The final countdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

That would be me communing with nature…

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

I’m sure you can guess what I made…

Only the best goes into my pudding…

By all accounts it was a hit.

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

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

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

Hard to argue with that!

Anyway, that’s all I got.

Peace out!

Maybe I’m a fool

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

Hey You!

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

 

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

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

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

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

To the victor goes the spoils…

I guess it was the element of surprise…

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

the purple magnolia…

these…

…and a park that hasn’t been impeached!

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

Hurry sundown!

It’s HUGE!

Almost as huge as today’s walk.

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

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

Quiet desperation

And another weekend draws to a close.

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

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

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

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

And this was when we were just getting started!

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

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

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

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

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

Not bad considering.

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

Onward!

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

 

 

What’s up, Doc?

Where I need to be. Doctor’s orders…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news…

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

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

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

Hope springs eternal.

 

 

With a Spring in my step

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, the season of love you say?

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

Runaway train

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up and at ’em…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s all I’ve got this morning.

In other news

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

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

And now for some pictures!

Some might say HUGE!

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

Hmmm…

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

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

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

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

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

Bullshit!

Saturday was Namsan day…

I observed the last dying embers of winter…

And a sure sign of spring…rooftop dining!

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

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

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

And finished the weekend with a Han River walk.

And that’s the way things roll around here.

 

I plan to be spontaneous tomorrow…

…right after I stop procrastinating.

Sorry to have devolved into a once a week blogger.  Honestly though, work has been sucking the life out of me.  After 35+ years of government toil I’m still amazed and confounded about just how inept and cowardly bureaucrats can be.  No details that I can share, but my head has been exploding in anger and frustration.  Beyond my power to fix but that doesn’t make it any easier to bear.

I guess another reason for the dearth of posting is that after all these years there is just not much left to say about my life in Korea.  The fact of the matter is that I’m more or less disconnected these days.  But no, a better description is unplugged.  I’m still here, just like the lamp in the corner, but I just ain’t got no juice so there is no light.  Which is a sure sign that it is time to move on to something else I suppose.

I’m going to keep my promise and get us through the move to Pyeongtaek.  Then I need a change of scenery.  I truly do love much of the Korea life, but I’ve accumulated too much baggage to ever be truly happy here again.  Hell, I may hate the Philippines, but it will be a change.  And that’s what I need most of all at this stage of my life.  Worst case scenario, I’ll have something to blog about again!

“It is not in the world of ideas that life is lived. Life is lived for better or worse in life, and to a man in life, his life can be no more absurd than it can be the opposite of absurd, whatever that opposite may be.”  –Archibald MacLeish

 

The first weekend in March…

…is in the books.  Let’s go to the photos:

Friday night I brought my darts out of semi-retirement in honor of my old friend Tom (next to me in this photo). I’ve been knowing Tom since I first came to Korea and he was one of my early dart mentors. Tom just retired from the Army and flew home to join his wife yesterday. Good luck Tom and thank you for your service!

As for the tourney, I faced off against my old nemesis Brandy…

And as usual, he was too tough to beat. My partner Ricky and I settled for second place money…

The folks who finished in the money…

Now, any of my readers here at LTG that are also my Facebook friends, you’ve seen the pics from my Namsan hike already.  But recycling is good for the environment, so fuck you very much.

Sometimes its just too much to bear.

I wouldn’t draw any conclusions…

Getting there is half the fun…

And I was up for it…

Break time…

A pause for patriotism…

The soul of the city…

No “Gangnam style” dancing allowed!

Why ride when you can walk?

Love. What is it good for?

My towering achievement for the day!

Build that wall!

Pondering that age old question, am I on the right path?

That rings a bell!

I was hoping to exercise here but it didn’t workout.

A bridge too far?

I’ll have one permanent resident visa, please.

It was a good hike and the first time I’ve tackled the stairs in a long time.  Came home with a powerful hunger.

Threw some steaks on the grill…

And made a meal out of it…

Had a drunken Saturday night.  Saw a friends wife with another man.  Not my business of course, but it made me sad anyway.

The pot roast ingredients for my Sunday crock pot adventure.

Walked the Han for 20,000 steps and came home for a simple little salad…

And I used ranch dressing. Fuck the Russians!

Alright, back at it tomorrow.  My Deputy has moved on down to Pyeongtaek so it will be a little tougher to dump my workload on to her.  Damn it!  I hope to join her down there in a couple of months.

And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

On the beach (final weekend)

Time for an update.  Although admittedly things are getting a little fuzzy.

Now, I’m not saying my following this advice has created that fuzziness, but…

I’ll just slap up some pictures and hopefully things will get a little clearer.  Not going to even attempt to stay chronological.  Instead I’ll categorize.  Sound like fun?  Let’s roll!

Let’s start with the housing situation.  Too soon to actually make a commitment, it was more about seeing what was out there and assessing the the viability of me wanting to live in a particular location.  There is only one neighborhood on the old Navy base I’d like to call home, and whether anything might be available when I’m ready to move (and whether it is within my budget ($1000.00 a month max) remains to be seen.

Now, most of the expats or soon to be expats I’ve talked with this week are renting places for under $500, but I’ve not given up on finding something clean and nice with a view even if it comes with a premium price tag.  Maybe I’m a dreamer.

One thing that is different here as compared to Seoul is there are no realtors specializing in rentals. It’s basically walking around and looking for vacancy signs.

Now, here’s a funny story for you.  See the road behind the sign in the picture above.  Well, that’s the National Highway that runs through Barrio Baretto.  It can be a real bitch to cross.  So, the other day right after taking that picture I made my dash for the other side.  I looked to left and saw a gap sufficiently large to make it across.  I looked to the right and observed a smaller gap, but doable if I hustled.  So hustle I did.  And half way across I came within inches of running into a motorcycle that must have been in my blind spot on the left.  And meanwhile a second motorbike had to slam on his breaks to keep from hitting me.  If dirty looks could kill I’d be a dead man.  Anyway, lesson learned.  My future plans do not include being a pedestrian statistic.  The best advice I received in that regard was to wait and cross with the Filipinos.  They have a knack for getting it done alive.

These apartments are on the far end of Baretto. 3 bedroom, 3 bath, split level. 33,000 pesos ($660) per month furnished. No view though, unless the neighbors leave their curtains open….

What I will likely do when I first make the move is go for a short term rental (30-60 days) while I look around some more. Living in a Nipa hut might be kind of fun….

On the medical scene, I had the opportunity to visit the local hospital.

It wasn’t me in need of care luckily. Rather, my personal assistant/caregiver was feeling poorly so she saw a doctor for meds. No appointment, got in an out in 20 minutes. Place was clean and relatively modern. Actually, it seems to get pretty good reviews from the expat community here. Nice emergency room should I get unlucky crossing the road.

Also located two other hospitals in Olongapo, one that even takes my insurance.  On my to-do list is to make sure I’ve made arrangements for some form of pre-payment.  They won’t treat you until you pay.  And if they do treat you, you can’t leave until you do pay.

On the dart scene, I played in a second tourney on Thursday night and pulled out a victory there as well.  2 for 2, maybe I should quit while I’m ahead?

It was fun to be playing competitively once again.

Also got drafted to play in the league match on Friday with my new friends from Alley Cats bar. Thanks for having me!

And now for a change of scenery…

Brewed coffee to start the day…

Brew with a view…

A lonely banka boat…

What’s not to love?

Some of the food I’ve enjoyed this weekend…

A burger at DaBar…

Fish and chips at Midnight Rambler…

A fruit pate at Harley’s…

Ribs at Blue Rock…

Pork chops at Mango’s Resort…

I never saw such a patty…

I didn’t eat here but I though it was funny as hell regardless…

And I spent some time in the bars as well…

The weekly S.O.B. dance contest was hosted by Rum Jungle this week. Paid my admission and got drafted to be a judge. The girls all work hard and so I tried to be appropriately serious in my assessments of their efforts and results…

Arizona Bar had the the best overall performance.

Nice costumes to go with the moves…

The other competitors were entertaining…

No ifs, and, or…

…butts about it.

Going for it.

getting down…

not everyone can be a winner…

…but you can always look good losing…

A new night, a new bar.  This time for the “bar olympics.”  And once again, I was asked to perform the duties of sitting in judgement.

The first event…

Hell, I don’t know. They all seemed to know their way around a “banana”.

The next event. Imagine my disappointment when I learned it was all about the skill in drinking a particular shot…

The shots in question…

And the last event of the night…

Much more enjoyable than the crappy photo would indicate….

And that was the highlights of the weekend in Baretto…

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time… I normally hire a private car but everyone was booked up for the trip to Manila today. This got us here in a roundabout way for half the price…

Got here in plenty of time to enjoy a pleasant stroll through Rizal park, named in honor of the Philippines national hero…

I was glad to discover that he had been executed in 1896. Well, not happy about the execution per se, just glad it was the Spanish who did the killing instead of us Yanks.

Crappy service at L.A. Cafe, so I relented and did Shakey’s pizza with Loraine for dinner…

Nope. When I’m done working I will be done with work. I really, really mean it this time!

Anyway, I fly out tomorrow.  Overall, I’d rate this the best trip I’ve had to the PI.  I’ll elaborate in a future post when I’ve had more time to digest what I’ve learned.

Thanks for coming along!

 

 

 

On the beach (day 6)

A pretty laid back day all in all.  That’s actually pretty huge, because it demonstrates that I’m feeling very comfortable here.  To the extent I questioned my ability to adapt to this environment and successfully establish a permanent life in the PI, I’m reassured it’s doable.

I’m liking my routine of an early breakfast followed by a beach walk.

This place is being built right on the beach. Probably not intended for someone of my modest means, but…

Later we walked into Baretto and had us some pampering…

Those feet aren’t gonna scrape themselves you know…

A tasty Monte Cristo sandwich for lunch at Arizona Resort. And yes, I’ve totally ditched low carb for the duration of this trip.

I picked up the darts for the first time this year and threw in a nice little tourney at Alley Cats bar.

I drew Ray, a solid darter for my doubles partner. A good turnout and some really good players, especially among the Filipinas.

In fact, we went mano a mano against two outstanding ladies in the finals. Took all we had to eventually prevail and take home first place money. Yeah, I was a little excited.

Got invited to play another tourney tonight, and I agreed to help out in league play on Friday.  And another tourney Saturday.  Looks like I’m coming out of retirement!

Fun times!

Hey, that’s my plan!

Life is like The Onion.

“I’ve gotten so used to being unfulfilled here that sometimes I forget there’s a whole wide world out there where I could be equally depressed and joyless.”

“I don’t know where I’m going to fritter away the next stage of my life just like I’ve wasted the previous two decades, but I know it can’t be here,” he continued.

I feel I owe it to myself to take advantage of some new opportunities to experience the crushing professional stagnation and perpetual self-loathing I’ve always felt.”

“Honestly, at this point, I might just throw a dart at a map and go be a useless fuckup wherever it lands,” he added.

Works for me!

On the beach (day 5)

Day 5 is in the books and it was a good and productive one.  Let’s go to the photographic evidence.

As is my wont, I started the day with a hearty breakfast and a stroll along the beach. Can’t remember the last time I’ve seen “shit on a shingle” on the menu. Had to explain to the waitress what the SOS stood for…

Hired a car and driver to tour the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (the old U.S. Navy base). Had no idea how huge it truly is. And wild. Saw trees full of huge bats…

…and lots of monkey’s along the roadside. Couldn’t get out for a better picture because the driver warned me they like to steal cameras…

Loraine enjoying one of the bay vistas…

Of course, the main purpose of the SBFZ visit was to scope out housing options there. In the Cubi district of the base, I found this little subdivision…

With houses like this…

….and this…

…and this…

None appeared vacant but these are under construction. Maybe they will be ready when I am.

There are some inconveniences associated with living on the far reaches of the base. For one, I’d need to buy a car. But honestly, if I could wake up every morning to views like this, I’d go for it in a heartbeat. We’ll see.

Yep, this is what I dreamed of…

Anyway, the other two housing areas on the base were not nearly as impressive.  I could settle for one, but it is just typical subdivision living with the only view being the neighbors house.  I’m not ready to settle at this point.

One other benefit about living on base is there are some nice dining options. We visited Texas Joe’s for lunch and enjoyed some real down home honest to goodness American barbecue.

All the waitresses were in cowboy hats, tight jeans, and boots. Yee Ha!

They don’t pull the pork, they chop it. The claim is that retains moistness better. I still prefer mine pulled, but this was quite delicious. Maybe the best damn baked beans I’ve had in quite some time…

After lunch we drove around some more, then headed to the Royal supermarket.  It’s in the old commissary location and features many of the products us Yankees have come to know and love.  Good to know I can find the ingredients I need for my crock pot and grilling adventures.

But this shopping excursion was not for me. We loaded up the cart for the kids at the Fil-Am orphanage. 50 kgs of rice, assorted canned meats, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, chocolate and cookies.

Our driver drove up the mountain and we dropped off the bounty.  Still haven’t met any of the kids as there were still in school.  Anyway, it feels good to provide a little help where it is needed.

Back at the Blue Rock resort I was ready to unwind with a few bottles of San Miguel Light beer.  And what better way to enjoy them than at the famous Blue Rock floating bar.

Here we come!

Welcome aboard!

A fine afternoon crowd of patrons and crew…

Bay views…

…and a look back at my lodging…

After a short nap, we hiked back into Barrio Baretto and grabbed some dinner at Sit-n-Bull. Then we headed over to the local dart bar, Alley Cats.

Got in some practice as I will be participating in the Wednesday dart tourney tonight. Haven’t thrown competitively since my “retirement” in December. Hell, the layoff may have actually improved my game. We’ll see.

As days go, it was a good one!

On the beach (Day 4)

Where I are.

Started the morning with a beach side stroll.  The beach runs out at Blue Rock resort, so we popped in for breakfast.

Loraine went Filipino style…

…while I opted for a traditional ham, cheese, and mushroom omelette.

Beach side living does come with its rules though.

Rules? We don’t need your stinkin’ rules. Although as rules go, these ain’t bad.

Checked out of Treasure Island and moved up the road to the Blue Rock.

Featuring a much enhanced view from the room.

Once we were all settled in it was time to hit the road to Olongapo City.

We traveled via Jeepney, low on price, low on comfort. The most common form of mass transit in the PI.

In case you are wondering, this is what a Jeepney looks like…

We didn’t know exactly where to get dropped, so wound up away from the downtown area.

But got to explore the old city market which was interesting in a chaotic kind of way…

So, we hailed a trike and had him take us to SM Mall, the center of action in just about every Filipino city.

A trike ride is even more uncomfortable and dangerous than the Jeepney, but what are you gonna do?

Safely at the mall, my first stop was the bank, BDO (Banco de Oro), where I hoped to open up a foreigner bank account.  No dice without an Alien Certificate of Registration card.  Which I can’t get until I’ve been in country continuously for 59 days.  I can deal with it, it will just be a pain in the ass for those first two months wiring myself money from the USA.  Oh well.

Next stop was an eyeglasses store.  Got a new exam, a new prescription, and a new pair of glasses on the way.  Not really any cheaper than I would have paid in the States and probably more expensive than in Korea.  Live and learn.

Left the mall and grabbed a taxi across town to visit an orphanage I’d found on the internet.

The Kings Fil-Am Home is small, currently serving just 9 children. I asked the Director what they needed and she said “rice”.

Let’s see if I can make their world a little better.

After another Jeepney ride back to Barretto, took a nap and headed out for dinner.

It was steak night at the Arizona resort, they were big and juicy.

And served up with a side or mariachi band music. Actually, these folks were pretty damn entertaining.

Stopped in the Alaska Club for a nightcap on the way home and got reacquainted with the owner, Jerry.  I’d known him back in his Angeles City days.  Hoofed it back to my lodging and decided it was time to split.

Banana that is.

And so ends another day in paradise.

On the beach (day 2 and 3)

One of the objectives of this trip is to scope out some housing options.  Another is to assess my general comfort level with the concept of living here full time.  The weekend provided some progress and insights on both fronts.  Let’s go to the pictures.

Why Olongapo? Why not!

Saturday afternoon we walked through the Alta Vista subdivision…

…saw quite a few houses that were infinitely livable…

;;;this one was my personal favorite. Not available as of now, but then again, neither am I. Not going to buy anything, but I’d go for a long term lease on the right place…

…I have no intention of going anywhere near this big. The cost of electricity in the PI is one of those things that exceeds prices back home. That and beef.

…but a smaller house with this view would make me a happy man indeed.

I noticed quite a few of these organic lawn mowers in the neighborhood.

All that walking worked up an appetite, so we meandered our way to one of my favorite little eateries, Sit-n-Bull.  The quesadillas were good for me…

The highlight of the weekend was meeting up with John B., a vlogger I’ve been following on YouTube.   John retired and moved to Subic going on two years ago now, so it was good to pick his brain and learn from his experiences.  Also, a great guy and someone I’m sure I’ll get along with after I make the move.

John and his lovely girlfriend Anna.

Finished the evening with some dinner at Blue Rock Resort. Actually moving our lodging there today for the rest of the week.

My employee Loraine seems to be enjoying herself as well…

Started the day Sunday with this “American” breakfast at Johan’s Dive Resort….

This view was included at no extra charge.

Then we hiked out to another subdivision for a look see…

The houses in Santa Monica subdivision are older than what we have seen so far, but they are still serviceable.

And sometimes colorful. I seem to recall this neighborhood experiences flooding issues during rainy season. I’ll need to confirm that of course, but it is an important consideration in any housing decision.

No bay view from Santa Monica homes, but I could get used to looking at the mountains too…

Speaking of the bay, we enjoyed watching the water from our lunchtime perch at Lava on the Beach restaurant.

In other news…

More walking around and exploring the area, met up again with John and Anna and another new friend, Joe, for a pleasant afternoon.  Last night I went on a quest for finding a dart bar.

Success! I got invited to join the league and they have never even seen me throw! I’ll come out Wednesday for the Alley Cats bar tourney and see what they think after seeing me in action.

Today we will take a Jeepney into Olongapo proper for a look around the city.  Stay tuned!

 

On the beach (day 1)

Up bright and early and out of the house at 0430.  First cab that came by was vacant and gladly agreed to carry me out to Incheon.  Nice guy, he even asked me to check and make sure I had brought my passport.

Got checked in with plenty of time to spare, so got some steps in by hiking around the terminal.  Boarded up on a packed 777 and then waited for 30 minutes past departure time for some connecting passengers.  Arrived in Manila about 1 hour late.

Driver I hired was there waiting and we made our way through the always horrible Manila traffic.  He took me a back way to avoid the worst of it, and apologized for exposing me to the squatter shacks along side the road.  I’d seen them before, but it is always shocking to see just what real poverty looks like.  Always good to be reminded that whatever my first world problems may be, I’m completely blessed beyond the wildest imaginings of these poor folks.

Arrived at my hotel, the Treasure Island Resort, on Baloy Beach in Olongapo a little after 4:00 p.m.  The room is quite a disappointment, but the pool /bar area almost makes up for it.  Quaffed a few brews and enjoyed a well-prepared club sandwich.  Then retired to the room for a short nap.

My intention had been to attend the S.O.B. dance contest at Rum Jungle bar, but alas, by the time I arrived it was nearly over.  So, I walked around Barrio Baretto and popped into a couple of bars for liquid refreshment.  As always, the go-go joints with scantily clad sad looking females shuffling around on stage left me feeling sorry and depressed.

Headed back to my hotel where I enjoyed a banana split washed down with a cold San Miguel Light beer.  Then to the room for a really good night’s sleep.

Woke up early and Treasure Island was not serving breakfast yet.  Walked down the road to the Blue Rock resort featuring 24 hours service.  Sat at a bay side table and enjoyed some coffee and french toast.

Walked to the end of Balay Beach road, then circled back on the beach with my feet in the water.  I’m such a hippie!

Off to a good start I’d say.  Here’s the photographic evidence.

Quaffing my first brew of the trip…

The best thing coming out of France is the toast!

Breakfast with a view…

On the beach. Let’s walk this bitch!

View to the left…

Looking out….

And the beach walk leading back to the hotel.

Not looking too far into the future, but I guess I know what I will be eating come April.

I actually hate black noodles, so I’m doubly fucked…

Anyway, I’m feeling good and looking forward to the rest of this adventure.  Stay tuned.

Roll on!

Time to move on to a new venue.

All packed out for a 10 day journey….

Three guesses as to where.

Not going back, going forward. I really, REALLY, mean it this time!

The view on my walk to the Army hospital. Kinda got a Stonehenge vibe going, don’t you think?

Lungs are clear and I’m feeling the best I have in three months.  Really liked the doctor who saw me.  He actually sat down with me and we spent 30 minutes talking about where I go from here (health wise).  Now, Dr. Yoo may be hilarious, but damn, he wasted a lot of my time.  This Army Captain treating me did more in one visit than I’ve  accomplished in multiple trips to Soonchunhwang.

Bottom line.  Lungs are clear now and I intend to keep them that way.  There is no reversing COPD, but you can slow the progress.  That is what I intend to do.

Off to bed now.  0755 flight tomorrow which means waking up at 0400.  I’m primed.  Optimistic.  Confident.

See you on the other side!