Greetings, dear readers, and welcome back to A Day with J. I celebrated my first 4th of July weekend in a decade this year – friends, family, fireworks, fried chicken, the whole nine. So, while I’ve got America on the brain, I figure now would be a perfect time to drop a quick update about my new life here in the States. If you read my last post, you’ll remember that I was right on the verge of leaving Korea and spending some time with my buddy Keith and his family in Hawaii. Let’s start there…
(1) How was Hawaii?
I’m sure it will come as exactly zero surprise to anyone that Hawaii was friggin’ amazing. After a stressful year filled with curriculum planning and viral outbreaks, a few weeks of island hopping and tiki bar exploration were just what the doctor ordered. Some of you might have seen the awesomely smarmy videos I posted on Instagram along the way.
Unfortunately, just like my final year in Seoul, my time in Hawaii was cut short by covid-19. One morning Keith walked into the guest room where I was staying and said, “Dude, I hate to do this, but if we don’t get you out of here by tonight you might be stuck here for a while.” There are worse places to be stuck than Big Island, Hawaii, of course, but I understood where he was coming from. That night I boarded a plane and flew on home to Biloxi just before the virus put everything on lockdown.
Hawaii deserves its own post filled with pics, videos, and travel commentary, and I promise I’ll deliver it to you just as soon as the bullshit is over and I’m able to finish my trip.
There is a silver lining, though…
I managed to pick up a copy of Ulysses before I left the islands. 🙂
(2) Cool. So how does it feel to be home?
This is the question I get more than any other, and the short answer is that it feels very different. Apart from work-related stress, my life in Korea was relatively simple. Among other things, I didn’t have to worry about driving a car, being involved in any family drama, or paying much attention to national politics. Now that I’m home, all of those things are on the daily menu. You might not believe this, but just being able to understand what everyone around me is saying has been a bit of an adjustment for me. It’s kind of like those tear-jerking YouTube videos where people have their cochlear implants turned on for the first time.
On the plus side, it’s great to see my friends and family – and go to Wendy’s whenever I want! I had no intentions of being a teacher for the rest of my life, so now is a time to start putting new plans into motion. It’s exciting, but like I said, very different.
(3) How’s your family?
With the possible exception of my grandmother (my mom’s mom, “Granny”), everyone seems to be doing pretty well at the time of this post. Granny – for those concerned – has been having some trouble with her eyesight for the past couple of months and recently moved into the Gardens in Ocean Springs for full-time care. Before she moved in, I spent many an afternoon sitting with her and recording her life story for posterity. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts:
By the way, I’m happy to report that the entire family is satisfied and impressed with her facilities and treatment at the Gardens (managed by my childhood friend and classmate Jody Stoddard). Granny says the food there is out of this world. 🙂
In other family news, I got my dad a mini Pac-Man arcade game for Father’s Day and damn near cried at how happy it made him.
He sat and played with it at the kitchen table for almost 20 minutes straight before my mom finally told him his food was getting cold. He just looked at her like a little kid and said, “I’m having so much fun.” 🙂
Finally, a huge shout-out to my uncle Jimmy and aunt Jennifer for spotting me their old Yukon. It’s got a CD player in it, so I’ve been burning playlists to discs just like back in the day. (haha)
Seriously, though, it’s hard to overestimate the value of a reliable set of wheels. Much love, y’all.
(4) How’s Kimchi? Is he excited to have you home?
As you can probably imagine, my reunion with Kimchi involved a lot of happy dancing, spinning, bouncing, licking, and sounds of jubilation. (You can see the videos here.)
My parents had long harbored the delusion that after spending three years with them he wouldn’t recognize me and/or want me to come back. Wrong. He dropped them like hot potatoes and has resumed his role as my right-hand floof.
A sad story, however. One morning a couple of weeks after I got back, Kimchi stepped out of his pet carrier (where he sleeps), made a strange noise, and fell over on his side.
He was perfectly still for about a minute, and – without being morbid – I honestly thought he had dropped dead. Then, as if nothing had happened, he just jumped right up and started moving around again.
I took him to the emergency hospital where the doctor said it could have been anything from a heat stroke to syncope to a seizure. He ran some bloodwork (everything was normal except for the BUN count, which might have been affected by dehydration) and then prescribed an anti-convulsant drug called Keppra, which Kimchi takes three times a day.
It’s heartbreaking when my little critter isn’t feeling well – more recently he’s been battling seasonal allergies and an ear infection – so I try to keep him as happy and active as I can with daily car rides, trips to the beach, and occasional afternoons at doggy day care. Anyone else ever go through a rough patch with your dog’s health? How did you handle it?
(5) Aww, that’s a bummer. Do you have any good news?
I do, actually. For starters, I’ve started spending more time than ever at Biloxi’s newly re-opened casinos. And, as luck would have it, I’ve developed a pretty good strategy for playing slots. I almost always come out a coupla hundred bucks ahead.
I’ve also had the good fortune to spend some time with my friend Daniel Leavengood, who introduced me to Firehouse Subs, and Emmett Lawrence, who’s introduced me to several top-notch Vietnamese restaurants around town. Can’t put a price on friends like that.
(6) Spending time at the casinos, huh? That can be expensive. What’s your job situation?
Perhaps my luckiest break of all. After a couple of months in the States, I realized how stupid it would be for me to blow my entire savings on fast food and weekend road trips over the course of a year. So, I posted a notice on Facebook –
and like a champ, my old gal-pal Danielle Sinopoli (now Danielle Miller) put me in touch with a friend of hers at MPS Grants. I’ve been helping them put their new website together for a few weeks now and might eventually try my hand at becoming a grant writer. We shall see.
I also – finally! – have a new drivers license (don’t even get me started on what an ordeal that was), so I might start delivering for DoorDash or Grubhub as a side hustle.
Boy, what I wouldn’t give to go back in time to my Domino’s delivery days at Ole Miss and put all my tips into a savings account. We didn’t know how good we had it back then.
(7) Okay, so you have reliable sources of transportation and income. Now, what are your goals? What are you ultimately trying to accomplish?
By May 25th of next year (my birthday), I will have completed a collection of 11 short stories and one novella, which I intend to have published or to publish myself. As of this post, three stories are finished and four others are in the deep draft/research phases. This has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember, and I believe I now have the time and resources to approach it properly. Several other creative projects are in the works as well.
Also, I’m trying to get in shape and improve my health.
(8) Good deal. Any goals for the near future?
Just the daily processes of reconnecting with friends and family, expanding my social network, improving my writing through constant practice, and bringing my soul ever closer to God. You know, the usual.
Get in touch and let me know what’s up, dear readers. And ’til next time, be well.
Instagram: @poms_are_metal / @sell_your_seoul