Up on the roof

Weather is starting to warm up, but it is still not uncomfortably hot. I keep my doors and windows open and thus far have not needed to use the A/C. The mosquitos are out however. I’ve killed a couple in the house, and woke up this morning with a bite on the belly. Got to keep the screens closed on the doors to the balcony….

Anyway, I’ve mentioned how I spend some time up on the roof. There’s a nice view up there and usually a good breeze. I take my chair, boombox, and cooler of beer up there and most days have the place all to myself. Here’s some photos I took a couple of weeks ago….

In other news, it appears that one of the bars I enjoyed visiting for a little pool and conversation has closed. No idea what happened to Lucky Strike, I was there Wednesday and everything was cool. But it has been closed all weekend, and bars do not close on weekends. There are lots of bars in Itaewon, but finding a comfortable place without Juicy girls, loud music, or big crowds is not so easy. I also enjoyed the company of Eun Ja, the barkeep. When it was quiet she would consent to kicking my ass at pool. I would reciprocate by beating her at chess.

And in case you are wondering, the answer is no. She just turned 30. And she has a boyfriend. In fact, she told me he is the jealous type and he asked her about me. Her response: “you mean that old guy?” Ouch.

Anyway, I will miss Lucky Strike.

Time for a post

And here it is. I’m doing alright. Nothing exciting to report, just moving forward with each passing day.

Work has been quite interesting lately. This week I participated in a mediation at the ROK National Labor Relations Commission during which a settlement was reached resolving a labor dispute with the Korean Employees Union. Bottom line, we have now avoided the possibility of a strike next month. Which is important because USFK relies heavily on our Korean workforce and while we had contingency plans in place, it would have been a lose-lose situation for all concerned. I have mentioned before how much I respect our Korean workers, but if I have failed to say how much I admire the professionalism of the KEU President, I have been remiss. I’ve been doing labor relations work for well over twenty years now, and Mr. Kang is the best I have seen. He is smart, savvy, and very effective. A genuinely nice man. He has the trust and respect of USFK leadership, and that has paid off for the KEU in ways that the rank and file may not see or understand. Anyway, he has been a pleasure to work.

Unfortunately, the leadership of the US union is the antithesis of KEU. I’ve been holding on to the hope that the problem was simply lack of experience and that with time I would see a more mature approach to maintaining positive labor-management relationships. I’m starting to realize that instead we have someone who is not only completely clueless but also unreasonable and intransigent. He is rapidly burning up the good will of the people who are in a position to really ensure that the US workforce interests are served. The things that management can provide at its discretion are much greater than what is available through collective bargaining, at least in the Federal sector. It is foolish to trash the relationship over petty complaints that are entirely without merit. Well, I can play the game either way, and it looks like we will be doing it the hard way for awhile. The upshot of this is that I am preparing for an arbitration hearing on an issue that the union has little or no hope of prevailing. We will spend lots of time , effort and money to reach the result the union should already know, especially if they would take the time to read how the courts have ruled countless times. This is the first time in anyone’s memory that we have had an arbitration hearing on the peninsula. And it is completely pointless. Alas.

In my personal life I am just filling time these days. Last night my Air Force buddy Jeff called and interrupted a game of CIV so we could meet a Caroline’s for a couple of beers. We wound up playing darts. I can’t remember the last time I’ve tried to hit a dart board, but it has probably been over 20 years ago. I assumed my darts would be worse than my pool, but surprisingly I played pretty well. Not well enough to win (Jeff is really good), but most of the time it came down to who got the last bullseye first. I really enjoyed myself and I’m thinking with some practice I might actually be a decent player. Although practice has not done much for my pool game yet, and league play starts again next month.

And that’s about it from here.

My favorite soldier

Well, I heard from daughter Hillary. I’d been worried about her after hearing about the mortar attack that killed two soldiers and wounded five yesterday in Afghanistan.

She assured me she was alright, and hadn’t even heard about the casualties. She said things were going well, but she is looking forward to the end of her deployment next month. She said the most danger she had personally experienced was from the poisonous snakes laying about the countryside. After nearly stepping on one last month, she got her first kill. This time she captured one of those terrorist vipers and sent me a photo:

She’s quite the snake charmer, isn’t she?

And coincidentally I also got a package from her today. It is a flag that flew over her compound along with a beautiful certificate that says:

So that all shall know, this flag was flown in the face of the enemy, and bears witness to the American endeavor to eradicate terrorist forces threatening the freedom of the United States of America and the World. This flag was flown on May 13, 2005. OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM

It’s the coolest gift I ever received. I’m getting the flag and certificate framed and will post a picture when its done.

Thanks, SGT. I love you, be safe.

Gone fishin’

Not really. But damn, the Nomad has been posting some fine looking bass on his blog, and well I just figured fishing pictures would be a lot more fun than the crap I have been posting.

So here you go:

Now, just cause you live in the city, don’t mean you can’t find a decent fishin’ hole. You just gotta know where to look. Like this guy….

And look at the size of this one, bigger than a six pack….

Alright, bad humor is better than having bad humor, if you get my meaning….

And so begins the task….

Some things in life just don’t turn out the way we had imagined or intended. And sometimes the consequences for actions and bad decisions are harsh. Hell, devastating. The past few weeks I’ve felt my life spinning out of control and I have felt powerless to do a thing about it. I’m a dreaming man, and dreams for me die hard.

So I have been incredibly sad. Full of regret and remorse and a fair amount of self-loathing.

But that doesn’t change a thing. I have to take responsibility for my mistakes, just as I also must take responsibility for my life, such as it is. I am powerless to change the past. And I can not live in the past.

What I have is today and an uncertain future. And even as I struggle to deal with the overwhelming sense of loss, I have come to recognize that what I make of that future is within my control. I get to choose how I react to these changes. I can continue being the only guest at my pity party, or I can make the best of my situation and strive for happiness. Even in my current state of mind, I recognize being happy is the appropriate path to choose.

So the journey begins, and it begins in darkness. But I have to believe in the promise of a new sunrise and I have to have faith that I can find my way. It may not lead me to the future I had planned and dreamed about, but there will be new adventures, discoveries, and maybe new dreams along the way.

And I have a map of sorts. Or at least words of wisdom to guide me. I went back and looked at the Easter post from Kevin at Big Hominid. I found it inspiring at that time, now I consider it words to live by. And it is certainly worth sharing with you again:

Since I and a few people I know are all going through a painful period, each of us for various reasons, I thought it might be good to write about “putting it down.”

In Zen Buddhism, the maxim is “don’t make anything.” Your mind is so often the source of your troubles. You choose to face the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune either negatively or positively. Often, at the beginning of a troublesome period in your life, it is difficult to realize how responsible you are for your own choices. It’s easier to shift blame to your surroundings. But ultimately, the healthiest route out of the forest of troubles is to start by looking in a mirror. Behold what’s actually there; don’t needlessly manufacture problems for yourself and others.

I’m not a scriptural literalist, so I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. But the story of the passion and resurrection nevertheless holds power for me, because it’s a story about a man who put everything down, including his own life, for the sake of love. How many of us can claim to be ready and willing to do something like that? Not many, I suspect.

Most of us, like little children, cling desperately to our cherished notions, preconceptions, and delusions, unwilling to countenance truth and change. We face the world with fear, and create clever rationales for our spiritual cowardice. In a crisis period, this instinct intensifies. The ego swells to enormous size– everything is about getting hurt, everything is about me, me, me. The world doesn’t understand my pain, and only I am in pain!

I’ve felt like that before. I’ve looked out at a street full of people and wondered why they didn’t see my agony, which was plain as day to me. The world kept right on turning, resisting my egocentric interpretation of it.

And there’s a lesson in that. Life is change, ceaseless change. All we have is this moment. If we try to keep the past with us, we merely create more suffering for ourselves. If we try to hold on to our anger, or our hurt, or whatever it is we’re feeling, we poison ourselves.

It’s better simply to put it all down.

People need time to do this. It can’t be done immediately. If, for example, you’ve just experienced a family tragedy, you can’t be expected to act like the Taoist writer Chuang-tzu, banging on pots and celebrating your wife’s death. No; most of us need time to mourn, grieve, recover. But after that period, we should be ready and willing to move on with our lives, to follow the constant flow of the river.

You can’t see the new life of Easter if you’re always looking backward. Easter points simultaneously to the present and to the future, to hope and happiness and fulfillment. Think positively. Embrace goodness where you find it. Actively seek the good, don’t wait passively for it.

So my goal is to achieve mastery of “putting it down” and trying to avoid the traps of dwelling in the past. My mantra is “forward thinking, John”. And I repeat that to myself everytime I feel my mind pulling backwards into the world of loss and remorse.

And I also want to say thanks. Being in Korea at this particular moment of my life has been difficult. I have no friends or family here and that can be trying in the best of circumstances. And although I have not had the energy to do much posting these past few weeks, I have gotten emails and comments of support from many of you. I was especially moved by the kind words of bloggers I have never met, and yet we share some connection from sharing our lives through words on a blog. Thanks Nomad and Raven. And Susan and Jim and everyone else who are pulling for me, know that your support means a lot. Your caring and concern are like candles in the darkness, and give me confidence that I will eventually find my way.

I even heard from an old friend that I have talked to once in the last 30 years. Larry is an amazing individual (you can get a sense of what he is about in his comment (number 7 in the post below). At the end he challenges me to live an extraordinary life. Which was ironic, because the same day he posted his comment I had heard those words while watching Dead Poets Society. Well, I’ll be 50 this year, so extraordinary may be out of reach. But at least I can make it interesting.

I’ll keep you posted along the way.

Delusion is bliss?

Surprise, it’s me. I’ve missed y’all, and I appreciate your patience and understanding as I work through some changes. Anyway, notwithstanding the fact that I have not been posting on my blog, I have maintained my morning ritual of reading blogs. And I came across an interesting tidbit today that I thought worthy of sharing.

Here’s the teaser:

We tend to remember slights and frustrations more than favors and kindnesses. So inevitably in a marriage the weight of negative remembrances of things past comes to exceed that of the positive. Divorce is the result.

The secret to a good marriage, therefore is selective forgetfulness. Coincidentally some psychologists have recently come to the same conclusion. The couples who stay together are the delusional ones – the ones who look at their past with rose-colored glasses.

And you can read the rest here.

So, what do YOU think?

Via Marginal Revolution