Sunday, January 25, 2004

purple rain

my wonderful friend rob was in town this weekend for a junket. he stayed with another friend last night, and we all met at this place in koreatown called orchid, a restaurant, bar, and karaoke joint at 6th and oxford. it seems to be relatively new, and it was definitely different. it had two floors, and the top floor was the karaoke, which we didn't check out. but they had private rooms available for parties and stuff, and the bartender told us that korean businessmen would come in, rent these places, and get pretty drunk and karaoke-crazy. oooo-kay, but downstairs the place was pretty much empty.

agent 00soul and i scored a free parking spot in the city lot at 6th and western, walked the block to the club. the outside wall curves around the corner, and all of the windows have been replaced by stainless steel, giving it a sort of elegant crackhouse appearance, i suppose. there was an awning, and a doorman, and a velvet rope (not in use). the agent was finishing his cigarette when rob came outside to greet us. the doorman swiped our driver's licenses through one of those little machines like they use at the palladium. 00soul observed that this was a record of us being there, should the police need to question anyone about a murder in the joint (hah hah). we all laughed nervously and went inside.

i had read about the place beforehand, but it was still pretty amazing. i can honestly say i've never seen anything like it. it was a long, low room, with the bar at the near end by the entrance. the vast dining area had an elevated island in the middle, surrounded by faux palm trees and white pillars carved or molded in this curvy way that was perhaps meant to be erotic but sort of reminded me of giant styrofoam peanuts. and the walls, three of the four at least, were waterfalls ... tall, broad panels of steel with water rushing down, separated by fat columns of light that slowly changed color. there were giant video screens above the bar and at the opposite end of the room from the bar. maybe other places. can't remember. on them they showed videos, complete with closed-captioning of the lyrics (appropriate, i suppose, for a karaoke joint), but NOT of the songs that were playing over the sound system. which proved disorienting. it was thankfully dim, but all that water made things feel a bit clammy. it would probably feel good in the summer, but in the winter ... ehh. it was kind of like being in a submarine.

the husband of rob's friend said that he had been to korea, as his wife's family was from there. and that orchid did evoke the sort of nightclubs he'd been to while there. hmmm. mebbe so, but it seems the local korean population ain't digging it. nor any population, really. maybe it's because it's just starting out, and word hasn't really built. somebody obviously put a lot of money into it; you'd think they'd promote it more. but the other problem may be that, despite how spectacular it is, it's also pretty cheesy. maybe a DJ scene could happen there; the lights and the water would make a cool background for a lotta spinners. i wonder if there is something like that going on there?

but as a casual hang, i dunno. the sound of the rushing water, the changing-color columns, the videos, the loud music, and the sheer emptiness of it all (we were one of about three parties inside the whole joint) was a nearly overwhelming combination of visual and aural stimulation. it made for a potentially damaging sensory experience. fortunately, there was alcohol (nice strong T&Ts, yay) and rob, with whom i got to have a good long talk.

waiters in black pants and red tops, with earpieces jauntily in place, roamed the room hopefully. but the place remained empty, and we had no desire to check out the karaoke rooms. around midnight, as rob had an early plane to catch, we said goodnight.

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