The new normal?

Six days in and my sleep pattern is still not right*.  Last night I was up late completing an online job application.  Went to bed around 2 a.m. and found myself wide awake at 4.  Back to bed at 6 a.m. and slept until 8.  Took a nap at 2 p.m. and woke up at 4.

If the pattern holds I reckon I’ll get the recommended 8 hours of sleep, except I’m getting it in fragments.  Which is fine I suppose, although during my waking hours I’m feeling lethargic and unmotivated.  Did make it out to the bank to deposit $236 in small checks from my inherited oil lease royalties that had accumulated during my time in Korea.  Thanks mom!

The job I applied for is with a military contractor on Yongsan Garrison that provides career counseling for soldiers and their family members who are leaving the service.  Although I’ve never actually worked as a career counselor my experience as a human resources manager I think qualifies me to teach folks job application and interviewing skills.  Of the jobs I’ve looked at this seems like the best fit.  I’m not optimistic the company will see it that way though.  But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Tonight I’ll make my darts debut in the Monsters of the Midlands pub league.  That may bleed over into my scheduled two hours of sleep, but I’ll adjust I suppose.

*I really don’t think this sleep disorder is entirely caused by jet lag.  Sleeping alone has also got me out of sorts.  It didn’t rain today so tomorrow I may get out the lawnmower and do some mowing.  Maybe a little physical exertion will convince my body it’s time for a good night’s sleep.

BACtrack

As most of my reader(s) know I enjoy drinking beer in social settings (although rarely at home).  While I don’t have much of a social life, I do play darts two or three times per week and I’ve found beer to be a useful tool in that endeavor.  In fact, beer is commonly referred to in the sport as “aiming fluid”.

Given the outstanding public transportation system in Korea I never really had to worry about the amount of beer I consumed during a dart match (other than recognizing that after a certain point inebriation will impact on the quality of my game).  Here in the USA there is no getting around driving to the various dart venues, so it is imperative to not drink in excess of the legal limit (currently .08 blood alcohol content in South Carolina) when operating a motor vehicle.  I’m actually very paranoid about driving after drinking.  I never get “drunk-drunk”, but I’m quite certain I could potentially exceed .08 with no outward signs of impairment.

The rule of thumb is to limit yourself to one drink per hour which I find difficult to do.  I’m a big guy and based on the online calculators I’ve looked at, I can probably partake in four beers in an hour without crossing the line.  What I normally do is drink five beers during a three hour dart match, then switch to diet Coke at the end of the evening.  That’s probably a “safe” amount, but other factors come into play (for example, what you have eaten) and the truth of the matter is you can never be certain.  Alcohol impairs judgement, and making the judgement that you are okay to drive after drinking is a fool’s bet.

Being arrested for DUI is an expensive and life altering event.  And that’s really the best case scenario.  God forbid you do something stupid which causes death or injury to yourself or someone else.  I’ve learned that two friends were busted for DUI during the six months I was staying in Korea.  I’ve also been told that DUI checkpoints are frequently set up along the route I travel home after a night of darting.  Despite my intent to be responsible when it comes to drinking and driving, I really fear inadvertently fucking up.

So, this morning I purchased one of these from a company called BACtrack:

My own personal breathalyzer.  A bargain at $129.95 considering what a miscalculation would cost me.

My own personal breathalyzer. A bargain at $129.95 considering what a miscalculation would cost me.

Once it arrives it will be interesting to see how accurate my personal rule-of-thumb has been.  But one thing is certain, I will never drive my vehicle anytime I am anywhere near the legal limit.  In fact, my plan is to not get behind the wheel at over .05. That’s the standard the federal government wants the states to impose.  It’s the right thing to do and you can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind that comes with being a responsible driver.

 

 

Livin’ in the USA

Three days into this iteration of my American life and I’m still not sleeping.  Well, technically I am sleeping, but only in bursts of two or three hours at a time.  Not sure why I’m having such a hard time re-setting my circadian rhythms, but it is getting to be a bit of a pain in the ass.

After a long but uneventful flight on Wednesday I arrived at my South Carolina home at 6:30 p.m.  That concluded about a 22 hour door-to-door trip.  I managed maybe two hours of sleep on the plane so I was exhausted.  I had every intention of staying awake until midnight or so to get my body back on Carolina time, but at 8 p.m. I had to surrender and went to bed.  I awoke at 10:30 p.m. somewhat refreshed and definitely hungry.  So I headed out to the 24 hour supermarket to do some grocery shopping.  Came home and cooked up a rack of ribs and started watching season 4 of Game of Thrones.  Made it through 5 episodes or so, and tried to catch some sleep around 9 a.m.  Woke up at noon, and finished up GOT.  It seems every season concludes with the death of a major character, and I was pretty surprised at who they killed off this go around.  Won’t spoil it for you though if you haven’t seen it.

Fell asleep on my amazingly comfortable leather couch for about 3 hours and woke up hungry.  So I headed out to Rush’s, a local fast food chain, and ordered me up a basket of chicken wings.

Nice-uh!

Nice-uh!

After devouring that tasty chicken I fiddle-farted around on the computer until 2 a.m. or so and tried again to get a full night’s (or morning as it were) sleep.  No dice.  Woke at 3:30 and knew I’d be up for awhile.  So, I started watching VEEP, a mildly amusing political comedy featuring Julia-Louis Dreyfus.   Between episodes I baked up a batch of cinnamon rolls (well, I opened a can and popped them in the oven).  Obviously I haven’t initiated my low carb diet plan yet.  I had good intentions about doing some banking and running some errands, but I found myself growing sleepy shortly after noon, so I hit the sack for the longest period of sleep I’d managed thus far–four hours.

With Friday night looming my body told me it was time for some darts.  So I showered up and headed out to my local pub, Kwagga.  When I left for Korea back in March this was the place to be for dart action in Columbia.  Sadly, due to some personality conflicts the owner found it necessary (wrongly in my opinion) to ban several dart players from the bar.  Several others had moved away during my absence which left only me and one other guy there to play.  In fact, for most of the night we were the only customers in the bar.  I’m afraid that doesn’t bode well for the future of Kwagga, which is a shame really.  Still, the owner welcomed me back with a bucket of Michelob Ultra beer (hey, only 2.6 grams of carbohydrates per bottle!).  Dirk, the South African owner of Kwagga, mentioned he had a new item on the menu.  With his accent it sounded like he was saying “Buddha’s balls”, which didn’t sound too appetizing.  But it turns out it was more like boerwors, a South African sausage which was served on a bun.  Hell, it looked like a hot dog so I slathered it in ketchup.  Dirk was aghast and said “you just ruined it”.  He pointed to the sauce served on the side and said that’s what you are supposed to put on it.  Hell, I thought it was for dipping the chips.  Anyway, I found it quite tasty, ketchup and all.

I played darts until about 10:30 then headed home.  I felt sure that with some American beer and South African sausage in my belly I’d sleep like a baby through the night.  I stayed up until 12:30 just to be sure but alas, I woke up at 4:00 a.m.  With nothing else to do with myself I sat down at the keyboard to treat my faithful readers to this post which I believe perfectly captures the astounding boredom of my so-called life in the USA.

Once the rest of the world wakes up I plan to do a little shopping and maybe treat myself to a 5 Guys burger.

I consider this the best fast food burger in the USA.

I consider this the best fast food burger in the USA.

Later this afternoon the daughter is bringing the grandkids over for a visit.  And I’ll be missing my yobo immensely.  It really sucks being here without her.

So there you have it.  As far as I know everything I’ve written above is true and correct.  But then again, I saw this article in Time magazine that says less than 5 hours sleep leads to false memories.  So who knows?

The last supper

A final meal with friends Tom and Yuli at Don Valley

A final meal with friends Tom and Yuli at Don Valley

I’m fixin’ to head out to Incheon to catch my flight across the wide Pacific.  Sad to be making the trip alone, but Jee Yeun needs to stay and care for her mother.  I offered to stay and help but Jee Yeun will be taking her mom to the “countryside” for the next couple of weeks.  So, faced with being alone either way, I stuck with the plan and will return to the USA as scheduled.

Goodbye to you Korea!

Death cloud

A poisonous fog descended on the neighborhood across the street from my apartment this morning.

Die you bastards! Die!

Die you bastards! Die!

Purportedly the gas cloud kills mosquitoes.  I suspect that at best it just causes them to relocate to my side of the street.  I’ve never seen them spray over here.  And those pesky bastards have been all over my ass (and legs and arms) for most of the summer.

I've been zapping the ones I can see with the worthless stuff in the blue can.  It just seems to make them hungrier.  The green bottle takes some of the itch out of the bite though.

I’ve been zapping the ones I can see with the worthless stuff in the blue can. It just seems to make them hungrier. The green bottle takes some of the itch out of the bite though.

Five more days.  Then I can be bitten by the South Carolina variety.

 

Welcome back ROKdrop!

One of my favorite Korea-centric blogs is back in business after experiencing technical difficulties these past several days.  I had similar issues with the same blog host last year (see here and here).  I hope GI Korea is able to find someone at blogs-about to assist with transferring his archives.

Anyway, if you link to ROKdrop, his new domain is ROKdrop.net.  The .com address wasn’t working for me at least.

Winding it down

Seven days remaining in this iteration of my Korea life.  Here’s how things stand:

Played my last league match with the Dillinger’s Dartitis Quarantine team.  We won our first match of the season against the Sin Bin Dartaholics, but I turned in another sorry performance.  USA Goal: Practice, practice, practice.  I have a board at home so no excuses!

Rolled over in my sleep last night and wound up face first on the floor.  Can’t remember the last time I’ve fallen out of bed like that.  USA Goal:  Avoid nocturnal skydiving.  My bed at home is twice as high as my low-lying Korean mattress so I don’t want to break my neck.

Had my checkup with Dr. Yoo this morning.  I was surprised that my blood work actually showed some significant reductions in both categories of “bad cholesterol” because my diet discipline has been sorely lacking these past several months.  Guess that Lipitor really does work.  Dr. Yoo also told me to “cut back on the carbs and lose some weight.  USA Goal:  Get back on the diet and exercise plan and stick with it!  I’ve got me some good intentions to live a healthier lifestyle, including kicking the cigarettes (again!).

I’ve done a little more networking and have floated my resume to a couple of more contractors for potential on-base employment.  Times are tough and most organizations are cutting back so I haven’t gotten a lot of encouragement.  My dream job would be to get re-employed with my old organization but there are some pretty major hurdles involved with that as well.  I also learned that if move forward with the F-6 visa (Korean equivalent of the green card) I will essentially be unemployable with USFK.  USA Goal: Shit or get off the pot.  I figure I’ll give it till January or so and then try to make some decisions about the course of my future life.

Anyway, it’s been a pretty good six months here.  I’m also looking forward to getting back to the comforts of my American life.  Perhaps I should be encouraged that my one foot in two continents lifestyle is working out as well as might be expected.  Hopefully I will always be sad to leave one and happy to return to the other.

Getting my KIX

Yesterday I pulled a DELTA (didn’t ever leave the airport) at Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX).  And now through the miracle of the internet you too can share in the adventure!

The day began with an 0600 wake-up call via my trusty Samsung Galaxy.  I frittered around for a bit before making it down to the Airport Limo bus stop near my apartment at 0645.  Said bus arrived ten minutes later, I paid my W7000 fare, and was off to historic Gimpo International Airport. Note to travelers: I’ve never seen the Airport Limo full up, but this time we left folks standing at the stop after mine.  Plan accordingly.

I arrived at Gimpo without incident at 0730 and waited in a long ass line to check in with Korean Air.  My flight was at 0905 so I wasn’t too worried.  Sure enough, I had my boarding pass and was through security/immigration by eight.  Jee Yeun had directed that I purchase her favorite perfume at the duty free store.  My last trip to Kansai I wasn’t able to find it, so with time to kill I went shopping in the Lotte duty free store and found what I (she) was looking for.  I was $78 poorer and also burdened with carrying (and not losing) a shopping bag for the entirety of my trip, but hey, the things we do for love!

I paid a little extra to fly Korean Air as opposed to the low-cost carrier Peach Air which I used on my previous trip to Osaka.  I figured Korean Air would be a little more comfortable in coach but it was every bit as cramped as Peach.  Still, I did have the convenience of flying out of Gimpo (much closer to home than Incheon) and Korean Air served a breakfast snack (cinnamon roll, yogurt, pineapple) and free beverages, all of which I would have paid extra for on Peach.   Anyway, we left on time and arrived on time with the wheels down, so no complaints.

They say no main is an island.  But when you arrive at KIX you are on an island made by man.

They say that no man is an island. But when you arrive at KIX you are on an island made by man.

Another benefit to Korean Air is that you arrive at the main terminal, avoiding a longish bus ride from the wasteland that is terminal 2.  After deplaning I made my way to see the immigration man.  Apparently coming to Japan for less than a day raises some red flags.  On the arrival form I had listed my destination as my return flight to Korea.  Immigration man asked me what I would be doing in the land of the rising sun.  I told him I’d be taking the train into downtown Osaka and doing a brief tour of the city.  He looked at some flight schedules posted on his desk, so I helpfully showed him my return flight info.  “That’s eight hours from now” he said incredulously.   “Yes it is” I agreed.  He shook his head, stamped my passport, and I was off to customs.

Apparently coming to Japan for less than a day without luggage raises some red flags.  I recounted my tale of doing a brief tour of Osaka before returning to Korea.  He then checked the stamps in my passport and noticed that I had almost exhausted my second 90 day tourist visa in Korea.  He asked when I was going back to the US and I showed him my flight info for September 10.  He then wanted to know why I was going back to Korea.  I told him I have a Korean wife who wants me to return (hard as that may be to believe).  He kinda of laughed and said “oh, a Korean wife”.  Then he wanted to know what was in the shopping bag, and I told him it was perfume.  Apparently buying shit duty free in one country only to carry it back to that same country raises some red flags.  “Who’s the perfume for?” he asked.  “My wife” I responded.  He gave me a look and asked to see the shopping bag.  Finding only the perfume and my spare pack of smokes I figured I was good to go.  Nope.  He decided to search me.  Well, it was more of a pat-down than a search.  Not sure if he thought I was a terrorist or a drug mule.  But finding no weapons or contraband he finally sent me on way.

Having successfully managed a legal entry into Japan, the only thing I had to kill was time.  I wandered around the four floors of the terminal to reacquaint myself with the lay of the land.  Then I walked over to the train station to see what was going on there.  I guess they were having some kind of festival.  There was a line of tents with merchants selling various goods and foods.  And some loud ass music and dancing.  I saw some wild haired Japanese girl band members posing for photos with their fans, but when Gangnam Style started blaring through the speakers it became all too surreal for this oldster, so I headed back to the airport.

I spent three days in downtown Osaka a couple of years ago and despite my protestations to the immigration and custom authorities I was never seriously planning on making the journey this trip.  The only real temptation was the chance to ride on this baby:

Maybe next time.

Maybe next time.

Back in the airport I decided to find me some lunch.  Lots of places to choose from, almost all of them catering to the Japanese palate.  And truth be told, I’m not real keen on the cuisine of Nippon.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit that after quite a bit of indecisive meandering through restaurant row, I finally settled on…McDonald’s.  Yeah, I’m that guy.  At least I was yesterday.  I ordered me the Big Mac set and whipped out the plastic only to be told they only take cash.  So, I had a yen to eat but no Yen to eat with.  I was kind of astounded because everyone uses plastic money (or e-money from the smart phone) in Korea.  So, it was off to find an ATM.

I found one in short order, but it wouldn’t accept foreign cards (in an international airport for crissakes!).  I had a brief moment of panic as I contemplated spending the day without the basic necessities of life (beer).  Although I did have W50,000 or so I could have exchanged if I got desperate.  I walked around until I found another ATM and this one worked, so I filled my wallet with one Y10,000 note ($96).  Flush with cash it was back to McD’s.  After dining I checked my watch and saw that I had managed to whittle a whopping 1.5 hours off my 8 hour layover.  The day was proving to be almost as long as this post!

I went upstairs to the Korean Air counter to see if I could score an earlier flight home.  No dice.  They said I couldn’t even check in for my flight until 3:30. What to do?  With Yen to spend and nowhere else to go, I opted for the KIX Airport Lounge.  They charge Y410 for 30 minutes, and Y120 every 10 minutes thereafter.  But I bought the 6 hour package for Y3090 ($30) which provided me a cozy booth equipped with a computer, reclining chair, and free soft drinks (beers were Y210 each, and I had several).

My home away from home.  Although the chair here is much more comfortable than anything at home.

My home away from home. Although the chair here is much more comfortable than anything at home.  Considering the alternative, it was the best $30 I’ve spent in awhile.

The “booth” is basically a small cubicle, with walls about 4 feet tall.  Cozy I guess you could call it.  But from here I was able to explore the nooks and crannies of the internet in relative comfort.  I got sleepy around 1:30 or so and reclined that chair full back and tried to catch a nap.  Unfortunately, the folks in the common area were being a bit on the noisy side.  So I pulled up YouTube on the computer, found a Neil Young album that I favor, put on the headphones, and enjoyed the soothing rhythms of the 1970s.  I fell asleep somewhere during the last song on the album (Words Between the Lines of Age).  I haven’t napped in a recliner for many a year and I had forgotten just how pleasant an experience that can be.  I awoke at 3:30 feeling relaxed, refreshed, and almost perky.  And with four more hours left until my flight.

The lounge came with a largish library.  Everything was in Japanese, but it was still quite impressive.

This is but one shelf of several of Japanese books.  Comic books!

This is but one shelf of several of Japanese books. Comic books!

I didn’t even bother trying to make sense of those.  But there was also a large magazine rack.  Also all in Japanese.  But I figured at least I could look at the pictures.

Yikes!  Scantily clad Japanese school girls.

Yikes! Scantily clad Japanese school girls.

Now, I’ve been around for awhile (shuddup!) but seriously, I was pretty shocked.  The girls in the magazine I picked couldn’t have been a day over 16.  Now, there was nothing overtly lewd (no more than you’d see at the beach really), but something about it just made me feel icky.  I quickly returned the mag to the rack hoping no one would see me and think I’m a pervert.  So, it was back to YouTube and mind numbing American television (World’s Dumbest) for me.  And soon enough my time in the KIX Airport Lounge reached it’s conclusion and it was time to begin the process of my return journey to Korea.

Check-in, customs, and security went off without incident (I was a little worried I might get hassled over the perfume).  Reached my gate with 45 minutes to spare and a pocket full of Japanese coins.  Interestingly, the Y1000 note is the smallest unit of paper money in Japan, so the coins multiply like drunken rabbits (I added drunken so as not to be cliche.  Regular readers will attest that I avoid trite phrases like the plague).  I found a vending machine that sold cans of Asahi beer so I bought me a tall can and enjoyed it with tobacco in the smoking lounge.  I noted that I had one 500 denominated coin left so I went to the convenience store and picked up a Coke Zero and a bag of pretzels.  Handed the coin to the clerk and she said “that’s Korean money”.  D’oh!  So, I gave her a Y1000 note and wound up with more change.

The remains of the day.

The remains of the day.

Flight back was uneventful (the way I like it!).  As we approached Gimpo I noticed the highways were jam packed and made a mental note to take the subway instead of the Airport Limo home.  Korean immigration didn’t seem to mind my less than a day out of country and awarded me another 90 days (I only needed one).  Customs didn’t care about the perfume either.  I exchanged my remaining yen (except for the coins of course) for Won and then hoofed it to the subway (a pretty fair piece, especially at the end of a long day).

Only problem was I wasn’t sure about the subway route.  I rarely venture out to the Gimpo side of town so none of the stations were familiar.  There were two lines (5 and 9) and I didn’t know if either connected with line 4 that takes me home.  I went to the information counter and despite lacking a common language was able to convey that I was going to Gireum and learn that line 5 did in fact intersect with line 4 at Dongdaemun History and Culture Park.  It was a long haul but I made it safely home by 11:30.

And there you have it.  I guess the only question new visitors to LTG may be asking is “why?”  The short answer is because I’m stupid.  When I did my visa run back in June I miscounted the days.  My tourist visa expires on the 9th and my flight to the USA is on the 10th.  The events described above were actually the lesser of the pains in the ass available to me to rectify my unfortunate inability to count.

 

Analogous

These analogies are like coming to LTG and finding something worthwhile to read.  I expect my readers to be pessimists–rarely disappointed but sometimes pleasantly surprised.

(Which is to say the analogies at the link are a lot funnier than my feeble effort.  Which now that I look at it, is really not an analogy at all.  Sue me.)

Update:  In an entirely unrelated matter, this was in my email box this morning.  Maybe the folks who teach English will find it useful.  Or not.

ENGLISH IS TOUGH STUFF

(Multi-national personnel at North Atlantic Treaty Organization 
headquarters near Paris found English to be an easy language ...
until they tried to pronounce it.  To help them discard an array of 
accents, the verses below were devised.  After trying them, a Frenchman 
said he'd prefer six months at hard labor to reading six lines aloud.  
Try them yourself.)

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I!  Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak; Cloven, oven, how and low, 
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sleeve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant, Shoes, goes, does.  Now 
first say finger, And then singer, ginger, linger, Real, zeal, mauve, 
gauze, gouge and gauge, Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Mouth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale, Islington and Isle of 
Wight, Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!


Killing the Walrus*

* Not to be confused with choking the chicken or spanking the monkey.

After yesterday’s birthday ruminations, I decided to get off my ass and assert some control over my life.  Ah, but where to start?  Changing who I am at this late stage of my life is likely a bridge too far, but I’ll be damned if I can’t change the way I look!

Shaved off the Walrus-stache and got me a Korean haircut.  So here you have the "new" old me.  Hey, baby steps, right?

Shaved off the Walrus-stache and got me a Korean haircut. So here you have the “new” old me. Hey, baby steps, right?

And what can make you feel younger than celebrating your birthday with old friends.  And by old I mean older than me.

Corine and Dennis joined us for a night on the town.  We go all the way back to the Postal Service days together.  I hired them both in Korea.  Corine retired last year and Dennis is hanging it up in January.  I was quick to let them know that I was the only one present still in his 50s.  Excluding that young whippersnapper Jee Yeun who has not left the glorious 40s yet.  She will next year though...

Corine and Dennis joined us for a night on the town. We go all the way back to the Postal Service days together. I hired them both in Korea. Corine retired last year and Dennis is hanging it up in January. I was quick to let them know that I was the only one present still in his 50s. Excluding that young whippersnapper Jee Yeun who has not left the glorious 40s yet. She will next year though…

After some warmup drinks at Shenanigans (where the bartender kindly gave us a free shot in honor of my birthday) we headed out to one of my old favorite restaurants, Don Valley.

I had a steaming hot bowl of bulgogi.  It's the best bulgogi I've found anywhere.  I'm not much of a rice eater, but dumping my bowl of rice into that sweet juice is heavenly.  We also partook in some samgyapsal and dwaegi galbi.  Yum!  And oh yeah, the waitress gave me a free beer for my birthday!

I had a steaming hot bowl of bulgogi. It’s the best bulgogi I’ve found anywhere. I’m not much of a rice eater, but dumping my bowl of rice into that sweet juice is heavenly. We also partook in some samgyapsal and dwaegi galbi. Yum! And oh yeah, the waitress gave me a free beer for my birthday!

After dinner we retired to my longstanding bar home, Dolce Vita.  It was pool league night so the place was hopping.  And all the young women were saying how handsome and young I looked with my dashing haircut and clean-shaven face.  Well, they didn’t actually say that, but I’m pretty sure they were thinking it.

And for the record, when I say "all the young women" I mean this one in particular...

And for the record, when I say “all the young women” I mean this one in particular…

Anyway, it was a nice night out on the town.

Another milestone

White line fever, a sickness born
Down deep within my soul
White line fever, the years keep flyin’ by
Like the highline poles

The wrinkles in my forehead
Show the miles I’ve put behind me
They continue to remind how fast I’m growin’ old
Guess I’ll die with this fever in my soul  –Merle Haggard

Today marks the anniversary of the commencement of my first journey around the sun of which I have now completed 59 circuits.  Man am I tired!

I’ve gotten older but I can’t say I’m all that much wiser.  No great insights as I enter the last year of my fifties.  Truth is, I’m feeling a little melancholy.  It’s not just that with each passing year mortality looms ever larger, it’s more that what once were limitless possibilities and opportunities have been reduced to an uncomfortable understanding that this is what I’ve become and it is all that I will ever be.  It has been said that a dreamer lives forever, but I’ll be damned if I can think of a dream that fits me now.  Well, other than dreaming of my lost youth which is a fool’s game for sure.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling sorry for myself.  Life has bestowed upon me many blessings, including a wife who loves me against all reason.  I have healthy children and grandchildren.  I’m living comfortably on a generous pension (thanks Uncle Sam!).  And despite living a decidedly unhealthy lifestyle I’m in generally good health.  Well, the aches and pains that come with age are a constant companion these days, but I’m still climbing the stairs up to the bars on dart nights (and stumbling back down).  I see folks all around me who can’t do the things I still do and enjoy, so yeah, I’ve been lucky.  And if that’s all there is, by god, I’m gonna keep on doing it for as long as I can.

Perhaps what makes me feel my age the most is that I’m pretty much the oldest guy I know.  Meaning almost all the people I spend time with are young enough to be my kids.  Or younger.  Of course, in my mind (especially after a few beers) I still think I’m thirty.  I fear that when I act that way I must be perceived as the stereotypical “creepy old guy” hanging out with the young crowd.  But what are you gonna do?  I’ve never wanted to live a vanilla life and I’m not about to go “gentle into that dark goodnight“.

I wonder just what makes a man keep pushing on
What makes me keep on hummin’ this old highway song
I’ve been from coast to coast a hundred times before
I ain’t found one single place where I ain’t been before

White line fever, a sickness born
Down deep within my soul
White line fever, the years keep flyin’ by
Like the highline poles

Anyway, happy birthday to me.  I have no idea where the road of life will take me next, but I sure as hell ain’t looking for an exit!

Jee Yeun asked me what I wanted for my birthday.  I didn't have the heart to tell her "to be 30".

Jee Yeun asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I didn’t have the heart to tell her “to be 30″.

I always preferred Graham Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers version of the song:

 

 

I’ve got a ticket to ride

So, I’ll be flying to Osaka on Saturday.  Another one of those “one day, never leave the airport” visa runs.  The trip was necessitated because of my inability to count days.  My current visa expires on September 9 and my return flight to the USA is scheduled for September 10.

I had hoped that the folks at Korean immigration would show me a little mercy and grant me a one day extension.  Alas, it was not to be.  The pricks at Delta Airlines who will be providing my transportation to South Carolina (eh, technically Charlotte, NC) would charge me an additional $600 to move my flight (and Jee Yeun’s) to the 9th.  So instead I’m giving Korean Air* four hundred bucks for their Osaka and back service.  No charge for killing 8 hours in the Kansai airport though.

*I opted not to use the low-cost Peach Air this time around.  Korean Air is a little more expensive ($50 or so), but Peach Air is just too damn uncomfortable and they nickle and dime you to death (charges for paying by credit card and in-flight snacks and beverages) so the difference really isn’t even fifty dollars.  Plus, Korean Air flies out of Gimpo which is easier and quicker to access than Incheon.

Every picture tells a story…

…so I don’t have to.  Except for the captions.

Friday night darts at Dolce Vita resulted in a 1st place finish for me and my partner Su Mi and enriched us to the tune of W20,000 each.

Friday night darts at Dolce Vita resulted in a 1st place finish for me and my partner Su Mi and enriched us to the tune of W20,000 each.

For the last few weeks poor Steve (the guy on my left) has faced me in the finals and I've managed to prevail in some bizarre "pulling it of my ass" fashion.  This week it was throwing 5 bulls for the finish. That young lad in front is Bogdan who returned to Russia on Sunday after spending the summer in Seoul.  He demonstrated good potential at darts and pool and was a champion when it came to downing shots.  Go figure.

For the last few weeks poor Steve (the guy on my left) has faced me in the finals and I’ve managed to prevail in some bizarre “pulling it of my ass” fashion. This week it was throwing 5 bulls for the finish.
That young lad in front is Bogdan who returned to Russia on Sunday after spending the summer in Seoul. He demonstrated good potential at darts and pool and was a champion when it came to downing shots. Go figure.

Saturday night found me in Songtan playing the Xenis Bar tournament.  I had the good fortune to team up with the bar owner Vox who pretty much carried me to a 2nd place finish and put another W45,000 in my wallet.  Well, actually it was Jee Yeun's wallet that was enriched.  But still.

Saturday night found me in Songtan playing the Xenis Bar tournament. I had the good fortune to team up with the bar owner Vox who pretty much carried me to a 2nd place finish and put another W45,000 in my wallet. Well, actually it was Jee Yeun’s wallet that was enriched. But still.

Matt and his lovely lady Sohee also made the drip down to Songtan.  The fan makes Matt look much better than he does in real life...

Matt and his lovely lady Sohee also made the drip down to Songtan. The fan makes Matt look much better than he does in real life…

Took the bus back to Seoul early Sunday afternoon.  I was feeling whipped but had a Sunday Singles League match to play against Vidal.  After losing 9-7 I was feeling even more whipped.

Took the bus back to Seoul early Sunday afternoon. I was feeling whipped but had a Sunday Singles League match to play against Vidal. After losing 9-7 I was feeling even more whipped.

No pictures available, but last night in the Seoul International Dart League we played our sister team from Dillinger’s Bar, the Dill Pickles.  We played them close, but lost the match.  I managed my first winning night (3-0 in singles, 3-3 in doubles) in a very long time however, so I felt pretty good about that.

Home Plus came through with 60 bottles of the coveted but surprisingly hard to Coke Zero.  Hopefully this will carry me through my final two weeks in Korea...

Home Plus came through with 60 bottles of the coveted but surprisingly hard to find Coke Zero. Hopefully this will carry me through my final two weeks in Korea…

And that, sad though it may be, is pretty much my life these past few days.  Picture that.

Just say no

drama

I have worked diligently and for the most part successfully at avoiding being sucked into the drama that seems to occur with a fair amount of frequency in the Itaewon bar scene.  I’ve witnessed my fair share this trip but have maintained my innocent bystander status.  With just a couple of weeks remaining in this iteration of my Korea life I figured I was home free.

So I was distressed to get a text message from one of the guys in the Columbia dart league telling me he had been banned from our home bar because the owner didn’t like his “attitude”.  I also got a simultaneous email from the bar owner telling me his side of the story*.   I’m not going to get in the middle of this fight either, although it does not bode well for the future of the fledgling dart scene I worked so hard to build in Columbia.  Ah well.

I just wish people could get along, which I guess requires overlooking annoying quirks or the occasional untoward comment.  I’ve noted that alcohol rarely brings out the best aspects of one’s personality, but taking offense at every transgression isn’t worth the hassle.  Shut up and throw darts for god’s sake.

*This isn’t the first time Dirk has 86’d a dart league member.  He’s basically got a zero tolerance for anyone who does not comport to his standards of expected behavior.  It’s his bar and his right to do as he pleases, although I would likely handle things differently.  Regular customers spending money in your bar on a regular basis is kind of important to the bottom line I reckon.

There is a difference…

…between racism and ignorance.  Granted, I suppose it would be fair to say that racists are by definition ignorant.  But of course, you can also be ignorant without being racist.

The expat pages on Facebook have been on fire this week regarding the ill-conceived effort of an Itaewon pub to stop the spread of the Ebola virus by, wait for it, banning Africans from the bar.

ignorance

The story has since been picked up by traditional media like the Korea Times.  Heck, I even saw that the Drudge Report had a (non-working) link to the story this morning.  Anyway, the bar has posted some apologetic signage, but I imagine the damage is done.

ignorance2

So, was this a case of ignorance, racism, or both?  I’ve been to JR Pub a couple of times, although it’s been a few years now since I’ve ventured inside.  I was there for their grand opening way back when and I was surprised and disappointed that the bar staff uniform included a Che Guevara t-shirt something like this:

ignorance3

Which is kind of ironic, because in addition to being a mass murderer, Che was also a racist.  At the time I asked one of the servers if she had any idea of who the guy on the shirt she was wearing was, but of course she was without a clue.  I briefly mentioned some of his more depraved acts but only got a shrug in response.  I noticed a few months later that the uniforms had been changed to something less offensive, but you know the old saw about only getting one chance to make a first impression. Anyway, I don’t really know the owner having only met him briefly on a couple of occasions.  Friends of mine who know him better say he’s a great and generous guy.  And he did post what appears to be a sincere apology in one of the Facebook forums:

Firstly, I would like to specifically apologize to Africans of all nations and to the people and families who are dealing with the ebola disease. An insensitive message was directed towards you in JR Pub, a restaurant that I co-own with a Korean National, and it is something that I will not tolerate.

To everyone else, I would like to personally apologize for the posting of the racist and discriminatory sign. Anyone who knows me, knows that the sign is not representative of who I am and is not reflective of the services that we provide; no matter the race, color, creed, or sexual orientation, we value all of our customers.

I must admit, that bridging the cultural gap between Korean and international cultures has been, and continue to be, a challenge for us. When we get it right, our service stands above and beyond. Unfortunately in this instance, it was completely wrong in every way, and we take full responsibility for it.

Ironically, the night before this incident, we hosted a distinguished visitor from an African nation. The majority of his party of 80, were from African nations and we were honored to serve them.

Once my partner realized that his actions were offensive and highly insensitive, we discussed how we would like to make amends:

1. The first was to immediately remove the offensive sign and the policy associated with it.
2. The drafting of this letter of apology.
3. Conduct cultural and sensitivity training for my partner and staff.
4. Organize a fund raiser to assist in research of Ebloa and/or for assistance to the African communities plagued by the disease.

We would like to reach out to our concerned customers and community members for assistance in #4. We welcome ideas on helping us find the best way forward.

Again, for me and on behalf of my partner and staff at JR Pub, we sincerely apologize and are committed to mending the damage that we have caused.

Respectfully,
Troy Armado
Co-Owner JR Pub

Ah, so it was his Korean partner who was responsible for the ignorance on display.  Go figure.  I remember when I first came to Korea I was astounded to see signs posted at several bars saying “No Nigerians Allowed”.  And of course, foreigners on occasion find this kind of “welcome” awaiting them:

ignorance4

Racism or ignorance?  Who knows.  Heh, reminds me of story where the teacher says “McCrarey, are you really that ignorant or are you just apathetic?”  To which I responded “I don’t know and I don’t care!”  (I think that’s a joke, but having told it so often over the years it’s starting to seem like it really happened.)

Whatever the motivation for this sorry state of affairs, I think it is a fair observation that if ignorance truly is bliss, then planet Earth must be the happiest damn place in the universe.

 

 

Fumay la bush!

Why can’t American commercials be this funny?

It’s a Dutch commercial, but I found it posted in French.  Hence my attempt at humor with a phonetic rendering of the only French I know in the title of this post.

Speaking of the French, President Obama was in for some criticism this week:

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has a message about Iraq for Barack Obama: Get back to the White House and do something.

“I know it is the holiday period in our Western countries,” Fabius told a radio interviewer Tuesday in France, “but when people are dying, you must come back from vacation.”

As one wag put it “who thought we’d see the day when the French would criticize the Americans for taking too much vacation.”

Therein lies the difference

The drunks who frequent the park downstairs from my apartment are a noisy and irksome bunch.  Regularly keeping me awake late into the night and/or waking me up at the crack of dawn with their rantings and ravings.  Signs are posted all over the park prohibiting drinking but I’ve never seen that enforced.  Until tonight.

The intensity of the shouting reached an unusually high fevered pitch so I stepped out on the veranda overlooking the park to see what was going on and I arrived just in time to observe one of the drunk ajusshi’s give one of Korea’s finest a violent shove.  The cop shoved him back and said what I assume was the Korean equivalent of “settle down!”.  Now, in my observations over the years I’ve found Korean cops to be exceedingly tolerant when dealing with disgruntled citizens.  Had the drunk guy backed off I doubt he’d have suffered any consequences for assaulting an officer of the law.  Instead, he charged the cop again and the fight was on!  The cop quickly got the upper hand and was wrestling the ajusshi to the ground.  Another cop came into view at this point and as he attempted to assist his partner, a second drunk guy jumped him from behind.  All hell pretty much broke out at the point.

It appeared there were six cops versus three drunks (several other drunks were milling about but limited themselves to verbal tirades) and in short order the police had subdued the offenders and had them in handcuffs.  But what really stood out for me was the restraint the officers showed in the face of physical violence.  No billy clubs, no pepper spray, no punches–they just put them on the ground and slapped on the cuffs.

Now, of course this brought to mind the unfortunate situation in Ferguson, MO.  I don’t know what happened other than what I’ve read and I’m not passing judgement.  But in general I’ve been concerned about the growing militarization of our local PD’s.  It seems more and more the police do not see citizens as a community to be served but rather as an enemy to be subdued.  I don’t think that bodes well for anyone.

Granted, the police have a difficult and dangerous job and we obviously owe them a fair amount of discretion when it comes to protecting themselves.  But it seems all too frequently I’m seeing stuff like this woman being beaten mercilessly for having the audacity of walking on the shoulder of the freeway.  “Hey lady, what you are doing is dangerous and against the law.  Let me punch your face in.”

Handcuffed and sitting on the curb are you?  Well, a swift kick to the head seems to be in order then...

Handcuffed and sitting on the curb are you? Well, a swift kick to the head seems to be in order then…

Anyway, I think the Korean cops take more shit than they deserve, and American cops dish out more shit than is normally warranted.  I would think there’s a middle ground to be found between these extremes.  But of the two I’d say the Korean cops got the job done and everyone lived to see another day.

And now the park is quiet.  I think I’ll take advantage of that and get me some sleep.

UPDATE:  And yes, for every story of police misconduct there are probably 100 like this.