How I Became an Extroverted Introvert

My wife pointed out that I am no longer the introverted guy she married 20 years ago. This got me to thinking about how this came to pass. She is right (don’t ever tell her I said that) about me having been an introvert. I have leaned that way since I can remember. I was always awkward socially, terrible with and terrified by the opposite sex, reclusive, antisocial, and a bit of a fire bug. Basically a serial killer in the making if documentaries are to be believed. I never hurt animals though. I quite preferred their company to that of people. Sometimes I still do, truth be told.

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Really. Who wouldn’t prefer the company of these guys?

This isn’t me these days. Except for the socially awkward part. If you’ve read any of my blog entries, you’ll have seen some of the things that run through my head. More often than not, these things come out in social settings. Typically, they induce uncomfortable silences from those that hear me. Then I have to fill the silent void with things in hope of making it entertaining. My wife thinks this is how I came to be afflicted with Moosa. She still claims it to be a demented fabrication, but she’s a psychologist, not an M.D. If she was up to speed on her dementia she would know that mad cow is often mistaken for Alzheimer’s which is a form of senile dementia. And that is just half of the mutated thing I dubbed Moosa. Don’t judge me.

That said, memory is a funny thing. I don’t remember certain things that happened while living on Fort Riley, Kansas, that still entertain my parents to this day. I wasn’t even in the first grade yet, but they laugh when they tell me how I put little balls of poo in my dad’s combat boots. I don’t remember rubbing my junk on the sliding glass door while standing between the curtain and the glass. I guess it kind of freaked my mother out who was in the back yard watching funnel clouds with her friends only to have them point out a scrawny kid hitting a home run with a glass door while grinning like an idiot. Good times. These are the kinds of things I wish I could remember so I could introduce them as topics of discussion in polite company. Now they are just second hand stories rather than my own.

The crap I do remember from back then actually kind of sucks. Like my first exposure to a group of bullies. It was the same day I found a puppy and tried to keep it behind a little stone wall so I could go ask permission to keep it. I had to go back outside and break the bad news to the puppy, but dogs have really good ears and apparently he’d already heard through the walls and left without a goodbye. I clearly remember how upset I was. My mother skillfully distracted me by tying a cape around my neck so I could be superman. I must have been superman for days because it was just a few days later when I “flew” around to a friend’s back yard that I met my kryptonite for the first time. A group of older kids had my friend in tears and began threatening him with bodily harm if he didn’t beat me up. I decided I should be elsewhere because this was so not cool. They formed a ring around me and the butt kicking commenced. Brock Lesnar couldn’t have done a more thorough job. I dragged myself home and swore off of capes and became a bit of a recluse… for the next 20 years.

Somewhere in my mind, I linked that event to the Army. It’s understandable, I suppose. Most of my life has been linked to the Army. I guess my point is that I think this is where my reclusive, socially awkward nature originated. It didn’t help that we moved every three years and I was forced to find that one other kid with no friends. That got really weird when that other kid was female and we were both beginning to recognize that the other gender was more interesting than our own.

I think I’ve figured out when the shift took place in the social arena though. I didn’t like the idea of my brothers being in a combat zone while I sat safely ensconced in my isolation. I’d already been married to my wife for seven years and at 31 years old, I enlisted in the Army. I turned 32 the day I arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to become a cannon crew member.

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I was driven and climbed the rank ladder as fast as I could. Consequently, I was forced to be in front of a squad. I had to teach, coach, mentor, and lead young soldiers. This is pretty tough for one who has lived as introvert for decades, yet I was fairly proficient at it and this eventually led to my becoming a platoon Sergeant. The point is that the Army forced me out of my shell, made me face the uncomfortable and overcome it. I’d found my niche and that niche was in front of some of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.

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So here I am. A mid-forties social bug who now embraces the awkwardness. I love my unique brand of oddness. There was a time during which my concern over other people’s perception of me was absolutely debilitating. I’m glad that is gone. I like being the guy at a formal military ball who removes his dress blue uniform top to reveal his dress shirt’s sleeves and back panel are colorful patches containing bulldogs on motorcycles.

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I was the only person in the room full of officers and senior NCOs wearing a “party shirt” and it created a strange sort of conversational ripple as people turned to look. It was actually fun rather than mortifying. Now I kind of enjoy it when I introduce a topic of discussion that leaves others feeling awkward and unsure of how to respond. Welcome to my world, peeps! Embrace yours. It’s the only one you got.

My Wife Just Killed Newtons for me. And Broccoli.

 

I hadn’t planned on posting again so soon. I try to space things out in case I run out of things to talk about. I’m not sure what spacing posts out is going to do for that, but it made sense when I made the decision. I suppose I should get to the point of this post. Doc is at it again with her FB videos and I suspect she does this on purpose just to disturb me in some fashion. Fair enough. I’ve spent the last twenty years disturbing her with whatever falls out of my mouth. I knew I shouldn’t have opened the link but when the first text I see is “You’re eating wasps”, how am I supposed to not look?

Look. I get it. Eating bugs manifests in countless ways in most cultures I’ve encountered despite several differing religion’s prohibition on bug noshing. From Sicilian maggot cheese to entire bug buffets in Asia, it is a common thing. I’ve personally tried many. The sour cream and chive crickets weren’t bad, but Korea’s boiled silk worm larvae (bundaegi) tasted a lot like a dirty urinal smells and my throat closed and it wouldn’t go down and the smell stuck with me for hours until I got home and could reenact a scene from Ace Ventura.

That said, Fig Newton’s are dead to me. It isn’t the bug so much as it is the niggling thought that when I consume things containing figs, I am also consuming the romper rooms of irritable, incestuous, stinging insects. I’ll never be convinced that this is sanitary and all I see now when I see a fig is The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas meets Wrong Turn meets Little Shop of Horrors. Wow. Those titles sound a bit alike when I think about it. Except for the Wrong Turn part. Obviously.

Then I looked into it and I now think broccoli is off the table as well. No more research for me. Ignorance is bliss, no? Don’t go looking. Cabbage might be out too.

You win this round, Doc. Well played.

The Confluence of Jewish Zombies and Ddeokbokki: Lunchtime Ponderings

The day brought me one of those life lessons not quickly forgotten. Long story short, I learned that when eating delicious, spicy, Korean foods, I need to remember that the napkin used during the meal to clear pepper paste from my lips is unsuitable for the task of stemming the tide of capsaicin induced snot after the meal.

I then joked about using a neti pot of milk to cool my inflamed nasal passages. It was either that or nose plugs made of bread or chocolate, but neither struck me as more interesting than the neti pot thing. Having never used a neti pot, I got curious and went to YouTube. It was nearly as disturbing as Googling cerulean hued breakfast foods. If you have delicate sensibilities, please do not do that. Except for the neti pot thing. It’s totally cool and clean if not disgusting.

I realized quickly that the narrator of the instructional neti pot video might be something of a sadist. He suggested that I use water warmed to the temperature of a bath. Dude! He either takes really cold baths or thinks I should snort near boiling water. It took my skin years of intense training to get used to my predilection for lobster imitation. I can’t imagine what this would do to my schnoz. Add to this that he suggested salt go into said boiling water. Have you ever seen what salt does to your windshield? How is this cleaning my sinuses? Will it raise my blood pressure? Or is he zombie who likes his hors d’oeuvres of a pickled nature or slightly cooked in brine? If the last is true, then he is certainly a Jewish zombie as he recommended Kosher salt. How do you reconcile your diet with your faith, Zionbie? People aren’t Kosher, guy.

I’ll just stick to spicy foods. And two napkins. Maybe a third for my eyes.

To Drink or to Stink

Upon arrival in Korea I had to buy a couple of more towels. The one lonely towel I packed wasn’t faring well under the strain of drying me off twice a day. So I got it some new friends who turned out to be jerks that like to explode dark blue lint all over everything no matter how many times they are washed and dried. Then there is the problem that regardless of how often I wash them or what techniques I employ, they stink in less than four or five uses. Usually, I can get two uses before any hint of mildew creeps in. At best, I get two days out of one. At two showers a day that equals three towels a week and I still fall short of what’s needed for that. Boom! Look at me math.

Look. I’m a laundry once a week kind of guy. I am also a problem solver kind of guy. So I did what many of us might do these days when faced with stinky bathroom textiles: I sought the sage advice that can only be found on the internet. I stumbled upon a page espousing natural “life hacks” for people who don’t like man made cleaning agents. I assume from reading this that vodka isn’t man made and is mistaken by some to be a cleaning agent. This seriously sounds anti-hacky to me, but I guess it makes sense now that I think about it. I’ve never been near someone sloshed on vodka and thought “Wow. He smells really mildewy”. The idea is to spritz your towels after they dry and the fermented potato juice will kill the smell. Or maybe make the smell drunk so it falls off the towel. I don’t know how it works.

The point is not that I know how it works. You remember how I mentioned that liqueur is rationed on post in Korea? Yeah? Well. It is adversely affecting towels. That is the point. If you are reading this, send vodka.

Subtropical Yeti and Muscle Cars

Apparently STDs are a real thing. STD as in socially transmitted diseases. Not to be confused with the other use of STD. It’s a little early in the post for me to be explaining myself, don’t you think? Anyway, they are real. I learned of them from a friend on Face Book who suggested that my potentially spreading small pox might be an STD. Not that I’m spreading small pox, but that my pox are spreading on me. And since I am in Korea without my family this time it stands to reason that the malady is of a social nature rather than a sexual one. Obviously.

Upon learning that socially transmitted diseases are a thing (who knew?), I announced to my friends: “Meet the next Howard Hughes, y’all”.

Kim, my wife of 20 years seems to think that this is not a viable life option so I suggested to her that I should become a hermit. Just to clear things up, the marriage is of twenty years. I didn’t even know Kim when she was 20.

Ok. So let me back up a little bit. I will tell you right now that I am a terribly flawed individual. I don’t think I’m a monster, but I make mistakes. Often. Sometimes these mistakes hurt those I love. Other times they just make me look stupid. That said, Kim and I just recently emerged from one of these in which I emotionally devastated her. It was not intentional, but she has to get sick of this at some point and I was feeling terrible about it all. In my mind I’d emotionally scarred the love of my life. Scarring equals abuse. I decided I was an abuser. The text conversation went like this:

“I passed my Korean driver’s license test!”

“Can you forgive me?”

“Not for passing the driver’s tesr2.”

“Test.”

“For being hurtful.”

“Oh god.”

“I’m an abuser.”

Her response? “Wow.”

“Huh?”

“That escalated quickly. You went from passing a test, to your fingers having a stroke and being unable to spell, to being an abuser.”

“Welcome to my head.”

“Wow.” Again with the wows. “You’re not an abuser.” She assured me.

“I emotionally scarred you. I’m pretty sure that qualifies.

I determined that I was the worst form of awful human being and that maybe I would be better off away from humanity. So between that and the emergence of socially transmitted diseases, I decided I should be a hermit.

“I’ll be like some random Buddhist that never bathes and talks to his fleas.”

“You might actually be happy that way.” She said.

“Gripes at them more likely.”

“What the heck are you talking about?”

“The fleas, Kim. I’d be griping at them rather than talking to them. Fleas are jerks.”

“Fleas are definitely jerks.” She agreed.

“I don’t want to be a hermit anymore.”

“That was quick. What do you want to be now? You’re like a toddler changing professions.”

“The fleas screwed it up,” I explained. “Ask those buttholes. I’ll just be a beachcomber and live under a banana leaf,” I beamed at my brilliant idea. “Plus, fleas hate saltwater. Have you ever seen a fish with fleas?”

“Sand fleas.” She offered.

“Great bait!”

“They bite.”

“Buttholes.”

“Right?” She’s very supportive.

“How about a Djinn then? No rhyme intended.”

“O….k?”

“Djinns never have to miss anyone they care about. They just move them into the lamp with them.” I explained. I’m not sure why it needed explaining. Seemed fairly obvious to me. “Plus there are no fleas in lamps. I’ve never seen a flea in a lamp.”

“And no nagging, needy wives in lamps either,” She offered in a manner suggesting that her supportive nature only goes so far and that residing in a lamp in the middle of the Sahara was just a tad farther than she was willing to go.

Remembering that she prefers cold weather and forgetting that hermits live alone, I toyed with the idea of being an Arctic or Antarctic hermit if there was such a thing, but there are polar bears at one locale and penguins at the other.

“Penguins are jerks too…..,” I began.

“Take the polar bears then.”

“….. and polar bears are just hungry. Plus, it’s cold there. Which is why I can’t be a Himalayan hermit.”

“Is this your way of coping?  This rambling?” She asked.

“Yeah, and yetis. Beats the hell out of talking about how awful I am.”

“We aren’t talking about how awful you are,” She said. “I said you’re a good guy, but you aren’t infallible.”

“I don’t know what else to talk about right now. A yeti would understand this. They don’t know what to talk about either. That’s why they hide in mountains like I’m doing. Except their mountains aren’t full of bustling garlic breathed people who look like elves to me. So when you get right down to it, I’m something like a yeti: tall, white, hairy (semi) and currently live on the side of a mountain in a subtropical country where no one understands me when I speak. I am a subtropical yeti….”

“Well you ramble then and I’ll just sit here and read.”

I think I failed to mention that this conversation was over instant messaging while each of us are on different continents. As you can clearly see, I express myself better with the written word. You should hear me trying to discuss feelings vocally. It’s truly horrific and only marginally successful when done in total darkness. It also helps when she doesn’t laugh at those expressions uttered into a dark room intended to put me at ease through the illusion of solitude. I told you I was flawed.

Sensing she wanted to change the subject because I am in possession of inordinately high levels of emotional intelligence, I decided to comment on recent FB timeline posts.

“I see you’ve been taking stabs at me on your timeline.”

“Huh?

“Memes abut holding in snarky comments or letting go does less damage. I’m pretty sure those are directed at me. It’s cool. I think I earned it.”

“You are going to think everything is directed at you right now.”

“If the snowsuit fits…” I began. “I’m not mad or hurt or anything. It was just an observation that had nothing to do with the phallic nature of fleas or flightless water birds.”

“What’s the plural of yeti,” She asked.

“I’ll have to ask our scholars. As soon as I can find a yeti scholar. They’re more elusive than the hillbilly yetis like me.”

“No crap, I looked it up: yetovia.”

“They have a bank?” I asked, more than a little irked that my yeti brethren have been withholding information. “What time are you going to bed?”

“Why?”

“So I know when to get up so I can talk to you. Duh. I don’t have to explain these things to yetis.”

“Because they are at the bank and don’t care.”

“They are starting to be as douchey as fleas.”

“Before you go, just tell me this.”

My gut immediately tied itself in knots. I don’t think I’ve ever had a panic attack, but I’m pretty sure this is how they start. One more question that sheds light on my many flaws, exposes that weak spot in a carefully crafted façade presented to the world so they can’t see through my crap. “I’ll try.”

“Why can’t we get rid of that Mustang?” She referenced the dilapidated 66 Mustang sitting covered in our driveway.

“I want to restore it.” I’m more than a little confused at this point. I’m the subject changer, the deflector. Not her.

“Why do you want it so bad? It just takes up room in the driveway.”

“It’s a classic and I’ve wanted one since I could drive. It’s my dream project.”

“The damned thing isn’t reliable. It’s paint its chipped. It won’t hardly start.” She listed its issues.

“It just needs some work.”

“And you have the patience and skill to do this?”

“Mostly. The body work will be a learning process though.”

“When it’s fixed it will still be an old car that could break down again.” Kim was making me work for this one.

Did I mention that Kim has a tendency to sell things when I’m overseas? My horse when I was in Iraq. My BMW last time I came to Korea. I really thought it would be my dog this time. She hates German Shedders. Now I felt like I was in a battle to keep this classic car project and couldn’t care less about the dog. How quickly loyalties shift. Sorry, Smoke. You’re on your own, pup.

“I don’t want to just patch it up. I’m talking full restoration. It could take years.”

“Sweetheart, you just made my point on our marriage for me.”

“Masterful.” All I could do was shake my head in awestruck wonder.

“And that’s why you love me.”

“One of the many.”

Image By Philippe Semeria – http://www.philippe-semeria.com, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5770652

Marriage Explained

As I trudge up the rock face to my quarters, I often avoid the circuitous route up the stairs that eventually leads to the opposite side of the building in which I live. More often than not, I opt for the foot-wide concrete ledge of the monsoon ditch that runs from the top of the mountain to some rice paddies in the valley. I don’t think the word “ditch” paints an adequate picture of this thing. It’s over twelve feet wide across its flat bottom and when my six-foot two-inch self is in it, I can’t see over the edge. At one point there is a slightly smaller ditch that joins it just opposite of my building. This junction creates a little island of sorts upon which grass and a few half naked trees grow. Seriously, it’s like the mange jumped host type and is thriving on flora. I’m not sure why, but I find myself drawn to stare at it once I’ve scaled what I had originally assumed was Fuji until a Korean informed me that Fuji is in Japan. Maybe I stare at this little island because I find it peaceful or a pretty little patch of the world that is just out of place. It may be more likely that I stare at it because I do not acclimate well to altitude and when I’m lying flat on the ground with my head turned in that direction gasping for air in a manner reminiscent of a fish gasping for water that isn’t there, I have no choice but to stare at it since it is the only thing present in my narrowing field of vision.

A few days ago I stopped just short of rounding the corner of the condemned building that lay one terrace below my current residence: The Millipede Marriott. I heard a strange new sound, which is interesting in and of itself since I wasn’t wearing my hearing aids at the time. I’m fairly certain that this means my wife could hear the same sound from our home in Georgia. If you were to imagine what a chicken might sound like if instead of multiple clucks in rapid succession, it was simply issuing a single cluck. Then imagine that the cluck was deeply pitched as if it were from a male animal and that this male creature was from the South Eastern United States. So now you have a deep cluck with a bad Southern twang drawing it out and maybe it’s being uttered from inside a large balloon.

At first I thought that some ginormous bullfrog was in the culvert through which Fuji’s drainage runs (I’m sure the guy was lying about the mountain’s location in order to have a good old chuckle at the foreigner who should obviously be removed from the highlands). I took this opportunity to pause my ascent, thinking that a grown man perched on the edge of a monsoon ditch peering into the black depths of a mosquitobat (more on them later) habitat looking for real life amphibious Pokémon might be judged less harshly than a pause to stave off altitude sickness. The sound continued and to my relief it wasn’t emanating from the cavern in front of me. Not that I have anything against caverns, but as eluded to earlier, there is a sizeable population of these bat sized mosquitos in that vicinity which is why I’d assumed the noise was coming from a giant frog. It would certainly have to be giant to survive and feed upon mosquitobats.

As it turns out, the source of the sound was far less interesting than a 200 pound green Jigglypuff subsisting on giant mosquitos with a taste for human eyes. Instead, it was a pheasant rooster standing atop the only rock on the ditch island that I’d be staring at as soon as I face planted at the apex of my climb. His chest was puffed out and his head was held high as he issued these strange sounding noises that were far too large to be coming from such a small bird. His mate busied herself nearby pecking around and doing her thing. I honestly don’t know what it is female pheasants do, but she certainly looked busy at it. The rooster stood watch, posing and making noise as the hen went about her business.

As with most animals I see, I mentally ran through options on how to capture and consume this rooster. In the end I just opted to take a few pics instead. For one, I don’t know what the hunting regulations are in regards to Fuji Pheasant or if they may be endangered. Also, I’m pretty sure that cooking takes longer than I like in the thin atmosphere up here. I called my wife and recounted the events of my day culminating in my almost participation in real life Pokémon Go. After I told her about the pheasant encounter she responded with a single profound and telling statement that explains so very much to me: “They must have been married for a long time”.

Touché, wife. Carry on. I’m going to stand over here and make some more noise.