Tag Archives: cat

Pizza Weiner

Apartment smells like lemongrass and an Indian knick-knack store, some Japanese jazz pianist tickling recorded ivories as I struggle against a bottle of wine corked harder than Life Goes On. Kiki wanders the place unaware of his impending playdate with visiting cat Momo, who ultimately will not return anything considered affection but will happily play with his toys. On the stove simmers a curry, newest iteration of a recipe I’ve been working on the last few days, originally a variant on Palak Paneer Tikka, heavy with softened onions and some grated ginger for a base, but evolved now into something almost Cambodian, heavy with amok spices, coconut milk the primary liquid, a few tablespoons of tomato paste held over, Japanese cottage cheese giving it a little more thickness.

These are the best parts about living in a place which is mine: I can cook whatever I want, I can keep the whisky next to the potatoes, I can light cheap, dirty incense, and my Wii remotes always have charged batteries. In my closet there are unfinished plastic robot models, still waiting in the boxes, next to a dozen tiny jars of paint, used exclusively to articulate bloody armor holes and shot eyes on an Eva-01.

After we and our friends finish eating I find the night capped off with a little two-player Battletoads, endlessly retrying the third level, the speeder bike stage, you know the one. Later, there is a resounding victory for Russia against China in some NES Ice Hockey, and then a quick couple minutes each of Mega Man X2 and Star Fox, with a Twinbee 3 chaser.

Having ruminated on the topic for a few days now, I can safely compose and present to you this informative chart about coconut milk:

Things That are Really Great About Coconut Milk
1. Good in curry
2. Fun to open with the pointy part of the bottle opener like those big cans of Hi-C that we used to get where you put the vent hole on one side
3. Exotic?

The best part of the Super Bowl on Monday was that I got to watch it this year, albeit on a recorded time-delayed stream that sometimes dipped down to fifteen frames a second, making it feel a little like watching football on a slide projector that a child was advancing after eating a variety of sweets. The Pittsburghers did Not Win the game, largely by fault of their own and not necessarily due to the fortitude of the opposition. But I did my part, by consuming four cans of Asahi Super Dry and conjuring up arcane, infernal curses against the televised men, curses unlike any of those some of the surrounding Japanese surely had ever theorized were even grammatically possible. At one point The Black Eyed Peas performed some musical numbers, and then Slash rose up through a trap door in the stage, and then Usher descended from the heavens as though a spirit, and then with fully two minutes left to go in the game, the entire recording ended, having automatically stopped after pulling four hours of video. Our host graciously spoiled the game for himself by pulling up some highlights on the Internet and showing the last drive to us–another man had recorded parts of his own recording off the television, then posted this recording on YouTube. It was, I believe, the closest I got to approximating how it might have looked to witness the disappointment on shaky feet in a Pittsburgh bar, though the destructive oblivion I’d have medicated myself into some years ago was absent.

OTHER, LESS FOCAL THINGS OF NOTE
– One of today’s convenience store lunch items, purchased for 210 yen, titled merely “Rappers” and taking a form somewhat like that of a burrito, only inside is a “Pizza Weiner”


– Favorite local breadery named DONQ, which I am sure I have mentioned in here before but just felt like pointing out again because it’s called DONQ
– Lost 800 yen the other day attempting to win a cute-ified stuffed version of an Evangelion character out of a crane machine at Namco Land, firmly cementing my crane game skills as having officially atrophied forever, never to return
– Spent an hour watching the annual school Karuta card game contest, during which the students need to listen to the teachers say one of one hundred famous poems and then reach for a card that contains the final lines of the famous poem (which they have memorized), and also during which I was privy to the twistedly enjoyable screams of agony and pain emanating from my three hundred and twenty first year high schoolers beaten to the cards by fractions of a second
ENOUGH I GUESS

I took it upon myself this weekend to talk Jessy into watching our first Bollywood movie together, mainly because I had located a real whopper: the most expensive Indian movie ever made, clocking in at around $36 million, this one, titled Endhiran, features the second-most famous Asian actor (after Jackie Chan) and the almost inconcievably beautiful Aishwarya Rai, both of which change costumes at least three times in each outlandish song-and-dance sequence. The greatest parts of this movie, aside from the plot itself–which revolves around a scientist who invents a super-robot who begins to develop emotions and attempts to seduce his girlfriend–certainly arrive near the end of the film, when the robot and his dozens of clones begin to gratuitously destroy everything. Even better? Halfway through the THREE HOUR picture we get a single scene of the robot walking slow-motion toward the camera, having just decided like any man that he is going after Ms. Rai, lifting his arms up as if to say “so what” and then a huge, comically-styled INTERMISSION bumper on the side of the screen.

I have since proceeded to download three other Bollywood movies to fill this new void in my life. I trust that a silly Indian man–with a full head of hair so thick it could be sold as a two-man toupee–and a variety of attractive women warbling like injured felines will do the trick.

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As stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after

I went to Ikea last Saturday and though we intended to get a lazy morning breakfast in their restaurant section we were indeed too late to break fast. So for some reason instead of getting the meatball plate I chose the daily special, curry rice with a pork katsu. It was in retrospect a bizarre and uninspired decision, because who goes to Ikea’s restaurant for breakfast, and who goes there and in the absence of breakfast chooses the meal equivalent of “spaghetti with sauce?” The only things more common on the dinner table than curry rice in Japan are either seaweed or stuff with their eyes still in them, perhaps covered in some sort of vinegar (the curry rice was, expectedly, of a middling to low quality).

Speaking of frightful things, today I actually expressed some excitement to a coworker about making mochi again on January 12th at my night school. Last year’s mochi-making day was the coldest evening I have ever experienced in this country, the weight of which was tempered only by the deliciousness of hot chicken soup with beaten, gooey rice wads in it. You may recall this particular event being mentioned to me last year by way of my now dearly-departed principal, who cryptically warned me about it with just a single line: “Cover your jacket with something when the beatings happen because the splatter.” (This phrase has since become a sort of personal life mantra, applicable in nearly all situations.) I anxiously await the return of Big Hammer, and all the stretchy rice-based delights that will come with it.

As an aside, I think those guys who were turning Japanese could not possibly have had the brash outspokenness necessary to record an electronic pop song declaring it so if they actually were turning Japanese. (I really think so)

I’m already starting to feel separation anxiety a bit, still two weeks out from when I’ll be boarding a series of public transit devices to fly away from the place I’ve called home for the last sixteen months. I’ll only be gone for three weeks, generously, but look what I’ll miss: Christmas cake, Kentucky Fried Chicken, drinking myself stupid, nabe party? Receiving bad-luck fortune at Ikuta Shrine, NHK’s year-end celebrity-filled singing competition, silly grab bags full of random goods, Paul McCartney’s Christmas crime against humanity being piped through all PA systems in every store in the country nonstop for days.

Of course making a list of all the stuff that I already miss and will get to enjoy will take much longer. I am kind of excited about the following things, excluding family, the obvious but not-entertaining bullet-point: Buying a carton of milk which is a full gallon and wondering how anyone could ever fit that inside of a refrigerator. Enormous, affordable pizza with thick buttery crust and lots of cheese and absolutely no mayonnaise. Strolling through a Target store and being all like “whoa” at the Blu-rays priced under sixty dollars. Shootin’ guns! Television, signs, and conversations in my native language, football and people who know that football isn’t soccer, Taco John’s, Subway, Arby’s, Chik-fil-a, Thai Kitchen, Cocost, Hickory Park, steaks from a grill that have names other than “cut steak”, cheap beer, cheap fruit, cheap everything. Finally, seeing some men my age dressed worse than I am, and also snow. I trust I will get to revel in the carefree and brazen excesses of most of, if not all of, these things.

But what about the weird stuff? Will it be difficult to get used to the fact that I can’t get very good food at a convenience store, or that trains can’t zip me around wherever I need to go, or that I can’t just walk somewhere with five hundred dollars worth of cash in my pocket and feel safe about it? Will I god forbid have to drive a car (on the right side of the road)? Will I cope with eating every meal with a fork? Yeah probably.

I got a haircut the other day at “BILLY” which is a hair salon I’ve been to twice now that allows racism to work in my favor: specifically, though a cut for any old Japanese person is about 4500 yen, a cut for a “foreigner” is only 3000. The place is run by a guy and his wife, who both speak English and worked (I believe) in London for a time. That thirty dollars gets me a pretty meticulous and careful cut, a shampoo and conditioning with minor scalp massage, a blowdry, and even a little dab of product all up in there, about forty-five minutes of attention. The place is named after their one-time pet dog, BILLY, who is taxidermied and watches over you as you are trimmed. On one side of the place is a weight bench covered with magazines; I like the guy’s commitment to simultaneously working out and staying informed about what Ms. Kardashian is up to.

I can’t quite figure out why it’s cheaper for me to get my haircut there unless they see it as kind of an occasional and random way to keep their English sharp by having a chance to practice with real foreign people–it’s the only thing I can think since the foreigner discount isn’t really posted anywhere in the store and they give it to you without your asking. Now, if I go to my Real Japanese Place, a kind of trendier but franchised salon called END, I can get the works for only about 2500 and they spend maybe an hour on me (you even get a hot towel on your face while they wash your hair, a more vigorous scalp/head massage, a free drink while you wait, and a piece of candy and grateful bow as you leave). The rub with that whole thing of course is that I have to speak Japanese, which gets pretty pathetic for both me and my stylist pretty quickly. Making an appointment can also be… troublesome. This time I just got my hair cut as short as possible to prolong the amount of time before I’d need to get a cut again. I’m happy with it, though after my first day back in the real world I received the following occasionally confusing comments:

– Is that from hazing or something (guy at Japanese class)
– Miss Misumi says a handsome guy is a handsome guy either way (teacher at school)
– You are same, same (a student pointing to his friend, head totally shaved)
– It’s like a David Beckham haircut (Jessy, akin to maybe someone saying “it’s like a Ronald Reagan haircut”)
– Your new hairstyle is very nice (a third-year kid, followed by the class erupting in unbridled, monkey-like shrieks and laughter)

At any rate I feel colder, though it is a fact that the weather itself is cooling off. And I think I actually caught a bit of a cold last afternoon, though I can’t attribute it specifically to the hair. Copious amounts of chewable vitamin C seem to have mostly helped me bounce back after only a day or so though (thanks for sending it Mom!).

Oh I almost forgot about the CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEE k
– Ringer Hut, a restaurant where you can order champon, a kind of chewy noodle dish with thick soup, offering either standard size, 1.5x size, or double size, all of which are the same price (and I only ordered 1.5x because in a totally un-American moment I thought “I know it’s free to get more but I don’t know if I can eat all that”)
– Monster Hunter Portable 3, probably this year’s biggest non-Pokemon game, for the PSP, which comes out today and which many of my students (and several of my teachers) have been talking about for the last two months, and which I can’t play cause I am sure there is a Butt Load of Japanese, not that I’d have any goddamned time for it anyway
– Red Ginger soda from Suntory, which is totally bright pink in color, and adorned with a black and pink wrapper that looks like some sort of lascivious corset, and which I bought without really considering how girly it looked because I like ginger ale and I like red, and which tastes exactly like regular ginger ale, a fact I only discovered by shamefully drinking it at work like a total woman
– Went to the music store to find Square Enix’s Christmas album and got sidetracked looking at the Jazz, which is conveniently separated into “Jazz” and “J-Jazz” sections to totally confuse me when I can’t find any Japanese artists in the Jazz section
– Mos Burger’s Mos Burger, which is a burger with a slice of tomato and this special red sauce that is kinda like a big dollop of meat sauce with cream cheese in it and Jesus Christ would probably come back from the dead to eat one jeepers is it ever fucking delicious I want one now immediately I will buy one after work.
THAT’S QUITE ENOUGH isn’t it

On my train ride home from night school last week I had a beer and sat in the front seat of the Port Liner with the big front window, and there was one of those huge manga magazines that someone had left there. So a little tipsy I made the decision to pick it up and as I flipped through it looking at the bikini models in the front and the colored-paper comics in the back while the lights of the city shot past me I realized for a second that nobody who saw me reading the comics could possibly know I didn’t understand the things that were happening in them. They might have even thought I bought the book myself, who knows! I felt like a real cock of the walk, which was also part of the illusion. For ten minutes I could pretend to read manga while looking at the pictures like anyone else, and nobody was the worse off for it, like I got to operate myself from outside, a simulation, a battery of tests. I have come to realize that for an often-inhibited and occasionally inexplicably-depressed sociopath such as myself, this is why alcohol works: not to alter the world around you, but to alter you around the world.

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In a cat’s eye, all things belong to cats

Every time I think it can’t get any hotter it does, perhaps a sentiment crystallized by one of my co-teachers the other day:

“This year, the summer has been exceptionally uncomfortable.”

Tell it Kenzo! It reached 35 degrees Celsius yesterday in Kobe, a number which I now associate with a feeling divorced entirely from the United States scale. Google tells me it’s 95 degrees by that measure, a number I can no longer remember in context of any specific temperature. I have mostly been avoiding the heat by sitting inside my air conditioned apartment with the curtains drawn during every moment that I am not occupied with either traveling to or being at work. But I did take a little time off from sitting on my ass to launder and dry my sweat hanky, because it smelled like a dead cat barbecued over formaldehyde briquettes.

Speaking of cats, but (optimistically) not dead ones, we’re getting a cat! It is a decision that comes after much rumination and the repeated viewing of YouTube videos involving lazy Japanese cats being cute and loveable. His name is Kiki, and he is three years old, and he is a black rescue cat, which means that he saves people from impending danger. Ha ha I am just joking. It means that before he was ground up into slurry by a neglectful owner or the mean streets, some people with too much conscience and not enough resources rescued him from an unenviable fate and decided to store him in their shack with forty-five other animals. But now we get to take him away from that madhouse and make him a happy member of the family! I have run the numbers, and my calculations are showing me that he will provide about 28% more fluffiness and cuddliness to the apartment over what we have now, and I anxiously await finding little black cat hairs in and on everything I eat, sit on, touch, or wear. Ha ha I am joking about that too. I do not await that at all. Bonus: if Kiki survives our stay in Japan, we can take him home with us to America without any extra fees or medical quarantines, because Japan is recognized as a “rabies free country,” a decision I assume was made by someone who does not watch television here between the hours of seven and nine in the evening.


Actual photo of Kiki!

But it seems like the right time and the right place. It’s been a long while since I got to joyfully stroll down the cat food aisle and decide I would probably eat most of this canned food, and it’s been even longer since I got to assist a small feline in gettin’ high off the ‘nip. It will also be a good trial exercise to see if I can keep something that is not Jessy’s fish or plants alive, just in case I am ever saddled with human spawn one day (thanks Mom and Dad). I am already figuring out how I can take everything ornamental or cool or fragile that I possess and put it somewhere where nobody will ever see it again so the cat does not eat or destroy it. I do not think cats are intimidated by scantily-clad anime statues.

Jessy’s back in Japan after a long trip to the states as I write this! I haven’t actually seen her yet on account of the fact that I am at school right now, but I’m taking a half-day of paid time off so that I can get back there and cook up a dinner feast for my woman. I got some chocolate tiramisu cups for dessert, do women like chocolate? Ha ha I am joking. I don’t care about the feelings of women.

STUFF FROM THE DAYS RECENTLY
– Band of Brothers, an 8+ hour HBO miniseries about World War II, which I watched while I had all my free time with Jessy gone, and which is really awesome, and which features Ross from Friends in a minor part, Jimmy Fallon for ten seconds, and the Office Space guy as a major star
– Our new favorite darts bar which is called either Swordfish or Swordtail I can’t remember, and where during Happy Hour (before ten P.M.) you can play darts for only a hundred yen a player, and where we have been so often lately that the crew remembers our complex foreigner names like “Bob”
– The bizarre realization that at 150 yen each way, my 4-days-a-week work commutes cost me 1200 yen a week, and at four weeks in a month that’s 4800 yen, and for three months that makes 14400 yen, while the three month commuter pass costs 14880, and so I’m not going to buy a commuter pass until January when I’ll get a new six-month pass (compelling)
– The grapes here are fucking awesome and at six bucks for a tray of them they had damn well better be, which they are so I love them
– The exchange rate of the yen against the dollar, which is so strong lately that it’s like I get a ten dollar a month raise every day for doing nothing
ALRIGHT THEN

Last weekend after some good decisions that always seem poor as I am making them, I found myself at “the club” a couple hours after midnight. We decided to create stories for the people who were standing around engaging in “party-making,” but I am afraid I forgot all of them except one guy who I figured worked at McDonald’s for no reason other than McDonald’s was on my mind. Last week they had a special promotion where you could get a Big Mac for only 200 yen. I celebrated yesterday by clogging my guts with two of them and it was amazing.

Anyway at the club I was rather intrigued to discover that very few of the people were actually bumping and grinding, let alone even dancing. A smattering of people threw their hands in the air, but even fewer did so [as though] [they] just [didn’t] care. Even acutely aware of my poor self-parodical efforts I didn’t feel too out of place, which maybe had something to do with the fact that I was the only American in there and I am now more comfortable being completely isolated from people of my own race than I am when I find myself around them. If I even end up standing next to someone who may or may not be an English-speaker or shit even a Westerner I find myself uneasily on edge, like they’re going to find my secret out, like they know they are better than me, like they have already judged me. Sometimes I worry about what it’s going to be like to go back to the States and live again among people who could if they so desired speak to me at any moment. Maybe I’ll just get a sign that says “I’m deaf, no talking to me” and tape it to my shirt.

I’ve only been at work for forty minutes and I’m already chomping at the bit for my last few hours to be over. You’d swear I had a new video game waiting for me at home or something, but surely all that waits for me is the promise of continued verbal abuse at the hands of the female. Perhaps that feels most like home.

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