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    January 3, 2018

    Looking Back At 2017: One Of The Weirdest Years For Me

    2017 was one of the weirdest years that I have ever been through, and I must say, I can only hope for better days ahead in 2018.

    January and February ended up being hectic months, as I was involved in setting up the best Harley and Chopper repair shop in the entire world; Rick the Biker and I took an old storage garage and turned it into what we hope will be part of a lucrative retirement.

    Long Beach Choppers, LLC


    I do the books after my regular job, while Rick, the HMFIC, runs the shop and does the repairs.

    It has not been an easy first year, and Ramen noodles is getting a little old, but the shop made it and business is picking up.

    Long Beach Choppers

    However, the money I invested in the shop would have made me a Bitcoin millionaire by the end of the year.

    Yeah, well, I can actually see and feel the shop, so… well, fuck, don’t follow me!

    In March, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 hypertension from stress, no diving and no exercise.

    Anyone who says there are no symptoms for high blood pressure, does not know what they are talking about – pinched shoulders, bloodshot eyes and an over pumping heart.

    Having found it impossible to get my high quality Luxfor Aluminum tanks filled locally, since New England Divers was in the process of moving, I was prompted to get back on my bike and see what I could do to lower my blood pressure.

    Penny Farthing At The Grand Prix In Long Beach

    Excersize and raw garlic helped a bit, but everyone complained that my breath smelled like that of a Korean liqour store owner.

    Around April, I think, the Divevets diving club just sort of disappeared.

    All during this time, a secret SCUBA diving trip was in the works.

    I had planned a diving trip to Russia and North Korea in July, and needed to make sure that I could still dive; I had to get some newer tanks that I bought at a garage sale a few years ago hydroed so that I could get back into diving when I could.

    In June, I finally made it back to the water on a solo dive off of Redondo Beach before making my official trip announcement – “Diving in Vladivostok, Russia.”

    I left out the part about diving in North Korea, because I didn’t want to jinx the trip.

    It was jinxed anyways when Otto Warmbier was medevaced from North Korean custody in a comatose state before dying in a Cincinnati hospital; Mr. Warmbier was the 22 year old college student who was convicted of sneaking onto a staff only floor of his hotel and stealing a propaganda banner featuring the Dear Leader, and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

    That was a tragedy, by all means; I am not making light of it.

    In June, 13 days before I was to depart, the worst tour company on the face of the Earth, emailed me and said that effective immediately, they were no longer taking any Americans to North Korea.

    I had jumped through so many hoops obtaining not only a PADI certification, but a Russian visa and airline and hotel reservations, that I begged them to not renege on their original agreement and take me.

    They wrote back and told me that they were not going to take me, and that my safety was their number one concern.

    They acted like they were doing me a favor, but they never explained how, or what I had to even do with Otto Warmbeir.

    Otto Warmbier In Custody

    I couldn’t believe that I had been discriminated against due to my national origin; that is not suppose to happen to white, male, American citizens.

    Trying to at least save face, I attempted to organize my own SCUBA charter to North Korea, but was about $25,000 light in the pocketbook, and there was a severe lack of interest among my fellow divers.

    Then, the US announced their travel ban, forbidding Americans to travel to North Korea unless they obtained permission from the US State Department.

    The only thing I could do at that point was to settle for the second to the last trip that would allow American citizens in to North Korea; it was organized by the best travel company in the world.

    My trip was very impromptu and very short, but being one of the last Americans in North Korea gave me some slight media fame and more blog content than in the entire year to date.

    Being interviewed by NBC World News.

    Things worked out, everyone from the tour made it back from North Korea without inncident, and the people that I met on the tour are still my friends thanks to the internet and social media:

    Me with huge portraits of their Dear Leaders.

    Me with the Mansu Hill Grand Monuments.

    In September and October, I was back on my bike and trying to get back in the water and even do some cage fighting since the motorcycle shop was running without my constant assistance in various emergencies and peon type crap.

    Me and the other penny farthing guy.

    Then, I just slipped into “End of the year mode.”

    In November, I actually made it back into the water.

    Yeah, some parts of this year I cannot declassify, yet.

    Notable personal records for me in 2017:

    The year was the least amount of SCUBA dives that I have done since starting to dive in 2002 – I dove four times in 2017!

    Due to the time change, when I flew home on August 17th, I was in the countries of North Korea, China and the United States all in the same day.

    I asked a total of fifteen women on dates in 2017; nobody accepted, with one even telling me, “I just turned lesbian.”

    This blog has still not made any money with six regular readers, after a decade online; I wonder why I still do it.

    Until the next post, dive safe!

    If you don’t dive, read safe!

    September 12, 2017

    Conclusion of My Trip To North Korea

    August 17, 2017

    One of the good things about being on a group tour in the DPRK – you will never oversleep and miss your flight; they will find you and drag you down to the bus to transport you to the airport.

    For half of the guests, this was the last day in North Korea, the other half was going on an extended tour for two more days.

    Unfortunately, I had to do the budget tour.

    We all assembled down in the hotel lobby at 9 am; the ones in suits were going on the extended tour to visit the mausoleum, the rest were leaving – hopefully without complications.

    I gave the two female guides a bottle of Jameson whiskey each.

    I said, “I was expecting two male guides, so I hope you can do something with this whiskey.”

    One of them said, “Oh, yes, we can. Thank you.”

    The other guide agreed.

    I was told by someone who is familiar with the tours that, “It’s sort of like being in prison; they can trade what they have for something that they need.”

    We said our goodbyes to the extended group.

    Yanggakdo International Hotel lobby.
    The Yanggakdo International Hotel lobby.

    We boarded the bus to the airport and were off; our guide handed us back our passports and travel visas that they had kept for almost the entire trip.

    The Dear Leaders.
    The Dear Leaders on the way to the airport.

    The plane was actually a large aircraft, unlike the one we took to Pyongyang; the entire DPRK weight lifting team was on the flight going to compete somewhere.

    I said goodbye to Simon and my guides and I went to wait in line to check my baggage.

    My bag was three kilograms over the weight limit.

    I put my bag on the conveyor and the young ticket lady pressed a button that rolled my bag under an X-ray; two North Korean Army officers carefully inspected the X-ray image.

    They started arguing with each other – All I could understand was “Mak-chu… Mak-chu…” which means beer.

    They said something to the ticket lady and she asked me, “Are you bringing beer back to the United States?”

    Oh, fuck!

    I’m going to do hard labor for smuggling beer!

    “Yes,” I said.

    She asked, “How many bottles?”


    They started counting.

    “Oh, and a bottle of soju,” I said.

    She translated to the officers.

    They laughed; she sent my bag through and printed my boarding pass.

    Simon was still around and I asked him what that was all about.

    “They are just curious what Americans bring back from their country; it was more of a curiosity thing,” he said.

    Now it was the time to pass through passport control…

    Just like when I arrived, I handed my passport and travel visa over a counter top to a set of eyeballs with a hat on top of them.

    There was a two minute delay as he did something behind the counter.

    “What is your name,” he said.

    “Jeff ….,” I responded.

    He looked at me, took my travel visa, handed me my passport back and buzzed me through the gate.

    My blood pressure returned to normal.

    Unlike the trip to Pyongyang, they didn’t seem to segregate the passengers; I sat right among the North Korean weight lifting team, even passing Koryo burgers and customs forms between them from my aisle seat.

    Back in China.
    We landed back in Beijing without incident.

    Once in Beijing, I managed to travel the 18 hours that it took to get back home.

    Due to the time difference, on August 17th, I was in North Korea, China and the United States on the same calendar day.

    What I learned on my trip:

    Going to North Korea as an American is really no big deal, as long as you obey their laws and customs.

    American tourists are the only interaction that some North Koreans get with their “enemy” – they grow up to hate Americans, but are very friendly and curious when Americans actually go there.

    They like money and gifts, but who doesn’t?

    There is no such thing as “arbitrary arrest” – their laws are strict and strange to us, but you actually have to break their laws for problems to happen.

    If you travel with a great tour company, they will brief you on how to behave and what to expect; don’t go with a horrible tour company that will string you along for a year and boot you off of their trip because one of their previous clients got arrest in North Korea.

    I also have a California accent and attitude; I was told just that by my travel companions – relaxed and humorless.

    When I told my Brazilian roommate Bruno about my psycho-ex who was Brazilian, he said, “Don’t blame that on Brazil, blame that on her being a woman.”

    Bring plenty of toilet paper when you go to North Korean and learn to squat when taking a shit.

    OK, my mission to North Korea has been as complete as I could make it… now I need to get back to diving.

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