Entering The Land of the Morning Calm [Travelogue]

entrance to “the strip” in Songtan

I am currently into my third week here in Land of the Morning Calm.  I have yet to break from the invisible borders of Songtan, and the very visible borders of Osan Air Base.  But, I have found ways to keep myself occupied without having to travel too far.  I began training at work, and am very excited about the ease and quality of the job I am entering, something I was pretty nervous about and have gladly exhaled from that pressure.  I’ve continued my escapes at the VFW with Whitey.  I was sad to be away from my family on Thanksgiving, but it was all alright since I had made a huge turkey dinner before I left Spokane, and I am not one for the holidays anyway.

I spent this Thanksgiving in two places.  I was “asked” if I would like to attend a luncheon at the chow hall on base with the current Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Commander, General Thurman and dozen other distinguished folks, from the wing commander on up.  I say “asked”, because I didn’t exactly have a choice.  It was rather nice, although the food was pretty bland, but it was served to me by 3 different generals, so you can’t beat that, I guess.  But, the day got better when I left for the dinner at the VFW.  Now these are some people who know how to make some grub!  With 6 fried turkeys, 4 hams, and more than enough fixings, it was rather tasty.  I also had the privilege of meeting a few Korean students from the university in Seoul (the name escapes me), as well as a cool young cat named Richard, who I will be keeping in contact with, as he has vowed to show me around Seoul and other sites of attractions around Korea.  We exchanged numbers and e-mail addresses as our mutual friend, Pam (another professor, active VFW member) showed him and the very nice Korean students a little around Songtan, including a stop in at the previously mentioned, Dawg Pound.  It was sort of a day of misery that all the soju in the world couldn’t drown due to the fact that I missed my wife and children dearly.  But, as I have learned in my times of traveling alone, you have to make the best of it.  You have to try and move forward and experience all the experiences that are to be had when you visit a new place, no matter how brief your stay may be.


Miss Kim burger, yakimandu, and soju @ Dawg Pound

Beyond Thanksgiving, I have simply been surviving.  I’ve tried some good(?) food, but to be perfectly honest, it has been a late night food cart and grease riddled sort of eating.  For all of you city dwellers, you know what I am talking about.  That food that somehow tastes so amazing in the late hour, but you probably wouldn’t consider eating if it wasn’t late at night and you may have had a few alcohol beverages digested (i.e. for Portlanders, anything from Big Ass Sandwiches, although I honestly would eat there sober as well.).  But, still some pretty unique things.  I’ve had my share of Yakimandu, which is basically a fried dumpling filled with assorted ground up vegetables, and I have actually had this prior to the booze, and I do suggest.  I tried the famous Miss Kim egg burger, and absolutely loved it.  Basically a cheeseburger with an over easy cooked egg thrown in the mix, and some sort of Korean lettuce that tasted a lot like cole slaw, only dry.  Would I attempt to eat this thing without being in an alcohol infused state….probably not.  There is also the chicken and lamb skewers you can find anywhere.  As this is a very American serving area, the jokes are out there that it is actually cat meat, but there is no proof of that.  And if it is cat, it’s some damn good cat!

lamb and chicken (cat?) skewers

And of course, there is soju.  Oh, the devilish little soju.  Technically classified as a wine, it actually has the texture of vodka, but is easier to drink.  It’s not a hard alcohol, but it has its ways of violently attacking you, should you ingest too much of it.  I’ve yet to reach that sort of state, but lets just say I have come close.  The most delightful thing about soju is the simple fact that it is sort of like the mushroom of alcohol.  Like mushrooms, the taste alone is pretty satisfying for some, but when you cook a mushroom with another thing (i.e., red wine or poultry) it will absorb that flavor as well.  This is what soju will do as well.  Due to its low alcohol content (around 17 percent, a little bit more than the average wine), it is very easy to over do it, so it is a good idea to monitor yourself while drinking it.  Not to mention it is cheap!!  If you were to buy a bottle of soju at the 7/11 on the strip, it is about 1,300 won, roughly $1.25.  I am actually sort of thankful that soju has been banded from the dorms I live in (a longer story, and pretty absurd), because I would probably do just that, and have some pretty terrible mornings.  As far as served drinks, I have become fond of three different drinks involving soju – soju with cider (cider being a loose term, it’s basically the Korean version of 7 Up), the local favorite known as a White Dog (soju, cider, and a splash of a liquid yogurt that is amazing!), and a Korean Sunrise (not sure if this is an official term, or one that Whitey made up himself, but it’s simply soju, orange juice, and a drop of cherry Grenadines).  Yes, if you come to Korea, you must try soju.  It is actually the most sold alcoholic beverage in the world (google that!), but please, be careful!

Beyond late night grub, soju, and watching Wheel of Fortune at the VFW with the old guys, I really just go to work.  I write a bit.  I spend hours chatting with my lovely wife and children via Skype.  Advancements in technology always seem even more amazing when you are away from those you love.  I remember when during my first trip to Iraq in 2006, I was lucky if I got to make a simple phone call each day, and even thought of making a phone call everyday was quite the advancement back then.  Things have advanced quite a bit.  Now I am able to make phone calls with a free Magic Jack app on my iPhone, I can text my wife anytime I feel like it, and as previously stated, I get to see the love of my life and our spawns pretty much everyday.  My work schedule is sort of a blessing and a curse when it comes to communication though.  I work 12 hour shifts, but never longer than 4 straight days or nights.  Therefore, when I work a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift, it is actually 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. the previous day on the west coast.  So trying not to work around normal sleep schedules sort of blows dogs for quarters, but we have made it work thus far.  I am able to call from work if we aren’t too busy, and I am actually off of work just about as many days as I am on, so that is good.  Plus if I work night shifts, I have times during the day that work out as well.  All in all, I am thankful for what time I do have to speak with the ones I love.

Tucci the Bluesman of Songtan

And when I am not at the VFW, or sitting in my room drowning in my own self pity, I have another bit of excitement…….a musician!  Yes, for those of you who know me pretty well, I tend to seek them out and demand friendship.  Here it is the form of a 65 year old Samoan folk singer named Tucci (Not sure on the spelling really, but it’s pronounced To-See).  I have watched him perform three times since I have been here, including a very memorable experience at a small jazz club just outside of the gate of Osan called Blue Jazz.  Whitey accompanied me to the show, and we had a pretty good time.  The only other occupants in the establishment (it was a Sunday night after all) was a small Korean family who was celebrating their youngest daughter’s birthday.  We ended up socializing with them a bit while Tucci played covers by request, covers by choice, and a couple of original tracks themed around the local Songtan area and its military influence (tracks like “In Songtan”, “The Songtan Hex”, and “Songtan Sally”).  We laughed, we danced (well, I didn’t, but Whitey sure did!), we bought rounds all around, and basically enjoyed a couple of hours of a man and his guitar doing everything he could to entertain less than a dozen people, all the while making you feel very special and warm.  Yes, a pretty good escape.

rooftops of Songtan

So, there you have it folks.  A little update for you.  I have already getting very excited for Melissa to come visit me this summer, I really miss her a lot for a lot of reasons.  In which time I know we will spend some time in Seoul, and maybe take a trip somewhere else (Guam???), and eventually head back to the states for my mid tour to be reunited for a little while with my beautiful daughters and more family.  I also plan on taking a few tours, meeting up with Richard in Seoul to have him show me around, and hit up a few museums I was told where phenomenal.  So keep in touch, there will surely be more exciting stories to tell in the coming 49 weeks before I make the move to Spain.  Until then,

Anyoung he Kay Ship She Yo


Coed Pageant: The Seasons EP, Vol. 4: The Fallout [Album]


Coed Pageant are writing some really good songs that easily strike a chord within the listener. For those of us who love three or four chord songs with simple arrangements and great lyrics, this band has it all going for them. The arrangements are perfect, with a little help from their trumpet playing friend, Nathan Fry on “Over It” and some more help from their violin playing friend Twy Bethard on “Fallout” and “Henderson”.

The rustling of leaves and a gorgeous piano part open the record on “The End is Near”. My only complaint is that it’s only 51 seconds, but feels like only 15 seconds. We the listeners could have handled at least a full minute and a half of quaint piano assisted by a few sparkling notes far off in the distance.

Immediately following the instrumental intro track is “Wake Up Alone”, a three chord, poppy jaunt about, well, waking up alone after another long night that ends uneventfully. It’s about finding who you are in those lonely times of your life, when you have nobody but yourself, and the world is there to learn from. Good stuff.

Next comes “Good Year”, a nearly a cappella song that proves this bands apparent love of what minimalism can do to make a song more poignant. The song appropriately ends with the mimicking of the proverbial ticking clock…

…And the ticking turns to clicking to start out the next track, “Fallout”, the second best song on this EP. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you what the first best song is when we get to it. Of course, you may disagree, in which case, myself, and probably also Coed Pageant, would love to have you voice what you think is the best song on this record.

“Fallout” draws you in instantly. It sounds like they closely mic’d one of those metronomes your Aunt Mildred had sitting on the piano when you were 10 and taking lessons that your mother insisted on, and then they threw in some handclaps on top of that…okay, I might be wrong, it could just be drum sticks with a little delay, but I really want to know if it’s a closely mic’d metronome. Get back at me, Coeds.

Regardless of all that, even though this song is only 1:49, I don’t care. If it were any longer it would only serve to make it less poignant.

“Over It” is the peak of this record. A catchy piano melody leads into a catchy verse, that by the second verse leads into a chorus of trumpet with the singing of “ahs” following along, which then gives way to a xylophone or glockenspiel that slows down the time and ends the song.

From the first rustling of leaves, to the darkness of “Henderson” this EP makes you feel like you’re stuck in a perpetual autumn with gray skies above you and puddles at your feet, walking through your wet town lost deep inside your own introverted thoughts. The lyrics are fantastic, my favorite line being, “And intent don’t mean a lot to the person who got shot by accident” from “Henderson”. Give this band a listen, and if you don’t like it, but you love the Avett Brothers, than there is something wrong with you. Not that the Avett Brothers are horrible, but is it possible to love checkers, but hate chess? I don’t know, maybe it is.


Sing (Another) Little Songtan [Travelogue]

Somewhere in Songtan

So I have officially been the Land of the Morning Calm for two full weeks as of this writing.  And to say that this place is growing on me would be a drastic overstatement, basically entirely false.  It is probably factual enough to state that I am beginning to understand Songtan and Osan AB a bit more, and maybe getting more settled in.  I’ve begun showing up for work, which I have recently learned is far more relaxed that place I just left, so that makes me smile inside and out.  But, I have also had the fortunate experience of having a wonderful tour guide around the area, who has in turn introduced me to some very nice folks.  His name is Whitey (short for Michael Whittenberg, a nickname I am sure myself or a colleague gave him for obvious reasons) and he knows these alleyways and bars in Songtan like no one else I could ever know.  He has been a big help in introducing me to some very fine locally displaced Americans and local masters of servitude towards Americans and our foolish ways.  But, most importantly, he introduced me to something I have been wanting to do for a very long time….the VFW.

As I once stated, Songtan is a collection of bars and shops placed in whatever hole local Koreans or returning Americans can fandangle a way into making into making their space a legitimate establishment.  But, 80% of the establishments are places that built around the philosophies of what Americans want.  Well, to be fair, what the locals and displaced Americans think we all want.  It can be easily summarized into a couple of categories:  dance music, beer pong, endless flirtation, and a place so fucking loud that all inhibitions become drowned out by the sound of Eminem or LMFAO screaming at you in 15 by 15 room.  So basically, not a place you would probably find myself frequenting too often.  While I have enjoyed a few rounds of beer pong in several garages in middle America, it isn’t exactly a spectrum of a night out that I really want to see.  And this is where the VFW comes into play.  Whitey has been a member of the V since he arrived here in Korea, and it has been his home away from home, and I suspect it will be my home away from home (away from home…..because Korea will never been considered a “home” to me).  The drinks are cheap, the people are nice, the atmosphere is as calm as you could imagine.  Although it is an association dedicated to veterans, which includes many active duty members and several old retirees who moved back to Songtan as soon as they could, something I could never fathom.  And yes, being around a bunch of old men does mean one thing…..a young person of my personal belief will be ostracized from time to time for being a bleeding heart liberal who doesn’t believe in God and voted for that “son of a bitch socialist Kenyan”.  But, this is something I have come to expect by 90% of military affiliation.  But still, they are good folks at heart.  And when you become a part of this community, it feels just like that, a community.  I’ve played rounds of poker, had Friday night free dinner (which also means I am going to be able to cook!!), and simply threw back some Korean Sunrises (a speciality drink named by Whitey, Soju and Orange Juice and a splash of cherry Grenadines) and just laugh at shared experiences and what not.  I have been to a few other places in town in brief spurts, but without a doubt, the VFW is going to be the best thing I take out of my experiences here in Songtan, I can already tell.

Somewhere in Songtan

As I mentioned, I have gotten to a few more places.  I’ve frequented The Dawg Pound, a small hole in the wall bar owned by a retiree that is frequented by mostly Civil Engineering folks from Osan.  Which also brings us to another point: almost ever unit, detachment, section, whatever, has a place they frequent the most as a group.  A big part of being stationed here at Osan is the a common sense of community with the people you work with every single day.  And being a former CE guy, this is where I like to go.  I like to look at the walls and see pictures of so many people I have known throughout the years taken in the very spot I am standing in.  The true Korean experience is almost a right of passage in many ways.  In one way it is one experience that many Airmen experience, and love to share their experiences, which have been going on for 60 years.  But, in a brighter way, so many of the people stationed here at Osan are only here in order to make it to greener pastures.  Meaning, we may not want to be here in Korea, and it is a terrible situation to be away from the one’s we love the most…..but after this, “I’m going to motherfuckin’ [insert preferred station] man!!”.  For me, it’s all about getting to Spain, where my family is allowed to be.

But, that being said, I do plan to travel a bit while I am here.  My theory is that you simply do not enter a foreign land and not try and discover as much as possible.  Songtan is a fun town in a cliché sort of way, but there is so much more to this country.  Obviously, there is Seoul.  I will definitely be making my way through the typical tourists spots of that city, and definitely hitting up the Jazz and Indie Rock social scene they have (yes it exists, and you knew I would find it).  But, there is also so much more!  A very common tour to take around here is heading up to the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) which for those who are clueless to its importance, it is the area located on the 38th parallel that separates North Korea and South Korea.  You can literally stand and stare into the abyss of darkness that is the country of North Korea, a land most of us will never venture to.  Seoul and the DMZ are obvious tours that must be done before one departs Osan, but there is even more!  There is the the Changduk Palace, the Haengju Fortress, Busan City, Kosu Caves, Wawoochong Temple, the Korean Folk Village, and so much more things that have actually interested me more than I ever expected.  And I plan on making my way to as many sites as possible, and obviously reporting them all back to you, the fine readers.

Somewhere in Songtan

But, until then I only have Songtan.  Which I am learning to accept, and enjoy considering I have no other choice.  I wonder the town in the middle of the day, for it would be a death wish to do so at night (I’ve been jumped in the sweet city of Spokane, I wouldn’t want to even chance that here).  And I’ve spent a few nights dining on lumpia and other Philippine delights at a cultural bar, while listening to a wonderful new friend and blues man, Toosi, do Jim Croce, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison covers, as well as a few originals about Songtan Sally (who I plan to fill all of the unfamiliars in on at a later date), the Songtan Hex, and other variables of life in this area.  I’ve shot pool in the inappropriately named Irish themed pub, The Free Zone (what the hell does that mean?).  All is going okay.  I am beginning an irregular work routine, just like I once had, and I know the days are going to continue to disappear into time as I plan for several day trips, my lovely wife’s first trip out of the country to see me, my mid tour in which I will return to Kelso-Longview (watch for that reporting, I will try to be nice to my home of record), and eventually getting the hell out of here and off to El Puerto De Santa Maria, Spain!  But until then folks,

Anyoung he Ka Ship She Yo (Good Bye),


Sarah Jaffe [Artist]

Photo by Dylan Hollingsworth

For some of us, hearing someone like Adele preach to us about love loss and the pain of being pure at heart just won’t cut it really.  For some of us it takes more than an impressive set of pipes to make us swoon musically.  Some of us require a greater sense of artistic amplitude.  We need to actually feel for the lady behind the mic.  And for some of us (should be all of us), we have Sarah Jaffe.

Sarah Jaffe is not only one of the members of the estranged group of musicians who are unknowingly changing the world of music as we know it, she could very well be the ringleader.  The ever shifting times are creating some many fine musicians that it is almost too hard to keep up.  But, obviously worth it to try.  The experimental elements in which she so eloquently mixes in with indie roots is sensational.  She posses the charisma of Janelle Monae, but has a voice comparable to the likes of Anna Lynn Williams.  And her amazing album, The Body Wins (released last April), exemplifies all of this and more.

Jaffe also has the distinct ability to create a smashing single.  Her track “Glorified High” could very well be one of the finest tracks to come out in 2012.  It is a raw, in your god damned face, track that is as entertaining as it is uplifting as it permeates through your skin and directly into your heart.  While the entire track list of The Body Wins is impeccable in it’s own right, it’s pretty hard not to bring yourself back to this incredible track.

It’s been a while since Jaffe dropped her latest album, and one can only fathom the genius she has been stirring up, and we all wait patiently to hear it.  Until then, if you have not had the distinct pleasure of checking out Sarah and The Body Wins, head on over to her website to check it out.

Sing A Little Songtan [Travelogue]

I’ve been in South Korea for approximately 4 days now.  It has been a slow, yet productive introduction to this estranged society.  Estranged because it is so different.  But estranged because of the forced similarities.  Where do i start….


Songtan is a city that is literally based around Osan Air Base.  Without an American presence, I would hate to see what happened to this community.  It is a few city blocks filled with shopkeepers who are willing to barter, food carts making delicious midnight drunk grub (which I am sure I will have entire posts about at a later date), and even more pre valiant….bars.  Lots of them.  Some with insanely simple yet defining  names like “Nice Place” or “America Bar”.  Of course it’s not all that simple.  One place seemed ripe for Chinatown in Portland, Oregon with its clever address as the “Th?nk Pub”.  And then there are several hotels smack dab in the middle of it all.  One of which I frequented for a couple of nights.  It wasn’t to shabby, I must say.  A bit of forced class.  The slanted eyed kitten slippers and the 45 inch TV really set the mood of the place, if you ask me.  Even better:  I could smoke in the room!  A luxurious feeling in itself!  I now kick myself for not taking advantage of my usual “cigarette in the bath tub” routine I love to do when I am in a city that allows me this great luxury.  Oh well, maybe I will stay there a night or two on my way out.


I have yet to really frequent any place in Songtan.  I’ve walked the city a couple of times.  Once guided by a three year veteran of the area.  He took us on a guided tour letting us know all of the places that were once banned from military use, but seem to have gone legit.  For many of you old time military folks out there, you all remember the Juicy Bars.  Juicy referring the “fine young women” who would share a glass of Soju with you, and conspire upon you to spend even more for “good time”.  Well, I have to upset some of the old folks around to let you know, these plays are legit.  The Juicy franchises as they once where have been reorganized.  Think of it as 60’s Las Vegas, to the Vegas we know today.  Still a den of sin, but kids are welcome too!  No, these bars are now “sports bars”.  What does that mean?  Well, you can now play pool.  Throw darts.  Watch American football.  And strangely enough still speak with the same “fine young women” (or perhaps their offspring at this point) who could be found just years before.  Now that’s progress, right folks?


Asia Hotel in Songtan

But, as I said, I have yet to really do any purchasing (obviously not Juicy wise, not in this fucking lifetime) other than the amazing energy drink I discovered that cost a measly 1,000 Won (roughly 1 U.S. dollar) at a 7/11.  But, I did flirt with the idea of living down in the city.  It has become constimary for many low-level non-commissioned officers and airmen to live off base due to over population on base, and the lack of torn up rooms (like the one I have!) that were to be provided to us.  But, alas, I decided to keep myself on base.  While the prospect of living within 2 minutes of more bars than you could throw a bag of kimchi at did seem flattering, I eventually opted to stay with the rest of my American slob counterparts and live the dorm life.  Something I have never actually done before in my career, so I guess that is an adventure in itself.


I moved into my new quarters rather quickly by mere luck.  As of this writing, I have spent one night here.  I have yet to meet my suite mate, but by the looks of a refrigerator loaded with several different types of beer ranging from Pabst Blue Ribbon, to Shock Top, to a full range of seasonal brews, I think we might just get along.  The room is decent size.  Probably 9 ft by 15 ft, with a walk in closet added.  The furniture is shabby, and seems typical for a junior college dorm room, but adequate.  After a bit of rearranging, I made it into my own personal space.  I have my twin comforter that my wife’s Grandmother made for her when she was a young child that I have become so fond of in the 11 years I have known my sweet wife, I’ve got my books I intend to read (Sartre, Anthony Bourdain, Jess Walter, etc.) but probably won’t, a few cheap DVD’s I picked up while here (how many Children of the Corn movies did they freaking make?), a digital picture frame, iHome, and of course, my beloved MacBook Pro.  Yep, more essentials than I could really even consider to be essential.  Staying here is actually pretty reminiscent of two of the four months I spent in Iraq in 2008, when I was given a trailer to my own.  Only upside here: I can have vodka.  Down side here: there is no way I could get away with smoking in my room like I did in Iraq.  Pro’s and cons I guess.

So, here I am.  I’ve been doing all that is required of me to be a part of Osan Air Base, and getting myself acquainted with the base.  Which really isn’t that hard.  Osan is similar to every base I have ever been to.  And this one even has a Chili’s!  Although I loathe that place, it is comforting to know that some sort of American lower middle class luxury still exists.  For those who have never frequented a military base, here are some of the usual accommodations (Note: this is not all-inclusive, obviously):  Your major fast food restaurants (Burger King, Taco Bell, Popeye’s, Subway) minus McDonald’s, but don’t fret, there is one directly outside the gate in Songtan.  Also there is a movie theatre, a pool, a club of sorts, a community center where I recently watched every major news channel pronounce Barack Obama as president of the United States once again and got to chat on Facebook with my beautiful wife while wishing diabetes on an old fat friend of mine, a library, and more.  Typical for a military installation.


Well folks, I guess this is the basic layout of the place.  As more events and unique traits make themselves more visible, I will surely share them with you.  Until then….362 days left!!!  Cheers!

Banana and Louie: Alphabet Soup [Album]

For the last few years, there has been this fantastic band that has proven to be one of the finest, and well-organized pop groups of latter days.  They were formally known as A Fine Day For Sailing, a british pop group that fits very well into what I consider the “British Indie Pop Mafia”.  I’ve been covering so many of them over the years, It’s almost confusing trying to try to remember who is who!  Simon Bish, Andy B, Falling Trees, Andy Fonda, and on and on.  From London to Brighton, Exeter to Tipton St. John, there has simply been some amazing music sprawling from across the pond.  And t seems as though a couple of the elite members in this proverbial mafia have now created one of the finest masterpieces in the collection with a whole new group called Banana & Louie.

Banana and Louie came from the offspring of A Fine Day For Sailing, created by the legendary Matthew Stead, and it is probably one of the finest examples of mellow pop music melodies I have heard in a while (possibly since the last AFDFS record).  Their debut album Alphabet Soup is an absolutely bloody brilliant and just so much damn fun.  There is no way you can feel down listening to this record.  I mean, there a song called “I Have Your Melodica, You Have My Heart”!  Seriously, how can that alone not make you smile?

Banana and Louie is simply that sort of group that you really just need sometimes.  It feels great to feel good, doesn’t it?  Well, how about checking out one of the finest indie pop albums of the year, and pick your chin up a little bit?  Let the happiness take you on a roller coaster of enjoyment.  You won’t regret it!

Mark Geary: Songs About Love, Songs About Leaving [Album]

Who can deny the ultimate and compelling power a solid singer/songwriter can have over you?  When an artist with a gentle voice, compelling lyrics that feel both personal and opening, and a strum along attitude that can make you want to cry and smile in a matter of minutes, you know you have heard something that will make your world spin.  These descriptors alone can not even begin the describe the power that Mark Geary will have over you.  But, his latest album Songs About Love, Songs About Leaving is a prime example of said power, and there is really nothing you can do about it.

When you hear a track that you know probably means the world to a writer, you may find yourself feeling a tad bit of guilt when you apply their words to your own inner demons or joys.  But, how can we help that?  When you feel as though you may have found a kindred spirit in a way, right?  Well, this is exactly what an amazing musician such as Mark Geary can have over you.  Try your damnedest to listen to a track like “Fireflies” or “Heaven” and not feel something pertaining to your own struggles.  More so, try to listen to the album’s finest cut “Stardust”, and not remember that very moment when you first fell in love.  Songs About Love, Songs About Leaving may seem like a simple and aptly titled name for a mellow mannered singer/songwriter, but each track is definitely filled with so much more.  This is an album with emotional complexities that are emphasized by the music’s simplicity.

If you are looking for smooth tunes on a rainy day, Mark Geary is definitely the man you will want serenading your sorrow away.  If you want enlightenment when you are feeling compelled by the earth’s gravitational pull to do something with yourself, then you should definitely turn to Songs About Love, Songs About Leaving, easily one of the finest records to be released in 2012.

Sexy Water Spiders [Band]

There is something undeniably uplifting about a band like Sexy Water Spiders.  The funk element infused with rock and roll is something we have really been missing lately.  Also the weird as fuck element has been missing as well.  And these guys definitely bring a heft portion of each into their crazy stylings.

Sexy Water Spiders have been rocking out the city of Portland, Oregon for quite some time now.  They’ve been known to run amuck with likes of The Dandy Warhols, 1776, and The Upsidedown.  Needless to say, the gang is in good hands.  And like their fellow brethren, they are known to be insane showmen, another element that seems to get lost in the shuffle lately.  They are pure guitar wielding entertainment at it’s finest.  When the apocalypse surely comes upon us, these are the sort of curators of the weird that you are going to want to have around when the world goes mad.

Even without knowing these cats personally, it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that these are the types of souls that live to rock.  They want to perform for you, and make you lose all sense of being (and possibly your bowels) and the worry of being another senseless hack amidst the millions of other senseless hacks on this bloody and sometimes disgusting earth.  The screaming may surprise you.  The funk may guide you.  And let it be known, while you are fixated upon the circus of rock before you, all the fucks you used to give will surely be the furthest thing from your mind when you let Sexy Water Spiders take over.

Head on over to the band’s website to find out what they are up to these days.

Anxiousness and Despair: Words En Route [Travelogue]

Airports are all the same.  Whether your in Spokane or Seoul,  it really makes no difference at all.  Half a day ago I was sitting outside the international drop off site at San Francisco International.  Now I am writing from a marble floor in the Incheon Airport in Seoul, South Korea.  Using an airport as a judgement of a location can create a terrible sense of idealisms.  Red Bull is still expensive, and you can’t smoke anywhere!  You’re going to pay 7 dollars for a sandwich you could make at home for 65 cents.  Getting drunk in an airport is only for the upper middle class and above, as it would cost an entire paycheck to accomplish that feet!

But, alas, a long day of traveling has come and gone.  A quick jump from Spokane down to San Fran, and then the longest damn flight I have ever had the “privilege” in taking part of from San Fran to Seoul.  11 hours in a confined space.  4 movies, 2 dinners, and probably 45 minutes of something maybe resembling sleep.  And all of that time.  All of that time of anxiousness or despair.  I chose despair.  I usually do.  I closed my eyes to sleep and saw the face of my wife and my three kids, and my heart began to sink when I realized that, here I was, abandoning them all once again, and I thought I might cry.  I’m hardly ever anxious upon leaving the country, it’s usually my route back that makes me anxious and irritated at every little set back imaginable.

a little bit of 30 Rock over the Pacific. Just like home!

I anticipated a long flight, and did my best to prepare myself.  But, I would be a liar if I said I didn’t find it to be “that bad”.  If it makes me weak to hate 11 hours of sitting in a small space, then so be it.  I was thankful to have an aisle seat, although it was almost debunked by the other side of me, a Frenchman with a terrible attitude.  I avoided all temptation to simply order as many cocktails as I could before I passed out, and opted for Ginger Ales to even avoid caffeine in hopes that the 2 hours of sleep I had in almost two days would pay itself off.  I guess it wasn’t meant to be.  I could barely doze.

But, I arrived in Korea, made it through immigrations and customs (which by the way, is so more lax that coming into the States, which many of you will probably wet yourself knowing) to find out that I have to wait for a bus, coming in three hours.  I made a few feeble attempts at getting ahold of Melissa via Facebook, and eventually got the bright idea to charge my phone on my computer, which has an astoundingly great battery life.  I made what was probably a ten dollar phone call to my sleepy wife (it may be 5 p.m. here, but I am in the future), told her I missed her like hell already.  For those of you who mock modern technology and our utter and stupefying dependence upon it, try doing what I do, and you will see why it is so special.

But, alas, here I am in a damn Airport again.  I’ve been trying to contemplate how much of my life I have spent in Airports.  Technically, I am in a whole new country, right?  My seventh country!  But, no, this is an airport.  In an hour or so, I will be touring the country/city side via a tour bus, just as I have done across the state of Wisconsin, the country of Kuwaitt, and more.  I guess that will bring me closer to Korea.  But, I should fret not, I have an entire year in this place.  A place I really don’t want to be, but continue to vow to myself to try to make the best of the experience.  Or as my dear friend Chris Eaves would say, “find some happiness”.


I arrived at Osan Air Base.  An hour and half bus ride completely evaporated into time.  I hardly remember a damn thing.  I actually strained to keep my eyes open as we passed the bright lights of Seoul.  But, I could not fight the urge to sleep for at least a while.  I knew I would be back.  Sleep was necessary, ogling was a privilege.  I chose what was necessary.  I moved into a hotel in Songtan, and began the route of finding happiness.  Like a slow dog in the hot rain, I drag on.

Neil Nathan: Sweep The Nation [Album]

A couple of years ago, singer/songwriter Neil Nathan blessed us with a beautiful album of melodies and well-timed progression changes that was easily became of the finest albums I heard back then, and still continues to find its regular rotation in my iTunes library.  And now, Neil is back.  But the man who once made “Do Ya”, a track that should be a staple at every wedding across the planet, has a new sort of progression.  Yes, this light-hearted strum master is back, but with a vengeance.

Neil Nathan’s new album Sweep The Nation is an all out, tooth to the curb attack and acknowledgement of the corruption and greed that emulates the modern society that has been slowly but surely destroying our way of life.  Sweep The Nation is definitely a beautiful call to arms for the common man, and begging them to stand for themselves against the tyranny that surrounds us.  And dammit does it sound great.  Neil’s voice is just as majestic when he is angry as it is when he is in love.  And although Nathan’s regular fan base my not be used to the intensity factor he spews out on a track like his cover of Lou Reed’s “There Is No Time”, everyone is going to dig it regardless of what they are used to.

If there is one thing that can be continually affirmed about Neil Nathan, it is that he is a very passionate man.  Whether he is confessing is love for a devoted woman, or expressing his contempt for a torn apart nation, Neil is a strong-willed and amazing talent that we are fortunate enough to have around these days.  And whether or not you like him better at his quieter times, or in all out attack mode, this cat is going to entertain you, make you think, and divulge the truest of human emotions one could ever have.  Guaranteed.