Firmly into the first week of summer’s taskless days of work, tonight is exam night at school, which sets my schedule for me. You have undoubtedly read it here before, whether you remember it or not: sit at the desk for a long time. Take a couple five minute breaks to go read something to the class, then come back, then sit around for a little while, then go home. Today I have written this, eaten a half a sandwich and a small hamburger, drank a Blizzard-L soda, and started reading Jurassic Park. My row is the one with the air conditioner, and I’m almost cold! When I get home tonight, I’m cooking some chicken and buttered peppery corn. Life is good, cause I say it is. Even though outside it feels like you are covered with a wet towel in the jungle.
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if it is time to retire the curious Japanese shit of the week section of my weekly entries here and replace it with a “things which probably used to seem weird but that I can no longer differentiate as such” section. For example:
-Right now there is a man squatting down on the ground in front of the office refrigerator–in much the same way a resident of this country would squat to take a dump in an old-fashioned toilet–drinking milk tea straight out of the carton. This is basically fine with me.
-Last week I ate a “choco cookie” ice cream sundae at an ice cream cafe, and it contained yogurt and corn flakes.
-Later in the week I went to a “darts bar” (this is a bar based on the gimmick of playing darts) to play darts, and the bar had a cover charge for staying there past 9 PM, which they did not mention until we were paying our bill as we left (the cover charge included a free dish of crackers and nuts).
-Just the other night, I watched part of a show on TV where a group of eight people stayed at a restaurant for over fourteen hours, with the goal of guessing which 10 of the 86 items on the menu were the restaurant’s top sellers, and in order to file an item as a guess, they had to first order and eat it.
-About an hour ago, I was cut off on my walking path to work by a remarkably sized turtle, on whose shell was painted in white the telephone number of some salesman.
Does this kind of shit happen back home? I feel like it may, in some sort of waking hallucinated nightmare, but I can barely even goddamned remember anymore. I know the TV was a lot less consistently entertaining, and I don’t remember any turtles.
I wonder occasionally what my Pittsburgh life would have been like if we actually lived in a place like Kobe, with essentially limitless entertainment, drinking, and dining options–a place where our late-night post-bar food choices may have rested outside the realm of “Laffy Taffys from the Uni-Mart.” Every time I try to let it play out all I can see is destruction: handfuls of breaded, spicy chicken, video games, mayhem, cheap liquor, public intoxication. Basically the same as Pittsburgh. But it wouldn’t have been exactly the same.
In fact, life here in Japan was really different and strange until it just wasn’t as different and strange, which is becoming a bit strange itself. This all manifests itself in a variety of ways. About five months ago I finally got the most efficient route home from work down. That cut what I used to perceive as a 50 or 60 minute trip from office chair to apartment couch down to precisely 38 minutes, if I seriously haul it through the station to the gates for my island. It seems fine to me that I now can estimate my trip times to the minute, and do not in the slightest ever consider the fact that the trains might be late, because they aren’t. I now pay phone bills with my fiberoptic rolled into the current plan for maximum savings. I am okay with the fact that I pay my bills by taking them to the convenience store. I renew my transportation passes without incident, with cash, by sliding upwards of three hundred dollars at a time into a vending machine. Again, this is no problem.
We schedule packages for redelivery by phone, and order pizzas, books, playing cards, and trinkets over the Internet. Often times the men bring the things we’ve bought to the door, and we pay them for them right there. We juggle point cards like professionals, transfer money home at the best exchange rates through bank transfers on the ATM, and even know the best routes to a variety of restaurants we have learned to call our favorites, depending on the desired cuisine. I can pinpoint the locations of at least eight video game stores within easy walking distance of Sannomiya station. I can cook gyoza like Emeril Lagasse, and I don’t even need to say BAM while I do it. I own and carry more things that are electronic and magnetic than things that aren’t.
And still there are some things: what is this random mysterious package of pickled food items for and in what meal context am I supposed to use it? How do I reserve a bowling lane at the Round 1 game center? How and why are FUNKY MONKEY BABYS still performing the same song on TV that they were last August? Why are there so many Pachinko parlors? What the hell is the deal with this variety show talent person who dresses like a school girl with her eyebrows shaved off and replaced with huge ridiculous fake ones, and is she actually a man cause I think she might be?
ON SUNDAY SOME MEN ARE BRINGING A BOOK SHELF TO OUR APARTMENT THAT WE BOUGHT ON A WEBSITE
HOW ABOUT THAT