Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Waxing Nostalgic (page 1 of 14)

Regrets? I’ve had a few

Today, without fanfare or celebration, I will mark sixty trips around the sun.

In Asia, one’s sixtieth birthday is an auspicious occasion because there was a time when most folks didn’t live past sixty. These days, sixty is the new forty (though my body sure doesn’t feel like it).

What a strange and amazing trip it has been. I guess it’s natural when one gets older they stop and look back on their life more and try to make sense out of everything. You know, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts…that sort of thing. I think the verdict is still out on this one.

Twenty-five Years Ago this Month

snapshots039Twenty-five years ago this month, I taught my last class at ELS, a language school in Seoul near Kangnam subway station.

On November 27, 1992, I said goodbye to my colleagues at ELS and left for Kimpo. I would be back six weeks later, teaching at Yonsei University’s Foreign Language Institute.

The two years I spent at ELS were some of the happiest moments I have spent in Korea. Everything that I would come to love and cherish, not to mention dislike about Korea happened those first two years. If I had left Korea then, I could easily say that I had experienced much about Korean culture and would have had a rewarding experience to talk about for years. But of course, I wanted more…much more. And here I am…it’s 2017 and I am still in Korea.

If I could go back to any time in the twenty-seven years that I have lived and worked in Korea, I would go back to those first two years. It was a special time to be here. A lot had to do with the freshness and uniqueness of being here. I remember one Sunday afternoon in crowded Myong-dong in central Seoul when one of my students saw me and yelled my name to get my attention. The next thing I know she was introducing me to her mother as hundreds of passersby and shoppers swarmed by us. Or the time when I was in in the Shinch’on subway station, a week after I arrived in December 1990, and I couldn’t get my subway pass to work. Every time I pushed it into the ticket receptacle on the turnstile, a loud buzzer sounded meaning that the pass didn’t work, so I tried to push it in again and the same damn buzzer sounded again. All I had to do was exchange the pass, but I didn’t know any better. A young Korean woman on her way to work or school that morning, sensing my impending cultural breakdown, bought me a ticket, so I could continue my morning commute to school. It was one of the nicest things someone has done for me.

It’s no wonder I often find myself waxing nostalgic about my early years in Korea. It surely was a special time for me.

I Hate Facebook

You heard me right. I hate Facebook. No, hate is too nice of a word. I loathe Facebook.

Why, pray tell, would someone who spends 2-3 hours a day posting, commenting, uploading, and talking about his books, come out and make such a scathing claim?

What’s wrong, Jeffrey? Aren’t you getting enough “likes” on your posts? Are people merely “liking” your book plug posts instead of actually clicking on the link? Have you been to Farmville just one too many times?

The answer is none of these.

I hate Facebook for one simple reason.

It makes me homesick.

For years, I’ve gotten by living in Korea without missing too much about home. Sure, over the past 22 years the holidays have been rough from Thanksgiving to Christmas but they have been bearable. I’ve been able to keep some traditions alive like sending greeting cards and for a couple of years even putting up a Christmas Tree. And what I have missed I’ve been able to articulate and reflect on my own terms in my writing (Invaders from Mars and Other Tales of Youthful Angst) or this blog.

Then Facebook came along and the next you know, everyone’s posting their holiday pics of plump roasted turkeys, mounds of mashed potatoes, stacks of pies and cakes for starters followed by brightly decorated real Christmas trees…well, you get the picture and then some.

Facebook is a place to share and we share every aspect of our lives. We tell people where we are at, what we’ve just eaten, and when we’re going to go to bed. It’s like a surreal cyber Waltons.

I love Facebook. It keeps me connected to home, but it also makes me miss home and my friends a lot. The past week has been brutal and there’s still four more weeks to get through until Christmas.

Excuse me if you don’t see me around Facebook too many times around the holidays.


President Ronald Reagan’s 1982 Eureka College Commencement Address


It was twenty-five years ago today that I graduated from Eureka College. Although I was only there for two years (I was a transfer student) everything good about my life started back then.

This is a very important speech by Reagan. In many ways, it was the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

“I’m feelin’ Radioactive, think I’m gonna meltdown tonight” — Scott Wilk + The Walls

In the mail today!

A flashback to those glorious, goofin’, pogo jumping, slam dancing early the 1980s.

I saw this band at the Southern Illinois University (SIU) Student Center at the beginning of the 1980 fall semester, (shortly after I saw David and the Happenings perform at an outdoor party in Lewis Park) and the band would be one of a half-dozen New Wave acts I would see that semester along with The Pretenders, The English Beat, Ultravox, and Polyrock.

I bought the album at Plaza Records in Carbondale but it was never reissued as a CD until recently through Wounded Bird Records.

Although a bit dated, it has held up quite well over the years. Although Wilk comes across as sort of a cross between Elvis Costello and Warren Zevon, the music takes one back to those early days of New Wave when a farfisa beat and saxophone ruled.

 It’s going to get a lot of playing time on my iPod.

Happy 235th Birthday America!


When I was a freshman at LaSalle-Peru Township High School in 1973, the Choral Department put on a production of 1776. As a member of the Freshman Boy’s Choir, I got to help with building the set for the production. The musical, to this day, remains one of my all-time favorites.

Happy Birthday America.

Table of Contents for Invaders from Mars

Invaders from Mars and Other Tales of Youthful Angst is now available at Smashwords as well as a Kindle from Amazon.

I’ve been working on getting the manuscript ready for Lulu. It should be on Lulu in a day or two.

In the meantime, here’s the Table of Contents:

Table of Contents

  • Prologue
  • When Chester Died on Combat
  • Ray Rayner and Friends
  • I Love the Smell of a Freshly Made Ditto
  • Five-finger Discount
  • 1968, The Year I Stopped Believing in Santa Claus
  • A Fried Chicken Saturday Night
  • The Dry Bridge
  • Out, out damn tree
  • Saturday afternoons at the Majestic
  • Homer in the Gloamin’
  • Body Count
  • Summer of the Moon
  • Sea Monkeys, X-Ray Vision and Charles Atlas
  • Walking Tall
  • Athletic Supporter
  • Let’s all go to A&W
  • Shop Class with the Mazzutti Brothers and Mr. V.
  • Memorial Day
  • The Swift Completion of my Rounds
  • Corn Detasseling, A Midwest Summer Rite of Passage
  • A Groovy Chick in a Bikini
  • Living Next Door to Alice
  • The Sleepover
  • Crime & Punishment
  • Invaders from Mars
  • M-E-D-I-C-I-N-A-L
  • When the Carnival Came to Town

Coming soon: Invaders from Mars and Other Tales of Youthful Angst


Journey back in time to a small Midwest town in the 1960s and experience adolescent and coming of age angst at a junior high dance, shop class, Saturday afternoon matinees, part time jobs and carnivals while saving the town from Martian invaders. Set against the historical backdrop and the cultural and social turbulence of the 1960s, Invaders from Mars and Other Tales of Youthful Angst is a bittersweet, heartwarming and nostalgic look back in time.

Ghosts of Christmas Past — Japan, 1989


Today, while I was in the locker room at Sol-Sporex (located in one of the lower levels of the SolBridge International School of Business), one of the more upscale fitness clubs I have worked out at here in Korea, I heard the Second Movement of Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony playing in the background.

And in a split second, as I heard the familiar piccolo solo and strings of this composition, I was transported back in a time—21 years to be exact—to a cold Sunday afternoon before Christmas in Hamamatsu, Japan as I waited in the lobby of a community center dressed as Santa Claus (with two pillows underneath my baggy costume to have some semblance to that jolly man in red) before I was to make my grand entrance at a children’s Christmas party.

While I was waiting to make my grand entrance back on that Sunday in 1989, I was listening to some local orchestra perform Dvorak’s symphony in an adjacent concert hall.

It’s funny how music has a way of opening up one’s memory and transporting one back in time. I was immediately overcome with a wave of holiday blues and nostalgia, as I sat there listening to one of my favorite symphonies, tying my shoes. In fact, the holiday blues and nostalgia were so strong I could hardly move. I just sat there, listening to the beautiful sounds of this symphony thinking about 1989, the first year I taught English overseas, and this year in Daejeon, my 20th year teaching English in Korea.

Whenever I heard this symphony, I will always think back to that year I taught English in Japan, when I first embarked on this noble profession. I am reminded of all the dreams I once had and the passion and enthusiasm that filled my life then and still fills my life now. Though bittersweet at times, especially when spending the holidays alone, it is part of the music, the soundtrack of my life.

My first job: retail

I was a stockboy at Woolworth’s in LaSalle, Illinois for a little over one year. How much did I make? Whatever minimum wage was back in 1974!

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