Ouch!

Booked our return flights to the USA today.  I knew Delta was going to fuck me with a change fee for both tickets.  Last year it was $250 each.  This year it’s $300.  I hope the bastards use that money to by some anal lube.  Hell, they’d probably charge extra for that “service” too.

Anyway, I was able to accommodate Jee Yeun’s desire to be home for Chuseok. We fly on September 10.  Next up: a visa run sometime prior to June 11.

The quest

Contrary to the impression I might create here on the blog, I do in fact drink things other than beer.  My non-alcoholic beverage of choice is Diet Coke, or as is the case in Korea, Coke Zero.  I admit to drinking these in copious amounts, anywhere from 4-6 bottles a day. Other than the potential impact on my health and well-being my biggest problem has been keeping an adequate supply in the fridge.

I have previously ordered them online (or more accurately, Jee Yeun has done so) from HomePlus.  I currently have 60 bottles on back-order there but it is unknown when these might arrive.  I’ve been making do with buying small cans from the GS-25 store downstairs, but at W1200 a pop that is not really a viable long term option.  So this afternoon I made the hike to E-Mart.

Damn, it is warm today!  Even with a stopover at Hyundai department store for lunch I had worked up a pretty fair sweat by the time I entered the cool confines of E-Mart.  Last time I had made this journey three weeks ago or so I cleaned them out of every last bottle in stock.  I felt sure they would have resupplied by now but alas, there was nary a bottle to be found.  So in near despair I walked back to my neighborhood and visited my local grocer, the D.C Mart.  I scored the only six bottles they had on hand and can now only hope that HomePlus comes through in the next day or two.

Is there a shortage of Coke Zero in Korea or are stores just incredibly incompetent at keeping their shelves stocked with fast selling merchandise?  I don’t know and I don’t care.  I just need to have some comfort level in knowing that I’ll be able to feed my addiction.  Otherwise my Holy Grail will become Holy hell!

 

 

Observations regarding a parking lot

parking

I occasionally spend time out on the back balcony watching the beautiful women walk past world go by, which may seem like a frivolous waste of time.  But you’d be surprised by the cultural insights you can derive when you consider the activities taking place in a small parking lot.

I took the photo above this morning around 0800 which is a quiet time given that most hard working Koreans are already out and about working hard.  Throughout the day however, the lot is a beehive of activity as people come and go about their business.  And generally there are more cars in the lot than there are available spaces.  That this is not a big problem strikes me as little short of remarkable.

Take that small blue car parked in the middle of the lot for instance.  Now, by my count he has at least three other cars blocked in their spaces.  What you can’t see is that the blue car has been left in the neutral gear.  So, when the driver of one of those blocked cars needs to go, he simply rolls the offending car out of the way.  And anyone else in the vicinity will give a hand with the push.  When the lot is full, I’ve seen several cars repositioned in this fashion.  It’s an impressive display of cooperation and no one seems to get angry or annoyed at the inconvenience.   I just can’t imagine a similar system working so well in the USA, at least without violence or vandalism.

Another thing I see on a daily basis is young women hiding out in the back corner of the lot to sneak a quick smoke.  Women may feel comfortable walking about in micro-miniskirts (bless their hearts!) but a female smoking on the street is just not acceptable in polite Korean society.  I’m reminded of the story about a Korean-American woman visiting Seoul who was enjoying a cigarette on a busy street corner.  Suddenly a Korean man started yelling at her in a language she could not understand.  So she just stood there looking at him.  Finally in exasperation, he took the cigarette from her, threw it on the ground, and walked away muttering in disgust.

Less frequently (but twice yesterday) I see young couples seeking out the privacy of the parking lot for a quick little make out session.  I’m talking kisses and hugs here, nothing obscene.  It’s actually kinda sweet.  Although I think I should learn to say “hey, get a room!” in Korean.  That would be pretty hilarious and maybe make me feel like less of a voyeur.

The world is an interesting place.  Or maybe I’m just easily entertained.

 

 

 

 

Korean drama

So, this morning I’m standing on the back balcony enjoying a cigarette (yeah, I’m bad!) and I happened to look down over at the little park/green space between the high rise apartment buildings.  And laying in the dirt next to the sidewalk was an ahjussi (older man) whom I presumed to be passed out drunk.  Which is not all that unusual to see here in Korea.  But what happened next was.

These two park workers walk up and start hosing the guy down with water.  And he didn’t even flinch!  After they thoroughly soaked him down without any reaction whatsoever, the workers walked away leaving the guy in the mud.  Now, I am standing five floors up looking down and wondering if maybe what I’m seeing is a dead ahjussi.   About this time another drunk guy stumbles over and tries to lift the wet guy up without success.  But I did see his head move a little so I was glad to know he was not in fact dead.  The second drunk then stumbled away, presumably to pass out in a drier location.

As I was contemplating what I had just witnessed I hear a female voice calling “Ahjussi!”  At first I thought it was someone in the park trying to wake the drunk, but then I heard her yell “Ahjussi!” again and I realized the sound was too close to be coming from the park.  So, I glanced down and observed my angry downstairs neighbor berating me in Korean for flicking my ashes out the window (which admittedly was incredibly rude).  I quickly let fly a string of apologetic words in both English and Korean and retreated back inside the apartment.

And that is how I found something to blog about today.

UPDATE:  It’s been over 3 hours now and the guy is still laying there in the dirt.  I’m actually a little worried about him.  I’ve seen some passerby’s stop and have a look.  There’s a guy in a wheelchair sitting next to him now.  And he moved his arm so he is alive.  I asked Jee Yeun if we should call 119 but she said no.  I guess there is no drunk in public law in Korea.  Which when I think about it is probably a good thing, otherwise a goodly portion of the folks in Itaewon would be subject to arrest most weekends.  Myself included.

FINAL UPDATE:  At the four hour mark I couldn’t stand any longer and prevailed upon Jee Yeun to notify the police.  I was surprised by how promptly they responded.  They actually called back to say that someone had called 119 on his behalf earlier and that he declined assistance.  Anyway, four cops arrived and chatted him up for awhile.  The cops then left and shortly thereafter so did he.

Comes a time

Comes a time When you're driftin' Comes a time When you settle down

Comes a time
when you’re driftin’
Comes a time
when you settle down

Comes a light feelin's lifting Lift that baby right up off the ground

Comes a light
feelin’s lifting
Lift that baby
right up off the ground

Oh, this old world keeps spinning round It's a wonder tall trees ain't laying down

Oh, this old world keeps spinning round
It’s a wonder tall trees ain’t laying down

There comes a time.

There comes a time.

Captions courtesy of Neil Young.

 

Two thousand

2000

This marks the 2000th time I sat down at the keyboard to share my meaningless drivel unique insights and perspectives here at LTG.  I was hoping for something substantial to write about as I reached this particular milestone in my blogging career.  But if it hasn’t happened it 2000 tries, what’s the point in waiting?

Speaking of milestones, or perhaps more aptly bumps in the road, it occurs to me that I’ve never actually paid much attention to the numbers before.  In fact, I wouldn’t have seen the big two zero zero zero coming but for a feature on the dashboard of my updated/upgraded WordPress interface showing, you guessed it, the number of posts I’ve posted.  This feature also allows me to go back in time with relative ease to see and share with you those fascinating snapshots in blogging history I failed to acknowledge (perhaps with good reason) along the way.

My 100th post was entitled simply “Another day”. Back in those early days I was all hellbent on posting something everyday, regardless of whether I had anything of meaning or value to share.  Now you may be asking yourself at this very moment “what’s changed?”, to which I can only reply “shut up!”.  To save you the agony of reading that particular entry in the annals of LTG I will summarize thusly: It was mere days prior to my initial departure for Korea and I had much to do.  So we went to breakfast at Bob Evans.  Then it started snowing.  So we went home, I lit a fire, and we watched movies the rest of the day.  Yep, it was a bonfire of inanity.  So to speak.

The 500th post occurred back in those heady days when I had a much more robust readership (thank you to those who have stuck with me against all reason).  In Whistlin’ Dixie I weighed in on the controversy surrounding the Dixie Chicks attack on the President in front of a foreign audience.  Reading it again now I can see the rightness of my position remains unchanged.  But I suspect the folks who commented saying it was more than appropriate to criticize Bush would be calling me racist for offering the same criticisms of our current President. What goes around comes around I suppose.

As I reached my 1000th post I was thinking about Things I don’t miss in the USA.  In this particular case it was the growing nanny-statism that I much despise.  It’s only gotten worse I’m sorry to say.  The specific issue that set me to blogging was a NYC homeless shelter throwing away a church donation of fried chicken because they weren’t allowed to serve food cooked in trans-fats.  I hope they let them eat cake!

By the time I achieved 1500 posts I had pretty much given up on writing about politics.  It was much more fun easier to talk about the simple joys of my Korean life.  Like Dining at Daepohang for instance.  And hell, instead of writing 1000 words, I just posted pictures.  Did I get tired or just get lazy?  Yes!

And there you have it–my tribute to 2000 posts.  Don’t worry, there’s plenty more where this came from!  Or maybe you should worry.

 

 

Out on the weekend

The weather was warm, the darts were hot, the beer was cold.  And I’ve got the pictures to prove it!

Kicked things off Friday night with a first place finish in the Dolce Vita tournament...

Kicked things off Friday night with a first place finish in the Dolce Vita tournament…

Early Saturday afternoon we headed out to Yongsan station to catch a train to Songtan...

Early Saturday afternoon we headed out to Yongsan station to catch a train to Songtan…

The station wasn't too crowded for a Saturday...

The station wasn’t too crowded for a Saturday…

The "express" version of the Line 1 train got us one stop past our destination in about an hour...

The “express” version of the Line 1 train got us to Seojungri station (one stop past our destination) in about an hour…

...a short bus ride took us into Songtan city proper...

…a short bus ride took us into Songtan city proper…

...where we arrived hungry...

…where we arrived hungry and a steaming pot of budaejjigae awaited us at a local eatery.

...and so our group of fellow travelers commenced to satiate that hunger.  "Movie Star Midori" insisted that we drink and eat, so we did that too...

…and so our group of fellow travelers commenced to satiate that hunger. “Movie Star Midori” insisted that we drink as well as eat, so we did that too…

With several hours to go before the tourney we wisely switched from beverages containing alcohol to those with caffeine.

With several hours to go before the tourney we wisely switched from beverages containing alcohol to those with caffeine…

...at a nice coffee house where we could sit on the street and make a spectacle of ourselves...

…at a nice coffee house where we could sit on the street and make a spectacle of ourselves…

Chock full of coffee we moved to Xenis bar to begin the ever important pre-tourney ritual of contemplation and partaking of "aiming fluid"...

Chock full of coffee we moved to Xenis bar to begin the ever important pre-tourney ritual of contemplation and partaking of “aiming fluid”…

We were joined at Xenis by a gaggle of fellow darters who drove down from Seoul to join in the fun...

We were joined at Xenis by a gaggle of fellow darters who drove down from Seoul to join in the fun…

After a long hard night of drinking darting, I came away with second place money, no small thanks to a great local darter named Tony.  I'm not sure just how many vodka bombs he insisted we drink, but it was a lot!

After a long hard night of drinking darting, I came away with second place money, no small thanks to my partner, a great local darter named Tony. I’m not sure just how many vodka bombs he insisted we drink, but it was a lot!

At this point my phone/camera battery gave up the ghost.  The tournament ended at midnight and we then taxied to Pyeongteak to catch a train home.  The train didn’t leave until 0230, so we had us some Frypan chicken (and beer) to pass the time.  Got to our Gireum apartment around 0400, slept a deep and satisfying sleep, then it was back into Itaewon for the Sunday Singles League match that I had the good fortune to win.  The nephew then came by and treated us a nice samgyapsal dinner (with beer and soju) which put a nice exclamation point on a drunken darting weekend!

Life is good.  Unless you’re my liver.

 

 

The eyes have it!

Dr. Yoo had referred me to an ophthalmologist based on some abnormality from one of the tests I took during my physical last month.  So, it was back to Soonchanhwang hospital yesterday afternoon.  The whole thing was a bit of a fiasco.  We waited a while past our appointment time, and then they started running me through all the eye-checking stations–exactly the same tests I had already done.  Jee Yeun, bless her heart, started raising hell.  But she really got their attention when she said “I’m not paying for any of these tests we’ve already taken”.  Soon enough, I was taken out of the testing queue and placed into the queue to see Dr. Kim (I actually never got her name, but I figure I’ve got at least a 50% chance of being right by calling her Kim.  She was assisted by Dr. Lee.  I’m sure of it.).

I’m pretty certain there had been some miscommunication somewhere along the way, because Dr. Kim did not seem to have a clue as to why I was there.  She looked at my glasses and asked if I could see ok–yes.  She asked if I were having any issues with my eyes or vision–no.  She noted that I don’t have diabetes and that my blood pressure is only moderately high–check.  She then had me look into some binocular-like machine, thoroughly examined each eye with that flashlight-like contraption, and then announced her diagnosis: “you have Caucasian eyes”.  Which I understood to mean that any abnormality on my tests were only abnormal for Asian eyes.  Bottom line, I’m not having problems with my vision and Dr. Kim didn’t see anything wrong either so it’s all good.

We were both starving after finally leaving the hospital so we hoofed it up the hill to Itaewon and had a late lunch at Don Valley (bimbibop and bulgogi).  After our meal we were in that twilight zone–too early for darts, too late to go home and back.  So we found a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop and sat outside drinking expensively good coffee and watched the people walk by for an hour or so.

Walrus at rest...

Walrus at rest…

When the appointed hour for darts did arrive I was out to seek redemption for the 15-2 shellacking I had taken the previous week.  I won the night 13-9 and threw much, much better so I’ll call that mission accomplished.

At the bus stop for the journey home I saw this ad:

Damn, it was almost like looking in a mirror.  Glad to know my doppelganger is doing so well!

Damn, it was almost like looking in a mirror. Glad to know my doppelganger is doing so well!

And so ended another adventure filled day.

Not in my right mind

Which is a little surprising given that I’m generally left-handed.  Although I throw with my right arm*.  Which tends to confuse people when I play darts, because I toss with my right hand and write the score with my left.  I’m also left eye dominant.

Anyway, I took this test and to the extent that it is accurate I use both hemispheres of my brain equally.  Equally poorly as the case might be.

*I’ve always attributed the right hand throwing thing as a result of getting hand-me-down baseball gloves from my older brother.  Who knows?  When I use my left arm now I throw like a girl.  Which is a sexist stereotype.  I blame it on my brain.

Peaks and valleys

Saturday night was the nadir of my darting life (I hope).  Fresh off that humiliating and crushing defeat I played well enough last night to take home second place money at a little in-house tournament hosted by Dillinger’s Bar.  An aberration or a harbinger of things to come?  Time will tell.

The spectators for last night's action pretty diverse.  Or diverse and pretty.  Or both.  That's Midori and Jee Yeun representing Korea, Eve from the Philippines, and Natasha from Russia.

The spectators for last night’s action were pretty diverse. Or diverse and pretty. Or both. That’s Midori and Jee Yeun representing Korea, Eve from the Philippines, and Natasha from Russia.

This morning I paid my penance for a weekend of darts by indulging Jee Yeun’s desire to hike up Bukhansan.

The recent rains had the creek flowing nicely over the rocks...

The recent rains had the creek flowing nicely over the rocks…

As we were climbing up we encountered Jee Yeun's mother on her way down.  That's always a pleasant happenstance.

As we were climbing up we encountered Jee Yeun’s mother on her way down. That’s always a pleasant happenstance.

I also noticed that President Park has been doing some politicking along the trail.  As I interpret this sign, it means "to move forward towards a bright future, vote conservative!"

I also noticed that President Park has been doing some politicking along the trail. As I interpret this sign, it means “to move forward towards a bright future, vote conservative!”

Got home and Jee Yeun fixed me up a platter of fresh-from-the-butcher samgyapsal.  Life is good.

Dinner and a show

Last night we were On the Border.  Not the DMZ, rather the Mexican food eatery in beautiful downtown Itaewon.  We were guests of my old friend Dennis McPeters and his companion Julie.

The food was the best Tex-Mex I've eaten outside of the USA.  Jee Yeun is a little ambivalent about Mexican cuisine, but she loved the "Kimchi Taco" featured in the foreground.  I also enjoyed my chicken enchiladas in a sour cream sauce...

The food was the best Tex-Mex I’ve eaten outside of the USA. Jee Yeun is a little ambivalent about Mexican cuisine, but she loved the “Kimchi Taco” featured in the foreground. I also enjoyed my chicken enchiladas in a sour cream sauce…

Dennis had the foresight to make a reservation, which was good because the place was packed with people lining up to get in.  We also scored a table overlooking the street.  It was a very pleasant evening weather-wise, so the windows were open and the sounds of the city created a nice urban ambiance for our dining pleasure.

A table with a view and refreshing libations made for a pleasant dining experience.

A table with a view and refreshing libations made for a pleasant dining experience.

Amongst those sounds of the city was some guy walking up and down the street screaming fire and brimstone into a megaphone.  From our perch on the second floor he could be heard but more or less easily ignored.  However, after we had finished our meal we had the misfortune of exiting the building directly behind him.  As we were walking in the same direction we got the full impact of his evangelism.  Well, it was in Korean but Jee Yeun’s translation was that we were basically all going to hell.

As we progressed up the street I was watching the reactions of the passersby to megaphone-man.  And the universal reaction was a combination of contempt, disgust, and anger.  I’m thinking to myself “man, this guy is driving people away from salvation with his rude message”.  Just as I was completing this observation a Korean man did what we were all wanting to do and loudly confronted the screaming bastard.  And what happened next was pretty surprising.  The “Christian” man put down the megaphone and started fighting with the citizen who told him to shut up.  Well, it was a Korean-style fight–mostly some back and forth bitch slapping, but still.  I thought it was pretty funny actually and was shouting encouragement from the sidelines “oh, you are such a good example of Christianity, you douche!”  Jee Yeun even joined in by demurely observing “you should not be so loud” (she said it in Korean though).  I guess megaphone man realized he had lost the crowd, so he picked up his megaphone again, shouted something angrily, then exited hurriedly down a side street.  Man, you just can’t buy that kind of entertainment!

We proceeded to Bull and Barrel for a nightcap without further incident.  I made the mistake of signing up for the dart tournament and proceeded to play the worst darts of my “career”.  Seriously, the first time I ever picked up a set of darts I played better than I did last night.  It was humiliating.  Ah well.  I’m trying hard to not let this slump get inside my head and exacerbate whatever the hell my problem is.

I guess this is as good a time as any to talk a little about my old friend Dennis.  I’ve been knowing him since the 1980s when I recommended him for a job with the USPS in Columbia, SC.  Later on after I’d moved to a job in DC, I hired him to work for me there.  And still later I brought him over to work on my team in Korea.  I’m long gone and he’s still here.  But not for long.  He’s finally retiring in January.

I frankly envy his post retirement plans.  Rather than having himself and all his stuff shipped back to the USA, he’s selling everything he owns and is going to live the life of a nomad.  I asked him where he was going to go and he said wherever I want.  He mentioned the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand as a start.  If he gets tired of Asia, South and Central America are on the list of options.

I used to fantasize about a lifestyle like that.  But the reality is I wouldn’t have the courage to do it right.  But I’m brave enough to fly in for a visit whenever I get an answer to the question “where in the world is Dennis?”  So there’s that.

 

 

It’s a small world after all

Last summer Jee Yeun asked me to hire an English tutor for her birthday present.  So I went to Craig’s List  and only saw only one ad that seemed to fit the bill.  As fate would have it, Stephanie (the tutor) turned out to be a Korean-American who had taught English to executives at Samsung in Seoul before moving to Columbia with her husband. A perfect fit! Jee Yeun took lessons for about 3 months and she and Stephanie became fast friends.  I often heard them chatting in Korean and I would teasingly admonish Stephanie “I’m not paying for Korea talk!”

Anyway, the lessons ended as did Stephanie’s marriage.  She and Jee Yeun stayed in touch and got together occasionally.  Then Stephanie moved to North Carolina and we came “home” to Korea.  And guess who showed up at Pub Dolce Vita tonight?  Yep, Stephanie has also come “home” to Korea.  It was really cool seeing her again in an unfamiliar setting..

And here’s the really weird part.  One of the Friday night regular dart players is a Korean-American woman named Yonga (but we call her Moe).  She was there tonight too and it turns out that she and Stephanie attended Seoul American High School and they actually remembered each other.  What are the odds of that?

After Stephanie left the bar one of the dart players told me he thought she was really cute.  So I guess we’ll see if we can make a match.  Stranger things have happened.

Stephanie, Yonga and Jee Yeun.  Together again, against all odds...

Stephanie, Yonga and Jee Yeun. Together again, against all odds…

Tuesday afternoon

Not just any Tuesday afternoon mind you.  It’s Buddha’s birthday.  Jee Yeun wanted to go to the temple to pay her respects so I drug my sick lazy ass out of the house and joined her.

The temple grounds were packed with like-minded folk...

The temple grounds were packed with like-minded folk…

Jee Yeun rubbing the belly of the Buddha.  She used to rub mine like that...

Jee Yeun rubbing the belly of the Buddha. She used to rub mine like that…

First time I'd been there in the evening.  The lit lanterns looked pretty nice...

First time I’d been there in the evening. The lit lanterns looked pretty nice…

A festive day for sure...

A festive day for sure…

On the bus ride out I played me some Moody Blues on the iPod.  This song struck the right *ahem* chord.

 

Sick on many levels

I’ve caught the dreaded springtime cold.  Nothing to be done but suffer through and treat the symptoms as best I can.  Last night before I went to bed Jee Yeun had me take one of these:

coldmeds 001

I assume it’s something along the lines of a Contac capsule.  It may or may not be related to the medication but I had a very strange dream that featured the Jethro Tull classic rock anthem “Aqualung”.  The gist of the dream was that I had become Aqualung.  If you are familiar with the song you know how disconcerting that would be.  The lyrics begin with:

Sitting on a park bench eying little girls with bad intent                                                     Snot was running down his nose, greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.                       Hey Aqualung.

I’ll cop to admiring beautiful young women now and again, and yes, I did encounter some runny nose issues yesterday (which is doubly problematic given my Walrus-stache).  But I don’t recall any greasy fingers and my shorts and T-shirt, while casual, were not by any means “shabby”.

Anyway, I’d wake up (or dream I had awoken), think to myself that was weird, go back to sleep only to be confronted by the disembodied voice intoning “you are Aqualung”.  That happened a few times and then the dream said “you should blog about this”.  WTF?  Two times now I’ve dreamed dreams that specifically insisted they be blogged.

When I woke up for real this meaning I said to myself there ain’t no way I’m blogging about Aqualung.  Who’s in control here anyway?  Me or my subconscious?

 

 

 

If you think the kettle is black…

…maybe you’re racist!

Well, there is much that is not right back in the homeland.  And it seems to be getting worse all the time.  But when you are the leader of hell on earth it’s probably not wise to be casting stones.  Kim Jong-Un, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye!

Pizza school

Back in high school I worked part time at a local pizza joint.  But it’s been a long time since I’ve actually created a pizza.  Last night I made two.

As is typical for my Friday night I played in the Dolce Vita dart tournament.  Somewhat less typically I was knocked out in the third round.  Normally, I leave shortly after I’m done playing but last night in the absence of the bar owner I was running the tourney.  Which gave me some additional time to sit and drink beer.  And then the bar owner’s wife brought over some shots as her way of saying thanks for doing the tournament.  When it was all over someone (probably me) had the bright idea of inviting a largish group out to the samgyapsal joint we favor.  Where we drank more beer and soju.

Now, normally I know when to say when.  For some reason last night I didn’t realize the dangerous level of my inebriation until it was too damn late.  As the room began to spin I quickly exited the restaurant and created an Itaewon street pizza.  Jee Yeun then came to my rescue and hustled me into a cab.  After a dizzying ride to Gireum-dong with my head practically out the window we made it back to our apartment building .  And while waiting for the elevator to arrive my stomach did a somersault so I ran outside and made a Gireum version of the infamous street pizza.

Today I feel like shit.  There’s a lesson here and I hope I’ve learned it.