Tag Archives: haiku

I played in Joe Louis in a playoff game

My predisposition to “just going with it” has led me somehow to, through a series of 23% understood entirely-Japanese conversations with the principal of the night school I work at on Wednesday nights, register Jessica and I for a volunteer, 250-person chorus that we must attend practices for ten times between now and December. It culminates in a December 8th concert at a music hall in neighboring Akashi, where I will, surrounded by legions of middle-aged Japanese men likely possessing far greater vocal ability than I (though their karaoke skills are no indication), sing Beethoven songs for the locals while wearing a black suit. This might sound enjoyable if I had ever been a part of any choir in my post-fifth-grade life, or even enjoyed singing when not completely inebriated. According to Google’s automatic translation of the event page, we are to be the “protect food Jiro response rate” chorus.

While I filled out the papers, trying my hardest to conjure up the Japanese necessary to say I really couldn’t do it, or anything whatsoever, I had to mark whether I was a tenor or a bass, a point of self-knowledge I do not even slightly possess. Principal marked bass for me because he said “it sounds like this” and then sang “la la la la” and then marked it. There is a seventy dollar entry fee! Ostensibly it covers the costs of some big party we have or something, but I couldn’t figure out when the party is. We also get a CD and some sheet music or whatever, I don’t know how this shit works. I can’t even read the damned paper. I guess I’m supposed to go to this place on the map next Thursday after work. Someone might call me or something? It’s on the second floor of a building in a place I’ve never been. Jessy will be off to goddamned Australia so I will be going it alone the first week.

“fuck”

It’s getting to be summer which means it’s time for that annual tradition of “Cool Biz,” the guilt-mandated effort to wear dorky short-sleeved dress shirts with no ties or jackets so that we can keep the air conditioner barely running and sweat to death in the name of conserving energy for our soon-to-be-powerless country that has no nuclear reactors running. Another thing that it means is that it’s time for seasonal Pepsi, and this year it’s a doozy! “Salty Watermelon Pepsi,” which releases July 24th. Signs you’re in Japan: a soda release date is announced almost two months in advance of the product launch, and it finds immediate coverage all over the news.

I’ve been playing a game lately on my home video game console called Yakuza 4. It’s kind of a open-world game that takes place in Tokyo, and you play as some hardass and you run around and do minigames. I spent probably four hours last night doing a minigame that isn’t even really a game, where you click some buttons to set a training regimen for your virtual dojo’s virtual recruit, and his stats go up, and then you enter him in tournaments and he fights, only you don’t even get to fight with him you just WATCH HIM. But for some reason I couldn’t stop. Before I knew it it was like the old days, hammering away at the button to make the number go up, but why, why?!

It reminded me of my first experience in life where I was fully able to rationally recognize I had “wasted time.” It was when I was maybe ten years old or so and I had rented Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball for Super Nintendo. I got it home and spent all day playing. After a while I had figured out how to break the game, just had to keep grinding away. I think I needed $3 million to buy Bill Laimbeer himself. The whole time I remember some of my family was there, they were playing in the other room or watching a movie or whatever, and I was like “hey sounds fun but the job has to be done,” and so I kept playing to get money to buy Bill Laimbeer. Hours passed! Hours! Playing Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball! And then, eventually, I got the money to buy him. Oh! How sweet it was gonna be. I bought up that old white turd and stuck him in the fuckin’ game, he sure was the best player. And then I went out to check the other room and see what fun everyone was having, but it was too late. It was time for them to GO HOME. I ground the gears for a second. “What have I been doing with my life? All this shit for Bill Laimbeer?” I suddenly realized the ultimate futility of my actions, of the actions of humanity as a goal, in microcosmic space: burning my life away doing the same thing over and over to get three million dollars so I could buy Bill Laimbeer. Obviously I learned my lesson and never spent time on video games again.

Look at that piece of shit!

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WHAT
– Today’s beverage of choice, which has for reasons I will never fully comprehend, become a totally normally-named grapefruit-tasting drink to me, called “POCARI SWEAT”
– The lady who called me on the phone last night and said like “hi mister ryota ishikawa” and I was like “that’s not me chigaimasu chigaimasu” and she was like “oh that’s not you” and I was like “nope not” and she was like “well do you have a minute to talk about insurance” and I was like “aha excuse me” and I hung up even though we don’t really “hang up” anymore we just push a button and it isn’t even a button anymore just a picture on a screen that says “end call”
– The lesson I’m currently teaching on Japanese haiku and English haiku and how we can use the haiku form to make English poems, during which I write a haiku poem in Japanese on the board to explain it and then someone points out that I should have made this one line before the other one in stroke order even though I don’t bother to point out that when they say “I like to watch birds frying” it doesn’t mean what they think it means
what what

The other day in front of the elevators some young kids were waving these wands around to make big bubbles and then running away, leaving them suspended in the air. A lady and I happened to cross paths where the bubbles floated, and for some reason both of us stopped right there in the middle of the sidewalk, separated by this wall of shiny orbs, wondering if it really was safe to just walk right through and pop the bubbles, these temporary little things with no feelings or emotions that took less than a second to create. I walked around the side, on the grass, to avoid the bubbles, wondering for a second how many little bugs I was stomping to death in the name of beauty! A perilous existence up here in me.

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In full bloom

It’s still Spring Break, in so far as that I am teaching no classes. This will all have changed by the time you read the next Nom, which is a fact I’m not sure if I should be stressed about or not. To be sure, actually filling my day with some kind of activity other than idly browsing the Internet, typing these articles, or reading whatever book I can get my hands on will almost certainly be an exciting and welcome change, albeit one requiring slightly more effort than total stasis. Do I even remember how to do this anymore? I can literally barely remember the last class I taught. I am pretty sure it was like the 23rd. Of February.

But anyway, think of it! A whole grade full of fresh first-year high schoolers, all mine to destroy. This time, they are mine from the beginning. I will remember their names, interests, pets, and favorite foods. (Yeah right.) The boy to girl ratio with this class is, unlike my first group’s 1:1, tipped significantly in the favor of those bearing the double X chromosome, which seemingly foreshadows a high occurrence rate of more of these kinds of student poems during our haiku lesson:

He is a big smile
His face is very smallish
His name is Branton!

The changing of the term has brought a variety of personnel changes as well, as I have mentioned before. Though I haven’t yet had to deal with many of them significantly enough to form concrete opinions, I do have a new co-teacher at my night school who is now in his first year teaching at a not-cram-school, and he greeted me today with “what’s up, man,” which I am firmly in support of. He also invited me to go out to the vending machines for coffee, which puts his “voluntarily offered to do something with me” count at 1, on parity or higher than the counts of nearly all my other co-workers. As a somewhat young fellow, he has been very forward in approaching me, which I also firmly support. Also he has a propensity to, perhaps because he spent a year living in Leeds, insert the word “fucking” seemingly at random into his speech. If you were wondering, this too is an action I support, firmly.

Another consequence of the regime change at night school is that finally, after nearly eight months, I have a power outlet via extension cord on my desk, with which to plug in my computer. The best I can figure is that this is a result of me brazenly running my netbook’s power cable across the floor to the other outlet every Wednesday for months on end, resulting in a variety of nearly broken limbs and joints. Still no Internet here, which I figure will never happen. No matter–the lack of this distraction gives me time to catch up on eating peanuts, staring listlessly into space, and talking to myself with a keyboard.

HOW STRANGE, THESE THINGS, WHICH IN A WAY SERVE TO COMPARTMENTALIZE MY CULTURAL EXPERIENCES
– Last Saturday, after the tapering off of a game of Scrabble, brought to the point where virtually no play opportunities or liquid word formations remained and turn times approached infinity, flipping through the TV channels idly and settling on oil wrestling, wherein grossly mismatched men and women threw their respective body types into each other for no more than four seconds before violently slamming into the ground all lubricated with viscous, mucus-looking snot-goop
– Serious personal consideration of a potential purchase of a specialized metal file which retails for 2100 yen and which has only one purpose: to be gently abrasive against bits of plastic left connected to larger pieces of plastic which were once connected to even larger pieces of plastic, manipulated for the sake of assembling tiny models of imaginary robots
– A smallish embroidered patch for clothing, spotted at the craft store, drawn in a juvenile fashion and intended to be placed presumably on childrens’ articles, bearing a representation of a colorful police vehicle, lights swirling, with the English text “GOING PLACES”
– Being presented with some sort of mysterious business card from a representative of what seems to be some kind of retirement consultant, “life plan advisor,” or “total life consultant,” while sitting at my desk, following a string of Japanese I could barely understand, and uttering merely in said language “thank you very much,” to which I got the “your Japanese is very good,” was assaulted with another string of impenetrable speech that may have contained the word for “three,” and then being bidden farewell to
– Met at my apartment door by two men, one tall and attractive in a dorky way, the other short and homely, and being convinced to upgrade my Internet service by way of the terms HYAKU MEGA! and SPEED UP COST DOWN, then watching the short guy beg the tall guy for a chance to use his props, which included a large magazine-sized calculator and a pop-up book with a 3D modem in it, shortly before the tall guy smacked him on the head with a folder
THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO LIVING IN JAPAN

On the home front, things are generally as usual as ever. We are cruising through anime and movies nightly at a pace I have never experienced, turning to the visual arts to both “do something together” and in some odd enough reason experience our new culture (or a sub-element of it anyway). The humor comes in when considering I initially scrounged up some other anime more Jessy-geared than Gundam, so I could get her okay with watching Gundam (my true desire). Now, though such distractions are likely no longer necessary, I have accumulated dozens of series and movies totaling hundreds of hours of video, which we move through just the same. Next into the rotation is a show called Canaan, which seems to be about some sort of foreign assassins. I am okay with that.

Last night, to accompany our viewing with nutrition and satisfaction, I boiled some chicken legs in bouillon stock with onions, garlic, and carrots, then shredded the meat and tossed it back in the broth with a bowl full of hand-dropped dumplings just like mama told me how to make. They were hyper delicious, and accompanied by a totally unsatisfying All Malt Beer, the likes of which disturbingly taste less and less shitty to me as the last memories of decent brew pass through my mind like bananas in a pasta strainer.

As though I, or the fine people of this fine country, needed any other sort of excuse, let alone a seasonal one, to drink, one has finally begun to arrive: the viewing parties which are now occuring all over the place in honor of the blooming sakura, the cherry blossoms adorning a variety of trees. To properly hanami, or engage in a party of this nature, it seems that one needs to complete a variety of tasks:

1a. Get some beer
1b. Get some liquor that is not beer
2. Get some food
2.75 (optional) Get some people
3. Go outside, by some of the cherry trees
3.5. (optional) Find “some shady”
4. Watch them

I am not sure I have yet fully grasped the nuances of the hanami, but with enough of tasks 1 and 2 I think I might grow pretty receptive to learning.

Once spring ends, it will be summer. Did you know that Japan has four seasons? It does.

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