Travels With Trembaths (Part 2 of 2) [Travelogue]

Spain11December 23rd, 2013

Christmas is in two days.  Yet, today I walked the streets of Rota, Spain in nothing more than a Bluth Frozen Banana Stand t-shirt.  In Chuck Taylors rather than winter boots, I glided over delicate sand rather than slushy snow.  Yes, I am deeply in love with the weather around here.  In fact, I am in love with most everything around here.  We will soon pick up the keys to our new home.  We decided to stay on base, and possibly miss out on the actually “living in Spain” experience.  But, our thought process is that we can still enjoy the atmosphere, travel every which way we please, and still have a house just off the Bay of Cadiz.  And we just couldn’t pass off such an amazing house with just so much room, a courtyard, a backyard the size of half a football field, and being a block and half away from the kids’s school.  Convenience is of the utmost importance when it comes to housing arrangements.  But, I have digressed from the original sequence of events.  Lets go back a little.

We arrived on the flight line of Rota Naval Station at 0730L.  The sun was just beginning to rise, but the air was so delightfully warm.  Of course, for the locals it was probably colder than Bill O’Reilly’s heart, but for a bunch of travelers recently leaving the US around Christmas time, it was absolutely delightful.  The plane ride form Norfolk, Virginia to Rota was mostly uneventful.  Best of all, it was 2 hours shorter than we had originally thought it was going to be.  I only had to eat one shitty meal of “beef” and re-watch that stupid ass movie where Clive Owen manages to sleep with every woman he comes across because of his accent and his past profession as a bad ass soccer player.  Between small bits of sleep, a few trips sneaking off to the lavatory to puff on my e-cig, and taming a few kids, the six hours flew by like nothing.

Spain7Of course, we landed at such an inconvenient time as the day was just beginning.  The time difference is only 6 hours from the east coast in which we just left, so it was though we literally flew throughout the entire night.  But with little to no sleep, and only one glass of wine.  But, we pushed through.  Throughout the week, the family as really learned that jet lag is a son of a bitch.  For the first three days it was impossible to keep them up beyond 6:00 p,m.  I hate to toot my own horn, but I’ve done this shit a few times.  Although I did learn that going 17 hours in to the future to Korea was much easier than going 9 in to Spain.  But, here we are almost a week later and all is well.  We have also learned about the power of kindness and the wonderful benefits of military living.  Sure, the downsides might outweigh the good at times.  Isolation is always a motherfucker.  But, I will be damned if the benefits don’t come out in all of the greatest ways.  Let me explain.

When you move from one base to another, you are usually assigned a sponsor from your work center.  Somebody who has been at your new location for a good amount of time, and has been assigned to help get you settled in.  I have had the great fortune of having an amazing sponsor who coordinated our temporary housing, found us a batch of loaner dishes, cookware, and bedding to use while we await the shipment of our old life currently floating across the Atlantic.  He has also driven myself and my family around to wherever we please, including a night out at a wonderful Spanish & Italian buffett in the city of Jerez.  It has been so amazing to have this dude showing me around where to go, and even letting us steal his fancy Volvo to take the family out on my own.  And to top it all off, another fine gentlemen I will be working with for a while has actually offered up his little Ford Fiesta for us to use until the Subaru comes off the boat in a month or so.  Yes, if I can say one thing about military living it would be this: we take care of our own.  Sure many of vets get the shaft once they get out except for the two or three days a month most of you choose to acknowledge us.  But when we are in, we are a family.  I am not the most patriotic, flag-waving American you will ever know, but I do believe in the idea of being kind to one another, and the U.S. military definitely knows how to take care of its people.  Well, most of the time, but we won’t get in to all of that just yet.

Spain12Back to Spain…..  our home!  Recently we managed to sneak a peak at the city of Rota.  The streets are lined with old Spanish style (obviously) buildings that generally seem to sport American themed eateries and shops catering to the American lifestyle.  The setting is similar to any area directly off of a military installation.  Not exactly as insanely Americanized as Songtan, South Korea, but still rather estranged from its beginnings.  Needless to say, we are going to have to venture off much further from the base to experience the real Spain.  And you can bet your sweet hipster asses that we will definitely be doing just that.  But, even with all of its Americanization and filth, Rota is still a wonderful little place.  Why?  The motherfucking Bay of Cadiz, man!!  We managed to reach the beach that is considered to be subpar to several of the other beaches in the area, and yet, it was absolutely beautiful.  The sun was setting on this little tourist trap, yet the air was delightful and I couldn’t have been happier.  If the city of Rota is the lesser of the places to visit in the area, I am going to love it here.

But alas, we really haven’t gotten to travel around much in the 5 days we have been here.  And honestly, we are not too worried about it.  Our main goal is to gain a bit of normalcy that we have not had in over a year.  We have been living in a home without wifi for almost a week, and apparently one of those bearded rednecks from Duck Dynasty said something very homophobic and the internet seems surprised.  Actually I’m pretty happy we haven’t gotten to be a part of that.  I don’t think worrying about something stupid that reality TV star says is “normalcy”.  But, there are things we are looking forward to in the moment that don’t involve travel.  Like regular ass household goods.  Our car.  Internet for other reasons than just social media (but yes, we do miss Facebook).  But, we stay positive that within a month from this day, we should have everything together, I will be settled in at work, and we will begin traveling around Spain and eventually as much of Europe as possible.  Melissa is deadset on a Christmas in Paris, and I guess I am at risk of serious personal injury if I don’t oblige.

Spain13I even managed to find a book entitled Forty Day Trips from Rota by Melinda Ronka that details some amazing single day activities to do in southern Spain.  And with so much just outside our back door, I am certain this is going to be an experience that will be forever engrained in our lives.  But, until we get our housing situation in order, a car to get us around, and that beloved normalcy in the background of our lives, we may not get out as quickly as we would like to.  But rest assure that by the winter of 2016, we will have seen a whole bunch of great shit that I will pass along to you all right here at the Trainwreck’d Society Travelogue.  Until then, buenos noches, and snoogans to all!


Travels with Trembaths (Part 1 of 2) [Travelogue]

Spain9December 19th 2013, Rota Naval Station, Spain

Buenos Dias Everybody!  I am writing to you fine reader’s from the confines of a temporary lodging facility on Rota Naval Station here in Spain upon a MacBook that I am only now learning has resources and software available without access to the world wide web.  In fact, in the 48 hours or so that my family and I have been in the country of Spain, we have had few connections to the outside world.  We aren’t living under a proverbial rock or anything, but we are without wifi.  Which, in this day and age, might as well be the same damn thing.  We have managed to snag a bit of wifi at the local Naval Exchange and when I stopped by my new work center (yes, I have wifi at work.  And a KFC.  I think I am going to like this place a lot).  But alas, I am officially an American residing in Spain.  Our lodging may be temporary, but we are full on living in Spain, even if we can’t tell the world about it on Facebook.

Spain1Our travels began a few days ago at the beloved train station in my “beloved” hometown of Kelso, Washington.  Fun fact:  the Kelso train station is mere blocks from my beloved Tim’s Tavern, a place where I once claimed to have died for our country in order to obtain the rights to a shuffle board table on my 21st birthday, once punched a very nice man in the face only to find him at the end of the “new” bridge (locals will understand) after I was kicked out of the bar so he could apologize for acting in any behavior that may have led to me wanting to punch him (and his much smaller friend) in the face during a very dark period in the winter of 2011, and also the location of my ten year high school reunion this last summer which I returned with good timing from the land of the morning calm to attend.  So, yeah, it was sort of surreal to be leaving my hometown (and not that dreadful Longview place across the river, as though it matters) on such a surreal adventure.  As most folks in the area know, the most convenient means of living Kelso is through the military or prison (hey-o!), or from Portland Oregon, 30 minutes to our south.  It was pretty surreal to hop on the train with our 14 bags of luggage (of which I will surely bitch about later) and wave goodbye to several family members as we boarded our steel vessel to take us on our first journey to paradise.

Of course, much like so many of the hopes and dreams of my fellow Kelso natives… was all bullshit.  We actually had to travel down to my favorite city in the world, the aforementioned Portland, Oregon to the historic Union Station where we transferred our luggage (did I mention we had 14 FUCKING BAGS!) to an eastbound train, swallowed down some turkey sandwiches (Portland locals probably called them “organic” or “artisan”, but I call a damn turkey sandwich), and board a train bound for our former residence of Spokane, Washington, the Lost City of Potential.  Warning: the following sentences were not paid for my the Spain4good folks at Amtrak, but they might certainly appear to be as so.  And for all of you naysayers out there, the train is the fucking way to go, man!  It is roomy, cheap, and surrounded with amazing employees that only wish to make your life a pleasurable one for a few hours.  Not to mention the fact that your 4G network is still in tact, and they have outlets available at every seat.  But even the fact that it is cheaper than sex with a lady boy in the Philippines wasn’t the best part.  The outstanding feature to me revolves around the entire fact that I have three children in tow.  And should you find yourself in need of a cross country venture, this is definitely the way to go.  My wife and my youngest daughter managed to sleep side by side comfortably with the leg rest risen.  I had one kid in two seats all to her self, passed out for half the trip, and the other one next to me in her twin bed like space of just here seat and leg rest while I murdered a few zombies on Dead Trigger, as well as a shit ton of multi colored jelly beans on Candy Crush for 7 straight hours.  Fuck the jam packed SUV’s of the past, and the compacted plane rides of the future (which honestly turned out okay, more later).  So there.  Amtrak is the shit.  They really should pay me for this shit.  And believe you me, the irony of setting forth on a long journey on a train with the fact that I run a website called Trainwreck’d Society in tow was not lost at all.  I seriously thought that my journey would be cut short via derailment in the desolate lands of Eastern Washington, where only the farm hands could hear you scream at that time of night.

Spain5We arrived in the Lilac City sometime around midnight at a train station in the heart of the city.  The station was filled with whack jobs and weirdos looking to to disappear in the middle of the night.  Outside of the station you could hear the hoots and hollers of the whack jobs and weirdos looking to incinerate the fire of hate in their hearts and transform it in to desire and lust through $3 fireball shots and $2 tall boy cans of PBR all the while screaming to the late night air, “Fuck this!  I’m moving to Seattle!!”.  Yes, we were in my beloved city of Spokane.  Hometown of Bing Crosby, Craig T. Nelson, John Stockton, and Father’s Day.  The city that has so much to offer, but has a damn hard time offering anything.  It is the city in which I was once beaten, mugged, and robbed of all my possessions on my persons.  The city that almost robbed my sanity and ripped apart my life.  The city in which I purchased a home in the shittitest part of the shittiest area for hundreds of miles (West Central, not Hillyard, for the locals)….and absolutely loved it.  We had a hotel room at the beautiful Red Lion Hotel that sat right next to our once beloved Riverfront Park.  It was a place I had run, walked, and stumbled by several times in the three years prior to my time in isolation in South Korea, and never thought I would stay in.  And did this place have a view!  From the 10th floor you could spot such beautiful landmarks as the clock tower, the Parkade Garage, the Spokane Arena, the other Red Lion hotel across the street, and as many beautiful old bridges as your sight would allow you to view.  But more importantly, I got a great view of the Value Village in which 85% of my clothes are from, and a distant view of my old neighborhood where I once sat on my porch listening to a neighbor couple argue and bicker until the legendary phrase “get in this house before you have my fucking fist for dinner” was uttered.  Of course my lovely little neighbor hood of poverty and history has now official entered a gentrification period that began even before I left (Fuckin Kendall Yards, ammiright, locals?).  Sad, but expansive I guess.  At least I will always have my memories of making friends with local homeless and vagabonds by throwing large bags of PBR cans in the alleyway for them to cash in for a night’s worth of Black Velvet.  God dammit Spokane, I hate the way I love you.

Spain10Then we slept off the train ride to the best of our abilities.  My experience in travel is immense to say the least, so I felt alright.  But, short spurts of sleep on mobile machines is a new concept to most of my family, therefore some headaches were involved.  But, it all ended up turning in to a following day of brunch at our beloved Satellite Diner (Frank’s is way better, locals will understand), a trip to the Northtown Mall to replace a booster seat that Amtrak left (Still ain’t even mad at them, it was 15 bucks well lost), dinner at the Olive Garden across the street, and a quick drink and couple of cigarettes with my dear friend Nick who is thriving as a prior military, now civilian, young man in he medium city of Spokane (Locals:  His girlfriend works at Zola, so yeah, he’s a guy to know!).  It was great to see this little shit even if it was only for an hour.  Once my subordinate, now a dear friend.  We spent almost every moment awake together during my stint in Qatar which started almost 4 years ago.  And since then, I’ve watched this Jersey Shore praising, Lil Wayne aficionado, and somehow still a half-assed redneck (that’s Ohio kids for you) turn in to…. well, older.  That’s about it.  Older.  It was basically a very nice capper to a day spent in my old city reminiscing about times past.  Good or bad, Spokane has been a city that has been in my heart for the last 15 years or so, and I will always adore it in all of his glory and tyranny.  There is probably some sort of metaphorical verbiage I could throw in about how returning to the land of which I came is significant to my departure out of the country with my beloved family, but the Bacardi Rum and the sound of the theme music from Bambi on the DVD menu amidst a living room filled with said family passed out already at 6:30 p.m. local time due to jet lag has me at ill ease and such subliminal comfort that I am unable to think of anything right now.  You tell me?

Spain8It was a very early morning for the old Trembath family as we left the Red Lion for Spokane International Airport (they fly to Canada, so, “international” is the “correct” term).  0345 wake up!  In the van by 0430.  Needless to say, I had some pissed off kids.  But, like the troopers they are, they pushed through the early wake up, helped get our luggage checked in (14 big ass bags!!!), made it through their first check in through security, and boarded their first plane ride with (mostly) ease as we flew off to the only city in the state of Minnesota of note, Minneapolis (Sorry St. Paul, just because you share an airport title with them doesn’t make you worth a damn).  I guess it is only fair to not that my oldest daughter has actually taken a round trip from Rapid City, South Dakota to Portland Oregon, a trip from Portland, Oregon to Reno, Nevada, and a trip from San Jose back to Portland, Oregon before, but she doesn’t remember it at all as she was between the ages of 3 months and 1 year old.  Not that you probably care.  No matter, 2 hours and 15 minutes later we arrived in Minneapolis with great success.  Some of them slept, some of them didn’t.  We ate some DQ, charged our iPhones, and were then on our way destined for Norfolk, Virginia.  Another 2 hours and 15 minutes later, we landed in Norfolk for our final destination of the day.  Stopping in Virginia is notable for one simple reason alone: my lovely wife Melissa has never been anywhere near the east coast.  True story:  When I met my sweet wife just days before the towers fell in the late summer of 2001, she had never been out of the Northwest (save for the northern tip of California where the Redwoods grow and Boise Idaho, but who gives a shit about Boise ammiright?).  Obviously since then, I have gotten her around.  We’ve lived in Texas, the midwest, and have traveled to such fabulous places as Denver, New Orleans, Biloxi, St. Louis, and Bellevue, Illinois.  But, this was literally the first time she had made it to the east coast of the United States (and if you couldn’t gather thus far, this will be her first trip overseas).  Therefore, it was pretty special.

Sadly though, as most travelers now, there is a vast difference in “being somewhere” and “experiencing somewhere”.  Most of us who move around for a living know about the “Airport Cities”.  I am obviously referring to the areas that revolve around certain dimensions of a major city’s airport.  Areas filled with hotels, chain restaurants, more than likely a Walmart or two.  Places that provide employment to locals, and a safe haven for those of us on the go who don’t have the time to experience anything culturally related to the area in which you are simply a visitor, which is even further below tourist.  For example:  In 2007 I made my second trip to Atlanta as a layover for a week of training in Panama City, Florida.  While I was able to once again thoroughly enjoy a wonderful night in my second favorite city, I was actually staying at a Sheraton in College Park, Georgia.  And for those of you who were old enough to remember 2007 (or young enough, I should say, you old geezers), College Park was sort of stale in the world of mainstream hip hop music with the likes of the Ying Yang Twins and other such foul mouthed and hilarious rappers supplying the plethora of hits during that time.  But, needless to say, the hip hop persona that the mainstream television and music scene would lead to you believe was dangerous and at times life threatening, didn’t quite equate the hotel I was staying at across from the TGI Fridays and Walgreens.  So there you have it.  But nonetheless, we found ourselves in a very nice Holiday Inn Express, had some dinner at a Hooter’s, bought some cheap beer from a Walmart, and Melissa got to stay overnight on the east coast.  That’s the glory of travel:  You can take it as you will, for experience is best seen through the mind’s eye.

Spain6And a small series of events from that point forward has brought us to right now.  We are here in Spain.  We are far from settled.  But, in the coming weeks, we will be as foot loose and fancy free from limitations as the rest of the residents here.  Have no doubt: we are an American military family.  We are the embodiment of Americans in Europe.  We have chosen to reside on the confines of a Spanish base that has been kind enough to let us Americanize the shit out of it.  There is very little European about the housing.  The local establishments on the base are the same as any other base in the U.S.  But as I sit and watch the palm trees blow in the warm wind, and hear the water from the bay crash on to land, I know that adventure is in our foresight, and I am so excited about what the future holds.  But alas, we find the Trembath family in a sort of stagnant mode, just waiting to pounce at the first opportunity of whimsical adventure.  But not yet.  This is why I have adverted a few details of our travels for a second chapter, as I have plenty of time before we are even able bodied enough to do anything of any real note.  But, rest assured dear reader(s), there will be adventures.  And even sooner, I will tell you the bizarre and (hopefully) intriguing story of us actually getting in to this beautiful country, and the hilarious adjustments of moving to a strange new place.

Until then folks, take care of yourselves and take care of each other.

Buenos Tardes!

Recollections and Repressions Part II [Travelogue]

travelSo, I have done it once again folks.  I left my family to their own accord as I venture across any given sea across the globe to do what I have always deemed as what I “have to do”.  This is my job I would say.  This is what I do.  And while I know this is true, it really doesn’t make it any easier.  I had such an amazing time coming back to reconnect with my wife and children that I simply did not want it to end.  Even though I know that I will be back in two months, and then three months after that the separation will be a thing of the past.  But, it still doesn’t make it any easier.

I’m writing from the actually pretty damn comfortable aisle seat on hour 4 of a 9 1/2 hour flight to Yokota, Japan.  Life of Pi has just finished up on the small screens, and I still can’t figure out what was so damn fascinating about that movie (so…the tiger just, left?).  Duke Ellington is doobie doing in my ear through a tired iPhone and my chest is still swelling with the bitter taste of sadness.  I am desperately not looking forward to returning to the calm.  Although it may seem like a bit of a silly predicament, but it is a real one in my eyes:  I don’t want to go back to the Songtan lifestyle.  While I like and respect some of my favorite older gentlemen who have made a life in the area, I just couldn’t do it.  As much as I enjoy soju and consistent bouts of alcoholism, I don’t want to go back.  I want my family back.  Yet, I don’t want them in Korea.  It’s just not the place, in my opinion.

View from the Space Needle

View from the Space Needle

On happy notes, like I previously said, I had a blast getting to reconnect with my family after 7 months of isolation.  There are just certain ways you look at each other in real life, that you simply can not see digitally via Skype and what not.  The touch, the feel, the love.  It was all wonderful.  I last left you fine readers on the floor of a Comfort Inn in the SeaTac region.  Needless to say, I didn’t get a flight, and I spent another two glorious days with the ability to rest between the arms of my beautiful wife at night, take my daughter to the bus stop like a decent parent, sit in the waiting room of my daughter’s dance studio like a good daddy, all of these things before Melissa and I were forced to rise at 0130 to make the drive up to Seattle to try and get on another flight.  So many parts of me were begging to not get a spot.  I didn’t want to go.  I still don’t want to go, as I have probably made abundantly clear.  While I have enjoyed Korea to some extents, I just don’t know how I am going to feel after I got a taste of what I was missing.  And brothers and sisters, it tasted damn good.

Even the hometown that I tend to truly loathe was beaming with delightfulness as a ran around Lake Sacajawea with sweat on my brow, or simple soaked in the midnight air with my darling wife and/or sadistically drunk father in law.  It was all fine and great.  Portland proved amazing, once again, and I finally got the family up to the top of the Space Needle, which turned out to be almost exactly as unimpressive as I figure it would be, and cost three times as much as it was even close to being worth, but we did it!  Yes, it was just shy of two weeks, and every day was greater than the next.  This was without a doubt of the best, and ironically saddest, homecomings I have ever had.  It was all hearts and flowers because I waited so long to see the ones I hold dearest to me, but saddened because a homecoming usually meant that I am going to stick around for a while afterwards.  But, alas, here I am on this stupid fucking plane, 4 1/2 hours into the flight, and feeling enraged that this is the third flight I have taken in 7 months, and the new Ice Age movie is STILL FUCKING PLAYING!


(Another) View from the Space Needle

I have done the bouts of separation several times before, as many of you already know.  Three deployments to the middle east, two months in the deep south, and countless jaunts across the U.S.  I am always leaving and abandoning my family.  It’s just part of what I do.  In fact, just when I think that I am home for good, something comes up.  Like a year long trip to Korea for instance.  That one sure came out left field.  But, as I tell myself when I am feeling positive, we are over half way through, and we still have a little mini vacation in between that amount of time where Melissa will come and see the lonely ventures I partake in in the land of the morning calm, and I will accompany her back to the states to prepare for our family’s journey to Spain.

Spain!  Spain, Spain, Spain!  It has been the magic word over the last year.  It could mean anything at this point.  We don’t talk about a heaven much in our family, but we certainly talk about a Spain!  It would be an understatement to say that we are all a bit excited.  In fact, the knowledge that I will be headed to Spain after this tour has probably stunted any sort of yearning to explore the “vast” land that is South Korea.  I am so desperate for this time to be over that I seem to refuse to stop and actually enjoy it.  And I honestly have no plans to.  I’ve built my own experiences in this land, and while they may not fit the mold of every tourist or stranger in a strange land, it is what I have accepted as fate, and that it shall be.  Of course, I may still try and get out and about, but I am pretty much in go mode for the European lands.  My beautiful wife wants to vacation in this Paris place with the breads and such, and I will be damned if she doesn’t get what she wants.  Soon we will be spending days off on the beach, lounging away the hours our children are in school, simply relaxing as they frantically build sand castles under the dawning sun. Yes, it seems utterly impossible for Spain not to be absolutely perfect.  And who knows, maybe it’s not.  But, right now it is as beautiful as it gets.  My wife is living in a small bedroom in her parents house with five kids running around.  I am living desolate in a dorm room that simply reeks of loneliness.  She lives at the gym, I live at the bar.  We are both leaning things about ourselves in separate worlds that we probably didn’t actually realize we were looking to find out.  But, we are ready now.  We are ready to get this god damned show on the road, get across that ocean, and begin our lives in constant translation into Espana.

Subaru along Highway 30, Oregon Coast

My pretty little Subaru along Highway 30, Oregon Coast

So while this may not be your conventional travelogue where series of events actually make sense, this is all I have for you (if looking for more experiences and rather somewhere closer to your location – you can find places and learn more here).  Korea was basically a bust.  Unless you have dug the stories I have already told then, I guess it is okay.  I can dig up some more interesting fun facts for future’s sake, but don’t expect too much.  As I said, let’s get to Spain!  That is where I might give a shit enough to write something about the things I see.  Until then, I will try and please you all the best I can.  But, I won’t guaranteed a god damned thing.  Enjoy!

Recollections and Repressions Part I [Travelogue]

02I am writing from a hotel room beside the SeaTac airport just a day prior to what should be an advantageous day sight-seeing a city I rarely visit, and know almost nothing about.  The city of Seattle.  This is just another stop I will be making on my short tour through my homeland known as the Great Northwest.  My time has been spent very well during my first mid tour, and I have been having some of the best times of my life.  I’m frankly not looking forward to returning to the land of the morning calm.  In fact, I sincerely believe that had Korea not been formed a couple of thousand years before earlier, this is the land that could have stolen such a nickname.


My time in Korea has not been a total wash.  Although I have failed to document each event specifically, I have definitely tried to make the best of my time abroad.  I have toured a few temples, walked through the streets of Seoul during the daylight hours and witnessed ceremonial dancing and ate some fine traditional Korean food (well, “fine” might be a bit much, the food hasn’t really impressed me at all).  I’ve also spend a rowdy night in Seoul catching up with an old friend, destroying my liver and soul just a bit more with each bottle of Hite or shot of Soju I consume.  I even hiked three miles in a pair of worn out Chuck Taylors just to see a few monuments (this being unplanned and painful, but ultimately pretty okay).  And I have also continued to enjoy my time in the quaint and majestically sinful area previously mentioned as Songtan.  But, still, I am not looking forward to heading back.


01It’s not that opportunities in Korea are lacking, because there are definitely chances to explore and see some cool old shit and what not.  But, my heart is just not in it.  Without wanting to be too entirely insulting to an entire nation that has such a varied history, I have decided on a simple fact….. Korea is the Iowa of Asia.  I mean, Iowa might have something to offer as far as tourism and excitement but, c’mon?  Really?  When there are places like the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Japan, even Guam, right in your back door, Korea seems a bit bland.  I don’t mean this to be the opinion of everyone, just mine.  And I don’t want to sound ungrateful or even unimpressed.  I have actually rather enjoyed meeting new friends and such around the ole VFW and other areas around my local area.  It is a fun place, but I can honestly say that my experiences have run their course and I am absolutely ready to go.  Especially after just a week back here.  


05I arrived a week ago hopping off a twenty-nine dollar flight and 17 hours of travel.  And when I saw my wife’s face as I rode of the escalator after customs, I was ecstatic.  She was simply glowing and beautiful, just as I had remembered her (on Skype the day prior).  The adventures have been endless, and each deserving of documentation in their own right.  But, alas, the hour grows late, my family is fast asleep with dreams of world’s fair projects and aquatic life visuals for the following day dance in their pretty heads.  A cold Landshark brew cools my toes and I am forced to sit an awkward angle on the floor as my recent tattoo portrayal of the great and wise Gonzo mastermind Hunter S. Thompson can not handle too much pressure seeing as it is less than 36 hours imprinted on my skin.  Just another bout with intense eradicating scar I will leave my homeland with as I eventually venture back to the drunken calm that is Songtan.  Seriously, I don’t want to go back.  I do want to go to Spain, but that is another venture in its own right.


In the short 8 days I have been back, I have done almost too much to truly account for.  And at some points I haven’t done a god damned thing.  I paid a visit to my beautiful Grandmother who is about to have her bladder surgically extracted.  I spent one more night on the couch in the basement of my dear friend Tyler Averett’s parents after a wildly and raunchy spoken night with “the Gentlemen”, just as I had done several times over the last twelve years.  This venture included about an hour and a half of Def Comedy Jam style rants and quips that I dare not describe in detail in fear of offending the two or three women who actually read this smut I put out (which is also a cop-out for saying, “I remember doing it, I just don’t remember what was said, but it had to be terrible”).  Sadly (or not?) these nights have officially come to an end.  Sir Averett has finally decided to move on with his life and is moving to Berkeley California, and is probably sleeping off minor jet lag down in the Golden State at this very moment.  But, dammit him, myself, and the delightfully refined Adam Mattson sure did it right.  I awoke dazed, confused, and severely constricted from sadness to notice three empty fifths of booze and I was out of cigarettes.  Sounds like a beautiful night to me.  


03Beyond that, my beautiful wife and I got a room at a flea bag motel on Portland Oregon’s east side, just a block away from the Doug Fir Lounge where we enjoyed turkey burgers, Raineer beer (well, I did, Melissa drank her Malibu Rum), and the musical stylings of one of the greatest bands to be performing today, the great Blitzen Trapper (Live Review pending).  This was a magical night as well.  Over the last few years I have grown accustomed to speaking with folks like BT at indie rock gigs, and the humanization has really sunk in.  But to Melissa, seeing the great Eric Earley (who this half-assed music blogger has reported as, “the son Bob Dylan wished he would have had”) was absolutely spell binding.  Even cute.  She is so enthralled by this man’s presence, it was like watching Jesus resurrect himself.  Or like the time I met Jared Mees in 2009 when I was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about meeting a musician I admired.  Not to say that I wasn’t at a loss for words when meeting Eric, but it wasn’t as dramatic, and I was blushing a whole lot less than Melissa was.  Yes, Blitzen Trapper is a very important band to us.  Their words have meant the world to the both of us for more reasons than I actually care to get in to.  Just understand that they are important to us now, and shall always be.


So, I was gleefully writing this silly diatribe of mine, in the dark and half drunk from WIld Turkey, a reunion with the greatest thing to come out of Korea known as Soju, and the fore mentioned Landshark followed by a new one, when I glanced at the television to see the city I currently sit in being profiled on the Weather Channel series It Could Happen Tomorrow to not only be intrigued, but absolutely frightened.  According to this propaganda, the events of the Bay Area in 1989 would look like the Boston Marathon to Seattle’s 9/11 if the same entirely possible scenario occurred to the hypothetical “tomorrow”.  And seeing as though I am actually headed to tour around this city a bit, and actually head up that whole Space Needle thing that I have yet to do in my almost thirty years of existence and seemed like a fitting outro before I become European and celebrate a half of a decade abroad…..  I am a bit frightened.  It is probably the midnight hour and the booze that sparks paranoia, but dammit am I compelled to post this extremely rough drafted and poorly spell check travelogue up before I could possibly be thrown from the Space Needle tomorrow.


04On that note, I shall call this Part 1 for now.  Wish me luck.  And South Korea, if tomorrow is my punishment for not living your country to the fullest, well, that’s just mean.  Good night everyone and best of luck in all your tomorrows…..if you are so lucky.  Cheers!

Got To Have Seoul Part 1 [Travelogue]

seoul1So the time finally came!  I started a Travelogue section to this site because I figured I would have plenty of time to roam around here in the land of the morning calm, and I wanted to share the experience with you, the dear readers.  But there was one thing I forgot to factor in… gets unnecessarily cold here in Korea!  And this coming from a guy who spent 5 years on the prairie in the Midwest, so yes, I know cold.

The extreme cold, and  the typical excuse of “working too much” left me basically stagnant here at Osan, and to the night life of Songtan.  Which isn’t nearly as drastic as it sounds, as I have actually managed to have a few good moments even without getting too far away from the immediate area.  I joined a pool league, for one.  Which has found downing bottles of soju and pints of beer at an unflattering amount, and basically having a real good time with like-minded neanderthals who could care less about winning, and more about enjoying a Thursday night whilst letting off some steam.  Beyond the pool league, I have spent a great deal of time at the fore mentioned VFW listening to and swapping stories with some old guys who have been around the world and back, committing hilarious sins and manifestations of self-realization all the way.  We play cards, we laugh, we drink.  So, yeah, it’s not so bad.

tim burton1But dammit was I excited to get out and go!  And go I did.  I received the word the base was hosting a tour to The Seoul Museum of Arts and The Seoul National Museum.  Finally, I was headed to the big city.  To be in South Korea for almost four months and never stepping foot in the country’s largest city has been absolutely absurd.  So it was basically about damn time.  And to top it off, the featured exhibit at The Seoul Museum of Arts was on the acclaimed filmmaker and artist Tim Burton.  Now, I am not the biggest Tim Burton fan, I do enjoy much of his work, but I am a huge film buff so this felt pretty perfect.  And it certainly was intriguing to say the least.

The Seoul Museum of Arts is a building that seems to have been intentionally left at its original stature unlike the majority of the architecture in the city which seems to be as modern as humanly possible.  The extent in which the museum went to honor Tim Burton was extremely impressive.  From the exterior arrangements, to the interior world they created that looked like the Mad Hatter and Willy Wonka had a candy coated orgy with a few Oompa Loompas the night before, and destroyed, well, a museum.  The abundance of artifacts from Burton’s childhood, beginning years as an artist, and his film works was pretty impressive as well.  It was simply spellbinding to realize that Tim Burton has been a kooky and cerebral character almost from the day he was born.  The display mostly consisted of his art work, including several pieces of clay sculptures used in many of tim burton2his films.  But, there was Planet Hollywood like displays of some artifacts to include Michael Keaton’s rubber mask he wore in both of the Batman films Burton directed when he revitalized the imagine of the Dark Knight in the late 80’s.  The prized piece, in my opinion, where a set of 4 of the extremely creepy prop eye balls from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, designed by Trainwreck’d Society alumn, Stephen Chiodo.  Overall, a very impressive showing, and I left knowing far more about a man I didn’t even realize I wanted to know about.  Definitely worth the trip.

But, as amazing as the exhibit was, the group I was with was allotted far more time than I could personally spend wandering around.  I also have an undiagnosed nervous condition that springs up in crowds.  Especially when it felt as though half the population of Seoul was walking around me, and I was getting in the way of all of their photograph opportunities.  So I decided to take the last hour of our allotted time to simply stroll around a few of the blocks around the museum.  The buildings surrounding the museum where quite different from the old museum itself.  The skyscrapers in this section of town alone rivaled those of major U.S. cities like Chicago or NYC.  The sidewalks for filled with strolling daytrotters who managed to make me feel like a giant because their naturally small stature.  Coffee shops and small boutiques as well as liquor stores and 7 Elevens and even more liquor stores lined the streets.  Just as you would expect from any large city, I manage to walk mast at least two Starbucks, three 7 Elevens, and two Dunkin Donuts (for all of you east coast readers).  I was only out and about for an hour, but I truly believe that got a reasonably good feel for the city.  The “progress” of capitalism was evident all around me, especially when you remember that this ground was a war zone just sixty years ago, about a hundred miles north lies one of the most deserted and starved lands on the planet.  Here’s to hoping such quick success doesn’t leave the South Korean in over their heads and struggling again.

tim burton3We stopped for lunch in an area known as Itaewon, which is nothing more than Songtan on steroids with cleaner streets and bars you can’t smoke in.  I found a little dive bar called Dilinger’s for a pint of Cass and overpriced cheese sticks.  It almost scares me how much I am not concerned about how much a loner I tend to be.  I have n qualms with dining alone in a new city.  Less distractions.

I ate quickly so I could explore a bit before the next stop.  When I stepped out of the bar, I head loud music coming from an alley way and decided if I am going to wonder, I might as well see what was going on that required live music.  I approached a small square with a few tents and gaggle of Korean men standing around large pieces of carpet.  It turned out that the music was coming solely from a laptop hooked to giant speakers and the men were playing some kind of game involving four sticks, about eight inches long, that the threw onto the carpet.  What was the goal in this game?  Not a damn clue.  But dammit if they got extremely excited when they did something right, even though I had no idea what they had done.  One man seemed to have had a couple of bottles of Soju for breakfast, but man was he having fun dancing with his self to the beat of the Korean pop music echoing in the background.  Certainly looked like fun, but I had double back to get to the bus.  But not before I decided to spend the last of my won on some Korean Barbie dolls.  You know, typical dad shit.  I also noticed an English book store cleverly titled What The Book?  It was a massive second story store with thousands upon thousands of paperbacks lining the walls.  I seriously could have spent days rummaging, but alas my bus was waiting.

national museum2The pure mass of the Seoul National Museum is almost indescribable.  The girth and excessive spanning of land in which this giant temple of even older temples is something that a photograph simple can not portray properly.  And one step inside and the utterly impressive decorative sites within the building is magnificent as well.  This is a 3 story building, with each story containing as much art, sculptures, and artifacts as an average sized full museum in itself.  In fact, the magnitude of the building led me to realize that there was no way I was going to be able to check out the entire place, I decided to limit myself to the Buddhist Art section (very interesting, and extremely old pieces of work) and to a stroll around the building which had an impressive man-made lake, a beautiful scenery, and a collection of ancient temples lining a long court yard.  Wandering the exterior of the museum ate up the majority my allotted time.  I did manage to share a cigarette with some of the local employees who surprisingly enough manage to get some English out pretty well, embarrassing me for my lack of any Korean.  They were fun and cheerful, and made me feel amazingly old by their energy.  But, they were a fine batch of young kids, and probably the highlight of the trip.

national museum1Overall, the trip was a great success, and I feel as though I finally took the plunge and got out.  More adventures are to come, especially considering the fact that the weather is already so much better.  Spring is upon us, and the adventures can only become greater.  Melissa will be joining me here soon, for a fun filled week of adventure as husband and wife.  I am very excited to introduce my wife to the zany characters of Songtan, experience the night life of this estranged place, and to take her places she may have never thought she would go.  I’m just learning the ropes before her arrival.  Studying, essentially.  That is when the real adventure will begin.

Be the time this episode of the Travelogue series is live, I have already made a return to Seoul, stay tuned for that story in the coming weeks.  For more photos of this trip, be sure to visit the Trainwreck’d Society Facebook Page.

A Fond Farewell To A Friend [Travelogue]

018The last decade of my life has involved one grave act….the act of leaving.  I have ventured off myself several times.  And this is indeed a harsh act in itself.  I’ve left my family for months at a time, and in this case, an entire year.  It sucks.  It sucks a whole damn lot.  But, another side of it is leaving and losing some of the friends I have made in my tenor.  I’ve met some fine folks since enlisting, some of which we have shared some great times together, and who of which I have not seen in many years passing.  People move on to bigger and better things, for the most part.  Sometimes we run into one another again, sometimes we don’t.  Case in point – my dear friend Whitey.
As I mentioned previously, an old friend from my days in South Dakota has been here in Songtan, and has been my guide over the last two months.  But alas, the guide must go, and I have been forced to go on my own.  Yes, Whitey’s time has come, and he has made his way back to the states.  But, not before we had a really fun weekend.  The story of the end was a great one.  And I can not think of any better way to kick off the story without stating the major highlight…..
I ate dog.
Yep, I hate Gaegogi.  A well known Korean dish that is indeed, dog meat.  Here is where I should probably pretend to feel bad for all of you fine people who value the lives of your “babies” or “my kids” by name of which you oh so affectionately name your pet dogs.  But my only apologies will lie in the fact that I do not care if I hurt your precious little feelings.  So with that disclaimer in mind, let’s continue on…
dog, the other red meat.

dog, the other red meat.

A new friend of mine around here affectionately named Volvo Tony, a foreigner to Korea who has worked in the local Volvo car dealership for many years, invited myself, Whitey, and many other friends and acquaintances to enjoy a fun filled meal of Gaegogi and more Soju than one should really be able to ingest, yet somehow we all managed to make it work.  While the experience of eating Gaegogi was quite pleasurable, I need to be honest here – I really wasn’t too impressed.  The nearest resemblence to another type of meat would have to be roast beef, but with much more fat (which led us to believe that we were eating a very lazy dog) which made it more similar to the Moroccan Tajine (camel) I ate in Doha back in 2010.  The texture of the actual meat was quite nice when it was not entirely glazed with fat and topped with a bit of sea salt and mixed into a strange seasoning and sauce combination, I really don’t know what it was made of.  But, alas, I still think I prefer cow.  Not for moral reasons, as I actually would find it entirely unmoral to NOT partake in a dinner of Gaegogi if so offered.  To respect one’s culture is far more important than hurting your feelings.
020And the night moved on.  The soju flowed like wine through the streets of Songtan as we laughed, burped up dog meat, bar hopped, and genuinely had a great time in my dear friend’s final hours before he left this place he had become even more than accustomed to.  He had grown to love it here.  It was truly a sad time for all of us, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell on this night.  This night was all about going out with a bang.  And a bang we did.  We roamed around all of Whitey’s places, as well as some anew.  It was a good time shared by all to say the least.  And a time in which I do not rightfully or clearly remember the end of precisely.  But, alas the following day was interesting in itself.  But, that my dear friends is another story in itself.
(to be continued)

Taming of the Scrooge (Christmas in Korea) [Travelogue]

017drink up with me now,

forget all about,

the pressure of days,

do what I say,

and I’ll make you okay.

The celebration of the zombie Jesus for me was a mild one to say the least.  While eventful, it was unabashedly frivolous and coated with loneliness.  That’s not to say that it was all bad.  It certainly was eventful in some manners.  I awoke Christmas Eve around 1 in the afternoon after coming home from work around 7 a.m.  My head spun from tiredness and the three glasses of Riesling I had for breakfast.  But, overall I felt pretty energetic and ready to proceed with the day’s events.  The day’s events I had thought were going to happen actually turned out to be false.  I had thought that my beloved VFW was having a dinner during the day.  A dinner I was sure I would be late for, and be of no use to the volunteers involved.  As fate would have it, I was a day off.  Therefore, I would actually be in all accordance with lending my own hand to the celebration of the birth of a Christ I could never believe in.  But more of that to come.

With everything disarranged and disjointed, Christmas Eve almost became a pretty average night.  I played a few solo rounds of pool at the VFW.  And I was on a roll!  I felt as though I might be ready to actively compete in the upcoming pool and dart leagues coming our way soon.  I guess we will see what comes of the months to come.  But eventually my old pal Whitey finally showed up and we rejoiced in a couple of bottles of soju and storytelling before we headed out of the good old V and headed to a Christmas Eve party that Whitey ensure would be a pure a utter delight.  And I have to say, he was absolutely right.  If I can’t be with my beautiful family on such a ridiculous gathering, I am happy that I got to spend it with some very fun and adjective unknown worthy folks.


Whitey had always been rambling on about a bar that he tended to pass through for one final night cap before he headed to his apartment simply called, Song’s.  But, I had yet to stop by these place, and frankly I am mad at this man for not having me there sooner.  For I ended up spending my Christmas Eve night in a weird oblivion caught somewhere between confusion and utter bliss.  I met a very small family that owned Song’s Bar, and an unpronounceable titled restaurant next door.  We met in a small room in the back of the both, and we laughed, drank, and ate merrily.  Whitey had been a bit too late in having us come around, so the main meal was done and complete, but we still manage to eat like white trash kings.  Mr. Song, and Mama Song (the grandmother) manage to roll out fresh sizzling dishes of some very weird bar oriented foods.  There was a combination of ground hamburger and hotdogs on a hot skillet, mixed with some incredible spices that make American bar good sound even twice as terrible as it really is.  Following that we were served a great helping of what would basically be 016considered “doctored up Ramen noodles”.  It was indeed the same noodles made famous by college students and hobos living in studio apartments in San Francisco and Fresno, but it had a delightful kick to it that can not be truly explained in writing.  I know that so many Americans feel as though they know how to doctor up Ramen to make it amazing, but none of you can do it like this.  This is a true spectacle of Korea.  They can take nothing, and make it not just something, but something beautiful.  And, of  course, there was kimchi.  And dammit to 015I love kimchi.  But, after a few bottles of soju, it was time to say goodnight, and we parted ways.  I headed back to my dorm room with my bootleg copy of the adaptation of one of my favorite books, all the way to film, On The Road, and a bottle of soju stuffed in my back pocket.  Whitey headed to his own dream land, and the words were spoken.

Before even heading to sleep, I learned that my internet connection had completely ate shit.  And as you all might guess, I was immediately sent into a state of panic.  I awoke with the same disastrous notifications, but knew there was nothing I could do about it at that time.  I knew I had to get down to the VFW to try to lend a hand.  I ended up being able to speak with my family whilst stealing Wi-Fi from a nearby community center, and surprisingly enough the old heads down at the VFW actually have wireless internet!  I honestly was not expecting that!  And the dinner went really well.  Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are the only days of the year that the VFW becomes a non smoking area.  That alone shows how serious they are about their holiday dinners.  There were children running around, conversations all about, beer glasses clinking and clanking, and a spread of all of your tradition holiday grub.  A couple of turkeys, a half a dozen hams, and all of the fixings, shoveled of paper plates, spilling in and out of mouths on to graying beards in some cases.  Yes, it was a pretty traditional American Christmas here in the land of the morning calm.  Of course, seeing all the young children and happy families sort of made me, well, homesick to my god damn stomach.  I opted for a few bottles of coke and decided to head out early, as I had to work the next day, and I was really feeling like a total Scrooge.

spread at the VFW

spread at the VFW

But, overall it was not a bad time.  As I stated before, I am not really a holiday person.  And I especially loathe this time of year when I am away from my family.  But, I couldn’t let it get me entirely down.  I still managed to laugh a little bit, and share a good time with the people I dig the most around here.  Yet, I am very thankful it is all over.  It’s been a long december, a wise man once said.  But, he also said there’s reason to believe that this year will be better than the last.  And I certainly believe it shall.  But, until then, onward with the Korean express.  Until next time……..

Exci(Settle)ment in Songtan [Travelogue]

011With a month into my stay here in South Korea, I dare say most of the time has been wasted.  But, “wasted” might be a harsh term.  Although I have yet to travel too far out into the vast lands and many spectacles available in this country, I have indeed settled in quite nice here in the first month.  I’ve gotten to know the Americanized strip along Songtan, but like many people around here, I have chosen my watering holes and pretty much limit myself to certain particular places.  But unlike many of the foreigners around here, no places I frequent are not blaring out the latest Lil Wayne dance craze to entice passer buyers or filled with scantily clad Juicys wanting you to spend 20,000 won (18 dollars give or take) on a drink just for you to talk to them.  No, as I have stated before – The VFW, The Dawg Pound (the CE oriented joint), and for a wild card, a place called The Free Zone (which is finely bartended by the same gentleman who you can find at the VFW).  My wonderings around the city and base have eased up a bit because, well……it is freaking cold!

A couple of days ago, that devilish white powder began falling from the sky and a ridiculously rampant page.  I had arrived home at 7 a.m. from work, settled into my bed with a Netflix documentary on the drummer of Hole and nice glass of gin and orange juice, only to wake up several hours later to see the entire place blanketed in the filthy white mongrel sperm known as snow.  Now, I don’t particularly “hate” snow, I simply wish it only existed in regions of the world I will never live in, or even have to pass through in.  Whilst spending much of my time in the Northwest, I learned to endure the rain.  In fact, I manage to love and appreciate it.  I would still take a weekend in Manzanita on the Oregon Coast in February, over a week in the Jersey Shore or Miami Beach, places I can only imagine reek of fake bronzer, rotten silicone, and regret.  No, I like the dreariness.  It’s real to me.  But, this snow stuff is for the birds.  I spent 5 years in the desolate midwest, and 3 years in Eastern Washington (which everyone forgets is just a damn gaggle of prairie lands for the most part)….I want it gone!  Although I am definitely more fortunate now that I throw away all my blue collar shirts and am now a hack who sits in front of a computer watching YouTube videos of cats and answering phone calls from people I don’t care to talk to.  Unlike my first 8 years where I can clearly wishing death upon myself if it meant putting an end to the ridiculous frost bite my face was feeling at the time.  That sort of cold that does absolutely nothing but piss you off.



But, alas, I can manage.  It’s a cold walk in the mornings going either to or from work, depending on the schedule, but I have managed to make it work.  And I still have managed to make it down to The Dawg Pound and VFW (it was my one day off!  I’m going somewhere) to have a few OB Drafts or a couple of Korean Sunrises and to visit my girl Rosie.  Rosie being the sweetest pit bull you can ever know.  The bartender and owner of The Dawg Pound, an American named Max, began brining this precious little girl, who fits easily on a bar stool, around and we have started to bond.  And by bond I mean I always try to bring a pocket full of this disgusting to humans, but lovely for dogs, Korean beef(?) jerky (insert cannibalism joke here) and we are the best of friends for a few minutes.  These are the things I do to pass the time.  I feed dogs to dogs.  Whatever.

Although I do try to partake in as much activity as I can, I would be lying if I didn’t say I spent most of my time sitting in my room watching obscure documentaries about things that probably a dozen people in the world care about, watching my reoccurring TV shows (Can you believe the end of SOA?), and, most importantly, talking to my wife and kids via Skype.  The moments I get to see them are the best times here.  And since I work such an odd schedule, sometimes I get to talk for a very very long time.  Today was actually only the second time since I have been here that I have not gotten to see at least my wife’s beautiful face via Skype.  And let me tell you this….it sucks!  I can hardly wonder how it was so many years ago when I was lucky to get a phone call a day, and a few pictures every other week or so.  Such primitivism!!!  Alas, I am thankful for the communication I do have, and at times it really does feel like I am sitting back in that living room in Spokane that I love so much, with the people I love so much.  Almost, but not quite.

Whitey and I enjoying a freaked black and mild at the VFW.

Whitey and I enjoying a freaked black and mild at the VFW.

Beyond this, there is very little to report.  My dear friend around here, Whitey is soon be out of here at the end of December, and unlike I would be, he is seriously depressed about it.  He would love nothing more than to stay in this land for the rest of his life, and I will not be surprised to hear that he will be a permanent resident in the coming years.  So, I have been roaming from the V to Dawg Pound with this guy for the last month, and will continue to do so until he leaves.  But, when he leaves, he has left a trail of fine friends who have graciously taken me under their wing.  I’ve even subbed in for a couple of games of pool during the league (which is crazy intense and popular around here!) and sort of got the itch to join a league after a spot was offered to me (even though my official winning percentage is 0%), and I might just do it (stay tuned!).  I’m starting to become a bit more comfortable with my new job, and feel as though I could handle working there for another 11 months, and truly enjoy all the people I work alongside.  I feel as though I am going to make it, folks.  In the near future, when it’s not so damn cold, I will definitely be making some trips to Seoul, The DMZ, several museums, possibly Guam (when Melissa flies in), heading back to Longview, Washington (possibly for my 10 year High School reunion, ugh), and wherever I may find myself throughout 2013.  Basically I promise that the Travelogue sections of Trainwreck’d Society are definitely going to become more interesting.  Well, I can hope anyway.  I guess we will have to wait and see.  Until then…..

Anyoung he Kay Ship She Yo!

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


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),