Tuna Tar-Tart

I suck at everything. Probably more than you do. I enjoy experimenting with cheese and playing with glue sticks. You might know me from that other joint, LiveJournal.

Oct 022019
 

If you’ve read this far into my DMZ recap, thank you, and also: congratulations, because you made it to the last one! The Joint Security Area was hands down the most exciting, exhilarating part of the entire tour. After leaving the Dora Observatory, we drove to a military checkpoint where we went through one last passport check by our new guide, a US soldier named “Gould” who I liked immediately because he had a wonderfully biting Bradley Walden-meets-Chris-Pratt personality that really helped to take off some of the edge. I was so anxious and nervous on the bus ride to the JSA that my ears were ringing and my face felt all flushed. I was fairly certain we were going to be safe….but, you just never know.

We had to wait for the “all clear” to take photos, at which point we were encouraged to snap away from the bus windows. Obviously not the greatest quality but hello, when will I ever be in this situation again? I have a ton of blurry pictures on my camera roll from this day and I will not delete them!

On our way to Panmunjom, we passed by the Unification Village, which is located inside the DMZ and only several hundred people live there. It’s under United Nations command so residents don’t have to pay South Korea taxes and are exempt from mandatory military service.

But they have a midnight curfew and are subject to military check-ins at their homes, so I’m not sure how great that trade off is, dot dot dot.

Gould told us that the reason the name tags of the US and ROK soldiers (KATUSAs) only include their surnames and no rank is to protect their identity in case DPRK soldiers look for them online and try to harass them on social media.

“I don’t care if they find me,” he said. “Bring it.”

INSTANT CRUSH.

On the bus, he also told us that the DMZ, since it’s largely uninhabited, has grown to be something of an accidental refuge for endangered species over the years. There are literally lions and tigers and bears that have migrated from Russia, just chillin’ up in the landmine-riddled demilitarized zone.

(Someone asked if the animals set off the landmines, which is the question Chooch and I both fearfully had on the tips of our tongues, but he assured us that the landmines are so old, he can’t imagine that any of the animals actually set them off. I guess there was a landmine clean-up project at some point, too. Ugh, it scares to me to think about things like that.)

We arrived at Camp Bonifas, the UN Command post at the JSA, received a security briefing and watched a short informational video in an auditorium, where I cried. Camp Bonifas was once known as Camp Kitty Hawk, but the name was changed in the 80s to honor one of the two victims of the Korean Axe Murder Incident of 1976, CPT Arthur Bonifas. The US soldiers were partaking in tree-cutting duties, when they were ambushed by North Korean soldiers who murdered them with their own axes.

This is a really interesting article about the incident, which I don’t remember ever learning about in school.

Afterward, our group and two other groups combined and split up onto two new coaches. I was happy when Officer Gould chose our bus! We made a short drive deeper into the military area (I don’t know much army terminology!) until we reached the JSA, where we watched the South Korean soldiers do their thing before going outside to take their posts.

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Before the soldiers went off to man their posts.

A post shared by Erin (@ohhonestlyconcerts) on

Once we walked through the doors, we were facing the iconic baby blue conference buildings which run right across the border, so meetings can take place between diplomats from each side on neutral ground, so to speak.

We were instructed to not make any contact with or gestures toward any North Korean soldier if we saw one, and were warned that they would be watching from the building back there.

It was chilling (even in the 100 degree heat) and wildly exciting to stand before these buildings that I’ve seen numerous times on the news (and Conan, lol).

Our fearless guide, Gould! He’s been stationed in South Korea for the past year and told us that he absolutely loves it, has had amazing times in Seoul, and said that the South Korean soldiers he’s worked with have been awesome and extremely funny, but I thought it was weird that he didn’t also mention how attractive they, but OK Gould. We all know.

Everyone was quiet. All you could hear was whispering among families and the shutter-clicks of cameras. I mean, that was North Korea right on the other side. I didn’t see any of their soldiers, but shit—anything could have happened!

I told Chooch he should write an essay about this for school and he was like, “Yeah ok but no.”

Honestly, I was impressed with how interested he actually seemed — it was a long day in the sweltering heat, but he handled it like an adult and didn’t bitch about being bored not even once. I was happy to be able to provide this educational experience for him but also extremely sad that this place even existed.

Gould took us inside one of the conference buildings and one of the Korean kids in our group asked when we got to cross over to the other side, and Gould was like, “THANKS FOR RUINING MY MOMENT” lol.

But yeah, the moment we all were anxiously anticipating – stepping over to the other side of that conference table where we would officially be standing in North Korea. Since there’s a current travel ban to North Korea, this is the closest us Americans can get at this time to saying that we crossed the border. I recently watched a video about an American girl who wanted to be the youngest person in the world to have traveled to every country in the world, and she had to take a JSA tour in order to cross off North Korea.

Here we are, fake-smiling and hissing for Henry to hurry up and take the damn picture.

The door behind us leads out to the other side. Officer Gould said anyone who chooses to exit through that door is 100% on their own and no longer under the protection of the US military.

I’m sure that door is locked (I hope?) but that’s still a really scary thought.

Officer Gould told us that he truthfully believes that the room we were standing in was going to become obsolete sooner rather than later and that people will be able to freely pass back and forth over the border. He explained that just from being there for the last year, right up against it, he has sensed a healthy level of optimism and communication between the two sides, and he fully believes that unification is going to become a reality.

Granted, the North started shooting off their missiles again right after this, so who knows! I want to have hope!

People from our tour – I loved them all so, so, so much even though I had next to no interaction with any of them. It was just good vibes all around, OK?!

This is the same bridge that South Korean President Moon and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un recently met for a peace talk:

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Chooch and Henry need to sit down for a nice peace talk too, really.

This little tree back there was planted by Moon Jae-In and Kim Jong Un in 2018.

From this article:

A mixture of soil from mountains in each country was used for the roots. Kim poured water from a South Korean river over it, while Moon poured water from the Taedong River in North Korea (which also gives its name to the country’s beer). Next to the tree, a stone plaque bears the phrase “Peace and Prosperity Are Planted.

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Image: Vietnam News

The Peace House, a neutral building where peace talks take place.

This is the spot where a South Korean officer was killed after a Soviet defector was chased down by the North Korean army into South Korean territory, inciting what became known as the 40 Minute Korean War.

On this somber note, the tour was wrapping up. Officer Gould took some time to answer questions for us and the guy with crutches asked if he was around when the North Korean soldier famously defected last year. Gould said that he was indeed stationed there at that time and even pointed out where it happened!

After this intimate Q&A session (this guy was such a great speaker and was so knowledgeable!), we got back on the bus and headed back to the parking lot outside of Camp Bonifas welcome center, where our original tour bus was waiting for us.

A closer view of the South Korean flag I mentioned in my last DMZ post.

We returned to the parking lot where our original bus was waiting, and Lee gave us time to use the restrooms, etc. Chooch and I sniffed around this beautiful peace bell for a bit and then freaked out when it began to ring, because we didn’t want to be accused of striking it, but then it turned out some decidedly non-hoodlum guy did it and we learned that there is a mallet there specifically so that anyone can ring the bell for, you know, peace. We were still too nervous to do it though!

And then we made the hour long trek back to Seoul. Lee advised us that because of the ongoing Japan-related protests, there might be traffic, but we managed to make it back by 6. I almost cried when we said goodbye to Lee and I blurted out that she was the best tour guide ever because I’m so weird when it comes to these fast-growing attachments that I get on strangers in travel settings.

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I’m not much of a history buff or a war aficionado, but this whole experience had made me want to learn about the Korean War. Especially because I have grown to love the South Korean culture and people so much, I just think that learning more about the history of the two countries is important, especially when the United States played such a huge role in it.

If you are ever in South Korea, I highly, 100%, would book again, recommend you to take a tour of not just the DMZ, but the Joint Security Area. Make sure that the tour you’re booking includes the JSA! Not every DMZ tour does and I hear that a lot of people make that mistake and wind up like Pee Wee anxiously awaiting to see the basement.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to come watch some war movies with me, hit me up.

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P.S. I either lost my fucking DMZ magnet or left it on the bus, so how will I ever prove that I visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone?!

Sep 302019
 

Today I was thinking about how I would like to decorate for Halloween at work, like the olden days, but I just don’t think I will have the time and that KILLS ME. I’ve only had the chance to do this 5x out of the 9 years I’ve been there, and I think my favorite was 2014: the year of the Funeral Parlor Desk. This one was fun because it enabled me to purchase items on eBay that some people might coin “morbid” or “gross” but for me, it was stuff that I wanted to have anyway, like vintage embalming fluid bottles, so it was a lucrative theme for me! Anyway, I’m sharing here the blog recap of the decoration process and the interactive portion of the desk too. It was fun but I remember being extremely frustrated when SOME PEOPLE wouldn’t play along. Like, you don’t want to win a prize? ARE YOU DUMB?!

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My theme this year is Funeral Parlor. I have several post-mortem photos that I keep on my desk year-round and I figured I would just build my Halloween theme around those this year. I’m still in the beginning stages, but so far, it’s really all up in Glenn’s face so that’s good!

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Candy urn. I burnt paper to make ashes and luckily I didn’t burn the house down since I was home alone while playing with fire. You should have seen the disapproving look Marcy was giving me!

It’s been surprisingly difficult to get co-workers to take some candy maggots out of the urn.

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Some light reading.

Today while Glenn was at lunch, I added some cobwebs to his desk too. “Wow. I was gone longer than I thought,” he dead-panned, and then I got all offended when he took it down.

“I had to! You taped it over my keyboard and mouse!” he said defensively. God, chill out, Glenn.

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Ugh, that paper in the background is  going to be the death of me. It’s just scrapbook paper but I’m three pieces short of covering the whole cubicle wall and I’ve already been to three Pat Catan’s (craft store) in search of more. It’s perfect though because it has a velvet-texture. That bottle is one of several empty embalming fluid bottles.

“Oh….you’re decorating again,” my boss said last Friday, after doing a double-take. I couldn’t tell if she was excited or scared, or a mixture of both.

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The next several stages are going to be really fun! I’m building up to the point where it will be interactive like the carnival desk of 2012. Glenn is just totally on the edge of his seat!

Today, I came up with an incredible idea that made me lose it at my desk. I confided in Mean Amber who said, “Wow. You’re a genius.”

“I know,” I said, but that came out all wrong.

What I meant to say was, “duh.”

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Things are heating up over at my desk/funeral parlor this week! (OK. Not really. I still have to lure people over by convincing them that I have Really Great Prizes under my desk.) The first week+ was more of just an exhibit of funeral shit. I was just getting my feet wet. My co-worker Colleen one day was like, “I mean, is this it?” and then apologized when my face fell and said, “No, it’s just that we all expect more!” And I understood. I gotcha.

So I came up with a way to make it interactive. Because who doesn’t like getting free shit? Even if it’s just dumb shit like candy and Glenn activity books. Basically, gross Glenn is robbing graves again and hiding severed fingers around the department. There are clues on the back of department-specific prayer cards (RIP Natalie’s Pizza Rolls that were stolen from the freezer) and anyone who finds a finger and returns it to Erin’s Funeral Parlor gets the aforementioned prizes! OMG!

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Printer 39 had to have major surgery yesterday. :( It was real touch-and-go but he’s back and only jammed for me once today….although, I think I only printed to it once.

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I know. It’s kind of dumb. But I just like making people happy!

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Glenn actually laughed real laughter when he read about his latest dastardly deeds, and he has been excitedly telling people, “You have to get a prayer card to get a clue! Did you read the newspaper article? IT TIES EVERYTHING TOGETHER!”

OK, he only actually told one person this. But still! He seemed excited!

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One of the prizes is The Great Glenn Activity Book. I was sitting here at work last Thursday when it hit me: GLENN COLORING BOOK. But then I was like, “No we need activities, too!” And then Mean Amber (new nickname in the works) said that a Where’s Glenn would make her really happy. ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE:

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“It’s nice to know that my favorite band is Village People,” Glenn mumbled last week when he found the extra crossword puzzle I accidentally left on the printer.

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The next phase was to bake funeral biscuits. Obviously here you will read between the lines and know that this means Henry baked the funeral biscuits. It was a Victorian tradition to give these gingersnap-esque cookies away at funerals. So basically what I’m saying here is that my Halloween theme is educational, OK?

They’re made with molasses and I’ve had to listen to Henry bitch for two days about how disgusting molasses is after he presumably chugged it straight from the bottle.

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(Yes, I used food coloring markers, thank you for your concern!)

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Some prizes!

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Henry and I watched reruns of Dexter while packaging the cookies last night. Each one is individually-wrapped in a paper pouch, sealed with wax and wrapped with a black ribbon. Funeral biscuits don’t just get plopped naked on a tray! Respect.

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My work-friends seemed pretty skeptical at first, but once they found out that Henry baked them, they were like, “Fine. We will eat one of your dumb cookies.” Everyone is still alive, you guys!

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Of course The Shiny One got a skull and then made me take a picture of her before she went around gloating to people. Sandy got a skull-less cookie and immediately blamed Henry.

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THAT WAX SEAL, THO.

Henry has been a pretty good sport about all of this. Even when we had to go out of our way on Sunday to get the dumb wax seal stamp. (My choices were a fleur de lis or wedding bells.) He’s been on the ball with the Great Glenn Activity Book one-man printing press.

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 “How much time did you spend on all of this?” Jeannie asked me in her typical “you need help” tone.

“I mean…let’s just say I haven’t been cleaning or washing the dishes lately,” I answered. I always joke that I have too much time on my hands, but the reality is that I don’t have enough. Not nearly! And I get so caught up in ridiculous ideas and projects that other things suffer.

“She hasn’t fed her kid in a week,” Glenn joked when someone was commenting on all of the details I’ve put in around my desk.

He’s not entirely wrong…

 

Sep 292019
 

Hola. We’re currently driving back to Pittsburgh after a weekend in Sandusky, OH and a pit stop in Cleveland to see our pall-io Jason.

We’re listening to Samantha Fox, not that it’s any of your business, BUT THAT IS WHAT IS HAPPENING.

I’m bored, so here are some visual aids from some quaint place in Sandusky where we got ice cream yesterday after I threw a fit and stormed out of Cedar Point (haha that’s not really how it happened but ok it’s how it happened).

We arrived behind a family of 4 or 5 who were really making the process of ordering ice cream into something way too complicated and they had all kinds of questions and requests and then Mommy (that’s what these grown-ass women called their mother when she rolled up) arrived and wanted a banana split but she hates pineapples so they had to make sure they told the SUPER PATIENT guy at the counter this but then they joked that they should order her something with pineapple and bitch I wish they would have because Mommy did not look like the type to spare the rod (Jillian Michaels says that in one of her workouts which I do often and I always say it out loud with her so it was only a matter of time before I found a way to slip this in a blog post).

Anyway, normally my patience would have been done near depleted by a family like this but I had a good feeling about this place from the moment I saw it while we were at red light and I already had one shit fit that day, actually two because I was a REAL SWEETHEART before we left the house too mmkay, so I felt like I needed to stay and wait my turn like a big girl.

Turns out, on this day the establishment was donating all of their proceeds to St Jude’s and was letting the patrons pay what they wanted! God only knows what Complicated Order family paid but Henry hooked the place up because he reasoned that we would have paid that much or more had we got ice cream at Cedar Point so why not do a good thing.

I had butter pecan flavorburst because back home, the vegan ice creamery that I love had butter pecan and I don’t normally get homesick but seeing their weekend menu definitely gave me a bit of FOMO!

It’s amazing how much better a decent ice cream cone & a change of scenery can make a bitch feel, ya know?

Bonus information:

Afterward, Henry went to check into our “hotel” but when I saw it, I was all N-O-P-E in the style of the Village People.

So he pulled into a parking lot, canceled that piece of shit murder shack, and booked a normal “brand name” hotel and I was happy until I saw this monstrosity on the desk in our room:

When I declared that I was going to the front desk to remedy this fuck up, Henry was like, “OK but please be nice to the girl at the front desk. She’s really nice, she has friends from Pittsburgh” and he had very nervous eyeballs in this moment but apparently he wasn’t concerned enough to put his pants back on and take care of this himself.

“Yeah her name’s Emily and she’s nice!” Chooch chimes in. He ended up coming with me I guess to supervise.

Made the coffee exchange without verbal violence but when I came back to the room, I yelled, “EMILY IS REAL CUNT!”

Henry looked SO SCARED for what was about to come next but then I said “j/k. She was nice. She liked my nail polish.” And I caught Chooch’s reflection in the mirror swiping sweat from his brow.

Then we ordered pizza from some place called Cameo and when it was delivered I discovered that Henry ordered half with MUSHROOMS INSTEAD OF OLIVES WHEN EVERY LAST MOTHERFUCKER KNOWS THAT I LIKE MY PIZZA BLACK WITH OLIVES. Henry and Chooch held their breath, but I grabbed a piece and mumbled, “You’re lucky that these aren’t those slimy canned ones.”

I was having a real…day. Emotions were running high, you guys. But we ate pizza and then went back to Cedar Point which was fine until it wasn’t and then it was cool again until it wasn’t but then the night ended on a good note. It was a real… ROLLERCOASTER OF A DAY, #DadJokeDab

Then I realized that the toothbrush in the travel bag was from our guest house in Seoul and I started crying because I wished I was back in Korea and not brushing my teeth in OHIOOOOOsobsnifflehic.

Sep 272019
 

If you ask Chooch what his favorite part of the day was, he will blurt out, “BIBIMBAP” with no haste. In fact, he said this was his favorite meal of the whole entire trip.

Before the bus even left Seoul, Lee walked down the aisle and inquired if anyone had any dietary restrictions. I thought for sure that Chooch and I would be Those Weird Americans but surprisingly there were others in our group who also were vegan/vegetarian!

Everyone was so stoked when Lee said we were on our way to lunch after leaving Imjingak – our brains were getting so much fact food that day but it was time for some real food too thanks. I was happy that we didn’t have to eat in one of the chains at Imjingak. Instead, we went to this small, tradition place in the country and it was legit. We even had to take our shoes off, which is how you know a Korean restaurant is going to be good.

(This actually might not have been proven so maybe don’t go updating any Wiki pages based on this.)

Lee had called ahead with our orders (bulgogi for everyone, bibimbap for us veg-heads) so all the tables were already set with our respective foods as soon as we arrived! THAT IS THE ULTIMATE SERVICE.

The Maybe-Italian family sat with us but we didn’t talk. Henry judged them by the amount of banchan (side dishes) they left untouched (almost all of it). Meanwhile, we were swatting each other with our chopsticks in the ultimate banchan war. (And by we I do mean Henry and me – Chooch still hasn’t acquired that taste for kimchi or really most other banchan either. MORE FOR ME.)

What a delicious lunch! Our bibimbap was so fresh, probably because all of the ingredients were grown right outside the restaurant it seemed. Chooch ate it without even chewing, it was so barbaric. And then he kept saying, “OH MY GOD” after every bite, while rolling his eyes back, and it was super uncomfortable to watch.

He still talks about this bibimbap like it’s the one that got away or something.

This is a tree outside of the restaurant. I think those are dates maybe?

THE POSSIBLY-ITALIANS and Chooch, looking at chickens outside of the restaurant.

On our way to Dora Observatory after lunch, we passed so many roadside Korean melon stands — these are the best melons! Henry buys them at the Asian markets here in Pittsburgh but I can only imagine how much more delicious they are in actual Korea, ugh.

We had to walk up this incredibly steep hill to get to the observatory. This one is better than the first one we went to because you can actually see North Korea from here.

That super-tall guy up and the lady behind him are the British people from our group, and the people on the left are the American Korean kids who I desperately wanted Chooch to talk to but he refused to pander to my dreams.

Here are some pictures I took from the top! It was extremely hot and hazy that day, but that’s North Korea.

Up until last April, you could apparently hear the sounds of Kpop That South Korea had blasting from loudspeakers into North Korea, which is wild. I heard that Bigbang’s BANG BANG BANG was one of the songs that they played!

Anyway, through the binoculars, we were able to see the propaganda village that North Korea refers to as the “Peace Village” but has long thought to be a facade controlled by the NK military.

In the throes of heat stroke, here.

From the observatory, we were also able to see the South Korean flagpole and North Korean flagpole which were erected in the 80s. SK put theirs up first and NK saw this an act of aggression, so they responded by erecting an even bigger flagpole, and it’s gone down in history as the Flagpole Wars. I mean, you kind of have to laugh at the strange ways these two countries have found to pester each other.

South Korea has even launched Choco Pie-filled balloons over the border.

Here are some pictures taken with the real camera and not my phone, wow halfway to profesh travel journalist here:

SK flag.

NK flag.

This is the South Korea side, but I really liked that cloud, so.

Chooch was at odds with some white broad who said something snarky about how all the binocular things were in use and when he turned around, she was apparently glaring at him even though he had JUST STARTED looking through the view finder like a second prior to this. Then he said he felt bad because he noticed she had a big hearing aid so he thought she was deaf or hearing impaired.

But then a few minutes later, he noticed that she was an entire group of people who had the thing on their ears and then realized it was some audio tour thing so he happily went back to hating her, guilt-free.

This auditorium was so beautiful!!

After our eyeballs got their fill of North Korean landscape, we went to another gift shop and I might have thrown a small fit here because I wanted to buy a bottle of North Korean wine and Henry was being a jerk about so then I was like THEN I DON’T WANT ANY ICE CREAM EITHER because wow, I really know how to hurt him…by depriving myself of a frozen treat.

He followed me onto the bus and was like WHAT IS WRONG and I was like NOTHING and then I WANTED THAT WINE so he was like OMG I WILL GO AND GET IT so he got off the bus and bought me a bottle of North Korean wine which who knows if it was really made in North Korea but the bottle says so and I will keep it forever and show everyone who comes into my house.

We gets these all the time at the Asian markets here in Pittsburgh but they certainly taste better in Korea, obviduh.

Henry bought this juice and became obsessed with it. I think I already mentioned this in my blog post from the bus to Pocheon, but I thought it tasted like a Squeez-It, so I obviously agreed with him that yes, this was some bomb-ass nectar, boy.

And then Lee got on the bus and announced that she was informed that we would indeed be granted access to the Joint Security Area, so that is where we headed next, and I swear to god, I had big time goosebumps on the way there.

DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNNNNN….Final DMZ recap coming soon!

Sep 262019
 

Continuing our DMZ deep dive, we left the Third Tunnel and our trusty bus brought us to Dorasan Station, which is a railway station found on the Gyeongui, that once connected the North and South. It’s about 700 yards from the border of the DMZ.

Here is our guide Lee (<3) giving us TRU FAX.

Trains still occasionally run here from Seoul, I think about 1-4 times a day, but it’s mostly for tourist purposes. This station is now largely symbolic for hopes of a reunification. If that happens, this could provide a reconnection between South Korea and the rest of the continent, as there have long been plans for this track to extend into Russia and beyond. 

Dorasan means Mt. Dora. I KNOW YOU DIDN’T ASK BUT I AM TELLING YOU.

Since it’s not used for high-volume commuting as planned, the inside of the station has preserved that sparkly new-new ambiance.

Someday, this train could run regularly to Pyeongyang, North Korea, and even beyond. I’ve talked about this with my friend Jiyong and she said that most Koreans do believe that this could be a reality someday. How incredible would that be? I hope that one day in the future, if I return to South Korea (lol, “if” yeah right I’ll be back in you soon, SK), this dream will be realized and my next visit to Dorasan Station will see it bustling with travelers.

For 1,000 Won (a little less than a buck), you can purchase a ticket to enter the platform. Of course Chooch and I both did this but Henry opted out because he needed to call G-Dragon’s pension to arrange our transportation and was super nervous about potentially talking to GD’s dad on the phone. (J/K, he wasn’t nervous about that, but he was having a hell of a time making the call from a non-Korean phone number. He actually wasn’t able to do it and had to wait until we got back to our hotel later that evening, and then it took him like 45 minutes to figure out how to dial after Googling “How do you call a Korean phone number” hahaha, lame-o.)

It was basically just the people from our tour who were out there, so we got to really stand there and take it all in with getting jostled by crowds of tourists. It made the experience feel more real and less of a tourist spot.

George W. Bush visited the DMZ in 2002 and gave a speech at Dorasan Station. 

There was a time when this image would have made me cringe, but it’s amazing how our current “leader” has dulled the negative opinions I’ve had on certain past presidents.

North Korea is thattaway, you guys.

I don’t know what would happen if you walked past that sign and just started walking, because no one was out there guarding it or anything. I tried to get Chooch to find out, but he said, “Nah I’m good.”

There’s a piece of the Berlin Wall on display here, which is HEAVY. (I mean, the history and symbolism are heavy, but yes, that piece of the wall is probably also very heavy.)

There was actually an industrial complex, like a factory, in North Korea, where South Koreans also worked, and freight trains would pass through Dorasan Station to take materials to Kaesong Industrial Complex, until the North accused the South of some confrontational something or other and closed off the border.

So it seems like, over the years, there have been little pockets of hope here and there but nothing that has been substantial enough to turn into a full reunification.

We left Dorasan and moved on to Imjingdak Park. You don’t need to be a part of an organized tour group in order to come here. You can just take a train or hop on a bus from Seoul and come out to this beautiful park to soak in the history….and maybe take a ride on the Super Viking…

Dude, Viking Ships are BELOVED in South Korea. In fact, I am strongly considering getting a viking ship charm for my charm bracelet instead of a tiny gold hanok or some other intrinsically Korean object.

Lee said she’s often asked why there would be an amusement park here, so close to the border, and her answer really resonated with me. She said that people still live there and contrary to popular belief, they don’t actually live in fear. Lee pointed out that if North Korea does intend to go full-blown nuclear one day, those missiles can reach freaking Alaska. 

Many families were pulled apart during the Korean conflict and those in the South are still trying desperately to be reunited with estranged family members. There was a TV show to help  these efforts and people wrote down their addresses and phone numbers to be posted here in Imjingdak.

This was so sad to see.

One of the Korean boys in our group was about to sit in one of those chairs for a picture until he realized that these were Korean Comfort Women monuments. He quickly changed his made after that! This was actually an underlying part of the protests happening in Seoul during the time we were there  – yes, trade wars, but also the fact that Koreans aren’t satisfied with Japan’s restitution for the forced labor they put upon Koreans during Japan’s colonization. That history is still pretty fresh, when you think about it, because many of those people who were affected are still alive, or are direct descendants of those who were brutally mistreated during Japan’s rule.

It’s so depressing.

I loved this beautiful, peaceful area.

Chooch bought that beaded bracelet on our DMZ Tour and then I wanted one too but then Henry was being a weirdo so I said FINE FORGET IT and he was all I DIDN’T SAY NO but he had that DAD LOOK on his face which means I DON’T WANT TO TAKE MY WALLET OUT AGAIN. I think this was the only real conflict we had that day, to be honest.

You can see the observatory in the background. This building also had a Korean restaurant and…I think there was a Popeye’s?! Lunch was actually included on this tour and I appreciated that it wasn’t in this touristy cesspool of chain restaurants!

People write messages to their families in North Korea on these ribbons.

For as somber as the history is, this place actually had an upbeat vibe to it. Some kind of Korean YMCA song was blasted on repeat:

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Chooch’s new jam.

A post shared by Erin Appledale (@ohhonestlyerin) on

…and there were people cheering on bikers as they raced through the area:

“Fighting” is a term Koreans regularly use to show support and encouragement, like how we’d say, “You can do it!” or “I’m rooting for you!” in English. It was actually one of the first Korean words/phrases I learned three years ago!

Imjingak has an observatory which allows for better views of the desolate Freedom Bridge, and also here is a nice view of Henry’s Trapper Keeper couture.

The Freedom Bridge is also known as the Bridge of No Return. After the 1953 Korean War armistice, there was an exchange of POWs on this bridge. The name was derived from the fact that the prisoners of war voluntarily in favor of choosing North Korea were unable to return to South Korea for good. After the murder of two US soldiers in 1976, it was shutdown. I’ll get to that murder in the JSA portion of this series of blog posts.

Then we were nearly the last people to make it back to the bus and I was filled with that old, familiar panic that I used to get on all of those old Globus vacations where my aunt would be busy bartering in a jewelry shop while everyone else was back on the bus and the tour guide was standing in the parking lot tapping her watch.

But thank god for that old man on crutches because he and his wife were the actual last ones on the bus every single time. Bless up.

STAY TUNED OR GET…PRUNED…?

Sep 252019
 

I need to take a break from my regular postings and share the new Twice song because I think it’s something that WE ALL NEED IN OUR LIVES RIGHT NOW. What I love so much about this song and video is that, when you just listen to the song (or, read the English translation in most of our cases, lol), you’d assume this about a significant other/partner/spouse/crush, etc. But then when you watch the MV, you realize that no, it’s about FRIENDS.

Many of the members of Twice have been publicly going through some hard times lately and I really like that JYP gave them this opportunity to express that artistically. Also, one of the members (Mina) has been recently diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and instead of being all “the show must go on” and forcing her back into the spotlight, JYP made an official announcement over the summer that Mina would be taking time off and even with this recent comeback, she’s in the video and on the album, but has decided to sit the promotions out. Thank you, JYP, for putting the mental and emotional well-being of one of your artists over the business. I can only hope that it sets a precedent for more of the agencies to follow. (You know, SM?)

Janna and I just had a conversation not too long ago about how lucky we are to fit into someone else’s circle/life, and it’s so true. I have very few good, close friends and that used to kind of bother me; but really, the friends that I do have are high quality and low drama. So I’m OK with not having a veritable Rolodex of casual contacts, if we’re being honest here. The people who make time for me are the real ones.

All you need is one loyal friend. One supportive family member. One sympathetic Internet friend. One kind co-worker.

To feel special.

And I really hope that everyone reading this has that one person. Life is hard enough. <3

Sep 242019
 

Aside from my weekly meet-up with Jiyong (she forced me to speak Korean and it was chaos), Saturday was pretty low key, but Sunday was the perfect Autumn Eve…even if it was 87 degrees that day.

One of the flavors at Sugar Spell Scoops for the weekend was Iced Pumpkin Loaf and Chooch was like WE HAVE TO GO. I was interested in that, but also Dunkaroos which is the flavor that Chooch got the first time we went to Sugar Spell and I had major remorse for not ordering it.

Janna wanted to go with us and then also, at some point over the weekend, Chooch asked if we could go to a haunted house also, and I was like, “BOY WHAT A DUMB QUESTION.”

I mean, of COURSE we can go to a haunted house!

But first, ice cream.

I indulged and had TWO SCOOPS. And thank god I did because that Iced Pumpkin Loaf was out of this world good.

I imagined it was just going to taste like pumpkin pie ice cream, but it ACTUALLY had the same flavor profile (lol I’m professional now) as an actual pumpkin loaf, the rolled kind with the cream cheese icing in the middle? YES, THAT.

And the ice cream even had a soft icing glaze in it, which completely elevated it to another level. You can see the glaze in my photo!

And the Dunkaroos was Halloween edition (“Oh, it just means we put Halloween sprinkles in it,” the totally awesome brains behind the freeze said when Chooch asked her what the difference was between that and the regular Dunkaroos flavor) was so delicious, and for lack of a better word: FUN. It really tastes just like Dunkaroos which makes me yearn for my lunch boxes of yesteryear (although my mom went through a heavy phase where she made me salami sandwiches every day and the lunch boxes during that era became so permeated with that stinky, greasy meat stink that they were unsalveagable).

(I had one super awesome lunch box that was also a radio and everyone was jealous of it.)

Janna wanted the sundae of the day but ordered it wrong and ended up with a scoop of the 3x Chocolate with marshmallows. She was pouting about that for a bit and I was like, “Why don’t you just go back up and explain that you actually wanted the sundae. I’m sure she can just dump it into a bigger bowl, add the toppings, and charge you the difference.” I don’t know what Janna did but she came back with her scoop dressed with sprinkles and chocolate syrup, which still wasn’t what the sundae was supposed to be, but she seemed content with this so I didn’t pressure her further.

I JUST WANT EVERYONE TO GET THE ICE CREAM OF THEIR DREAMS BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE HEARTBROKEN AT THE ICE CREAM SHOP.

Anyway, Janna the Carnivore was like I Can’t Believe This Is Vegan so you’re welcome, Sugar Spell, for bringing you a new cult follower.

(Honestly, I can’t give this place enough accolades. Not only is the shop a real stunner, but the owners are so down-to-earth and happy to please, and, most importantly, the ice cream is exceptionally wonderful! I have had some bad vegan ice cream before, but this stuff is like YEAH BOIIII.)

While we were there, “Eye in the Sky” by Alan Parsons Project came on and I had a Real Moment. That song is a huge part of my life and I was eating ice cream that reminded me of elementary school — the only thing that could have made it any better would have been if it was Saturday morning and I was sitting in my Pappap’s den eating my ice cream while watching cartoons.

Yeah, I was really feeling some things.

After this, we went to Freddy’s Haunts in Aliquippa. Now, I haven’t gone to this place in probably 5 years or so, because the last several times were just “meh.” But this used to be in my annual haunt rotation for years and when I saw that it was open on Sundays, I figured I’d give it another chance. Besides, Chooch had never been to this one yet!

It was still light out when we arrived, so we hung out around the bonfire (which wasn’t necessary since it was still like 80 degrees) and Chooch was happy because there were two dogs hanging out.

Chooch needed the dog to be in the background.

Some older man who reminded me of if Glenn was dressed like a scarecrow came over and sat near me and started telling me that they were trying something new this year with the bonfire, and that they were just waiting for it to get a bit darker before opening, and that “his guy” was in there inspecting it right now, etc etc. Then he told me the name of the two dogs out there, and also the names of four other dogs, but he kept forgetting the names and so that took segment of the conversation took some time.

Anyway, barely anyone was there but I kept getting anxious because no one was standing in line and I needed to make sure that people who came after us weren’t going to go in first and I promise you, no one gave a shit about this, but I was shaking with I HAVE TO BE FIRST jitters.

There are a lot of things I hate about myself, but this is probably at the top somewhere near my all-consuming body dysmorphia and inability to snap my fingers.

Everytime someone came out of the building, I would start to stand up, ready to sprint over to the entrance, but then they would go back inside. I can’t help it!!

Meanwhile, the DJ was playing a bizarre mix of N’Sync deep cuts, country, and 90s R&B. Michael Jackson’s “Jam” came on at one point and I got so nostalgic, like Dunkaroos all over again, because that song brings back memories of This One Time when I was probably 14 or 15 and my brother Ryan and I were out with my mom, who needed to stop at the grocery store (Giant Eagle) before going home. Our German Shepherd, Rama, was with us so Ryan and I stayed in my mom’s Explorer with him, when suddenly!! “Jam” came on the radio and Ryan became possessed by the need to dance so he got out of the car and started writhing maniacally in the middle of the parking lot, while scream-singing along and I, already giddy, started laughing even harder and then Rama was barking wildly because people were walking by the car with their carts and basically it was pandemonium, or “just another day with the Kellys” if you ask any of my friends from back then (like Janna – she can tell you some stories!). So all of this chaos is happening – car radio blasting, my 10-year-old brother dancing in a grocery store parking lot at night, the dog woofing – and I finally crossed the threshold and peed my pants. Like, really peed them. And then there was nothing I could do but wait for my mom to come out from the store and take us home while I sat in my warm pee.

I texted Ryan that moment to see if he remembered and he said: The old giant eagle where best buy is right lol idk why but i still remember that too.

YESSSSS.

And so I shared this story with Janna and Chooch and then Janna started talking about a stabbing, which really killed the mood.

But then finally someone came out and opened the gate – I think they should have also rang a dinner bell to let us know for sure it was time, but I guess the act of opening the gate was enough. We were going to be nice and let this one family go in first because they were there before us, but the mom was like, “You guys can go ahead of us, we don’t want to go in first!” and the angels sang on high.

After we bought our tickets, we wound our way around to the actual entrance of the haunt and Scarecrow Glenn was there waiting for us. He started telling us some insider info about what was going on behind the scenes and I blurted out ARE YOU FREDDY and you guys guess what it was Freddy! After all these years, I finally met Freddy!

As you may know, I keep a separate paper journal for my haunted house recaps because I am Le Loser, but I will say that Freddy’s redeemed itself on this September night in 2019 and that my favorite part was when I had enough of Chooch acting like a bad ass and constantly making me go first because he thought I should “face my fears,” so I said, “OK tough guy, you go first for a while then!” and then when he yelled, “FINE! I’M NOT SCARED!” and started to walk ahead of us, I swung my arm out to hold Janna back and we stood there, watching him walk down this path alone, mouthing off the entire way (I fucking swear to god, that child never stops yapping), when a girl came out from the side and made him scream like a little baby—it was SO PERFECT. Especially when he realized he was alone, haha.

My throat hurt from screaming my face off and laughing which, you know, are the symptoms of a REALLY GREAT HAUNT.

Henry had a great night too because he got to be all alone in a quiet house watching whatever boring shit he has in his Netflix queue.

Sep 232019
 

I was so hyped when I woke up on our last Saturday in Seoul because it was finally DMZ Tour Day! First, I had to take my obligatory morning picture from the hotel balcony though because rain or shine, this view never failed to please my eyeballs.

For me, it was LITERALLY a sight for sore eyes.

What a weird saying, though.

So let me tell you some things about the process of visiting the DMZ.

There are areas that you can visit on your own, such as the Dorasan Peace Park, but if you want the real nitty gritty experience, you need to book a tour with a legit tour agency, and there are numerous reputable ones in Seoul with easy-to-navigate websites.

This part is VERT IMPORTANT, class, so pay attention: If you want to experience the infamous “crossing over into N.Korea” that maybe you’ve seen Conan O’Brien do or your favorite travel YouTuber, than you must make sure the tour package you book includes the Joint Security Area (JSA). I have heard that people often make the mistake of just booking the DMZ portion of these tours, expecting to visit the iconic blue  blue buildings where world leaders have been known to meet.

highly recommend going balls-to-the-wall and booking the full day DMZ/JSA tour because honestly, if you’ve come that far, why wouldn’t you want the FULL EXPERIENCE? We booked ours through VIP Travel and I really recommend them!

Another important thing to note is that there is a dress code for the JSA. To be honest, it varies a bit depending on what website you’re culling your research, but from what I saw in my investigative Internet travels, the consensus seemed to be: no shorts (“over-the-knee trousers”), no sleeveless shirts, no shirts with slogans on it, no ripped jeans, no unkempt hair. One website said, “Dress as if you are meeting your partner’s grandparents for the first time.”

I seriously latched on to that HARD, lol.

Several FAQs for the JSA portion of the tour also warned: “no round-neck shirts.” WHAT. I fucking dwelled on this for weeks. I made Henry and Chooch bring collared-shirts with them but all of my collared shirts are long-sleeved and I didn’t want to wear long sleeves on a day that was 95 degrees! So I brought this dressy shirt that is nice enough to wear to work, even though it has A ROUND-NECK.

Henry kept saying I looked fine but I was still nervous.

The whole reasoning behind this is that South Korea doesn’t want a bunch of slobs in Anal Cunt t-shirts loafing around the JSA where ROK soldiers can easily snap a picture to use as propaganda, like, “Hey, North Korean civilians, this is how disheveled the rest of the world is.” I guess that has happened in the past!

We had to meet bright and early at Hotel President which is right near Gwanghwamun Plaza. Remember how I told you in a recent post that this an area where protests are usually held because it’s so close to the Blue House? Well, on this day, there were protests against Japan because of the current trade war and I felt so GUILTY that we had visited Tokyo while Japan is being a big ass bully to my beloved angel baby South Korea and I honestly had no idea this was happening until that morning. Ugh.

(The picture in the article I linked was taken on this same day.)

The travel agency’s office was on the 3rd floor of Hotel President. We had to check in and have our Passports checked and I was waiting for them to give me some kind of strap-on collar for my dress code-violating shirt but no one said anything, so I finally let out a cleansing exhale.

Anyway, we had some time to kill so we grabbed some refreshments from a nearby convenience store (honestly we could have just lived off of convenience store meals the whole time we were there, South Korea knows what’s up when it comes to making food convenient and actually delicious) and then found the I Seoul U sign so Henry grumbled because he had to walk a few more yards in the sweltering heat in order to take our picture, and he didn’t want to “get sweaty.”

(He was so angry that he had to wear jeans and a button-down shirt that day. Wait until you see it.)

Well we were waiting for our bus to come (a “luxury coach” that made me feel like I was on a TWA European vacation in the 90s again with my grandparents, lol), and older woman in our group struck up a conversation with me. She was from England, visiting her son who has lived in Seoul for the last year. He was SUPER TALL and handsome and reminded me of one of the guys from the original line up of Emarosa which means absolutely nothing to you, Reader, probably. Chooch was obsessed with how tall this guy was (he had to have been at least 6’9″). I’m going to guess he’s in Seoul as a teacher. Anyway, super nice lady!

I was anxious to see how the rest of the group would shake out because there is usually always The One who is super abrasive/offensive/loud/know-it-all-y (ahem, Ghost Tour Donna). There were about 25 of us on the bus – a Chinese group that had about 5 members, the British mom and son, an elderly couple (the husband had crutches and when he walked past Henry after boarding the bus, he said, “Oh good, a big guy. He can carry me” PAHAHAHAHAHA), a dad and his two teenage daughters that Henry determined maybe were Italian, a quiet couple, and about 8 Korean Americans – parents with their adult-aged son, and a group of kids who were maybe 18 or 19 and at first I thought they were with the older Korean family but then I think they may have just been there on their own? I just kept trying to push Chooch in their direction so they could be friends but he was like, “Please don’t be weird.”

A little after 8am, we set off for Paju which is about a 90 minute drive north of Seoul. It’s easy to forget sometimes how close Seoul really is to the North Korean border! Our guide for the day introduced herself using her Korean name but told us to just call her Lee. She stood right in front of our row of seats to give us the run-down of the history between the two Koreas and it was captivating. Because I was sitting right there in front of her, we kept making eye contact and when she told us that South Koreans still to this day work hard to keep their freedom, her eyes started to well up and then I started to cry, and this was only when we were about 20 miles outside of Seoul, so this should be a good indication at how emotional the day was going to be for me.

As Lee gave us the run-down of the day’s itinerary, she warned us that there was always a possibility that the JSA portion could be canceled without notice. In fact, we had a difficult time even booking this tour because our free days were so limited, and our first two tries we were told that the JSA tour wasn’t being that offered day because of military exercises. So this was the only day we able to book and I had my fingers crossed so hard that it would go as planned. I could always say, “Oh well, next time” but I honestly hope that the next time we visit, the JSA isn’t there anymore because the two Koreas will have reunified. That’s the ultimate wish!

Our first stop was supposed to be the Dorasan Observatory, but since it was still early in the morning and foggy, Lee did some itinerary shuffling and we ended up visiting the area of the DMZ where the Third Tunnel is located. We had to go through a Passport checkpoint first, where a South Korean soldier boarded our bus and walked by as we all held up our Passports and I internally swooned because he was so hot.

There are very strict rules, obviously, when it comes to photographs and videos in places like this, but true to South Korean form, there were loads of Instagrammable photo areas as well!

Before going into the tunnel, Lee took us inside a building that had several informational exhibits set up, and then we got to sit in a small theater and watch a short movie about the Korean conflict and the discovery of the tunnel.

Essentially, several decades after the Korean Armistice Agreement was put in place in 1953, four tunnels dug by North Koreans in an effort to infiltrate South Korea were found in various locations. Nowadays, the third one is literally a tourist attraction which blows my mind.

Oh shit,  you still can’t see Henry’s magnificent DMZ button-down!

The tunnel is accessible by a MINE TRAIN THING!!! I was so excited to get on it! We had to first put all of our belongings in a locker (no photos allowed) and don HARD HATS! Then we finally got to board the mine tram thingie! It was so slow, a real elderly tram, but the 7 year old in me was still excited to ride it. Lee told us that the tram isn’t always working so she wasn’t even sure we would get to enter the tunnel that way until we arrived. I would have been OK going down the foot path but…MINE TRAIN THING!

Image result for map of dmz tour

Here’s a diagram to show you the relation of the tunnels to Seoul. The third tunnel is so close! When the tunnels were discovered, sticks of dynamite pointed toward Seoul were allegedly inside.

When the tunnels were discovered (and there is thought to be around 10-12 more!), the North denied it of course and claimed they were tunnels meant for mining, and even rubbed black coal dust on the walls to cover their asses!

Once the monorail brought us into the tunnel, we were allowed to walk single-file 265 meters (whatever that means, I’m a dummm American) until we reached a divider with barbed wire and other necessary precautions in case the North attempts an invasion. Really harrowing and surreal to be in there, knowing that it was dug with such malicious intentions.

It was really narrow in that tunnel and we had to loop back and pass the people behind us, so we were essentially walking should-to-shoulder with the people on the other side and it was overwhelmingly tight down there. Any more time spent down there and I might have had a panic attack.

On the way back out of the tunnel, we sat across from the Maybe-Italian Family, but I should note here that Henry is the one who deduced that they may have been Italian and he is also the one who said that about the guys who live two houses down from us but recently I learned their last name and IT SOUNDS GREEK TO ME, HENRY.

Do I look presentable enough to meet a nice Korean man’s grandparents?

We had some time to mill about after walking through the tunnel (yes, I did smack my hard hat off the top of it at one point, thank you very much), and I was excited to buy a magnet! It doesn’t take much to please me. We also got some snacks and cold beverage. Lee was very concerned about our hydration levels since it was such a scorcher out there that day. Lee was the best!

Henry’s shirt was half past Hopper from Stranger Things Season 3, more toward Trapper Keeper. In either case, same decade.

After our time here, we boarded the bus* again and headed to the Dorasan Station, which I will talk about from my makeshift podium in the next post. SORRY, BUT THIS WAS AN ACTION-PACKED DAY FULL OF LEARNING.

*(We had assigned seats! I loved it! On one of the trips I took with my grandparents, everyone wanted to just keep sitting in the same seats every day on the bus but the tour guide we had for that trip – her name was MYRNA – was like, NO, WE WILL BE ROTATING SEATS THROUGHOUT THE TRIP and she fucking enforced it, too! Try telling a busload of old people (and teenaged me, who loved sitting in the back!) that they had to change their seats every day. It was pandemonium and eventually, everything came to a head and people started yelling at her and then she started yelling back until she eventually burst into tears and it was just a spectacular sight, one which I remember with way greater detail than any of the actual sights we saw on that European tour and I definitely have referenced it quite a few times over the course of my dumb life.)

Sep 212019
 

I can’t even handle this. SM has been dropping individual teaser videos for each member of Super M over the last several weeks and today the last one came out – TAEMIN’S.

My friend Veronica sent me a message on IG to tell me it had dropped and I screamed for Henry to come out of the kitchen (#HousewifeHank) and watch it with me and then before I knew it, I WAS CRYING. I am so excited for this group to debut!! Taemin is going to lead them well, I know it!

Also, I signed up to receive text messages from them (I lied about my age by 10 years so they’re not like “WHY IS THIS AJUMMA LIKING US” lol) and now they’re in my phone as a contact and I’m like junior high-levels of giddy over this!

If you call the number, one of the members says thanks for calling but this number is set up for text only and I said, “That’s Mark!”

Henry mumbled, “Yeah, I know who it is.” Lololol. Kpop Dad knows all the members!

Their album is released on October 4th and I might have to take that day off work, not sure yet. I preordered it but it’s possible that I will need to be confined to a safe space where I can flail around, do ballet moves, and cry my ugly face off all day. Sorry, cats.

Sep 202019
 
  • My Friday started off with me getting ready to take a shower only to discover that nary a trickle was coming out of the showerhead. At first, I thought Henry forgot to pay the water bill or something and I was full of rage, but then he called and was like THERE WAS A WATER MAIN BREAK AND SCHOOL IS CANCELED so then I wasn’t hateful anymore, but that didn’t change the fact that I desperately needed to wash my hair because I went to bed with a deep conditioner in last night UGH I can’t tell you how much anxiety greasy hair gives me! One time in second grade, I discovered a small rash on my chest before I took a shower so I slathered Vaseline on it and yes, I definitely scopped an entire fistful out of the jar because that’s logical when you’re in elementary school. But then I went straight into the shower and you know, ran my lubed-up hands through my hair a million times while shampooing, transferring all that jelly into my locks. It was SO BAD, even after numerous shampoos, that my mom had to keep me home from school so I wouldn’t have a legit emotional breakdown in front of my classmates because SOCIAL PRESSURE HAS ALREADY BEEN MY ACHILLES HEEL. So yeah, like 30-odd years later, here I was once again having a panic attack in front of my bathroom mirror because my hair had conditioner caked to it and I could barely wash it out with the weak trickle coming out of the faucet. I considered asking to work from home but then I remembered that I had to collect cookie order money from some of my co-workers (yeah, I did that again for Chooch) and I won’t be in the office on Monday and it’s due on Tuesday!!! So I sucked it up and went to work with my hair feeling all weird and oily but no one said anything because why would they, they’re not 2nd grade assholes.
  • This one time in mid-90s, my brother Ryan was going to a birthday party so my mom took him to the mall to get a gift beforehand and I was like, “Let me catch a ride in that sick Eddie Bauer Explorer too, I need the new R.Kelly CD” and just a reminder, this was when we only kind of knew that maybe he was a fucking creep, and cancel culture wasn’t a thing yet, so we could still buy CDs and not feel shame knowing that we were supporting some dude who pisses on people or whatever. Anyway, my brother got his dumb friend a present too and then in the car on the way to the party, he needed to sign the card but of course there was no pen in the car, but then, and you guys, I couldn’t have planned this even if I tried, I realized that he could just use the label from my CD, the one you have to peel off and says the name of the artist and album, because my brother’s name is RYAN KELLY, you guys. R. KELLY. This has been the story about how my brother used an R.Kelly CD to sign a birthday card. *dab*
  • Guys tell me if this is a good idea or a great idea: Margie was telling me today that her daughter bakes on the side and she showed me pictures of some of her cookies and she makes those really nice ones with royal icing and whatnot and I was like, “I WILL HAVE TO KEEP HER IN MIND THE NEXT TIME I NEED COOKIES” which, come on, is always, but then I started thinking and said, “Actually…..” Look, G-Dragon is getting released from the military on October 26th and I was tossing around the idea of doing something to celebrate but I don’t want to have a party because I have like, a friend who would actually care enough to come and then I would have to clean the house anyway, SO WHY DON’T I JUST HAVE COOKIES MADE TO MARK THIS OCCASION??? I told Henry and he was like, “Sigh” so that means yes. Margie told me to just draw something up and she will ask her daughter if she can do it SO MAYBE I WILL HAVE SOME FRESH G-DRAGON COOKIES TO TAKE TO WORK NEXT MONTH STAY TUNED.

  • I’m still sad that Ric Ocasek died over the weekend. Henry and I both had the same startled reaction when we found out that he was 75! I honestly would have guessed 60, tops. Anyway, it got me thinking about how prevalent The Cars were on my “growing up” soundtrack. My dad was a big fan and I used to borrow his Cars CDs to add stuff to my mixed tapes until finally one day, I bought myself this fancy, purple-sparkly greatest hits set at Waves in Century III Mall and then Janna let me practice driving her car around the parking lot. But apparently I didn’t like them THAT MUCH because I literally just found out that there were TWO SINGERS?! No wonder “Drive” never sounded like The Cars to me!! This is really out of character for me because I generally know everything about music. CONSIDER ME HUMBLED.
  • Last week my work pal Carrie mentioned that she was making haluski and bringing some in for Wendy and I was like I LIKE HALUSKI TOO so then Carrie said she would also bring some in for me and I was happy but Wendy was like ugh whatever because she doesn’t like it when people pander to me haha. So then we were talking about our heritage or whatever and I mentioned that before I was Korean, I was actually a little Polish and everyone groaned. Carrie pointed out that you can’t go wrong with cabbage (I mean, an entire race of dolls was born in a cabbage patch) and that my new heritage also has a big cabbage dish—kimchi, obvi duh. I was thinking about this over the weekend and said to Henry that I thought it was so cool how cabbage is such a pivotal ingredient in two popular foods from both of my ethnic groups and Henry said, “it’s different kinds of cabbage though.” OMG STFU cabbagesplainer. (This just reminded me of the time in 2015 or 2016 when I referenced cabbages in every blog post for an entire month and no one noticed.) Anyway, Carrie’s haluski was AMAZE – she used really big noodles and I liked that.

Well, that’s all I got for this Friday Five.

Sep 192019
 

Today’s “OMG Why Is She Still Blogging About a Vacation That Ended Over a Month Ago??” recap is going to be about our harried gotta-see-it-all Friday spent in Harajuku (and, later, Shibuya again). I’m sure there are Japanphiles all over the place shaking their heads and saying we did this whole thing wrong but hello, we had like, one day (barely) to be see the sights so fuck off, Fodor’s.

Luckily, Harajuku is within walking distance of Meiji Shrine so we didn’t need  to do much other than pray that Henry was looking at his stupid phone map properly.

I had to take a picture of this pedestrian bridge because I was recently complaining to Glenn at work before we left for our trip about how I think pedestrian bridges should be prevalent around downtown Pittsburgh because drivers could give a shit about cross walks (and really, pedestrians could give a shit about cross walks too – Pittsburgh is pretty much the National Capital of Jaywalking). I can’t tell you how many times I have nearly gotten creamed while crossing the street within the lines of a crosswalk WHILE HAVING THE RIGHT OF WAY.

Look how pleasant this area is! Not at all like the super crowded, bustling chaotic image that I think is typically culled when one thinks of Tokyo. I liked it here.

Our first order or business was to find a cafe, but every freaking street we went down was still sleeping, I swear. At 10am! It’s like this in some areas of Seoul too – shit opens so late, even a lot of the cafes, which blows my mind because in my mind: cafes —> coffee —> morning.

But then we found a place called Flipper’s, which makes those fluffy souffle-style pancake ubiquitous in Japan. They were due to open at 11 and it was already 10:45ish at this point because yes we wandered around that long, so we figured we’d just get in line too and have an early lunch while it was right in front of our faces because I can’t tell you how many times we pass something up because it’s “too early for dinner” or “let’s see if we can find a better one” or some other dumb reason and then it’s 3 hours passed our feeding time and we’re about to go full-fledged Donner Party on each other.

That’s us.

The two main catalysts for all vacation verbal abuse: DIRECTION DYSLEXIA and IRREGULAR FEEDINGS.

While we were in line, one of the Flipper’s girls came out and passed around menus, which was super helpful because I like to be prepared. I learned this from my years as a Girls Scout. J/K all I learned from being a Girl Scout was some dumb dance to NKOTB’s “Have a Funky Funky Xmas” and that if your grandfather is a business owner, you can sell more cookies than anyone else in your troop and then all you get is some hardback coffee table book about the National Parks.

Anyway, there were just two groups in front of us in line, but the hostess was super serious about making us wait at the top of the steps while she wandered off to find the proper spot for a family of dumb Americans. When she came back to fetch us, I was confused because literally that whole side of the small restaurant was empty but I appreciated her dedication to her job.

Thank god the service in this place was so friendly (honestly – every person we encountered in Japan was so happy!) because apparently fluffy pancakes TAKE FOREVER TO MAKE. It took us an hour to get ours, I’m not even exaggerating, and we were one of the first people to arrive. It was really excruciating because I could see into the kitchen and every time I thought for sure it was ours, IT NEVER WAS. Chooch and Henry got their pancakes before I did and for some reason, the next melon one that came out of the kitchen went to someone who got there after us! I was D-Y-I-N-G.

But, I’m not going to lie – these motherfuckers were worth the wait. Just maybe something to consider if you’re pressed for time, lol.

My extra melon was even pre-cut for me!

Oh my god, these pancakes were fantastic and so filling.

This is how happy Chooch was:

Actually, it was probably just because he was fucking in love with his new Bambi shirt from DisneySea. (Fine, that shirt actually is pretty cool I guess ugh.)

I was super-excited to take this picture of Henry having to squeeze past these young girls on the way out, hahaha. #HenrytheAmericanCreep

Getting out the sunbrella.

Some cafe was having an Apeach (a/k/a Peachy Boi if you’re Chooch) promotion and Chooch’s shoe made a loud braking screech as he changed directions to burst through the door.

We wouldn’t buy him anything, hahaha.

All of the streets we wandered along were sparsely populated, but then we came upon the famous Takeshita Street, the place that’s quintessential Harajuku in people’s minds, and we were suddenly swept upstream with about 500 other people.

This was definitely my favorite part! It was exciting to see all the crazy street wear shops, like this one…

…Chooch said it wasn’t really his style. :(

Henry wanted to go to Burlesque but was too afraid to say so, so he just waited and went in his dreams.

There were some jpop shops there too but they had kpop posters outside as well so we went in to try and find Taemin stuff since he is popular in Japan but we couldn’t find anything. :(  Of course now that I’m not there, some of the YouTubers I follow who live in Tokyo have been posting pictures of random Taemin posters and advertisements that they’ve spotted so that’s REAL COOL GUYS.

Chooch was lured off the main street by the promise of claw machines, and good thing because we wound up finding some cool shit in this alley-like area.

(No, we didn’t get any PornHub shirts.)

But this is where Chooch got his shiba inu shirt and we found Blake some cool One Punch Man shit.

Vending machine action. You will never go thirsty in Japan or Korea, friends.

We went to this one clothing store here and one of the salesgirls was wearing a Steelers shirt, lol. Even though I hate the Steelers, I still got excited because WE ARE FROM PITTSBURGH so that was pretty cool for us to see someone in Japan wearing that shirt and language barrier be damned, I felt compelled (not by the power of Christ though) to tell this girl that WE ARE FROM PITTSBURGH which is not normally something I would brag about or even display any modicum of excitement over.

Anyway, she definitely didn’t know what I was trying  to say to her and Chooch tried to shame me over this and I finally screamed, “I DID NOT EMBARRASS MYSELF, OK!!!!” I always forget that my son IS SO PERFECT.

OMG is this what it feels like to be Henry!?

I hate how grown up he looks here but at least it matches his GROWN UP SNARK.

After this, we took the subway to Shibuya….

…and went to this big store called Loft which had an SMTOWN POP-UP on the 6th floor! Henry mumbled, “Did you know about this?” and I fucking swear to god I did not!

I resisted the urge to buy everything, don’t worry. Sigh.

SM was doing a big concert in Tokyo the next night and I definitely had some major internal battles with myself over not planning our Japan mini-trip to include this.

But to be honest, I was really getting homesick…for KOREA. How weird is that? I guess my heart really is in Hanguk.

Ugh, then we had to let Chooch waste more of his college fund.

I excitedly told him that one of the machines had Bambi stuff and he got so HOPEFUL and then saw it was Chip and Dale, lololol. He HATES Chip and Dale so much because from afar, they resemble Bambi so gets his hopes up.

“IT’S ALWAYS CHIP AND DALE!” he’ll cry. “WHY ARE THEY MORE POPULAR THAN BAMBI?”

I mean, Chip and Dale are pretty fucking cool though.

Then we had to get some bubble tea, bitches. I love how popular this black sugar caramel flavor is in Asia right now. It’s so fucking wonderful.

Anyway, by this point, it was time to get that train thing back to the airport. We got convenience store snacks and made fun of Henry because he dropped something as soon as he sat down in his seat and whatever it was rolled away and someone almost tripped and we were like GREAT JOB, YA BIG STOOP.

Calbee was the best Japanese snack I had, I think. I immediately wished I had bought 99 more bags ugh.

You guys, I was sad to leave Japan and hope to go back one day soon so I can REALLY EXPERIENCE IT. But for now, on this trip, I was ready to go back to Korea. I cannot explain how addicted I am to Korea, but I will say that just standing in line to check in at Jeju Air, I felt SO COMFORTABLE and relieved because we were finally surrounded once again by people speaking Korean and how insane is that considering that I barely even have a toddler’s grasp on the language, but hearing it just embraced me in a cloud of familiarity.

I was trying to explain this to Henry the other day by comparing it to me being at a country music festival for an entire day, and then going to Warped Tour the next day. He still didn’t get it.

It’s a language thing,  I guess. Hearing Korean does something to my brain, it massages the part that is stressed out and depressed and makes it feel like it’s at a spa.

KOREA!!!

We barely made it on the last AREX of the night, that’s how stupidly long it took us to get through security at Incheon for some dumb reason and it was really strange being there while it was so quiet and empty! Luckily we didn’t have baggage to claim, though.

It was nearly midnight by the time we got back to Hongdae and we crashed so hard! We had to get up early the next morning because it was our DMZ TOUR DAY!! I can’t wait to start recapping that, it was in my Top Three best days of the whole trip. I’ve been home for over a month now and I still feel like I’m on Cloud Nine every time I think about this trip. It was that good. Even with the Oh Honestly Arguing, lol.

Sep 172019
 

Hello hello hello. Here are some pictures and whatever to memorialize this past weekend, which was a nice one, no complaints.

First, we went to the Pittsburgh magnet school fair thing and I’m not great at things like this because I never come prepared with questions like the one dumb bitch mom with mini-Princess Leia braids who rudely cut in when Chooch and I were talking to the admissions/Japanese teacher from one of the magnet schools Chooch has his eyes on. Yeah, this stupid C-U-NEXT-TUESDAY totally sidled on up and interrupted to tell this guy that they moved here from California and her dumb daughter, who is in 5th grade, used to be fluent in Spanish but since moving to this dump of a city, she has not had the opportunity to use it and can his school help, blah blah blah.

I was just glared at her. Like, are you fucking kidding me? Maybe in California dumb coozes like you don’t wait in line, but here IN MY CITY, WE WAIT OUR GODDAMN TURN.

Jesus!

Anyway, I want Chooch to go to this school and take Japanese.

Afterward, we went straight to Monroeville to attend Wendy’s daughter Summer’s 4th birthday party at Sky Zone. I have never been to one of these trampoline park things before, but I decided that I would also be jumping along with the party-goers so I made Henry pay for me and Wendy was like, “I hope Henry signed a waiver for you!”

Anyway, aside from Wendy’s husband and his one friend, I was the only other adult jumping so that was kind of weird, and I have to admit that I was SUPER HESITANT about this at first because I am an old hag now as of July 30th, and I was so afraid of breaking a bone or 8. I basically clung to Chooch and he was getting angry because he wanted to go and do the obstacle course stuff but I didn’t want him to leave me alone in the big basic trampoline area and then I kept getting paranoid that one of the bored-looking referee boys were going to police me for doing something wrong, maybe for hogging the same trampoline in the corner, and I hate getting yelled at in front of people but thank god I made it through the full 90 minutes without having a whistle blown at me.

The only other things I tried was the foam pit because Chooch said I could practice doing flips there and that was fine but I LOST ONE OF MY SKY ZONE SOCKS IN THERE and I was making Chooch search for it when Henry came shuffling over like he was the Sky Zone Sheriff and said, “Why don’t you just ask for a new sock?” so I went over to the sock counter and cried, “I LOST A SOCK!!!” and the nice boy said, “It’s OK!” in a soothing tone and gave me a new pack of socks and then I had an extra sock which I tried not to fixate on.

I made Henry keep my spare in his back pocket.

I also attempted to play dodgeball but it was just Chooch and me with three kids across from us and none of them would throw the ball at me because I think they were afraid of breaking the old hag.

Chooch eventually talked me into doing a flip, and I did one but then I folded forward really hard when I landed and felt things shift in my back so that was exciting.

Also, I made friends with a preteen girl who was trying to coax me into trying new things but her peer pressure didn’t work on me because I didn’t want this to be how I find out if my medical insurance is meh or shit.

But oh, for God’s sake, did I have so much fun! I jumped for nearly the full 90 minutes and I was a FUCKING SWEATBALL by the time our session ended and we went up to the party room for pizza and cake. Wendy thought it was hilarious and she told our boss about it at work on Monday—I don’t care, I want everyone to know that I am a JUMPING SUPERSTAR.

Rolling skating what? I’m a trampoline queen now.

Immediately after the party, Henry took me straight to Commonplace Coffee in Point Breeze to meet Jiyong, whom I haven’t seen in several weeks because she was on vacation. It was so nice to see her again! She hadn’t heard about Super M yet, so I got to tell her about that and then we talked about k-dramas and then she laughed at me because now I’m following that Korean celebrity that I saw at Incheon Airport and she thought it was the funniest thing, but I was like, “What?!!? I’m obsessed with him now!”

I really do appreciate our friendship! My Korean still sucks so bad, but it’s really nice having a new friend!

When we came home, Calvin spotted us from his window so Henry had to go and get him or he will throw a fit because he’s currently obsessed with coming to our house.

Everything was going swimmingly in our nonsensical Lego project until Calvin inexplicably disagreed with the placement of one of the pieces I put on and flipped out. I’m such a disappointment!

Then it was the next day!

Henry made Kodiak pancakes!

They were OK!

Also, I was in Big Pain from my liaison with the trampoline. But it was, curiously, my SHOULDERS that were sore, not my legs. Then I realized it was because I spent the whole time throwing my arms up in the air to propel myself higher. “Yeah, you looked like a big idiot too,” Chooch said.

Started to type in Silver Dollar City in YouTube, Silver Spoons theme came up, clicked it, watched a Guess the 80s Sitcom by Theme Song video, started thinking about how much I loved Moonlighting, and that’s how I spent my Sunday morning watching Al Jarreau videos.

Later that afternoon, Henry and I went to visit our Original Four Cats, our (s)Quad if you will, at the pet cemetery because it was Chuseok (that’s kind of like Korean Thanksgiving, if you will, where they honor their deceased family members).

Admittedly, it’s been a minute since we last came out here, not because we forgot about the cats, oh for God’s sake, I talk about that little babies all the time still! Just…life, you know?

I was excited to see that they built an actual Rainbow Bridge since I last was there! So excited that I cried.

And then we couldn’t find the damn graves because the plaques had sunken into the ground (not just ours—most of them it seemed!) so Henry started stabbing the ground with a knife that he got from our car and the whole time I was like why does he have this weird hunting knife thing in the car is he hunting humans when he’s allegedly “at the store?”

Anyway, he found some other plaques but not ours so now we have to go back when the damn office is open and seek help and a map.

I was really upset about this and screamed THIS IS THE WORST CHUSEOK EVER and Henry was like OK but it’s not Chuseok for us because we’re not Korean so…

…and then that made me even more upset because thanks for the reminder!

We went to get ice cream at Al’s Cone Zone afterward and I got raspberry Dole Whip which tasted SOUR AND DISGUSTING so I THREW IT IN THE GARBAGE and stormed back to the car and MAYBE THIS HAD MORE TO DO WITH CAT SADNESS THAN ICE CREAM PICKINESS BUT OH WELL.

And this has nothing to do about the weekend but Chooch’s one teacher uses this stupid fucking app to give kids points for participation or whatever and I discovered the other day that parents can also add to this when the kid does shit around the house.

Chooch is obsessed with it because the more GP or whatever it’s called that you collect, the more powers your stupid character has. I don’t know. It seemed dumb to me but I gave him 10 points for washing the dishes so whatever.

Anyway, just now Henry was bitching because no one ever turns off the downstairs lights before going to bed and Chooch cried, “it wasn’t me! She was still down here when I went to bed!”

WELL THIS WAS ABSURD because I distinctly remembered walking past that little asshole when I went up to bed – he was still sitting at the computer to be exact!!

So we started arguing about this and I went into that dumb app and did a custom thing where I DEDUCTED TEN POINTS FOR LYING and he didn’t think I was going to do it BUT I DID and he’s lucky I didn’t go after 500 like I was originally threatening to do!

LOLOLOLOL.

“Great. Everyone can see that,” he said.

WELL MAYBE DONT LIE TO YOUR PARENTS, YOU BIG STOOP.

“You shouldn’t have told her about that app,” Henry said before going up to bed.

And do you think any of us will turn the lights off tonight? LOL.

Sep 162019
 

We had about half of a day to explore Tokyo on Friday before having to take the train back to Narita Airport, so we decided to stay in the Shibuya area and try to knock out some main tourist-y things and do some shopping. The Disney magic had most definitely worn off, and we were back to being hyper-aware of Henry’s breathing, Chooch’s mouthiness, and my constant (THOUGH ADORABLE) whining.

You would think the serenity of the Meiji Shrine would have helped us BUT YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Actually, everything was fine that morning until I tried to get Chooch to pose for a picture under the Torii Gate (aka the entrance to Meiji Shrine) but he got all Surly Teenage Boy on me and tried to move away so I got SUPER BUTT HURT ABOUT THIS and decided in that moment that I was now going to make sure everyone had a really shitty day because that is the matriarchal leadership type I adopt in my household, bitches!

No, seriously, it was a fine day.

The Meiji Shrine is tucked away right in the city and once you enter, you feel like you’re hundreds of miles away in the forest. It’s so peaceful and tranquil (although I can imagine it’s the exact opposite on busy days!), and even though it was still overwhelmingly humid, it still offered a bit of a reprieve from the blazing sun and sizzling pavement.

Once you pass through the entrance gates, there is still quite a bit of a walk ahead before you reach the shrine’s Main Hall, but it is such a beautiful stroll. Being there made me REALLY CONSCIOUS of the fact that holy shit, we were in Japan.

I loved this display of sake barrels!

Chooch put on his fake nice face when these girls asked him to take their picture. And that’s not litter on the ground – Chooch set his water bottle there while he was playing amateur photog.

Those are barrels of wine behind them.

Before reaching the main shrine building, we passed through a courtyard that offered informational brochures and an AMULET OFFICE (!!!) where omamori of all different varieties can be purchased to bring you good luck, health, etc. Of course Henry wouldn’t let me buy any because he doesn’t believe in anything other than what he was taught IN THE SERVICE and from watching NCIS.

Also in the courtyard was a temizuya, which is a water ablution pavilion found at the entrances of Shinto shrines. The first one we came upon had a small tour group gathered around while their guide illustrated the cleansing ritual. I wanted to do it but for some reason, I got all fucking weird and was convinced that I was going to do it wrong and become haunted by a Japanese spirit for the rest of my life, so I didn’t do it.

From the shrine’s website:

This shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken (their tombs are in Kyoto).
Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912 and Empress Shoken in 1914. After their demise, people wished to commemorate their virtues and to venerate them forever. So they donated 100,000 trees from all over Japan and from overseas, and they worked voluntarily to create this forest. Thus, thanks to the sincere heart of the people, this shrine was established on November 1, 1920.

100,000 trees! I love that they were donated. It gives it such a heart-warming (not that the heart needed much hep warming up on that day), collaborative vibe.

I also learned that this type of shrine is a “Shinto” shrine. Shinto is Japanese religion dating from the early 8th century. It focuses on ritual practices that establish a connection between present-day Japan and the past, and followers of this religion have a belief in sacred power (called kami) in both animate and inanimate things.

Sooooo much more appealing than Catholicism!

This is the main shrine building. Those trees! I was obsessed with them. They look like they’re straight out of Dr. Seuss’s dreams.

Photos and videos inside of it are prohibited so I took this one from a safe distance away. I have this fear of being That American Tourist who overlooks a sign and gets hollered at (lol) by some white-gloved UNESCO cop. I might be a dick on the inside, but I do try to have as much respect as I can humanly muster when I’m being a tourist!

Chooch and I observed the elderly Japanese people around us who came to pay respects to the emperor, and then I saw a sign with instructions so Chooch and I followed along as seriously as possible because there’s nothing worse than a couple of foreigners who appear to be mocking another culture simply because they didn’t read the directions closely enough!

1. You may put some coins into the offertory box.

2. Bow twice.

3. Clap your hands twice.

4. You may make a wish if you like.

5. Bow once again.

We made Henry give us some coins and then we moved on to the bowing and clapping portion, though we didn’t do it as robustly as the men around us, but they seemed like seasoned pros at this and we were just a couple of n00bs, fresh from DisneySea.

Still, I felt a sense of….I dunno, purity? after moving through the steps.

In this area, you could write your prayer on an “ema,” which is a wooden tablet that can be purchased at the AMULET OFFICE.

There was another, less-populated courtyard off to the side of the main shrine building, and this also had one of those water cleansing things. This time, I felt less under a spotlight, so I partook in the water-pouring ritual, but I was still very stressed that I was doing it wrong and then I almost drowned myself on nothing more than a small palmful of water. It got up my nose and everything. I’m a true mess.

I mean, the steps really aren’t outrageous but Henry still had to read them to me over and over.

“Rinse your left hand…your left hand. LEFT. Your LEFT HAND. THAT ONE,” is basically how that went.

And then:

2. Rinse your right hand.

3. Pour water into your left hand.

4. Rinse your mouth.

5. Rinse your left hand again.

6. Rinse the dipper (allow the remaining water to run down the handle of the dipper).

Then Henry did it too and of course this was a majorly bonding moment for Chooch and me because we were born to scrutinize Henry’s every move.

“I DIDN’T DO IT WRONG,” is what he was saying here after Chooch and I launched into our celestial chorus of “YOU ARE SO EMBARRASSING.”

After an hour lost inside this forest in the middle of Tokyo, we started to make our way out but not before going into the GIFT SHOP so I could, god forbid, buy a magnet. We also bought some tins of traditional-y candy which Henry insisted on keeping in his man-purse so we had to continuously ask him for one, which was really frustrating and I had forgotten about that until just now so now I’m annoyed.

On that note, more Japan memories to come!

Sep 152019
 

Before I close the chapter on DisneySea, I just want to do a quick (lol yeah sure—nothing I do on here is quick) recap of some of the rides and the food we had!

I think we all agreed, hands down, that our favorite ride was Journey to the Center of the Earth. As a dark ride connoisseur and coaster enthusiast, I liked that this was a bit of an amalgamation of both.

As with every Disney park, the theming in the line was excelsior, so that was no big surprise. This was the first ride we rode that day so the standby line wasn’t outrageous yet.

I WAS SO EXCITED TO GO THROUGH THOSE DOORS!

My only beef with this ride was that it wasn’t long enough. And that’s just me being hard-pressed to find a complaint because, you know, balance or whatever!

Tower of Terror in Tokyo has a different storyline than the others, not that it matters too much because it’s all in Japanese! But we chose this Fast Pass over Toy Story Mania for that reason.

It’s funny, because I typically dislike drop towers and avoid them in every park, but I love Tower of Terror so much! And this one was just so much fun, mostly because we didn’t know what was going on!

It also pleased me that we were put in row 6 6 6, lol.

I love that Henry is blank while Chooch and I have the same squinty WTF expression. Also, I’m not used to being able to take pictures of the picture! Every other park is a BIG NO when it comes to that. But here, everyone just does it. It’s been a minute since I was at Disney World so I can’t remember if it’s like that there, too!?

I think 20,000 Leagues was the longest line we stood in (an hour? We rode it again later and the line was only about 20 minutes then!) but it was worth it and again, the crowds there were very mild and inoffensive so it never felt like being in prison, like how we often feel when we’re stuck in line for the Exterminator at Kennywood, having no choice but to inhale the farts of strangers and hear amplified Yinzer-speak in surround sound since that damn queue is indoors.

Henry smiled A LOT that day, and he really loved 20,000 Leagues. He was so excited when we got off the ride the first time because he wanted to know if Chooch and I spotted some shadow of a thing that was pushing our car through the water and we were like, “No, you lame-o” and acted like we didn’t care but then we had a secret conference outside of Henry’s super-limited range of hearing and decided we would have to ride it again to look for that.

Also, we didn’t know that we had a control in front of our seats that controlled a spotlight, but of course dumb Henry knew, so now we definitely had to ride it again.

Anyway, it was fun being at a park where Henry actually rode things! Usually he just “sits on a bench” and waits for us but what he really does is stocks up on soft pretzels without us so he doesn’t have to share. Rude ass.

I was obsessed with riding these boat-things all day! Apparently, it utilizes the same track design as Pooh’s Hunny Hut, if that matters to you.

Chooch and I rode it later in the evening, after getting in all of the big rides, and you have to choose between two different tracks—such pressure! I was mad because the one that Chooch chose for us didn’t seem like the best one, and then I was mad again because dumb Henry took a picture of us using his idiot phone which takes shitty photos.

I loved this ride because the ride attendant told me he liked my Oswald ears AND HE WAS REALLY CUTE TOO.

Everyone who works at DisneySea is just a brand new level of Happy, but you really have to expect that much from a Disney park. That’s one of things I appreciate about this brand is that, even if you’re not a big Disney aficionado like me (I haven’t cared about Disney movies/cartoons since the early 90s), the experience you get at the parks is so high-quality that the fact that you had to dip into the kid’s college fund to get there doesn’t even matter.

J/K, we didn’t dip into Chooch’s college fund.

He doesn’t even have a college fund.

HAHAHAHAugh.

The Aladdin area of the park was so beautiful, and Chooch and I definitely needed to ride the flying carpets.

If this was Kennywood, that would just be cement with weeds sprouting through the cracks, not a gorgeous fountain. (Sorry, Kennywood, but you know it’s true! You’re beautiful in other ways, but theming is not your forte.)

Again with Henry’s lame-ass phone.

Chooch and I rode this little kid Flounder coaster because we gotta get that coaster cred no matter what.

That brake run was rough, haha.

We also rode this adorable little ride but dumb Henry was too bust melting against a wall to take our picture like a good parent.

The carousel was in the Aladdin area too and it was delightful!

God only knows what I was jawing off about here, but it was wonderful to be in the shade!

Another family portrait on a carousel. We need an intervention.

Did you know that up until a few years ago, I had a huge fear of carousels because I have gotten stuck on the horses before? And by “gotten stuck” I mean that I am afraid of even the tiniest heights and have been actually too paralyzed by fear to attempt to slide off the damn thing and then Henry has to assist. But lately, I have been doing much better and I think that I almost cured.

I wanted to ride Tower of Terror again in the evening but those dumb asses were like 45 MINUTES STANDBY OMG THAT’S SO LONG because they’re spoiled.

We also rode some other kiddy rides, and we had Fast Passes for Indiana Jones and also Raging Spirits, which was the only ride that was a bit underwhelming for me. There were English-speaking people in line behind us and the one girl was freaking out because she had never ridden a roller coaster that went upside down and she was probably in her early 20s and for some reason this really lodged itself into my hippocampus and I still think about it occasionally.

It was OK! Not my favorite ride there, but still worth the ride.

Aside from Sinbad (it was closed for maintenance), we managed to ride all the main attractions on my list without wasting our lives in overwhelming queues or running around like maniacs, and I was extremely surprised. In my head, I had this day playing out to be full of stress, pushy people, more interfamilial hostility than Trump’s twitter feed, and hemorrhaging money.

But it was so peaceful and our walking-speed was more at a casual stroll after we nabbed that first Fast Pass. In fact, usually when we’re at an amusement park, we’re in such a hurry to get all the big rides in that we barely break to eat. But at DisneySea, not only did we have spare time, but the food was CHEAP! Now is the time in this blog post where we have a FOOD RECAP.

This adorable Donald Duck lifesaver was a savory bun stuffed with shrimp, and not just like, a measly wad of mushy shrimp paste, but this was loaded with hearty, meaty, shrimp.

These Toy Story mochi are pretty much the signature Tokyo Disney snack. Watch any YouTube video about this park and I guarantee they will make an appearance, and if they don’t, then that vlogger did it wrong.

You get three per order, one each of strawberry-filled, chocolate-filled, and vanilla custard-filled. They were so good and now I wish I had gone back for seconds because Henry and I shared an order while Chooch got his own. I have major regerts about that. I chose poorly. Stupid diet-brain.

However, I didn’t share my lunch with Henry! (Wait, shit, yes I did—my meal came with a side of potatoes and sausages and I gave him my sausages.)

We chose a place in the Arabian Coast port of call (which I have been consistently referring to as the Aladdin area) and I got this fucking fantastic udon lunch special. Anyway, I couldn’t believe how cheap it was for all three of us to eat there. I want to say it was about $30 as opposed to King’s Island where, even with one of us having a meal plan, it was like $60. Yikes.

Look at this gorgeous bowl! It was so filling and satisfying. Again, maybe DisneySea had the air poisoned with Positivity Pollution, but shit—at every turn, I felt like a kid being let out of the orphanage for the first time. I just kept saying, “This place is so great” over and over, while flowers sprouted out of all of my orifices.

Henry was like, “I’m going to buy this mango ice cream concoction for no reason other than I’m at Disney” and then Chooch was like, “I’ll take that, thanks.”

 

Shout out to the different popcorn vendors, happily churning out their wonderful smelling treats in every port of call! Each vendor had a different flavor (Chooch is on a major curry kick, so that’s the flavor we got). The caramel one, while not being the most exotic flavor, was definitely the most appealing one to me because that scent literally elevated the atmosphere in the entire area around it. I think it may have even borrowed one of those flying carpets to carry its sweet, buttery smell even further, because I kept catching whiffs of it all over the park. It was mesmerizing.

The curry flavor was great too! Really, the only one I wasn’t drawn to was the chocolate-covered variety because it was so hot that day and I couldn’t imagine eating melty popcorn with my hands. No.

And last but not least, we ate dinner at Zambini because Chooch saw it earlier in the day and totally latched on to it. We had pizza, and I demanded that we get both desserts on the menu, because each one came with a different limited edition souvenir thing, so now we have a little Pirate Summer plate and coffee cup. I’m pleased with this.

One more thing before I wrap this up: we went into pretty much every gift shop to search for Bambi shit for Chooch, and in the very last one we went inside, we finally found a Bambi shirt, and not only was it a nice design, it was only $20!! FOR A FUCKING DISNEY SHIRT.

I probably come across as some tight-wad coupon cutter, and I swear I’m not—I’m just accustomed to amusement park inflation and honestly we were prepared to really have to spend a lot of hard-earned Yen at DisneySea. Honestly, this day couldn’t have been any better! I am so glad that I campaigned so hard to have this added to my birthday vacation itinerary, because if you have to turn 40, you might as well soften the blow any way you can. And this definitely softened that blow. Disney is one of the few places on Earth where you can be a Forever Child!

Sep 142019
 

Friends, foes, family, foresters: I am here to tell you that I have nothing bad to say about DisneySea. Honestly. It was the one day from our vacation where we didn’t fight ONE SINGLE TIME. The park opened, we walked in, and it was like the air was being pumped with happy gas because even though it was 100 degrees, we genuinely liked each other that day.

We’re not Disney people but this park had a huge impact on us! And this might sound like a cop-out, but there is really no way I can illustrate just how magical this place is, aside from sharing photos. So let’s peruse my collection together, shall we?

DisneySea is built next to the Tokyo Bay and has seven themed “ports of call” areas. I’ve heard that this park is billed as the Disney for adults, and even though there is a huge (and BEAUTIFUL) indoor kids area, I can definitely see how this is true. There is one area that made me feel like I was in Cape May and I loved it which is hilarious because when I was a kid, we always took a day trip to Cape May during our Wildwood family vacations, and I was always so miserable about that. I hated Cape May as a kid! All my grandma wanted to do was shop and all I could think about was how I missing out on prime time riding rides on the boardwalk. (Morey’s Piers ftw.)

I mentioned in my last Tokyo post that DisneySea doesn’t use an app for Fast Pass, so when the gates opened, we had to walk-run (there are friendly Disney employees everywhere reminding you politely not to run and I already knew this from watching videos so I speed-walked like a good girl because maybe you don’t know this about me BUT I HATE BEING YELLED AT even if it’s someone just kindly reminding me not to do something I’m doing, I will take this and escalate it in my head and get totally butt-hurt and then I will keep replaying the moment until I’m convinced that I was yelled at.

I’m insane and my issues are plentiful.

Anyway, our plan was to pass up Toy Story because it’s identical to the one in the US, grab a Tower of Terror fast pass, and then speedwalk to Journey to the Center of the Earth for stand-by. This plan worked wonderfully!

Mysterious Island was amazing!! The theming blew us all away.

I was prepared for Journey’s line to be outrageous but stand-by was about 30-45 minutes! That ride was goddamn amazing but my favorite part was when Henry ripped his shorts when he was getting into the car!

(Unfortunetely, his rip wasn’t as disastrous as it could have been, and even though it was large, it was still unnoticeable. Ugh.)

I will have a separate post to talk about the rides and food, so let’s just keep looking at the glorious scenery, shall we?

Seriously, would you look at this area? I think we just ooh’d and ahh’d over everything for the first 8 hours of the day.

 

I’m not sure where all the people went that we saw when the park opened, because it didn’t seem very crowded that day. Don’t get me wrong, some of the bigger rides had really long standby wait times as the day went on (Toy Story and the brand new Soaring were basically big no’s if you didn’t have a fast pass, and we didn’t want a fast pass for any of them), but we weren’t fighting our way through hoards of people on the paths or in the restaurants. It was actually pretty weird.

And whenever we did have to stand in line, it was pleasant because people in Japan are polite and orderly. It really was like being in an Utopian amusement park.

Even though we were able to ride all the rides we wanted to, this park could still easily be a 2-day park, because there is so much to see and eat. The facades were so detailed and the shops in each port of call had different merch. Also, we didn’t see any of the shows because that’s not important to us, but if we had been there for a second day, I definitely would have penciled that in because this park inspired me to care about these things!

…and then we found out where all the people were, lol. There’s a big pirate show that happens several times in the main entrance area and people seemed to just loiter there all day.  Also, it was August 1st when we were there, and that was the day when the new theme and merch came out, so I think the enthusiasts were there just for that. We walked past a lot of people who were hanging out in that area with like 8 bags of merch!

Meanwhile, all I cared about was getting my ears (the process of choosing a pair is painstaking but I went with Oswald and Chooch got Dumbo ears and then instantly had reGERTS because it was, again, 100 degrees that day and now he was essentially wearing a terry-cloth headband, good job, dingus.

Venice Vibes, Very.

Basically just an excuse to sit down.

I wanted to jump into this water so badly that day. Did I mention it was 100 degrees?

Did I mention we were also in Japan?

You think you know humidity in America, but you don’t.

LOOK AT THIS CHILDREN’S AREA!!! It was inside Ariel’s Castle and majorly air-conditioned. We definitely took our good ol’ time strolling through this piece.

And the gift shop was inside a whale!

Again, I’m not a Disneyphile but shit, I wanted to buy everything I saw.

Pompously phallic.

In all serious though, I couldn’t stop ogling the majesty of this castle. The detail was sickening!

Halfway to heatstroke.

If you looked at those tiny tiles close up, you’d find little Mickey ears, Flounders, and other assorted hidden Disney sundry.

I can’t imagine standing before this and not being totally enchanted.

One of our many “should we jump” contemplations. Also, note that Chooch is wearing his Pie Jesus friendship bracelet!

Some areas of DisneySea are under construction and from what I understand, it’s in preparation for next summer’s Olympics. Getting a bit of a face lift, I guess! Some of the coaster enthusiasts I follow on YouTube were super annoyed about this when they visited a week before us, but it didn’t take very much away from our visit. If Journey to the Center of the Earth had been outright closed, then my tune would be very different!

Henry, reapplying sunscreen.

LOOK AT THIS VIEW! Also, that water was making me hallucinate. Or was it the sun. I don’t know, but I was feeling delirious.

(Don’t worry! We stayed hydrated all day and guess what? It was easy to do so because food and beverage prices were CHEAP there! I was shocked. I mostly kept refilling an empty bottle at various water fountains, but I did get tempted several times to partake in flavored drinks because, Tokyo. There was some fizzy grapefruit sports drink that was SO REFRESHING.)

You know a park is legit when even your kid keeps stopping to take in the views. I’m a very GO-GO-GO type of person at amusement parks, but this place made me want to slow down and relax.

My kimono-thing was protecting my skin big-time, yo.

Obsessed with this tree.

The theme for August was Pirates Summer and we were there for the first day of it, so that was pretty cool! I purposely ordered a dessert at one of the restaurants just so I could get a collectible plate, so I guess I’m a Disney person now.

This fountain is iconic because it’s the first thing you see when you walk through the entrance. Also, we tried to get Henry to buy a pair of ears but he is too much of a lamer, I guess. Now no one will believe that he actually had a good time!

Some Instagram models were doing an amateur photoshoot here so then we had to do one too.

Did I ever tell you about how Chooch despises Chip and Dale because they’re so much more popular than Bambi when it comes to Disney merch and sometimes, from afar, he will think he sees something Bambi-themed only to get closer and see that it’s Chip and Dale. So when he saw this Chip, or Dale?, at DisneySea, he had a moment of rage. I wanted him to get in line for a picture but he was like Chip (or Dale?) can go fuck himself.

(Personally, I love Chip & Dale. I had one of their videos in the 80s and it was the kind that came in the giant padded case. I watched it all the time!)

The Aladdin area was so beautiful, I could have cried.

But Mermaid’s Lagoon had my heart. Those under-the-sea aesthetics really snatched me, you guys.

I wanted Chooch to make friends with all these children but he was like, “I just want to touch the water, not make power moves.”

I’m such a Disney fraud that I didn’t even know who Duffy was until I started researching this park.

SHIT YOU GUYS. JUST OMG THESE LOOKS. If DisneySea was a kpop group, then Mermaid’s Lagoon would be the visuals.

Although the Arabian area wasn’t exactly horse face, either.

DisneySea at night is a big fat mood. My heart was actually fluttering.

We stayed until the park closed and yes, we were fucking BEAT but it was worth every second we were crucified by the sun.

I’ll have one more Disney post to recap some of the rides and foods, so look forward to that, or don’t!

****

Once we were off Disney-soil, Chooch and Henry were free to argue over directions and fare machines again, so that was fun.