Tag Archives: christmas

I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah

I ask my father, as I am about to leave the research outpost, which we have rigged to explode because we accidentally built it on a live Sloar colony that not only contains Sloars but is itself a giant Sloar–if he could write some sort of final note to me on this piece of paper that I have been carrying around for the last couple of hours. He scribbles something down that I can’t see while cracking some sort of joke about Eddie Murphy’s stupid t-shirts, what the hell is Eddie Murphy doing wearing these stupid t-shirts lately, and with a Predator-esque Dylan You Son Of A Bitch man-shake we laugh maniacally as I escape in the Pod, a single tear rolling down my cheek. I glance down at the paper. There is no note but a crude pencil drawing of the research lab we were just in, it looks like a toddler made it. “Thanks Dad.” The thrusters blast off and I see the entire Sloar explode and the credits roll. This is the construct of my remake of a six minute amateur film originally shot by James Cameron, his first film, the re-imagining of which I have been tasked to complete as a master auteur on the fiftieth anniversary of its release. My finished short will be used as a promotional vehicle for the release of Mr. Cameron’s newest cinematic masterpiece. For my trouble I am to receive a special vending machine that can open plastic drink bottles automatically and dispense the contents into a separate cup, this is some kind of revelation to me, I cannot live without one.

I had this dream last night after eating dozens of nigirizushi at our local-ish sushi-go-round, Kura, the one where almost every plate brings you two pieces of sushi for a hundred yen and you can order specific pieces off an electronic touch screen and then enjoy them after they are automatically carried to your booth by a little train with slots for your food. I got home barely able to speak, so crammed full with fish and rice that I lied down on the bed at about 6:30 and didn’t wake up until about twelve hours later. Actually I briefly stirred at around eleven in the evening and asked Jessy what time it was, she told me it was eleven and I was like “psh whatever it has to be at least four in the morning” but it was indeed eleven. Then the cat went to sleep on my head and I didn’t fight it.

The holiday season is HERE, with the brunt of my break approaching more quickly than I had previously imagined it would. Beginning Friday I’ve got fully twelve days of vacation from work, during which I plan on digging into a huge box of media that I have ordered from Amazon to be shipped to my parents in the States, in the hopes that they will kindly pack it all up and ship it to me in one enormous box of joy. Since Jessy will be in America with her family for the season and I’ll be here in Japan owing to the massive cost of my student loan payments and the equally massive cost of flying to America, in addition to the media I will likely enjoy a holiday season in Japan as the Japanese do: by eating lots of food, going to a shrine with thousands of people on New Year’s eve, and perhaps drinking myself silly in the company of others. What I probably won’t do is find a nice lady to get in the sack on Christmas Eve, which is primarily the goal of Christmas in Japan–think of it as a sort of New Year’s Eve and Christmas role-reversal from America.

The most popular songs you hear around this time in Japan are of course Christmas songs, but, due to this obsession with couple-try, every Christmas song you are subject to as they are endlessly piped through the myriad sound systems draping the country has to do with LOVE! Last Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is You, SIM-PLY HA-VIN A WON-DERFULCHRISTMASTIME–these are the mainstays. If I ever become a recording artist I am going to release an album entirely full of Christmas songs that only have to do with filthy filthy screwing and get a good Japanese record deal that will pay me royalties in perpetuity. I will fill it with such holiday classics as:

– Please Tell Me We’re Boyfriend and Girlfriend First
– All I Want For Christmas Is You (And Some KFC)
– Allow Me To Show You the True Meaning of Christmas
– I Like You
– Let’s Make This Quick, I’m Going In To Work After
– Let’s Go Back to Your (Parents’) House
– I’m Gonna Bang You (I’ll Apologize Before)
– I Learned a New Trick at Cram School
– Is It Alright If I Take Off Your Most Esteemed Blouse, Well Here I Go
– Let’s Shame the Names of Our Families Tonight

The titles probably sound better in Japanese.

I took it upon myself to home-make some Egged Nog on Sunday night, because the pre-made stuff is unavailable in grocery stores around here. I whipped up eight raw eggs, added about a half a cup of sugar, and mixed in nutmeg, vanilla, milk, cream, and a healthy amount of rum. It’s easy to remember when it was just raw eggs swirling around, which seems a little offputting at first, but then you drink it and it tastes just like it had ought to. I’ve taken to putting a little egg nog in my morning iced coffee instead of cream and sugar. I suggest it!

The other day the guy who is always singing Jesus songs in front of Kosoku Nagata station handed me “MANGA MISSION,” which is a Japanese comic-style interpretation of various Bible stories, from the dawn of human life to the death of Jesus. The best part is the ridiculous kid-friendly drawings, depicting Satan as a massive evolved semi-robot angel that looks like he’s something out of Evangelion, and Gabriel as a smooth-lookin’ ladies’ man that happens to slip all swank into Mary’s room and be like “yo, you’re havin’ Jesus.”

It would be no small wonder, I think, if a young kid read this and was like “hey Christianity is pretty bad-ass!” I know I would be converted. Even now it is a pretty interesting story! Also there’s some partial nudity in the Adam and Eve section, which is aces for everyone.

CURIOUS JAPANESERY OF THE LATELY
– The beer companies are releasing their “special winter edition” macrobrews lately, which taste virtually identical to all of their other beers, and, for that matter, all canned beers in Japan
– The pre-orders for Christmas Kentucky Fried Chicken and cakes are closed, yes, there is a pre-order reservation system for KFC, it closed three weeks ago
– Had an “American-size” hamburger at a Hawaiian restaurant last weekend, but it was still just a Japanese hamburgu on a bun, a sort of burger/meatloaf patty mixed with egg and bread crumbs and definitely not American-size but I still ate it and was impressed that it came with ketchup
– Enjoyed going to see the new Mission Impossible movie on Sunday and, while laughing at Simon Pegg’s sarcastic humor, read the Japanese subtitles and realized nobody else was laughing because the subtitles played everything he said completely straight
THAT’LL do

I had my Bonenkai a couple weeks ago, a year-end event which always involves crowding into a sort of sectioned-off ballroom with all of my co-workers and getting unabashedly shitface plastered on Chinese wine and Asahi Super Dry while my cup is constantly refilled by anyone who notices any empty space in it. This year it was again a Chinese course set packed with delicious morsels. We played a bingo game, as is tradition, and though I got first place last year, this year I came in about thirtieth. Last year’s first place prize? A hand-machined decorative desk pen machined with aircraft-grade metal by Seiko, approximate retail value about $120. My prize this year? A multi-input power strip with independent on/off switches. Guess which one I use more? If you guessed the pen you are wrong.

One year ago today I was in America for Christmas, gorging myself on gas station burritos, getting drunk and killing everyone at beer pong in some kid’s college dorm with Catlin, smoking illegally smuggled-in Cuban cigars in the front seat of my step-brother’s car, watching Tron: Legacy in 3D, drowning myself in some television show called Pawn Stars, and enjoying the devastating cold weather. Today I’m sitting at my desk at school wondering if I should eat the anemic ham and lettuce sandwich I got from the convenience store now or in a half-hour or so, which is almost certainly an inferior arrangement, albeit one that I have fewer chances to experience as time passes. For now I will try to remember the odd smell of the gas heater in the opposite row, the feeling of understanding about 8% of the words people around me are saying, and being able to just barely see the tops of everyone’s heads over the massive stacks of files and papers built up like tiny forts on every desk while I crunch away at this keyboard as though I could possibly have any actual work to do before mid-January.

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Break me off a piece of that

Now I chew on a Kit Kat “BIG LITTLE,” the name of a snack which happens to be a bite-sized chocolate ball version of “Big Kat,” itself a large version of Kit Kat. I just finished a stick of spicy string cheese, and I have a chestnut-flavored cola in front of me. Life should be good, shouldn’t it? As it happens, for many of you one of these days around now is Thanksgiving Day. Unlike last year I don’t even know which one it is, and will likely not concern myself with finding out. If it’s today, that means my Thanksgiving dinner is BIG LITTLE, and if it’s tomorrow, much like in 2009, my meal will be government-subsidized rice gloop with a plate of what is probably squid rings in semi-flavorless water (I am, as always, totally serious, only no, really). I have a theory that it is indeed tomorrow, because several people will be having a delicious feast at a scrumptious multi-course Brazilian meat restaurant. I of course will not be attending because it is “at night,” and every night I have is totally destroyed by Japanese class, work, or immediately falling asleep due to exhaustion (to be fair though, at least one night a week is spent drinking myself stupid).

The advantages of celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S. are many. Football games on television, big steaming pots of noodles, tender roasted turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pies, some beer, the weekend and change off, time for video games. But there are some advantages of not being in the States for the second Thanksgiving in a row. Oh wait no there aren’t.

We have been getting to know our new refrigerator like any sensible people would: by spending hundreds of dollars on bulky items that wouldn’t have any chance of finding space in our old one. Just the other day I baked some gratin potatoes in a casserole dish and then, with but a couple of spoonfuls left in the bowl, put plastic wrap on it and plugged it into the fridge for later consumption. Our bottom drawer, a crisper/cooler of most gracious space, currently harbors no less than two bottles of wine and a (to us) “jumbo” sized PET bottle of Coke, clocking in at two massive liters. We have shelves of vegetables, a door packed with dairy products, and a discrete freezer devoted entirely to fruit and ice cream. Even our cat could comfortably reside in the refrigerator, for a little while at most.

The precipitous changes that have occured around the place are due in no small part to the arrival of this behemoth: to ensure the continued functionality of our microwave/oven/toaster unit, which previously resided on the fridge (now much too tall to allow the ‘wave’s cords to reach the outlet) we have needed to shuffle various shelves around from the entryway to kitchen. In our lust for continued change, Jessy even got us a small Christmas tree, which is most totally a real tree, despite the fact that both of us will be out of the country from mid-December to early January, and will have no occasion to do anything exciting with the tree except smell it (it smells good). It is also the cat’s new favorite thing to crash into, sending needles all over the floor. Despite having his own bowl of water, Kiki now drinks exclusively from the tree’s stand. The Damned Thing is decorated extravagantly, with two, yard-long strings of LED lights, each powered by its own battery pack, because we live in Japan and things like this make sense. For example, the other day we started watching a Japanese animated series called “Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt,” which is about two dysfunctional girls who have to kill ghosts so they can get back into heaven. Panty’s panties transform into a gun, and Stocking’s stockings transform into a sword. In the first episode, they destroyed a monster literally composed of feces, who was eating people through their toilets. This is why Christmas lights are expensive.

LIVIN’ IN JA-PAN-I-CA
eye to eye, station to station

– Made tacos last night, they felt exotic
– North Korea’s gettin’ crazy, hope they leave me alone
– Teachin’ late tonight, comin’ in an hour later next week
– Playin’ Black Ops on PS3, knifin’ dudes thousands of miles away
– Used to bowing in public, gonna look dumb in the U.S.
– Went grillin’ on Sunday, next to “no barbecue” sign
– Read this book called The Housekeeper and the Professor, it’s about math
– Things get more normal every day

LIVIN’ IN JA-PAN-I-CA
i feel Good

There are some days, when I’m busy or tired or happen to feel a particular way, that all I want to do is sit at a table with a beer and some music and a Scrabble board and play against myself for hours, seven letters at a time.

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Dry-cured sliced thin and uncooked

It dawned on me, during my hellish, dazed stupor lasting the duration of my morning and continuing on through my train ride(s) and walk to school, and still persisting, that sitting at my desk typing is probably the closest I can get to sleep without actually sitting here with my eyes closed or just staring off into the distance, the lines of pages of backwards-tucked books in front of me, a window into what walls must feel like, my scenery someone’s document shelf. I have caught something, which is to say that something’s caught me, and it toys with me as though I’m its furnace, raising and lowering my temperature (and with it, my temperance), scrambling my brains, left at its mercy. I try to resist its steely desires to have me cough, lest my cover be blown–of course gentle co-workers and citizens I only seem ill, and I don’t need to wear the ubiquitous guilt mask, mighty trapper of germs, testament to your own horrible neglect in hygiene since you are now Sick and it is All Your Fault.

Because of the arcane logic applied to health matters in the workplace, the scenario is presented thusly: if you are sick enough to stay home, you are sick enough to go to the hospital, which you must do in order to get a doctor’s note as proof of your absence, if you wish to claim sick leave instead of taking one of your paid days off. Perhaps because of, rather than in spite of this faulty reasoning, I have determined that if I am “sick” enough to be forced to get out of bed and leave my apartment and go to the hospital instead of recuperate, I am most certainly sick enough to just go to work. Which I have been since Monday!

I’d feel almost a little bad if it wasn’t a near lock that I got it from one of them to begin with, they undoubtedly having considered their situations the same way that I have and deciding to come to work anyway, damn the torpedoes. It’s like a Dilbert comic with one more level of obfuscation basically, and for all of the lily-scented procedures and precautions, welcome to Flu Town, Population Everyone.

The homefront consequences of this illness’s onset cut a wide swath: I have essentially been wearing the same dress shirt under my sweaters for the last handful of days, evening meals are quick and uninspired (boil pasta and add sauce/sauce packet), the dishes accumulate both in/around the sink and in other areas of the house, and the organization level of the place has reached critical lows. Any further and we will have achieved unenviable Pauly Shore territory, desecrating our foreign palace to the point of a homeostatic imbalance, ruining the carefully planned experiments of the Bio-Dome scientists.

The bright, shiny spot at the end of this raw flesh-ribbons throat-tunnel is the impending release of the video game I’ve only mentioned like twenty times on this website, Final Fantasy XIII, in the form of an oh-so-desirable limited edition system+game bundle that, assuming we correctly filled out the mystical hieroglyphics, will be ours tomorrow (or most specifically Jessy’s, as she is the one who will be picking it up from the Circle K, where it is totally normal to buy video game systems). After that we approach autopilot mode as the finishing line rush towards winter break begins with workdays devoid of classes, a December 23rd national holiday, and the last hurrah: the Christmas Eve lesson–my last work day until January 6th–during which I will become Brandon Santa despite resembling the well known Mr. Claus in mannerism only (I love milk and cookies, but might hesitate to drink it warm from random mantles), and distribute Christmas cards and presents to blind and visually impaired children via a sort of pseudo lottery. If it sounds bizarre, well, that’s cause it basically is, and I think if I could go back in time and tell myself one thing, and for some reason I chose this, that one day I’d dress as Santa Claus in Japan to give out presents to small school children, old me would probably beat the hell out of future me and then loot the body for cash.

Curious Japanese Shit of the Week Not Related to Work:
– Increasingly frequent post-card sized flyers arriving unsolicited in our mailbox and covered with full-nudity images of women, amounts of time, lewd katakana phrases, and prices
– Attempting to buy soothing throat lozenges but somehow getting rose petal “collagen troches” which assist in the maintaining of supple, hydrated skin and do not soothe the throat in any way
– Finding a UFO catcher crane machine in which you can push a small token into the hole and win your selection of one of the live caged hamsters which scurry about inside the cabinet, leering at your claw anxiously all bug-eyed
– Saizeriya, being an ass-whippingly awesome value-oriented Japanese Italian restaurant with dozens of menu items including but not limited to “meat sauce doria” (yellow rice baked with cheese and meat sauce), a tiny cupcake-tin-looking ceramic plate containing six delicious garlic butter escargot, a “hamburg” plate (consisting of a hamburger patty with an egg on it, corn, three french fries, and steak sauce), and a chicken-flavored risotto that tastes more like Rice-a-Roni than anything I’ve eaten since getting here
– A TV show during which two idiots stay at Saizeriya for multiple days and attempt to eat all one-hundred items and item variations on the menu sequentially while being taunted by youth through the storefront window, without leaving and pausing only to sleep on the floor (highlight: generously-sized guest eater showing up and devouring both the prosciutto and double-sized prosciutto plates in single hammy bites)

I bought a little cake made with sake and a peculiar bean-paste stuffed pancake kinda sandwich from some of the marketing students today. I think they experienced a certain kind of joy in taking all the money from their English teacher, who is now powerless to buy cakes from anyone else on his walk home.

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The backbone of America

This was a busier week as it seems retrospectively than as it occurred: I had essentially the entire span free of classes because of end-of-term exams.

My out-of-work free time remaining as it does normally, I did make it a point to pick up an old-style vertically scrolling shoot-em-up game for the 360, densely titled Mushihimesama Futari Ver 1.5, which (I think) translates to Two-Persons Honorable Beetle Princess (Version 1.5). You basically shoot everything and sparkly jewels fly out of them and they shoot so many bullets that the genre of game is referred to lovingly as “bullet hell” and you try not to get hit by the bullets. It was kind of expensive but it came with a limited edition 2 CD soundtrack and a fancy box.

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Other crap I bought this week:
– A bunch of Final Fantasy stuff in anticipation of the upcoming game including two tiny “trading arts” mini-figures, an electronic Chocobo which chirps when you touch its feet, and several cans of Final Fantasy XIII Elixir, a promotional beverage that you can read my review of over at N-Sider.
– A Robocop Kewpie charm for my cell phone
– Evangelion 2.0 calendar from Lotteria burger restaurant and small gashapon figure from the machines on the way out of massive toy/game/electronic/appliance store Joshin
– Two new Wii Remotes for multiplayer New Super Mario Bros. (pink and baby blue)
– Wireless adapter for my 360 so we don’t need to have a cable running directly across the middle of the apartment floor for it to be online
– Another work shirt, sweater, and some t-shirts
– A huge box of American Blu-rays during Amazon’s crazy Black Friday online sale
– A big chunk of debt pay-off from my Pittsburghian credit card

Obvious and apparent necessities that I should have bought instead of all that stuff, but didn’t:
– A couch
– A sukiyaki hot plate and clay pot
– Some self respect

Jessy has made a sort of bargaining agreement with me to the extent that if I stop buying little 300/400 yen gashapons all the time and get rid of many of the ones that I already have, I can save the money I would have spent on them and instead buy nice bigger figures that don’t fall apart and are actually capable of being (somewhat) tastefully displayed. Maybe some of you can look forward to receiving my offal in gift packages.

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Friday night we visited the Kobe Luminarie, a once-per-year ten-day-longish exhibition in memorial of the Great Hanshin Earthquake (January, 1995). This Luminarie thing is pretty impressive. They set up massive archways entirely made of lights hung over one of the big streets leading from the Motomachi area into downtown Sannomiya. Once you finish walking underneath them you enter a large area with a sort of light-castle set up and scads of booths selling snacks, souvenirs, and hot beverages. This trip was prefaced by a trip to the once-elusive Mexican cafe “Gitchi,” which we had failed to locate on prior occasions but located this time. I had the distinctly fusion-Mex Taco Rice, and Jessy had a barbecue chipotle beef taco plate. Mexican food is such a rarity here that I can hardly remember if it was even good. What it was was Mexican food, which speaks for itself.

We had the pleasure of going to a Vissel Kobe soccer match on Saturday, a day that started really cold and shitty but ended up cold and pretty nice. You may recall my last post wherein I mentioned that I might need some mental lubrication to really enjoy the game: this was true, and after a nice big paper cup full of fresh stadium Asahi Super Dry I was quite pleased to be there. Of particular note (more so than the game itself, which was a 90-minute affair during which each team scored once ending the game in a tie) were the food offerings, my favorite of which turned out to be Cup Ramen. Yes, you can buy hot cups of ramen at soccer games here, and for only 200 yen they are an incredible and delicious bargain, massively shaming the extortion-class prices for food at ball games back in the states. The brand name of the ramen we got was “NOODLE GOO!” which means basically nothing in either English or Japanese. There was even a little speech bubble coming out of the ramen on the package which proclaimed “GOO!” I have never seen this brand of ramen before in my life.

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Curious Japanese Shit of the Week:
– Five girls dressed as tall human-sized Pikachus hopping around in the Luminarie courtyard in a circle
– Passing a couple of youngish students who neither Jessy nor I believed to be ours, as they waved at us and said “hello!”
– Noodle Goo
– A man at a ramen shop we went to yesterday suggesting the garlic shoyu and then becoming so enthusiastic about greeting another patron that he proceeded to somewhat humorously sound like he was having some sort of seizure (this one is hard to describe but is surely rooted in the perceptible projection of seeming subservient to the customer re: irrashaimaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee etc.)
– Baking a refrigerated pizza at 230 degrees Celcius (447? Fahrenheit) in my microwave oven, with mayonnaise sauce instead of tomato, and teriyaki chicken, cheese, and corn toppings
– Paying 295 yen for one large pear, wrapped in weaved foam
– Beginning to watch the excellent program Mad Men and finding myself being personally alarmed at “how good their English is” (this is an American TV show)

With winter break and the closing of schools impending the question becomes exactly what will we do with our time off, knowing fully that all the other poor overworked salarymen of the country will be flocking to everywhere anyone would want to go? I don’t think either of us know quite yet, though we have essentially convergent periods of time off from around Christmas till several days after New Year’s. We indeed will stay in Japan this time around, but that’s about all we know.

As for Christmas, well. I can see no better way to spend it than with a traditional Japanese Christmas Meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken, some festive sparkling Chu-hi, and a Christmas cake (I am not joking, KFC is the Japanese Christmas food, Colonel Sanders has been dressed up in a Santa suit since Halloween).

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The Easter Bunny Vespucci

The time difference has introduced peculiarities into the measures with which I am to judge precisely at what rate I am decaying: though I took my first glance at this Earthy place at around four in the morning, in Iowa time, I suppose the demarcation of one’s “Birth Day” does indeed cover all hours of the associated unit.

That said, it’s my birthday right now, where I am, anyway, here in Japan, by Japanese time. But my body’s clock senses the lie. It knows that not for another hour will it have become the tenth in Iowa, where I came from, and it feels slighted. However, joy of joys: I will celebrate for all of my Japanese birthday, and then, at three p.m. Japan time, when it becomes the tenth in Iowan time, I will Start My Birthday Over Again, to fanciful effect.

I have spent the day teaching my children about Thanksgiving, the mysterious United States version of the holiday anyway, a compelling story that begins formally in the year 1621, when some people from England decided they wanted to believe basically the same things as the government said but a little differently, and then brought a bunch of diseases to the people of America as a present. One of my students, after having been told the story of Squanto (in English) had only this to say when I asked him “Who was Squanto?”:

Santa Claus.

Of course! The Famous Native American Santa Claus, who helped the pilgrims survive their stupid adventure and then took the next day off to drop presents in all their chimneys.

It’s okay if you can’t understand the history of Thanksgiving, I tell them. It’s mostly about being a pig and eating a lot of food, then maybe watching football on TV if you are ambitious enough to hit the power button on your remote. They also really enjoy it when I tell them what gravy is, and extol its virtues.

The last several days have been what I have come, generally, to expect, with a few exceptions: after a delicious stop at a ramen place in Sannomiya, Jessy and I popped into NAMCO LAND, which is an enormous video arcade with an entire wing devoted to UFO catchers, which I have talked about in here before I think. These are crane games, only in Japan they are actually popular, and have awesome prizes, and there are Arcade Attendants who monitor the machines and restock them right after you win stuff, and basically ensure a bitchin’ time. In fact I probably need to write a Nomaday some time about all the different varieties that they have. Anyway the exception is that I actually won something cool: an Evangelion statue figure thing.

When I won it went PING as the little claw flicked the ring holding the box up off of the peg, and then I felt like the most sweet and cool person alive and it was the best. Also this week I finally picked up Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii from the library of games I brought over and proceeded to get all the stars in it and unlock the Luigi mode which was pretty cool.

Tonight I think I might go out for that fabled delicious Kobe beef steak for the first time, as a birthday treat. If I never write again, know that it was because the steak was so delicious that I am comatose, or that I choked on it.

I have to teach a class in a minute, so this will be a little short for a Nomaday. In the words of myself, as I often end class, “See you next time! Okay you can go. Please leave now goodbye.”

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