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.

Everything is just super

Even when it’s not.  Great game today though.

We had a little Superbowl party in the office this morning…

Good people, good food…

….and lots of it…

No way anyone comes back from being down 28-3 at the half, right? Right?

In other news…

baby brother turned 60 this week…

Tried to walk on Saturday, this is as close as I got to the Tower….

But I had enough energy to make it out to Shenanigans…

And later enjoyed some delicious grilled pork belly. Soju was not my friend that night however….

Thank you Facebook for reminding me of the ex-Korean girlfriend, Se Hwa.  Well, I’m sure she is still Korean, but you know what I mean.

Happier days….

I’ve learned a lot since then…

Bitter and disillusioned is not too attractive I reckon…

Speaking of Facebook, this is some of the troll bait I’ve been chumming to my lefty friends…

Seems a lot of lefties these days are engaging in the same eliminationist rhetoric of their ideological predecessors…

Open up and let ’em in!

And this about sums it up…

What else?  Well I’ll be heading out to the Philippines later this month to do some retirement reconnaissance.

Will look at some places on the old Subic Bay Naval base…

Not sure I’m completely down with moving to the PI and living in an American subdivision….

But then again, I do like creature comforts like a big ass kitchen…

A backyard patio…

And waking up each morning to a view of the bay like this one…

Of course, I need to make sure I’ll still be waking up every morning.  Still not completely recovered from whatever it is that ails me, but I’m getting increasingly concerned.  This afternoon I again experienced the shortness of breath thing which is quite disconcerting. So I was motivated to go on over to the Army hospital on base and get registered.  Well, actually, turns out I was still registered from my former tour of duty here.

Couldn’t get an appointment today though.  Civilians are at the bottom of the pecking order.  I’ll try again tomorrow.  Just want to get another opinion about what is happening and hopefully a resolution.  Time will tell.

Journey through the past

Sheryl the sweetie.

Back in the day (circa 2006) I was a member of internet information board devoted to visitors and expats in the Philippines.  Once I got married the wife insisted I divest myself of all things Philippines and so my membership lapsed.  After the wife jettisoned the marriage, I renewed my membership.  Unfortunately, all my old submissions were nowhere to be found and I assumed they had been consigned to the dustbin of internet history. But it turns out that all my old posts had been archived, and with the help of a board moderator I was able to recover them.  So I’ve been enjoying reliving those optimistic times when I first discovered the PI.

The best day ever was in July 2008.  I had returned to Angeles City and hooked up again with Sheryl, a gal I had met on my first visit.   To set the scene, the bargirls were provided lodging by the bar, which was called a “stay-in”.  The first time I saw where the girls lived I was shocked and saddened.  It was a one room apartment, with bunk beds lined wall-to-wall.  I’d say each girl had maybe 4 feet of personal space.  No aircon, just a solitary fan. Sheryl assured me however that compared to life in the provinces this was a big improvement.  For example, most of the girls had never enjoyed indoor plumbing prior to moving to Angeles.  Anyway, here’s the story of that special day all those years ago:

Sheryl’s niece has a birthday coming up so I had promised a trip to the mall to pick up some presents. It has been a LONG time since I shopped for a two year old (heh, other than my granddaughter) so it was kinda fun. We picked out a couple of cute outfits and I said, mom will love this, but a kid needs a toy. Preferably one that makes noise (which mom will of course hate). So we got a pull toy and a “teddy-rabbit” and I said now its your turn. Sheryl is always shy about accepting my gifts, but I insisted, so she picked up a nice skirt and a couple of tops. Unlike Koreans, Pinays are quite easy to please and I do appreciate that fact.

So, we headed back to the stay-in to drop off her bounty. Man, that place still depresses me. The girls seem alright with it though and it beats the hell out of living on the street I suppose. Anyway, the plan was to invite the girls over to the Wild Orchid for a little swim party. We wound up with eight happy takers, and off we went. Speaking of easy to please, an old fat guy walking down the street with a covey of young brown-skinned beauties sure did put a smile on my face! 

Soon enough the party was in full swing. I guess it is natural to love the water when you are born in a country made up of 7000 islands, and these girls were no exception. The music of their laughter as they frolicked in the pool just warmed my heart. And the stares of the other guests as we all partied and goofed was kinda cool too. Hell, I will just let the pictures do the talking…

They enjoyed the water, they devoured lunch, and finished it off with a gallon of chocolate ice cream.  It was a day full of smiling faces!  Not the least of all, mine. 

All too soon the sun was sinking on the horizon and the girls had to head home to prepare for another night entertaining the monger horde. God love ’em. I’ll tell you what, I had the best time that afternoon, and I didn’t even get laid. There is more than one way to find satisfaction in AC, and this was my way. Got them out of the hot stay-in, put some smiles on their faces, gave them some good food, and got it all for less than 3000 pesos (about 60 dollars). I’d call that a bargain!

These days I’m not into the go-go bar scene at all, but I still respect the hard lives these young women experience.  I hope the men they entertain treat them with kindness and dignity. They certainly deserve it.

What became of Sheryl?  Well, she wanted me to take her away from the bar life, but I didn’t have it in me to have a long term relationship with a 25 year old Filipina.  What I did do was pay her tuition to become a certified caregiver.  Once she graduated she was able to escape the bar and return home to Manila.  Last time I heard from her was in an email from Australia.  She had married an Aussie and she was trying to be a good wife and therefore would not be staying in contact with me.  I was very happy that she had made her dreams come true.  Thanks for the memories!

When the winter rains
come pourin’ down
On that new home of mine,
Will you think of me
and wonder if I’m fine?
Will your restless heart
come back to mine
On a journey thru the past.
Will I still be in your eyes
and on your mind?

Rollin’ on the river

Weather warmed up to a almost sweltering 1 degree today, so I decided to head out for walk on the Hangang.  About five steps out the door it started spitting snow, but what the hell, I was well bundled up.  It felt damn good to be out again!

Started with a hearty steak and egg breakfast before hitting the road…

A snowy morning on the river…

…but like a good boy scout I came prepared.

Nice ice!

Better to be walking than driving I suppose.

And came back home to the wonderful smell of a pot roast cooking in the crock pot…

All told, 21,000+ steps in just over 3 hours.  Longest walk since 3 December.  I was tired but it felt good.  And it seemed like maybe I had turned the page on this illness.

Went to the bar this evening and had a coughing fit.  Calmed that down with a couple of Hot Toddy’s.   Then about the time I started walking home I experienced that shortness of breath thing.  Made for an uncomfortable walk home, that’s for sure.  Did a nebulizer treatment and now I feel much better.

Nothing really matters to me…

My lunar new year holiday is over, so it’s back to work for me bright and early in the morning.  Thanks for dropping in!

Death and taxes

The blog is not dead and neither I am!  So far anyway.

Apologize again for the dearth of posting here at LTG.  The cold weather and diminished lung capacity have pretty much clipped my wings lately.  Which leaves nothing significant to report.

Well, people are dying.  I’m not talking about Mary Tyler Moore or other famous folk.  For example, there’s Gavin.  He was the long term manager at the Arizona Resort in Barrio Baretto, Philippines.  Had a few chats with him over the years and he scored me a nice discount during my visit this past September.  The reports from the scene say he had been feeling poorly for a couple of days, then encountered difficulty breathing (which sounds eerily familiar).  Went to the ER and suffered a massive heart attack.  By all accounts he was a great guy and he’ll be missed by all who knew him.

Closer to home, two long time expats in Itaewon have recently departed the land of the living.  I did not know either one personally, but I’m sure we frequented the same bars, likely at the same time.  One had a fatal heart attack while enjoying Seoul Pub, the other passed on outside the Itaewon McDonalds.  In a freaky coincidence, he had been drinking at Shenanigans and then left for a late night snack at Mickey D’s.  I had done the exact same thing only a couple of nights previously.

Anyway, being ill and hearing reports like these certainly brings home the fact that I am mortal and subject to the whims of fate at anytime.  I do feel the clock ticking on the rest of my life and have a sense of urgency that I should be getting on with the business of living it.

In that regard I’ve been spending countless hours on the internets gathering data about living the life of an expat in the Philippines.  Going to do some boots on the ground research for ten days next month.  I’ll keep you advised.

One of the tidbits my PI research revealed. That’s mighty cold beer!

At any rate, I’m not 100% healthy, but I’m doing much better than I was.  I do hope to have kicked whatever it is that ails me completely before I head out for my next Philippines adventure.  I can’t wait to stop being impatient.

President Trump issued an order freezing hiring in the Federal government.  That’s thrown a monkey wrench into a lot hiring actions here in Korea (including some in my shop) and has made my working life a little more interesting than I prefer.  I’m sure it is going to shake out in the next several days, but in the meantime I guess I can honestly say I can’t quit my job because I’m irreplaceable.  Heh.

Speaking of the President, he’s featured in a new commercial for Rush Cash here in Korea.

And let me leave you with this little gem from the past for your viewing and listening pleasure.

You are welcome!

Oh yeah, taxes.  I’ve got all my documents together.  Now I just need to get motivated to scan them and email them off to my accountant in South Carolina.  It’s always fun to anticipate how much my Uncle Sam will be ass raping me this tax season.  Oh well, I’m proud to be an American.

This day so far

Welcome to Friday!

As I mentioned in last night’s post, a big day in store.  Starting with a bus trip down to Pyeongtaek to check out the new office space.

Time to get up!

Already? Okay, let’s get on with it then.

Better check the weather…

…..hmm, not promising.

Fixing my morning beverage…

Ingesting my morning pill regimen.  Don’t ask me what they are.  Doc prescribes, I take.  They help some I suppose.  At least for the symptoms.  Haven’t seen a cure yet.

Time to check the internets. Yep, still there.



Nebulizing to the rockin’ beats of Hairy Chasms.

Blood pressure a little high this morning. But it’s been higher…

Time for a shower…

….and a shave.

Dressed for success. I don’t know, it’s all still a little blurry…

Snacks and lunchee for the trip…

And then I get the call. Trip cancelled. Don’t report for duty until 1200.

Nothing to do now but blog about it.

And here I sit.

Fuck that

Fucking hilarious.

Had the pleasure of being treated to dinner at Casablanca in HBC last night with my friend and renowned blogger Kevin Kim. I wasn’t very good company I’m afraid because I experienced a coughing fit that lasted throughout the fucking meal.  Kevin was gracious about it, and I also appreciated his encouragement as I struggled up the hill to my villa. It was a really fucked up situation.

Today I’ve felt mostly fine, not sure what the fuck is up with that.  If I’m not fully recovered when this round of meds is completed I am going to have to get more assertive about finding out just what the fuck is wrong with me.  Kevin sent me a link to pneumonia symptoms, but given the tests I have had done I’m thinking that’s not it.  I hope the fuck I’m right.

Tomorrow is inauguration day and I’m sure liberal heads will be exploding across our fair nation. I suggest putting that anger into meaningful action! Why the fuck not?

And no, I’m not serious.  I want all my liberal countrymen to stick around and enjoy the ride of a lifetime.  No fucking way he can be worse than Hillary, right?

I wish the fuck I could learn to be more tolerant though…

I’m off to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek at 0700 tomorrow.  They say we are in for snow tonight, but the Captain I talked to said the bus would roll regardless.  The Army always goes rolling along after all.  Fuckin’ A!


What dreams may come

These past few nights my dreams have all been Philippines related.  Not in any specific way, they just took place in the Philippines or featured Filipinos.

While my sub-conscious has apparently taken something of leap into the future, here in the present I’m consciously aware that I’m withdrawing from my Korean life.  Such as it is.

Yesterday was the opening night of the new dart league season, the first season in over 10 years in which I haven’t participated (well, except for the year I was stuck in the states waiting on the green card for Jee Yeun).  I was at the bar of course to cheer for the home team, but more and more it feels like I have one foot out the door.

Eight or nine months to go yet, so I need to maintain some focus on reality, but I’m very much aware of the fact that a new life beckons.  I’m not so foolish as to expect it will be better, but given my state of mind, different will suffice.

Korea for me has become a land of broken dreams and broken promises.  And there always seems to be something to remind me of that sad fact.  So I need to let go and move on.  I’ve been wallowing in self-pity for far too long, I fear if I stay here I may drown in it.

In other news, it was back to the doctor on Monday morning.  Dr. Joe did the honors this time, and I walked out with another impressive collection of pills.  I honestly do think I’m slowly getting better, but without the meds I can’t get a decent nights sleep.  And it’s no good being sick and tired.  Trust me on that.

I will likely feel better about things when I can start walking again.  It’s just been too damn cold.  No matter how warm I dress, breathing that cold air wreaks havoc on the lungs. Hopefully next week I’ll get back in my routine.

Ah well, enough of this.  Things change.  Stick around.

If there was an award for most pessimistic, I probably wouldn’t even be nominated.—anonymous 


Time for a post

And so here you go. Not much to say, but that’s never stopped me before, has it?

Work is work but it’s been a pretty decent week.  In the midst of expanding the role of my office in a way that I think is both overdue and adds value to the command.  I’d call that a win.

Still dealing with the cough, albeit not as intense.  I’m sleeping better as well.  Tonight is my last round of medicine so here’s hoping I keep making progress without it.

It’s been too damn cold to get much walking in. Yeah, I could just man up and do it anyway. Actually tried that the other night after work. About halfway through my planned 1.5 hour jaunt I started having a coughing fit. Finally had to concede defeat and take a cab home.

It’s never too early to plan ahead…

Table for one please.  Again.

But I’m not giving up on happiness! My tour guide posted one of my favorite poems on her Facebook page.

Thanks for the inspiration, Loraine.

Meanwhile, Facebook continues reminding me of memories from years gone by…

Like this one from six years ago….

….and this one of my brothers and mother who will be six years dead next week. Miss you mom!

What else?  Well this was my epiphany of the week:

I’m not afraid of love. Just like I’m not afraid of poison. I avoid both, because love is poison to me.

I’ll keep reminding myself of that each time temptation rears her foolish head.

And finally, let me share another vignette from a writer who seems to speak to me on a level I can understand, Steve Rosse.  Your mileage may vary.

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes and she’s gone.

And that’s all she wrote.  Well, all I did anyway.  Until the next post.

Old mountain, New Year

Today I decided not to do something. Later on I didn’t do something else. Tomorrow I may not do one of a selection of other things.

Having said that, one thing I did do was take a 2 1/2 hour hike around Namsan.  Not up to the top, wasn’t feeling quite ready for that yet.

I walked at a comfortable pace and experienced no real difficulties with the lungs or the leg. Progress!

I choose to ignore any possible negative consequences of breathing whatever it is in that haze. Zero vaping during the hike, so maybe that cancels it out…

Something else I didn’t not do today…make a hearty breakfast!

Prepared this after getting my pulled pork roast simmering in the crock pot…

Just so you know….

And finally, in the category of things I’m going to miss about Korea…

….my favorite flower ajumma. Been seeing her in the bars for I don’t know how many years now. Always has a big smile for you whether you buy flowers or not. I usually make it a point to drop man won on a bouquet, even though I have no one to give it to.

When I have ceased to break my wings
Against the faultiness of things,
And learned that compromises wait
Behind each hardly opened gate,
When I have looked Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange–my youth.

–Sara Teasdale


It is strange to be totally in the dark and not having a clue as to why.

I did manage to fumble around for my flashlight and then found the breaker box.  Sure enough, the main switch was flipped.  Reset it, and it popped back off almost immediately. Contacted the realtor who reached out to the landlord.  When I got home from work everything was back in order.  Nothing like a little excitement in life to spice things up!

In health news, I was back to see the hilarious Dr. Yoo today.  A new chest x-ray revealed much improvement in my lungs, but still a ways to go.  I’m sleeping through the night now which is huge.  Doing my nebulizer at least twice a day which seems to make my coughing more productive.  And best of all I’m not having the shortness of breath episodes now.

I’m slowly working my way up to getting back into a regular walking routine again.  I’ve noticed a considerable reduction in stamina (real heavy breathing on the slightest inclines) but this too shall pass I reckon.  The leg is still sore, but not so painful I have to rest every five minutes like before.  So I guess I’ll just walk it off.

First hike of the year along the Han…

A plaintive plea to which I responded “get over it!”  In the long run it will hurt less that way.

And in the category of punctuation matters:

I only drink when I’m alone or with somebody…

And so.  More and more I’m feeling my Korean life fading away.  Shit’s gettin’ real, but it’s no matter.  No distance.  It’s the ride.





A New Year in the Philippines

Other than being sick a lot of the time, the trip to Puerto Galera was enjoyable.  Here’s the story in pictures.

Woke up early Thursday morning to find some snow on the ground. Took a cab to Incheon and caught my plane. We left and arrived on time. Good job Korean Air!

Met my tour guide Loraine at the Manila airport.  She had secured us transportation to Batangas (about 2 1/2 hours away on the toll road) where we caught the ferry to Puerto Galera.

The “ferry” was this banka boat, capacity 110 brave souls.

Every seat was full for the 1.5 hour trip across the water to PG. Seas were relatively calm which is good, because I’m prone to sea sickness…

Looking forward towards arrival at Puerto Galera…

And there it is!

Can’t remember the name of the town we docked in, but it looked like this. It wasn’t White Beach which was where we were going. To get there we had to take a van ride of 30 minutes or so.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we were booked at the Tribal Hills Mountain Resort.  The shuttle van met us in White Beach and drove us straight up the mountain (literally).  Checked in and proceeded to our room where we saw the sign stating there would be no power from 1:00 – 5:00 while the generator underwent maintenance.  With no air con we took advantage of the huge deck outside our corner room.

the deck was larger than our the room, I do believe…

…and afforded views like this…

…and this….



…and of course, this.

The resort featured a restaurant with fantastic views and average food, a pool with a bar that closed at midnight except when it closed earlier, like the night we went down at 11:00.

The pool area at night.

The resort rented 4 wheelers, had an archery range, and a guided hike up to some mountain falls.  We partook in none of the above, although I really did want to take the falls trek.  Lungs and leg convinced me otherwise.  The WiFi was spotty at best, but we made do.  Mostly missed it on those sleepless nights I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

So instead I hired one of the hotel vehicles to drive us into Sabang, a comparatively large town best known for its diving resorts.  1000 pesos round trip (about 20 bucks).  Saw lots of downed trees and storm damage along the way.  There is only one road into and out of Sabang, and like most other roads I saw in Puerto Galera, it was quite narrow.  Our expert driver managed it quite well however.

Once we arrived, the tour guide recommended a steak house she was familiar with.  Once again, the views were much better than the food.  I had a fish fillet that was so salty it was inedible.  But the mango split we shared for dessert was outstanding.

Loraine the tour guide sets up my phone with a local sim card. It gave me a usable phone number, but I was more interested in the data network for internet. It even worked some of the time!

Beer was cold, which is how I like it!

From our dining perch, the view to the right…

…the view straight ahead…

…and the view to the left.

After lunch I treated Loraine to getting her hair treated.  Turns out it was a three hour long process, which gave me time to wander around a bit.  More than enough time, because there just ain’t that much to see there.  Luckily for me, I’m easily entertained…

Found me a beachside bar featuring cold SML beer and enjoyed the view and watching the passerby…

Lots of dive boats coming in and going out…

And a walkable beach if you were so inclined. I was not.

By the time Loraine’s hair was finished, I was half(?) drunk and hungry.  There was a Korean restaurant across the street from the salon so I figured we’d give it a go.

It’s hard to go wrong with samgyapsal, even though I had to cook it myself.

Sabang has a smallish nightlife entertainment scene.  We sampled three bars, all of the go-go variety which I pretty much disdain.  One drink and out in each of them.  One difference from the bars in Angeles City and Subic I’ve visited is that the gals danced one at a time, rather than as a group.  I didn’t see the value in that, but what do I know.

Called our driver for the return trip to Lost Hills and he got us there in due course (about a 45 minute drive).  Once back in our room I had another bout with my bronchitis issues.  Feeling trapped in the room, figured I could be just as miserable at the poolside bar.  Which was already closed, more than an hour prior to the posted closing time.  Oh well, sat out there anyway.  Suggested to the tour guide that we check out one day early and celebrate New Year’s Eve in Manila.  There was really nothing left to see in Puerto Galera and I had a desire to be closer to reasonable medical care should my condition continue to worsen.

After breakfast the next morning we caught the banka boat ferry back to Batangas.  Upon arrival had several touts offer to drive us back to Manila at a discounted rate of 2500 pesos, including tolls.  Although that was a bargain price, I was uneasy about riding in an unlicensed “taxi”, weighing the odds of robbery or some other scam unworthy of the savings.  Took a comfortable bus ride instead for 1/3 that price.

I had previously booked a room for January 1 at the Red Planet Hotel in Aseana Center.  It’s near the airport, the Mall of Asia, and a couple of casinos.  Just prior to checking out of Tribal Hills I went online to Agoda.com to add the 31st to my Red Planet booking.  When we arrived at Red Planet there was a long line for check-in, and the clerks didn’t seem particularly competent.  When I finally got to the counter and provided my ID the clerk couldn’t find my booking for the 31st.  I explained that I had just made it that morning and didn’t have anything other than the email confirmation, which I pulled up and showed her.

She said “sir, this booking is for the Red Planet in Makati”.  Damn, I hate when that happens.  So, we had to “grab” a taxi across town.  (Grab taxi is the Philippines version of Uber apparently.  I like it.)  On the way to our hotel I noticed an oddly familiar neighborhood–the P. Burgos street nightlife district!  I had visited there on my previous Manila adventure back in June.  Our hotel turned out to be within easy walking distance, so at least the location of our New Year’s Eve activities was taken care of.  I like when that happens!

Got settled in the room then took a cab to the Greenbelt shopping district that the tour guide had suggested as a good place for dinner.  She had a Filipino dish, I went with the chicken-on-a-stick (although it had a fancier name (and price) on the menu.).  When it was time to head back to our neck of the woods we had a helluva time getting a taxi.  All the queues were long and the cabs few and far between.  I’m not known for my patience and it was shortly exhausted.  I said fuck this, let’s walk away from this area where there is less competition for cabs.  Loraine told me later she was surprised how I was brazenly walking down dicey streets with no apparent fear of being robbed.  I wasn’t brave, just clueless. Regardless, my plan was not working as there didn’t appear to be any cabs to be found here either.  (If I lived in Manila I would definitely get the Grab app on my phone).

In frustration, I walked over to the doorman at a small hotel and offered him 100 pesos if he could fetch me a cab.  His efforts standing in the street were no more successful than mine.  He asked Loraine in Tagalog where we were going and how much we were willing to pay to get there.  After consulting with me, we said 300 pesos (six bucks, about double the taxi fare).  He had a friend nearby, and after some discussion he agreed to drive us to our hotel for that price.  Problem solved–money talks, we didn’t walk!

Rested up and cleaned up then headed out to Burgos for a night of bar hopping.  Surprisingly, many of the bars were lacking the usually ubiquitous numbers of bar girls.  Apparently many go home to the provinces for the holidays.  No problem as I wasn’t in the market for that anyway.  We had a pretty good time bar hopping until the clock was ready to strike 12.

My first kiss of the new year!

After another rough night and little sleep because of my health issue, we decided to make a visit to the Mall of Asia.  Loraine had a hankering for pizza, and Shakey’s is the place for pizza in the PI.  Which was surprising, because when I was a kid growing up in Southern California, Shakey’s was the big thing!  I still remember their commercial jingle:

I’ve been to Mall of America, and this one seems bigger to me…it’s HUGE!

We serve fun at Shakey’s. Also pizza!

A nice little amusement park behind the mall…

Which is situated on Manila Bay…

Later that evening we hit a casino but I wasn’t impressed or in the mood.  Did hit an 800 peso slot win, with only a 1000 peso investment!

Then we took a cab to the Ermita area of Manila and visited the famous L.A. Cafe. It’s a notorious hang out for freelance hookers, but also a fun, albeit smoky, bar.  Glad I got to experience it.

Next morning it was up and out to the airport.  And the rest as they say is history.  Except for the being sick part, it was a good time.


Stayin’ alive

Welcome to my first post of 2017!  I’d wish you a happy new year but…

….I will wish you more good days than bad instead. My goal is to get out of this year alive!

So, regular readers know that I rang in the New Year in the Philippines.  The trip turned out to be about half as good as I hoped.  I’m going to do a post about the travel portion of that visit soon.  This post is about the bad part.

Here’s a helpful hint:  Don’t take a vacation when you are sick.  I had my meds and figured I’d either get progressively better or stay about the same.  Didn’t think things could get worse until they did.

I arrived with my “tour guide” at our chosen Puerto Galera lodging, the Tribal Hills Mountain Resort pretty much on schedule at 1600 on Thursday the 29th.  I’d left home at 0430 though, so that constituted a long day of travel and I was pretty bushed.  Now, the day after Christmas PG had taken a direct hit from Typhoon Nina.  Lots of downed trees and the roads were pretty much a mess, but the resort was not in bad shape.  Except that the power was out.  No worries, they had a back up generator.  Although from 1300 until 1700 it was down for maintenance.  So, we arrived in our room without power, or more importantly, no air conditioning.  Took advantage of the wonderful deck off our room with outstanding views of the surrounding mountains and the ocean.

It wasn’t long before I noticed a bite on my arm from what I presume was a mosquito.  I belatedly got out my insect repellent and liberally applied it to the exposed areas of my body.  Shortly thereafter, a worrying rash appeared all over the arm that was bitten.  Then it spread to my neck and chest.  And then the other arm.  What the fuck?  I took a long shower and after a couple of hours the rash receded into nothingness and I felt no further ill-effects from the experience.

I had no idea just how isolated the Tribal Hills Resort actually is.  It’s on top of a mountain accessed by a narrow road that goes straight up.  I’d judge it to be a steeper climb than getting to the top of the stairs on Namsan.  And given my diminished lung capacity and bum leg, that was a non-starter.  They resort does offer a free shuttle to the base of the mountain near White Beach.  Although truth be told White Beach seemed like a sleepy little village with nothing much of interest to do there.  And the shuttle stops running at 2200 hours. So the resort has a restaurant and pool bar, who needs to leave, right?

Except late on the first night I experienced a new low in my battle with my lungs, as in a prolonged period where I had shortness of breath.  Which felt like drowning to me.  I tried not to panic which would lead to hyperventilation, but it felt like I was going to pass out at any moment.  My tour guide asked if I wanted to go the the hospital in Sabang, a good 45 minutes away under the best of circumstances.  And these weren’t the best of circumstances in Puerto Galero.  Imagining the nightmare of a small town provincial hospital in the PI, I declined the offer.  Back home during coughing jags I’d work up a sweat and found some comfort and relief having my fan blowing into my face.  I mentioned how I really longed for that fan now, and to her credit my tour guide set out on a midnight quest to find me one.  I assumed it would be fruitless because the resort basically shuts down after the last shuttle run, but she had roused a staff member who came to the door with fan in hand shortly thereafter.  It did provide a modicum of relief and I made it through a mostly sleepless night.

Things went better for most of the next day, which included a visit to Sabang.  So glad I didn’t try to go there for medical assistance!  That night I had some breathing problems again, but with the fan and some deep breathing exercises I learned from the web I was able to deal with it.  Again, just a couple hours of sleep though.  Decided to check out one day early and head back to Manila.  Call me a pussy, but the thought of not having access to emergency medical care should it be required was fucking with my mind.  Besides, there was just not much to see or do in PG and it seemed like a pointless place to ring in the New Year.

Had a nice New Year’s Eve celebration on P. Burgos street in Makati, coincidentally located very near the hotel I accidentally booked (I’ll cover that in the trip report installment).  More of the same, felt fine mostly until it came time to lay down for some sleep, which brought back the coughing fits and shortness of breath.  Managed a little more than 2 hours sleep from pure exhaustion, and woke up with the zit from hell on my cheek.  What’s up with that?

Last day in country had the worst bout yet and the tour guide suggested I get a nebulizer. I considered it briefly, but figured what I really needed was a doctor’s opinion, so I opted to wait until I got back to Seoul for that.  The plane ride from Manila went without incident, even managed a bit of sleep.  Once we landed I made it through immigration, bag claim, and customs in a jiffy.  Started walking to the AREX station and got hit hard with the lack of breath thing again.  The train departed in five minutes so there was no stopping to rest. Made it on board and collapsed in my seat.  I did my breathing exercises and told myself to suck it up and calm down, and eventually I did.  No other option really, it was after 1900 so my doctor’s clinic was long closed.

Caught a cab from Seoul Station and somehow managed to successfully navigate the cabbie to my villa’s front door through grunts and gestures.  Good thing too, because carrying my suitcase up two flights of stairs set off another lack of breath incident.  This one wouldn’t go away.  Around 0100 I was seriously thinking I needed to go to the emergency room for some oxygen.  Couldn’t think of anyone I felt comfortable calling to take me at that ungodly hour, and I figured trying to explain to 119 where I lived was pointless.  So I somehow managed to get through the night.  Through the power of sheer exhaustion I even managed a couple hours of sleep.

As I prepared to depart for Soonchunhwang hospital this morning, I stepped on the scale. 201 pounds!  A new record low for me, and down an amazing 6 pounds from last week.  I obviously haven’t been walking at all and on vacation I don’t strictly keep to diet (had a fantastic mango split for example).  The weight loss I’m certain is the result of my body and heart working overtime lately.  My fit bit advises that my resting heart rate has been in the high 80s to low 90s.  During my fits I’ve pushed it up to 130.  Prior to my illness my resting heart rate was around 70 and I only saw 130+ at the summit of the stairs to Namsan.  I DO NOT recommend this weight loss program however!

Arrived at the International Clinic without an appointment.  Receptionist asked if I preferred to see the hilarious Dr. Yoo or the sexy Dr. Kim.  I opted for Dr. Yoo who has been treating me for years.  But I felt compelled to mention in all other things I would pick Dr. Kim.  The receptionist smiled and said she understood.

Explained to Dr. Yoo (who coincidentally also has a cough and he blames Chinese pollution) what was going on, basically everything I’ve said above in more abbreviated form.  I know, why is HE so lucky?  Get over it!  I told him I needed to get this fixed.  He said if I had a fever he’d want me in the hospital.  I told him being hospitalized was something I really wanted and needed to avoid.  So, he had me do blood work, an EKG, a chest x-ray, and a nebulizer treatment.  After completing these rounds, I returned to see what Dr. Yoo’s conclusion might be.  I was happy that my hard working heart was still doing it’s job.  The blood work showed all indicators in the normal range.  The x-ray revealed that my lungs remain congested (no duh).  And the nebulizer treatment as far as I could tell was a success.  At least I wasn’t coughing.

He told me I was on the “borderline” for being hospitalized, but if I was willing to come in everyday for some nebulization we could try that.  I suggested that I just purchase my own nebulizer and do that at home. Dr. Yoo was down with that.  He also had mentioned having me hospitalized to administer intravenous antibiotics, but he was willing to try something stronger in pill form to see how that works out.  So, as of now I remain a free man!

My new best friend!

Don’t we make a nice couple? And check out that zit! Massive!

The doctor does wants me back in the morning for a follow-up, I guess to see how I’m reacting to the meds.  I’ve done two nebulizer treatments at home now and have had no issues with the cough or breathing problems.  I also had an uninterrupted two hour nap today which left me feeling surprisingly energized.

I’ll go to bed tonight feeling hopeful that the corner will indeed be turned and I can avoid the nightmare of being in a Korean hospital alone with no one to assist me.

I tagged this post in the “me, me, me” category which obviously fits.  I’m thinking I need to add a category of “aren’t you glad you’re not me?”  I suspect many of my readers come here to feel better about themselves.  Hey, glad to be of service.  No man is totally worthless, he can always serve as a bad example.


Time for me to fly

Almost anyway.  Depart Incheon International at 0755, which means I’ll depart the villa around 0430.  Gonna play it safe and take a taxi to the airport.

Destination: Puerto Galera, Republic of the Philippines. From Manila I’ll cab or bus (depending on how much time I have and how much the cab driver wants to rape me) to Batangas. There I will catch the ferry to PG, about a one hour trip. Bringing along a barf bag in case the seas are rough.

I’m flying on Korean Air at least, having learned my lessons the hard way about “low cost” airlines. I’ll pay extra for comfort and service.

Bag is packed. Once I finish this post, I’ll pack the laptop.

Gonna be a weekend millionaire. Yep, that is an actual 100 dollar bill!

In unrelated news (well, the Japanese did attack the Philippines on the same day as Pearl Harbor, so…) I discovered evidence that it would have been impossible for the Japan to attack Hawaii. Hey, I found it on the internet, it must be true!

What else?  Well, always the procrastinator but I did manage to beat the 31 December deadline for filing my medical claims with Blue Cross.

It’s not been the healthiest of years for me. Wore out my scanner last night, but got it done…

I’ve previously written about a writer I rather like, Steve Rosse.  Found this gem in one of his stories that kind of resonated.

“You take a risk giving your heart to anybody. But every time your heart gets stomped on, you pick it up, brush it off, and start looking for somebody else to give it to. You know the risk and you accept it, gladly, because the payoff is worth it. And any love that qualifies itself, any ‘I love her but I don’t trust her’ love, isn’t really love. If you’re not risking everything you have, it’s not love. Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer chances.”
–Steve Rosse

I’m not sure I agree, but I appreciate the sentiment.

And I really enjoyed this story, Call It What It Is.  It’s a quick read.  Tell me if the main character sounds like anyone you might know…

Alarm set for 0400, reckon I ought to get this shut down so I can get some shut eye.

See you in the PI!


What’s up doc?

Back to Soonchunwhang hospital this morning to deal with my leg issue.  The hilarious Dr. Yu was not available, but the affable Dr. Joe was there to assist.  After describing what had happened, he opined that it was either a back issue or something muscular.

Well, I don’t think it is my back.  And I’ve had a similar, although not as severe, issue with my leg in the past.  I asked Dr. Joe to review my medical history from a couple of years ago and see what  Dr. Yu had prescribed.  He did, and I walked out with a prescription for muscle relaxants and pain meds.  Oh, and a shot in my ass as well.

Hopefully this will carry me through my holiday vacation plans.

On my last leg

Welcome to the night before Christmas.

I am pleased to report that it appears I’ve turned the corner on recovering from my persistent cough.  Sleeping through the night is wonderful thing indeed!

Sadly, a new issue has now arisen.  Yesterday morning as I prepared for my shower I got a sharp, stabbing pain in my back, right at the base of my spine.  Took some Motrin and the back pain subsided.  When I tried to walk at lunchtime though my left leg was having none of it, the pain was intense.  Took some more pain pills.  It is fine as long as I am sitting, but once I stand up and start to move, the pain returns.

I suffered through a walk to my Thai massage joint last night hoping a good rubbing would help.  Nice massage, but no dice on the pain relief.  Getting home last night proved to be a real bitch, I could walk no more than five minutes before I’d have to sit down and rest.  The pain is immense and relentless.

Been taking it easy all day today, including a long hot bath.  No noticeable improvement thus far.  Hopefully I’ll heal soon, otherwise it’s back to the doc on Monday with a whole new issue to discuss.  My real concern is not being in shape for my trip to the Philippines next weekend.

If it ain’t one thing it’s another.  C’mon!  Give me a break!


We were honored today with a visit to our office from the Eighth Army Commanding General, the Command Sergeant Major, and the Eighth Army Chief of Staff.

Our office was competing in the Christmas decoration contest. Haven’t heard the results yet, but I’m expecting a big win for the Directorate of Human Resources Management!


LTG Vandal gave us two thumbs up. I’ll take that as a good sign…

And my boss, the Chief of Staff, seemed pleased. That’s definitely a good sign…

Anyway, we appreciated the kind words and support from the CG.  Happy holidays everyone!

UPDATE:  Yes!  We were awarded the honor of best bedecked office space.  Not sure what we get besides accolades and kudos.  Will find out on 3 January when I’ve been advised to show up in the Van Fleet Room at 1250.

It only hurts me when I cry

Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold,
Let it be forgotten forever and ever,
Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.

If anyone asks, say it was forgotten
Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long-forgotten snow.

–Sara Teasdale

Today marks the sad one year anniversary of the date my wife sent me packing.  I’m mostly over it by now, although I do still frequently think of her.  I remember when she loved me and wanted to share in my life, although truthfully those days ended a long time before my ultimate departure.  I also remember the promises and vows we made to each other that she coldly broke, walking away because she decided she didn’t “have a happy life with me”.

It has been said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  And I guess it only hurts until the pain goes away.  In one sense this breakup did kill me because I am certainly not the person I was anymore.  I’m bitter and cynical and have no faith or trust in the whole concept of “love”.  Fuck love, who needs it?  I’m no longer in pain because my heart has become a heaping mass of scar tissue.  These days I’m satisfied with being comfortably numb.

But don’t mistake my epiphany about the meaninglessness of love as an indication that I’ve abandoned the pursuit of happiness.  To the contrary, I’m actually quite optimistic that I will achieve a satisfactory level of joy and contentment on my own terms and in my own way. I know what I want and what I need to be happy, and I expect I will find it in due course.

This is one of my favorite photos of me and Jee Yeun. It was a private moment, not posed, and captured by a friend. As I recall we had spent the weekend in Songtan and we were returning home from my victory in a darts tourney. She was by my side all the way, proud of me, and we loved each other. Or so I like to believe.
That’s what I miss, and that is what I hope to find again sometime. Minus the pretense of love. Just someone who will stay by my side, share in my life, and take care of me. I’ll give the same in return. It can and will happen. Someday, somewhere.

So, looking back over my journey this past year I can say I’ve had some adventures, some happy times, and yes, my share of sad days.  But nothing worthwhile comes easy and I believe I’ve learned and grown and gained some wisdom that will serve me well in the future.  Here’s a quick recap.

I moved into my overpriced but comfortable villa on this day in 2015.  And then I proceeded to get drunk every fucking night for two plus months.  I guess I was exploring the Leaving Las Vegas option, but really it was more about shutting down my brain so I could sleep at night.  I still did my share of shouting at the ceiling though.

Instead of drinking myself into an early grave I wisely chose a more sensible course of action–diet and exercise.  The diet was the low carb lifestyle, the exercise was in the form of walking.  The former gave me a healthier body, the latter worked wonders on my tortured brain.  Together, they resulted in a loss of over 60 pounds.  I look better and feel better about myself.  That was huge in overcoming my depression.

I did my share of travelling these past 12 months as well.  Cambodia, Thailand, and three trips to the Philippines.  In fact, I will be returning to the PI to ring in the new year in Puerto Galera, my first time in that locale.   My current thinking is that I’ll begin and end 2017 somewhere in the Philippines.  Of course, since when have my plans ever gone as planned?  That’s why I will remain in my living one day at a time mode, until such time as I run out of days.  Heh, that’s the plan at least.

I had two women profess their love for me this year (not at the same time of course!). Both ended in hurt and sadness and re-enforced my belief that love is a sucker’s bet.  I feel bad for whatever part I played in bringing pain into those lives, but I will also cherish the memories and good times we shared.

I achieved my goal of becoming debt free.

I presided over the dismantling of my American life.  I sold my house and everything in it. In some ways it felt like a funeral for a life I was forced to leave behind.  But there is also a sense of freedom now in not being tied down to stuff and the old dreams that that stuff represented.  I’m now unencumbered emotionally and materially.  That’s a good feeling. Well, for the most part anyway.

I got promoted to the job I retired from six years ago.  It’s an even bigger pain in the ass now than it was then, but I couldn’t say no to the money.  I’d invested everything I had in a future with Jee Yeun that was not to be.  And now I’m in full recovery mode, including financially.

And so as this year ends I’ve come full circle in my life.  At some point next year I will re-retire and once again pursue the dream I abandoned six years ago when I chose Jee Yeun over the Philippines.  Of course, I’m also six years older and there is no recovering from that.

Life goes on, and so do I.  I’ve got a few more adventures in store yet I reckon.  Stay tuned!

The only time I feel the pain
Is in the sunshine or the rain
And I don’t feel no hurt at all
Unless you count when teardrops fall
I tell the truth ‘cept when I lie
It only hurts me when I cry


Long time, no post.  Regular readers have likely observed over the years that I periodically have to take an unplanned hiatus from blogging while I engage in the mundane tasks of actually living my life.  Not sure why, but sometimes I get in a place where I have to withdraw and re-calibrate.  It’s no big deal really and I always find my way back here so that you may share in the boring and often pathetic details of my so-called life.  And here I am!

During my absence, I reckon this was my big epiphany: My life is not all that I hoped that it would be. But it is better than I ever imagined it could be.

That’s good enough I suppose.

The other day someone asked me if I had a good memory.  I honestly answered “I don’t remember”.  Bada bing!  Stick around, I’ll be here all week!

What else?

Well, I’m still sick.  Going on six weeks now and I don’t recall ever being ill for such an elongated period of time.  The coughing fits keep me awake at night and consequently I’m always exhausted.  Which makes it hard to maintain focus and motivation.  Most concerning has been a shortness of breath and lack of stamina.  Which continues to impede my walking routine.  Not to be overly dramatic about it, but I’ve taken to leaving my apartment door unlocked, just in case I need to be rescued at some point.  Although truthfully not many folks would know where to find me should I call out in the night for help. Heh, living on the edge!

I did go back to the international clinic and Soonchunhwang hospital yesterday.  It was my fourth visit regarding the cough from hell.  This time I got to see my regular physician, the hilarious Dr. Yoo.  He didn’t seem to be all that concerned and reassured me that the coughing was natural and needed to excrete the phlegm that is stubbornly clinging to my lungs.  He reviewed what the sexy Dr. Kim had previously prescribed and concurred with her course of action.  He prescribed a slew of new medications to take over the next ten days and professed his belief that I would be healthy in the new year.  One of the pills is supposed to help me make it through the night, and at least last night I did have an uninterrupted sleep.  Of course, I was drunk when I went to bed so I can’t attest to the impact of the new medicine.  We shall see, but I do feel good enough today to actually sit down and write a boring blog post, so that’s kinda being back to normal.

Well, enough of my drivel.  Let’s look at pictures!

Last night was the dart league banquet. Took home the banner for winning the regular season…

….and the plaque for winning the end of season playoffs…

I also took home the “Top Gun” award for B Division. Honestly though I didn’t meet my own performance expectations. Ah well, I have now retired from darts. Or at least I’m done with darts for the remainder of my time in Korea…

We’ve got our office all decorated up for the holidays There’s a contest for best office. The Eighth Army Commanding General will be the judge next week. We expect to win. That’s me supervising the effort…

Good job ladies!

Our Christmas luncheon on Thursday….

…and the dessert table…

My imitation of a motivational speaker.

It’s all good.

In deference to my illness, I’ve switched to a medicinal alcoholic beverage–The hot toddy. Hey, you can look it up. The science is settled…

Said goodbye to my crazy Chinese friend Qian. She’s returning to China on Monday…

As seen on the mean streets of Seoul…

A lover’s moon in the sky and and an empty bed in my villa…

Such is life.