[DREAD] I adapted/wrote and ran an adventure called “HORRORSTÖR” about an IKEA of Doom
Hey everyone! Last fall, I ran a session of DREAD at a con with an adventure that I adapted from “Horrorstör”, a novel by Grady Hendrix. Since the session went well, I thought I’d share my prep for others – both as inspiration as well as to get some additional feedback/new ideas if you got any. There’s also some music at the end. Sorry if I missed some typos etc. in the write-up. ------- ADVENTURE TL;DR Employees of a large-scale furniture store get hunted down by Cronenbergian abominations because Corporate wants to increase quarterly profits. MAIN THEMES Entrapment, Hopelessness, Annihilation of the Self, Fear of (Social) Decline, Assimilation SETTING INFO & PLOT “Horrorstör” takes place in a store called ORSK (basically a knock-off IKEA). It’s set in 2009 in an American flyover state, right after the first big shockwave of the last financial crisis. Characters are tasked with finding out the causes of nightly vandalism, only to uncover they’re trapped in the store with something more sinister. THE STORE
The local ORSK should feel like an oppressive vault of niceness. Located well outside the nearest town and framed by a lake of cement, this blue-white megastore offers shoppers everything they need to make a space a home.
Shoppers are guided through its showroom, market place and self-serving warehouse by a long and winding path that induces retail hypnosis. Even ORSK employees (or “partners”, as they’re called by Corporate) sometimes need to concentrate in order to not get lost.
Within its walls, ORSK has no windows, skylights or clocks. Like a casino, it exists in an eternal now. Of course, there’s also little to no cell phone reception.
Aside from the retail floors, ORSK has a restaurant (whose meatballs are actually quite good) and a Scandinavian Food Market (where no food actually comes from Scandinavia).
Behind the scenes, there’s various break rooms, a larger storage warehouse, a basement and freight elevators. There’s one way to the store manager’s offices upstairs above the showroom.
Whereas the threat in the original novel was a [spin on the supernatural “haunted house” trope], my adventure features “Projekt Drön” – an attempt by Corporate to create the perfect worker.
Drön are pure cyborg bodyhorror. They seem humanoid from a distance (because they once were humans), but land smack-dab in the uncanny valley the closer you get. When Drön speak, they don’t move their mouths. They unhinge their jaws and play pre-recorded stock phrases (“Thank you for shopping at ORSK”, “The store is closing, please proceed to the exit”, “Do you have an ORSK family card?”).
As the night progresses, their appearance should become more horrific, with limbs elongating or shortening, muscles bulging obscenely and flesh peeling off, revealing metallic mesh and sinews beneath. They will hunt the players down – your choice either to kill them or use them as raw material to make more Drön.
The ORSK store should become more and more deadly as the game progresses. Start by cutting off shortcuts in the floor plan, make furniture shatter and fall, have storage racks squash them…
QUESTIONNAIRES I’ve made the player questionnaires look like job application forms for ORSK. As it was a con game for a max of 5 players, I kept it short – 12 questions each. I started off with setting questions (“Why do you wanna work here? ; “What’s your favorite ORSK piece of furniture” ; “How would you describe your work ethos?”), then ventured into background questions (“You’re overqualified for this job. Why do you still need it?” ; “What made you leave your hometown so abruptly?” ; “A part of the store lets you shudder. Which one, and why?”), turned the screw towards the personal (“Why wasn’t your mother proud of you?” ; “Why can’t you let others see the real you?”), and finally cranked up the unease towards Corporate and the feeling of entrapment (“Why is true that a person’s worth is based on their efficiency?” ; “If a person is dependent on their job, wouldn’t they be well to follow Corporate’s orders?”). At the end, players should feel their character’s inability to just up and quit – either because there are no better jobs available, or because the neatness of ORSK provides a security blanket for their neurosis or what have you. NPCs
Basil, the supervisor (mandatory). Basil loves his job at ORSK, as his benefits pay for his little sister’s medication (he is her sole guardian). Basil also likes the PCs and wants them to succeed. He might get promoted soon, he heard, and would love for one of them to a rise to a higher position as well. Besides the store manager, Basil is the only one in possession of an Override key that can deactivate a store-wide lockdown.
Matthew (optional), one of the storehouse workers. Ethnically ambiguous. His beard is the last thing a craft beer sees before it dies. Matt has never encountered a conspiracy theory he didn’t like, so you take his ramblings about “corporate replacing us all with automatons” with a grain of salt.
Trinity Prendergast (optional), co-worker and resident MySpace goth. Her family is *really* into pageants, so her look is aimed squarely at riling her mom up. Her first and last act at work is wiping off and reapplying black lipstick, respectively.
Ruth Anne, the good soul of this ORSK (optional). She’s been doing odd jobs all her life, with ORSK being by far her favorite. Kind, communal and protective, but can pack a punch when cornered. If she has a vice, it’s strawberry flavored chapstick. Looks like if your older aunt was cosplaying as Dolly Parton.
Michael, the drifter (optional). Has lost his home, and his family, during the financial crisis and sleeps in the store. Michael can be used as a red herring to explain the strange things during the night… except he’s been here far shorter than those.
The raccoon (optional). Another red herring for the player’s to find before they encounter the real threat.
Tom Perssons, CEO of ORSK North America. All-American sweetheart turned corporate. Pomenade and teeth whitener made human. His picture hangs in every ORSK, but no one has actually seen Tom in real life.
ADVENTURE STRUCTURE Part I After a mysterious shipment of new prototype furniture is delivered, the store suffers from weird acts of nightly vandalisms. Players are tasked with spending an extra night shift to get to the bottom of it. In this part, GMs should introduce characters and a general sense of unease towards Corporate. Mention slogans that seem both cheery and ominous at the same time (“ORSK: A home, forever!” ; (“ORSK partners: Our most valuable resource” etc.), “Employees of the Month” that you’ve never seen in the store (they’re either been “promoted” or switched stores) and that despite the spotless façade, your ORSK is in dire need of some repairs. It should also become apparent that ORSK is cutting costs by firing the cleaning and security staff. Of course, the mysterious shipment are DRÖN compartments. After they’ve been put in the basement, this part of the store will become off-limits for employees due to a “leak”. Mention a rotting, electrical stench emanating from behind the doors. Part II The store shuts down for a national holiday – which means there’s no shoppers or staff coming for a few days. Perfect time to hunt for vandals. Characters get more than what they’ve bargained for. Use the first section of this part to (further) develop a sense of camaraderie between characters and introduce the red herring. Generate a feeling of paranoia and uncanniness. Whereas the ORSK is well-lit and pleasant during the day, at night the scenery – with the lights off and no white noise playing – plays with and confuses your senses. When players have encountered the red herring and are ready to call it in, guide them towards the store manager’s office. Shortly before they reach it, have the Drön show up first and claim Basil and additional victims, if applicable. End this part of the adventure with players discovering a case file for “Projekt Drön”. Part III After discovering the “Projekt Drön” video, characters need to find Basil (or what’s left of him) so they can get the Override switch and escape the ORSK. To do so, they have to cross the floors of ORSK that the Drön have turned into death traps, get into the basement and survive long enough to make it to the exit. ------ DID YOU USE PROPS? Yeah. As I’ve mentioned, the questionnaires looked like job applications; I’ve photoshopped and printed out an actual IKEA Store map. The original “Horrorstör” novel also provides some nifty and appropriately creepy furniture artwork. A quick Google Image search will help you out. WHAT CHANGES DID YOU MAKE FROM THE ORIGINAL NOVEL? The threat, mainly. The original book is basically a>! fun take on the "haunted house" trope!<, I thought I'd play up the callousness of Corporate and invented new villains to match my intent. SO WAIT, IS THE TRUE VILLAIN CAPITALISM? Whatever gave you that idea? IS THERE A SPOTIFY PLAYLIST?You bet your ORSK there is!
Collection of thoughts about my experience as a Prius Dweller
Thought I would finally join this subreddit and give a run down of my experiences. Last year, I bought a 2018 Prius with the intent of using it to go on road trips and live in it -- mostly because I have been trapped in the middle of frickin' nowhere my whole life and have never had a true adventure. I have never seen a mountain in-person prior to these trips. I also have a very comfortable IT job that easily facilitates me living in a car and working remotely without issues and with a lot of free time. I went on two separate trips so far. The first one was about 2.5 months long and the second one was about 3.5 months long. I have traveled from Seattle, WA to Key West, Florida and put over 20,000 miles on the car in the process. My first trip was comprised of South Dakota (Badlands, Black Hills), Yellowstone, Idaho (Coeur d'alene), Oregon (Forests, Crater Lake, Portland, beaches), Nor Cal (Redwood forests, beaches), Washington (Beaches, Seattle, Olympic National Park), and Montana(Glacier National Park). And for my second trip, I went to Louisiana(New Orleans), Florida(where I spent most of the time and explored nearly everything), up the coast to Charleston, SC, and into the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains(Gatlinburg, Asheville). Everything was amazing. I don't know if I have a favorite, but the beauty of Glacier National Park particularly strikes me. I also thoroughly enjoyed swimming in the crystal clear springs throughout Florida. My setup is not particularly elaborate, but I didn't spare much of an expense: - Tinted windows. - Front and rear dashcams with batteries for when the car is off. - Custom fit sun shades for all windows (Weathertech). - Weathertech floor liners. - A basic cooler. - Redundant IT setup so I don't get fired. (2 laptops, 3 chargers, a car charger, 2 hotspots) - A 4" thick full sized foam mattress pad and a sleeping bag, couple of blankets, couple of pillows. - Suitcase full of clothes, towels.- Bag with misc supplies (Laundry, food, trash bags, medicine, wet wipes). Wet wipes are great for cleaning yourself when you don't have access to a shower for some reason. - A Black Card membership to Planet Fitness (for showering mostly). It also makes a good excuse if you ever decide to sleep in a Planet Fitness parking lot (not my first choice). - Rain guards so that I can roll the windows down in bad weather. And that is basically all I needed. I know people have much more elaborate DIY setups, but much of that I never found necessary or was interested in. I also ended up buying a USB fan that I never used because if I ever really needed heat regulation I would just use the AC. One thing that I wish I had thought of beforehand is to get a Prius with a sunroof. It would have been nice to be able to stare up into the sky while I try to sleep, or to open it up and let some air in. One thing I might consider in the future is a signal booster for my hotspots. These can be pricey, but worth it if your job depends on a reliable connection. Although I think I can get by without one by using apps that help you pinpoint the location of cell towers and by mooching off of hotel wifi access. I took out a few credit cards prior to purchasing the car and supplies in order to score a bunch of bonus travel points (I had saved up most of the cost of the car prior to buying it). I used the Plastiq service in order to use car payments towards the qualifying payments required for the credit card bonuses. The fee they charged was definitely worth it for the points I accrued. So I set out on the road with a boat load of free points I had thought I would need for hotels here and there. It's a good idea if you like to go to them from time to time. During my first trip I went to hotels twice a week (mostly to work). I eventually realized that I could work entirely out of my car without issues and without much discomfort, and during my second trip I only booked a hotel a couple times. As I write this, I still have around half of my points... It's been the time of my life. I would do it full time if I didn't have other obligations (my cat, mostly, who waited patiently at home). As a result of these trips, I have decided to move to the west coast permanently, which means I have another trip coming up soon. On my next trip I plan on going through Colorado, maybe stop at the Grand Canyon, and make my way through southern/central California. Now I'll just focus on what it was like living in the Prius and what my preferences are when I do it rather than the trips themselves. If anyone has any questions about anything, feel free to ask. I've only been explicitly shoed away twice, and one time a security guard caught my attention but allowed me to continue what I was doing. The first time I was shoed away, I was at a casino parking lot. I have stayed at many casino parking lots, and most of them never bothered me, but this one in particular had saw me put up my sun shields (from the outside) and was determined to kick me out. Since then, I started putting my sun shields on only from within the car so that people are less likely to notice, and I think it has helped. The second time is when I was staying in Key West, Florida. Key West thinks they have a problem with people living in their car, so the locals don't take kindly to people camping in their cars and are extra vigilant about it. No one actually explicitly shoed me away, but someone dinged my car with a bell and yelled "No overnight parking" generally for the entire parking lot, which was enough to scare me away. They may not have known I was sleeping in my car. And the time when the security guard approached me, I was sleeping in a large vacant lot two nights in a row. The first night went fine, and the second night alerted them more that something was going on and caused them to approach me. But, they thought I was homeless and destitute or something, and they let me stay there because they pitied me, but they told me to leave first thing in the morning. My location of choice? Mid-sized hotel parking lots. I did this almost exclusively on my second trip. Holiday Inns, Courtyard by Marriots, etc. No one who worked at any hotel ever bothered me, tow away zone signs be damned. If I park in the right location, I get free wifi access, which is great for work. That was my primary motivation. Sometimes people staying at the hotel would catch on to someone being inside of the car and gossip about it such that I could hear them, but no one ever really bothered me. Other than hotels, free camp sites are nice. (freecampsites.net) Sometimes you can get really lucky and find an abandoned camp site with a full bathroom and shower and electricity next to a scenic lake or something like that. Other places I stayed at that I would recommend: Walmart parking lots (in good neighborhoods), 24 hour gym parking lots, Cracker Barrels, Cabelas, the aforementioned casino parking lots. Side streets. I am not really a fan of side streets, but I think it depends on the neighborhood. It's a bit paradoxical because these might be locations where it's actually legal to park and stay overnight, but the people who live in the house you park next to can get suspicious of you. I would much rather deal with someone who works at a hotel or as a security guard and is underpaid than with a curious and possibly grumpy homeowner. The first night I ever slept in my car, I stopped at a small town in South Dakota where I stood out like a sore thumb, and every time I would try to find a parking spot on a side street, someone would come out of their house and approach me. They would confuse me with someone they knew, or they would just look at me suspiciously. Everyone in a small town in the middle of nowhere knows everyone, and they know that you do not belong there. I ended up sleeping in a car dealership out of desperation and with someone probably watching me the entire time. Rest stops. I never use a rest stop. They do not seem safe to me, because everyone knows that there are sleeping travelers there, and thus predators can go to these places looking for people to victimize. It defeats the purpose of stealth. The safest thing to me is to draw minimum suspicion that someone is even trying to sleep in their car. But as I never used them, I don't have any real world experience. The stories of people being attacked at them was enough to keep me away from them. PEE JUGS: An art form. I don't know how female dwellers live without pee jugs. It must be difficult. I imagine getting up to pee a bunch would break stealth. It's bad enough that you're more vulnerable as a female to begin with. But as a male dweller, you will be presented with a variety of options. Gatorade bottles might seem like a good idea, being that they have a wide top and can store a decent amount. And while you may be able to pee in a Gatorade bottle here and there, you may underestimate how much you have to pee and how much space you actually have. Really, you want at least a gallon jug, and you want something with a nice tight screw cap and probably a firm handle. Large bottles of tea also work well. The last thing you want is to spill pee. Take this sage advice and do not learn the hard way. But also be sure to take advantage of the majestic pee jug if you are privileged to do so. And never go to bed when you have to poo and think you can hold it in. It sucks. You rarely ever do this when you live in a house and you may not appreciate how uncomfortable and how bad of an idea this is until you try it. No, I did not poo the bed, for the record. Anyway, that about wraps up everything I have to say for now. I will answer any questions. I love Prius Dwelling. It's been the time of my life. I want to continue doing it on and off for the rest of my life. These kinds of long trips are simply not financially possible to do if you stay at hotels unless you are loaded. I should probably write a tl;dr. Edit: Added Rain Guards to my setup list.
I am Penelope Kaye Teague, a fiery bombshell that doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up. So gorgeous, that I got a complete stranger to stop me while I was shopping alone. He held a paper and a wad of cash out to me. He was shaking. “Ma’am, this is strange and out of the blue, but. Would you be willing to read this?” “Honey, do I get the cash,too?” I would read anything for money. I read the paper, it was a non-disclosure agreement. I screamed in the store. The gentleman ran away dropping a few one hundreds. “HE WANTED ME TO BE HIS SUGAR BABY!” I screamed in surprise. My green eyes focused while my greedy hands reached for the money. I picked up about eight Bennies off the ground and whipped out my iPhone. When my hot boyfriend, Thatcher Hank Holden, answered his stupid Android. “Yes, babe?” His velvet voice vibrated to my lady garden. “A pervert approached me in public with money and a straight up NDA.” I could almost hear his eyebrows and jaw twitch. Then the toothpick in his mouth was spit out in his floorboard. “Excuse me?” I started to laugh and he sputtered out something stupid. “Listen!” I shouted over his bitching. “You are laughing after telling me you were approached by a perv!” “LISTEN!” I screamed in the receiver, I heard him scream out a curse and something about his ringing ear. “I have an idea. Meet me at home.” I had left the items I was buying on a random rack on my way out the door to catch a cab. Lakeview City was a gorgeous bigger town. It was a very spread out lake village in Northeastern Oklahoma. It’s spread all the way to the four corners. The southern point of it over an hour from big T-Town, Tulsa. The city still had the small town feel but had everything a huge city could offer. Ma and pop restaurants, cafes, casinos, hotels and resorts, cinema and live theatre, mega churches, and even an amusement park! Oh, and tons of boating, fishing, and swimming in the beautiful Lake Kee. It was so clean and clear you could see the bottom pretty far out. The town and lake was under four hundred square miles split up in three sections. North City, The Rich of the rich live here. Doctors, lawyer, The mayor, various other officials. Basically anyone white, powerful, and shitty. Midtown is home to yours truly and the rest of the hard working middle to upper class. Most of us are life long residents of the area, this is also where most of the business and day to day errands would be ran. South Lake is the biggest area of them all, the amusement park, tourist traps, and college are in this area. There isn’t really a “bad,” part of town. It’s more of everywhere is potentially dangerous depending on the situation you are in. The problem of not having a “ghetto,” we don’t have a place for the poor or homeless to reside in. So the people of North City do their best to have them bussed to Tulsa and dropped at shelters like stray pets. This place hits for the most part, but my boyfriend is hot and my mom refuses to move. “3434 Lady Lane,” Says the cab driver as I exit. I walk up to my front door to unlock it. An early 00’s model white truck came barreling around the corner of the block. I could see Thatcher, he was deliciously shirtless and his windows down due to the lack of A/C. God, I hated that truck. “Hey, babe!” He says swinging out. He slams his truck door on his way up the four step stoop. We stood on my modern Victorian style porch. He gave me a sweet kiss as he snaked his long arms around my torso. “Now...who is this perv.....” “Ah, ah, I’m starving and still thinking on a plan for my idea I mentioned..” “Egg sandwich it is then.” He smiled at her as he left her to head inside. Thatcher Hank Holden, was actually homeless himself previously. His mother died very young and he never knew his father. At age 13 he was found under Riley Throttle’s front patio when child services were going to put him in the system and take him from Lakeview. Old lady Throttle adopted him soon after. She died five years later from cancer, she had left him EVERYTHING. He currently uses her old three bedroom home as an AirBnB so he doesn’t have to have a regular job. It pays what is left that was owed on her new car. He refuses to drive her 2018 Dodge Charger because he feels like a cop. I make him drive it in the winter and dead of summer when I’m with him. I was twirling a strand of my coppery hair as I go to sit in my living room. My kitchen mother owns a clothing store and was the only employee currently. So for the past three months she has been gone everyday. I don’t mind, it makes Thatch and I feel like we’re playing house. I know, gross. But I love him. I could smell the cheese and egg as I entered the kitchen. Bacon was popping in the nearby pan for my sandwich as well. “So,” Thatcher quietly mumbles as I look up from my freckled hands. “What is your idea?” His eyes were dark as his almost black hair. His skin a smooth velvet caramel. My eyes were enjoying the plains of his toned body from precious construction work. The pan popped when he went to flip the bacon. “YOWCH!” He shouted making me throw my head back and cackle. “DUMB!” I say as I go around. While he rinsed his belly, I made my sandwich. I went to his side and kiss his cheek. “Thank you. Want me to make you one since you hurt yourself?” He shook his head no as he messed with the peeling skin. “Just a little burn. It’s good.” He left to go up to my room. I started to make his as he returned with a shirt over his flat stomach. My nails burning to scratch along his sinews of muscle. He took over for me when he returned. “Sooooo!!! What is your idea?” He asks abruptly as he continued making his bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. “I’m going to be a sugar baby.” His eggs hit the floor mid transportation from frying pan to toast. “Uh...I-“ he cleared his throat making a very mean face. His mean face he makes when he’s beyond upset and doesn’t know how to communicate well. Thatcher and I have been working on communication since his putting holes in the wall days when we first started dating. I saw the potential. “I....” he stammered his mouth closed. “I don’t know how to feel about you making that choice.” He said gritting his teeth. Good boy...no controlling me? We have gained GROWTH. I kissed his cheek after that reply. “You didn’t let me finish. I’m going to seduce them....we meet up with these sugar daddies that are trying to buy my pussy....and then we black mail them....” His mean face was instantly gone. I could tell by his half lidded look he gave me, along with a crooked smile meant he was throughly impressed by me. “You sneaky bitch.”
Why am I still feeling this way? Was I right in my actions? How do I move forward? Was she using me?
Hi all First time post, thought I'd gather some thoughts and advice from the infinite wisdom that is reddit. It's quite a long story so I'll keep it relatively short. I met a girl when I was 17 (this must have been around 2007?) and when I was working in a kitchen in my homeland of New Zealand, straight out of school, just chilling. She was from Russia, let's call her Maria and was studying tourism. I fell for her pretty hard, she was just my type, y'know how it is. She was just my idea of pretty, however I wasn't offering much, we got close as friends but it never went any further and she began a relationship with her flatmate. It is what it is. I was a bit heartbroken but moved forward, but never really forgot about her and kinda kept tabs on her via social media just out of interest. I then met a girl (let's call her Harriet) who was travelling NZ from the UK. Lovely girl, fell for her and we got romantically involved. Her visa expired and had to go back to the UK however we started a long term relationship. Fast forward a few months and I moved out to the UK to be with her. My visa then expired and I had to return to NZ. To return to the UK I had to obtain a Eurpopean passport which I could obtain due to my grandfather being of German descent. All the while this is happening the Maria who I met when I was 17 is still on my mind, she's been studying at uni and been in a couple of different relationships, but I'll delve into that a bit later. I returned to the UK, however after a couple of years our relationship hit some rocks. She wasn't willing to come back to New Zealand to settle. Not even on a temporary basis (5 years in NZ, then return to the UK) we couldn't get past this so we broke up. At the time we had been together maybe 8 years or so. I was single for about 6 months, had some fun, saw some other girls but nothing serious. On my birthday I received a message out of the blue from the Maria the Russian. We started talking and decided that we should meet when I come back to NZ on one of my bi-annual trips home. We meet up in a lovely town, she flies there to see me, we hit it off. I payed for pretty much everything and spoilt her a bit with a spa day etc. She's smitten and so am I. In the UK I landed a pretty good job where I'm slowly climbing the ladder, the pay isn't amazing but it's comfortable. I go back to the UK and she asks me if I want to help her take her parents around NZ over Christmas. Strangely she gets a bit weird with me the closer to the date when her parents are due to arrive, like she doesn't think I will hold upy end of the bargain. Anyway I do and I end up taxiing her and her parents around NZ, we stay in my parents apartment in an exspensive lake town, I pay for a shitload of activities for us, pay for all the food, petrol etc. My bank account was looking pretty sad at the end of it all. She's now totally fallen for me though. I return to to the UK and we continue talking. I'm making plans to come home to NZ to be with her when I suggest she should just come to the UK. She jumps at the idea and arranges flight. She arrives, we spend the night in London so I can show her around a bit. Literally the next day I wake up and see my phone has about 40 missed calls, I know what it means, something has happened, someone is either dead or seriously hurt. I get the news my dad has died in New Zealand. And to be fair, she is good about it. My mum insists I stay with Maria and don't come home, dad didn't want a funeral, and I could say my goodbyes when I'm home next. This damaged me though. I arranged an apartment for Maria and I to live in, again, I fronted the cost for everything. Deposit, council taxes, rent, power, food, everything. I was under the impression Maria would find work after having a bit of time off. This wasn't so. She wanted to play housewife, however I simply couldn't afford it. It was a cheap apartment and there was no way we could have lived any cheaper. On top of this she wanted to see the UK and wanted me to pay for it. I did what I could but in the end I ended up with credit card debt and overdrafts because of the strain. It took it's toll on me and eventually we split due to this strain. She also had a wicked temper where she would scream at me for lying to her (about little things like not going to the gym when I told her I was) All the while, Harriet has moved on and found another guy. Maria and I split due to me thinking she was only with my because I was providing for her, and she was taking advantage of me, and she returned to New Zealand, ironically going to where I wanted to be more than anything, however I stayed in the UK for my career and, in truth, for Harriet. I was so broken from my father's death, how much stress I was under at work and my debt that up needed Harriet as she is caring, and would in a way look after me. I had days where I couldn't get out of bed, Maria didn't care and would piss off for a coffee, Harriet would never do that. Harriet split from the guy she was seeing, up won't lie, I was talking to her and pushed her that way, she's always loved me and I knew she would leave him for me. We are now, as in right this second, living together. Now we get back to Maria: - She obtained NZ residency, how did she do this? She obtained a partnership visa from one of her bosses she was in a relationship with in around 2008. Warning sign 1. - When she was going through Uni in NZ her boyfriend (different boyfriend to the one she got a visa off) payed all her rent and exspenses, during this time she managed to save a lot of money. Warning sign 2. - She worked at casinos, and would date poker players who claimed to be rich or where rich, whatever. Warning sign 3(?) - She was quite happy for me to pay for everything when her parents were in NZ. She never stepped in to pay for any meals or petrol (warning sign 4? Maybe a bit harsh?) In the past year I've rather unhealthily been looking at her 'gram. She's met another guy, he's not a looker, he's older by about 10 years, she's 32 so not that bad I guess. He's divorced, and has a kid. He's also very well off. The general manager of a big company in NZ. They just got engaged and I feel awful. No idea why. He's building them a house, taking her on lavish holidays, things I wish I could have done with her to be honest. So is this my ego that's hurt? So in conclusion, what do you all make of this? How do I move forward? Sorry about the length of the post, but I feel you need the full history to get it.
OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Just take a hard left at Daeseong-dong…7
Continuing Well, when the props fouled the third time, I suggested we call it a day, as we’d already made some 32 sea-kilometers. We were out on the fringes of the worst of the kelp forest beds, and after a good night’s sleep, we’d be ready to deploy bright and early and get some seismic data acquired and recorded. But, first, there was the first night aboard ship. In a rusty old tin-can with few creature comforts, as the annual winter monsoon winds wane and the seas actually begin to settle slightly. I took that as both good omens. The bitching and kvetching I head from the locals about the ‘abominable weather they had to endure’, even from the Coast Guard types, really struck me as uproariously funny. I just chalked it up to being sequestered from the rest of the world for so long. Put these characters in the path of a Midwestern tornado, East Indian summer monsoon, or Siberian blizzard, and they’d shit themselves blind. I didn’t really think too much of it, although it became somewhat of a game when the imperialistic foreigners tried to one-up each other with horror stories from excursions past. “No shit”, Dax said, “We were snowed in for a full fortnight.” “No!” several of us recoiled in mock horror. “Oh, yah, hey.” Dax continued, “It’s just great when blizzards snap the power lines, and all the toilets freeze. The house cat didn't die until we burned up all our wood. Considering we ate her raw, she tasted pretty good…” Several of our handlers, a few in the Coast Guard and most of the Korean scientists reacted rather badly to Dax’s story; especially when it had been gorily translated. Seeing this, Dax stood up, got the soju bottle, and asked if anyone needed a top-up. I asked while puffing away on a large Jamaican cigar if anyone needed a smoke. At this point, Dax was winning. He had seven of the assembled crowd run to the rail to relieve themselves of our canned Chinese dinner. Not ever one to shrink from a challenge, I related my second-hand story of my Brother-in-law, who was in the US Coast Guard for years and years. I waited for the green crowd to re-join us and regain what remained of their composure. I figured the quasi-military national Coast Guarders here would appreciate the tale. Mine wasn’t a gory or shocking tale, just one of the incredible water conditions off the coast of California. I waited until everyone was settled, drink in hand, and smokin’ ‘em if you got ‘em. “Well”, I said, “It was on board a ship much like the one we’re currently on,” I said as a rascal wave broke over the railing in counterpoint. “About the same size as this vessel, but with smaller wheels. You know these Coast Guard shallow-water boys”, I chuckled. Always meaning to jab one group or another in the place where I know it stings. Yeah, I’m a real bastard that way sometimes. The Korean Coast Guarders sneered hardly at me; but not too hard. They liked my cigars, cigarettes, and open disbursement policy too much. “Yeah, anyways”, I continued, “He was offshore California in one of the US Coast Guard cutters. It was a boat about 26 meters or so in length. They were out doing search and rescue after a mega-nasty storm blew in from the west and scuttled a sailing regatta race.” I was drawing them in with my ‘just so’ story, nice and easy, until… “Yeah, there were several capsized monohulls, catamarans and trimarans. Damn, these things were fucking yachts. Owned by rich idiots that almost knew how to sail but didn’t know enough to get out of the way of a fucking severe storm…” I really had their attention with ‘soaking the rich’. “Well, the waves grew and grew, but my Brother-in-laws's boat was built to handle severe weather. These patrol and rescue boat has the capability to roll over 360 degrees and self-right within 30 seconds. Like right now, you’d never even notice this degree rock and roll”, I said as I demonstrated with my cigar, tracing out tighter and tighter rolls, and higher degrees of rocking and rolling. “They were approaching a capsized trimaran, but the waves kept growing and growing…” I said, leading by example and having them watch me with unblinking attention. “The waves grew and grew, and normally you’d take these head-on. But that was impossible, because when afternoon came it was slashin' rain, in the face of a hurricane west wind. The boat rolled to the left, heeled, almost keeled, a then rolled the other way just as quickly.” I noted. They followed me as I timed it with the heavings of our own boat, to the left…to the right… “Then, just as they were about to reach upon the trimaran, a rogue wave! Out of nowhere”, I said, rocking and rolling along with our own little boat, “BAM! Hit amidships! It didn’t roll once, it rolled twice!” I made great and magniloquent gestures of a tiny boat being savaged by a monstrous rogue sea wave. I stood up, blew a great blue cloud of smoke towards the poop deck, and said, loudly, “Rolled over once. A full 360! Then rolled right over again. A full 720 degrees!” as I demonstrated what happened with my cigar and drink. The eyes following me rolled and rolled as well. Some straight back into the owner’s head and some to the left, some to the right…it was like ‘Loose Slots’ night in Vegas, they were rolling and rolling. And then racing for the rails. Topside to deliver the remains of their hearty canned dinners. “Beat you, Dax!” I smiled as I sat back down, “I got nine with that at one. And two of them were Coasties!” “Did that really happen?” Ivan asked. “According to my Brother-in-law. But he’s an engineer if you know what I mean…” I smiled. We concluded story night as we had drifted free of the kelp forest and the Captain of the boat decided he’d risk an anchorage for the night. The weather was ameliorating, the seas calming themselves down, and the wind dropping a couple of notches on the Beaufort Scale. “Well, gents”, I said, “I need some air. The aroma down here of Chinese Aplo™ for dinner, those who didn’t make it to the rails, and the solitary head for the entire crew has lost its charm. If you’ll excuse me”, I said as I grabbed a bottle of ersatz vodka, and several cans of Taedonggang beer, “I’ll be on the aft deck; in my comfy chair and contemplating the wonder of it all.” With that, I ventured up the stairs and out onto the aft deck. Dax naturally followed and he found his own not-bolted-down deck chair. We had a constant flow of visitors, foreign and nationals alike. It was shaping up to be a fine night for being out under the stars, there was no light pollution at all. We sat in our chairs, drank our drinks, smoked our smokes, and argued the finer points of astronomy as seen from this part of the world. I had several side chats with the scientists and academicians from the Korean side. They all had one thing on their minds. Well, one thing after cigars and cigarettes. They wanted Western scientific journals. They were actually trying to bribe me to get those copies, any age, any subject; of Science, AAPG Explorer, and SEPM Proceedings, anything of Western science as it is today. I said they were welcome to a couple of copies of Science and SPE journals I had brought with as an afterthought, for free. With 900 won to the dollar, they needed every won they could get. I wasn’t about to take anything for the free dissemination of knowledge. However, if they saw it fit to buy me a drink or seven, I wouldn’t object. In reality, I’d buy those as well. We made secret pacts to meet at the hotel-casino the night before we left, whenever the fuck that would be. We had a lot of work before us as it stands. It won’t be for a few weeks, I reminded them. They had no problem. If I could ask the other in the team if they’d do likewise, the appreciation would be palpable. Great. Now I have to go get my field notebooks and make some more new entries. Dax cratered around 0100. I elected to stay the night and sleep under the stars as the boat slowly rocked one way and rolled the other. It was quiet, dark as a tomb, and brilliantly lit up by the stellar backbone of the night once the clouds fumbled out. Tomorrow looked as if it were to be bright and sunny if the gentle westerlies had anything to say about the next day’s conditions. The next day dawned early, bright, and ridiculously sunny as it usually does when the monsoons have departed and it had stopped raining. “OK.”, I thought, “Time for a hearty breakfast. For someone else. I wonder what’s available here.” I ventured down to the cold galley and there were several boxes of dry Chinese breakfast cereal, “Shredded Tweet” and the like, some sort of obviously aged bakery, and a case of Taedonggang beer. “Hmmm”, I mused out loud, “Beer and rice crispies. Breakfast of champions.” Dax walks in, rubbing his eyes. He sees me drowning my rice cereal in foamy ersatz milk. “Reminds me of field camp!” I smiled as I chowed on the morning’s offerings. After our ‘hearty’ breakfast, all the scientific parties gathered in the main stateroom. It was cramped, but the walls were magnetic and we could hang maps, well, charts actually since we’re well offshore now, and plots the day’s course. Out in the Yellow Sea, we were supposedly over a subsurface, and by dint of being offshore, submarine, dome. Salt dome? Unlikely. Probably more of a shale dome, which isn’t a bad thing when hunting for oil and gas. Looking at the charts, I ask the locals what our current position was relative to the domal uplift. After several long moments of silence, I asked again. “Umm, guys”, I said, “If you’re not going to be forthcoming with something as simple as positional data, then turn this boat 1800’s and take us back to shore. I am fed up, as are my team, with this tight-holing of the simplest of data when you are the knotheads that asked us here for help. We get paid either way, and I for one wouldn’t mind being paid triple to sit in the hotel’s basement and drink” After telling the translator to translate that last part literally, I sat back, pulled out a really nasty cigar, and went through all the threatening moves of firing it up in the enclosed cabin. “You will have to excuse us”, came the reply from one of the elders, “We are not used to dealing with oegugseon [foreigners].” “Are you used to following orders?” I asked brusquely. “Of course!” came the near-unanimous reply. “Great. Then consider this an order: You will relay the appropriate information when asked by any Westerner on this cruise. Consider it as coming from the Supreme Leader of this expedition.” I noted. Using the term ‘Supreme Leader’ was both a bow to their current bad-hair-cut in charge and my desire to let them know I was serious as a kick to the scrotum about the whole fucking deal. There were a couple of gasps and some consternatious talk, but eventually, one brave soul got up, walked over to the chart, and pointed to our relative location. “There”, I added, “That wasn’t so hard, was it? Didn’t hurt in the least, did it?” There were a few chuckles amongst our national colleagues, so I figured that was at least a little progress. “OK, then”, I continued, “Volna? Ack? You’re up to bat.” I turned the proceedings over to the geophysicists. They would devise the configuration of the towed array, our speed, direction, charge size, which was based on depth, and all the other geophysical flips and twists one has to do in order to acquire the best data. This shit doesn’t come cheap. The Mesozoic-Paleozoic marine residual basin in the South Yellow Sea where these domes live is a potentially significant deep potential hydrocarbon reservoir. However, the imaging of the deep prospecting target is quite challenging due to the specific seismic-geological conditions. In the Central and Wunansha Uplifts, the penetration of the seismic wavefield is limited by the shallow high-velocity layers (HVLs) and the weak reflections in the deep carbonate rocks. With the conventional marine seismic acquisition technique, the deep weak reflection is difficult to image and identify. We confirm through numerical simulation that the combination of multi-level impulse source (i.e., explosive) array and extended cable used in the seismic acquisition is crucial for improving the imaging quality. With that, we’re going to be recording a minimum of four stacks, with a receiver interval of 25 meters. The array will have a shot interval of 50 meters, with a 25 meter near offset, and a 2500 meter far offset. We will attempt to record 180 channels, off-end, with a sampling period of 0.5 seconds, and a record length of 5 seconds. We’ll sail the same course 4 times to verify previous records and attempt to add ‘fold’, i.e., extra data from the same point, to the overall records. That’s the plan, at least. Loads of preparation, logistics, and execution. After a half an hour or so, both Volna and Ack are finished with the national scientists. They set down their notebooks, pens, notes, and pointers; walk out of the meeting room and directly over to the galley. “Hungry, fellas?” I inquire. “Rock?”, Ack asks, “You have explosives here, right? Sink us. Just fucking sink us right now.” As he pours himself and Volna a stiff shot of real vodka. “Uh, oh. Problems in Dreamland?” I ask, utilizing the derogatory name for the geophysical domain of exploration data. “Un-be-fucking-believable.”, Volna adds. “Your colloquial American is coming along well, Volna.” I snickered a bit. “I learn from you”, he spat, “Cannot believe this. They don’t record while underway. They tow single array and stop. Then drop dynamite over side. They record. Then they do it again. Claim this gives them good fold. This is bullshit. You said devise program. HA! Take us to shore and let me teach them the fucking basics of geophysical acquisition. Then in a few years, we come back and do it right.” “Oh, fuck”, I reply, wincing, “That bad?” “Oh, no”, Ack continues, “It’s worse.” As he down 100 milliliters of booze in one draught and pours another for Volna and is own self, “No on-board demultiplexing. No on-board pre-processing. No-onboard QA/QC. No on-board anything. It’s fucking hopeless. Sink us, I’d rather take my chances with the sharks.” “They can’t do all that stuff or they won’t do all that stuff,” I asked, expecting the worst. “Oh, it might be possible, with this museum-grade crap they call a computer they have on-board. It’s just time-consuming, tricky, and will need constant attention. But with this raft of sad-sacks, flub-a-dubs and third rate hobbyists?” Ack and Volna agree as one. “Consider it job security”, I replied, “How about this? One test loop and we use that data to do what’s necessary; just once. Then we can say we’ve shown them the way. After that, I’ll leave it up to the National scientists.” “Good thing we have 2 full days, Rock”, Volna said, “Because we do a single AC (acquisition) run, it’ll take the rest of the time to show these buggers how it’s done.” “Ack? You agree?” I asked. Ack agreed, in spades. “OK, gentlemen”, I said, “Let’s make it so. About time, too. I haven’t blown anything up in a couple of weeks. I’m getting antsy. Let’s go tell them the good news.” “NO! WE REFUSE!” was the cheery response from the nationals when Ack, Volna, and I laid out the rather lengthy program for the next couple of days. “OK. Someone tell the Captain to head for home. We’re done here.” I calmly told our handlers and the translators. Panic in Pyongyang. Immediately, there is this hue and cry about how this was not supposed to be how this trip was going to work. This was to be an acquisition trip only. This was to be a one-off to show Best Korea geophysical prowess. This was supposed to be data gathering trip on the Western scientists… Oops. That last one was a bit of a mistake. I turn to one of the translators and ask them to re-translate that last part, just in case I was hearing imaginary things. “Oh, yes”, he replied, “He said they were here to gather data on the Western Scientists as well as offshore data.” “Is that a fact?” I reacted. “Please tell them I need to see all my team members on the fantail immediately if you would. Sorry, translators and nationals not included in this little meeting.” We reconvene on the fantail a few minutes later. I walk in on this little conclave with cigar and drink in hand. “OK, gents”, I say, puffing a huge blue cloud, swigging a tot, “Here’s what I think we, as responsible international scientists, should do in this regrettable situation. We were asked to come here, with provisions that we would not be under cynosure, observation, or surveillance. Given ‘Open and Free Access’, no questions asked. We were to be treated as “esteemed guests”. This is obviously a load of dingo’s kidneys. I think we need to get as creative as possible and do whatever we can to provide as much deliberate misinformation to these characters to annoy, amaze, or disgust them as much as possible. Comments?” There’s a general buzz, but no real dissention. After a few moment's discussion, Dax suggests we get a load of XXXXL condoms, and leave them around packaged as “Texas Medium”. “That’s the spirit”, I reply. “Anyone one else up for a little Psychological Operations on our not-so-clever-nor-truthful hosts?” We all agree that we will, in our own little way, start a campaign of deliberate misinformation, misdirection, and general petty bullshit nastiness for our hosts to discover and by which be dismayed. Everyone’s in agreement. This trip has been a rotund bale of jeers from the get-go. Promises made, promises broken. Itineraries approved then inexplicably disapproved. We make requests, they accede; and then nothing ever happens. It’s most frustrating. We’re tolerating a lot of horse, bull, cow, and assorted other farmyard excrements; all in the name of international harmony and scientific goodwill. This has been an outgoing one-way street for too long. We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. “Hellfire and Dalmatians!” I growl, growing angrier every minute I think about the subject, “We need to take the high, low, and middle ground on this offensive. Nothing too overt or obvious; however we need to jank these bastards good. But they can’t realize they’re being janked…!” Ack cuts in. “The esteemed Dr. Rock is right. Psychotic...but absolutely right. We got to take these bastards. We could fight them with conventional weapons. That could take years...cost millions of lives. In this case... I think we have to go all out. I think this situation absolutely requires...a really futile and stupid gesture... be done on somebody's part.” There’s a general buzz among the assembled. “And we're just the guys to do it.” Shouts and catcalls of deep agreement. “Operation ‘Confound-a-Korean’” is now enacted. “About fucking time!” “Let’s do it!” “Dissen gonna be bery messy! Me no watchin!” “OK, I think, “Who’s the prequel-series wiseass?” “OK, gentlemen”, I continue, “We continue with our scientific duties. No fucking around there. But, when it comes to…interpretation…opinion…or personal viewpoint; let’s go full impede. Dazzle them with brilliance or baffle them with bullshit.” We all agree and after a couple of quick rounds of old thought provoker, we realize this trip has just taken a hard left into Wackyland. We will have to let our comrades onshore know of this, but that can wait until we return. Right now, we all have jobs to do. Real jobs, serious jobs, covert and sneaky jobs… So, it’s back to the recording shack as we lay out the plans for the next couple of days. Volna begins: “OK, listen up you primitive screwheads. We’re going to assemble and layout a recording array that’s called a Meisenheimer Triplet. You do know what a simple Meisenheimer Triplet is, don’t you?” There’s a slight murmur from our national friends, but in the end, they all plead ignorance. “Right. Thought so. A Meisenheimer Triplet is a central towed array flanked by two shorter, subparallel flanking sub-frammitz arrays. We will assemble this array on-board, even though it’s probably going to take every ounce of silver solder and electrician’s tape you’ve got. The amount of data received is orders of magnitude greater than any single Sheriff-sonde array, like the ones you been using.” Suddenly, there are nods and murmurs of agreement. “Right”, Volna smiles sinisterly to me, “With that, we’ll need to devise an explosive package, well, actually, a series of explosive packages based on the harmonia of the pre-bottom fore-sets, water depth, tow vehicle velocity, water column density, and decomposition coefficients of the said water column. Oh, yeah. Fish too.” Volna is really getting into the spirit of the affair. “Who is your explosives engineer?” Ack asks, “He’s going to have to do some serious number-crunching with all the pre-blast data we’ll need to supply. “ One quick translation and there’s nothing but long faces and querulous looks from our national crowd. “We have no explosives engineer”, the head Best Korean geophysicist laments. “Explosives are very, very heavily regulated by the government. That’s why we have several Government Observers on board. They handle the explosives.” “Oh?” Ack remarks, “Are they fully up to speed on the Barnard-Reichmann equations for hydro-displacement of serial charges? Which subset of the marine rarefication coefficients do they employ?” “Ummm, don’t know.” was the answer. “Don’t know? Well”, Volna continues, “Then, they must be pretty good with the Langefors-Kihlström formulae, right?” “No. Not as such.” Came the response. “I see”, Ack sighs, “Well, then, I guess they must utilize the Il’yushin algorithms then. OK, it’s a bit old school, but they should still work.” “Ah. Well. No.” was the rejoinder they offered. “Well, then what the fuck do they use?” Volna explodes, “A modified Ambraseys-Hendorn model? Ghosh-Damen 1? Ghosh-Damen 2? Indian Fargin Standard? Prejaculated Rai-Singh protocols, fer’ chrissake? Which?” Nothing but shaking heads and wringing hands. “They take a case of dynamite, wire it up, and throw it overboard with a long fuse.” Was the eventual answer. “That’s why we stop to record.” Long, exasperated sigh later, “Jesus Q. Tapdancing Christ on a crème cracker. No wonder you never get anything done.” Volna continues, “You characters are in luck. You just happen to be so lucky to have an internationally-renowned Master Blaster right here on board ship today.” Volna turns the crowd over to me, “Doctor? Do your damnedest. And good luck.” “Thanks, Volna”, I say, cigar in one hand, stalwart drink in the other, “OK, guys. Here’s the deal. When it comes to explosives and explosive design, I’m the hookin’ bull. No one has authority over me. Not the Captain. Not the boson’s mate. Not the Captain’s Consort even. Nor the guys in the cheap shiny suits. What I say, goes. No exceptions. No hesitation. We green or are we going back to shore?” “Cholog?” they ask. “Yes. ‘Cholog’. Green. Are we understanding one another? Are we all in agreement? Are you fuckin’ diggin’ me, Beaumont?” There’s some quick back and forth in Korean, a lot of seeming bad noise. Even the shiny suit squad and Coasties join in the fun. “Grudgingly, we agree. Green as you say, Doctor Rock. You are the one in charge.” Came the head national’s reply. “Splendid. I’m in charge of the charges.” I chuckle, puffing an enormous cloud of expensive Oscuro smoke, “Volna, Ack; please get me the required parameters. I’ll be in the ordnance locker to see what we’re working with here. C’mon fellas, chop-chop!” Volna and Ack take their select set of geophysical wishers and wannabes while I get the rest of the locals, the shiny suit squad in reserve, but in tow. I head off to the ordinance locker. Dax runs behind “Hey! Wait for me.” “We have to”, I snigger a reply, “We’re going to need a drinks runner.” “Marvelous…” was the one-word response. We get to the locked ordinance locker. It’s one of the few original structures remaining on the ship. The boat was torn down almost to the waterline and re-built for seismic acquisition, but they had enough brains to realize that the source of the seismic signals was usually explosive in nature. Dinoseis and Mini-Sossie were closed books to them. Therefore, the locker remained intact, however grudgingly. “Whew! And what a locker.” I whewed. “And what a lock. OK, who’s got the keys?” There are general hemming and hawing and no one seems to know where the keys for the ordinance locker are kept. “Well, gents”, I say, pointedly, “I would suggest that one or more of you toddle off and fucking find the goddamn keys or this will turn out to be a very short and unproductive trip, indeed.” A while later, a bit longer than I personally care for, the boat’s Captain wanders up, all a-scowl and generally pissed-off looking. “Who here needs the key to the explosives locker?” He asks in his Captainly, no-nonsense manner. There’s more muttering and murmuring, but eventually, all fingers point toward me. The Captain looks at me. “Hello.” He’s giving me the once over with a LASER stink eye. I don’t know which irritated him the most; the lit cigar, the drink, the Stetson, Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, Scottish knee socks or field boots. “And who the hell are you”? He asks, oh, so wrongly, through an interpreter. I stand up, fully puffed to full mammalian threat posture and say in a loud steady voice; “I’m THE Doctor Rocknocker, the MOTHERFUCKING PRO FROM DOVER!, that’s who.” Since I had a good 6 inches and way too many kilos on him; my loud, American and very un-oriental answer took him completely by surprise. His eyes got as big as dinner plates and he shakily held out the ring of keys for the explosives locker. “Why thank you very much”, I said, bowing in his direction ever so slightly. Wasn’t his fault he wasn’t totally clued in on all the recent goings-on aboard his vessel. I toss the keys to Dax, “Here, earn your keep.” I snickered. Dax deftly fields the keys, chuckles back, and begins the game of ‘which key for which lock’? I thank the Captain and explain that I’m the de facto leader of this special education class, and make some pointed, mild epitaphs about landlubbers, national scientists, and the cargo of the totally clueless on board. He sees I’m not a total boor and relaxes some. We haven’t really had a real introduction, so I grab a translator and engage the Captain in a short, though insightful conversation. Cigars were exchanged. Handshakes were as well. Seems he’s just as aggravated by these know-it-alls who really know-fuck-all. We see eye to eye and part friends once Dax finally figures out the combination to the weapons locker. “Holy fuck!” I exclaim, “Now that’s a door.” I say looking at the slowly-opening covering of the weapon’s portico. Fully five solid inches of solid steel. Triple reinforced hinges. Deadman's latches. Bringles-jams and solid, non-decabulated cast-steel cross-members. Just the thing to contain an errant blast and send all that excess energy skyward instead of into the bowels of the boat. OK, bonus points for that design feature. I look inside, but it’s dark and fragrant as the inside of an irritated oyster in the bottom of the Tonga-Kermadec Trench. Dax fumbles around and finds the light switch.
“Hmmm.” I hmmed. “Well, we’re all set for dynamite, I see.” Case after case after case of leaking, cheap-ass Chinese knock-off sort-of Du Pont-style 50% dynamite. Box after box of Pseudo-Dyno-Nobel blasting caps. Delaminating, unwinding spools after spool of “PrimUcord”. Sticky “Korea” brand silk-woven coated Demolition Wire. “Gads.” I sigh. “What a nightmare. Either this stuff goes off when you give it a dirty look or it doesn’t go off at all.” Dax looks to me, “So, the trip’s a bust. Is that what you’re saying?” “If we don’t find something that’ll work, probably,” I reply. “This shit’s worthless.” We continue to search after I shoo everyone but Dax out of the locker. It’s damp and musty in here, smelling disconcertingly of kerosene, gherkins, and old sardines. That’s one sure sign of dynamite going bad. I warn Dax to be extra careful, that this stuff hasn’t had the best of handling. We could be in for an unexpected surprise. So, we redouble our efforts and are much more circumspect. Knock-off this and fake-ass that. All Chinese in origin. It might have worked one day; but after sitting in here, unattended, unturned, and uncared for? I’m ready to both literally and figuratively pull the plug on this whole fiasco. Dax is all smiles. “Doctor?” Dax asks, “What is it that would make you happy?” “A nice fishing boat, a huge never-emptying bank account, endless cigars, and a comfy chair back in the north of Baja Canada in a tavern on a good fishing lake,” I replied. “Well”, Dax smiles, “I can’t do that, but how about this?” as he opens a cleverly hidden door. I look in, let my eyes adjust to the low-light scenario to see no lakes, no huge bank accounts, nor fishing boats; but what I do see makes me smile wide. It’s a sub-locker full of familiar Made-in-the-USA, True Blue, American-manufacture cyclo-trimethylene-tri-nitramine, or Good Ol’ C-4 explosive. Block after lovely hexahedral block of the stuff. “Dax”, I say, “Take a gold star out of petty cash. You’ve just saved the mission.” “I’ll settle for a tall vodka and one of your cigars”, Dax smiles. “Later”, I say, “We now have a little job which to attend.” With C-4, designing the impulse charges is seriously a walk in the park. They’re already waterproof, so all I need is water depth and the number of seconds to which they want to record data. I can bundle a series of blocks of the stuff, charge them with a couple-three or four, just in case, blasting caps, and connect them with stout lengths of demolition wire. These will be dragged, with a ‘Herring Dodger’, to control depth, behind the boat as we are underway. It’s a novel idea, I know. One that’s only been in use in the west for about 60 years. We’ll drag a daisy chain of C-4 packets. One after another, individual charges in the packets will detonate milliseconds apart. I can bundle the packets so that we can run a charge string of up to 12 discrete packets which will attenuate the amplification of the arrhythmic flux, I tell one of my Korean onlookers. With this set-up, we can record data for literally sea-miles. First, we will moosh the C-4 into a flattened, semi-hydrodynamically stable pancake or airfoil, OK, hydrofoil, shape; wire three or five of them together, charge them, then repeat. Depending on what parameters Volna and Ack supply, the chain will just be a number of similar packets, trailing one after the other, detonating from back to front; down below the hydrophones, but well above the seafloor. We know that the hydrophones will be at or very near the surface, but we need to know, explicitly, the basal bathymetry of the area we're about to shoot. Wouldn’t do anyone any good if we drove over a seafloor hump and dragged the C-4 over it to have it detonate prematurely. Or not at all. So, we need to plot our course and sail it today while we get the hydrophone arrays built and we image the seafloor where we’re going to do some blasting. After that, it’ll probably be an all-nighter to create the blasting strings so we can spend the next day recording, and then head for home as we’re nearly out of victuals and potables. At least, that’s the plan. I convene a quick meeting and we plot a course on the latest charts. 30 kilometers of recording. Shit, that’s going to be a lot of explosives. Doable, but a pain. Remembering the quality of the recording equipment, I suggest we do a test run in the morning of just 5 kilometers. If that works, and we can up it in increments. Dax, Sagong the head Korean geophysicist, and I go to visit the Captain. We visit the Captain and lay out our plans. He has no objections, as were in Best Korean waters and there are no obstacles out here like sunken wrecks, kelp forests, American aircraft carriers, or other impediments. With that, we tell him to align the ship and let us know when he can begin doing the recon sortie. He says that he can do that immediately, and before we're out of the pilothouse, we’re recording bathymetric, i.e., depth, data. The technology’s not much different, nor advanced, than a standard Lake Winnebago fish finder, so that’s one disaster sorted. We are sailing along in a series of parallel straight lines, which when the data are played back and deconvoluted, will give us a good idea of the bathymetry which we’ve been motoring over. It’ll basically give us both a depth map and a surface, ok, bottom, map of the seafloor above which we’re sailing. A little basic submarine hyperbolic quantum trigonometry and well, we have the data we need to plug into the various equations to see what we’ll require when we want to record seismic data to 5000 milliseconds. With that, there’s not much else to do until we have the survey map. I dragoon Dax and Cliff into helping me inventory the explosives bunker. “The hell with the dynamite, PrimUcord, and other Oriental-Knockoff Horseshit”, I instruct my helpers, “Let’s just count up the C-4, and see what our tally is. Oh, yeah, give me a tally of the blasting caps. Gotta use those ratty bastards, they’re the only actuators here I sort of, kind of, trust.” With Dax, myself, and Cliff, we’re done in less than an hour. I decide that I’ll be the keeper of the keys and take them back to the Captain my own self. Rules of engagements, chain of command and all that hogwash. I hand the keys over to the Captain and instruct the co-pilot to make an entry in the logbook that I returned the key to the Captain, this date, this time. “By the book. It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.” I muse. To be continued…
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OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Just take a hard left at Daeseong-dong…10
Continuing… “Well, if that doesn’t throw the damper on things.” Dax remarks on our trip back down to the ground floor. “Yeah. How rude. Up and deceasing your own self without bothering to tell anyone beforehand.” I noted. “This is going to be a bloody balls-up. Trust me. This is going to be inordinately messy. A bog-standard botch job. A total dog’s dinner, just wait and see.” Cliffs adds. “First, we have to contact IUPGS. Then what? Does Bulgaria have a consulate or embassy here? I wouldn’t think so…Then what?” I grieved. For once, I was rather low; both emotionally and on ideas. “Let’s go back to the conference room and let everyone know. We’ll pull a brain session together. We should be able to sort out what needs to be done. The hotel already knows, so the state security forces also do as well. Be prepared for lengthy interrogation sessions, Gentlemen”, Cliff advised. Back in the conference room, we relayed the sad information. All were taken aback and there were general notes of commiseration. However, since no one knew Iskren too well personally, it was more detached professionalism rather than overt weeping and wailing. “Let us toast to our fallen comrade!” was accepted as both entirely appropriate and a damn good idea. I got on the conference room phone and ordered up some more sandwiches, mixers, and bottles of booze. The moment was obviously structured that way, I reasoned. We made our toasts to our fallen comrade and we had half a chalkboard filled with suggestions of what to do next. The main consensus was: “Nothing.” As in there was not much we could do. We were foreign nationals in a strangely foreign land. Our comrade was the sole member of his country, that is, Bulgaria, and the closest geographically we had aboard was Dr. Academician Ivan. No one wanted to loose Ivan on the DPRK security forces and have to deal with all that international fallout. After some number of hours, after I suggested we all remain in the conference room as we’d (A.) be together, as in unity there is strength, (2.) we’d have each other’s backs when and if it came to interrogations, and, (iii.) this is where the free booze was. Then there was a polite knock on the door. I, as the den mother of this special education class, slowly got up and answered the knock. It was a cadre of DPRK internal security forces, kitted out in their spiffy, tailor-made, and actually, quite smart-looking uniforms. Shoes and buttons polished to mirror-finishes, pants creases that could cut flesh, and enough polished brass to construct a spittoon. “Hello? Yes?” I said through the semi-opened door. “May we please come in? If the time is convenient.”, the head military type, very treacly asked. “Of course”, I replied, “Please, do come in.” Four of them entered as one. They did a quick-step, tight-march formation together and went to the head of the conference table. “Good day, gentlemen. I am Colonel Hwangbo Dong-Hyeon of Internal State Security. First, we must offer condolences on the loss of your comrade. It must have come as a shock.” He intones. There are mutters of “Thanks.” and “Damn right it was.” “I have been entrusted to update you on the, ah, ‘situation’. First, Dr. Iskren Dragomirov Dinev, recently deceased, has been examined by the best medical practitioners in the country. He was obviously a foreign national and state guest, and we do not wish this to be a cause of suspicion or mistrust, especially during this auspicious Festival season.” He asserted. We listened with rapt attention. “I am authorized to tell you that it does not appear that the late Dr. Dinev expired of any untoward circumstances; or ‘foul play’, I believe is the western term. It has been ascertained that he expired due to wholly natural causes; namely massive myocardial infarction. Given his age, apparent health, and, ah, mass, this does seem a most reasonable explanation. This has been verified by no less than three DPRK medical professionals; one of which is the Emeritus teaching professor of Cardiology at Pyongyang Medical University. Again, you have our deepest condolences on the loss of your comrade.” He continued. “I do remember Iskren complaining of gas pains the other night at the bar,” Joon agreed. “Thought nothing of it, given the change in all our diets.” Colonel Hwangbo studied Joon like an entomologist examining a particularly fascinating new species of beetle. “Which has been fine! Just rather rich compared to our usual food!” Joon hastily added. Satisfied that Joon wasn’t making light of the ‘fine’ North Korean cuisine, Colonel Hwangbo continued, “As such, the Bulgarian Embassy here in Pyongyang has been contacted and apprised of the situation. They have taken over the case, as well as recovered the mortal remains and possessions of Dr. Dinev; all of which were conserved and authenticated by his Bulgarian national counterparts.” “Ah, that’s good”, I said, “I’m pleased that there actually is a Bulgarian embassy here.” “Ah. So.”, Col. Hwangbo continued, “Yes. They have already taken possession of Dr. Dinev’s mortal remains and possessions as I had noted, and will handle their repatriation to his country and family. As you can see, we have acted in the best of faith and with the utmost respect for your lately departed. Again, our condolences.” There were some “Harrumphs”, and “Yeah, rights”, from the crowd, but since I was the team leader, it fell to me to handle this situation from here on out. “Yes, indeed”, I replied, “We see that and do so deeply appreciate your efficiency and your keeping open the lines of communication. We have absolutely no room to complain. You, your team, your country, and your services have acted to the highest degree of professionalism and decorum. Let me extend, for the team, our heartiest appreciations in this most unfortunate matter.” That seemed to please the Korean security forces. So much so they didn’t see the rolling eyes and smirks of grudging compliance from the crowd. I gave the evil-eye to several who were twittering quietly at my delivery of a load of over-the-top twaddle in the name of international goodwill. “Thank you, Doctor…? Doctor…?”, he asked. “Doctor Rocknocker.” I replied, “It’s spelled just as it sounds,”, I chuckled a knowing chuckle. Colonel Hwangbo cracked a small smile for the first time since we met. “As long as our orders of business are concluded, “ I inquired, “Might we offer you and your men a drink or sandwich or…” “Cigar?” he suddenly brightened. I smiled the sly, smirking smile of one of those used to the old duplicitous game of international diplomacy. “Why”, I replied smilingly, “Of course.” Col Hwangbo gratefully accepted a brace of fine Oscuro cigars. Probably more tobacco he’s seen in one place at one time since the last he rousted a snozzeled Western journalist or hammered European tourist with an overage of custom’s tobacco allowances. His team eschewed cigars, but gladly accepted a pack each of pastel-colored Sobranie cocktail cigarettes. It still slays me to see these battle-hardened, armed-to-the-teeth, unsmiling servants of the great state of Best Korea mincing about the courtyard smoking avocado, baby-blue, and peach-colored pastel cigarettes. The Colonel and his team left after a couple of quick smokes, sandwiches, and surreptitious beers. I even enticed the Colonel into a couple of convivial vodka toasts when his team was otherwise occupied. “Well, gang”, I said, closing the door, “Looks like that situation has been handled, most appropriately at that. We’ll miss ol’ Iskren, but at least he went fast and hopefully painlessly.” I knew that last one was but a load of old dingo’s kidneys as I’ve had run-ins with cardiac disorders in the past and they are anything but painless. In any case, that was, as I noted, in the past. What was done is done. It was as it was. It is as it is. “So, gentlemen”, I say, “Let us get back to work. Reality calls. Now, we’ve given you landlubbers the lowdown on our seismic pleasure cruise. Now we’d like to hear what you who had stayed onshore have come up with.” Erlan, Graco, and Viv fill us in on the regional geology of Best Korea and lay out a plan to examine the sedimentary piles closest to the few paved roads in the north and east of the country. We’ll be traveling by bus, as my request for four or five off-road vehicles was denied due to timing and lack of availability. Yeah. Right. What a massive pile of bovine biogenic colluvium. A country with a military as huge as Best Korea’s and they can’t spare a few jeeps or Hummer reproductions? Truth be told, they still don’t trust us and don’t want to let us out of their sight. However, we did manage to snag some internal publications from the Central Geological Survey of Mineral Resources, which we figured as a major coup. Never before were Westerners allowed to even know of the existence of these materials, much less be able to research (read: slyly copy) them. That ‘personal shaver’ I carried was actually a sneaky personal copier, a Vupoint ST470 Magic Wand Portable Scanner with all the external stickers peeled off, and any serial numbers abraded away. Hey, they photograph us from every angle on the sly, listen in on our conversations, record our phone calls…hell, turnabout isn’t just fair play, it’s almost expected. It’d be rude to refuse to play along. Anyways, we learned that The Korean Peninsula (KP) occupies a junction area of three large tectonic domains that are the Paleo-Central Asian Orogenic Belt, Paleo-Tethyan Orogenic Belt, and the Western Pacific Orogenic Belt. Tectono-fascinating. To summarize:
The Archean Rangrim massif is divided into the Rangrim and Kwanmo submassifs, high-grade region and greenstone belt, respectively.
Early Paleoproterozoic rocks underwent metamorphism up to granulite facies, which may be correlated to the Jiao-Liao-Ji mobile belt in the North China Craton (NCC).
Proterozoic rift sequences in North Korea are similar to those in the NCC with rare late Paleoproterozoic strata and more Neoproterozoic strata.
Mesozoic igneous rocks are extensively distributed in the KP.
The main Paleozoic basin, the Phyongnam basin in NK, have a similar Paleozoic tectono-stratigraphy to the NCC.
Of most interest is item #5. The Phyongnam basin is the only sedimentary and depositional basin of mention in the north of the Korean peninsula; and therefore the center of our attention as it pertains to oil and gas. The potential source rocks, and possible reservoirs, include the Paleozoic Late Ordovician Miru Series was identified as the Koksan Series and subsequently renamed. The 170-meter thick limestone and siltstone centered around the P'yongnam Basin have extensive crinoid, coral, and gastropod fossils. Paleogeography researchers have suggested that corals formed in the Miru Sea-a branch of the South Yangtze Sea. At the base of the Taedong Synthem is the P'yong'an Supergroup, which lies disconformably atop older Paleozoic rocks. In the Pyongyang Coalfield it is divided into the 650-meter sandstone, shale, and conglomerate of the Nogam Formation, the 500-meter Kobangsan Formation, 350-meter coal-bearing Sadong Formation and 250-meter chert-bearing Hongjom Formation, all typically assigned to an Upper Permian shallow marine environment. In the Mesozoic, north of Pyongyang, Precambrian basement rocks are unconformably overlain by a Jurassic limestone conglomerate ascending to layers of siltstone and mudstone. The Upper Jurassic Shinuiju Formation northwest of Shinuiju has sandstone, conglomerate, and mudstone up to two kilometers thick. Offshore drilling in the West Korea Bay Basin indicates these rocks are the onshore extension of offshore units. It is subdivided into fluvial rocks and Upper Jurassic black shale, limestone, conglomerate and sandstone formed in a lake environment. There are very few Cenozoic sediments are known in North Korea, likely as a result of erosion due to uplift of the peninsula. Submarine normal faults along the eastern coastline may have driven crustal tilting. The 350-meter thick Bongsan Coalfield in Hwanghae Province on the west coast preserves and coal-bearing layers dating to the Eocene. Further to the north, in the West Korea Bay Basin Eocene and Oligocene sedimentary rocks up to three kilometers thick unconformably overlie Mesozoic rocks, formed in lakes and coal swamps during the Paleogene. What this meant is that we’d need to travel mostly northeast and/or southwest. This was fortuitous as the paved roads in the country were created in structural valleys formed by the primary fault trends in the country. The main trans-tensional set trended NE:SW and the conjugate set trends approximately 900 to the main set at NW:SE. The topography was heavily dissected by drainages and the terrain consists mostly of hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys. The coastal plains are wide in the west and discontinuous in the east. The plan was to take the bus north to Sunchon, then hang a right off towards Unsan and Yongha. There were outcrops between the last two towns and they appear to be upper Paleozoic to Lower Mesozoic clastics. Ideal oil and gas hunting grounds. From there, we’d head north-northeast towards Yangwon. There appeared to be some fair to excellent outcrops of rocks that are as of yet, unidentified as to age. From there, we’d continue to follow the outcrop belts either to their termination at the basin’s edges or at international borders with China or Russia. But, once we hit the field, time goes into relative warp. Put a bunch of geologists out on some relatively virgin outcrops and just stand back as they spend hour after hour after hour first looking for evidence of the formation’s provenance, it’s age and field relations. Then begin the heartfelt, stalwart, and sometimes vicious, arguments between all concerned about each and every one of those salient points. We were all looking forward to it and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s our intellectual and scientific equivalent of meat and potatoes. We all agreed on a way forward and generated a document to deliver to those in charge of our logistics on this trip. There would be a total of 11 Western geoscientists, four guides, perhaps a couple of national geologists or geophysicists, and whatever cadre the shiny suit squad wanted to include. There would also be a driver, his relief, and a couple of extra translators. Good thing it was a large bus, as it’s going to be a huge crew. We needed to allow our handlers a full day to arrange room and board for us while in the field, as we had to be bivouacked somewhere outside our fine hotel. It needed to be secure, pass sanctuary muster, and be ‘controllable’, referring to both Western scientists and nosy locals. One thing we found odd was the lack of concern for long-term logistics, not to mention the end of our self-ordained indentured servitude. When this trip and all the Western geoscientists were contacted, we were all assured of an opportunity to meet with the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-Un once our trip was completed. We were to personally deliver one hell of an international photo-op. A ‘hey look how progressive we are’ meeting and our findings in this wonderful and progressive country. But lately, with what we thought was the fallout of the Festival washing out all the usual propaganda, we’ve heard nothing about Herr Comrade Leader Supremo, K1J1-Un. Nor had we heard one iota about our intended final meeting with him before we left for China. Since there are “absolutely no” COVID-19 cases in Best Korea, it seemed, well, odd that Beijing was our only possible current exit port of call, and onward to our individual homes. There were all flavors of rumors flying all throughout the basement bars and casinos of the hotel. One claimed that Kim was now receiving treatment at a villa in the Mount Myohyang resort north of the capital Pyongyang after cardiovascular surgery. That he was near death and that his sister, Kim Yo Jong, is already warming up in the North Korean political bullpen if her brother kacks it. Others said Kim is believed to be staying at an unspecified location outside of Pyongyang, with some close confidants. It was said that Kim appeared to be normally engaged with state affairs and there has not been any unusual movement or emergency reaction from North Korea's governing party, military, or cabinet. There was also one other that tries to cover up any conspiracy rumors by shouting over a raspy bullhorn: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"; but most ignored that little crank. We all thought that rather odd, but of fairly low concern. In the final analysis, it would have little impact on our studies and their outcome. In other words, it wouldn’t affect our pay one way or the other. We all felt like we’ve given more than what was called for on missions such as this. And we still haven’t a clue as to when this will all come to an end. However, we all agreed to the consultation, it would have been fun to meet with him and have our pictures taken with the Supreme Leader. Dr. Academician Ivan Ivanovich Khimik. was especially cheesed that he might miss the opportunity to make finger-vee bunny ears behind the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the DPRK during one of our photo sessions. We all agree if we do somehow find ourselves in the same room with Ivan and Kim Jong-Un, we’ll form a human shield around the latter. We want to get back home; as we’ve all heard the rumors of the horrors of ‘political realignment’ camps here in Best Korea. So the meeting breaks up and I’m left with Dax to take the final inventory. Two loads of sandwiches gone, piles of used napkins, ketchup-y table linens, bacon rinds and chicken bones, drippy ends of ice cream cones, prune pits, peach pits, orange peel, gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal, pizza crusts, and withered greens, soggy beans and tangerines, crusts of black burned buttered toast, gristly bits of beefy roasts… “The hell with this”, I say, I grab the last nearly full bottle of vodka and hand Dax a bottle of Royal Navy dark Rum. “Tally’s good”, I say, not really giving two tiny shits at this point. “At least, I think it is. Let’s make like horseshit and hit the trail.” “I’m headed back to our floor and going to zone out in front of some old, looped BBC for the next few hours with a cold drink and hot cigar.” I proclaim. “Oh, hell”, Dax says, “I agree. It’s been a weird couple of days. Let’s go.” And so we do. On the way, I leave the logistics concerns and itinerary for the upcoming field trips with the front desk clerk. I slip her 1000 won as its Festival! and I had a bulgy pocketful of same. She smiled and quietly said there’s be a surprise waiting for me in my room when I got there. “Rock, you fucking old hound!”, Dax exclaimed as he punched me lightly on the shoulder. “Taking a dip in the hotel secretarial pool?” “Dax, you surprise me”, I said in my defense, “I have been, and continue to be, happily married for the last 38 years to the most loving, most intelligent, most well-connected, and most accurate snap-shot with a Glock .380 Automatic I know of.” “Well, me ol’ mucker”, Dax smiles slyly, “If one has been happily married for 38 years, one must have a little something on the side. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge, ‘eh, Squire?” “Oh, nothing like that”, I replied, while waiting the obligatory 30 minutes for the fucking elevator to arrive. “I couldn't break my word to Esme, and not because I don’t believe in a God that will send me to Hell without an electric fan or because it's not the right thing to do. I simply don't want to. A man is only as good as his word; and if he loses that, he loses too much. I couldn’t function without people thinking that I’m square and on the level. My business would crumble to dust. As would my marriage.” “Yeah, there is that”, Dax agrees, “You say something is going to happen and God damn, it fucking happens. That’s what makes you honest and honestly scary.” I stare intently at the annunciator that tells me the fucking elevator is stuck on 4 again. “You’re not mob, are you?” Dax harshly whispers, snickeringly. I turn to face Dax and smile wistfully. “Я с уважением отказываюсь отвечать, потому что я искренне верю, что мой ответ может обвинить меня”, I reply quietly. “What the hell does that mean?” Dax demands. “I respectfully decline to answer because I honestly believe my answer might tend to incriminate me”, I calmly reply. “Oh, look. Bloody elevator’s finally here.” I note and stride aboard. Dax gets caught up in the tsunami of the crowd and is carried bodily inside. It was so remorseless, he almost lost his grip on his bottle of Dark Rum. Up on ‘our’ floor, I go to key open my room. Dax is just down the hall and looking around to see what special surprise might show up. I was too tired to wait so I just push in, and see all my field clothes fully laundered, pressed, and either folded or hanging. Someone broke into my room during the day and committed a compound neatness. “POUND! Pound! POUND!” Hmm, appears to be someone at my door. “Yes, Dax?” I said. “You too?” he fumed, “Everything, cleaned to within an inch if its life. They even polished my bloody field boots.” “Oh, fuck”, I said and ran to find mine re-pristinized. “FUCK! FUCK! FUCKITYFUCKFUCK!” I swore. They had polished my field boots and removed the fine years-of-work-to-acquire near-subsurface of the leather’s oil layer. They polished the water-proofing and conditioning out of the leather of our boots. “OK. OK.”, I said, “Minor emergency. Cool out. I have the solution.” I toss Dax a small can. It was brown, oily, and claimed to be “Neatsfoot oil”. It was the SPF- 500 of field leathers. “Go ahead and oil them up with that”, I told Dax, “I’ve got another can, so don’t worry. Use what you need, don’t be shy, but if there’s any left, let me know. I’ll combine ours and offer it to anyone else in the team who had their boots steam-cleaned.” So, a bit later, I’m sitting on my hotel room’s floor, on several sheets of newspaper, rubbing Neatsfoot Oil into my ancient, multinational size 16 EEE Vasque™ Tracker field boots. Then there’s a knock at the door. “It’s open. Enter carefully”, I say aloud. It’s a bell clerk with a room service cart. On the cart are a bucket of ice, a bowl of sliced limes, I think, several gimlet glasses, some Best Korean ‘Air Koryo’ carbonated citrus drink, and a fresh bottle of “Kaesong” vodka. “Compliments of the front desk”, the bellman says. I stand up, tip him a few thousand won, and set a new record in mixology; a fresh brace of drinks in less than 7.3 seconds. I offer the bellman the lighter one and he accepts with a wide smile. I say “건배” (geonbae) literally means 'empty glass', which is similar to the expression 'bottom's up'. For you see, my Korean’s coming along a treat. We clink glasses and send those drinks to the places that they’ll do the best. The bellman smiles offloads the cart onto the table in my room, shakes my hand, and departs. I finish my boots, my drink, and my cigar. After another drink or seven, I crater early. Dax was right; it had been a long, weird day. The next day, Festival! is still going strong, but still no word on the whereabouts of El Líder Supremo. I find that odd, only slightly interesting, and since it will impact the day’s events zero, I file it away for maybe later use. I go to the hotel pool around 0530 and there’s no one there. I’m able to get in a good 100 laps, unburdened with either small talk or by yammering kids blocking my lanes. I go early as I don’t wear gloves in the water, obviously. Statistically, there is less chance there will be others, adults and kids included, that would get freaked out by my gnarly left hand. I really don’t feel like recounting the old Russian Rig Accident story again. After a brisk shower and double shower-scotch back in my room, I dress casually and wander down to the casino and bar level. It’s essentially breakfast time, but with the revelers not giving two hoots to AM vs. PM, it’s surprisingly busy. I find a perch up on Mahogany Ridge and order a classical breakfast cocktail of one liter of beer and 100 milliliters of chilled vodka. I see Mr. Ho is manning the bar. I ask him to ring the massage parlor down the hall and see if Ms. Nang Bo-Hee is free sometime this morning. He does and reports that she has an open hour and a half at 0900. Would I like it or any portion of that time? “I’ll take the lot”, I said. “Tell them I’ll be there spot on 0900.” “That’s great.”, Mr. Ho says, hanging up the phone, “Doctor Rock, they tell me that with the Festival discount and you taking the full 90 minutes, they can cut you a very special deal.” “I’ll bet”, I replied, “Like what?” “Oh, I cannot say for they did not tell me”, he smiled, “They will tell you when you arrive.” “Marvelous”, I exhaled tiredly. “Another, Mr. Ho; make it a double, if you would please.” The massage center here is run by a group not employed directly by the hotel. It’s a separate entity altogether. They run specials and have different discount programs that are not only not controlled nor advertised by the hotel, but they’re also not in any way beholden to the hotel, except for rent, I suppose and run it like their own little fiefdom. Ms. Nang, my preferred masseuse, is a little, tiny Korean lassie about 5 feet tall and probably all of 90 pounds soaking wet. However, she is amazingly well trained and could probably put me in the hospital for a lengthy visit with her wiles and methods of flesh, bone, and muscle manipulation. She offers a whole suite of different massage genres: Swedish, hot stone, aromatherapy, deep tissue, sport, trigger point, reflexology, shiatsu, Thai, and Rolfing. Oh, fuck. I know Rolfing. I tried that nonsense back in grad school with an old east Indian lady that could have linebackered for the Minnesota Vikings. That shit fucking hurt. Today, it’d incapacitate me permanently. That’s a definite no-go. I decide that it’s going to be the Hot Stone-treatment today. A geological-manipulation inquiry. At 0900 I’m the only client at the massage ‘store’. It’s early, day two of the festival, and people are either sleeping off the previous night’s festivities or too wobbly to even think of partaking in a massage. I’ve had several major back surgeries over the years, including one bilateral laminectomy about seven years ago that removed 7.5 kilos of overgrown bone and muscle from my lumbar region, so I’ve been very cautious about soliciting a massage. The masseuse has to know that area is strictly verboten and will do everything to avoid annoying that particular piece of bodily real-estate. I’ve walked or limped out of massages before where the practitioner said they understood my reticence, but went ahead and kneaded and provoked that land of keloids and deep-body scar tissue. However, based on past experience, Ms. Nang knows full well my reluctance as well as my desires. That’s the reason I’m returning. She’s very, very good; a consummate professional and has a never-ending series of jokes and observations while she’s pummeling you into submission. Today, we retire to a private cubicle and she hands me a small robe or napkin, not sure which, of Korean manufacture. She tells me to get au natural and to wear the robe while she prepares the tools of her trade. OK, I’m not a small person; not by a long shot. This robe, however, is made for a sprite, not even for a small person. She returns to our massage cubicle as I’m sitting there, at the end of the massage table, sipping my drink clad only in my dapper red-and-white checkered boxers. “You need to be unclothed, Doctor. Use the robe. OK, sir Rock?” she says. “Ms. Nang,”, I said, shaking my head, “It’s one or the other.” I show her how laughable the robe is as I can’t even get it over my upper arm. It’s not even as a tea towel when it comes to covering my expansive acres of exposed epidermis. “I can close door.”, she says, “I’m used to it. I am professional. Does not bother me if it does not bother you.” I lost all forms of bashfulness, timidity, or prudery long, long ago. After years and years of Russian banya, Swedish massage, Turkish baths, and surgery; well, if it don’t bother you, it don’t bother me. “OK”, I say, using the robe as a small two-dimensional breechcloth. She tells me to ‘hop’ up on the massage table and lie down, facing the floor. After chuckling about the fact that I haven’t hopped for decades, I wander over to the nicely padded and extremely clean massage table and lie down. She rearranges the ‘robe’ to cover my backside and tells me to relax. She’ll be right back with the stones. I’ve never tried this type of massage before, but as a geologist, I must; if for nothing else, progress in the name of science. Ms. Nang returns with a large parcel consisting of many sizes of steamed stones. They were river-washed and tumbled basalt from the looks of them, all wrapped in a large fuzzy towel. Now she finds the large towels… She selects them one by one and places them in ‘special, strategic’ spots on my exposed back. From the lower 2/3rds of the nape of the neck, down the spine, over the fundus mountains, and down the back of each leg. It’s a warm, almost hot in some places, but not an uncomfortable feeling. She returns to adjust them, grind them in a bit in places, and flip them to extract all that igneous lithological thermal goodness. I have to admit, at that point, it was feeling quite delightful. Relaxed; I had my drink and was being kneaded My dorsal musculature was being de-lithified by the application of hot rocks and expert point massage. All was going quite well as Ms. Nang was building a huge tip in her ‘job well done’ bank. Then the rocks had all attained room temperature. She excused herself to reload with another minor outcrop’s-worth and told me to flip over for round two of the process. “In for a dime, in for a dollar”, I said, as I flipped over and use the robe as a laughable forward-facing breechcloth. Ms. Nang mentioned that she was always fascinated by Westerners and their surplus of bodily fuzz. With my long, shoulder-length silver hair, full Grizzly Adams beard that drooped down to my sternum, and torso that picked up where my beard left off; she was quite unprepared to see the beached silver-gray panda that awaited upon her return. “Dr. Rock!’, she exclaimed, “You are as a bear! So much hair. And silver color!” “Yeah, sorry”, I replied, “Just the hand genetics dealt me. I guess it’s an adaptation for ethanol-fueled organisms that never feel cold.” “I will soon return.” She titters excitedly and almost runs out of the room. “Hmmm. I wonder what that’s all about?” I muse as I lie largely undraped in the massage cubicle. Suddenly, the door bursts open and every female massage practitioner there herded into the room. They simply had to see the specimen upon which the delightful Ms. Nang was working. OK, truth be told, I was a bit taken aback. Here I am lying on an elevated, and heavily padded, massage table. I’m ‘wearing’ only a crooked, worried grin and a sheet of a cotton washcloth that measures about 12x12 inches. They Oohed! and Ahhhed! I did feel like some form of an alien animal suddenly thrust out into public view. It was a bit disconcerting, but as usual, I just tried to deflect any unease with jokes and idiot remarks. At my age, not much is going to bother me, and this I found all the more laughable than troubling. Suddenly, I was fielding their barrage of questions: “You are American? All American men so…hairy?” “Yes and no”, I replied. I also mentioned I hadn’t undertaken a study in that particular subject. “Why you so big?” one tiny lass asked, eyes as big as dinner plates. “Genetics”. I replied. “Just a corn-fed Baja Canadian doofus. We grow ‘em big back home.” “Can we touch?” one particularly brave little lass asks. “Touch what?” I asked. Look, I might be over 6 decades old, but there are still some areas reserved for my one and only betrothed. I did tell Esme of this whole event later that evening during our nightly call. She laughed herself silly. “Your beard! Oriental men never have such beard. We touch maybe?” she implored. I was going to say “Go nuts”, but I decided that a simple “Sure” would be more fitting. So they did. They were enthralled. They had never before, from what I was told, seen such a large silver-gray ZZ Top-style beard, especially here at the hotel. That part was weird enough, but when they started in on working their way south toward the equator, I had to say something to dissuade them. “Where were you girls 45 years ago?” I laughed. I don’t think they got the joke. They became somewhat bolder in their austral exploratory activities. “OK! Time out! Ms. Nang! We have an appointment to keep”, I said as I shooed the rest of the lassies away, “We need to finish what we started.” By the time that the third syllable of that last sentence came into being, I knew it wasn’t the right thing to say. They all laughed and tittered as Ms. Nang ushered them out of the room. I could have sworn I heard the door lock behind them. Ms. Nang reprieved her earlier stone placement therapy, with a couple of strategic detours. She wasn’t that type of masseuse, and I wasn’t looking for that type of massage. She did, however, knead and pummel me mercilessly. I’ve been bruised less from barroom brawls. Finally, she announces that she’s finished. She’ll leave while I shower, as she used essential aromatic oils, and would await me out in the lobby. After showering, I felt like a large bowl of pummeled Jello. I felt relaxed, and for the first time in weeks, my back was silent. My head was clear as a spring Sunday morn in Reykjavik. The full 90 minutes, plus sideshow, was 4,500 won. I paid the owner the required sum and handed Ms. Nang an additional 15,000 for a job well done. And for another anecdote that goes into the hopper. I left the massage parlor feeling quite fine, thank you. I wandered over to the bar to see if I could augment and prolong this feeling of harmony with the universe. The mental picture even now of all those cooing Korean lassies in the massage room never fails to elicit a laugh and head shake. A few hours later, I’m back in my room, tidying up my field notes and making certain all my paperwork was heavily encoded and up to date. It was, so I placed a number of expensive overseas calls to catch up with everyone on the outside. I’m thinking of calling room service to have my mini-bar repaired when my room phone rings. “Now who would be calling me at this hour?” I wondered. It was the tour group leader. He informed me that the itinerary had been worked out and we’d be leaving tomorrow for the field at 0600. We were to arrive with all our luggage and be prepared to check out. We would spend at least a week in the field, if not two, depending on our results, and be bivouacking in different places in the interior of the country. I thanked him for the information and said I’d inform the rest of the team. He told me that wouldn’t be necessary as they would come up to or floor, deliver the notice verbally, or by note if they were out of their rooms. If I wanted to later call each participant and ensure they were apprised of the situation, that would be most appreciated. I assured him I would do so and that we’d be ready, to a man, at 0600 the next day. I whip up 10 Post-it™ notes and stick one on each member’s door. “Leaving for the field. Check out 0530. Wheels up 0600. Bring all luggage. Road trip!” To be continued…
Cumberland MD - Don't tell me town ain't got no heart..
First of all, live a comfortable, humble and fulfilled life where ever you are. I hope everyone agrees that positive thinking and placing emphasis on qualities is a better practice than emitting energy toward perceived negatives. e.g., Tell your child they are doing something really well instead of focusing on something they aren't.. After growing up in Cumberland and living in a few other cities around the country my opinion of HOME is much better than I expected. We moved back home in 2012 after being out on the range (South and West) for close to 20 years. No two cities are alike, so it's not worth comparing Cumberland to other places we lived. In my opinion the pros out-weigh the cons for this area and I'll state several reasons why. Cumberland and Allegany County have so much to offer if one chooses to see its assets!! This also applies to towns surrounding ALCO and as a whole we are actually a METRO.. Neah sayers? Wiki Cumberland and google metro. Considering that Cumberland is a metro can be confound when comparing to larger cities, but it is true. This is another hidden reason why I believe the area is highly under rated. There is enough culture and diversity to compete with other places but it seems to be hidden in plain sight. Once you get to know the area it is easy to see the unique and interesting qualities. Moving home was actually calming in several ways. A decent house on the west side that needs some tlc for under 100K! My thought was..I'll pay it off as soon as possible! It's an easy way to avoid interest..aka the bankers cut. A renovated house in Cumberland worth 150K would be worth 350K+ in other cities. Btw--I'm currently in need of a vehicle with lower mileage. An affordable home with a relatively low mortgage payment will allow a vehicle update relatively easy. Note: The area offers a level of financial freedom that is more difficult to attain then other cities. Financial freedom is equal to less stress and anxiety in my world. Home improvement contractors are reasonable and comparable to larger cities. Contractors have enough work that it can be tough to get on a schedule at times. Quotes always range from wowzer "that seems high" to hmm "that reasonable". Generally there are plenty of renovation experts in the city ready to work for 15-25 an hour. Last weekend we observed the neighborhood and almost every house in view has been recently updated in one way or another. The past 5 years have been active in terms of home maintenance. It shows there is a sense of pride and this is visible all over. Regular home maintenance is ongoing and it only takes a one project a year to make significant improvements. Keep up the good work Cumberland..it's obvious that people care about their properties. There is deferred maintenance and blight in Cumberland. This is mainly near Interstate 68 or desirable home locations. A few long time rental streets have even seen improvement in recent years. In my opinion, focusing on the enforcement of City housing codes would help and more creative tax breaks could be designed for improvements. With 10K homes in Cumberland, it would not take much to swing this city into an hip spot. The entire area is Walking/Biking friendly. That is without riding on the C&O Canal or Great Allegheny Passage trails. All of Cumberland's neighborhoods are connected with streets and sidewalks. I've never felt unsafe anywhere at anytime. We commonly walked and bike from our door step to downtown and places such as the Constitution Park or Riverside Park with no concerns. We have walked and biked most streets never having a single problem. I lived in South Cumberland for several years and visit family and friends regularly. The unspoken rule is don't bother people and they want bother you. Being friendly or stick to yourself will be reciprocated. Very simple. If you hear anyone say this area is unsafe, I would sincerely disagree. Crime is petty and low tolerance policing is a common theme for folks in poverty. So about work..jobs... WORK FROM HOME is growing and Internet speeds in Cumberland are comparable to most cities. High speed Internet is available through ABB. Otherwise, jobs are here!!! There is a need for experienced higher educated individuals. Basically if you want to work there is work here. In fact, there are a lack of workers in a few career paths. Lets take tech for example. IBM has been growing (400+ employees) and continuously hiring out of town people because the qualified pool of technical staff in the area already have stable careers. There are high, mid and minimum wage jobs. Northrop Grumman is a huge company with high paying jobs and there are many small government jobs at ABL-Rocket Center. UPMC hospital has a number of medical field jobs. Higher education is abundant with several colleges to note. Rocky Gap Resort and Casino employs several hundred. Also there are factories such as American Woodmark, Hunter Douglas and Superfos. That's just naming a few. Over the years I have heard there are no high paying jobs in the area. I highly disagree and rationalize this statement with context. These statements typically come from people seeking 60k+ jobs with no college degree and organized skill-set. My response to these types of comments: "Allegany College of MD has an excellent Continuing Education program full of night and online classes. Additionally, financial assistance is available if needed". Or: "There is a shortage of small restaurants serving healthy food at a reasonable cost:)". Moving forward, the Appalachian mountains are lush and beautiful with comfortable fall, spring and summer temperatures. The variety of hard wood trees is staggering. Wild berries and mushroom galore throughout the mountains. Cumberland has several surrounding State Parks and natural areas. Rocky Gap -Green Ridge State Park - Buchanon - New Germany ..and a few others. The parks and trails are typically empty or maybe a few hikers. A vast majority of the time the forest is all yours without every seeing another person. We are not game hunters (deer,turkeys,etc.) but hunting is prevalent during winter months. Hunting seasons are posted online and DNR regulates policy on public lands. If you meet a hunter and be very very friendly there is a chance they will share a pack of venison steak with you. It is delicious. I've never seen anyone hunting off season on public land in several hundred hiking expeditions. Public land is shared with unconditional respect. Fishing opportunities are abundant. The lakes, creeks and rivers are full of fish. Lake Habeeb has great fishing. Wills Creek, Evitts Creek and the Potomac River all run through Cumberland. Kayaking, Canoeing or floating on a tube can all very relaxing. Being on the water seems to reset the soul. Floating the South Branch Potomac has been popular and this activity is becoming more common on the North Branch of the Potomac. Delfest Bluegrass festival seemed to spawn more floating action on the North Branch. There has been an expansion or update of river access locations along the North Branch Potomac in the past years. There are a wide variety birds in the area because of the River and creeks. Eagles and hawks are around and if you keep an eye out you will surely spot one. In the winter, an assortment of ducks are on the Potomac River just below the Blue Bridge. We take binoculars to the overlook near Canal Place to view all of the types. That's a nice winter air-out activity. If you are not aware, there is a biking trail that spans over 300 miles from Washington DC to Pittsburgh and guess what is in the middle?? CUMBERLAND! Cumberland is the western terminal of the C&O canal. Bike from you door step to DC or Pittsburg in 2-3 or4 days.. Also, Rocky Gap has a 5 mile mountain bike/hiking trail that loops Lake Habeeb. A pro tip: After a long bike ride hit a Dive Bar with really cold beer. Cumberland has more than a few. The D.A.M tavern is one of my favorites. Everyone is friendly and beers are cheap. Most of the dive bars are enjoyable once you understand the culture. Dive bars in this area are another under-rated asset. Warning - the local police have given DUI's to bikers or DUP's to staggerers.. Have you ever heard of duck pin bowling? Look it up! Diamond Bowling Alley is a spot to visit at least once in a lifetime. Bowling clubs fill the lanes several nights a week. It's free to watch. There are quite a few clubs to note. Anything from knitting, Bee keeping to Archaeological and Drone clubs. If you are looking to meet people with like interests there is a good chance it's here. If you don't find what interest you start a club and they will slowly come. Let me emphasize slowly because the area is moving at a slower pace than some cities/metros. This is a Good Thing..relax and enjoy life. There is always tomorrow. Traveling around Cumberland is simple once you know the city. Within 10 minutes one could drive anywhere. Drive 2 hours to Washington DC or 2 Hours to Pittsburgh or take a shuttle. There are countless cities under 2 hours drive. The Amtrak passes through town twice a day. DC to Chicago anyone? The Amtrac will accept bikes. Leave your Cumberland door step, load your bike on the Amtrac and head to Chicago for a long weekend. DC is the other direction and the National mall is free! This is just a few things the Cumberland METRO has to offer :). A positive attitude opens your eyes to endless possibilities. It is April 14th and we are being told that Morel mushrooms are popping up in the lower elevation areas. I hope you enjoyed the information. Pass along good vibes. Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart - you just gotta poke around
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10 Tricks Casinos Don't Want You To Know - YouTube
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