Monthly Archives: July 2011

A parked taxi with the meter running

The last week and a half has seen me become a drifter, free of obligation or mental roadblock, free of the famous Jessica Dovey, who may or may not have been dead at any given moment in the Himalayan mountains but ended up being not dead and actually gets back home tonight. While she was gone I engaged in a variety of scandalous activities that would be forbidden if she was around, like: leaving the air conditioner on even while I slept sometimes, occasionally leaving the toilet seat up, and one time I smoked a cigarette on the balcony and did not close the door to the house. The illicit things that I did are even more scandalous. For instance, I cooked linguine noodles instead of the spaghetti ones and I drank two entire Mello Yellos on a weekend evening and stayed up well past 9 PM.

While she was gone, in typical Japanese fashion the massive social hoopla built and built for Typhoon Ma-on, which was first a Category 5 super typhoon, then slowed down, then was on a direct collision course with Kobe, then wasn’t, then hooked up back toward us, then didn’t. It ended up being about the biggest non-event in history, the non-event to end all non-events. At its most troublesome it stole away some of humanity’s precious three-dollar plastic umbrellas, and I fear we shall never see them again. I, tasked with caring for Jessy’s garden plants on our balcony, did an admirable enough job saving the tomatoes, though the useless little green beans in their tiny pods were a casualty of the wind, tossed to the ends of the earth.

As penance for my slight transgressions, I took it upon myself to finally throw away the Christmas tree she had stashed there on our balcony, dead for seven months and wrapped in a red fleece blanket, secured with shoelaces that look like the pullstrings for purple Zubaz pants. I believe that it was serving as a reminder, a grave one, to the living flora and fauna: do you see what we do to you, if you die? You will finish your days in this place covered in synthetic fibers and left to roast in the sun like a carcass for the vultures, and not even the smallest creature shall mourn you. Opening the blanket up was like unearthing a mystical coffin containing Santa Claus. Pine needles fell all over everything, and I was reminded of that magical Christmas of 2010, which we spent with a fresh tree until December 17th when we left the apartment for weeks. She had tricked me into letting her buy the Christmas tree from IKEA by pointing out that if you brought it back after Christmas with the receipt they would give you a special gift card for store credit, something she absolutely “would do.” I am an elephant, woman, and I will not forget this savage, cruel deception. This year there will be only a Christmas box, which will be a box in the corner of the room, and inside it will be other, smaller boxes, and inside them will be nothing, and it is all for you, and you will be happy to receive it.

A beneficial side effect of cleaning off our balcony was that I remembered I had twenty cans of V8 stashed out there from a Costco trip, so I moved them inside. I think they enjoyed being next to their vegetable brethren for a while though. It must have been more fun out there than it is in our refrigerator’s pull-out beverage drawer, where the only friends are a huge jar of pickles and a pineapple, which, according to the tag, is named “Sweetie-o.”

One thing they will not find in there is a spare bottle of today’s new taste sensation, another new limited Pepsi flavor. This summer it’s Caribbean Gold Pepsi, which is stylized on the label in a way that elicits memories, for me, of perhaps my mother’s mysterious sun-tanning lotion in the early-to mid-90s. Or perhaps some brand of VHS pornography, or maybe a kind of stereotypical name of rum? It does not seem like a typeface for the year 2011 is what I am saying. The I in Caribbean is even a palm tree. The flavor itself is purported to be “WHITE SAPOTE FLAVOR” and I had no idea what a sapote was until I looked it up online (it is a kind of fruit, I guess, “from the Caribbean”). This necessary research finds itself among comfortable previous experiences vis-a-vis the time I spent looking up the previous Pepsi flavors, chief among them Shiso Pepsi, Azuki Pepsi, Baobab Pepsi, Mont Blanc Pepsi, and now Caribbean Gold Pepsi. One thing is for sure: this shit is sweet. If you can imagine an even sweeter Pepsi, this is it! Unlike the superior (now, inevitably, discontinued) Mont Blanc, which had a delightful coffee taste, this one is just sweet. SWEET! I will never drink it again, but it’s okay I guess.

Japan switched from analog to digital television broadcasting over the weekend, and celebrated it on television by setting up tons of old TVs then showing them go to a blue error message at exactly noon on Sunday. I suppose it is kind of a hard event to publicize or cover, at least that is what you would think, though this being Japan it was accompanied by a series of bizarre stuffed mascots, tons of confetti, people dashing at the camera and yelling “uwaaaa!!!!” and other such things. Speaking of weird television I watched a segment on a variety show last night the name of which I do not know but that I’m calling “Sanctioned Sexual Harassment Mega Excite,” the concept of which is this, as I imagine it was pitched: two hideous men, both slightly fat, and one with a farmer’s tan, will put on Speedo swimsuits and go to a swimming resort, where young girls in bikinis will model for them as they make insensitive remarks. To allow the guise of information we will say this is an overview of “the popular bikinis of 2011.” The uglier of the two men will assign “point values” to the quality of the women, while measuring their curves and breast size with a giant plastic protractor. He will carry a little foam finger on the end of a stick, with which he will poke the women in the soft places until they tell them to stop, which they will not because no means yes! At the end, he will yell “DYNAMITE BODY!”

Obviously I watched the whole thing.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE LATELY, AS THOUGH THOSE ARE SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAN WHAT THESE ARTICLES ROUTINELY DEAL WITH IN THE NARRATIVE ANYWAY
– My local import store, which recently received Hot & Spicy SPAM and is now selling it for 650 yen a can
– Me, for buying one at that price, which with the soaring yen value equates to buying a can of SPAM for something like eight U.S. dollars, and not regretting it even a little
– The goddamned cicadas, which produce a deafening, alarm-like scream in the wee hours of the morning, and which I can hear even while standing in my kitchen or toilet room by way of the overhead vents
– Oreo brand chocolate bar, which is the size of a Heath but instead of toffee is just Oreo and macadamia nuts
– This guy I saw yesterday, who was following his dog around, and the dog looked like he was poppin’ a squat to take a dump, and instead of waiting for him to finish then scooping it up into a bag or something the dude pulled out a paper plate and stuck it under his ass and the dog took a shit on the plate I am seriously not joking I left before I could see what he did with the plate
UGH

I went in for my annual health check yesterday, a requirement of the school system or something like that. I left work at noon to go to the clinic, where, despite being told I would not have to submit to a urine test, I was asked to submit to a urine test. Lucky for me I usually have some of that around. Anyway, the way it works is you are marched on a path around this building kind of like a cow being led to his slaughter, stopping along the way at each little station for the next part. The first station is of course the bathroom. Next to the sink there is a little rack with paper cups and markers, and you take one and write your name on it. You’re supposed to go in it up to the line, then you set it in this window, a window between the office part and the bathroom part, like a drive-thru, like going to Taco Bell, only I am the restaurant, I am cooking up what they have ordered, which is a steamy cup of my piss. They have asked for it, so here, please wait gotta get it ready, and then I set it on the little window and that completes the order.

At the last stop the doctor needs to check my heartbeat and the guy asks, can you please lift up your shirt, then I start doing it but almost as I reach for it the older lady assistant rushes out from a pocket in space time, like I have no fucking idea where she has come from, and starts jerking up on my shirt, she is literally trying to rip it off me, so politely at the same time though, apologizing as she subjects me to this sort of violation. It is a slim-fit shirt, I tell her, you can’t lift it up let me un-button it, and she does not listen, tugging it up, it is rolled back, crushing me, I am horrified oh god, let me help me. The doctor says my heart rate is high, no shit doc. “Take care of yourself,” he tells me. I cannot think about anything except the guy who put the paper plate to catch that dog’s shit, man that was so fucked up.

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Send toast to ten tense stout saints’ ten tall tents

I am eating a hamburger, a double hamburger to be precise, with cheese, and salsa, and it is so drippy and disgusting that it makes sense, just works like a hamburger should, it is like a chorus in harmony. Next to my plate is the coup de grace, a genuine root beer float, and when I ordered it the guy said Da-dzu oa Ei ando Daburu? And I chose the second one. It is revelation, epiphany! Ice cream and root beer. But then, there are cake sprinkles on top, and yep I guess I am still in Japan. With every delicious sip I get those little bits of plastic-flavored crap-wax, fucking up my drink, and it is just one of those things. I work up the energy to lose my mind, to abandon my tenuous deathgrip on reality, but can’t do it, can’t let it fly. This is my ambition, and the wax sprinkles sink it to the bottom, beneath the surface.

The diner rings “American” though really all you have to be to be American here is “vaguely western,” and the DVD selection, which I could decipher by way of the spine katakana, rings true, America’s Greatest Hits. If you ever wonder what Japan thinks of America, just watch these movies: Rain Man, Forrest Gump, Top Gun, E.T., Rocky, Transformers. I have chili-flavored hot sauce with my fries just to mix things up, and finish the rest of my burger with a fork. The meal costs me about fifteen bucks. I am certain I have gotten a good deal.

The summertime beats us now, as regular as television variety shows and Jehovah’s Witnesses. One day I forget to bring my Patented Japanese Sweat Hanky with me to school, and I find myself wondering how exactly to dab the wetness off my forehead, materially challenged as I am. I resort to fanning myself with a plastic fan, emblazoned with the image of a comic book boxer. I drink green tea by the liter. My cat, ever a moron, cries for me to let him escape from our air conditioned living space into the hallway, which I would rather rent out to men for use as a post-workout sauna.

In an attempt to illusorily deceive myself into believing I am a regularly happy and fulfilled person, I have undertaken and completed a variety of tasks in the last couple of months. The largest of which, a fan-translation and script edit of a 19-year-old video game, finished up yesterday. I also write a bunch of junk about video games for the video game website. I watched the first Dirty Harry movie while Jessy was gone the other day, and we also went through a few Tarantino movies for kicks.

Last Friday I went combing through an under-the-tracks area called Motoko Town, in Motomachi, where you may remember we bought our first ricecooker. This time I was looking for some old games on floppy disks, and I found a couple in a store packed more completely with junk than a Goodwill donation dumpster. For ten bucks the man let me take a couple, then snuck back out into the alley to meet me, secreting a bonus item into my hand. It was a copy of the Super Mario Bros. 2 strategy guide, published in 1986. Cover price 310 yen. I used it over the weekend in an effort to beat the evil game, and lost all my guys on world 7-4, just like a kid.

Jessy’s balcony garden has begun bearing fruit, tomatoes most specifically which are technically fruit but which I use like vegetables. I’ve taken once again to making my own spaghetti sauce while our pasta boils, and the fresh tomatoes add their own brand of flavor, on those rare occasions when I can get them into the pot before Jessy pops them from the vine into her mouth directly. I suppose it is only fair–she cares for them every day and all I do is fill her plastic bottles with water.

The stupid humidity has had the annoying effect of, as usual, causing our tension-rod clothes bar to slip and fall from our bedroom closet, meaning that all of my clothes now must rest haphazardly, still on hangers, in the closet itself. I have eyes on picking up some metal hanging rings to support the bar, but that will involve actually progressing from one place to another out-of-doors, an experience that is not in any sense of the word a pleasant one. Though it seems to be raining slightly today I cannot imagine the water to feel any more comfortable than being spat on by a professional wrestler. I will find out in about an hour, after I leave this desk, where I am not needed.

Exams and classes are finished; until mid-September I am dead weight. I can continue to be professionally foreign during this time, though I cannot really announce it to the youth. They will need to, with their sports and clubs, do with out me, and merely imagine the faces and personalities of foreigners as a way to amuse and distract them from their routines.

Jessy goes to China pretty soon, to do some mountain climbing or rock climbing or something somewhere. I don’t know much about it, but she bought a small one-person tent and set it up in the living room. After she’s done there she will go train the new teachers in Tokyo before returning home, about ten days after that. I expect that before too much longer she will be doing things outlandish enough that to merely mention them will be all I have left. “Oh, Jessy’s hunting toucans in Peru with the coffee guy from television.”

It’s been so long since I wrote in here, hasn’t it? I’m sorry. I blame the general lack of new developments, as well as my concerted efforts to focus my attention on less introspective pursuits. Two years is now officially the amount of time you can live somewhere before it’s boring, or at least it is for me. I search and search for something new, but all I find is truth, justice, and the Japanese Way: buy something, and once it stops making you happy, go ahead and buy something else. I’ve started putting my money in a bank account, and leaving myself, as it were, to my own devices.