sleep. There are more spaces between words when I am in this state. Also I have been lucky enough to have AN ENTIRE 3-SEAT ROW to myself! Hurray! One of those rare things in what looks like a relatively full flight. I am going to sleep soon. Wow – it’s like paradoxically, relaxation is gripping my brain I hope I don’t wake up with a hangover. This month feels like it disappeared; the next two months promise to be extremely busy… it’s a little overwhelming to think about. I’m pleasantly buzzed… jesus it really does help you relax. The wine tasted sour and crappy but a little amazing what alcohol can do… almost similar to the after effects of a very intense orgasm. That 11 hours of sleep was still the best I’ve had. more sex = better sleep? (maybe it’s vigorous exercise generally) This looseness is an interesting sensation – lack of coordination of limbs. Inebriation is dangerous.
The stewardess just asked me if I
lostwas okay while clearing my food tray. I clearly have that Asian glow and must look a little slack-jawed to her. I’ve just finished tearing through Ruth Reichl’s Comfort Me With Apples. There are a million things to do but I think number one on the list right now is to sleep
Sleep I did, dreamless and deep for about 5 hours and I wanted to not wake up for another 36. There’s something terribly luxurious about being horizontal on a plane and these days I don’t want to watch movies when flying – I just want to write and sleep, rinse and repeat. I’m not about to start drinking every time I lie awake internally screaming at the ceiling, but it’s good to know that in desperate times, a glass of wine does actually help.
Incidentally, Asiana Airlines is a Korean corporation and like so many Korean entities are pretty upfront about their Korean-ness. The contested island is of course ‘Dokdo’ on their interactive map. They even have separate categories for Korean Pop and Korean traditional music in the entertainment section, as opposed to the others like ‘Classics’ and ‘Western pop.’ None of this is necessarily bad, of course. I like Asiana Airlines and would fly with them again. Like most Asian airlines the service is way above average (compared to certain European ones I can think of) and so is the food. Squeezing gochujang out of a tube like toothpaste is rather delightful. And just the right amount of sesame oil! Also, without that traditional music section I would never have found the Bulsechul Ensemble. They’re rather experimental and unusual and though I like their music as is, this would probably sound even better with some psychedelic aids.