About John McCrarey

Born and raised in southern California. My career exodus has taken me to Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, DC. And as of 23 January 2005, Seoul, Korea. Married with 6 grown children (blended family). First grandchild is in the oven! I created this blog to document my adventures as an expat living and working in Korea. I'm also pretty confident that I will on occasion feel the need to express my views on current events and other matters I find of interest.

A new lease on life…

…in Pyeongtaek.

My new home town

Signed the lease today on the “Star Palace”.  It’s a done deal.  Just over $3000 per month, including utilities.  Thank you Uncle Sam!

 

Tonight is the last night in my humble villa here in Itaewon.  I’ll sleep at the Crown Hotel tomorrow and drive on down the road to Pyeongtaek on Friday.

Packers in tomorrow morning.  Then a final cleaning before I exit.  Close on with the landlord here on Friday morning. Stuff will be delivered to my new abode on Saturday.

It’s time for a change.

Pride goeth before a fall

I created a little excitement in Shenanigans last night.  I had been enjoying a couple of gin and sodas and chatting with some dart league friends.  I remember standing up and coughing.  And then I remember being helped up off the floor spewing blood from my mouth.

I hate when that happens.

And it has happened before.  Back in February 2006 I had a black out in Dolce Vita.  That earned me an ambulance ride and a bunch of stitches in my forehead.  Stupid is as stupid does, eh? 

Then there was the night in May of 2008 at Metro Bar that also left me in stitches.

I guess you might say that blacking out and falling down in Itaewon bars is something of a tradition with me.  I couldn’t very well leave town without one last fall for old times sake, now could I?

Last night’s tumble went down just like the first two incidents.  I stood up, I coughed, blacked out, and went face first into a table.  This time I came away with only a split lip, so I’ll consider myself lucky.

And for the record, I was not drunk, nor was I drunk the other two times.  The fact that it only seems to occur in bars is purely coincidental.  I’m not sure what it is all about, the combination of standing and coughing seems to create a lack of oxygen flow to the brain or something.  Hell, I don’t know.  Fortunately, it doesn’t happen frequently and it’s always good for a blog post.

As I was being helped up from the floor and regaining consciousness, I was in a dream-like happy place.  I didn’t want to leave there.  It wasn’t exactly a “walk towards the light” moment, but if that is what dying feels like it won’t be so bad.  Of course, there is only one way to find out and I’m really not THAT curious!

 

Last weekend…

…in Seoul.

I guess you could call it the long goodbye.  But really, no one cares.  The Itaewon churn continues apace.  Faces come, faces go.  I’m sure I won’t be missed.  It is what it is.

Friday I took Seri and Dennis for a pizza lunch at Gino’s. It was Seri’s birthday. Now, regular readers may recall that Seri was once my boss and now I am her boss. Dennis was just rehired this week. He used to be Seri’s boss but now she is his boss. Funny how that works out.

Friday night I was asked to man the grill for a newlywed couple I know from Shenanigans. I’m no grill master, but it was just burgers and franks. No one complained.

Some of the guests..

To be honest, I’m so bitter that even being around happy couples bums me out. That’s wrong I know, but it’s how I feel.  Anyway, I finished my cooking chores and left without engaging with the party participants.  I guess I’ve graduated from being the creepy old guy to being the anti-social asshole.  Ah well.

Went to Grand Ole Opry and got drunk alone again. Naturally.

But, I walked the LONG way home without incident. Actually, don’t really remember much about it, but the photo is evidence that I was there!

Saturday night was more of the same.  Jim, probably the oldest friend still remaining in Itaewon, joined me for a drink at Shenanigans.  I appreciated that opportunity to say goodbye.  I then made my way to Debut to say farewell to Jin Hee, the bargirl I’ve had a fondness for these past 10 years or so.  Feelings that have never been reciprocated, but such is life.

Did some packing today. Mostly just emptied out some drawers. The movers on Thursday can pack out the rest.

The final Seoul Sunday crockpot featured meatballs. Not bad if I do say so myself.

Had my best week ever walking wise.  175,000 steps, everyday 20,000+, with a high of 33,000 on Tuesday.  Not so hard when you don’t have a life.  Still, this weekend the dust was a challenge.  Lots of coughing and sneezing as a result.

So there you have it, the last weekend of so many in Seoul.  I’m ready to put this life behind me.  Hopefully in doing so I can leave the sadness behind as well.  Too many memories haunt me here.  I need to let it go.

 

 

 

Over the Hump

Camp Humphreys that is.

You’d think I was from Moscow the way I was rushin’ around on Tuesday morning. Wanted to catch the 0700 bus from Yongsan Garrison to Pyeongtaek.  I was there on time. In fact I was two weeks early.  The 0700 doesn’t begin to run until May 15th.  Ah well, the 0800 got me there in time for my 1000 meeting with my realtor.

Now, I had previously looked at a monster of a house.  Way too big for me (4 bedrooms/4 baths, 2 living rooms and an office), but in the location I was seeking (downtown Anjeong-ri). The issue was whether the landlord would accept a short term lease.  Here’s how it works–I’m given LQA (living quarters allowance) based on my pay grade.  Realtors want to max out your authorized LQA amount because that equals a larger commission.  I get that, and my efforts to be shown smaller places in the neighborhood fell on deaf ears. The realtor convinced the landlord to rent to me for four months, so I’ll be living in a palace.  I’m going back to sign the lease next Wednesday.

The last time Uncle Sam paid my rent I was living in a building called “Royal Palace”. Now my house is named “Star Palace”. I guess that’s progress.

Given the short period I’m committing to, the landlord was unwilling to completely furnish the house.  I told the realtor to just move everything  from upstairs to the first floor and I’d make do.  The downstairs is bigger than my current residence and I don’t use all this space.

The movers are packing me out in Seoul on Thursday and if I can work out the logistics of closing out with the landlord here (i.e. turning in the keys and getting my 5 million deposit back) I’ll be living in my digs on Friday.  Monday at the latest.  Ain’t life grand?

With my business completed with the realtor, I walked around town some.  I was really taken aback by just how quiet the area is compared to Seoul.  That will take some getting used to, but as a pedestrian I have to admit the lack of traffic is pretty nice.

Anjeong-ri has everything you need. Except the tumbleweed.

And just like we say in Itaewon, “meet me at the Hamilton”…

Your spelling may vary.

I wanted to check out the walk from my new digs to my new office space in the 8A HQ building.  It’s about 30 minutes hoofing it to the gate nearest HQ.  When I arrived there I noted that the walk-in part of the gate access was still under construction.  Security would not let use the vehicle entrance, so I turned around to make my way back the main gate in Anjeong-ri.  Then I spotted a vacant cab with the tell-tell base access window sticker so I shouted out “Yogio!” and he turned around and drove me to my office.

I’ll be working on the top floor of the building in this fine office.  Not as big and nicely furnished as my current digs, but size doesn’t matter.  That’s what she said anyway.

Speaking of size, Camp Humphreys is HUGE!  The largest military base outside the USA, taking up about the same square miles as the District of Columbia.  And it is bisected by an airfield, which means driving and walking to anywhere is by necessity done in a roundabout fashion.  From the garrison bus depot near the commissary and PX it took 30 minutes to walk to the main gate.  From my office back to bus station was a good 45 minute walk.

I do believe all that walking was my personal best one day effort.

Now I’m back in Seoul packing out my old office.  And I came upon this relic from my previous tenure:

Words of wisdom from the book “Who moved my cheese?“. I’d had this made and left it with my successor when I retired all those years ago. I had frankly forgotten all about the book and it’s message. But yes, my cheese did get moved but hopefully I’m on my way to finding some new cheese.  There’s some wisdom to be gained here. Don’t mourn the old cheese. Finding new cheese is life’s adventure.

Ah, I see now I wrote about it on my last day at work in 2010.  Little did I know what heartbreak lay ahead of me.

Okay, here’s the book condensed into a 16 minute animated video.  Thanks Google!

 

 

Mayday! Mayday!

I think I’m steppin’ into the Twilight Zone.

An odd weekend.  Closing out the Seoul chapter of my so-called life left me feeling a little more melancholy than usual,  Well, by my reckoning this was my penultimate weekend here.  Soon I’ll be feeling blue in a new city.  Something to look forward to for sure!

Facebook kicked things off by sharing this reminder of what I had and what I lost.

But on Friday night I got to help Natasha celebrate her birthday at Shenanigans.

And it is always nice to spend time with Sohee.

Kisses for the birthday girl!

Of course, everyone was coupled up as usual. Happy for them all and they will be missed.

On Saturday I played in my final Seoul International Dart League tournament. Can you spot the ol’ Walrus in this photo? I threw like shit and got knocked out early. I stayed and drank, then finished the night sitting alone at the bar at Grand Ole Opry. Which made me feel like a loser for the second time that day.

So I got up Sunday morning and did my best to walk those blues away. It helped some.

Ah well, at least I still have my sense of humor.

Such as it is.

Help, I’m steppin’ into the Twilight Zone
Place is a madhouse
Feels like being cloned
My beacons been moved
Under moon and star
Where am I to go Now that I’ve gone too far

 

Shit’s gettin’ real

Scheduled my household goods packout for 11 May.  I don’t have much, basically just clothes, dishes and appliances.

Now I’ve got to find a place to park my meager possessions in Pyeongtaek.  I’ll make a trip down there on Tuesday and try to finalize a deal.  The issue is my short time remaining in Korea (around 4 months) doesn’t make me an attractive renter to most landlords.  I’m sure I’ll find something.

Life is changing, come what May.

Looking for a home

Here’s a photo essay of this weekend’s quest to find a suitable home in Pyeongtaek.  A bar home that is.

Caught the bus on Yongsan which got me to Humphreys via Osan.

Camp Humphreys is the largest military base outside of the USA.  From the bus station there it was a good 30 minute hike to the main gate leading into the village of Anjeong-ri.

The first order of business was to secure some lodging for the night. I wasn’t particular in that regard, just something convenient to the bar district I’d be exploring later that night. I was a little disconcerted when the asked me if I wanted “short time”. Um, no, it’s just me standing here. They wanted W40,000 for all night, but I managed to negotiate a discounted rate of W35,000. Woot!

Next on the agenda was finding some lunch.  Not much going on in Anjeong-ri in the early afternoon.  But right around the corner from my motel I found this place:

No idea why the named it this. I did talk a bit with the owner. Nice enough guy. Bar feature a pool table and a dart board. Alas, they do not permit vaping so it will not play a big part in my future.

I did enjoy a pulled pork sandwich and two SML’s during my short visit.

I don’t know if the bar across the street allows vaping because I didn’t feel welcome there…

It appears most of the bars don’t open until 5 or 6 in the ville, so I had some time to kill before I could begin my bar crawl.

Walked over to the house that may be my new residence soon. It’s massive. Way to much house for me really. And given the short period of time I have remaining in Korea the landlord may not want to rent it out to me, especially since I’d need him to furnish it. I’m good either way, lots of options.

I saw two vaping stores as I walked about. Went into this one to check out their wares…

…and came away with a new vaping pen. Pretty happy with its performance thus far…

It seems like wherever I go I’m never far from Itaewon…

Oh My God! What a crazy name for a car dealership!

Turns out the Jesus Embassy didn’t issue any visas to Heaven. Ah well.

So, 20,000 steps later I’m back at the Main Gate to Humphreys. Anjeong-ri is a little bit like the old Itaewon, only smaller. And less sleazy. I should fit right in!

So, the plan was to meet up with my buddy Craig who moved down to Pyeongtaek last month and do an old fashioned bar crawl.  The generally accepted rules of a bar crawl are to have one beer in each bar that looks interesting until such time as your level of inebriation precludes activities involving motor skills.  Such as walking.

The first bar we hit was the “Cool bar”. It wasn’t all that cool. A pool table and a dart board. One old Korean guy there to serve you. We were the only customers (but it was still early). Anyway, they didn’t have SMLs, so we settled for Miller Lite. He had to get out a calculator to total our tab for two beers. Scary! They allowed smoking in this bar so of course vaping was no issue. Still, the Cool Bar left me cold.

Next up was the IDK bar. I Don’t Know what IDK stands for. But as the sign notes, they do have a weekly dart tourney. Bar staff was friendly Filipinas. No SML but vaping was allowed. We didn’t stay for the tourney, but I’ll definitely be back here for the darts.

We moved on to Blue Hawaii. Not much to say about the place, good or bad. I had to laugh though because the inside signage had “blue” misspelled as bule.

We were just randomly choosing venues at this point. I guess we saw a cute gal walk into Crystal Bar, so we followed. Turns out she was one of the bartenders. Ji young and Mia were both witty and entertaining. They had SML and let me vape. Craig enjoyed the place so much that he ordered up a second beer, violating the bar crawl principles. Oh well. I did insist that we visit at least 3 more bars before declaring Crystal the night’s winner.

We had our next beer at 3 Stooges. No SML and no smoking, but no one stopped me from vaping. It was the most crowded of the bars we visited and had a bit of biker bar vibe.

Galaxy Bar was out of this world. Actually, not really. It was quiet but the two middle aged Korean bartenders were friendly. Only one other Korean customer at the time. One of those places I’d try again if I wanted a quiet beer to myself.

And then there was Duffy Club. Also staffed by Filipinas. Turns out it was a juicy bar (the only one we encountered, which was a little surprising. Maybe we just got lucky with our choices. For those that don’t know the concept, the bar girl sits with you and chats and you are expected to buy her a drink. At Duffy, the lady drinks were W20,000. Nope. I’m never that lonely! One beer and out.

Anyway, we finished our night out by going back to Crystal Bar which had gotten quite a bit busier in our absence.  Still had a good time though and I’ll definitely spend some time there on my next visit.  Could it be my new Shenanigans?  Stay tuned.

We grabbed some kebabs before Craig taxied home and I stumbled to my room.  It was around midnight (we had started at 5:30).  I recall laying on the bed and turning on the TV.  I woke up at 0300 fully dressed and with the TV blaring.  Remedied both of those issues and was soon back to sleep.

Until 0630 when this roused me from sleep:

Damn, I was a good quarter mile at least from the Army base.  They played it over loudspeakers at top volume.  No more sleeping after that.  My return bus wasn’t until 0930 so I did some hiking around Humphreys, grabbed a Starbucks Americano and a blueberry muffin, then waited for my 2 hour ride back Yongsan.

It was a good trip and I feel confident I will adapt to the slower pace of the Pyeongtaek lifestyle.  And it will be a good transition to my future life in the Philippines.  HaHa!  Yeah, I know.  Wherever I am, I’ll find a bar to belly up to and be as happy as pig in shit.

What else can I share while I have your attention?

I know a lot of jokes about unemployed people but, none of them work. (Most of jokes during the bar crawl fell flat too).

And for god’s sake, don’t let them split!

I was going to buy a book on phobias, but I was afraid it wouldn’t help me.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got.

On a more serious note, I’ve been reading some stuff that reassures me I’m not the only one done with romantic love.  As one guy put it, he is mentally and emotionally incapable of being in love.  Exactly how I feel.  Someone told me I needed to find the courage to let the past go.  As I tried to explain, it is not so much about fear as it is about belief.  I used to believe in love and I used to believe in Santa Claus.  And now I don’t.  Simple as that.

What he said.

Last week I totaled 159,000 steps.  That’s a new record for me.  It helped that on 6 of those days I logged 20,000+ steps.  I feel good about that.  And I also feel pretty damn good period.  These new medicines I’m inhaling twice a day really keep the lungs clear.  Rarely use the inhaler and I don’t use the nebulizer at all anymore.  No cough at all.  I do wake up every morning with a stuffy nose and then have a sneezing fit, but once that passes I’m good for the rest of the day.  I can live with that.

Beautiful springtime Sunday today.  A pleasure to be out walking about in it.

What a wonderful world!

Happy trails to you!

 

Doh! Minion

It’s not that the man did not know how to juggle, he just didn’t have the balls to do it.

Stick around, I’ll be here all week…

Don’t worry, I haven’t quit my day job.  In fact, I had to give one of my employees a stern talking to.

“Wipe that smile off your face!’

Speaking of work, I received my orders today assigning me to Camp Humphreys in lovely Pyeongtaek.  Shit’s getting real now.  Talked to my realtor down there and it looks like I’ll be taking that four bedroom, four bath single family house smack dab in the middle of Anjeong-ri, the village adjacent to the Army base.  I’m going to bus down there on Saturday and spend the night.  I want to get a feel for the bar district neighborhood. Ahem.

Still some bureaucratic crap to sort out, but I’m targeting May 15 as my first day working in my new location.  My days in Seoul are definitely numbered!

I played some darts last night for the first time in quite a while.  Just subbing for the Shenanigans team as they were short a player.  It was nice to be back on the oche.  I don’t think they have a dart league in Pyeongtaek (yet).  I could shoot over to Songtan to play I suppose but that’s more hassle than it is worth.  I’ll retake up the game once I’m ensconced in the Philippines I reckon.

I didn’t let the rain keep me from walking today.

Not a bad day’s work…

I guess I’ll be missing my old friend before too long.

Things change.

I’ll make new friends and memories in Pyeongtaek.  And hopefully let go of the past.

I walk along the city streets you used to walk along with me
And every step I take reminds me of just how we used to be
Well, how can I forget you, girl?
When there is always something there to remind me
Always something there to remind me

Read more: Naked Eyes – Always Something There To Remind Me Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

 

 

Different Drum

Happy Easter for those who believe in that sort of thing.

I found an egg today. Or it found me. During my hike an Church ajumma insisted I take it. Happy Easter!

Long time no post, eh?  Sorry about that.  I’ve been both busy and unmotivated.  What can I say?  Well, let’s ketchup!

This past week I was busy keeping a promise.  I’m glad I did even if I am not the same man I was back when I made that promise.  I’m sorry for any hurt that may have caused.

Speaking of promises, this month marked the fourth anniversary of the vows Jee Yeun made but did not keep.  Well, as long as she is happy now.

There is no question that I’m dead inside. It is just the way it is. I’ve accepted it.

You know, I don’t want to come off as being some pussy who can’t get over a broken heart.  I’m over it and I would certainly never go back to where I was.  It’s done.  But the reality is also that I’m haunted by memories of what I had and lost.  The things that used to bring me joy in life are now painful reminders of my foolish belief in love.  And wherever I go and whatever I do, it seems I am confronted by the past.  It is one reason I need to leave Korea, sooner rather than later.

I’m a selfish bastard for sure.  I’m going to embrace that and live a selfish life in the Philippines.   It is who I am and what I’ve become.  There is peace in acceptance.

But enough about me.  Ha!  Just kidding.

I’ve given my 30 day notice to the landlord. Looks like next stop for me will be lovely Pyeongtaek.  I’m still targeting a September re-retirement and move to Subic Bay.  But my Uncle Sam has enticed me to stay on through the Eighth Army transformation out of Seoul by providing me LQA (living quarters allowance).  That saves me two grand a month and these days I’m all about the money!

Since my last post here I made a trip down to Camp Humphreys to check out our new office space in the Eighth Army headquarters building.  Not bad at all.  While there I had a realtor show me around some of the amazing properties available.  He asked me where I wanted to live and I said “walking distance”.  “To work?” he asked.  Nope, to the bars.  I reckon that to be 20 minutes drunken stumbling max. So, somewhere in Anjeong-ri right outside the main gate would be ideal.  The realtor of course wants to show me big new expensive places, and I just want something simple and convenient.

I guess the compromise was this single family house right in the middle of Anjeong-ri.

4 bedrooms/4 baths (2 down, 2 up). Way to much house for me, but…

Real nice kitchen area too. We’ll see. The problem is I need something fully furnished and I’m only going to be around for 4 months, give or take. Doesn’t make me an attractive prospect for landlords.

I’ll need to do some more looking and see what happens.

There’s this nice restaurant right across the street. Or maybe it’s a pet shop. Have to check it out.

Speaking of work, here’s a picture of the meeting between the Korean Employees Union and the Ambassador. Well, former ambassador now… I’m the left handed guy…

Also this month was siblings day…here’s me and the brothers when life was much simpler…

I actually got asked this question by my Army doctor. Gave a similar response…

Sharing the fun with three of my employees on a recent Friday night…

Sounds like good advice…

…except when it isn’t. A conundrum…

Spent some time up North last week. It was pretty quiet…

katchi kapshida

Why yes. Yes I am.

Everything put together, sooner or later falls apart.

On the border…

I made it a few steps into North Korea but these guys weren’t going to let me go any further.

See what I missed?

I also had business in Busan. Not with this mermaid…

When the lights go down in the city…

Back in Seoul for my river walk on Saturday…

On the river.

And today it was Namsan.

Found the broom but no trace of the wicked witch of the Easter.

It’s been a long time since I broke the 30,000 step barrier…

Still crazy after all these years.

Ah well, it is what it is.  I’ll try and do better.

 

The final countdown

No, not this countdown. It’s already too late. We are dead and consumed by the Borg anyway. Or maybe this is more of that “fake news” I’ve been hearing about.  One of those.

The countdown I’m talking about is that in exactly five months my term of appointment expires. My staff is pressuring me to stay one more year, but I’ve made up my mind that it is time for me to go.  The money is great and when (if) I move down to Pyeongtaek, Uncle Sam will even pay my rent.  That alone saves me around two grand a month. But.  I’ll be 62 in August.  The COPD diagnosis certainly reinforced the fact that I ain’t gonna live forever.  So I’d best start living now, or come September anyway.

The job is a pain in the ass. The people I work with are wonderful though.  Seriously, more like a pseudo family than employees.  And really, during this transition from the life I’d planned on to the one I now have, they’ve given me much support and comfort.  As lonely and directionless as I’ve been, I’d have been lost without the forty hours a week I’ve shared with them.

They don’t know I’ve made up my mind to leave them, so don’t say anything!  I’m sure they will be disappointed but I’ve got to put me first now.  Who am I kidding?  I’ve always been a selfish bastard.  And I’m weary of my Korea life and up for a new adventure in the Philippines.  Let’s get on with it.

Paying my share. Last year I graduated to the 25% tax bracket. This year my hard work was rewarded with a 28% tax bite. This check makes up the difference. By my reckoning I’m paying a higher percentage than all the rich people, not to mention the 47% of the population who pays nothing. A fucked up mess of a system, that’s for sure.

On Sunday I braved the polluted air and did a river hike of 20,000+ steps.

That would be me communing with nature…

After my river journey, I swung by the commissary to pick up the ingredients for a side dish to bring to a dart league barbecue at Shenanigans…

I’m sure you can guess what I made…

Only the best goes into my pudding…

By all accounts it was a hit.

Although it wasn’t long before I reached the point of not caring…

Hate the war all you want, but disrespecting the soldiers who serve our nation is beyond cowardly…

Oh, I grilled steaks tonight. Made me a fine steak salad…

Hard to argue with that!

Anyway, that’s all I got.

Peace out!

Maybe I’m a fool

To hell with it. I’m going to the airport and getting on a plane. Don’t even care where it is going, first jet out to anywhere. When I get to wherever I wind up I’ll max out my credit cards, drain my savings account, and then decide what to do next. I won’t be back. Goodbye Korea!

Hey You!

Man oh man, work has been sucking big time.  I try not to care enough to get drawn into controversy, but damn it, some things just demand that you take a stand.  So I do, people get pissed, but then we move forward and get things done.  Progress!

 

Finding comfort in a gin and soda after a particularly fucked up day at the office.

It was a quiet night at Shenanigans so I set about entertaining myself by arranging a grudge dart match between the two bartenders.

Nuri on the left representing Kyrgyzstan and Sonya on the right from Mongolia.

I scored the match. Nuri had the better darts, but I enjoyed Sonya’s expletives…

To the victor goes the spoils…

I guess it was the element of surprise…

Meanwhile, spring has sprung as evidenced by the blooming of the gaenalee blossoms…

the purple magnolia…

these…

…and a park that hasn’t been impeached!

I’m not sure what the significance is of an open umbrella in a vacant lot, but it spoke to me somehow.

Hurry sundown!

It’s HUGE!

Almost as huge as today’s walk.

Best of all, I didn’t need to use my inhaler at all today.  Let’s hope that’s the beginning of a trend.

Hey you! out there in the cold
Getting lonely, getting old, can you feel me
Hey you! Standing in the aisles
With itchy feet and fading smiles, can you feel me
Hey you! don’t help them to bury the light
Don’t give in without a fight.
Hey you! out there on your own
sitting naked by the phone would you touch me
Hey you! with your ear against the wall
Waiting for someone to call out would you touch me
Hey you! would you help me to carry the stone
Open your heart, I’m coming home
But it was only a fantasy
The wall was too high as you can see
No matter how he tried he could not break free
And the worms ate into his brain.
Hey you! out there on the road
Always doing what you’re told, can you help me
Hey you! out there beyond the wall
Breaking bottles in the hall, can you help me
Hey you! don’t tell me there’s no hope at all
Together we stand, divided we fall.

Quiet desperation

And another weekend draws to a close.

Spending time in bars, more often alone than not, provides ample opportunity for introspection and observation.  I’ve mentioned before my growing sense of disconnection from the Korea life I’ve lived.  Several old time friends have departed recently and I’m not really putting forth much effort to make new ones.  Seems I’ve become the proverbial old man living with his memories of happier times.

Well, obviously whatever isolation I’m experiencing is largely of my own making.  I’ve gotten better at being alone and the truth is I don’t really have the patience or willingness to allow someone to intrude into the relative peace and safety of the solitary confinement I’ve constructed.  It’s not the life I had imagined, but its good enough.  For now, anyway.

Anyway, don’t mistake this meditation as me feeling sorry for myself. I’m actually quite optimistic about the future.  A future in which I put 12 years in Korea behind me. I think what prompted this thinking was encountering some other folks this weekend who seem to be struggling with their own versions of isolation, remorse, and hopelessness.  In a city of 13 million there are bound to be many lonely and empty lives on display.  It still makes me sad to see though.

Having said that, I had a pretty fine (and drunken) Saturday night hanging out with my nephew Justin and my communist friend Choonae.

And this was when we were just getting started!

After reaching the appropriate level of inebriation I suggested we abandon Shenanigans and make our way up Hooker Hill for a visit to the oldest bar in Itaewon, Grand Ole Opry. Justin and Choonae were drunk enough to agree and so off we went.

Choonae had never been to a country Honky Tonk so it was interesting to see her reaction.  She’s also quite a dancer (Salsa being her specialty) and she was fascinated watching folks do the Texas two-step and Country Swing dances.  She stood beside our table and emulated the footsteps involved.  And after one particularly good dancer (a Korean gentlemen) returned to his seat with his date, Choonae walked over and asked him to show her how to dance.  He did, and she picked it up right away.

I might have mentioned that I was drunk, which gave me the courage to do some dancing myself.  I’m nowhere near as good as I once was (nor even as good once as I ever was), but that didn’t stop me.  Justin captured some video evidence of my foolhardiness.

Anyway it was a fun time and I successfully stumbled home sometime after 2 a.m. (with a detour to Taco Bell).

I was hungover and lazy most of the day but forced myself to get off my ass and take a walk in the afternoon.

Not bad considering.

And the good news is my new meds seem to be helping quite a lot.  Haven’t needed my nebulizer at all today and just used my inhaler a couple of times (pre and post walk). Here’s hoping that continues!

Onward!

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying
When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb.

 

 

What’s up, Doc?

Where I need to be. Doctor’s orders…

Yesterday afternoon found me back at the Brian Allgood Army Community Hospital for a follow-up visit to get the results of my two CT exams (chest and abdomen) and my PFT (pulmonary function test).  This was my fourth visit to the base hospital and also the fourth different doctor I’ve seen there.  Not getting to see the same doctor twice is a function of being in the Space A (space available) category.  Soldiers and their families come first, as it should be, and us civilians are at the bottom of the pecking order.  So, I call in and get assigned to any doctor with an open spot.  Honestly, each of the docs have been excellent.  They actually come and spend some quality time having a conversation about my health issues and there is never a rush or a sense that they have better things to do.  A much more satisfactory experience than anything I’ve encountered in the Korean hospitals, and truthfully, better than any care I received back in the USA as well.

I had the chest CT a couple of weeks ago.  A nurse called me and said my lungs looked pretty good considering the abuse I’ve put them through (25 years of smoking).  There was a small nodule on the left lung that might be nothing, but she advised I needed to have another CT in a year just to be sure.  She told me the doctor wanted me to do an abdomen CT, so I got that done on Tuesday.

No, I didn’t try suicide. It took the nurse three tries to find a vein that would accept having the CT dye injected. Finally had to settle for the wrist…

During the CT the fire alarms went off which was a little disconcerting.  They finished the test though, then escorted me out of the hospital.  I’m pretty sure it was just a drill.

Anyway, my physician yesterday was a young Army Captain.  Even though Dr. Pence had not ordered the tests, he had obviously reviewed the results before he sat down with me.  He said the lung nodule was 3 mm in size and could be from previous damage or could be a precursor to lung cancer.  So yeah, I’ll get that checked next year for sure.

The abdomen CT was clear.  Woot!  What about the PFT?  Well, it confirmed the COPD diagnosis and revealed that my lung function is at Stage 2 (moderate) of the disease. COPD is progressive and irreversible.  All that can be done is to take steps to slow its progress and delay reaching “end stage” for as long as possible.  So, that’s my plan.  I figure on dragging it out for 20 years or so.

I told Dr. Pence that I planned to move to the Philippines in a few months and asked him if the hot and humid weather would cause me any problems.  He said that on the contrary, those conditions would be much better for my condition than the cold and polluted environment of Seoul.  So, there you have it.  I’m going to live in the PI because it is what the doctor ordered!

Anyway, I’ve not had the shortness of breath issues that led me to the ER last month.  I have a chronic cough that wakes me up at night and I’m still hocking up sputum. I’ve been using albuterol in my nebulizer and through my inhaler.  Dr. Pence noted that during during my PFT the albuterol had limited effect.  So he prescribed two additional meds to be inhaled.  Both are in a powder form, sorta like cocaine I suppose.

They come with these fancy dancy inhalers so I don’t have to roll up a dollar bill and snort it up my nose. Not that I wold know anything about that…

That’s the story of my health.  Long may I live!

In other news…

I’m not letting diminished lung capacity keep me from completing my appointed rounds. I have noticed I don’t have the stamina I used to enjoy, but with my trusty inhaler I’m still able to get the steps in.

And I’m dealing with the agony of de feet…

And it is encouraging to know that there are in fact honest women out there in the world!

Hope springs eternal.

 

 

With a Spring in my step

Springtime has arrived in Korea!  Weather is warming up, gaenalee is blooming, and the cherry blossoms can’t be far behind.  I think spring is the best season of the year here and seeing as how it is likely my last one, I intend to enjoy the hell out of it.  Spent 18,000+ steps doing just that today.

Had a rather strange and different weekend, but different is good. That’s about as far as I’m going to take it, at least for now. Oddly enough, on Saturday’s walk I encountered two people I know.  Both of them bar owners in Itaewon. What are the odds?

Friday was St. Patrick’s Day and I dressed for the occasion.

Josie, my Filipina housekeeper and bartender at Shenanigans celebrated her birthday with an ice cream cake I was proud to provide…

Had my taxes done and was rewarded with being elevated to the 28% tax bracket. These posers can’t hang with me, that’s for sure.

Sorry baby. But we’ll always have the Philippines….

Speaking of the PI, here’s a shot of sunset on the bay courtesy of my new friend John. I’m looking forward to enjoying this view every fucking day for the rest of my life. However long that may prove to be.

Back to the Army hospital in the morning for the abdomen CT.  No idea why the doc ordered that. but I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Ah, the season of love you say?

Don’t tell me of love everlasting and other sad dreams
I don’t want to hear
Just tell me of passionate strangers who rescue each other
From a lifetime of cares
Because if love means forever, expecting nothing returned
Then I hope I’ll be given another whole lifetime to learn

Runaway train

Doctor’s office called today.  Apparently the chest CT came back clean enough that I don’t need to worry about it.  Well, there is a nodule in the left long that he wants me to have checked next year.  I guess something else showed up on the periphery of the chest CT because now he wants me to schedule an abdomen CT.  Sure, why not?

I asked about the PFT results and apparently they are not in.  Oh well, the suspense won’t kill me any faster than the COPD does.  Meanwhile, I walk.

Took the long way home (around 1 hour 45 minutes) along the Han river today…

Made it home by sundown. Logged just shy of 24,000 steps for the day.

I don’t seem to be losing the weight I gained during the height of my illness.  But I’m staying on track regardless.

can you help me remember how to smile?
make it somehow all seem worthwhile
how on earth did i get so jaded?
life’s mysteries seem so faded
i can go where no one else can go
i know what no one else knows
here i am just drownin’ in the rain
with a ticket for a runaway trainand everything seems cut and dry
day and night
earth and sky
somehow i just don’t believe itrunaway train, never goin’ back
wrong way on a one-way track
seems like i should be getting somewhere
somehow i’m neither here nor therebought a ticket for a runaway train
like a madman laughing at the rain
little out of touch, little insane
it’s just easier than dealing with the painrunaway train, never goin’ back
wrong way on a one-way track
seems like i should be getting somewhere
somehow i’m neither here nor there

runaway train, never comin’ back
runaway train, tearin’ up the track
runaway train, burnin’ in my veins
i run away but it always seems the same

Up and at ’em…

A hump day mid-week post, what are the odds?

Woke up at 0430 with a coughing jag which gives me an extra hour to fill, so why not spend it with my faithful reader(s)?  Which is not to imply I actually have anything of interest or value to share.  That’s never stopped me before!

I did have my chest CT and PFT on Monday as planned.  I need to wait on the results which I guess will be contingent  on my securing an appointment with one of the two Army doctors who’ve seen me and ordered the tests.  Given my space A status (space available) hard to say when that might be.  In the meantime, I’m better than I was but not as better as I hope to be.  My nebulizer and inhaler are keeping me in the game, so there’s that.

My first appointment was at 0800, so rather than burn sick leave I reported to my office at 0600. My reward was this fine full moon. Sadly, my photography skills were insufficient to capture its full glory.

Where the hell are impatient people like me supposed to park?

While awaiting my pulmonary function test I killed time reading this pamphlet. Got me thinking maybe these questions would be appropriate to ask the women I meet as well.

I posted a few days ago about my planning for some spontaneity in my life. Daughter Renee reported she got the same message when she popped the cork on a bottle of wine. Made us feel connected while thousands of miles apart.  Randomly spontaneous if you will.

It is a little known fact that my failure at statistics is why I can’t claim a masters degree. 30 of 33 hours completed. Damn statistics!

Oh, I filled in for the dart team at Shenanigans Monday (the soldier members of the team being otherwise occupied with Key Resolve).  Played a singles match and went 3-0.  It was good to be throwing again.  I look forward to restarting my darting “career” in the Philippines.

And that’s all I’ve got this morning.

In other news

This morning I will be visiting the Brian Allgood Army Community Hospital.  I’m going to have a chest CT and a pulmonary function test.  Although I am much improved, I still encounter episodes of shortness of breath and an occasional coughing jag.  I’d rate myself 90% better, and with my trusty inhaler and nebulizer I can self-medicate when I have an incident.  These tests today ought to help confirm the earlier COPD diagnosis and might lead to a different treatment regimen.  We shall see.

Got in some decent walking this weekend, although my stamina is still nowhere near what it was prior to my illness.  I’ll keep after it though.  One step at a time.  Heh.

And now for some pictures!

Some might say HUGE!

So, my Korean haircuts include this facial thing. Daughter says I look like Hannibal Lecter.

Hmmm…

My son celebrated his 39th birthday last week. By my reckoning that makes him several years older than me now.

A nice memory of my recent visit to the PI where I made the acquaintance of John, Joe and Anna. I’m ready to go back!

Walked home from work one day last week and encountered some snowflakes.

Out for some drinks on Friday night and who shows up but Ben and his lovely wife Leah on a date night. First met them back in Columbia, SC a few years back and now here they are again.

Other friends I encountered on Friday night, Mike, Eve, and Choonae.

Bullshit!

Saturday was Namsan day…

I observed the last dying embers of winter…

And a sure sign of spring…rooftop dining!

But best of all was finding these fresh strawberries at a local market in Kyongridawn. Made my Sunday smoothie sweet indeed.

Out alone as usual on Saturday night. I’m such a rogue after all…

Wound up in Grand Ole Opry where I ran into a memory of Eun Oke.

And finished the weekend with a Han River walk.

And that’s the way things roll around here.