Okay people for the 9th time (after this I won't recap no more, it takes forever to set up) let's recap...in Love American VS Korean Style parts 1 through 9 we saw...JihadGene (me) meet the lovely Kim (my wife of over 30 years now) in a US Army AAFES Snack bar. For me it was love at 1st sight. It was ON like Godzilla at a Wii Party
! I mean I was as all shook up as Elvis, who I believe still lives, BTW. I made friends outta everyone Kim knew, thank you very much. I even finagled a birthday party for a Korean guy so Kim would attend the party and there I was ready to make my Hunka-hunka burnin' loove move on her and everything. But as the Alcohol God's would have it...Birthday Boy celebrates too much and hurls chunks on my Kim. Crap. Kim goes home and the Korean grandma's take pity on me. I am possessed by Kim's beauty and these Grandma's are really like some kinda good witches/shaman...lest I piss them off. The Grandma's and I (all eleven of us) pile into a tiny Korean taxi who's 4 cylinder engine is granted Warp-speed by these Korean Witches. We run over bicyclists and drunk pedestrians to get to Kim's so the Grandma's will tell Kim what a great guy I am, so's I can get a date with her. I wait outside while they have a Korean pow-wow. Now the Grandma's tell me to return to base (RTB) and that they will fix it up for me. Cool. Well, almost. It's almost nationwide curfew in the city of Pusan, South Korea. I am without money and have to travel 10 km's (or over 6 miles) in about 20 minutes. I have no money, no smokes to barter with, and no good luck. I see a bus taking off in the direction of the Camp. I jump on the back bumper and hold on at 40MPH for about5 miles until we hit a pot hole the size of Crater Lake, Oregon and I crash...and I burn. Now I'm bloodied up, crippled up slightly, and the Korean national Police are chasing after me. I am faster than them and I run down a dark street and run smack-dab into a low hanging roof. Roof tiles fly and I received concussion#2. I shakily get back up, the Korean Cops are on my tail again, I run around a corner, and climb a telephone pole like my Dad used to do in the US Marines as a field wireman. I give 'em the slip. Yeah! I requisition (rip off) a beat up bicycle with only one tire. Luckily it is the rear tire and it has some air in it. I pop a wheelie and down the streets I go on one wheel in the crisp Korean night air. It is March 1975. I am 20 years old. I think of my lovely Kim as I ride off the edge of a banjo (sewage) ditch into it's mucky, yucky, bottom. Hello concussion#3. When I come too, I use an orange colored Samyang Ramen bag to staunch the bleeding from my 3rd or 4th head wound. I look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, except for the orange ramen bag stuck to my forehead. I continued on until I was literally "lit up" by a ROK Army tank, M-60 series with mounted spotlight. I am held by the ROK Army who are friendly, once they put down their M-16's, and are laughing their asses off at me. Within 30 minutes a US Army M.P. jeep from my company rolls up with it's red light on to take my filthy and battered butt back to base. It's about 0130AM.The Military Police Sergeant in the jeep knows me and is laughing his ass off as I relay my love story to him. When we enter my camp's main gate we are stopped and there is my Platoon Leader, a new-in-country 2nd Lieutenant, who can only gawk at me as I salute him with the Samyang ramen bag still stuck to my head. He mumbles, "Very good". My pass is pulled and I have to see my 1st Sergeant later in the morning. On to medical..... I limp/drag my way out of the jeep to the small Evac Hospital/Dispensary. The medics got the word of my somewhat "funkified condition" and were waiting for me...outside with the hose. I am decontaminated then sent inside for further cleaning, evaluation, X-ray, and three stitches by an Army Doctor at around 2:00 AM (0200hrs military time) who is laughing his ass off at my story, while almost sewing my right eye shut because he's laughing so hard. At around 0300 hrs I hit the bunk in my barracks and I'm dragged outta my bed about 3 hours and 10 minutes later (0610hrs) by my House Boy, Mr Park. It is now 0700 hours. The morning after.
I report to the First Sergeant and stand at parade rest. He looks at me closely from head to toe. I swear he still is a Drill Sergeant. I am told to have a seat. I sit up and I mean straight up. You dare not slouch in front of this professional soldier. He asked what happened last night. I tell him all. I hold nothing back... not even my feelings for the lovely Kim, who is my sole motivation/reason for this entire turn of curfew breaking, bus-bumper-ridin', pole-climbing, police-dodging, bicycle-stealing, banjo-ditch scuba-diving events! The big black man just sits behind his desk. He doesn't bat an eye. He has his elbows on the desk and his huge fists are tucked under his chin. He asks me if I know what an Ambassador is? And so now, he is about to teach me what one is...He tells me, "Now get your bicycle larceny committing butt over to the motor pool, draw a vehicle with trailer, and enough rope to retrieve the bike. Then get back here with it by 0830, and you... and I.... and the KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the US Army) First Sergeant, are going out to recover that bicycle, find the owner, and make it right". Yes First Sergeant, I reply. After a quick change, I hit the motor pool.
AT THE MOTOR POOL
So, I get to the motor pool and everyone of the mechanics asks me "Is it true"? My reputation of the previous night has proceeded me. Damn M.P.'s are bigger blabber-mouths than a US Congressman entrusted with a monumental secret on national security. These Motor Pool Monkeys know it all. Accurately too. One grease monkey is looking under my hat saying "look there's the stitches", then he tells another mechanic "Pay me, sucker"! I can only turn beet red. I never had a poker face. I never will. I don't play poker to this very day. I go over the preventive maintenance for the M151A2 (army talk for a jeep) and trailer. I check out a rope too. I get the dispatch (paperwork to authorize my using the jeep) from the Motor Pool Sergeant who tells me to please keep his M151A2
outta the banjo-ditch. "Roger that", I replied. He laughs as I run out of the quonset hut headed for the jeep.
BACK TO THE COMPANY AREA
It's now 0825 hours. I pull up in front of the company area. Though I am early, 1SG B.T. (Black Thunder) Johnson and the Katusa (Korean) 1SG Yoon, K.Y. (I'll just call himYOON, Kill You) load up. Everyone in the orderly room is looking out the window at me, pointing and laughing. Ass holes. As we stop at the main gate, manned by my fellow American and Korean M.P.'s they snicker at my being with the two First Sergeants. One M.P. asks me why I have the rope. Black Thunder smiles broadly and says, "Specialist JihadGene is gonna learn how to repel off the edge of a banjo ditch today". They all laugh. Koreans and Americans. This good ambassador stuff sucks, I think. First sergeant Johnson says, "Let's return to the crash site". Crash site? I thought. You mean the banjo-ditch, First Sergeant? "Exactly", he says.
I HAVE RETURNED
So we back tracked through Pusan City (March 1975 pop. 2 million) traffic, past the ROK Army base where I was apprehended after being lit up by a tank's spotlight. A few more blocks and there it is. Down there in the ditch. In the muck. I see the handle bars sticking up. Now a good Marine would have jumped right down into that sewage pit and retrieved that one-wheeled bicycle, but not me. I was a US Army M.P. and I came from Texas stock (my Mom & Dad). 1SG B.T. Johnson smiles as I prepare the rope. I make a lasso. He must be from Texas. He knows. The Korean 1SG smiles an all knowing smile. He must have fought side by side with John Wayne in Vietnam. He knows. He too, smiles his approval. I was standing very close to the slippery edge of the ditch. One throw and bingo! I got the rope around the handle bars all right, just as I slipped and fell 5 feet down into the stinkin' banjo-ditch on my ass. The muck of the ditch is soft. The muck is cold. Both First Sergeants have their arms crossed over their stomachs, are bent over at the waist, and laughing. Laughing really hard. Finally Black Thunder catches his breath and manages to ask me "You OK, Cowboy"? The First Sergeants are roaring! Yeah, I'm OK, Top...I replied. I have never been so red-faced in my 20 year old life. Well almost. I get to my feet, take one step, do a slip-and-slide in the muck, and fall right back down again. Both First Sergeants are crying they are laughing so hard! Now there are about a dozen Koreans all around, looking down into the ditch, laughing at me as well. I stand carefully up and take a bow. Everyone howls! Yes I am quite the red faced Caucasian comedian, who looks and smells like he has been dipped in shit. I pull the bicyle with one wheel free and get it up on the bank/road. I emerge from the ditch yet once again as "The Creature from the Black Lagoon". I placed the bike in the trailer and Top (my 1SG) tells me to get in. I start for the jeep and he waves me off like the Virgin Mary would a drunken sailor. I am told to sit in the trailer with the bike. We proceed painfully SLOWLY down the streets of Pusan City so I can yell directions back to where I had taken the bicycle from. I am on my knees in the trailer yelling forward to the passenger side of the jeep, of which the KATUSA 1SG is leaning out, in order for him to hear me. He then relays the info to my 1SG Johnson who is driving. This is just like returning from my fishing trip with Uncle Bob
. Jeeez. People are pointing at us (me) and laughing. Lightning really does strike twice in the same place. Have I got some bad ju-ju, or what?
At around 0910 hours we pull up. There's the telephone pole. There's the wall of the house where I took the bicycle from. The Korean First Sergeant goes to the gate and calls for the owner to please come out. Out comes a handsome, slightly hunched over, silver haired grandfather in traditional Korean clothing. His eyes open wide when he sees me (looking a mess) and the crud-covered bicycle with one wheel. His face is one of surprise, not anger. The Korean 1SG is explaining what happened. He is telling all. I know it because First Sergeant Yoon is doing lots of talking. He keeps pointing and looking at me and the old man is laughing. Then the Grandfather says something I can't make out and both he and the Korean 1SG are bent over with hands on their knees laughing even harder. They motion my First Sergeant and me over. Black Thunder then says quietly to me, out the side of his mouth, "Well Soldier, you might just survive this after all. If you know how to speak any Korean and I know you do...it may just help to save you but remember this, I've seen the ROK Army in action (Vietnam) and they can laugh their fool heads off while cutting down the enemy. They are warriors, all. You are on shaky ground, son. You understand"? I nod a yes. "What happens here and now will reflect on all Americans. You will not let me... or... the US Army down. Understand"? 1SG B.T. Johnson looked in my eyes when he said this. I knew he meant each and every word. He was a leader of men. An American man. A Soldier. I swallowed hard and said..Yes, First Sergeant.
THE GOOD THE BAD THE APOLOGETIC
I took my fatigue cap off and approached the old gentleman. I was genuinely ashamed. I looked down at the ground, not into his eyes. I learned this from the Korean soldiers I worked with. If you are sorry for something you must bow your head down and don't look into the eyes of the one you've wronged. Most American troops in Korea know how to say I'm sorry in Korean but don't know the customs. My apology was only slightly different in that I said I was VERY sorry and addressed the old gentleman as "Har-op-o-gee" (Grandfather). The Grandfather said something I didn't understand. The Korean 1SG told me to look at Haropogee. I looked up and the old man's face beamed. He believed me. I was sincere. Then he began talking Korean at 100MPH grinning from ear to ear and the Korean 1SG began laughing as hard as ever. Black Thunder and I didn't understand. The Korean 1SG translated..."That bike old piece of crap! Grandfather no more want. He leave bike outside so someone take. He was maybe gonna throw it in banjo-ditch. It is now yours. Thank you very much". My jaw dropped. Grandfather and the First Sergeants were bustin' a gut! When all finally finished laughing, I said thank you, and we said our goodbyes. The First Sergeants and I all bowed a deep bow to the Grandfather. They hopped in the jeep and I went back into the trailer with the bicycle. We journeyed back to base with Korean-American relations fully restored. (To Be Continued)