Category Archives: KOBE

Melancholy minus its charms

In about three months I’ll leave Japan for Dallas, a city I’ve never visited in a state I’ve never been to, much like every single place I’ve ever moved. It’s amazing how fleeting everything became so quickly, and already I find myself opening up cabinets to take stock of just what exactly I have forgotten I’ve owned in the last four years. In one bag, above our cupboards full of stashed foodstuffs that it is becoming increasingly clear we will never have enough time to eat, I discovered not only my last cell phone (the one I purchased when I got here) but also the cell phone before that, the one I used during my last couple years in Pittsburgh. Just looking at the fucking thing was like peering into a funeral parlor, peeking inside a coffin–did people really used to dress like this? The screen is the size of a Mamba. Could I turn it on if I wanted? If I did, could I get anything off it, this relic back before universal connectors and Wi-Fi? I spun it around in my hand a couple times just to remember how it felt.

I found my router, the one I had my dad send over for our Internet, which didn’t work when we switched providers. And my Wii cable, which doesn’t work in Japan but doesn’t matter cause I have a Wii U now. And a bunch of stuff for my 360, which broke months after I arrived. A charger for something I do not recognize. Four ethernet cables even though we use wireless now. A guitar strap for the guitar I replaced with a newer, better guitar that I probably can’t take home with me. When will this all be over?

I have considered cleaning up the apartment to be really nice and warm for when Jessy gets back from her week in Korea so that she might be suddenly aware that I am so great, but every time I think about it all I come up with is why should I clean when we are moving out in a little over two weeks? And then comes the oh shit oh shit I have to pack up the things I’m sending home, why do I have eight Famicoms, what the hell is all this shit, why do I have all this stuff, what the fuck was I thinking, maybe I should just stay here in Japan, no it’s too late, no it’s not yes it is you don’t really want to stay yeah you’re right no, no, yes no yes

Somewhere along the line here I committed the cardinal sin of transient men and decided consciously not only to Acquire Possesssions but mainly to acquire ones that serve as little more than souveniers, and now it will take boxes and boxes to send them back to America, a bed I have made and now must sleep in. I tell myself I’ll probably rather be with them than without them, during my imagined, impossible future in which I am happy and own a house and have a nice place to surround myself with everything I love, so I gather now while I can. And here we are.

I’m on the last day of “golden week,” that long holiday during which people who want to hate their lives attempt to travel Japan among everyone else who hates their lives, which is 88% of the population of the country. This year in an attempt to be part of the twelve percent basically I just stayed home and watched movies (Rocky III and IV, Titanic with director’s commentary, bizarre Italian crime movie Rulers of the City, and Bad Boys II followed by Bad Boys I, which was far inferior). I also took the opportunity to get rip-roarin’ drunk and fall asleep on my friend’s floor, someone put a pillow under my head I do not remember it.

I suppose this is what I wanted, really, that spark of unsettledness, of discomfort, of feeling, of change, despite the spurs. Everything difficult, from upset a rightsiding, another couple years of being the person I like being instead of the complacent bored fuck that sits around watching Rocky IV again.

curious japanese things of the lately
– Sure is gettin’ harder to fill this up each time
– Got an ice cream sandwich, that was kind of uncommon
– Switched the brand of yakisoba noodles I use in sobameshi to one that is a little thinner, it was a big improvement, what the fuck am i talking about
– Next weekend is our school culture festival, which means I have to work on Saturday and Sunday and it is gonna suck
– But I get that Monday off
– But Monday is my easy day goddammit why can’t I miss a Friday or something
end of things of there

I made curry the other day and it’s in the fridge. I’m getting hungry, which will at least give me something to do. What excitement!!!!!

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How happy he who crowns in shades like these

Like the workings of regular, timed machines, Japan yesterday found itself overrun with 850,000 (according to the news) fresh young graduates clad in brand new suits all pushing themselves confused off to their first day of work at the company that will slowly murder them over the next forty-five years. Unlike businesses in America, most Japanese entities coincide their hiring period with the exact end of the school year, and the first day of work is right when the schools start back up again. That means that every year on April 1st they all march off like little superheroes in costume. I like seeing at what point you can no longer identify the seas of new hires, the more stalwart will continue to wear suits until well into the summer, while the people with some free-thinking generally switch to cool-biz attire (ha ha, as mandated) once May or June rolls around.

Last night on the news broadcasts they showed footage from the welcome ceremonies at Mitsubishi and Panasonic, two companies that happen to have huge headquarters and factories in Kobe and Osaka. A typical component of these ceremonies is all the new hires singing the company song–yes, the companies have songs–together, pledging their undying fealty to the emperor company president. Also, you can never leave the company or you will be ostracized and blacklisted from other big companies forever, ha ha april fools, we are just joking, but no that is also a joke do not come back

TREE STUFF

The cherry blossoms are in pretty close to what I’d call full bloom, I read somewhere that it happened almost two weeks earlier than has ever been noticed since official cherry blossom blossom records started being kept in like the mid 1950s. I think it is because my French/Japanese waifu Christel Takigawa is in all kinds of new commercials this season, and she is SO HOT THAT THE TREES ARE BLOWIN OPEN nah she is really just kind of cute not really hot, not as hot as duckface Tomomi Itano who still drives traffic to my website via bizarre google search results even though she has left AKB48 now, Tomomi Itano Tomomi Itano. P.S. sorry Jessica

but you knew it was coming

8636353-755725

I AM A TOUR GUY

I led my mother around Japan for like the last two weeks as she visited us here, I have never been such a tourist in my entire life. We went to Chinatown and Arashiyama and Kyoto and sumo in Nanba and Nara and Awaji Island and all this stuff it was crazy. I cooked all the food that I am best at and we went to our favorite restaurants and watched Japanese television and Ghibli movies, did karaoke and went to a game center, ran through MEGA DON QUIXOTE and supermarkets, got our book signed at temples and shrines, drank under them cherry trees and oh so much more. It was great but also a little wack somehow, I felt like a tourist again since when there are three foreigners people will speak to you in English, a weird feel. Some old man who smelled like rotting coffee told me he loved New York, I was like that is nice dude I have never been there.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEEK OR MONTH, WHATEVER
– I bought a copy of Battle Arena Tohshinden for PlayStation because of its psychotic English text on the front, which says “Waw!? And now, what’s going on!? Toh Shin Den is about to present to you a super hot virtual battle, like one that you’ve never seen before at a rate of 90,000 polygons per second!”
– Rode a bus in Kyoto in which I was more squished than I have ever been squished, ever
– Have become totally hooked on kitsune udon, udon with sweet fried tofu on top, just in time to only have four more months to eat it all the time before I leave Japan forever
– Mad Men starts next week, oh god oh yes oh man this is not Japanese but
CURIOUS ENDING OF JAPANESE WHATEVER

I was tasked with changing places in the staff room yesterday, the first time I believe the foreigner has ever not sat in their original seat, the shittiest one in the staff room: right in front of the door where all the students bug you and you get hit with the drafts from the hall and you have people always walking by you and behind you and all this crap. They moved me back a row so my back is now to a wall, which means essentially I don’t have to worry about anyone jumpin’ up behind me or kids asking me weird questions I can’t understand. I am also next to the refrigerator, so all my refrigeration needs are covered.

Lots of new teachers in fresh brand new suits came here yesterday. I wonder how long the suits will last.

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Turn not pale, beloved snail

There’s this game store in town that I sometimes go to that has an inventory that has essentially not changed in two years. It is a little sorta room, and every time I go in there without fail the same man is sitting behind the counter. He sits in this chair against the wall so that you can barely see his head peeking up over it. I figured oh, maybe he has a little TV or somethin’ just behind the counter and he is playing a game because this is a game store. But I took a peek and there is literally nothing there, he just stares at the empty back of the showcase all the time. There is no feasible way that he makes enough money from that store to even live, I have no concept of it. All the games are overpriced, you would have to be crazy to buy almost anything from there, every time I go the exact same games are there nobody must ever buy anything except sometimes I buy something for a buck or two if I find it. Sometimes the radio is on, but never tuned to a real station, it is like half horrific static and half almost-melodies. I bought a copy of Wrecking Crew cause it was easier than paying the Yahoo Auction transfer fee and shipping, the guy sat back down after he handed me the bag, I guess the back side of that showcase is really something special.

The kids are graduated again, which means that there is officially fuck-all for me to do for the next month. For this situation I am excellently equipped, having only the best role models surrounding me, real experts, real savants on how to appear busy while not actually doing anything. For starters, I can type lots of words into the computer. This has the bonus side effect of making absolutely nobody even bother me at all because of all the crazy letters that are coming out and I am just typing so fast! Actually behind me some guy is literally coughing up pieces of his lungs, I am afraid he is going to die before long. Oh he just walked by me and belched sorta under his breath, like a secret. “Don’t tell anyone what I am about to share with you. This is my bond, my promise. Listen close child and keep it under your pillow at night do you understand me.” Hey while I am remarking on the crazy antics of my coworkers how about my office lady who just sneezed and then treated it like a shocking horrible revelation. She screamed in terror and shouted and raved, oh I sneezed, oh my goodness, oh. She does that for every minor occurrence in this office, like if she drops a pencil case or something it is the next great Japanese tragedy, a pencil case was dropped at school today, the news reporters will announce, and there were two Japanese pencils among the dropped, and some other foreign pencils.

Sometimes when the students come in here to get toilet paper they have to like squat down to get the toilet paper right in front of me, cause the box of toilet paper is under a table next to my desk, and I just am like man, look at you grabbin’ up that toilet paper, well, I know what you’re gonna do with that.

The heaters are on here in the office today for some reason even though it is kinda nice outside. It is still not hot enough to be considered “atsu” so of course the teachers still run in from the hallways screaming “samu, samu, aaah samu” even though it is fuckin’ gorgeous out there. But the Japanese language does not have any words for “the weather is inoffensive” because it was designed by masochists and it is easier to just say things that don’t mean anything. Ha ha I am just kidding. muzukashii

CURIOUS JAPANESE DERPS OF THE HERP
– my lunch today is a “wrap” and on the package it says “tortilla (ham cheese)” and it is basically a “wrap” but instead of it being like wrap stuff it is pretty much just a Japanese ham and cheese sandwich in a tortilla, which means it is 98% mayonnaise with a dusting of shredded shrimp farts
– my pal made a list of the best band names in Japan and it features such shocking names as Husking Bee, Yuji cut the man T, and Coaltar of the Deepers, you can read it here
– none of them will compare to my unmentioned personal favorite Japanese band name, Snail Ramp
WELL IT IS TIME TO STOP MAYBE

In the dying hours of last Saturday I half-drunkenly flipped through Japanese television after a spirited round of Jeopardy with a friend of ours, and stumbled onto a TV program I have seen before, entitled “BAKASOUL” featuring some guy in thick blackface impersonating James Brown. Baka means fool basically and boy were they ever. It featured “comedians” which means that they come out and say some catch phrase and then wait for people to laugh, which they do for some reason maybe because they don’t want to be left out. Last year I saw a band on there called “TOTALFAT” and it was pretty great. The last act that I saw before we turned it off was those comedians who are famous for wearing only Speedos, jesus it was stupid. In conclusion I love Japanese television.

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Now they grow up sharing McDonald’s and Disneyland

I’ve taken to wearing a beard and mustache, which I prefer to spell moustache, for no explicit reason. Having never actually witnessed what happens when I do not shave my face, I decided to give it the old college try for the first time last November, a month that some people have taken to dubbing “movember,” perhaps because mustache starts with an m and they want a sanctioned excuse to not shave and look like filthy mountain men. It was a short-lived experiment, I didn’t like the way it felt. When I left for Thailand at the end of December I decided not to bring my electric razor cause it was bulky. I haven’t shaved anything off since then except for a little trimming. So here I am, kinda mustachey, kinda beardy. It took a while before people at my schools started remarking on it, but things are in full swing now. It came to my attention the other day, via one of my good co-workers, that “many” of the students have been asking “why” I am now wearing hair on my face. I told him, as I struggled to come up with an answer, that I was basically doing it to see what it would be like. They thought it was hilarious, a reaction I often encounter when I say something that is not funny at all.

I told them that Jessy liked it, that it was just kind of interesting to see, personally, how it would come in, if my mustache and beard would ever connect (they won’t, it seems), what I would look like. I asked them if they had ever grown a mustache or beard and they said no. One of them is probably sixty, the other is two weeks younger than me. I considered asking why they had never tried it, just to put them in my shoes. I did not ask them. In a way this minor act of growing hair on my face almost makes me feel more foreign, since nobody at the school has a mustache or beard–I feel like I’m slowly re-Americanizing myself in preparation for the move back home.

Speakin’ of America I accidentally got into a conversation about old times today and found some pictures that I had of my room when I lived in Pittsburgh, and it sorta depressed me because I looked at them and the first thing I felt was man, I miss living in that place. Like you always think about a time when you are most happy or something, and I really felt “I was more happy then than I am now” and it was kind of a sad thought. I want to be happy! I wonder what it is I need to change or do. Maybe it is just the impermanence of living here that is driving me crazy, not that anywhere else I’ve ever lived has been any more permanent. It kind of seems like the times I get the most depressed are when I’m sitting here at night school doing jack shit except thinking about things that I used to do, which is probably confirmation of my brand new and groundbreaking theory that idle hands lead to minds that wish their hands weren’t idle but don’t have the ambition to make them move. Yes that’s it

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE NOM
– Today’s gummy snack from the FamilyMart, featuring three different flavors of gummies: melon soda, cola, and lemon sour, and named “Cola up! &Friends”
– My distinctly non-romantic idea that because tomorrow is Valentine’s Day me and Jessy should go on a date “to the curry restaurant in the basement in Sannomiya that we both really like” but hey she was like OH MY GOD YEAH and I was like take that, someone
– The loudspeaker van that I walked past on the way to school that was yelling in the top of its lungs about Japan needs to REVIVAL!!!!! but he sounded so angry about it
– Ate McDonald’s MEGA MUFFIN the other day for breakfast, it was pretty mega if i am to be perfectly honest with you. It is part of their annual “Big America” series of strangely-themed “American” sandwiches like Texas Burger and Idaho Burger that are both nothing like anything available in America and at the same time a good reflection of what a global burger company comes up with when they want to portray “America” to the average Japanese person
mcdsTHE END OF FOOD IN JAPAN

I went to karaoke last weekend again with some pals, a kind of renaissance of karaoke after having not really gone in over a year or so. Evidently, somewhere along the line, the Big Echo place replaced all their ancient fuckin’ TVs and the horrible stock videos that play behind the lyrics with brand new widescreen TVs and newly-shot HD videos. It’s kind of a bizarre change, updating the old fashions for the new. The old videos were really amazing in a way, most of them obviously shot at-or-around the turn of the century, full-frame, people in ridiculous clothes and dated storefronts, hilarious foreign actors recruited by Japanese companies to shoot these things. These new ones are sort of a strange anachronism, brand-new high-definition video matched up to goofy lyrics for Take Me Home Country Roads like some teenagers hangin’ out in an apartment eating pizza or whatever. I feel like there’s a short story in there somewhere, that whole scene must just be the weirdest goddamned thing.

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Many foreigners have come and gone

I’m eating a piece of Pumpkin-not-cake-not-bread baked thing, prepared by my “head teacher” who speaks shocking, disorienting, English that would be almost perfect except for the occasional times he just doesn’t know a word. Imagine conversing with a good friend of yours but then every now and then you bust out a sentence like “My sooth-saying has been verily challenged by your keen insight,” and then your friend says “what is keen?” He got the recipe off a website of some girl from Iowa who apparently posts recipes for baking things on the Internet. Remember when I used to post things on the Internet? The baked thing is not bad. I am eating it while drinking a paper container full of “abundant milk cocoa,” which tastes sort of like semi-notable chocolate milk. In the refrigerator are two ham and lettuce sandwiches, I am going to eat them later after the novelty of pumpkin thing wears off.

I took a really long trip to Thailand and Laos over the winter break, it was a thing. I only wrote anything down once in my notebook, because writing full on out my brain with a pencil and paper is too slow and I cannot keep up. This is what I wrote. I was gonna write more later, but then I did not, and the longer I don’t write something the more all I do is think about writing it instead of writing it. So here is what I have got from my trip, typed directly out of them pages and onto this screen.

STUFF I’VE GOT FROM MY TRIP

The first person we meet in Luang Prabang, which is a city in Laos, which apparently is a country, before anyone that seems interested in checking us into the hostel we’ve strolled up to, is a shorter, slightly more pathetically facial-haired version of a beanie-wearing young Matthew McConaughey, Dazed and Confused era, named Reuter, or Rutger, or Ruben, maybe it was Ruben, or something.  He says yeah mate a lot and cheerses our 10,000 kip (~1 US dollar) beers over virtually anything it is possible to cheers, even the act of clinking the bottles themselves together, yeah mate what a nice sound I will cheers to that.

He is on holiday with his “crew,” literally all of which have followed him to this very hostel, ten or so of them.  I recognize the types but cannot be sure if they are merely emulations of the filthy backpackin’ hippies we all know from movies and Woodstock reels or if this is what passes for one now.  As we talk about our lives submerged in a bit of drink I notice for the first time in my life that I feel acutely older than someone I could theoretically consider a peer.  I think the phrase is “I remember when I was your age.”  I don’t say it but wonder if my relaxed disposition gives it away–I don’t have the energy necessary to chameleonize anymore, and I’ve seen where the roads lead.  The mystery of the unknown is gone.  Or maybe that’s just it, I can just make it out up ahead like a familiar billboard.

LiORdjf

When Rooper begins laying down “the rules” of what goes down here at the $3 a bed per night dorm-style hostel I feel like I’m actually back in college, I am eighteen years old.  I check out, my brain turns in the keys.  They go off to smoke and drink, I hit the sack at 8:30, the day after my New Year’s Eve in another country entirely, off a handful of zs.  Then I am awakened by a baby, or two, screaming and screaming.  And a rooster squawking so hard its voice gives out, which I did not know could happen.  And the tuk tuk drivers, who are insane, parked outside the place, revving their little motorcycle engines like if they do it hard enough some tourist will jar himself loose from the sky and fall into the back, pay him 500% the normal rate for a trip across town.

The next day most of them leave, a thing I am sure of because of the elephantine stomping that echoes through the old house.  I know it is old not only because it is old but because there is a handwritten sign in the lobby, pieced together presumably by the owner, using the English phrases that seemed appropriate to him at the time.

We shall never replace the building with modern luxuries like concrete and steel, it says, we will not alter the building and will preserve its natural history.  This note is glued to the wall, written in permanent marker.  Up around the top of the room, where the walls meet the ceiling, I can just see some ornate decorative painted designs that have at some point been painted over, I step on a hastily repaired piece of wood as I pace the room to check them out. It creaks a little bit.

WELP THAT IS IT

We did other things on our trip too. For instance, I took a propeller plane and tried to not be scared of anything, because my New Year’s Resolution this year was “don’t be afraid.” I tried to clarify the resolution with explanatory conditions but can’t quite get it perfect the way I want though. Don’t be afraid of anything!!! seems a little broad, we should probably fear some things. But then if I start making exceptions I have to consider each time I am afraid of something if it’s a thing I am allowed to be afraid of, which is just bullshit so maybe I should leave it, don’t be afraid. Anyway I lived, on the propeller plane, then I bought some Valium without a prescription and a half-hour before my next flight I took some and woke up in the air with a mere half-hour to go, that worked pretty well.

I ate lots of food out of dirty filthy street carts and paid almost nothing for it, except my life. I drank lots and lots of beer and slept in beds next to strangers. One day I took a “cooking” class and didn’t really learn anything. I saw three movies. On New Year’s Eve, a neat band rocked my head off in a small bar while we drank Coca-Cola and gin out of a literal plastic bucket with straws, maybe four of us to a bucket. I was propositioned by suit tailors approximately eighty-five times. Before we came home to Japan I bought a cheap duffle bag and went to the supermarket, then filled it with food and checked it as my piece of luggage.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE LAST HOW MANY FUCKING MONTHS HAS IT BEEN NOW
– There is a new convenience store next to the exit for my usual station, it is a FamilyMart which is maybe my favorite kind, and I actually thought “finally, a new convenience store” even though there are already two of them on my way to work within three minutes walk of each other but I am so damned sick of them ooooohhhhh
– The yen is tanking because everything in the country I guess is turning to shit
– One of my short stories that I like got translated into Japanese by a couple friends of mine, I would show you it but it’s all in Japanese
– I bought a new kind of gum, it’s called “Megashaki” and inside each huge piece is a reservoir of sour Pop Rocks goop and you are like “yowza” when you bite it
– You can buy 7-Up here now
THAT IS OK I GUESS

I added up all the words in every Nom a Day I have ever written the other day, it was some crazy number like 132,000 words which would be really great if it was anything worth a damn!

But it is just this stuff.

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He ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends

If there’s a single decent thing about summer it is that it reminds me that life isn’t always this shitty like it is now, that no matter how much I hate sweating to death and being sapped of energy and moving, at all, things by default will be better when winter rolls around again. You ever heard of that made up mental illness called “SAD” which is short for seasonal affected disorder only I think they say it is from people who have no sunlight? Maybe I am the opposite of that. TOO MUCH SUN. Anyway, I don’t know how long it took me, in my life, to realize that I had seasonal preferences. Maybe it wasn’t until I even came to Japan that, like with my declared religious belief, favorite food, “hobbies,” and other menial answers to frequently asked questions, I firmly decided to Ultimately Choose that winter was my favorite and I hate summer. It just makes things easier, since nobody understands my ambling, self-exploratory responses that play around the edges of answers like people fingering the ridges of a quarter with the end of their thumbnail. One word answers are king here, where people would rather not have to work to understand what I’ve just said.

Maybe part of it is that there is literally nothing I would ever enjoy doing that would be much better in summer than it would be in winter, appropriately clothed at least. Beach party? Pf. WINTER beach party? Sign me up. Grilling outside in the scorching heat? Fuh. Cooking a pot of stew over a log fire while exposed to the elements? YEAH! What I mean is just that unless the occasion is “being scantily clothed outside,” and actually enjoying it, I will take winter, especially this pussy willow Kobe winter, where At Freezing makes people bitch and complain, and I am like “ah, this is great.”

On my sweaty walk home from a small office party last night, some crazy man followed me and my coworker through the ticket gate (he ducked under the barrier to avoid paying), then followed us onto our train, and for a few stops repeatedly gestured toward me while speaking to other random people sitting down, trying desperately to ignore him. He was saying stuff in Japanese like “hey, check out this foreign guy, don’t you want to take a picture of him, I bet he is American, they sure beat us in the war, they sure did their best in that war didn’t they, look at this tall gaijin, he sure ain’t Japanese.” I told me coworker that in America we have a nice phrase that goes something like “fuck off” that we would say to annoying idiots like this, but in Japan it is generally accepted that if you pick a fight, absolutely nobody else is going to help you, look at you, or say anything at all. I turned my back to him, occasionally making eye contact with other horrified passengers, a stupefied grin on my face, shrugging my shoulders like Michael Jordan hittin’ ethereal threes. “Sorry dudes, I just am so foreign.” then i killed the guy

WEIRD SHIT THAT SHOULD SEEM WEIRDER THAN IT DOES TO ME BUT I HAVE BEEN HERE TOO LONG
– Didn’t have my hanky yesterday cause I washed it and it needed to dry, felt tangibly uncomfortable all day with no hanky to dab my forehead with
– I ate a cow’s tongue last night and actually thought it was delicious
– Drinking almost exclusively green tea, am beginning to be able to tell the slight differences between different types
– Fake bands made of fake high-school girls wearing real bikinis continue their relentless popularity, “obviously”
– Of course you can’t buy beans in the grocery store, why would they need strange ethnic foods like beans in the normal supermarket
ENOUGH

I’m taking three days off next week for summer leave, during which I plan to cook awesome food and visit a local beer brewery. For some reason I am thinking that the perfect accompaniment to my vacation would be a viewing of Doctor Zhivago, I am truly becoming insufferable.

Love,
Brandon

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Kissing a girl who is leaning away from you

At a fancy table I mentally fidget with my lines–I am a couple minutes away from getting up in front of everyone who holds any sort of employment at my school to give a short speech in Japanese. We’re all piled into a fancy dining room on an upper floor of the ridiculous monstrosity the “Meriken Park Oriental Hotel,” a triple-A lodgery which according to Wikipedia was designed by “a corporation” to resemble a luxury ocean liner “for some reason.” If you could move the upper image on my website a little to the side, you’d see it there, a staple of the waterfront view. I’ve had a few beers at this point, though it’s hard to say exactly how many due to the irritating yet awesome Japanese office party custom of always refilling the drinks of anyone next to you any time you see they aren’t completely full. When they call my name I realize that the speeches everyone else have given have been pithy, short introductory missives, cursory pap delivered obligatorily in the native language of this country. Mine is a two-and-a-half minute jaunt down ha-ha road, originally penned by myself in simple English, simplified even further for easy translation, translated by a co-teacher of mine, then personally re-simplified to make the Japanese sound like it could theoretically have been pieced together by my infant brain. Before I get up there, I realize I have no idea what the fuck I have done.

it's on the right

The topic of the speech, an introduction and farewell to one of my coworkers, who has been recently transferred to another school but returns tonight to receive the honor of this speech (along with a couple envelopes of money from the PTA), is the concept of the relative humor that we share, and how sometimes during our conversations in English, neither of us knew exactly what was funny and what wasn’t, leading us to ignore jokes and laugh at the mundane, which is perfectly enough what I tend to do even if I can understand you. In a case of art imitating life (intentionally), my speech, written in English and delivered in Japanese, finds itself bouncing around in my mind like an enigmatic memory, constantly analyzed: which section of this is precisely when “the joke” comes out? Will their sensibilities allow them to find it funny, or will they, fearing staff retribution, laugh only at the safe parts? Perhaps appropriately, even though I analyze my own speech on numerous occasions prior to delivering it, as I orate in a foreign language I barely understand even as speaking it, I receive laughs at unplanned junctures, and my perfect pronunciation of “Iwasaki-sensei wa naze KONna ni waratterundaroukaaaaa” gets only a few titters. Jessy suggests that perhaps the inflection of the line was too good, making me sound serious “why the hell were you laughin’ at that, Iwasaki?!” instead of endearing “wonder why she’d laugh at that, hmm!” It’s happiest for me to imagine that for just a moment I sound like a violent, rough-and-tumble Japanese gangster with a knife to the throat of my dear old lady coworker, but not at all out of line for me to believe that, as with English, they just can’t tell if I am being sarcastic or not. Then I tell them all to choke on their fried mayonnaise shrimp and flip themselves inside out.

One teacher later on in the evening stops by to refill my drink for the seven-hundredth time and tells me that my speech was “by far” the best one of the night, which mentally I assume is because I had actually written one and liken to defeating a gang of Antarctican six-year-olds in the indoor-heating knowledge Olympics. Still, the victory is sweet, sweet like Chinese wine, which I glug down until I cannot remember who I am. Another office party victory, filling myself up with open bar liquids and Chinese food that is too fancy for me to appreciate.

Yesterday’s solar eclipse offered the fun opportunity to watch various Japanese humans stop themselves in their tracks and stare directly up at the sun, searing their corneas into ash. I, never one to over-prepare, determined that I did not need the special glasses and that taking a peek using the reflection of my cellular telephone screen would be enough. It kind of was, I could see that the sun looked like a little ring in the sky. I read a story that at a zoo here all the lemurs went apeshit cause it got dark so they thought it was night and then it turned day again. I like to imagine how crazy that crap must be to you if you are a lemur. “Holy shit, the day only lasted five minutes and now it is night again, does that mean there is a new episode of Jeopardy already or.” Knowing that, if I was privy to that information ahead of time, I think instead of just planning to watch the eclipse I’d have tried to get me a ticket to the zoo and go watch the lemurs go crazy instead.

I also enjoyed considering what the prevailing mentality must have been way back in the turgid-cortex brainflop days, before people could understand at all what was happening and perhaps, for a time, assumed that this was truly the end of days. Did they resort to the mentalities of unrestrained monkeys, ranting and raving? Maybe for a time they all picked up ancient acoustic guitars and told it near the train station, hurry and adopt Our Lord And Savior before it is too late! At any rate, by the time I was at my desk doing my “job” which during midterms this year means “nothing,” things in outer space were all back to normal. I celebrated by eating a old rice cracker I found in my desk that tasted kind of like dried squid for some reason, and maybe the reason is that they made it taste that way on purpose.

Defying the odds, Mello Yello is somehow back, or maybe it just never left and they’ve brought it into higher distribution for the summer. I bought a bottle because I missed seeing it, which might lend some credence to the Coca-Cola company’s theory of seasonality. Surely if it had been here all along I’d have paid it no attention, a cruel and shocking allegory for what my daily life truly amounts to as I pump on through the days and nights. A few weeks ago just to make things different I switched the living room again. That’s when I move all the stuff that’s on the north wall to the south wall, and move the stuff on the south wall to the north wall. It tricks me into believing things are fresh and new, regardless of whether they are or not.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE LATELY
– Osaka’s mayor, who is on a personal crusade to fire anyone who has tattoos, is prohibiting dance clubs from allowing dancing, and who apparently never saw the movie Footloose and thinks the current year is 1928
– The popular American movie “The Avengers,” which, despite having been out in America for a few weeks, will not release in Japan until August 17th, by which point several people who are alive today will certainly be dead
– Television
OH THAT WILL BE FINE

I’ve been doing a tongue twisters lesson in class for the last week or so and I have so many stupid tongue twisters memorized that I cannot handle it. If two witches could watch two watches which witch would watch which watch ripe white wheat reapers reap ripe white wheat right we’re real rear wheels scizzors sizzle thistles fizzle six thick thistle sticks eleven benevolent elephants betty botter made a batch of bitter batter but with butter it was better rory the warrior and roger the worrier were reared wrongly in a rural brewery.

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A good imagination and a pile of dung

When I am out on Hanshin line along the bay and we bust outta the tunnel and I see the sun over the water on my way to blind school, I sometimes start thinking about dog shit. Because I know I’ll run into it, and all it entails, very soon. I get it, dog owners, sometimes you’re walking your dog and it just blows a hollow point load into the concrete, it just went off officer yes I have a permit, but you don’t have your little doggy crap bags or whatever you use to pick up its hot log so you just leave it there. Do you know who you piss off? The little old lady (or guy but I prefer to imagine it is a lady!) who leaves these fucking things next to the shit!

Yes, you can be of limited vision and still notice the variety of yellow, laminated triangular cards peppering the Takinochaya park on Thursday morning, quaintly placed near dog wads of assorted vintage, for your convenience. The text on the cards says something like “Let’s all pick up our dog poopy.” They are perhaps the most perfect example of non-confrontational Japanese passive-aggressiveness that I can specifically cite with photos. There are a few layers of amusement here, starting with the most obvious, I guess, that obviously this gal at some point lost her tenuous foothold on sanity and decided once and for all that she would put a stop to all this dog wad lying around by “almost doing something about it” that had nothing to do with actually removing the keester cakes from the concrete. Then, she set about not only making the signs, but making multiple signs, which must have involved a computer since they are printed, and involved special yellow paper, and involved lamination, a significant step. These things are goddamned laminated!

I like to imagine her routine, during which she teeters on down to the old park at the crack of dawn to carefully examine the park for any fresh grogans, then plucks her signs from the oldest, most disintegrated growlers and places them on the fresh ones, held steadfast against the elements by nice hefty rocks. “Ah yes,” she reflects. “The park sure looks a lot nicer with all these bright yellow notices pointing out how many lawn sausages we are currently playing host to.”

For me, they serve as a sort of Hollywood star map, pointing out the best places to catch a glimpse of the newest celebrity. I coast past one that marks only the skeletal remains of an amorphous deposit, evokes the memory of a whisper: “I once was, then was again, and now only the spirit persists.” Secretly, I want to waddle over to the hedges and chisel a grunt sculpture for her to discover the next day. It will shake the foundations of her earth, and she will need to print and laminate much larger cards.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEEK
– I recently purchased a beverage which was a soda that claimed to feature an “adult taste” of apples and hops
– In Japan, the Filet-o-Fish at McDonald’s is a breakfast sandwich, which means I can get one with a drink in the morning for the meager sum of 200 yen
– I have not been able to find fucking cauliflower for the last five goddamned days
– Last weekend in Osaka we ate at a brick-oven Italian place with some friends and I got a “large” calzone which was over twenty dollars and had a partially-cooked egg inside it for some reason
– A program on television last night featured “hilarious foreigners” who posted videos of themselves on YouTube in which they are badly singing and playing Japanese anime songs, they were roundly mocked to my amusement and delight
– Found clearance-priced boxes of orzo at the grocery store the other day, it is called “risoni” here and boy I sure am loving it
– There is an advertisement for a video game on the screens in the JR station, it is based off a cartoon and the name of it is “Milky Holmes,” this is totally normal
LIFE GOES ON

As I waited to cross the street on my way to night school today I heard someone to the right of me say “how’s it going,” which is not something I often hear “while mingling in the public sector.” I turned my head to see who it was and it was some guy who looked kind of like the food vendor in Blade Runner. He seemed Asian but was speaking flawless English. He said he lived in Georgia and that he was an “expert in fifteen languages.” He followed me as I walked up the street to school, making intelligent but oddly non-sequitur remarks outside the edges of whatever temporal conversation we happened to be having as I proceeded. He told me he had two hundred and fifty addresses, “just for fun,” and that he couldn’t even remember them, but it was just something you gotta do, have some addresses.

Before we parted he started to say and spell words that were not words, asking if I knew them, like Sngaus and Thahdg, and I said man, I don’t know what that is, and he said you know, the pronunciation of English you gotta teach them students of yours, and I was like yeah, I know. Even now I am not sure if it was real life or a waking dream, an extension of my everdeath, the whims of the swirling winds blowing past my skeletal remains like the aurora borealis, dandelion seeds on the tradewinds caressing my prefrontal cortex like so much fossilized dog ejecta.

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If the flower is to be beautiful

As if on cue, as is typical with Japanese weather, suddenly today it doesn’t suck total mung, and it’s fifty Fahrenheit and the sun be glowin, people are stopping to look at each other’s dogs again, and walking with their heads up, and I took off my scarf and felt great about it. Today would be March if it weren’t for The Leap Year, a day that happens as often as the summer olympics. I am drinking a 7UP, which up until recently you couldn’t really get in Japan except in its “CLEAR DRY” weird sugar-free version, and oh it is nice. In fact, it almost makes up for the fact that Japan has now in the last year or so briefly introduced and then immediately discontinued Sprite, Mello Yello, and Citra.

We’re slowly gearing up for our trip to Okinawa, on which we leave in about two weeks. Okinawa is pretty much the last place in Japan that I have really wanted to visit and still haven’t, so I’m looking forward to it. I heard the food down there is real outta line. Okinawan cuisine in general is markedly different from the mainland, so they say, and they even have their own beer called Orion, which I have had canned and which tastes like every goddamned other Japanese beer but I will still drink myself stupid. They also have taco rice! Taco rice is like a big taco in a bowl, but instead of a tortilla or a shell, it is rice. Taco rice is awesome. Anyway, despite it being basically summer down there and being all kind of beaches and shit, it will still be something new and different and that is really all I ask.

japan in one photograph

JAPANESE STUFF OF THE LATELY
– “Nama pasta,” which is fresh pasta in little plastic bags in the cooler that you boil at home, and which seems like a groundbreaking new concept to me despite the fact I am sure we had this shit in the states and I just never bought it cause I was a tightwad
– This French/Japanese newscaster girl Christel Takigawa who is in all kinds of commercials now and who I will probably have to divorce Jessy for pretty soon sorry jess
– Went to a shabu-shabu restaurant last Friday and ate so much meat that I was like “oh god, I ate so much meat” then I drank a bunch of sake and some whisky and beat up my friends in real life in Street Fighter IV
– This new game show called TORE! which you should really click here to watch some of where talent stars have to answer silly word game questions or get shoved by foam blocks into a bottomless pit, among other ridiculous challenges, it is basically the second best show on Japanese TV behind VS. ARASHI
THAT’LL DO PIG

DOWNER ENDING

I “dealt with” the news that I received yesterday that one of my young students from the blind school had passed away unexpectedly of the flu by googling his last name + インフルエンザ, assuming that the hyper-paranoid infuruenza fearing gods would have already sortied and converged on the news. I tried his name and the city, I tried the school’s webpage, but there is only nothing, just an e-mail from a co-teacher that one of my students, who I had just talked to about foods in Thursday’s lesson, was a hundred and four on Sunday and dead by Monday. I found myself strangely grasping for something, perhaps trying to embrace the false but comforting thought that somewhere there exists a permanence to replace the idea of impermanence, an external source, a confirmation, the idea that somewhere someone has written something, set it up somehow like I always have to do for myself.

One of the things that fucks me most about it is that pervasive Japanese school mentality this whole time that I have completely disregarded as being a total farce, that Oh The Flu Menace, and “we wear facemasks” and “we sanitize our hands” and “we cancel large school assemblies because of flu” but then I mean, they wash their hands in freezing cold water, they turn on the heaters in the rooms and leave the windows open, and whups, one of our students died of the flu, which means they either their bullshit straight up Doesn’t Work or without the worthless masks half the school would be dead, I have no goddamned idea.

All I can remember is we last talked about fried chicken, and he thought it sounded delicious, and we went to lunch which was not fried chicken, and he could never remember what came after August (Septoner). At Christmas he told me that what he wanted for Christmas was Yui, another one of my young students who wears enormous coke-bottle glasses and loves dogs. I wrote two simple English stories for her once about dogs so she would have some dog-fiction. One of them is named Gourmet Dog and it features Dog President Bark Obwanma, “wan” being the Japanese noise for the sound dogs make. I also wrote Skydog, which is basically the story of Star Wars. I wrote it only so I could make a character named Wan Solo.

AN ABRIDGED VERSION OF SKYDOG, BY BRANDON

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, it was Thursday. A dog took a walk. His name was Skydog. He was a small dog and he had blue hair. Skydog wanted to go on the space shuttle. But he had to do his homework first.

On Friday, Skydog met Wan Solo in the city.

Wan Solo said “I have a space shuttle. Let’s go to space together!”

They went to space very fast!

But, in space, there was a big star. It was so hot! It was dangerous to the space shuttle.

“Maybe we can never go home!” said Wan Solo.

But Skydog had a plan, because he studied science every day. He barked very loud.

“Bark bark bark!!”

Then, the big star went away.

Skydog, Wan Solo, and all but one of their friends got presents.

THE END

Anyway, he will not get Yui for Christmas. I also used to put a chicken hat on his head during Halloween dress-up days, which seems to be too many chicken-related memories for one person. I believe that it hasn’t affected me in the sense that composure-wise, I am the same person, and I still joke with Jessy about horrible terrible things, and I still laugh at stupid crap, and I still cook supper and drink tasty drinks and swat Kiki around. I suppose if you teach for long enough and meet enough people it’s bound to happen, especially at a school where kids have disabilities of various sorts. But it’s lodged in there somewhere, the idea of it, without any other pretense, so there it stays. I don’t feel less or more but it’s just stuck, cause I thought about it while I was going to sleep last night, not with any real feeling but there it was, and here we are again, even though I don’t feel like I need to say anything. But I was googling for an article, and I guess I need there to be something about chicken hat boy, who has ceased to exist, even if the article is only for me. So here it is, for now or later.

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Drive a striped tomato

Back during summer I went to some kid’s house, well it was actually his mom’s house, and I work with the mom, but she wanted me to go to her house during a summer day off and we would have a grand old time, and I could speak to the kid in English, and his name is Shuhei, and that is what I did. They fed me this massive, unfinishable lunch as a way to say thank you, I said thank you for the lunch and then I internally exploded, half my body make-up is sushi rice now, I’m kinda like an onigiri but in reverse. They gave me like 20 packs of soumen noodles as a gift cause I mentioned I liked them, all of this is not important. In the car on the way back to school I showed the kid my 3DS and he lost his fuckin’ mind, and that was the last I heard of all that. Then last week his mom came up to me and tried to put words together to represent the abstract concepts of a 3DS data exchange (called “a StreetPass” in the localized English), and explained she Wanted To Do A StreetPass, cause Shuhei got a 3DS from Santa Claus, holy shit. We made a StreetPass date, I felt like I was cheating on Jessica with a young boy via an Older Woman and we were gonna do filthy green-light district unprotected data transfer. Is the build up for this gonna be worth the payoff? Last week I brought my 3DS, after agonizing over how to set up my Mii, knowing that he would be received by an eight-year-old kid. I tried to figure out what hat I was gonna wear and what I was gonna set my message to and what game I’d play before so that I’d control WHAT HE WOULD GET. But then I totally fuckin forgot and I accidentally left the womanly beehive wig on lookin so beautiful, and my StreetPass message, though I thankfully recently changed it from “Rectal impact,” was “I’m not negi,” an inside joke that is only inside to Jessy and I, and only funny to one of us, and that one of us is me. So this kid probably got the StreetPass when his mom brought his 3DS home, after bringing it specifically to tag me, and then he got to be all like “Brandon is wearing a girly beehive wig and looks like a hostess, what does I’m not negi mean, oh, oh god oh, what” So that was pretty cool. I have like 776 StreetPass tags, which is like 600 more than he does, amateur, get your shit together eight-year-old I am crushing you, jeez. His most recently played title was Nintendo Video.

Speaking of “Rectal impact” I have made it a goal lately to come up with the most depraved online mottos that I possibly can. A semi-chronological list follows, based only on memory, for posterity:

– Corpulent grogan
– Faetus impact
– Hefty rectal egg

Today I thought it was time for a change, so I first wanted to put it as “Magical fuckjuice” but the filter would not allow fuckjuice, and then I thought the word “soiree” sounded pretty funny so I tried changing it to “Violation soiree” but the filter wouldn’t allow that either!!! It also would not allow “Violator soiree” but humorously enough allowed “Rapelay soiree,” which even has cadence. I encourage all of you with Nintendo 3DS systems to get in on the action with a nice phrase like “Quivering donk” as long as it is sixteen characters or less.

MAGICAL FUCKWASTE OF JAPAN LATELY
– My students are doing their final presentations, they are hilarious
– My brain is a goddamned sieve lately, I cannot remember even a thing, holy shit
– Uh
UH

The most pressing issue on my mind when it comes to work lately is I wonder which of my co-workers the Hyogo aliens are going to suck away and send to other schools this April, and I find myself moving through the mental checklists as though I am personally selecting them for what accounts to a kind of “my circle” murder, as I’ll likely never see or correspond with any of the people that are spirited away for fresh blood. Which ones are expendable? I’ve come to the conclusion that mostly whatever happens is okay with me as long as I get a young, cool, attractive replacement just barely fluent enough in English to still make cute mistakes that are funny to me and also who likes hanging out so I am not the only person under sixty when the English staffs goes out to get shit drunk and yell anime songs at karaoke. It would also be nice if they are good at the Internet, then they can Google my name, find this blog somehow, and then see that I, in this post, expressly wished for their arrival, and also realize that I am a sociopath who has no idea what feelings are so maybe we can get along if they are down with a guy like me.

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