Distemper

I’ve never been a particularly patient man.  And lately I seem to be in a perpetual bad mood.  Little things I could and should ignore just irk the hell out of me for some reason. Or maybe I’ve just become the proverbial grumpy old man.

My irritation seems to manifest itself most often in bars.  Not surprising I suppose since I spend too much time in bars these days. I guess the bar I frequent most often is IDK. They have darts and a reasonably friendly staff.  But I stopped in early on Friday night and was served my customary Miller Lite beer.  There were a couple of guys playing pool and me alone at the bar.  They were playing the crappiest music I’ve ever heard (hip hop?) at an eardrum piercing loud volume.  Now, I can tolerate crappy music.  I can put up with loud music.  But crappy and loud crosses the line.  I could have said something I suppose, but it’s not my bar or my place to tell them how to run it.  Instead I voted with my feet. Plopped W7000 on the bar (6 for the beer and a tip) stood up and headed for the door. The owner was surprised because I never only have one beer and asked me what’s wrong.  I just pointed at my ears, shook my head, and walked out.  I was back last night for the dart tournament and the music was played at a more reasonable volume.

I have crossed a couple of other bars off my circuit for various minor irritations. I don’t have to put up with bullshit so why should I?  One thing I don’t like is being asked to buy a drink for the bartender.  I’m pretty damn generous in that regard and I’ll normally make the offer in due course.  I usually do it as a reward for good conversation/friendly service. But not likely if I’m asked or its expected.  I understand a lot of the gals make “commission” on drinks they receive, but that whole “juicy girl” routine is not my style.  I’d rather be alone than pay for company.

Anyway, if I had a life I wouldn’t be spending so much time in the bars I suppose.  It’s a social thing because I do need to get out of the house and be around people.  Here in Pyeongtaek most of the bar scene caters to young soldiers, not exactly my demographic. Still, I got drunk with a group of combat engineers the other night.  It’s all a little fuzzy but I remember this song was being sung.

Good times!

In other news, I got a series of text messages from the woman who parked her car in my driveway.  It was clear she was using a translation app, but I played along.  We did the name exchange and the what do you do here thing.  She asked me if I had any plans this weekend and I’m thinking “hmm, this might get interesting”.  When I said I had nothing going on, she started in on the going to church thing.  Damn.  Told her I wasn’t religious and didn’t need to be saved.  And suddenly she lost interest in chatting.  Oh well.

I had a successful work day in Seoul on Thursday and spent a few hours in Shenanigans afterwards.  I guess folks were glad to see me, so that was nice.

Left my hotel at 0530 for the drive back to Pyeongtaek and encounter no traffic jams or vehicle malfunctions.  Didn’t get lost either.  My Waze app did the job even though I didn’t understand a word she was saying.  I can follow the arrows!

What an exciting life I’m leading here in the countryside!  I’ve got pictures to prove it:

I don’t know if this is a custom restaurant or a costume restaurant. I did note that if I ever get a hankering for dog stew, this is the place to go. And no, I’ve never had nor will I ever have the desire to dine on dog.

Rice planting season is in full swing. I’m told the real joy comes when the start applying fertilizer. Woo Hoo! Something else to look forward to.

Quite a lot of Filipinos in the area. Although contrary to what the sign indicates none were for sale or on the menu…

Discovered this park on my hike around the neighborhood this morning…

And this one. I’ll give the city leaders credit, they’ll put a park up anywhere that is not suitable for rice cultivation.

I’ll keep holding on.

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

 

 

A bitter pill to swallow

Actually, many bitter pills to swallow.

I took the afternoon off work to go on a quest to find the Good Morning Hospital.  My Waze app, despite being in Korean, got me there with no problemo.  Finding the parking lot was another story.  But eventually I did.

I was without a clue (shuddup!) when I walked in the doors of GMH so I was happy to see the Foreigner information desk.

And the English spoken here was surprisingly good.  Noteworthy in fact.  So the way it works is you tell these folks why you are there (COPD) and then they walk you over to the appropriate physician and serve as your translator.  Well, my main goal was to get some prescription refills and make sure I didn’t have anything else to worry about  The pulmonary doc I saw didn’t seem to be all that concerned so either he doesn’t give a shit or I am not in any immediate danger.  He did take an x-ray and told me I don’t have pneumonia.  So there’s that.

They’ve already given me an affectionate nickname at Good Morning– Jo*. Hell, I’ve been called worse.

Anyway, another nice feature is they fill your prescriptions right there at the hospital.  Easy Peazy.  Although two of the drugs I requested were not available, so I’ll have to find them on the economy I reckon.

These are the drugs I did bring home from GMH.

Add them into my other daily drugs and I’ve just about reached the pharmacy level.

Anyway, the hospital is about 15 minutes away by car and I’m glad to know where it is in case of emergency.

When I got back to the house there was ANOTHER car parked in my carport.  What the hell?  I called the number on the windshield and a woman answered.  Apparently she was getting her hair done at the salon across the street from my palace.  She came running out all apologetic and she was pretty cute for a fortyish gal (meaning hadn’t gone full ajumma). I tried to flirt a little bit, but alas, her English was next to non-existent.  And of course with my limited Korean all I could have asked is get me a beer please.  By way of explanation she did go to Google translate on her phone which told me that my house had been vacant for a long time and she thought that it still was.  Fair enough.

Tomorrow I’ll be driving up to Seoul to attend a couple of three meetings.  Will spend the night, take leave on Friday, and come back down to Pyeongtaek for the long Memorial Day weekend.

Ain’t life grand?

Welcome to my Palace

All moved in.  Most of my stuff put away.  Let’s take a tour.

A kingdom of one.

 

My street

I’ll set up my grill at the back of my carport…

The “mud room”…

Downstairs living area.

My modern kitchen.

With a dishwasher and water dispenser…

…a big ass fridge…

….gas range with oven.

My bedroom…

dresser alcove…

and master bath…

My office room…

…with adjoining bath

I’ll have an American washer/dryer set up in my laundry room tomorrow…

Then there’s the upstairs…

Featuring a huge ass great room I’ll likely never use…

A room I can imagine making a nice office.

Another bathroom….

And another bedroom…

The upstairs master bedroom is exactly like the one downstairs…

As is the 4th bath…

The view from the back…

The view from the front…

And the view from the side. How convenient is that convenience store!

That’s where I live.  More on the life here soon…

Goodbye to you

Farewell to Seoul, my home for most of these past 12 years. It’s been swell and sometimes hell, but the memories will last a lifetime.

but new adventures await.

Thanks to Shenanigans for the alcohol fueled farewell last night.  It was good to see so many familiar faces one last time.  I’ll post some photos when I get home.

This morning I’ll check out of the Crown Hotel (okay for less the $50 a night), catch up on some emails at the office, then meet my landlord at my former residence where hopefully some money (in the form of my deposit) will change hands.  I left the place cleaner than I found it, that’s for sure.

Back to the office for a pizza and cake event to celebrate the May birthdays on my team, after which I’ll load up my work computer, and head on down the highway for Camp Humphreys.

See you there!

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.

 

 

 

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

The way we were

Now I wind up staring at an empty glass                                                                                  Because it’s so easy to say that you’ll forget your past...

Another Valentine’s Day being spent on my own.  And truthfully, that’s pretty much the way I choose to be.  But it weren’t always so.  And it seems there is always something there to remind me when I wasn’t alone.

Delving through my old posts on the Philippines information board I frequent, I came across something I wrote back in August 2009 called “My Dilemma”:

So next month marks an anniversary. One year since my last visit to the PI. You guys with PPD (post Philippines Depression) can imagine how much worse it is when you don’t know when, or if, you will return to paradise.

See, next August I am eligible to retire and can draw a generous (and well earned I might add) government pension. I could live comfortably almost anywhere, but in the PI I could live like a rich man. And that has a certain appeal to me.

What’s the problem then? Well, as the old Elvin Bishop song says “I fooled around and fell in love”. With a Korean woman.

Now, this woman is 93% perfect. She takes care of all my needs in a way that is beyond anything I ever imagined. And I’m a man who likes to be taken care of. She does everything for me down to the smallest detail without complaint. In fact, she tells me it is “her pleasure”. She is an amazing lover and an old fashioned good hearted woman. I go to the bars about three nights a week for darts, and she never complains. She comes along and has actually become a pretty big fan of the game. All my friends think she is great and her family seems to have taken a liking to me as well. When I got sick last year, she was at my side in the hospital 24/7. Hell, to reference another old song, she’s like the gal The Band sang about: “up on cripple creek she sends me/if I spring a leak/she mends me/I don’t have to speak/she defends me/a drunkards dream if I ever did see one…”

Yep, I’d have a hard time finding anyone better for me in this world than her.

So, you may be thinking, “what’s the dilemma?”. The 7% of the GF that is not perfect is that she is extraordinarily jealous. Almost to the point of being insane about it.

And she found my collection of photos from previous trips to the Philippines. She says seeing me with those “young girls” just makes her sick to her stomach. She deleted them all.

Now, even hearing the word Philippines enrages her. And whenever there’s a Filipina in a bar she accuses me of staring at her and tells me “I love Filipino women too much!”.

She accessed my email and found communications with a platonic friend in the PI and went nuts.

If I go to a filipino bar I like here in Seoul she gets pissed.

She checks the messages/call history on my cell phone.

She checks the stamps in my passport when I travel.

She counts the frickin’ money in my wallet to make sure I’m not spending money on others.

In other words, that 7% is getting to be a real pain in the ass.

But damn, she does love me, and you know, there is something to be said for being loved.

But any future I might have with her, means there is no Philippines in my future.

And she is right about one thing–I truly do love the Pinays.

Hence my dilemma. One year out from retirement and I need to be firming up plans. If I stay in Korea with her, it means getting married (will need a visa). If I’m going to the PI to retire, well, I need to be going there and making some decisions.

I’m stuck at 50-50 on the pros and cons. I mean, I could pay someone  in the PI to take care of all those nice things my GF gives me free. But as the Beatles so astutely noted, “Money can’t buy me love”.

I guess it’s a good thing to have choices in life. But it feels pretty fucked up right now.

Well, of course regular readers know that I chose love over the Philippines.  And as it turned out, I chose wrong.  I’m still not really over it and I definitely don’t understand it.  But there is of course no going back.  I can only lament the wasted time.

But as Facebook reminds me today, there were moments of love.  I even made a movie about it, circa 2013.

Painful to watch now.  And for those who say it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, I call bullshit.

One thing is for sure, I am bound and determined to never love again.  Don’t need it, don’t want it.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Mem’ries,
Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were
Scattered pictures,
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?
Mem’ries, may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So it’s the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember…
The way we were…
The way we were…

Shows improvement

I won’t call it a miracle, but I’m feeling almost normal these past few days.  Practically no cough, little sputum, sleeping through the night, and most importantly, no breathing issues.

Maybe it’s the drugs.  The Prednisone (a steroid) keeps the lungs clear.  The Azithromycin is a strong antibiotic. The Albuterol is a  bronchodilator that I’ve only used a couple of times so far, mostly as a preemptive measure before engaging in physical activity.  With the exception of the inhaler, my meds run out this week.

Shouldn’t be an issue as I was instructed to do a follow-up visit on Wednesday.  Ah, but I got caught up in a classic Army catch-22 situation.  I called to schedule the appointment but was told as a “Space A” (space available) patient, I can only call in at noon on the day I want treatment and will only be scheduled should, well, space be available.  Now, I understand and support that military members should get first priority.  But it was an Army doctor who told me to come back.  The schedulers couldn’t help, rules being rules and all. I called the patient advocate and she confirmed that notwithstanding doctor’s orders, I could not schedule an appointment in advance.  Given that it took me three days of trying to get my first appointment I expressed concern that any needed refills of my prescriptions would not be forthcoming in a timely way.  She suggested I use on off-base provider.  So, it looks like the Hilarious Dr. Yoo remains in my future.  It’s okay, at least I have a diagnosis.

These kids came marching by my villa making a gawd awful noise at 0900 yesterday. Not sure why. The first full moon of the lunar new year perhaps?

It was a bitterly cold morning but I got out in it anyway determined to tackle my old nemesis, Namsan. Made it to the base of the steps to the top and then thought better of it. Too soon to push my self that hard. Did get in close to 20,000 steps though.

Sometimes there is a poetry to walking…

…if you know where to look, the signs are all there.

Not bragging but one of my staff members suggested I be nominated for an Equal Opportunity and Diversity award.

“- You’re all about providing equal opportunity to Asian women who want to date you.
– You promote diversity by connecting with various women in Asia.
– You frequently visit Asian countries and promote their economic growth by spending your money at their hotels, bars, shopping malls, and restaurants.
– And lastly, you adhere to equal employment opportunity by hiring a Asian women who’s also over 40.”

Oh lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way!

Speaking of the office, we have a new addition:

It’s kind of an intimidating photo, don’t you think? I feel like he’s saying “get to work McCrarey or you’re fired!” No worries, his civilian hiring freeze is keeping me plenty busy these days…

What else?  Well, this proved to be a sad reminder of my reality:

Well, I won’t be fooled again!

I leave Friday for ten warm days in the tropical Philippines.  Am I excited?

Why, yes. Yes I am!

Pulled pork in the crock pot and a Han River stroll on tap.

Life is good when you are feeling good.  Let’s keep it that way!

Perfect timing!

Feel free to skip this post if you are weary of hearing my tales of woe regarding my health.

Okay, for the rest of you then…

Today I successfully secured a coveted appointment at the Brian Allgood Army Community Hospital on my third day of trying.  Oddly enough, I started experiencing shortness of breath about an hour before my 5 o’clock appoint.  And it was the worst occurrence I’ve ever had.  I was having difficulty even talking to the intake nurse about my symptoms.  The took my blood pressure (185/100!) then I met with the doctor.  He could immediately see I was in some pretty serious distress and asked me how often this condition occurred.  I breathlessly explained that I never let it get this bad since acquiring my nebulizer.  The good doc said let’s get you some nebulization going now and while I was inhaling that sweet relief, he listened to my chest and apparently didn’t like what he heard.

As is usually the case, I felt better almost immediately.  But apparently my blood oxygen was staying in the low 80s (normal is 95+) which meant I was experiencing Hypoxemia. That’s not good and the doc wanted me to visit the emergency room then and there.  And so naturally I did.

The took my blood pressure again (still over 180), did an EKG, and started me on another round of nebulaziton.

Suckin’ in the ER.

Then they wheeled me down to x-ray to get a gander at my lungs.

My first ever ride in a wheelchair on the way to the x-ray department. Whee! (I’ll be happy if it is my last ride in one though).

At least I had something to read.

By the time I got back to the ER I was feeling much better and my vitals confirmed it (blood pressure back down in the normal for me 140s, and blood oxygen back in the high 90s.  So, now I wanted to hear the long elusive diagnosis.  Doctor says it seems to be a case of Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  Damn, I was afraid he was going to say that!  (A couple of friends had suggested that may be my problem, but I was in denial).

There it is, the price I paid for 25 years of moderate smoking.  The fact that I’ve been off tobacco for over 2 years now is certainly a positive.  It appears my COPD is still in the early stages, and there are things I can do to slow it’s progress.  So, that’s what I will do. We all got to die of something, but my death is far from imminent.  My dad had COPD and made it to 83.  That’s a worthwhile goal I reckon.

I came home with some drugs and an inhaler and instructions to return for a follow-on visit in a week.

In the meantime, it is always possible I will run into someone like this:

And maybe she’ll live up to her name!

It’s all good.  Onward!

 

 

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.

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.

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 

 

Powerless

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Cheers!

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.