No Mo!

And no more Tony either...

And no more Tony either…

Another weekend, another farewell party.  This time it was Tony and Mo saying their goodbyes to Korea as the Army has deemed they are needed in San Antonio.  When I returned to Korea after a 13 month hiatus, most of the old faces were gone.  Tony and Mo were amongst the new faces I met and enjoyed spending time with, if only for a little while.  Such is the life in Itaewon I suppose.  I will say they put out a nice spread of food and free beer for their friends and we all had a good time.  I wish them both best of luck in the future.

As in the tradition at these farewell parties, a darts tournament broke out.  Traditionally, the guests of honor do not win said tournament.  Last night I drew up Mo as my partner, and Tony was paired with Dolce Vita proprietor Jim.  And sure enough the four of us met in the finals, guaranteeing that at least one of them would break the tourney jinx and go out on a high note.  After a long and drunken match in which none of us could hit the outs for which we aimed, I snuck  in a double 1 for the win.  Tony was philosophical about it, saying if I win Mo gets the money, if she wins she gets the money.  So I guess it all went according to plan.

After the party I wasn’t quite ready for the subway journey home so I headed up Hooker Hill to a country bar I used to favor, The Grand Ole Opry.  It’s been years since I was in there, but the ajumma who runs the joint remembered me as did the waitress, so that made me feel pretty good.

The guy in the cowboy hat was doing the Texas two-step and making the girls smile.  There was a time when I fancied myself a pretty fair country dancer, but alas I was without a partner last night.

The guy in the cowboy hat was doing the Texas two-step and making the girls smile. There was a time when I fancied myself a pretty fair country dancer, but alas I was without a partner last night.

And since I promised Thirsty more posts about darts I’ll briefly mention Friday night’s action at Dolce.  I teamed up with Shane and we both struggled all night, but somehow managed to make it through the winner’s bracket undefeated.  We met Wan Jun and Steve in the finals and they dispatched us pretty quickly in the first set.  We were down and almost out in the final leg of the match–behind on points and 17s wide open.  We had bulls closed, and they needed one more bull for the win.  And then I managed a double bull on my first dart which put us up on points, hit a double 17 with my second dart, and then a single 17 for the win.  Yeah, I was lucky, but it was still a sweet finish.

We both went home W20,000 richer...

We both went home W20,000 richer…

Thirsty?

I’ll drink to that!

neil

Last night I had the pleasure of running into a long time LTG reader and old friend Neil Hirst (aka Thirsty) at Dolce Vita.  I’ve been knowing Thirsty since we met at a dart match in December 2006 when he impressed me by recounting his favorite posts from the blog, including the time I busted open my skull and witnessed what turned out to be a friend of Neil’s falling out of a cab. And over the years he’s continued to read the blog and occasionally even comment!  You can’t buy that kind of loyalty, but you can reward it with a beer.  So I did.

Neil left Korea a few years back for Jakarta but we stayed connected via LTG. He then spent some time in China where he acquired a beautiful Chinese wife who subsequently provided him with a handsome son.  Thirsty proudly reports the boy can cuss in three languages!  These days he calls Singapore home, but a recent promotion will afford him the opportunity to visit Korea several times a year.  So, I’ll be looking forward to our next chance encounter.

Speaking of which, there was a fair amount of kismet involved in my running into Thirsty last night.  I wasn’t even supposed to be at Dolce Vita as I have a standing Wednesday night dart date at Bull and Barrel with my Canadian friend Craig Cowper.  Craig had to cancel last night, so I made my way over to Shenanigans where I enjoyed some beer and conversation with a university professor who hails from Alabama.  He wanted me to stay and throw some darts with him, but alas, I had left my darts at Dolce Monday night.  So, I went to retrieve them and ran into a friend whose son was visiting from Russia and she asked if I’d give him a game or two.  Which I did.  He’s a fine lad and his game is improving, but let’s just say his missiles weren’t flying as accurately as Mr. Putin’s.

And then Thirsty appeared and we played us some darts, drank us some beers, and had us some fun.  Oh, and Neil’s also a big fan of the Big Hominid’s blog and he mentioned that he enjoyed reading about me and Kevin meeting up a couple of months ago.

So, that’s the story of how I quenched my thirst for a good night in Itaewon!

 

Metamorphosis

Once upon a time I was a lowly caterpillar crawling through the muck and mud, lost and directionless, unable to find my way.  And then one day I awoke to find myself a butterfly!

But in all seriousness, my political transformation was not this extreme but I can certainly relate to what the author is saying.  My personal biggest irk is #4 and #5 on the list.  The left tends to demonize contrary viewpoints by making shit up.

Sometimes I lose hope for my country, but you never know.  People may actually wake up.  And given the left’s tendency to overreach (the current border crisis comes to mind) maybe we’ll actually get the Change we were Hoping for.

Sadly, the Republicans aren’t much better than the Democrats, so I’m not sure that winning a Senate majority will make much difference.

The link is worth the read.

 

 

Farewell, so long…

…I’ll be the same tomorrow.

But things will be different here as two, well technically three, old timers are moving on.  Two goodbye parties yesterday made for a bittersweet weekend.

Doug is being returned to Columbus, OH after 21 years in Korea.  He goes involuntarily having (finally) ran afoul of DoD's "five year rule" which requires civilians to rotate out of overseas assignments after five years in country.

Doug is being returned to Columbus, OH after 21 years in Korea. He goes involuntarily having (finally) ran afoul of DoD’s “five year rule” which requires civilians to rotate out of overseas assignments after five years in country.

Bill and June are excited about their move to Vietnam where Bill will teach at the international school in what appears to be an outstanding opportunity for the family.

Bill and June are excited about their move to Vietnam after 10 years in Korea.   Bill will teach at the international school in what appears to be an outstanding opportunity for the family.

.I wish them well and thank them for the memories.

 

About last night

So, I had my typical Friday night of darts at Dolce Vita although somewhat atypically I managed a first place finish.  My nephew Justin came by the bar for a couple of beers and then we headed out to the samgyapsal joint I favor.

As is our normal practice the conversation soon turned to politics. And when I start getting wound up my voice gets somewhat intense.  Not shouting really, just kind of aggressive.  I was in this mode when the waitress came to our table and shushed me.  Now, I was taken aback by this because it was just the two of us at the table surrounded by crowded tables of loud Koreans drinking and laughing and enjoying their grilled pork belly. Which is how it should be.  I mean, this was not a fine dining establishment. And to be honest about it, I may have been talking louder than normal if only to be heard above the din of the surrounding crowd. As I looked around the room and noticed just how loud everyone else was being I got pissed off.

At that very moment the waitress who had offended me was serving the largest and loudest table of Koreans in the joint. So I turned around and said (probably shouted) “are you going to tell them to be quiet too, or is it only the miguks who aren’t allowed to make noise?”  Of course, I said this in English so I’m sure she didn’t understand most of it, but it did appear from her reaction that she got my point.  I turned back to my nephew and said “am I wrong?”.  He agreed that we hadn’t been louder than anyone else but he said he was embarrassed by my outburst.

I guess in retrospect I am too. This is not the first time I’ve encountered being singled out for noise when Koreans are notoriously loud when dining (especially when soju is involved) and seem to be ignored. But responding to racism with rudeness is not the solution.  I’m sure all I did was perpetuate a negative stereotype when I loudly confronted the waitress.  I should have just let it go like I normally do I suppose.

I think it is also true that English voices tend to stand out in the crowd so to speak.  I’ve noticed it on the subway myself that foreigners always sound louder when they are speaking together.  Upon *ahem* more sober reflection perhaps I sounded louder than I was.

Meanwhile, I was again awakened early this morning by noise from the downstairs park. This time it was two ajummas shouting at each other. And so it goes.

Oh, I also doused my keyboard in diet Coke this morning.  I did my best to clean it up quickly, but as I feared some of the keys are now not functioning correctly. Which made typing this post especially challenging.  Ain’t life grand?

 

 

If you build it they will come

Things are pretty ugly in our nation’s capital.  Via BuzzFeed comes this article chock full of pictures of some of the worst buildings in Washington, D.C.  Well, I guess it’s only fitting that we house our crappy government in appropriately crappy office space.

I actually had the misfortune of working in two of them and had occasion to visit most of the others during my long years of government service.  L’Enfant Plaza housed Postal Service Headquarters.  I technically only worked there for a few months in the summer of 1998 during collective bargaining agreement negotiations with the National Association of Letter Carriers.  Many other days were wasted there for mindless meetings with the HQ brass though.  I also spent five soul-sucking years working within the walls of the Department of Education building.  How bad was it?  I preferred working in Iraq and actively pursued employment there, albeit without success.  I did wind up in Korea though and that was almost like being reborn after all those hellish years in D.C.

Which is why catching the Virginia Railway Express at L'Enfant station for the last time filled me with unbridled joy...

Which is why catching the Virginia Railway Express at L’Enfant station for the last time filled me with unbridled joy…

How great thou art

This morning at 0600 I awoke to the sound of Amazing Grace being sung by one of the drunk ajusshis who frequent the park outside my apartment building.  To his credit he could carry a melody.  Although it must have been the only song he knew because he repeated it for an hour or so.  The way our buildings are configured the park makes a near perfect amphitheater.  And with the window open in deference to the July heat it sounded like he was in the next room.  Which made going back to sleep impossible for a wretch like me.

Ah well, just another day in paradise.

Ha!  It sounded a lot like this:

Here’s to your health!

According to this report smelling farts may help prevent cancer.  I mentioned this to Jee Yeun this morning and she noted that that was only true in small doses.  I’m not sure what she was implying, but I owe it to her to do everything I can to keep her cancer free.

Although apparently the science on this is not “settled”.  And if we continue passing wind for the benefit of our friends and neighbors health are we not running the risk of increased global warming?  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t I suppose.

I get knocked down…

…but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.

AT&T won’t unlock.  So, I bought a new phone.  Actually, I got the new phone basically free with a two year service commitment.  Which means I’m paying for phone plans on two continents now.  Although SK is only charging me around $35 bucks a month.  And I’m going to change my plan with AT&T and save at least that much.

It’s a sweet phone–Galaxy S-3 very similar to my US phone.  So, I’m familiar with the interface at least.

The real reason for this post though is I signed up for Google Analytics (hey I was bored) and I want to see how (or if) it works.

<script>
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){
(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),
m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m)
})(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’);

ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52645894-1′, ‘auto’);
ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

</script>

Lock blockers

As I mentioned in the previous post, I killed my phone last night.  That was the Galaxy S-2 I inherited from my nephew.  I am loathe to purchase a new smartphone, especially given the fact that I already “own” a perfectly fine Galaxy S-3.  When I first got back to Korea I attempted to have SK telephone install a new sim card in my U.S. phone but was told it could not be done because the dicks folks at AT&T had “locked” the phone in a manner that could not be legally undone.

As our president has demonstrated on numerous occasions, laws are for the little people.  And I am many things but little is not among them.  So I set about trying to unlock my phone on my own.  Found a handy website that offered step-by-step instructions on doing just that and I followed them to the best of my ability.  Alas, the assholes geniuses at AT&T had apparently installed a block to the unlock, because the lock would not open in the manner the website had promised.  I guess it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because after going through the unlocking process twice I discovered that the sim card from the S-2 doesn’t fit in the S-3.

What I find especially irksome is I’m paying AT&T a whopping $143.00 a month for the U.S. service I’m only using six months a year (that’s mine and Jee Yeun’s phone and data plan charges).  I do this for the privilege of keeping my American phone number which I need to maintain for a host of reasons I won’t bother discussing here.  But I’ve been on the AT&T plan for well over a year fulfilling my commitment which means I own the smartphones I bought when I signed up.  Anyway, when I turned my S-3 back on after the unsuccessful unlocking effort, I got a message from AT&T welcoming me to Korea and advising I could set up an international plan by calling (for free!) a number they provided.

I don’t need or want an international plan, but I would like my phone unlocked.  So I called.  And the pleasant AT&T customer service rep advised that requests to unlock have to be submitted through the website.  So that’s where I went and that’s what I did.  And somewhere between two and five days from now I’ll have my answer.  Which better be “yes” or I’m going to make some changes.  To hell with the consequences, I will not be denied!

Yobo Gangnam style

A photo blog of yesterday’s birthday celebration.

While Jee Yeun was still sleeping I went out to the local Paris Baguette and purchased a tasty birthday cake.  That's 4 tall candles and 9 small ones.  You can do the math.

While Jee Yeun was still sleeping I went out to the local Paris Baguette and purchased a tasty birthday cake. That’s 4 tall candles and 9 small ones. You can do the math.

In the evening we ventured out to a small restaurant in Gangnam that had come highly recommended.  We were not disappointed!  They feature various cuts of pork cooked at the table Korean BBQ style.  Although they actually supplied a cook to do the grilling properly.  He even had a clever laser-like device to make sure the grill was the right temperature for optimum cooking.

In the evening we ventured out to a small restaurant in Gangnam that had come highly recommended. We were not disappointed! They feature various cuts of pork cooked at the table Korean BBQ style. Although they actually supplied a cook to do the grilling properly. He even had a clever laser-like device to make sure the grill was the right temperature for optimum cooking.

All the cuts were tender and juicy.  The "skirt meat" tasted just like beef.

All the cuts were tender and juicy. The “skirt meat” tasted just like beef.

We then cabbed over to a famous jazz joint called Once in a Blue Moon.  I had the unique experience of drinking my first W17,000 beer which not so coincidentally was the cheapest beverage on the menu.  The music was good and all, but the prices were too rich for my blood.  Suffice to say I can only afford to visit this establishment once in a blue moon.

We then cabbed over to a famous jazz joint called Once in a Blue Moon. I had the unique experience of drinking my first W17,000 beer which not so coincidentally was the cheapest beverage on the menu. The music was good and all, but the prices were too rich for my blood. Suffice to say I can only afford to visit this establishment once in a blue moon.

We decided that we could make our own music much cheaper, so we ended the night at a nice little norebang.  I have some pictures, but I apparently dropped my phone at some point last night.  I’ve got spiderweb cracks on the screen which is otherwise dark.  I’m sure that faux pas is going to cost me more than the rest of the night combined.

Ah well, Jee Yeun said it was the best birthday she’s had this year.  So there’s that.

Have yourself a merry little birthday

Well, it’s the 4th of July and we all know what that means.  Yep, my sweet wife is celebrating another birthday*.  After she wakes up this morning I’ll be playing her traditional birthday song at full volume.  Although she never seems to enjoy that as much as I do.  Ah well, you gotta do what you gotta do.

* Jee Yeun’s passport says she was born on July 5, but July 5 in Korea is July 4 stateside, right?  Anyway, I’ve made some special plans for her birthday tomorrow in Gangnam.  And now she tells me she was in fact born on the 4th of July and that her passport is wrong.  So, I’m covering all the bases here.
UPDATE: What, the USA is having a birthday too?!  Well, what are the odds of that?

The way it’s done

Jee Yeun tells me today that her daughter has a new beau.  She was yammering on the phone to Sohee this afternoon and I ask what was that all about?  Jee Yeun said she was getting the boyfriend’s birth date info.  Turns out he’s 35 (Sohee is 26, but I can’t remember if that is “Korean age” or American-style counting).  I ask Jee Yeun if that’s too old and she responds that she is going to find out.  Next thing I know Jee Yeun is heading out the door and I say where are you going?  She responds, “I told you, the fortune teller”.

But of course.  No one invests much time in a relationship these days without the sage advice and wisdom of a seer.  I recollect Jee Yeun dragging me in to see one back in our early days of dating.  I thought at the time we were doing it as a novelty.  But that was wrong.  Had I not gotten the thumbs up from the fortune teller I would be but a distant memory by now I suppose.

Well, Sohee is a sweet girl.  So I hope this new guy was not born in the year of the rat.  Or snake for that matter.

Spare your heart…

…everything put together sooner or later falls apart.

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” –Stephen King

The climax of my weekend

climax

As incredible as it may seem I was actually starting to feel a little burned out on Itaewon.  The wife was visiting family in the countryside and I was feeling more than little bored.  What to do?  Change my view!  So I headed on down to Songtan.

I decided to take the bus from Nambu Terminal, something I’ve done before but never on my own.  In the past I had always connected from Line 6 to Line 3 at Yaksu Station.  These days I live near Line 4, but I figured I could do the 4/6/3 thing unless I found a better way.  And sure enough there was one!  You can transfer from Line 4 to Line 3 at Chungmuro Station and twelve stops or so later you arrive at Nambu.

SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS

As you can tell I was pretty pleased with myself for figuring that out.  And yes, I am easily pleased.

I proceeded to purchase my bus ticket to Songtan (W3800) without incident and the bus arrived within five minutes.  Unfortunately, lots of folks had made weekend plans for Songtan and the bus was full before I could get on board.  Ah well, the next one arrived twenty minutes later and I secured a comfortable window seat.  The last passengers were a mother and her two small children.  Finding that there were not three contiguous vacant seats, she put her older child across the aisle and sat down next to me with her little girl sitting in her lap.  I volunteered (technically gestured) that I would move and the mother responded in English “no, that’s alright”.  Then the little girl offered me a stick of her gum which was pretty sweet of her.

It’s about a 50 minute ride to Songtan which I spent looking out the window.  Upon arrival I did the ten minute walk to the Korea Hotel which is where I’ve always stayed when I visit.

Smack dab in the middle of the Songtan entertainment district.  If buy entertainment you mean bars.  Well, there's lots of shopping too I suppose.  But I wouldn't call that entertainment.

Smack dab in the middle of the Songtan entertainment district. If by entertainment you mean bars. Well, there’s lots of shopping too I suppose. But I wouldn’t call that entertainment.

Now, Jee Yeun has always been able to negotiate a discounted rate.  I had my mind set on doing the same thing.  It was touch and go for awhile but I was finally able to get a rate of $60, a whopping five bucks off the starting price.  It was more about the principle than the money anyway.

Next I needed to prepare my stomach for a night of heavy drinking by ingesting some greasy food.  The conveniently located McDonald’s did the trick.  I then met up with my buddy Matt and we sat down for our first beers at a pub with outdoor tables.  Later his girlfriend and her friend drove down from Seoul and we moved over to Xenis Bar for the Saturday night darts tournament.

I drew a local player, Terry “T-Money”, as my partner.  I threw a little better than usual and T-Money filled in the gaps nicely.  We sailed along until I lost the ability to throw bulls-eyes and we got knocked into the loser’s bracket.  Fought our way back to play the team that had beat us earlier for the championship.  We took the first match but still needed to beat them again when my partner advised he had a 1:00 a.m. curfew imposed by the commander at Osan Air Base.  So we agreed to split 1st and 2nd place money evenly and everyone went home happy.

Joy abounds when you are winning.

Joy abounds when you are winning.

Well, I didn’t go home of course.  Our group hit the street for some street food where I enjoyed some chicken-on-a-stick, a drunken delicacy if there ever was one.  The womenfolk then went back to the hotel and Matt and I hit another bar or two for some late late-night drinking.  I stumbled back to the hotel at 0330.

Woke up at 9:30 in a state other than refreshed, grabbed a sausage muffin and coffee at McD’s then hiked on over to the Songtan bus station for my somewhat hungover triumphant return to Seoul.  And I never even needed a taxi!

So that’s the story of how my weekend climaxed in Songtan.  I’m glad I came!  *ahem*

 

 

Internationale

The world came together last night at Pub Dolce Vita in Itaewon.  Looking around the room I noted the following countries were represented by patrons in the bar: Korea, USA, Philippines, Japan, Canada, Russia, and Mongolia.  Not sure why none of the UK expats showed up given their fondness for the sport of darts.

So we had us a tournament and me and partner managed to make it to the finals.  We were coming from the loser’s bracket which required us to beat our opponents in two best of three matches.  And both of those matches went all three legs.  In fact, it came down to both teams having a chance to win on their last dart.  They missed, we didn’t.  My share of the 1st Place money was W30,000.

It was well after midnight when we finished and I was tired, hungry, and a little drunk.  And I had missed the last subway and bus home (why they stop running so early on the weekends is something I’ve never quite understood).  Which meant it was catch a cab or rent a room.  I opted for the former.

Now, the only real problem I’ve ever had in Korea is with taxi drivers.  It’s a problem that only surfaces when my Korean wife is not with me.  And it’s not a language issue so much as it is, well, I have to say it is racism.  My experience is always the same and it happens repeatedly: vacant cabs slow down, see I’m a foreigner, and then accelerate away.  That happened two or three times last night.  I also had two cabs stop, crack the window to ask where I was going, and when I responded “Gireum station” they said “anio” and took off.  My understanding is that it is illegal to refuse a fare, but the cabs do it with impunity.   Finally a Deluxe Taxi stopped and let me in.  The only thing that makes a deluxe cab deluxe is that they charge a higher fare.  Last night the meter started at W5000 and was up to W24,000 and change when we arrived in proximity to Gireum (he actually dropped me about a block from where I wanted to go, but there was no point in arguing about it).  The normal cab fare from Itaewon is between W12,000 and W15,000.  So, that’s the price I paid for being white in Korea I suppose.  I have heard it is even worse to be black in Korea.

Last year when Jee Yeun’s kids were with us in Las Vegas they had an ugly run-in with an American taxi driver.  And while I felt bad for them of course, I couldn’t help but think now you know how I feel every frickin’ time I cab (alone) in Korea.

Anyway, it was a frustrating end to an otherwise pleasant night.

UPDATE:  Kevin Kim makes offers some great advice for winning cabbies over in the comments.  Give it a read!  And of course, not all cab drivers are useless bastards.  I remembered a happy Thanksgiving incident that I had blogged about a few years back.