Back to the future

I got the call today!

Yes, I will soon be back to where I started just over ten years ago.  My former organization called today with a job offer for a GS-13 Human Resources Specialist position–the job I took when I first journeyed to Korea.  I’ll be doing the type of work I did for most of my pre-retirement career and I’m pretty damned excited about it.  Not to mention I’ll actually be earning a living wage.

Of course, the downside is I’ll be working a full-time, 8-5 type gig again with all the stress and associated headaches that come with it.  Hopefully my work skills have not atrophied much during my four year hiatus from being a working man.  Whatever the case, I will *ahem* work through it.

For the record, I never thought I would be one of those guys who retire and then comes crawling back looking for a job. .  My plan was to spend 6 months in the USA and six months in Korea and live relatively happy ever after.  Plans change.  Turns out the wife wasn’t happy in the states and I wasn’t happy without her being there.  With my being back in Korea on a more or less permanent basis I may as well fill my days with gainful employment, right?

So as lucrative as this new old job will be (I’ll be making more than four times my current hourly wage) it is not quite as sweet as what I left behind when I retired.  Because I’m being hired “locally” from a position that doesn’t include a housing allowance I’m not eligible for one here.  Which means I won’t be moving into a big ass fancy apartment close to work like I used to enjoy.  I also won’t be getting my shit shipped over from the states.  Ah well, I have most of what I need and I’ve gotten acclimated to the commute from Giruem.  I will have to go out and purchase some appropriate work attire (slacks, shirts and ties, and maybe a suit or two).

I felt bad calling my current boss with the news.  He just got back from his sister’s funeral so it felt like piling on.  I certainly appreciated his getting me back to Korea when I really had no other viable options.  For what it’s worth, I did ask my new old organization to let me start mid-April so that I might give a reasonable notice of my departure and they agreed.

Yesterday I was finally granted access to the computer network which I should have known was a sign that I’d be departing soon.  Hopefully the transition to my new old job will go much smoother than what I’ve experienced these past few months.

Whatever.  I’m back in the game baby!

Losing it

I’m not the type of person who loses things.  I’ve never left my darts in a cab, my bag on the subway, or my wallet on the floor as have so many of my expat counterparts. Recently however I’ve apparently grown sloppy.

It started when I misplaced my office key.  Luckily, I had dropped it on the floor after locking the door and it was returned to me the following work day (after I had gone through the trouble and expense of getting a duplicate made).  Then a couple of weeks ago I left my credit card on the bar in Shenanigans.  Fortunately the bar owner found it and sent me a text message before I even knew it was gone.  And then yesterday I was feeling the need to listen to some music on the bus ride to work so I reached into my backpack for my iPod. Gone.  I figure I dropped while retrieving my darts from said backpack on Monday night. That means I lost it at either Shenanigans, Dillinger’s or Sin Bin (hey, I get around). Hopefully it will turn up as I had over 17,000 songs on that sucker.

I always figured my body would give out long before I lost my mind.  Now it appears to be a race to the finish.  Alas.

All in a days work

Well, today wasn’t supposed to be a work day but it turned into one regardless.  The big boss called a staff meeting for 8:15 this morning so of necessity my alarm caused me to arouse from my slumber at six (no easy feat after dart night!  Which went extraordinarily well; my 10-2 performance contributing to a 26-13 victory).  Since I was non-scheduled my attendance was likely not mandatory, but I figured showing the flag couldn’t hurt. Besides, I planned on making a commissary run today anyway, albeit not so damn early in the morning.  About halfway through the meeting the boss asked me when I had to catch my bus to K-16. I told him I wasn’t working.  That seemed to impress him and he told me to “take back the time from K-16″, which I take to mean cut one of my shifts down for the hour I spent in his meeting. Well, my clients expect me to be there during my posted working hours and I don’t want to let them down.  And even if I wanted to cut out early I’m a slave to the bus schedule and there is nothing to be had an hour earlier.  Ah well, it’s the thought that counts.

At the conclusion of the meeting I was awarded this blue ribbon.  Or should have been.

At the conclusion of the meeting I was awarded this blue ribbon. Or should have been.

So, I took the base bus to the commissary and then remembered that it doesn’t open until 10:00.  Well, it’s opens a 7:00 for “early bird” shoppers, but in those circumstances you are limited to 20 items or less.  My shopping list was much larger than that, so I sat around until a quarter to the hour and commenced selecting my groceries at a leisurely pace, and thus completed my rounds well after the appointed time for full-on shopping.

Regularly readers may recall that one of the few issues I have in my Korea life is with taxis.  This problem seems to also include the on-base taxi drivers. I noticed this yesterday when I took a cab from the PX into Itaewon.  Why take a cab when it’s an easy walk you ask?  Well, I was carrying 24 cans of Diet Coke in my back pack for one thing. And I’m having some pain issues with my left leg which makes no walk easy. Anyway, the fare is usually around W3000, but the driver yesterday appeared to be intentionally missing every light, yielding to other vehicles unnecessarily, and drove at an inordinately slow rate of speed.  By the time I arrived at my destination he had managed to work the fare up W4400.  The joke was on him though because I always pay W5000 for the ride, the difference between the meter and that amount constituting the tip.  My Korean is not good enough to say “you just fucked yourself buddy”, but that was my thought as I exited the cab.

Today when I entered the commissary before it’s proper opening time there were five cabs waiting for fares.  When I exited with my groceries there was not a cab in sight.  The guy behind me in the taxi queue called dispatch at least twice asking for cabs to be sent to the commissary.  Twenty minutes later still no rides.  When a cab finally did come, I let the guy who called take it.  Only seemed fair.  Ten more minutes and I was able to snag a cab dropping off a passenger.  The bastards at dispatch couldn’t be bothered I guess.  So after I finished loading my groceries in the trunk the driver asked “where to?”  I told him I’ll give you a choice, Ichon station (a W3000 ride) or Gireum station (a W20,000 fare).  He didn’t hesitate to say “Ichon please”.  So, Ichon it was.

After schlepping three large bags and a jam packed backpack down the stairs, the first train to come by was overflowing.  The next train was only two minutes away and I hoped there would be room for me and my groceries on that one.  Thankfully, that proved to be the case.  I scored the wheelchair area which afforded ample space to store my bags and a wall for me to lean against.  An ajussi encouraged me to sit with him in the seats reserved for the elderly and infirm.  Although I am both, I still didn’t feel right about it so I respectfully declined.

Admittedly, I went a little overboard with my purchases today.  Around $180. worth (a new record!) and I didn't have Jee Yeun with me to help share the burden.

Admittedly, I went a little overboard with my purchases today. Around $180. worth (a new record!) and I didn’t have Jee Yeun with me to help share the burden.

Holy crap, how am I going to get this shit home?  It turns out with great difficulty.

Holy crap, how am I going to get this shit home? It turns out with great difficulty.

I was on the wrong end of the train which necessitated traversing the entire length of Gireum station.  When I reached my exit I was distressed to see the escalator was out of service.  So I walked over to the other side and took a functioning escalator ride to the top. My arms were already screaming at this point, but I bravely marched on.  It’s an uphill walk to the apartment building and I had to stop for a rest about halfway home.  But by god, I got it done and now the larders are well-stocked with some old-fashioned American goodness.

I don't always eat frozen peas, but when I do I like them smothered in Sweet Baby Ray's!

I don’t always eat frozen peas, but when I do I like them smothered in Sweet Baby Ray’s!

Not really.  But I reckon there is someone out there who does.

 

 

You saw it here first

Unless you also follow me on Facebook.

Unnatural beauty...

Unnatural beauty…

The New Yorker has a feature asking why South Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the world.  The answer, if there really is one, seems to be a cultural thing that I can’t quite grasp.

I like the way Korean women look without modification. And true beauty is found in a woman’s unique naturalness. That’s my opinion at least. I also dislike all the boob jobs you see in the USA, so this is not just a Korean issue.  Frankly, when I spot fakery (including that whole double-eyelid thing) it’s a bit of a turn-off.  But then I’m not the demographic these gals are trying to attract.

Changing gears, last night I’m sitting at the bar and past, present, and future walk in.  It was tense.

Which reminded me of back when I was in school my English teacher looked my way and said “name two pronouns”. I said, “who, me?”

Alrighty then.  Thanks for coming and please don’t forget to tip your server.  Come back soon, I’ll be here all week.

A chance encounter

In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 5251 50 49 48 47 46  45 44 43 42 41 40 39 weeks I will delve deep into thesewerarchives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history.  I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found.  And mediocre is too hard to spell.)

Eight years ago I wrote about meeting a blog reader in a post called It’s a small world. What was weird about this encounter was being greeted by name by a complete stranger and finding out we had both worked for the Department of Education in D.C. at the same time, although we had of course never met there.  I don’t recall his name or what he was doing in Korea.  And I’ve never heard from him again.  He said he had been reading the blog from “day one” but he’s never commented, including on the post where I wrote about meeting him.

Over the years I’ve had several such encounters, the most recent being a week ago.  I had popped into one of my favorite Itaewon bars (Shenanigans) and spoke briefly with a friend there.  He introduced me to a friend of his who said “oh yeah, I read your blog all the time”.

Obviously, I am happy to know that people actually read LTG.  Although I must confess it’s also a little embarrassing.  Going through the archives to do a weekly post from the past has made me keenly aware of just how bad most of the shit I post truly is.  I define bad as “meaningless drivel”.  Well, I guess there’s something for everyone on the internet. And it could be my writing about my life makes folks feel much better about theirs.

You’re welcome.

All the news that prints to fit

My haul from today's excursion to Yongsan Garrison.

My haul from today’s excursion to Yongsan Garrison.

As mentioned in my previous post, among the petty annoyances I’ve been experiencing was a non-functioning printer.  I rectified that this afternoon with the purchase of the HP Deskjet 1512 pictured above.  The printer was the cheapest of the lot I looked at ($49.95), but it prints and scans and that’s all I require.  Of course, the connecting cables sold separately ($7.95) and I went ahead and bought an extra ink cartridge for $23.95.  It’s astounding that the ink costs almost half as much as the actual printer. The other items I brought home are gas canisters for grill, eyeglass wipes, DayQuill, a box of Popeye’s chicken and a Whopper Jr. for Jee Yeun.  Not pictured is the strawberry shake I enjoyed on the way home.

Basic, but functional.

Basic, but functional.

With the printer assembled I was able to scan and email all my tax documents to the accountant back in South Carolina.  So that’s one less thing to worry about.  Until it comes time to pay at least.  Last year my federal return was almost enough to pay my SC taxes. We’ll see.

I called the insurance company again about the claim on my parent’s house (see previous post for details on that cluster fuck).  Got directed to voice mail yet again.  Called back and spoke with the receptionist.  Told her I’ve been trying to reach Ms. Sheehan for two days, she cut me off and said I’ll transfer you.  Of course, it went to voice mail.  So, I called back more than a little irritated and said this is a matter of some urgency and Ms. Sheehan is not answering her phone.  She said let me transfer you to the manager.  And you guessed it, I got his voice mail.  I left a message with him, but I don’t expect he’ll call me back in Korea.

At least my job is not stressful, except when it is.  Four months in and I’m still not able to access the computer network.  The big boss isn’t happy and told my boss he wants it resolved.  My boss emailed me and basically said get it done.  I’m not sure what the fuck I’m supposed to do about it.  When I took the initiative to get the printer fixed it backfired.  I was working with the IMO (Information Management Office) and they were unable to resolve the issue.  For some reason, the IMO contacted the big boss and he didn’t like being blindsided.  My boss told me to keep the big boss in the loop in the future, and the big boss told me not to contact the IMO again, just let him know and he would deal with them directly.  Bottom line, I still don’t have a functioning printer in the computer lab. Which means I regularly have to disappoint soldiers who come to use our facility.  I’ve always been customer service oriented so I find that extremely frustrating.

Otherwise, the job is a pretty sweet gig.  Twenty hours a week at next to no pay and no real responsibility.  Boring as hell though.  If the other job comes through I may very well miss the easy working life as the King of the K-16 Multi-Use Learning Facility.

The company I work sent me this nifty name tag.  It's the little things that matter.  Like spelling my damn correctly.

The company I work for sent me this nifty name tag. It’s the little things that matter. Like spelling my damn name correctly.

It occurs to me I’ve not worn a name tag since I was an 18 year old convenience store clerk.  That job was somewhat more challenging in that I worked graveyard shift and occasionally got robbed.  Well, once I got robbed then I quit*.  I decided $2.00 per hour wasn’t enough to put up with threats to kill me if I didn’t hand over the cash.  Robbers can’t get past base security at K-16 though, so I’m golden.

*Actually I quit a couple of days later when the company wanted to give ME a polygraph to see if the robbery had been an inside job.  They were suspicious because I had failed to do a cash drop and had $60. in the cash drawer as opposed to the mandated maximum of $30.  I told them fuck you very much.  Literally.

Death and taxes

South Carolina experienced a major hail storm last May.  I was in Korea at the time, but when I returned to the states in September I was besieged by roofing contractors wanting me to file an insurance claim for a roof replacement.  I finally relented and got a new roof for the price of my insurance deductible.

The house I jointly own with my two brothers (well, we own the mortgage to be precise) also received storm damage.  This house was purchased jointly with my parents and all our names are on the deed.  The mortgage itself only included the name of my father and younger brother Greg.  I was the executor of my parent’s estate, and the probate attorney advised that since we brothers were all on the deed under the law the house passed to us so it was not included in the dispensation rendered by the probate court. We’ve been renting the house out to my son ever since.

I had my son contact the insurance company to send out an adjuster, but they refused to deal with him since his name is not on the policy.  So I asked my older brother Keith who lives in California to contact brother Greg who is a long distance trucker (and doesn’t use email) and have him talk to the insurance folks.  He must have done so, because a few weeks ago an adjuster came to the house and shortly thereafter a check for $14,000 came in the mail.  Except the check was issued in my deceased father’s name.

I had closed all the estate bank accounts at the conclusion of probate three years ago, so there is no way to cash a check issued to my dead dad.  Greg contacted the insurance people to have them re-issue the check in his name, but they refused to do so. And then they cancelled the policy because the house is not owner occupied.  Fuckers. They did say they “might” consider issuing the check to the estate executor.  Of course, I’m in Korea and have no way to prove I’m the executor having not had the foresight to bring such documentation with me.  I was given a name to contact at the insurance company and I’ve stayed up late and gotten up early the last two days to do so only to be answered by voice mail.  I may have to enlist the assistance of the probate attorney although I am not so naive as think that will happen for free.  Or maybe I’ll just go all American and sue their sorry asses, which I suppose won’t be any easier from Korea either.  A major pain in the ass is what this is for sure.

As if that were not enough frustration it’s also time to get my taxes done.  Now, I’m resigned to letting Uncle Sam and his cousin in South Carolina take their annual bite out of my ass.  But facilitating the prerequisite document transfer has proven to more daunting than I expected.  My accountant in SC sent me the intake form via email, of which I’m instructed to complete and email back along with all my other tax related paperwork. Which would not be a problem if I had access to the a working printer/scanner.  Alas, the one at the apartment hasn’t worked since our move and I can’t figure out why.  And the one at my office stopped working several weeks ago and trying to get that repaired has proven to be a bureaucratic nightmare.  Not even going to try and relate those events because I’m already pissed enough.

As soon as I complete this post (even I can’t ramble on forever) I’m going to head out to Yongsan Garrison and purchase a new printer with a scanner function at the PX.  Then I’ll lug the damn thing home and get to work on them taxes.

To end this post on a more positive note, I spoke with the woman who would be my boss were I to be re-employed with my former organization.  Although she couldn’t officially make a job offer until my hiring package has been approved by the commander, said package has been submitted.  So, there’s a hurdle successfully, well, hurdled.  Now, I can wait for more news in the hopefully not too distant future.

Also, I’d rather be alive than dead.  So there’s that.

The Accidental Citizen-Soldier

accidental soldier

Imagine being born and raised in the U.S.A.  You work your way through the public education system and earn a degree from the University of Washington.  Like many young people you find yourself saddled with student loan debt and working in a dead end job.  So you see an advertisement recruiting folks to teach English in Korea and figure why not?

And so began the nightmare for Young Jin Chun.  When he applied to Korean immigration for an extension of his employment visa he was told he was not eligible because he was already a Korean citizen.  Although Chun’s parents had immigrated to the US several years before he was born, someone (it is not clear who) had his name added to the family register in Korea.  And as far as the Korean government is concerned, that makes you a bonafide Korean.  Chun didn’t think it was that big a deal until he received notice that he was being drafted into the ROK army. That got his attention!

Chun did everything a reasonable person would do to rectify this error, gathering all his records to demonstrate he was as American as an apple pie.  The American embassy in Seoul told him “it’s not our problem”.  The Korean consulate in the USA said he was past the age to renounce his Korean citizenship.  And so it came to pass that he was neatly boxed in by two uncaring governmental bureaucracies.

Chun’s passport was blocked preventing him from leaving Korea.  In desperation he enlisted in the U.S. Army, but as he was preparing to board the aircraft at Osan Air Force Base for basic training at Fort Jackson, SC, Korean immigration nabbed him and shortly thereafter he found himself a 27 year old American conscript in the Korean army.  A Korean soldier who didn’t speak Korean or even like Korean food.

You can read this news account which provides more detail on the events leading up to this insane situation.  Or better yet, you can purchase Chun’s book ($2.99 for the Kindle version at Amazon) and read the sad and sometimes funny account of his life in the Korean military.  That’s what I did and it’s a good read.  After surviving basic training, he was assigned as a linguist with the Second ROK Army in Daegu.  I had to laugh at his account of being called to interpret a meeting between American and Korean Army officers.  He finally had to tell the Americans “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what he’s saying either”.  And when his commanding officer found out about the interview he gave to the Seattle newspaper (linked above) he was on everyone’s shit list.  How bad was it?  So bad that he volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan!  Anyway, read the book.

I was talking to a co-worker who spent many years with the State Department about Young Chun’s adventure and he was incredulous.  At first, he thought the story was made up, but I assured him it was not.  He agreed the U.S. embassy in Seoul is next to worthless, but felt the American government could have and should have intervened on his behalf.  And last night I recounted the tale to a Korean-American friend (also born in the USA) who came to Korea around the same time as Chun and he told me the same thing had almost happened to him.  His father was apparently well-connected with Korean government officials and managed to get him exempted from Korean military service.

And I guess that’s pretty much how the world works–it’s not who you are but who you know.  Chun did survive his adventure at least and I suppose it all turned out as best as could be expected.  I understand he is still living and working in Korea and his Korean language skills have improved immensely.  So there’s that.

 

A case of stolen identity

In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 5251 50 49 48 47 46  45 44 43 42 41 40 weeks I will delve deep into the sewerarchives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history.  I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found.  And mediocre is too hard to spell.)

Six years ago I wrote about losing the rights to the domain johnmccrarey.com in a post called “What’s your name worth”.

The nightmare began when I logged onto LTG and instead of the content y’all have come to know and love I was taken to some spam website for some kind of drug product.  It took awhile, but I eventually discovered that my domain had expired and subsequently was purchased by some fucker in Poland.  I was unwilling to spend several hundred dollars to buy back my own damn name.  So, purchased  mccrarey.com and carried on.

I had a larger readership back then, but to be honest I don’t think I lost all that many folks during the transition.  You’ve got to be a real die hard fan to keep coming back for the crap I put out year after year.  Thanks for that!

I rarely visit johnmmcrarey.com because I don’t won’t to give the bastard using my name any undeserved traffic.  I did take a look to today just to see what was going on over there and now some jackal named John Rey Kee from Singapore is using my former domain to promote his fashion designs.  Seriously, who does that?

I thought about using Kee’s “contact” page to send him a nasty note, but that requires giving out my email address.  That ain’t happening.  .And he’s not getting a link either.

Dress rehearsal

A friend of mine here in Korea is getting married next month.  He was shocked to discover that wedding gowns in Korea cost several million won to purchase.  Even a one-day rental was exorbitantly priced.  Seeing as how this is the 21st century and all he checked out some U.S. based websites and found an appropriate dress for half the cost of a rental.  He asked if he could have the gown shipped to my Army Post Office (APO) address and of course I agreed.

As my friend noted on his Facebook page the dress has had quite a journey:

Total distance traveled to arrive in Seoul: 18,950km

Total distance from where it was made to Seoul: 907km

Turns out the wedding gown was manufactured in China, shipped to the U.S., and then mailed back to Korea.  I was proud to carry the package its final 1km or so from the Yongsan post office to Samgakji station where I handed it off to the blushing bride to be.

All in a days work.

Oh, an interesting footnote is that shortly after the nuptials my pal and his wife will be moving back to the USA.  Columbia, SC in fact.  He’ll be attending USC and I imagine in his spare time he’ll get to do some ass kicking in the dart league I founded there.  Small world, eh?

Current events

It is down right cold today.  And although I didn’t have to rise at o’dark-thirty for work, I still found myself commuting to Yongsan Garrison this morning.

Since Jee Yeun had to go to Soonchunhwang hospital for blood work, we took the 110A bus together.  That Korean woman seated behind us did a nice little photo bomb, intentional or not.

Since Jee Yeun had to go to Soonchunhwang hospital for blood work, we took the 110A bus together. That Korean woman seated behind us did a nice little photo bomb, intentional or not.

Back in the day I went to a few bars that some folks considered "meat markets".  So, I enjoyed seeing the "welcome to the meat market" sign on the bus ride this morning.

Back in the day I went to a few bars that some folks considered “meat markets”. So, I enjoyed seeing the “welcome to the meat market” sign on the bus ride this morning.

Crappy photography aside, I did have a serious mission to attend to at the Army base this today.  Three months into my employment with the Education Center I still have not managed to acquire access to the Army computer network.  The big boss told me yesterday to “git ‘er done”, hence necessitating spending the day off in the workplace.

To make a boring story short, I eventually found a way to digitally sign a required form and submit it to my boss using my gmail.  Of course, there were some mistakes oversights on my part that require correction.  However once you sign the form digitally it cannot be altered.  Which means tomorrow I’ll spend part of my work day replicating what I managed to accomplish in three hours today.  At least I’ll be getting paid for it.

In other news, more dart drama last night although this time it did not involve me.  Having used my entire allocation of drama already, I’m not going to be sucked into this battle. Suffice to say it took the fun out of an otherwise pleasant evening in which I threw relatively well, although we lost the match by one point.

What else?  I purchased a new VPN provider service so that I might enjoy my Netflix and Amazon Prime TV and movies here in Korea.  I went with IPVanish, which seems to work well (meaning fast) so now i have yet another way to keep myself entertained.

And that dear reader is where things stand as of now.  Thanks for checking in.

 

The night I called it a day

Goin' down...

Goin’ down…

The big event of this day that is now drawing to a close was my journey to the commissary to restock the larders.  Turns out Saturday afternoon was not my best decision.  The commissary itself was fine, didn’t even have to wait in line for a checker.  And when I exited the store there was a taxi waiting for a fare.  So, I gave him one to Ichon station.  And that’s when it got dicey.  The first train to come by was jammed packed, almost like morning rush hour.  I saw there was another train coming in four minutes, so I opted for that one.  Alas, it was every bit as full as the preceding train.  So with a backpack full of canned goods, a freezer bag, and a large re-usable shopping bag I squeezed on in.  And wound up standing for the entire trip.  Now, I could have just had the taxi carry me all the way to Gireum I suppose, but for some reason I just can’t bring myself to spend W20,000 to carry groceries home.  Although I have no problem dropping that much (or more) at the bar on darts night.  Priorities.

Speaking of darts, I threw some lousy drunken darts last night.  It was a bit of a fiasco, as I got caught “crop dusting” more than once.  I was too drunk to be embarrassed at the time, but was full of regrets this morning.

Anyway, the over-indulgence seems to be a recurring issue on Friday nights.  The problem being I finish work at 4:00 and have no where to go except the bar to await the 7:30 start of the tourney.  So, that’s three or four beers before I even start playing, and truthfully three or four ought to be my limit period.  You’d think at my age I would have learned the value of moderation.  Well, I will try to do better in the future.

Alrighty then, let’s call it a night.

 

Don’t mean shit

In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 5251 50 49 48 47 46  45 44 43 42 41 weeks I will delve deep into the sewer archives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history.  I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found.  And mediocre is too hard to spell.)

Five years ago I was apparently floundering, confused, and feeling used and abused.  I wrote about it in a post called “What’s it all mean Mr. Natural”.  I was being unusually circumspect regarding whatever my issues were (are).  Of course, with the passage of time I’m a little foggy on what may have triggered that bout of introspection.  Odds are it had something to do with the female of the species.  Ah well, sometimes you just gotta go with the flow.  That’s pretty much how I’ve lived this life anyway.

What does it all mean Mr. Natural?

So it would appear.

So it would appear.

 

 

Down in the mouth and knee deep in doo doo

Well, it’s been awhile since I last posted, and if you make it to the end of this one you will know why.

It was back to the dentist on Saturday to rebuild and prepare the tooth that was subjected to a root canal for a permanent crown.  That entailed nearly two hours in the chair which was pretty much the extent of my tolerance level.  Taking the mold for the crown proved problematic because the construction work on the tooth left my gums bleeding profusely. She eventually finished with the mold and inserted a temporary crown.  And then abandoned me for another patient.  After about ten minutes of sitting there alone, I got up, removed my bib, and made my way up front.  I was given two options on the crown, W700,000 for the Cadillac of crowns, or W450,000 for the Chevy.  Hell, at my age I expect the cheap(er) crown will last a lifetime.  At least that’s the gamble I’m taking.

All that stuff going down in my mouth left me sore for a couple of days, but manageable enough with aspirin.  And just about the time my mouth stopped hurting, some pain in my right knee flared up.  I’ve not experienced joint issues but it is frankly one of the things I fear.  My lifestyle necessarily requires climbing multiple flights of stairs on a regular basis to access the drinking darting establishments I frequent.  Jee Yeun (bless her heart) went on the internet and announced that all the extra poundage I’m carrying around my middle is stressing my knees.  So in addition to the pain, I’ve had to endure her beseeching me to exercise.  Oh well, for what it is worth after my morning commute today (which does involve a fair amount of walking) the pain in the knee went away.  So maybe the doo doo alluded to in the title of the post is not so deep after all.  We’ll see.

What else?  Well, I came across this:

One of my petty pet peeves about the sidewalks of Itaewon is Korean pedestrians have no sense of situation awareness.  The other night I encountered three young women walking side-by-side with their arms intertwined.   Getting past them was like breaching the Berlin wall.  And yes, if that's my biggest gripe about Seoul city life things must be pretty good.

One of my petty pet peeves about the sidewalks of Itaewon is Korean pedestrians with no sense of situation awareness. The other night I encountered three young women walking side-by-side with their arms intertwined. Getting past them was like breaching the Berlin wall. And yes, if that’s my biggest gripe about Seoul city life things must be pretty good.

Speaking of gripes, I came across this article in the Korea Observer entitled Expats Speak Out: What Seoul Needs.  The responses ran the usual gauntlet–traffic laws should be enforced “people in France fear the police”; you should have to pay to drive a vehicle into the city “like they do in London”; Seoul should be multilingual (meaning English) “Fine businesses who are not accessible because of language”; more trash cans, free Korean lessons, less racism, etc. etc.

Alright, well I’m not going to rag on those quoted too much because they were responding to a survey the city initiated as part of its quest to become a “global city”.  I did leave this comment on the article:

I’m sure all the survey responses were made with the best of intentions, but really I couldn’t help but be reminded of the tendency of some folks to leave their country of birth looking for something new and different, and then they set about trying to make it more like home.

What I love about Seoul is its quirkiness and organized chaos. Sure, things could be better I suppose but heaven forbid it becomes homogenized and vanilla like the country I fled (USA).

Moving along to things I love about Korea, high on my list is the beautiful women outstanding food.  Last night we enjoyed this:

Right downstairs from my apartment building is a place that features beef.  All the meat pictured is a mere W39,000.  Sure, you've got to cook it yourself, but that's part of the fun.  Just ask Jee Yeun!

Right downstairs from my apartment building is a place that features beef. All the meat pictured is a mere W39,000. Sure, you’ve got to cook it yourself, but that’s part of the fun. Just ask Jee Yeun!

Another thing I like is the subway system.  There is even a hierarchy of seating preferences:

Now, when I find myself seated in the "red zone" (i.e. middle seats) I've observed a certain reluctance of some Koreans to sit beside me.  It's amusing that some folks prefer to stand than to squeeze in beside the big, burly, scary waegook.  Heh, more room for me!

Now, when I find myself seated in the “red zone” (i.e. middle seats) I’ve observed a certain reluctance of some Koreans to sit beside me. It’s amusing that some folks prefer to stand than to squeeze in beside the big, burly, scary waegook. Heh, more room for me!

Now, maybe I’m just easily entertained but I find the subway advertisements amusing. Like this one:

Inbred dog or a Korean corndog.  You decide.

Inbred dog or a Korean corndog. You decide.

Lest you think I’ve unfairly maligned the Korea people whom I actually admire (notwithstanding how they walk, don’t sit, and that whole eating dog thing) let me relate a small kindness that occurred when I exited the train at Gireum station today.  I was carrying 24 cans of diet Coke in my backpack, plus an 11 piece box of Popeye’s chicken and two Whopper Jr.’s.  Well, the backpack was heavy and I was struggling to get the strap over my left shoulder.  An ajussi passing by without saying a word helped pull it up onto my back.  That earned him a hearty “kamsamnida!” and prominent mention in this post.

Finally (ah, there’s a word you’ve been waiting for I reckon), regular readers may recall that I’ve been angling for a position with my old organization.  It would be a sweet gig for me, doing work I know and enjoy.  The woman who would be my boss has her doubts however, so last week I did a one hour sit down with her to try and alleviate whatever concerns she may be entertaining.  I thought the meeting went well.  For my part, I was actually quite impressed with her–smart and motivated.  I hope that I left a similar impression on her, but although she promised to let me know her decision in a “couple of days” a week has gone by with no word.  I’m trying not to read too much into that, but at the same time I’m steeling myself for possible rejection.

Whatever happens I’ll be okay of course.  Unless I blow out my knee.

Crossroads

In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 5251 50 49 48 47 46  45 44 43 42 weeks I will delve deep into the sewer archives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history.  I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found.  And mediocre is too hard to spell.)

KaraLynee, her parents, and my kids circa 1982.  If I knew then what I know now would I have made a different choice?

KaraLynne, her parents, and my kids circa 1982. If I knew then what I know now would I have made a different choice?

Five years ago I wrote about a seemingly innocuous decision that wound up completely changing my life in a post called “The road not taken”.

Over the course of a lifetime we obviously make many life-altering decisions. Some good, some not. I chose not to kill myself at 19.  I decided to keep my daughter rather than let her be adopted.  I made choices to get married and divorced.  And if I hadn’t decided to come to Korea ten years ago you would have been spared the pain of reading this blog.

But those are the big decisions, and you know they are going to change your life at the time you make them.  It’s those little ones, things that don’t even seem like making a meaningful choice that fascinate me.  I remember witnessing a fatal car crash back when I was around 12 years old.  And I thought at the time, if she had only left home one minute earlier or later she would not have been in this spot at this time.  What decision had she made that morning that caused her to leave home when she did and led to fatal consequences?

So, one long ago night I decided to leave my campsite and grab a beer in town.  And nothing after that was ever the same.

Update:  Heh, right after completing this post I came across this.  I took it as a sign.

Update II: for sojuhoncho.

Glory days

I’m throwing about the best darts of my “career” lately.  13-3 in singles league Sunday and another 7-2 in “A” division pub league action Monday night.

I had an amazing comeback in a cricket singles game on Monday.  My opponent, a hotshot Korean, opened with five 20’s.  I threw one 19 in response.  He then closed 19’s and I answered with one 18.  My adversary then hit a 9-mark (the best throw possible in cricket) consisting of three 18’s, three 17’s and three 19’s for points.

This gave him four numbers closed and 97 points, while I had two total marks.  The dart term for this situation is “being totally screwed”.  Nothing to do but fight on and hope for better results.  Which I achieved by pounding 16’s and 15’s to catch up on points and then closing the bullseye.   I had managed to close the 18’s with slop from missing the bull, but he still had 20, 19, and 17 to work with.  He took the point lead again, but then I managed a bull/triple 20/double 19 combo.  He only managed one 17 in response, and I took a bull for the points I needed, and a triple 17 for the win.

I was of course surprised to win and he was devastated to lose as evidenced by his complete collapse in the following two legs.  I guess that proves you are never really out of a game, but really what happened is my opponent used a soft-tip strategy in a steel-tip game (at least in Korea, whomever is up on points after 15 rounds on the machine wins the cricket game).  So, had he closed the 16’s and 15’s instead of trying to match my points he would have prevented any avenue to my winning the game.  And so it goes.

Speaking of Glory Days, here’s some videos from the past:

The Korea Darts Federation final between Alastair “All-Star” Tarbett (Scotland) and John “The Walrus” McCrarey (USA)

A video where Hitler learns his dart team has to face Itaewon’s Ride it In for the championship.

What Bruce said.

The Facebook of blogging

Blogging is dead.  Long live blogging!

Rumor has it that blogs have become passe, and new-fangled formats like Twitter and Facebook are where all the cool kids share their thoughts and musings with the world. Although I keep up with friends and family on Facebook (and sometimes impart pearls of wisdom there), rest assured I save my “best” for my loyal readers here at LTG.  Ha! You’ve no doubt never heard “best” used in that context before.  To which I can only say “shut up!”

But things do change of course.  As I’ve delved through the archives of my blogging history I’ve noticed that I moved away from writing about politics and evolved into more of an autobiographical mode.  Hell, I’ll call this blog what it is–a personal diary.  Which of course holds little interest to the world at large, but I’m a subject matter expert on the fascinating topic of me.  So I reckon I’ll just keep on keeping on until I’m not.

I like what James Lileks had to say about the so-called death of blogging:

If blogs are dying I suppose I shall go with them, he said, using “shall” to put you in mind of someone tossing a scarf over his shoulder and facing the bracing wind. There’s been a few stories here and there about the expiration of the form, occasioned perhaps by Andrew Sullivan stepping away, and noting how everything is going Social and Sharable.

Am I worried about time and trends passing me by? Not at all. This has always been just what it is since the very first entry, and while it’s expanded in length and subject, I am not going to convert it to a series of sharable snacks for Facebook feeds. Perhaps that’s unwise. But I hate Facebook and have no desire to spend any time there, so tailoring the Bleat or lileks.com for Zuckerberg’s dull blue borg cube would be like spending a lot of time and money getting fitted for clothes I don’t like so I can blend in amongst people I don’t know in a country I don’t like.

Anyway: it worries me a little that “blogs are dying,” because if so we lose the idea of a place where people speak their piece, as oppose to speak in pieces.

While most blogs weren’t deathless examples of great writing, there was the opportunity for individualism, and you don’t get that from a Pinterest page. You don’t get it from a feed of things snipped and reblogged and pinned and shoveled into The Feed. The web turns into bushels of confetti shoveled into a jet engine, and while something does emerge out the other end, it’s usually made impressive by its velocity and volume, not the shape it makes.

Now, I don’t Twitter but I do on occasion read Tweets.  Usually on Twitchy or on Kevin Kim’s sidebar. And I don’t hate Facebook, but quite a few folks do.  I find it to be a useful tool for staying in touch with far flung friends.  If you are not my “friend” on Facebook, look at what you’ve missed this week:

I don’t recall ever recovering from a nine mark. Until tonight. 3-0 in cricket singles.

Back to normal after the holidays, standing room only on the subway. A seat came open in front of me, but I offered it to the woman standing beside me. A couple of stops later the seat next to her opened up but as I was in the process of sitting down the train jerked throwing me off balance and I wound up stepping directly on her foot. I apologized profusely but if looks could kill I would not be here to write this post. I’m not sure there is a moral to this story but it wasn’t the greatest start to the day. I guess for either of us.

As usual, Mark Steyn nails it.

Thank you Canada!

Mission accomplished! (if you only click one link, this is the one. Hilarious!)

Be careful out there guys.

So, the State Department asked for ideas on how to counter “violent extremism” by adherents of a religion that must not be named. Senator Tom Cotton’s response was beautiful. (Heh, I just realized that I found this link on Twitter, shared it on Facebook, and have now posted it on the blog.  Fusion baby!

Anyway, you get the idea.  It has been written  that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”.  This time for blogging has come to an end because it is my purpose to now eat lunch!

Yep, Jee Yeun has prepared me one of her internationally famous "egga burgers"!

Yep, Jee Yeun has prepared me one of her internationally famous “egga burgers”!

 

 

It only hurts until the pain goes away

My tooth starting hurting Tuesday night.  Being on the cusp of the long Seollal holiday I figured I’d have to tough it out until next Tuesday (Monday being a workday).  For the first couple of days I managed the pain with large doses of Tylenol and Alleve.   By Friday though those wonder drugs were not having much impact.  I also read the warning label which advised in bold print that taking acetaminophen at the dose I was consuming and drinking three or more alcoholic drinks could lead to liver damage.  Knowing that Friday night darts were looming I went out and purchased some old fashioned Bayer aspirin.

When I arrived at the bar the pain was approaching a level best described as excruciating, despite having recently downed three tablets of Bayer. The OB’s I was drinking did seem to take the edge off the pain some, so I kept on drinking them until I was in a state of inebriation.  The tooth probably still hurt, I just didn’t care anymore.  I experienced a good night of drunken slumber, but awoke this morning with the pain back at full volume.  In desperation, I dialed the number for the U.S. Dentist clinic I had visited when I encountered similar difficulties last year.

Conveniently located across the street from Ichon station.

Conveniently located across the street from Ichon station.

A masculine sounding female answered “hello” in English.  I said “is this Dr. Sohn?”  She replied affirmatively so I asked if she was open today and joy of joys she was.  I told her I was suffering and asked if she could see me today.  She said she’d call back in 30 minutes, and true to her word she did and offered me an 11:00.

She takes my pain away!

She takes my pain away!

As I suspected, I was once again experiencing the agony of an abscess.  This time it was in a “live” tooth and as I expected the recommended treatment was a root canal.  That little prick in my mouth was a blessing.  (I’m talking about the Novocaine shot you sick bastards.)  Once I was numb Dr. Sohn set about removing the offending nerves that had led to my misery and in less than an hour the work was done.  It set me back W450,000 but you really can’t put a price tag on elimination of pain, right?  I’ll go back next week for the crown which will also no doubt be as expensive as it necessary.  Easy come, easy go and all that jazz.

Having not eaten since noon on Friday I came home from the dentist feeling hungry.  So I set about preparing a remedy.

I've never cooked in one of these Korean stoneware pots before.

I’ve never cooked in one of these Korean stoneware pots before.

Turns out they are perfect for making chili!  Back home I always used a slow cooker, but this method worked perfectly.

Turns out they are perfect for making chili! Back home I always used a slow cooker, but this method worked just as well and was a damn site quicker.

And damn it was delicious, if I do say so myself.  Now, I like my chili with cornbread but given my lack of a proper oven, I made do with a baguette from where else, Paris Baguette.

And damn it was delicious, if I do say so myself. Now, I like my chili with cornbread but given my lack of a proper oven, I made do with a baguette from where else, Paris Baguette.

After consuming two bowls, I took the antibiotic capsule prescribed by Dr. Sohn.  Then I took a nap.  I awoke refreshed and pain free!  Woo Hoo!

Finally, there’s this:

This was posted above the urinal in the subway restroom.  Given my lack of reading skills I imagined it was the urinal's unhappy response to being pissed on all day, everyday.  Alas, Jee Yeun says it's an advertisement for men who have trouble with urination.  Me, I have the opposite problem.  I have to pee so frequently it's downright embarrassing.

This was posted above the urinal in the subway restroom. Given my lack of reading skills I imagined it was the urinal’s unhappy response to being pissed on all day, everyday. Alas, Jee Yeun says it’s an advertisement for men who have trouble with urination. Me, I have the opposite problem. I have to pee so frequently it’s downright embarrassing.

And that’s all I’ve got for you today.  Well, there is the song I always sing to myself while reclining in Dr. Sohn’s dental chair.

Requiem for a dream

In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 5251 50 49 48 47 46  45 44 43 weeks I will delve deep into the sewer archives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history.  I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found.  And mediocre is too hard to spell.)

Three years ago I had the strangest dream that I wrote about in Here’s the story. What was weird about this dream was the vivid detail it encompassed and the fact that I actually remembered the damn thing long enough to put into words.

Re-reading that post last night revealed some connotations that seem relevant to current events.  At what point do we stop being responsible for the sins of our forefathers?  In my dream I paid a terrible price in reparation for the tragedy of slavery.  If the president is to be believed (and why shouldn’t we believe a serial liar?) the murderous bastards in the Middle East are no worse than the Christian crusaders way back in the dark ages.  Well, I’m not going there in this post, but if I can forgive the Romans for enslaving my Scottish ancestors, why can’t we all just find a way to get along?

Speaking of dreams, my friend Jeremy made an appearance during my sleep last night.  Not much substance in this one, but he was out of jail and heading to Japan for some reason.  Anyway, it’s been on my mind to pay him another visit at the jailhouse and I guess my subconscious was reminding me to get ‘er done.