Tag Archives: football

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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Good luck team with the sporting match

Instead of watching the Super Bowl last night, on Sunday, which most people do but would have been impossible for me unless I had the ability to jump through time to today, record it, and bring it back to the past, I spent the evening at a little restaurant on an upper floor of a featureless building downtown, flanked by Jessy and six friends, dining on 150-yen skewers of roasted lamb, cooked by a man in the hallway operating a grill, and rolled in spices, washed down with hot Chinese wine, sugar, and pickled plum. Somewhat similarly to a dining experience I had just a week ago–though not anatomically similarly–during which we dined on the horumon of pig (offal, for us English speakers, consisting of raw, cold liver, grilled stomach, jaw, heart, cartilage, head, and others), I shovel heap after heap of rice into my mouth, coated with the spicy juices of the lamb chunks, collagen and muscle melting away like thicker, richer roast beef, and wonder how the night could get any better. The answer of course is: if the Super Bowl was on a television next to me.

Have you heard of the Super Bowl? Men in various kinds of gear strategize on how to attack with and defend from the advances of a pointy brown oval, while millions gather to witness this event on television as though a rabid massing of tribesmen.

Me being in Japan means of course that essentially concurrent with the composition of these words plays out the very game of which I speak: Japan is fourteen hours ahead of east coast time, which means that about when whoever is kicking off kicks off, I’ll be talking to Japanese teenagers about their final composition project, for which they need to invent and advertise some imaginary product in English (my demonstration was an impassioned treatise for “Super Moon Boots,” which allow you to jump 50 meters in the air but offer no solution for landing from a height of 50 meters). To be sure, the stakes here are not quite as high as those for Mr. Roethlisberger and Mr. Rodgers. The point is that I don’t want to know what is happening in the foot-ball game, so I have to stay away from interfaces that might allow me somehow to defy my true wishes and contact the outside world: my phone, Facebook, Google Reader, e-mail–all are beasty creatures which want to spoil the game for me like Snape Kills Dumbledore: “Pittsburgh 24 Green Bay 13!” (my official prediction, to be mocked later).

I’m meeting someone and going somewhere to see the event itself tonight, via tape-delay at 7:00, recorded and preserved like a time capsule, Super Bowl Sunday mysteriously transmogrified into Super Bowl Monday. Watching a recording of an event that I believe to be occurring presently promises to be a sublime experience, akin to looking at old pictures of your parents aware that you are now older than they were in the photographs, drinking a beer before work at 7:30 in the morning, or watching your students try to grasp the mysteries of the Slinky, a toy they have never before played with. At best, whatever the situation, I will find myself magically returned to Pittsburgh, surrounded by psychosis and rabid fans. At worst, it will be what I expect.

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Butterburgers, gas station burritos, and 33 pounds of dog food

The most peculiar thing is that I now feel like an outsider who is inside, or perhaps someone who was always here but isn’t any longer. In Japan I am acutely foreign, both invisible (like Internet advertisements to a seasoned browser) and visible (bright, flashing Internet advertisements), depending on the interpreter. This duality has become part of my consciousness in Japan, making me always aware that to everyone I am at least someone or no one. In America it is different, because I am neither someone nor no one but Everyone. There is no duality that comes from being different, to be ignored or stared at but at least one or the other–there is just existence, part of All People.

Yet, still in command of the I’m In Japan mentality, I find myself mostly oblivious to their presence around me, conditioned as I am to mainly ignore what I recognize as the same (most people). The problem is that I am also conditioned to recognize what is different, which for the last year and a half has been “foreign people,” and by foreign of course I ironically mean “not Japanese.” To suddenly become aware of all the conversations those around me are having is like someone flipped on the switch that opens Pandora’s Box, forcefed me the apple of the tree of sin’s origins: can these people really be comfortable with knowing that everyone around them is hearing what they’re saying to each other? Then, two realizations: 1. I just asked that out loud to my sister, completely forgetting that suddenly everyone around me can understand me too, and 2. to someone for whom the regularity of constant bombardment of exterior conversation is not remarkable, it is unlikely to be even slightly of note that someone around them is speaking to someone else.

I’m lonely but not alone, I’m everyone and nobody: nothing on my face says I’ve been an outsider for this long, or that I’m still just temporary. I get a thrill out of speaking in a cool, casual way to gas station attendants and the guy who gets the game out of the rack at Target, catch myself speaking way more politely to anyone than I ever would have thought to before, and find myself for what is likely the first time in my life genuinely unconcerned about what anyone thinks about the things I say, do, or how I look. Peculiarly enough it’s only since I have lived in a place where I am forced to acknowledge that I am the Other that I am capable of believing I’m nothing. Is the suppression of self-consciousness what self-confidence really is?

In other news: huge burritos, frozen pizza, steak, cottage cheese, Thai Kitchen, Jimmy John’s, American football, and other such delights, hung from low branches like ornaments, and I am the cat.

I woke up at 2:30 this morning.

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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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A wounded deer leaps the highest

Quite unwittingly, my name is Mr. Ooshika. That’s because my last name just vaguely happens to be composed of syllables that are represented in the Japanese language. Due to the flexible (read: hapless) organization of my contractors, when I arrived in Japan I found myself without an inkan–a little wooden stick about the size of a pack of Smarties–that every Japanese citizen is required to have. On the end of this stick sits your name, in stamp form, which is how you “sign” your name for business matters, in red ink. Since I didn’t have one, my helpful buddy at work decided to take on the task of helping me get one, and fast–without it, I would be unable to get a bank account, telephone, Internet service, and all that other crap.

So we begun placing a custom order for the katakana version of my name, Daiker, which would likely transcribe to “da i ka-” (ダイカー), with a nebulous construction time of up to a week. Perhaps hurried on by duress and the fear of authoritative retribution, my helper realized that da and i and ka could be arranged as dai ka, two actual words with representative, pre-made inkans at the inkan shop that we could just pick up off the shelf. The teachers had a good laugh at seeing my kanji inkan, an exceptional rarity for a foreigner in Japan, reading dai ka, which they told me meant “big deer.” This is true, but not really, because the first kanji (大) is usually read “oo” and not “dai,” and the second one (鹿) is somewhat nonsensically read “ka” instead of “shika” which is what it actually says, all of it a stretch in the name of expedited service. My literal Japanese last name according to my inkan is then not Daika at all, but Ooshika, (大鹿) meaning big deer. The actual name Daika would more likely be something like big mosquito, a joke that perhaps I have gotten a year too late.

IMG_3133.JPG

Anyway this leads to entertaining incidents when I order from Amazon.jp and the Japanese Club Nintendo store and have delivery men coming to the house for Brandon Ooshika. Behind this name I have invented another identity, one with the grace and cunning of massive deer, my new family by association. Ooshika-san, Mr. Big Deer. I feel sort of like I am committing some sort of identity fraud, but not really. It is a freeing change of pace to become someone and then slowly realize you are a different man.

To crib from Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, the only gateway I have into what is happening in the world of American football and who could be telling all lies and I wouldn’t know and without whom I would feel disconnected from the only non-hockey sport I ever really loved, CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEEK will this week become

TEN THINGS I THINK I THINK:

1. There is no better toy for a cat than a shoelace or piece of string and anyone who tries to tell you differently or sell you something else is a confused and horrible person/cat product government lobbyist.
2. Japan, you had better not sell out of the new Kirby game tomorrow before I get out of work or else I am going to be just really frustrated in a way that mid-to-late twenties males should not get upset about games starring cute pink mascots made out of string.
3. The something that is refreshing about an after work beer on Friday becomes confusing when you realize you are enjoying a leisurely before-work beer on Wednesday morning.
4. Under the right circumstances, it is possible to draw a salary by screening the first half of The Princess Bride for a room full of seventeen-year-olds.
5. If you have any sort of interest in old Famicom games, you would make it a point to click here and read my newest pithy article dealing with them.
6. There is only one episode of Mad Men left in the season, and I feel like suddenly I understand the pain that regular television watchers feel annually.
7. Slices of melted mozzarella cheese on a cajun-seasoned chicken breast sandwich never taste so delicious as they do when they are the most expensive and difficult-to-obtain ingredient except for the pickles.
8. If the electronic version of a book I really wanted cost fifteen bucks and the paper one was free, I would pay for the electronic one.
9. Sometimes I remember the time in my life when packets of ramen were ten for a dollar or twenty cents a piece and I laugh at myself and realize that could not have possibly been true, except it was.
10. I almost spent ten dollars on a package of muscat grapes last night, which is nowhere near the most money I could spend on a single piece of fruit at the supermarket.

THOSE WERE SOME THINGS I THINK I THOUGHT

WARNING DIARY-LIKE PHILOSOPHICAL BARF FOLLOWS THIS LINE

My most recent mental crisis has been related to my own personal analysis of whether or not I am actually a happy person, or whether I feel like I am accomplishing anything in my life, or whether accomplishment brings happiness and what actual accomplishment is. It has gotten so pathetic that I try to convince myself that even consuming media is accomplishment, but then I decide that merely enjoyment isn’t enough and I should somehow leech some other benefit outside of just indulgence, and then I decide that something more isn’t doing it, and then I don’t even consume media I just sit around or sleep. Even though I’m writing fifteen hundred words of Nomaday every Wednesday and writing for N-Sider when I can and working five days a week and attending Japanese class twice a week I still feel strangely empty. When I got here the money and the new surroundings and the constant wonderment made me happy because I had nothing to complain about, and now I still have nothing to complain about but I have sabotaged it by convincing myself that nothing to complain about does not mean something to be happy about.

The reasonable thing, of course, would be to focus less on “doing things” and more on just being happy, though I wonder at what point one becomes “as happy as possible” and it isn’t enough to just be happy anymore. It is like the cup that you fill up maybe? Once you’re full of happiness, you can’t just add more happiness, the cup starts to overflow. You can’t get more happy than your cup will let you be. A few options: one, I need to figure out somehow if it is possible to get a bigger cup, or two: I need to fill the cup with things other than just happiness? maybe it is not a cup but like one of those TV trays with different sections for each thing. It’s been almost a year and a half since I was allowed to feel the high of knowing I got the job in Japan, and I built this up to be so ultimate for me at the time that I don’t feel like I’m pushing toward anything anymore, just floundering. Blah blah blah it’s my goddamned blog I can complain if I want!

At any rate, though it may be an error in judgment, my most recent thinking is that the only way to feel true achievement is to truly achieve and so I’ve decided that instead of pouring my fifteen hundred words into the comfortable Nomaday each Wednesday night, I’m going to pour them into Edmund and do the best I can to get my novel more completed than it has been since I finished school. These Internet-less evenings are now so often consumed by my own personal outpouring of daily Nominutia that I rarely have the energy to switch projects once I finish them, and I usually just opt to read instead. I don’t know if I really can make the mental switch the way I will need to in order to get back into it, but I’m sure going to try.

So if you do not see a new Nomaday next week it will be because I am working on something that I think ultimately will make me feel invigorated to be working on and satisfied to have finished, even if only so I can say “it’s done” and never look at it again. As it is I feel like I tied a huge amount of my own self-perception into that story and then to not have it finished has left both the story and I at the same stagnant place of hiatus. So it’s time to move them on into the new year and into the future!

Or whatever, maybe I will just try to start it next week and say “oh fuck it” and write more Nomaday garbage. If you look forward to these things every week and this makes you sad, you are probably my mother, and so I say to you “chin-up moms I gotsta do it!” If this makes you happy, you are either a wise and wondrous person who has my best interests in mind and who would do well to not remove me from your Google Reader because I will be back before long, or you are a mean and shitty person.

Love,
Ooshika

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