Tag Archives: jessy

How happy he who crowns in shades like these

Like the workings of regular, timed machines, Japan yesterday found itself overrun with 850,000 (according to the news) fresh young graduates clad in brand new suits all pushing themselves confused off to their first day of work at the company that will slowly murder them over the next forty-five years. Unlike businesses in America, most Japanese entities coincide their hiring period with the exact end of the school year, and the first day of work is right when the schools start back up again. That means that every year on April 1st they all march off like little superheroes in costume. I like seeing at what point you can no longer identify the seas of new hires, the more stalwart will continue to wear suits until well into the summer, while the people with some free-thinking generally switch to cool-biz attire (ha ha, as mandated) once May or June rolls around.

Last night on the news broadcasts they showed footage from the welcome ceremonies at Mitsubishi and Panasonic, two companies that happen to have huge headquarters and factories in Kobe and Osaka. A typical component of these ceremonies is all the new hires singing the company song–yes, the companies have songs–together, pledging their undying fealty to the emperor company president. Also, you can never leave the company or you will be ostracized and blacklisted from other big companies forever, ha ha april fools, we are just joking, but no that is also a joke do not come back

TREE STUFF

The cherry blossoms are in pretty close to what I’d call full bloom, I read somewhere that it happened almost two weeks earlier than has ever been noticed since official cherry blossom blossom records started being kept in like the mid 1950s. I think it is because my French/Japanese waifu Christel Takigawa is in all kinds of new commercials this season, and she is SO HOT THAT THE TREES ARE BLOWIN OPEN nah she is really just kind of cute not really hot, not as hot as duckface Tomomi Itano who still drives traffic to my website via bizarre google search results even though she has left AKB48 now, Tomomi Itano Tomomi Itano. P.S. sorry Jessica

but you knew it was coming

8636353-755725

I AM A TOUR GUY

I led my mother around Japan for like the last two weeks as she visited us here, I have never been such a tourist in my entire life. We went to Chinatown and Arashiyama and Kyoto and sumo in Nanba and Nara and Awaji Island and all this stuff it was crazy. I cooked all the food that I am best at and we went to our favorite restaurants and watched Japanese television and Ghibli movies, did karaoke and went to a game center, ran through MEGA DON QUIXOTE and supermarkets, got our book signed at temples and shrines, drank under them cherry trees and oh so much more. It was great but also a little wack somehow, I felt like a tourist again since when there are three foreigners people will speak to you in English, a weird feel. Some old man who smelled like rotting coffee told me he loved New York, I was like that is nice dude I have never been there.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEEK OR MONTH, WHATEVER
– I bought a copy of Battle Arena Tohshinden for PlayStation because of its psychotic English text on the front, which says “Waw!? And now, what’s going on!? Toh Shin Den is about to present to you a super hot virtual battle, like one that you’ve never seen before at a rate of 90,000 polygons per second!”
– Rode a bus in Kyoto in which I was more squished than I have ever been squished, ever
– Have become totally hooked on kitsune udon, udon with sweet fried tofu on top, just in time to only have four more months to eat it all the time before I leave Japan forever
– Mad Men starts next week, oh god oh yes oh man this is not Japanese but
CURIOUS ENDING OF JAPANESE WHATEVER

I was tasked with changing places in the staff room yesterday, the first time I believe the foreigner has ever not sat in their original seat, the shittiest one in the staff room: right in front of the door where all the students bug you and you get hit with the drafts from the hall and you have people always walking by you and behind you and all this crap. They moved me back a row so my back is now to a wall, which means essentially I don’t have to worry about anyone jumpin’ up behind me or kids asking me weird questions I can’t understand. I am also next to the refrigerator, so all my refrigeration needs are covered.

Lots of new teachers in fresh brand new suits came here yesterday. I wonder how long the suits will last.

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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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A parked taxi with the meter running

The last week and a half has seen me become a drifter, free of obligation or mental roadblock, free of the famous Jessica Dovey, who may or may not have been dead at any given moment in the Himalayan mountains but ended up being not dead and actually gets back home tonight. While she was gone I engaged in a variety of scandalous activities that would be forbidden if she was around, like: leaving the air conditioner on even while I slept sometimes, occasionally leaving the toilet seat up, and one time I smoked a cigarette on the balcony and did not close the door to the house. The illicit things that I did are even more scandalous. For instance, I cooked linguine noodles instead of the spaghetti ones and I drank two entire Mello Yellos on a weekend evening and stayed up well past 9 PM.

While she was gone, in typical Japanese fashion the massive social hoopla built and built for Typhoon Ma-on, which was first a Category 5 super typhoon, then slowed down, then was on a direct collision course with Kobe, then wasn’t, then hooked up back toward us, then didn’t. It ended up being about the biggest non-event in history, the non-event to end all non-events. At its most troublesome it stole away some of humanity’s precious three-dollar plastic umbrellas, and I fear we shall never see them again. I, tasked with caring for Jessy’s garden plants on our balcony, did an admirable enough job saving the tomatoes, though the useless little green beans in their tiny pods were a casualty of the wind, tossed to the ends of the earth.

As penance for my slight transgressions, I took it upon myself to finally throw away the Christmas tree she had stashed there on our balcony, dead for seven months and wrapped in a red fleece blanket, secured with shoelaces that look like the pullstrings for purple Zubaz pants. I believe that it was serving as a reminder, a grave one, to the living flora and fauna: do you see what we do to you, if you die? You will finish your days in this place covered in synthetic fibers and left to roast in the sun like a carcass for the vultures, and not even the smallest creature shall mourn you. Opening the blanket up was like unearthing a mystical coffin containing Santa Claus. Pine needles fell all over everything, and I was reminded of that magical Christmas of 2010, which we spent with a fresh tree until December 17th when we left the apartment for weeks. She had tricked me into letting her buy the Christmas tree from IKEA by pointing out that if you brought it back after Christmas with the receipt they would give you a special gift card for store credit, something she absolutely “would do.” I am an elephant, woman, and I will not forget this savage, cruel deception. This year there will be only a Christmas box, which will be a box in the corner of the room, and inside it will be other, smaller boxes, and inside them will be nothing, and it is all for you, and you will be happy to receive it.

A beneficial side effect of cleaning off our balcony was that I remembered I had twenty cans of V8 stashed out there from a Costco trip, so I moved them inside. I think they enjoyed being next to their vegetable brethren for a while though. It must have been more fun out there than it is in our refrigerator’s pull-out beverage drawer, where the only friends are a huge jar of pickles and a pineapple, which, according to the tag, is named “Sweetie-o.”

One thing they will not find in there is a spare bottle of today’s new taste sensation, another new limited Pepsi flavor. This summer it’s Caribbean Gold Pepsi, which is stylized on the label in a way that elicits memories, for me, of perhaps my mother’s mysterious sun-tanning lotion in the early-to mid-90s. Or perhaps some brand of VHS pornography, or maybe a kind of stereotypical name of rum? It does not seem like a typeface for the year 2011 is what I am saying. The I in Caribbean is even a palm tree. The flavor itself is purported to be “WHITE SAPOTE FLAVOR” and I had no idea what a sapote was until I looked it up online (it is a kind of fruit, I guess, “from the Caribbean”). This necessary research finds itself among comfortable previous experiences vis-a-vis the time I spent looking up the previous Pepsi flavors, chief among them Shiso Pepsi, Azuki Pepsi, Baobab Pepsi, Mont Blanc Pepsi, and now Caribbean Gold Pepsi. One thing is for sure: this shit is sweet. If you can imagine an even sweeter Pepsi, this is it! Unlike the superior (now, inevitably, discontinued) Mont Blanc, which had a delightful coffee taste, this one is just sweet. SWEET! I will never drink it again, but it’s okay I guess.

Japan switched from analog to digital television broadcasting over the weekend, and celebrated it on television by setting up tons of old TVs then showing them go to a blue error message at exactly noon on Sunday. I suppose it is kind of a hard event to publicize or cover, at least that is what you would think, though this being Japan it was accompanied by a series of bizarre stuffed mascots, tons of confetti, people dashing at the camera and yelling “uwaaaa!!!!” and other such things. Speaking of weird television I watched a segment on a variety show last night the name of which I do not know but that I’m calling “Sanctioned Sexual Harassment Mega Excite,” the concept of which is this, as I imagine it was pitched: two hideous men, both slightly fat, and one with a farmer’s tan, will put on Speedo swimsuits and go to a swimming resort, where young girls in bikinis will model for them as they make insensitive remarks. To allow the guise of information we will say this is an overview of “the popular bikinis of 2011.” The uglier of the two men will assign “point values” to the quality of the women, while measuring their curves and breast size with a giant plastic protractor. He will carry a little foam finger on the end of a stick, with which he will poke the women in the soft places until they tell them to stop, which they will not because no means yes! At the end, he will yell “DYNAMITE BODY!”

Obviously I watched the whole thing.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE LATELY, AS THOUGH THOSE ARE SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAN WHAT THESE ARTICLES ROUTINELY DEAL WITH IN THE NARRATIVE ANYWAY
– My local import store, which recently received Hot & Spicy SPAM and is now selling it for 650 yen a can
– Me, for buying one at that price, which with the soaring yen value equates to buying a can of SPAM for something like eight U.S. dollars, and not regretting it even a little
– The goddamned cicadas, which produce a deafening, alarm-like scream in the wee hours of the morning, and which I can hear even while standing in my kitchen or toilet room by way of the overhead vents
– Oreo brand chocolate bar, which is the size of a Heath but instead of toffee is just Oreo and macadamia nuts
– This guy I saw yesterday, who was following his dog around, and the dog looked like he was poppin’ a squat to take a dump, and instead of waiting for him to finish then scooping it up into a bag or something the dude pulled out a paper plate and stuck it under his ass and the dog took a shit on the plate I am seriously not joking I left before I could see what he did with the plate
UGH

I went in for my annual health check yesterday, a requirement of the school system or something like that. I left work at noon to go to the clinic, where, despite being told I would not have to submit to a urine test, I was asked to submit to a urine test. Lucky for me I usually have some of that around. Anyway, the way it works is you are marched on a path around this building kind of like a cow being led to his slaughter, stopping along the way at each little station for the next part. The first station is of course the bathroom. Next to the sink there is a little rack with paper cups and markers, and you take one and write your name on it. You’re supposed to go in it up to the line, then you set it in this window, a window between the office part and the bathroom part, like a drive-thru, like going to Taco Bell, only I am the restaurant, I am cooking up what they have ordered, which is a steamy cup of my piss. They have asked for it, so here, please wait gotta get it ready, and then I set it on the little window and that completes the order.

At the last stop the doctor needs to check my heartbeat and the guy asks, can you please lift up your shirt, then I start doing it but almost as I reach for it the older lady assistant rushes out from a pocket in space time, like I have no fucking idea where she has come from, and starts jerking up on my shirt, she is literally trying to rip it off me, so politely at the same time though, apologizing as she subjects me to this sort of violation. It is a slim-fit shirt, I tell her, you can’t lift it up let me un-button it, and she does not listen, tugging it up, it is rolled back, crushing me, I am horrified oh god, let me help me. The doctor says my heart rate is high, no shit doc. “Take care of yourself,” he tells me. I cannot think about anything except the guy who put the paper plate to catch that dog’s shit, man that was so fucked up.

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Annie, are you okay, are you okay Annie

My weekend began on Friday with a call from a vaguely Indian-sounding man who provided my caller ID service with no information. Thinking it was Jessy calling with Skype, I answered the call “yeah,” before realizing it was not, in fact, Jessy, and was instead the Indian-sounding man. As it turns out, he was calling on behalf of Jessica, with three messages:

(1) “Jessica wants me to reassure you that outsourcing her life will not be expensive”
(2) “Jessica has a hair appointment at 7:30 this evening”
(3) “Jessica will meet you at the bar”

He then asked if I had any messages for Jessica, which I didn’t because I was three minutes away from the bar. This man, obviously, was Jessica’s personal assistant, which is a totally normal thing for a 24-year-old school teacher who is not a business owner, has no client or employees, attends no meetings, and has virtually no responsibilities of any sort to have under his or her employ.

The irony of the phrase “outsourcing her life” was not lost on me as a man who oscillates between being of few and of too many words: ostensibly, to “save time,” she is to use this personal assistant remotely by telling him to accomplish various tasks (primarily information gathering, as it is all Internet-based). What this “saved time” will be used for exactly I am not sure. Of the tasks she has issued him, I believe only a single one has been accomplished thus far, and it happened last Friday, and I am the only person who can confirm the task was completed because it was the phone call I just told you about. This fact lends the whole thing even more irony: surely the amount of time spent devising and inputting descriptions of these still-unfinished tasks could have better been spent just doing them herself. I have considered logging into the control panel when she leaves it open on her computer and submitting a request to “fire my ineffective, lazy personal assistant” and providing the details of the very site I am logged into, but I do not yet feel quite vindictive enough for it, and anything that lets my life feel a bit more like a Seinfeld episode for even just a little longer is fine with me.

I also learned last Friday, in addition to the fact that my girlfriend has a personal assistant, that my friend Mitsuki is now a part-time security guard, which is hilarious because she is Mitsuki.

Defying all reasonable probabilities, I took my twenty pounds of coins into the bank today and stammered out words like “yokin yokin coin” which was pretty much useless because of course they know the word “deposit”–it is written in English above the deposits counter. After they dumped the two huge bags of coins into their grinding machine it spat out a little piece of paper that they delivered to me in a tiny plastic dish (in addition to my Ziplocs, which they kindly returned). The paper said 44,225, which is the amount of money that I got from all that metal, and is equivalent to something like $530 at the current exchange rate. If you recall, I did about the same thing last March (March 3rd to be exact), a hundred coins at a time over thirteen separate ATM transactions. The total at that time was 44,589 yen–a mere 364 yen more.

This money, like last year’s coin-salvo, could be used for a variety of things: buying dozens of useless ornamental statues, lining my walls with posters of Korean girl bands, buying around 380 cans of Mountain Dew from the vending machine, importing several expansion sets for my Munchkin card game. The more attractive option is possibly the HP Pavilion dm1z, an 11.6″ more-than-a-netbook-less-than-a-notebook which would replace this ailing old Eee quite handily and serve as a laptop as competent as and exceedingly more travel-worthy than my current Studio 15 back home, which is still waiting for its replacement parts. Even better? Expenses for a Golden Week excursion around Japan. Better still? Replacing our boring table with a heated kotatsu table and some floor chairs. What I’ll probably do with the money is just leave it in the bank account, using it ultimately for nothing special, which is a real shame.

A more boring thing I could use it for is as compensation for the trip to Costco that we took last night with a couple of friends, during which Jessy and I spent a combined total of around 33,000 yen on a massive cart full of American objects that will be delivered to our house on Saturday morning. Among them: Tide and Woolite detergents, paper plates, stew meat, white cheddar cheese and processed cheese cubes, a bag of frozen tropical fruits, frozen fried rice, three bags of Friskies cat food, four bottles of wine, Heinz ketchup, Prego spaghetti sauce, a case each of canned V8 and Dr. Pepper, several gallons of soymilk, Thai noodles, Caesar salad mix, contact lens solution, almonds, pickles, tortillas, and god knows what else. We finished our shopping excursion at almost 8:00 in the evening exactly, the store’s closing time, and as we rolled our carts full of goods to the delivery counter the young employee groaned, knowing the nine boxes of stuff he would have to pack and tape before his evening was up. I felt like a jerk, but only because I have done those jobs and been in that position before–which is the same reason I was subsequently able to cease caring whatsoever.

They are sending it all to us from Amagasaki for about twenty bucks, cash on delivery, which will make Saturday an eventful day: in the morning, we will accept four boxes of goods, then proceed to town for delicious spicy ramen, then come back to the island for an afternoon beer-consumption session which I expect to enjoy. Speaking of delivery, even as we speak three boxes are heading to my apartment to be accepted by Jessy most graciously, and contain the following: an external DVD drive for my computer, one of two new pairs of purchased shoes, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker on Blu-ray, Pikmin 2 for my Wii, and the hard drive mounting bracket that will make restoration of my Studio 15 finally possible (once the warranty-replaced hard drive itself arrives, which it won’t until I actually send away the defective one, which I am almost completely too lazy to do.

WHAT
– On a package of cashews I’m eating, “Let’s have joyful talking with FRESH NUTS. Every time and every where, it’s so delicious. Best of the world FRESH PACK”
– Went to a bar last week where ALL DRINK 500yen and had a Gin Buck and played UNO on plastic cards at the table
– Forced spastic first year student to have his winter break conversation in front of the class, and when I asked him where he went for New Year’s Eve he said “I went to shrine late at night, in the dark, alone. I asked shrine to get a girlfriend”
– Ordered a take-out Pan pizza from the Pizza Hut last weekend, large size, and it only cost 1600 yen and it was all pretty similar to the States except when we left the shop with our ‘za the guy opened the door for us, took his cap off, and bowed as we exited
– Saw a show on TV this morning where they were making a meat and potato stew, and the cute co-host girl was wearing a hairband that had two plush potatoes on it, marking likely the only time that her wearing that particular headband could possibly be appropriate
oh

Despite having eaten a huge bowl of curry rice with chicken at about ten this morning, and a cheeseburger with fries and ginger ale from McDonald’s no less than two hours later, and a baggie full of cashews and a handful of gummies about ninety minutes after that, I find myself still here at work, at four in the afternoon, having consumed probably over 2200 calories today thus far, completely completely hungry. When I get home I’ll eat a half a package of linguini and with any luck another chicken breast, and digest it almost immediately. I’m half-reading a book called The Four Hour Body that suggests that with a dietary plan of consuming tons of chicken breast and doing a minimum amount of exercise over a month-long period one could gain twelve or fifteen pounds of lean muscle. I am beginning to wonder if perhaps the eating part, for me, would not at all be difficult.

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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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A day which will live on in green tea

The bachelor life means steak for supper, a big one with corn on one night and literally two steaks the next night with soumen, and as I enter hour four of my non-stop marathon of the descriptively named “WWII in HD” TV series with my steak and my beer and my full plump Japanese grapes I realize I have become an old man and it is fucking sweet.

Brenden is back to Canada and Jessy’s still in America which means that as the Master of My Domain I am free to do as I damned well please when I damned well please how I damned well please, a revelation both invigorating and selfish, only occasionally tinged with loneliness. For the most part I enjoy the fact that I can have a glass of tea, leave my glass on the table, go to work the next day and come home to my same glass in the same place, rinse it out, and pour another glass of tea. I am living the same awesome day over and over in perpetuity, which is the glory and curse of solitary singledom.

The other night I briefly consider totally eschewing perpetual domination by that woman in favor of lighting a cigar inside the house as I sit on the couch, but then I wonder well will the smoke alarm go off, and so I go and deactivate it and I think I have it deactivated and I sit back down on the couch and I swear to god as I am about to strike the match she appears on the TV screen in the creases of MacArthur’s pressed pants and she says “Brandon of our apartment you fuck, I have returned, and I have total control over your daily life” and I put the cigar back down on the table gently like it’s a mine and eat another grape and examine the pattern on the wall.

At night school on Wednesday I didn’t write a damned thing on account of I bought this book called Live from New York, which is basically an oral recount of the history of Saturday Night Live, and it in its printed form is about 680 pages, which meant in its eBook form I was capable of reading it for seven straight hours and not finishing it. I alarmed myself with my dedication so concretely that I went ahead and finished it the next day and bought Chris Farley’s biography too, to totally tap out this rich vein of potentially interesting subject matter and to ensure I will never find it compelling again.

In the interest of getting this over with this time I will merely state that last week in a couple of day span I managed to play foosball, Street Fighter IV, and darts against a variety of human opponents and I never lost. It felt right.

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I don’t know no Snakes

I have not seen Harry and Marv take such a beating in ten years but I remember it like it was yesterday. Tonight, with a vending machine beer in hand, I watch Home Alone with Jessy and Brenden, we being three of only four souls inhabiting the Tokushima Youth Hostel in Tokushima, on the island of Shikoku, a landmass to which I am no stranger.

A fan oscillates in front of us and next to me is an enormous magazine rack filled with old manga and magazines from 2006. One series of magazines features the same attractive woman in a slightly different pose and outfit on each cover for months and months. Home Alone is on VHS, and has been selected by us from among a variety of video tapes arranged in their thick plastic cases on a wooden bench next to the small television. It is a “SAMPLE” copy, as are several of the other tapes, and I figure they must have bought out a closing store’s advance copies. The large white block letters SAMPLE are burned into every frame’s upper right corner. The movie is subtitled in Japanese that reads simplistic to me when compared with the actual dialogue, when I can translate it, leaving the true intonations of phrases such as “keep the change you filthy animal” up for debate.

The movie starts halfway in, presumably because the prior (possibly Japanese) viewers were unable to glean the intense cultural sensibilities necessary to understand Kevin’s unique plight (summon scary cops to arrest burglars, or attempt to kill them?) and chose to hit stop, foregoing the option to be kind and rewind. The video resumed at around the part where Kevin slides on his knees to go underneath a bumbling police officer’s legs in an attempt to evade prosecution for stealing a toothbrush, the first of his soon-to-become-increasingly-violent crimes.

Whoever was watching this fucking thing first didn’t even get to the whole point of the movie: watching Joe Pesci get his ribs broken with a crowbar! Retrospectively, with a position favoring the criticism of a movie I have seen well over a hundred times, the movie becomes ghastly, gruesome Schadenfreude: the acts against humanity committed by the demonic eight-year-old human child “Kevin McAllister” are heinous and he revels in watching them play out in ways akin to torture. To witness his vile acts is to stare into the face of the Dark Lord and laugh at his joyful demeanor while he rips the fingernails from your hands and licks them clean.

My favorite part, upon this rewatching, was seeing Harry have his head lit on fire by a blowtorch, and then Kevin running away, fists-a-pumping, screaming “Yes yes yes yes yes.” I also enjoyed watching him make the financially poverty-stricken pizza-delivery boy deal with a twenty-cent tip and then lead him to believe he is about to be murdered by gunfire. He is obviously a man who takes pride in his work. I debate with Brenden and Jessy the relative merits of each bandit’s incredible punishment, mentioning the conversations my sister and I used to have about which bandit, theoretically, it would be better or worse to assume the role of, based on the levels of their abuse. In the moment I figure Marv takes more blunt damage, while Harry has to suffer having the image of the house’s doorknob (a large M, for McAllister, the initials of his fiendish overlord) melted into his hand by way of an electric coil heater. He even screams, whimpers in pain, and tries to blow on the fucking thing to cool it off. Jesus!

The weather in the hostel is as hot as the opposite of Chicago during Christmas, as depicted in the movie Home Alone, which is to say that it is goddamned hot. Our room contains four beds via two bunk setups, and a tatami area with a table. The air conditioner is cutely coin-operated: a 100 yen coin gives two hours of cooling, as low as we can turn the remote (20 degrees Celcius, full-blast fan, and boy do we ever need it). The hostel’s proprietor, a pleasant elderly-ish lady, gives us three coins to use as we check in. While we eat the supper she’s made us (fried pork cutlet with cabbage, peanut-dressing salad, miso soup, rice, cold soumen with dashi sauce, hot tea, and god knows what else), I see who I presume to be her husband meandering around in the definition of Tiny Little Running Shorts.

There is a beach here at the foot of the hostel’s property, though a sign forbids swimming. Still, it seems to me a rarity thus far in Japan, and I even see and smell groups of people grilling meat. For a moment I believe I am in America, and then the cicada calls deafen me and destroy my capacity for rational thought immediately. I rectify my hollowness by skipping rocks from the shore out into the water, skip skip skip.

As we relax that evening I fight metal slimes in Dragon Quest IX on my DS, a now-proven companion capable of getting me through any time period that could be considered even slightly boring. The two-hour bus rides from Kobe and back serve as excellent opportunities to test its mettle, and are felled admirably.

The next day sees us tour a special old-town where we are beckoned into a small shop by a husband and wife who woo us with green tea, mochi, and pickled cucumbers and tomatoes. We are guilted into the purchase of a kilogram of homemade miso paste from them, which we later mux together with some other ingredients for use as a sauce on our own cabbage salad back at the apartment. This has left me with approximately .99 kilograms of miso paste that I have absolutely no idea what to do with.

EXCITING JAPANESE HERPS OF THE DERP
– Lawson cheese chicken breast, being a deep-fried piece of breaded chicken and melted cheese all together under one crust and the perfect size for a bun
– A special certificate, presented formally to me by my principal, indicating that I have successfully held my job for one entire year
– CoCo Ichibanya curry restaurant, which delightfully provided Brenden and I with plates of piping hot and delicious curry rice for a low fee
– Namco Land arcade and its Street Fighter IV machines, which I didn’t realize were there on the second floor and which look totally easy to hop onto for a game or two
– San Plaza gashapon and game shops, ensuring that if I ever really need a bunch of little plastic toys I will be able to find precisely the ones I need
– Sanuki udon self-serve shop in Tokushima city, bearing delicious niku udon with a piece of shrimp tempura, ice cold water, and boilin’ hot broth
ENOUGH HERPS

Today is the one day this week that I actually have work, which in August is the term that I use to mean I have to be in the office. I just completed a five-day stretch of delightful time off (three weekdays and two weekends) and that means that today serves as both my Monday and Friday, as I also have the next four days off (two weekdays and two weekends). It feels weird to not be working, but not that weird, because I’ve been pretty busy trekking around Kansai the last few days, and will likely get into a good deal as much in the next few.

Jessy leaves for the States on Saturday, which saddens me, but mostly will just be strange because aside from one overnight trip she took with her teachers a few months ago, we have not spent any full days away from each other since we moved to Japan. She’ll be there for a couple of weeks, and is treating the impending nature of the trip so lightly that it boggles my mind. She knows that she’ll be going from “Osaka to Tokyo to Taipei or somewhere and to America” which is just lackadaisical enough to cause my chest to go all aflutter. I have instructed her to get her ass back here with a refilled prescription of the Xanax, which I am sure as shit going to need when I take my trip back home for Christmas this year. In her stead of course I have Brenden, who on the upside will probably not complain to me about household matters, but who on the downside will probably not do my laundry.

Finally, I should mention for the sake of posterity that a year ago today I was ironing my too-big suit shirt to go under my too-big suit jacket at the too-big Keio Plaza hotel in Tokyo, having just recently arrived in Japan and having been completely overwhelmed with everything. I remember being terrified and excited and ready to go and meeting my teachers in Kobe and moving my huge suitcases into the apartment and I remember the first two weeks here feeling like ages and the next few months breezing by and the terrible heat of the summer and my birthday pudding in November and Christmas cake in December and Hokkaido in January and cherry blossoms in March and the school year ending in April and Japanese class starting and Fuji in July and here I am again in August with a year gone so quickly. That’s not to say there’s any point to recalling it now, only just to say that it was so. So it was!

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