Bim Bim Bop
Fiction. Based on two True K-Town Dinners.
Written by Mingjie “MJ” Zhai
Intelligent and Artificial
Dean had been looking forward to this meeting after a long week of sitting in front of a computer screen, editing dozens of articles for *Electronic Dance, the go to source for all electronic dance music in North America. When he’s not typing away, he’s playing End Wars on a crystal screen, waiting for zero day to arrive. He has been in virtual world for so long that standing outdoor in the middle of K-town around the bright awnings of neon signs written in Korean hieroglyphics feels refreshing.
A call interrupts his thoughts and he picks up the phone.
“Hey,” a soft girl’s voice says on the other line.
“Hey,” Dean says.
“I got your text about getting a table for us. Did you get one?”
“Actually, I waited for you outside.”
“Oh…I’m sorry. I didn’t see you, and I got us a table.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you pass by. I’ll come right in.”
“If you walk in and look to your right you’ll see me standing up with my dog, Roxy.”
He comes over with two white ear buds hanging like a doctor’s stethoscope. He is wearing a brown sweater that was two sizes too big for him, comfortable jeans and white sneaks. He had spent his whole life here in K-town, so the bagginess of the 90s still lingers both in his walk and pants that hang. In the age skinny jeans and rompers for men, he is considered quite the rebel.. He reminds her of David, her Menses friend, who had patented a lightbulb, published a book, and gave her organisms on a friends with benefits contract that she had terminated a year ago. They gave each other a hug, then proceeded to sit and order.
“You’ve been here before?” she asks.
“Oh yeah, I live about a block away. I’ve already checked out the menu, and the food seems pretty decent.”
The glasses and beard that wrapped around his face complimented his predisposition for planning ahead and creating intentional outcomes from life.
The Korean waitress comes over ready to take their order.
“Are you ready?” she asks,
He looks at his menu, “hmm…”
“Please give us more time,” Angelie tells the waitress. When the waitress left, she continued
The silence made Angelie uncomfortable.
“I would recommend the bim bim bop. If you’re a meat eater, I would say go for the bulgogi–that’s the safe and standard bet, or I would go for the teriyaki chicken,” she said, “Do you eat kimchi?”
“Oh no, I can’t…It’s not something I can’t really…stomach,” he says.
“Oh, are you okay with being around people who eat kimchi?” she remembers how badly it would stink up the room when she used to eat Kimchi in her classroom and the kids would come back after lunch commenting on how the room stunk. “Oh yeah, it doesn’t bother me when others eat it in front of me,” he says. The whole conversation sounded a bit bizarre, as if she was asking if she could drink alcohol in front of an alcoholic.
The nervous and mindful energy between them reminds Angelie of her relationship with David, and for a split moment, she felt a tinge of sexual energy, that vibrated just slightly enough for Dean to pick up.
“So what have you been up to?” he asks.
“I’m currently piloting a journaling program for people who are underserved with the journal I’ve produced, but there’s this girl who reminds me so much of myself. We were going at it with each other. My job was to serve as her mirror, so just mimicking her behavior so she can see that we are really not much different than one another. Sure I’m Korean and she’ black and we’re about 15 years apart, but I could tell she’s a soul sister. She’s talented, full of fiery energy, deeply wounded, and has been lashing out from those wounds,” she says.
“That’s pretty rad that you’re doing what you do,” he says.
“But, that’s not it though. Today, I lost by winning,” Angelie shifts her weight towards him.
“She challenged my authority being there by saying, ‘I’m bored. Entertain me,’ while I was giving a vulnerable share about myself. In game theory, copy cat survives, so all I did was copy her attitude and we started to play chicken with each other, each getting more and more obnoxious.”
“And you won out.”
“You beat me to the punch.”
“And therefore you’re the asshole?” he asked.
“Well, in business speak I’m both the asshole and the winner,” she said. “I’m pretty much a shark. But see, being a shark is being inauthentic to who I am.”
“Everyone is a shark whether or not they admit it; some are just more cut throat than others,” he says.
“But i’m really Nemo. And now that we’re in the Age of Aquarious, it is even more critcal than before to play a non-zero-sum game.”
“I’ll show you someday,” she says.
Playing the non-zero-sum game: http://ncase.me/trust/
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to go on and on. How has it been for you?”
He smiles. “It’s no problem, I had taken a week off from work just to decompress and not think about work.”
“Oh,” she looks disappointed. “I’m sorry that we’re talking about work. What do you enjoy doing?”
“I like playing golf. Especially at Wayfare, which is only a few blocks down from here. I love it because it gets me out of always thinking about my job.”
“What is it about work that you’re always thinking about?”
“Deadlines, newsworthy stories, how to protect my eardrums with all the music blasting straight into my brain.”
“Ah yes…the earplugs,” Angelie muses.
“If only I could remember to bring ‘em.”
She smiles and looks more relaxed which in turn relaxes Dean.
“I invited you out because I wanted to share what I’m thinking about doing. I’m fascinated about fusing journaling with journalism,” she says.
“Right now there’s just too many people accusing each other of being fake news. I feel as though media has become too apathetic to solving any real issues and it’s goal, whether intended or not, is creating more fear, blame, and divisiveness than it is promoting inclusion and tolerance.”
Dean tilted his head in pensiveness,
“I could see that…yeah. Media is informative and lot of what we do is focused on providing information for people. It could get heated when that information is misinterpreted or misleading.”
“I want to create a publisher that showcases vulnerability,” she said.
He sensed her nervousness in sharing and his masculine instinct is to console her.
The food started arriving. Kimchi, pickles, daikon radish, fish, his cold bimbimbop and her hot stone pot filled with boiling soon tofu. He was impressed by the contrast in the contrast of their respective dishes.
“I see what you mean about people putting on faces. A man can be be sad all day, but drive to a nice hill overlooking the city, smile for a second to take a selfie, post it on Instagram and then go back to being sad for the rest of the day,” he said.
“Yes,” Angelie’s eyes lit up, “You understand what I’m talking about.”
They began eating in half silences.
“So what else do you do besides EDM?”
“I play RPG first person games.”
“This one I’m currently playing is called End Wars. It’s about how AI takes over the world and feeds on biomass.”
“You mean like humans?”
“Because they have already machine learned humans and figured out a way to control us rather than us controlling them?”
“Well…yes, you can say that,” he says, “There’s a faction of AI that has gone rogue, like cancer cells..just replicating itself and another faction of AI who knows exactly when the humans will become extinct….the zero day. So this particular faction of AI creates humans using cybergenetics by piecing their DNAs together and harvesting them.”
“So the AI could continue feeding off of us to exist right?” Anglie asked.
“Yes, well…it’s a bit more complicated than that… but, in short, yes.”
Angelie slapped the table and buried her head in her hands.
“Humans are so retarded. Isn’t it obvious that we are creating our own extinction and catalyzing our permanent servitude?” she says. “I mean in our quest for immortality, we ironically create our own extinction.”
“Yes, Elon Musk had come to the Council and plead with world leaders on the dangers of continuing the development.”
“It’s no rocket science.”
“Common sense isn’t common.”
“I was just thinking the same.”
They both smiled.
Dean began to lighten up. It’s refreshing to hear about doom and gloom with a strange girl who talks about vulnerability, depression and doomsday.
“Have you seen AI with Steven Spielberg?” she asked him.
“No, I haven’t,” he said.
“It’s about an AI robot boy designed to love. A family adopts him because they couldn’t have a son. He is in bliss because he was designed to provide unconditional love. Only problem is that when this family did get pregnant and had their own children, they disowned him. He was relegated to being a used commodity, like today’s video cassette player, so he’s now herded with the other used AI bots. He befriends an AI sex bot played by Jude Law,” she said. “I don’t want to give away the ending, but let’s just say that it brought me to tears, because he is now gifted and cursed with immortality and this longing search for unrequited love.”
“This movie sounds familiar,” he said as he started to look it up on his phone. He scrolls through the screen of his iphone and finds it.
“Oh! It’s this movie! I’ve seen it long long time ago. But now that you brought it up, I’m going to watch it again,” he smiles.
“It’s interesting because I now on this quest to develop new way of journalism that fuses journaling, journalism and the personal journey…what I’d like to call writing from the psukhe voice; psukhe is Greek for ‘soul-mind,’ and is the root word for psychosis, which is something I am fascinated about since I’ve had more than three psychoses now,” she tells him.
“Oh?” he was intrigued.
“I want to know if I can write a few stories from the psukhe mind on your publication, perhaps as a column, or as a guest post,” she says. “I’d like to test my theory to see if it works.”
Dean runs a publication that has tens of millions of hits each year and hundreds of thousands of hits each day. She wanted to see if this perspective could work before she invests her money, time, and people into the concept.
Dean was wary of her. He knows that every date like this, there was always an ask. Always a catch and he was looking for her catch. Something was off about her. Perhaps it was because she played innocent when she’s really a sharp spider spinning webs. Women like her should have a Caution sign tattooed on her –perhaps those AR glasses that can filter and rate people would be convenient.
Perhaps it’s because he’s charmed by her that he’s also alarmed by her.
Towards the end of the dinner Angelie brought up his dating life. “With all the work hours you put in, do you have any time to date?”
“Yeah, I do actually.”
“That’s good,” Angelie begins to nod her head, a bit cautious. She realizes that she is now stepping into personal territory. She understands that everybody has differing levels of boundaries and her tendency has been pushing people’s boundaries and see what she could get away with.
“Well… I focus on one girl at a time, but for some reason, all the relationships have been short lived.”
She looks at him intensely. So intense that Dean feels the full awkwardness of her stare…awkward and special, because she is giving him the type of attention that a journalist would an artist. It was a look he was familiar who is used to being on the other end.
The check came back.
“Sorry, but you’re card is declined,” the Korean lady said to Angelie.
There was an awkwardness and Angelie knew that this was her way of playing the “poor me, rescue me, Cinderella story” in front of Dean.
In that moment, all her credibility was shot.
“Look, I’m just a social entrepreneur with great ideas, and a hustler that’s just bootstrapping,” she said.
He looks away, embarrassed at her embarrassment.
What she really wants to say to him is that she is bipolar and has a scattered way of thinking. She doesn’t take ADHD medication for fear of its addictiveness. She doesn’t trust any pharmaceuticals, especially those so called bipolar pills that has given her rashes, that has hospitalized her more than once, that has almost taken her life from Lithium poisoning.
She wants to tell him that she has anxiety, some PTSD that she is beginning to lean into…that she is ready to transform all those emotions into art…into Psukhe Interactive…into Love Story…and she wants to do the same for *Electronic Dance….shit the more the merrier.
She wanted to tell him that she was lonely, but that it’s okay being lonely, because she is among the majority of the people who are walking around acting like they’re having fun when they, like her, are also lonely. In this beautiful crowded Korean Soon Tofu restaurant, in the heart of K-Town, in Downtown, she is everybody and nobody among many.
She also knows that the man sitting across from her knew exactly what she was feeling, because he, like her, also goes through deep depression. That’s why there was electrical chemistry in their conversation. That’s why he was wary of her.
“Let me get that for you,” he offers. Angelie blushes. “I’m so embarrassed.” She scrambles for something inside her purse. She gives him a book.
“Here’s what I’ve been working on for the past two years,” she tells him.
“I hope someone in your life can use it,” she smiles.
He takes the book. “This is amazing,” he says. “My friend would go nuts with this.” The thought of giving it away makes him slightly cringe. He actually wants to keep it for himself.
“So how do I use this again?”
“The directions are on the first page,” she says.
The check comes back. He signs it.
“Hey, thank you. I’ll let you pay only if you’ll let me take you out the next time,” she said.
“Sure thing,” he smiles.
He walks her out and they give each other another half hug. It is one of those hugs that resonated with laser sharp sensitivity…sensitive to each other’s being…to each other’s stories…two storytellers…making stories…and yet this time…this time for Dean it was different. This time Angelie wanted Dean to tell their stories.
Years later Dean looked back to that moment fondly and remembered the shy, awkward girl whom he had to rescue for the bill. It made for good story after Angelie’s company went global. He was proud of her. The only regret he had was not taking her home that night.
*Electronic Dance is a fictionalized publication based on a true EDM publication that exists.
For the Hero’s Workshop
Journaling, Journalism, and the Personal Journey