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.

 

 

 

 

B and B

bistecca

Saturday night we dined at Bistecca, an Italian restaurant featuring beef and seafood in the Buk-gu section of Itaewon (up the road and to the right of Noksapyeong station).  It was by far the fanciest place I’ve eaten at in many a year.  Also the most expensive.  We were there through the generosity of my old friend Dennis, and dinner for four came in at over $400.  I guess that may have been over generous in retrospect.

The food was nothing short of outstanding, if not quite worth the price.  I went with a dinner set (appetizer, soup, entree, and dessert) featuring a rib-eye steak for $88.  The steak, although smallish by American standards, was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  I ordered mine medium on the hunch that it would come out the way I like it, which is medium rare.  I was proven correct and was glad I didn’t order medium rare otherwise it would have still been mooing on my plate.  The dessert was a healthy portion of tiramisu which was quite tasty indeed.

Jee Yeun went with a seafood pasta (about the cheapest item on the menu at $26, bless her heart) and professed it to be wonderful.

Dennis and Julie shared the seafood platter for two at $120.  It was also outstanding.

Dennis and Julie shared the seafood platter for two at $120. It was also outstanding.

I took a break from dining for some “fresh air” midway through the meal.  The valet parking dude was standing nearby so I gave him a friendly head nod.  He responded by putting his hand on his belly, pointed at mine, and shook his head disgustedly.  I took that to me he didn’t like my shirt.  Or maybe Buddha.

After dinner we did some norebang and then some street-side coffee and people watching.  It was a good evening, although I did have to stand on the subway all the way from Samgakji to Gireum station.  That’s Saturday night in the big city I suppose.

Yesterday we broke our summer hiatus from mountain climbing and ventured up Bukhansan.  I sweated like an out-of-shape race horse and was soaked by the time we reached the summit.  I was soaked by a steady rain all the way down, which was pleasantly cooling although it made the rocks perilously slippery.  Arrived home safe and sound though and Jee Yeun was pleased that I had gotten off my lazy ass and did something for a change.

Tonight I’ll add another B by drinking some beer at the BnB bar with my buddy Tom.  And that brings you up to speed on my so-called life.

Rush in…

…and grab the cash!

I had the good fortune to draw the lovely Russian lass Natasha as my partner in the Dolce Vita blind draw last night.  We took us home some first place money...

I had the good fortune to draw the lovely Russian lass Natasha as my partner in the Dolce Vita blind draw last night. We took us home some first place money…

But wait, there’s more!  My ticket got drawn for the trip shoot and I proceeded to hit a triple 4 which made me W114,000 richer.

In unrelated news, I installed a second bathroom in our small apartment.

Although, technically it's more of a urinal...

Although, technically it’s more of a urinal…

Dungeons and Dragons

The dungeon otherwise known as Friends Bar...

The dungeon otherwise known as Friends Bar…

I reckon it’s time to once again accommodate Thirsty’s request for regular dart league updates.  Last night my team (The Dillinger’s Dartitis Quarintine) played the boys from Friends Bar.  This bar is not my favorite venue by a long shot.  I wrote a review of the joint way back in 2009 and suffice to say things have not improved.  It’s dirty, dark, and dank.  And they don’t serve draft beer.  So I settled for large bottles of OB at W5000 a pop.  To be fair though, the boards were in excellent condition and the lighting of said boards was also better than I remember.  And the bartender was friendly, efficient, and well-decorated.

The "dragon" in the dungeon.  Don't recall her name, but she is the sister of the waitress at Dillinger's.  I'm not much for tattoos, but I'll admit her ink was excellent.

The “dragon” in the dungeon. Don’t recall her name, but she is the sister of the waitress at Dillinger’s. I’m not much for tattoos, but I’ll admit her ink was excellent.

Our team suffered another ass-kicking, which makes us 0-3 on the season.  I’m playing in the “A” division, but I am not throwing “A” division darts.  I went 0-3 in singles, 2-1 and 1-2 in doubles.  I just can’t seem to hang with the big boys these days, which is frustrating.  Ah well, nothing to do but keep throwing and hope for better results.

On Sunday I attended a surprise birthday party for my buddy Matt (and potential future boss) at Shenanigans.  It actually was a surprise for me because I showed up by chance without an invite.  I felt a little weird about that, but the next day I noticed that I had been sent a message asking me to come.  Anyway, we did an impromptu tourney and I drew Matt as my partner.  We managed a second place finish, but had I thrown even marginally better we could (and should) have won the damn thing.  I couldn’t help but feel I let the birthday boy down.  Ah well.

The party turned out to be quite a bit of fun...

The party turned out to be quite a bit of fun…

Friday night at Dolce Vita I fared a little better, taking a first place with my partner YS.

My eyes were as fuzzy as this photo, so sadly I don't recall many details from the match...

My eyes were as fuzzy as this photo, so sadly I don’t recall many details from the match…

And other than that I guess all I can report is that I’ve been feeling a little moody lately.  In fact, this pretty much sums up my state of mind:

fourmoods

Just gonna roll with the flow for now and see what tomorrow brings.

The Y of the V

A sign of the times

A sign of the times

According to Time magazine, the ubiquitous “V” sign that Asians universally flash whenever they are photographed is all about a fallen American figure skater.

I remain unconvinced.  Plus, I’m doing it wrong.

UPDATE: Commenter Kevin notes that my “V” style is more apropos to the traditional British fuck you.

Fook you, ya damn Yankee wanker...

Fook you, ya damn Yankee wanker…

The origins of which are well known:

Winston Churchill famously telling Hitler to fuck off...

Winston Churchill famously telling Hitler to fuck off…

 

Regarding religion

So, I’ve found myself thinking about religion of late.  Not in terms of getting me some, just in general.  Which is to say I’m not exactly sure where these thoughts are taking me, but bear with me and we’ll muddle through together, okay?

Now, I was pretty much raised in the protestant tradition, at least to the extent that my grandmother dutifully took us to Sunday school every week.  I even played steel guitar in a little church band that toured the western states when I was 12.  At around 15 or 16 though I entered my rebellious phase and pretty much came to the conclusion that organized religion was all bullshit.  I certainly want no part of the Old Testament vengeful and jealous God, nor do I believe the stories of the virgin birth and resurrection.  Which I guess means that I ain’t much of a Christian.

Having said that, I do try very hard to be respectful of the religious beliefs of others.  I have a couple of Facebook “friends” (meaning people I’ve never actually met in real life) who constantly mock people of faith (usually Christians since they don’t have the balls to publicly criticize Muslims).  They are as strident in their atheist beliefs as any other religious zealot I have encountered.  In fact, I find their rants every bit as irritating as a knock on the door from a Jehovah’s Witness.

My second ex-wife was a Baptist (the other two ex’s were Catholic and the current wife is Buddhist) and I didn’t object to her taking my young children to church every Sunday.  For awhile I attended with them, but damn, I rarely left church feeling uplifted.  The sermons tended to piss me off as much as anything.  The final straw for me was the Sunday school session where we talked about “free will”.  Which was immediately followed by an entreaty to join in a planned march on the state house in favor of anti-abortion legislation.  I asked the Sunday school teacher how it could be that God gave mankind free will, but the Baptist church wanted to pass laws restricting choice?  I got the old standard reply that it was “a matter of faith”.  Whatever the hell that means.   The epilog to that incident came when the leader of the anti-abortion contingent got pregnant and was told the fetus did not a brain stem.  Yep, she aborted.

So, if I have a problem with religion it’s with the hypocrisy of the adherents.  The stuff people do in the name of God makes me want no part of the God they profess to believe in.  Oddly enough though, I don’t think of myself as an atheist.  I can accept the concept of some intelligence or power manifested in nature and the universe.  It’s just not the God you read about in earthly religious texts.  The closest I ever felt to this “God” was the night I had an epiphany after making love to my Mormon girlfriend.  “God is love” is what I felt in that blessed moment of understanding.  The very next day this woman whom I loved like I’ve loved no other broke up with me.  Which proves I guess that my God has a whacky sense of humor.  Still, I will confess that in times of crisis throughout my life I have found some comfort in prayer.  If that makes me a hypocrite too, so be it.

What prompted me to write about religion now I guess is current events.  Jews killing Palestinians in retaliation of Palestinians killing Jews.  Muslims killing Christians and everyone else who doesn’t adhere to the dogma of that particular sect.  All in the name of the same God of course.  But that is where any moral equivalence ends.  Israel has the right to defend herself.  If Hamas doesn’t like civilian casualties, they should stop trying to kill Israeli civilians.  And what ISIS is currently doing in Iraq (and the Taliban in Afghanistan) is an affront to all humanity.  So, when my liberal friends lament the “war on women” as evidenced by Hobby Lobby not wanting to pay for birth control on religious grounds, I share this photo:

“We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law” --ISIS commander

“We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law” –ISIS commander

Now, I want to accept as fact that of the billion or so Muslims in the world, only a relatively small percentage are of the radical Islamist variety that engages in head chopping, stoning, honor killing, and flying passenger planes into buildings.  But here’s the thing–I never see protests or outrage from these “moderates” regarding the atrocities being done in the name of Allah.  In fact, what I have witnessed is quite the opposite.

I have a couple of Pakistani Muslim friends in Itaewon.  Both are smart, kind, and generous.  They own a bar I regularly frequent. Both drink, smoke, and have married outside the faith.  I guess it doesn’t get any more moderate than that, right?  Except they have gone ballistic (no pun intended) over the current conflict in Gaza.  I finally had to block one of them on Facebook because I grew weary of the anti-Israel and anti-American (like it’s our fault!) rants.  I could match ten photos of some outrageous act being perpetuated in Pakistan for every Israeli impropriety.  And at least Israel is acting in self-defense, not out of some misguided belief in religious justification (what, she was raped?  We must stone her for being a whore!).

Anyway, I posted the picture above on my Facebook in the context of American politics (the so-called war on women).  And my Muslim friend responded that it was “anti-Muslim propaganda”.  One of the commenters asked if he was denying the existence of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) and the murderous acts in which they are currently engaged.  He responded:

yes ISIS exist and they have broken Syria and Iraq in to parts. They are trying to create a divide in Sunni’s and Shiites. Rumor has it that the leader of ISIS Abu Bakr Baghdadi was trained by CIA and mosad to create chaos in middle east so that the idea of greater Israel can be achieved. I came across a world map issued by the US think tanks in which they have shown 5 middle eastern countries dividing into 15 smaller countries. If u Google it you can find it and then you search for greater Israel map and you will know a secret.

So much for moderate Islam, eh?  Suffice to say, I no longer feel comfortable patronizing their bar these days.  I have taken an oath to avoid drama in Itaewon and I fear that drinking there may lead me to say some things that will lead to dramatic consequences.  And to what end?  Clearly, no minds will be changed.

Of course, America’s feckless foreign policy has played a part in what is taking place in the Middle East.  Can’t blame God for that, although I can and do blame Obama.

Jews

Sorry for the rant.  I’m just thinking things are gonna get a whole lot worse before they get any better.

God help us all.