Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Tag: Jeremy Aaron

Someone stole my new Doc Martens!

Yesterday, I bought my first new pair of shoes in four years.

The Doc Martens that I had bought in the States back in 2005 had served my feet well. As Forrest Gump mused, “there’s an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes, where they’re going and where they’ve been.”

In my case it’s been all the places I’ve visited wearing them—from Illinois, Korea, and Thailand to Japan back to Korea and Laos. Likewise, in those four years alone, so much has happened in my life—leaving Korea, going to Thailand and meeting Aon, hanging out in Japan a few times, back to Korea and Laos, the birth of Jeremy Aaron and the passing of my mother.

Yes Forrest, you can tell a lot about a person and the shoes they wear.

I had worn those Doc Martens down and stretched them out so much from all my walking that the time had come to buy a new pair. Fortunately, there is a Dr. Martens’ store in Daejeon (I have tried other shoe stores and outlets but I’ve never really liked the shoes; I’ve been wearing Doc Martens since 1993 and they’ve always been good to my feet) and when I stopped in there yesterday, the store carried my size (finding western-sized clothes like shoes, socks, pants and shirts is not easy in Korea, and especially in Daejeon where there is a much smaller foreign community).

However, and as expected, the shoes were pricey: 170,000 Won or around $150.00. Sadly, they are not even original Dr. Martens. They are made in China.

I needed new shoes so I can live with the price. Made in China? Whether or not they are originals, or only original in price, that is—to excuse the pun—the price one has to pay when you want something you like.

Once I had them on my feet, my feet were happy so I was happy. A spring bounced back in my step and I was walking tall again—not shuffling my feet because my last pair of Doc Martens had been stretched out so much.

Everything was right with the world. Got up this morning, talked to Aon, Jeremy Aaron and Bia (52 more days!), worked on my novel, and then went to school, paid some bills, filled out a form to have money transferred to my Korean Exchange Bank account each month, and then went to the gym.

That spring in my walk also was evident on the treadmill where I ran another 10 kilometers in an hour. When you’ve got happy feet you just want to keep on running and running.

After that exhilarating run, I decided to cool down with some Gatorade and went to my locker to get some money. That is when I noticed that my new Doc Martens the ones that had made my feet so happy and that had set me back 150.00 had been stolen.

Okay, so I didn’t lock them up in my locker with the rest of my street clothes. I am guilty as charged for being stupid. I just never imagined any of the four or five people who were at the gym when I was would steal them. But one of them did, or someone else who came in when I was running.

Now maybe you’re wondering why I would take off my shoes and leave them out? Well, this is Asia and at restaurants, dentist offices, and even gyms, people take off their shoes before entering these establishments. (A lot has to do with the “sitting on the floor culture” but I could never understand why a dentist’s office or a gym.) To be sure, if one really wanted to steal someone’s shoes, it is not that difficult. I have heard numerous stories of someone going to a restaurant and then leaving to find their shoes had been stolen.

Steal someone’s shoes though? How low can a person go? Well, low enough to bend over, pick them up and walk off with them I guess.

When I explained what had happened to the worker-cum-trainer, he didn’t seem too shocked or overly concerned. I’ve been a member of this small gym for three years and I would have thought he would have been a little more surprised. Instead, he asked me if I had locked them in a locker. Well gee; maybe I just took an extra stupid pill this morning because no, I did not lock them in a locker.

After he did a perfunctory search of the gym he went back to washing towels and gym wear.

“Excuse me, I’ve just been robbed,” I said. “Maybe we should call the police.”

“Do you want me to call the police?”

I guess I was not the only one who took a stupid pill in the morning.

Finally, he got around to calling the police and that is when I did my best Joe Friday impersonation and tried to get him to search the computer records for the people who came in to the gym. When a member comes in, they have to show their membership card, which is then swiped in a card reader, so there is a record of who is there. You don’t have to be a Joe Friday, Columbo, Starsky or Hutch to figure out that it was a matter of simple deduction: one of those four people who were in the gym when I was on the treadmill walked off with my shoes.

Now, what I am thinking is that it had to have been an inside job. Why? Whoever absconded with my Doc Martens knew I was on the treadmill at other end of the gym and not in the shower room or outside the locker room. This person knew exactly where I was at when they took them.

The police finally showed up but there was not much they could do. There was a bit of a language barrier and I was told that it was my mistake for not locking them up. Again, I am guilty as charged for being stupid. They took down my personal information as well as the telephone numbers of the four men who were in the gym when I was and who could have stolen my shoes. All they could do was call these men and ask them if they had stolen the shoes; don’t think they are going to bring them into the station and grill them for hours until one of them breaks and confesses.

The officer who had done all the talking was very apologetic and in broken English told me that he was ashamed this had happened to a foreigner. They said they would get back to me if there was a lead in the case or if they broke the case open. No, they didn’t say that per se—I’ve just watched a lot of movies and TV dramas about cops and robbers and knew that was what they really wanted to tell me.

In the meantime, shoeless Jeffrey was in need of another pair of shoes, so I hopped into a taxi went back to the Dr. Martens’ store and bought another pair of the same shoes that had been stolen. In the end, a new pair of shoes cost me $300.00.

I should probably thank the guy for giving me something absurd to blog about today. I also should ask the gym for a one-year’s free membership; it’s the least they could do for me.

One thing is for certain, I am not going to let these Doc Martens out of my sight when they are not on my feet, and lock them up if I can’t keep my eyes on them.

A little bit o’ Seoul

Daejeon Station

Daejeon Station

It’s a snowy morning in Daejeon and I am on the 8:29 KTX (Korea’s high-speed express train) to Seoul for a couple of hours.



Actually, I am on “official business” – I am going to the U.S. Embassy in downtown Seoul to pick up my new passport. I guess it’s okay to call it “official business” – after all, the passport really does belong, technically speaking, to the State Department. It was due to expire in March, but with me going to Laos in 17 days, you need at least six months left on your passport to travel to most countries and that was something I was not about to chance with the three months I would have had left on my passport had I not renewed it.


When I got up this morning at 6:00 it was not snowing; by the time I left for Daejeon Station—about a ten-minute taxi ride away from where I live—it was coming down pretty hard.


Called On right before I left. She was still sleeping. Jeremy Aaron had gotten up a few times during the night. He’s feeling much better now. After he had a vaccination two days ago he was running a fever.


I’ll call On again after I finish at the embassy. I am hoping my passport is ready. They told me two weeks ago when I went to Seoul to drop off the paperwork and pay the 75.00 for a new passport. However, there was Thanksgiving last week and this time of the year it gets a little busy with people traveling.


From Daejeon to Seoul, it’s only about an hour on the KTX. There are two stops: one at Cheonan-Asan about 30 minutes north of Daejeon and one at Gwangmyeong which is near Suwon. It’s a sweet ride and not too expensive—only 17,000 Won, around $12.00 for a one-way ticket. I’ve spent that kind of money traveling from one part of Seoul to another in a taxi during rush hour and taking just as long.


As the landscape rushes by I am thinking about this year and everything that has happened from the birth of Jeremy Aaron to the passing of my mother. The cycle if life and death, just like the seasons that have marked my time in Korea; that have marked my time on Earth. I’ve watched the countryside turn from winter to spring to summer and fall and soon winter again.


In the distance, some mountains remind me of the opening scenes of M*A*S*H. I can hear Johnny Mandel’s theme music playing in my mind.


The KTX arrives in Seoul a little after 9:30 and from Seoul Station I have to take a subway one stop to City Hall and from there, I walk to the embassy. Fortunately, I have just missed the morning rush hour so I don’t have to worry about being packed in one of the subway cars by subway push men.


It might have been snowing in Daejeon, but in Seoul it is bitterly cold. Raw, biting cold with a wind whipping down from the north that makes Seoul feel more like “the windy city” than Chicago. The temperature has to be at least in the teens but with that strong wind, the wind chill factor has got to be minus-something. It’s a good thing I don’t have to walk too far.


The last time I was at the embassy to drop off my paperwork there was only one other person. Today it’s a little more crowded but I am in and out of there in less than 30 minutes. I have my brand new electronic passport and I am good to go for another 10 years.


Call On to let her know that I’ve gotten my passport.


Not too far from the U.S. Embassy is the Kyobo Book Center—the oldest bookstore in Seoul. It gets me waxing a little nostalgic because in two days it will be the anniversary of when I first came to Korea 18 years ago and that first weekend in Korea one of the places I visited was Kyobo. Can you believe that—18 years ago I first came to Korea? I’ll save the waxing nostalgic for later.


My return ticket to Daejeon on the KTX is for 3:00 so I have enough time to head over to the USO and their canteen for a chili dog and fries. Most people think that the USO in Seoul is only for US service members, but actually anyone can use it to have some authentic home style cooking or use its travel agency. I’ve been coming here for years and whenever I am in Seoul now, I stop here for something to eat as well as chat with the canteen manager Mike Maddox who has been in Korea since the 80s.


It’s now a little after 12:00 and time to head back to Seoul Station, which is one subway stop from Namyeong Station that is located near the USO. When the subway pulls into the station, its destination is Uijongbu. It’s hard not to feel a part of history—Korean War history—when you hear that name or see it printed on a sign. Head north to Uijongbu and you are close to where some of the fighting took place during the Korean War. I’ve been to Uijongbu a number of times when I was writing for the Korea Times a couple of years ago.


I am able to change my ticket when I finally arrive at Seoul Station about fifteen minutes later and at 1:15 I am heading south to Daejeon. I’ve already called On to let her know I am heading back.


Another hour on the KTX and by 2:45 I am back in my room.


It was a little bit of Seoul and some soul searching on a very cold and snowy day in Korea.

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