Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tuttle Wins!

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away ... there was this thing called the "five-and-dime." The five-and-dime, which later became the 5-10-25-cent-store due to this other thing called inflation (apparently invented by adults), and finally disappeared entirely, was every child's favorite store when I was growing up. This was about one million years before Chuck E. Cheese was a glimmer in Mr. Cheese's eye.

Oh, sure, they had china gravy boats and plastic flowers to occupy your Mom while you browsed the shelves, but the five-and-dime was cheap toy Nirvana for small boys of my generation--from marbles to cork-and-string pop guns to weighty sacks of rock sugar candy to monster fangs so you could scare your little sister, the five-and-dime had it all. They probably had dolls and junk like that for little sisters, but I don't remember.

Anyway, Korea has pretty much the same thing nowadays, and if 1,000 won sounds like a lot, it's probably about what a nickel was back in the day. There is a chain called "Daiso" which I am reliably informed translates to something like "It's All Here!" which is loaded with imported crap at low prices (no, the irony is not lost on me at all) including china panchan dishes and plastic flowers. In fact, there are several such franchises, loaded with cheap goods at cheap prices--and thereby hangs the tale of how I won.

Not just how I won, but what the competition was in the first place.

Setting the scene: I met up with Andy, Greg and Greg's pal Mark (from Oxford--not that that makes him smarter than anyone else, it's just where he's from) in Bongcheon for the lamb kebab thing. Well, that was wonderful, as usual, but our makkuli bar for afters was closed, as not usual. Possibly something to do with the Chuseok holiday and such.

Since the makkuli place is closed, we wander the streets aimlessly and eventually end up drinking "somaek"--maekchu (beer) mixed with soju (soju)--in a sidewalk cafe in Seouldae. No problem. I'm not sure how this got started, but Mark gave Greg a W1,000 note (about 85 cents) and challenged him to go to the five and dime across the street and find the coolest/strangest/neatest thing for that price.

I gather this is a game they've played before--and I wish I had thought of it. I have played something similar involving mixed drinks but I wish I hadn't thought of that. So Greg comes back a while later bearing a package with what turns out to be a set of 4 magnetic chip bag clips shaped like carrots. This is going to be hard to beat.

In Mark's turn, he brings back a pair of AA batteries. He might have gotten a charge out of it, but we thought it was lame. The store, meanwhile, looks like it's about to close, so Andy takes a wagered 1,000 won note and races in ... and returns bearing a huge pink comb with little golden flowers.

Well, the store looks like it's closing, and I'm ready to declare Greg the winner with his carrot bag clips (did I mention they are magnetic? Oh, and there's one for each of us?) BUT someone gives me a 1,000 won note and I duck into the store while the owner is winding in the awning and his wife is cashing out the till.

I won't give away my secret here, but I remember being a small boy so I knew where to find something cool/strange/neat. I emerged about three minutes after I went in carrying what turned out to be the winning item!

Forgive me for not providing a photo, but none of us thought to bring a real camera. For W1,000 I got a magic set with four tricks inside: hidden ball, cut and restore cigarette, interlocking metal shapes (which we never got unlocked), and some mentalist thing involving some 3 cm square cards with a lot of numbers. There were actually two other magic trick sets (each for only W1,000) but I only needed the one to win!


Foreigner Joy said...

I believe Daiso is a Japanese chain that has made its way here. I even saw it in America near San Francisco.

Great shop... there is one under Sadang station.

SuperDrew said...

You bastard! That was a great find, but I have to say that I am combing my hair right now, so my find might be most practical.

Anyway, as for the Daiso meaning "it's all here", you have to look at the Korean. It is 다이소, which sounds like Daiso, of course. However, it is the phonetic spelling of the phrase 다 있어, which means we have everything. 다 meaning "all" and 있어 meaning 'have'.