Tag Archives: kiki

Your newest acquisition

INSTRUCTION MANUAL

Welcome to Nom a Day®, and thank you for choosing this Inter Net to provide you with thousands of words. I here at Nom a Day have confidence that this Nom has been manufactured to the highest specifications and with the highest quality materials. It is guaranteed to provide you minutes of “entertainment.”

CAUTION

DO NOT STORE IN EXTREME TEMPERATURES.
DO NOT IMMERSE IN WATER.
DO NOT CLEAN WITH BENZENE, THINNER, ALCOHOL, OR OTHER SUCH SOLVENTS.

Nom a Day®

WARMUP, AND PERSONAL ANECDOTE

By virtue of it being totally filled up with a bunch of crap, my workspace at night school today is a small corner of the desk approximately 18 inches by 12 inches, meaning my decision to bring the netbook today instead of the laptop was a prophetic one. Really all this does is clarify my job duties at night school, and the relative perception of the staff regarding what I do: “just put all those crates full of shit on Brandon’s desk, he’s only here one day a week and we have positively no idea what he’s saying.” This is fine, however, because I have a miniature keyboard and a blank screen, and far less has gotten me through far more.

It’s fully spring, I’m prepared to say, and today I have Dressed Myself in a fetching baby blue v-neck sweater over a “waishaatsu,” which is how the Japanese people say “white, collared button-up shirt.” My belt matches my shoes, pants, and socks, I am drinking a hot mug of masala chai, I have string cheese in my desk and maguro sushi in the fridge, and there are seven hours to go. I wonder if I could write a Nom for seven hours straight? Dear lord I hope not.

TRAVELOGUE

We went to Costco last night, which is suicide on the weekend and just a mere annoyance any other time. Getting there and getting back takes much longer than actually shopping for stuff, which is usually accomplished by us telling each other there are only a couple of things that we want, then going up and down every aisle and throwing tons of shit into the cart and not leaving without spending less than two-hundred bucks on enormous jars of pickles and other such sundries. It’s usually a surprise three or four days later when our purchases arrive at our apartment, carefully shipped for a mere five bucks a box, COD–in addition to a ten pound sack of onions I know I am expecting an enormous bag of gummy bears and some Dr. Pepper, but I can remember little else about what I actually purchased. I may have purchased a slab of apple smoked bacon, and perhaps some dried cherries? It is possible these are only the wishes of a lucid, waking dream.

Dining at Costco always presents a unique conundrum as opposed to eating at most Japanese restaurants I frequent. In most cases I am able to easily eliminate 80% of the menu for being pickled, runny, or genitalia, but at Costco the few options are all what we fighting game players would refer to as “god tier.” Do I choose the pizza? It’s big American pizza! A massive Korean bulgogi bread roll with cheese and sauce and beef? The soda is 80 yen and refillable–it is like the deranged wish of a Japanese man, for an hour. Am I living in America? It is no wonder we are uniformly enormous–we do not know how good we have it, because we know nothing else. Know this! The next time you idly roll your loading cart through Sam’s Club and figure the $299 LCD televisions are too expensive, you are actually experiencing the result of American persistence. For the efforts of your forefathers you can purchase the most affordable consumer electronics and foodstuffs in the world, and complain about their prices.

Anyway, I got the combo pizza, and it was just like getting pizza at any Costco in the states, which says more about it than I could. They have literally boxed up America and sent it over on a massive boat, dozens of pallets wide and tall. The beer still costs fifty bucks a case though and there is no Macaroni and Cheese or ranch dressing packets in sight not that you’d be able to find sour cream to mix it with anyway.

CURRENT CULTURAL NOTE

My coworkers are over there laughing so hard they are literally crying, there is water coming out, because of some Internet soundboard that has something to do with this cultural phenomenon AC commercial. For the uninitiated, following the big earthquake and tsunami on the 11th every television channel in Japan went pretty much to a nonstop news format for about a week solid. During this time, despite the fact that almost every set in Japan was probably turned on and had eyes glued to it, companies were (understandably) reluctant to run advertising for their products, 30-second monuments to absurdity packed full of giggly dipshits who continue on in their pre-recorded worlds totally unaware of the huge disaster up north, chomping on seasoned rice and doing stupid dances and taking chugs of beer with a “kyaaaa!”.

The companies’ pulling of most of their advertising left gaps in the TV schedules for commercial breaks with which there was now no material to fill them, and these channels need breaks some time! Enter AC, the advertising committee of Japan, and their public service announcements. For a week solid, virtually the only ads you could see on TV were PSAs from AC, running the gamut from breast cancer prevention to properly using your greetings and everything in between. (Think “this is your brain, this is your brain on drugs.”)

AC announcements are instantly recognizable by citizens of Japan because of the distinctive jingle that follows them: on a white screen with the blue letters AC, the sing-songy voice of a woman warbling “AY SHEEEEEE” rings out. Since these PSAs are usually fifteen seconds long, in an average commercial break an unsuspecting TV-viewer could hear “AY SHEEEEE” six, seven, eight times in succession–often following repeats of the exact same “check your boobs, ladies” announcements back to back to back. This became a sort of cultural lynchpin in an era where less and less people all watch the same television programs like they did in the 90s–everyone’s stuck to the TV for the news, and everyone sees the same stuff. Though perhaps not commanding the most refined senses of humor, the Japanese people have a delightful, almost sublime grasp of the absurd, and so like a bad manzai comedy catchphrase, “AY SHEEEEEE” became a rally cry. Some people eventually got so annoyed with it that AC removed the tune from the end of all their PSAs; it has yet to return.

The real sticking point here was a commercial about using greetings, with little animated cutesy characters spouting common daily phrases like “konnichiwa” and “arigatou” with singalong subtitles at the bottom. Everyone in the damned country knows the words to this fucking thing now and it has gotten out of control. I’ll just embed it here so you can see it!

It’s so out of control, in fact, that people are making bizarre edit versions of them and posting them on YouTube. My favorite is this one, where the little pink thing morphs into a giant robot ala Gunbuster and powers up with a little AC emblem in the middle of her helmet that, upon appearing, sings the “AY SHEEEEEE” song. Hell why not just embed that one too for kicks.

Moreno than the high school baseball games, Monster Hunter or Arashi or Asahi Super Dry, this commercial is what Japanese people are all culturally tuned into, and it would not surprise me in the fucking least if these goofy bastards found themselves turned into marketing mascots with corresponding plush toy lines. To me, it’s as much a symbol of the quake as anything else. It still feels weird to see an AC commercial without the jingle at the end, and I imagine the day it returns will be a triumphant one.

To finish up the thread from before, this soundboard my coworkers found lets you play the various phrases from the commercial. (I actually found it on the net, you can play with it by clicking the word DOOP after this sentence. DOOP They seem to find it pretty funny. When the head teacher came back they all slinked back to their desks snickering like high schoolers, and I sipped my drink.

A GEEKY ASIDE DEALING WITH THE NINTENDO 3DS

Because the people of this country had not gotten enough portable gaming already, Nintendo put out a new handheld system last month that displays images in THREE DIMENSIONS, by using a special screen that sends a slightly different picture to each eye, fooling you into parting with 250 dollars of your money. I have placed an order for the North American, English version of this system, mostly because I am an idiot but also for the privilege of playing a re-release of the second version of the fourth game in a series of fighting games I have purchased handfuls of times already. The game is the almost absurdly named Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition and with it I will pierce the heavens using only these mighty thumbs and a wireless Internet connection.

One of the neat things about this system is that when you are carrying it around, it can wirelessly detect if other people are carrying one around too, and then it swaps data between you without you even knowing until you check it later. This means little caricatures of people can show up in your system and you can use them to battle monsters and crap, and also you can virtually fight each others’ collectible figures, and all kinds of other junk. This, by extension, means that it is good to be carrying your 3DS when you are surrounded by a group of people, because more swapped data means MORE FUN!!!!!!

I would like to believe that I have not actually seen any Japanese person carrying around a 3DS in a month because they are all squirreled away secret in their bags trying to detect other systems, but the fact of the matter is that I just don’t know if that is the case or not. Once I get mine (maybe another week or two?) I’m going to go Osaka on a weekend and cruise through Yodobashi and maybe park my ass in Doutonbori and see how many I get. This is what I have paid money for–virtual, real-world wireless fishing for humans (it also includes a fishing game).

Another neat thing about it is that you can play games that have to do with the camera. There is one game called “Face Raiders” where you take a picture of something’s face, then it maps it onto the enemies in the game and you have to spin around and shoot them out of the air. Naturally I plan on photographing my cat, so that every time he rips up my tatami mats I can turn on the 3DS and rip up his face with phasers.

REGARDING YESTERDAY’S LUNCH

When I first started working here, I noticed a strange man coming in each day around the same time, then leaving, then coming back with a metal lunchbox full of various foods for people. As I later learned, he is a food delivery guy for a local restaurant who services a variety of local workplaces in the neighborhood. I have ordered from him on a variety of occasions: average oyakodon (chicken and egg on rice), sub-par tannindon (beef and egg on rice), the saltiest curry I have ever tasted, and other things. Yesterday I wrote on the paper that I wanted the makizushi roll, except he never came to get the paper, and so he never brought the food! Apparently since lots of teachers are gone taking spring vacations right now he didn’t feel a need to come up. So me and another teacher just went to the restaurant instead.

He had told me I could see a Traditional Japanese restaurant, and it was kind of the equivalent of a really old small-town American diner, with some twists–in the glass case there were no pastries, but instead deep-fried fish pieces and strange pickled salads, and the room offset from the dining area was a tatami room with a television playing baseball. I got my sushi roll, which was a salad roll with egg and crab stick and some other weird things in it, and was eight massive pieces for about three bucks. As I ordered it a taxi driver said to me in Japanese “whoa, Japanese food is no problem for you?!” and I had to say of course not, and he asked where I was from and I told him America, and he said whoa, I thought all Americans ate was steak! and I said that would be nice but no, and he said and beer! and I said well that would be nice too but I don’t see any beer here, and I saw a twinkle of rebelliousness in my coworker’s eye but nothing happened.

The microwave in this joint was from like 1975, it made a sound like Mr. Rogers’ trolley when it finished warming up some dude’s fish.

ABOUT MY CAT

Due to a widespread sentiment that our delightful Kiki was getting “too fat,” despite most people having no idea how fat too fat is for a cat, I have instituted a diet for out cat, which works kind of like this:

1. In the morning, feed the cat half a can of food
2. At night, feed him the other half

It’s working out pretty well I guess, not that I can really tell how fat the cat is since he is entirely black and usually not standing upright. The downside is that he wakes me up at 5:30 every morning by first sinking his claws into the covers and trying to pull them off of me with absolutely no effect, then secondly by climbing up on my head and licking my hair till I wake up. He has also officially taken the title of “most able to relax” from any other previous cat I have ever had. Just last night I held him like a shovel with his head as the spade, one arm under him for support, and he was totally cool with it. Sometimes when I am playing games at the table or sitting upright, I will plop him down on my lap like a human baby, and he will just sit there, feet sticking out, front paws hanging there, being all like “sup.” What a lazy cat this cat is.

20 CLEVER WAYS TO NOT DO WORK AT WORK, EVEN THOUGH YOU STAY WAY AFTER THE TIME YOU ARE ALLOWED TO LEAVE, BUT YOU DON’T LEAVE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO APPEAR LIKE YOU ARE BUSY WITH WORK, EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NO WORK AND YOU OBVIOUSLY ARE NOT WORKING, BROUGHT TO YOU BY MY COWORKERS

1. Reload the Yahoo! main page repeatedly, perhaps to see what the new banner advertisement is this time
2. Look at clothes shopping websites, then minimize them and get out your wallet and dig for a credit card
3. Print some documents you do not need printed, then crinkle them up
4. Read a book
5. Put a book on the desk in front of you, then lean over it so it looks like you’re reading with your arms crossed, then go to sleep
6. Repeatedly drink coffee and fill the hot water heater back up with water
7. Go to Yahoo Auctions to search for the clothes you almost just bought with your credit card but didn’t actually buy
8. Discuss the same local cafe for almost fifteen minutes, going back and forth while you each say exactly the same things as the other person
9. Instead of using whiteout on one of the hundred identical misprinted forms and making new copies of it, use whiteout on all one hundred identical misprinted forms
10. Have another person read numbers to you off student tests while you type them in, instead of reading and typing at the same time (bonus points, this occupies two people)
11. Stand up, examine the schedules and information on the white board, sit down, look at some other people, stand up, walk around the room, then look at the information on the white board again
12. Visually confirm that the plastic recycling bin is indeed full, and discuss it with your coworkers, then don’t do anything
13. Ask if it is hot in here, open every window, declare it is cold, close all the windows, then open just one window
14. Leave the room and walk down the hallway, then walk back to the room
15. Find something to put in the paper shredder
16. Type loudly on your keyboard, even though your screen is off
17. Write a grocery list with devoted intensity
18. Look over at a group of people having a conversation, acting interested
19. Wikipedia (personal favorite)
20. Go to the sink, take a couple clean dishes from the drying rack, and wash them again

RANDOM OBSERVATION

One of the books that has been left here on my desk (cover price 1600 yen) says in katakana “Chorus Laboratory Party,” but the way the katakana is rendered, when you say it out loud it kinda sounds like “Call Us Lavatory Party” which is maybe something a fledgling band would say.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As April arrives again and the sakura consider blossoming, it again is time for teachers to transfer away to other schools. Though I haven’t had even close to the same severity of rank decimation around me as I did last year, when I lost all my principals and all but two of my co-teachers across three schools, I am sad to admit that my exceedingly cool co-worker who lived in Leeds, joined this school last year, and has the habit of inserting gratuitous curse words into everything today quits this school for a supreme adventure!

Despite the insistence of his superiors, he has defied the traditionally Japanese idea of working the same job for ever and ever and decided to relinquish his public teaching certificate and volunteer for the Peace Corps, already accepted to ship out in September and live in Fiji until 2012. We always spoke very casual English together over vending machine coffees, and he always made a genuine effort to speak to me and make me feel welcome. He’s only about six years older than me and I felt something of a kindred soul in him and his ideals and approach to life. He said that a man should be global, and asked for my support over Skype, before saying that leaving this country for volunteer work in another country would be his “last great adventure.” But when I consider the courage it takes to do something different in a work culture where consistency is king, I think it might just be his first one.

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Big Hammer

Three days deep into the first workweek back and I’ve yet to teach any actual “classes,” owing to Monday being a holiday, yesterday being my school’s opening ceremony day, and today being the annual “mochitsuki,” a ceremony slash event where we beat cooked rice with Big Hammer into a stretchy goo and form it into balls and eat it, which is totally a normal thing to do. I’m not sure what tomorrow at the blind school will bring, but Friday is most definitely a class day, during which I will have to explain about my trip to America without the help of the pictures and videos that I took, all lost to a random and cruel hard drive failure three hours before my flight back to Japan (along with all other pictures and videos we’ve shot since April 15th, my last backup). Are you reading this, Brandon of the future? Have you signed up for one of those handy persistent online backup things yet? To make a long story short, I can’t replace the hard drive or reinstall an operating system until I get a couple spare parts from the States, and that probably won’t happen for a few weeks or so (I’ve still got Jessy’s to check e-mail and Internet when I need to).

So, because of the lifestyle shakeup, I’m finding myself unconsciously acknowledging that I don’t have my friendly computer to sit comfortably in front of and sink time into, and am instead sinking time into other, valid pursuits: waking up and preparing breakfast, diddling around with some of the Playstation games I brought back, and endlessly tormenting my cat with the best $2.49 I’ve ever spent: a compact laser pointer that projects a single, emotionless red dot whereever there a surface be, unchanging like the bright eye of Lucifer, made manifest via three watch batteries and the souls of the Torment’d. Fixated upon it, the cat will spin circles on the ground as though a malfunctioning, indecisive Roomba vaccuum cleaner, ready to obliterate the particle of dust, if only he could catch it. And when he does, where does it go? Onto the back of his head, invisible to him, destroyed but perpetually revived, an eternal plaything and nemesis. I use it as mind control: just trace the path you want the cat to follow and watch him bend to your every whim, even leaping diagonally at the walls in an effort to strike the dot from its perilous arc up and off the floor.

Perhaps the biggest trouble I’ve had with re-integration to the society of Kobe is sticker shock, especially in the realm of fresh foods and produce. To go from paying 49 cents for a pound of apples to potentially 500 yen for a single, though surely tasty apple, is bizarre. The stores, devoid of any sales or discounts, are massively less exciting for bred consumers such as myself than the ones in the States; upon check-out from our local supermarket the other day I received an automatically generated coupon from the machine next to the register. It was for ten cents off my next single can of Suntory beer and lo there was rejoicing, and by rejoicing I mean I urinated due to pure glee so divine I lost my bladder control at the very sight of those two numbers one and zero right next to each other dear god ten cents off.

This is to speak nothing of course of the annoyance that comes at again being incapable of confidently conducting casual, reasoned conversations with shopkeeps, coworkers, and ne’er-do-wells in my vicinity. Right now I find myself in the somewhat annoying position of having about twenty pounds of coins that I’d like to deposit into my bank account, which I can apparently only do from the hours of 9 to 3 on weekdays, hours when all normal people are working. The one possible day I could do this is Wednesday morning, because I go into work late for night school. The idea of bringing two huge bags of coins into the bank and slapping them down on the counter by myself without actually being able to express any sort of thought related to “put the money in my account please,” assuming no possible denials of service or “count it yourself”s, is a bit unsettling, especially since I’ll have twenty pounds of coins in my possession and carrying them out of there once I’ve brought them in is not something I care to do. In the U.S. the process would be simple: call the bank and ask “can you put twenty pounds of coins in my account if I bring them in?” and then do it. In Japan, asking such direct questions is impossible, you are meant to divine the answers to questions through the careful reading of blood types, tea leaves, and phases of the moon. I think the etiquette for depositing twenty pounds of coins is to bring them to the bank, take a number like at the DMV, and then place them on the counter with your passbook while bowing and apologizing profusely for all this damned money you have. Then they will take it to the back room, make you wait for ten minutes, and return to the counter, saying only “we have intercepted your honorable money, is that okay?” Then they will wait for you to leave. Anyway I’m going to have these coins forever is the point. Hey future Brandon who now does the online backups of his data, do you still have the coins? Oh that’s terrible.

BULLET POINTS OF CONSEQUENCE
– I have now seen Tron Legacy in theaters three times, which is probably the most I have seen a movie in the theater since Mortal Kombat
– We made salads the other day from a whole head of lettuce, an apple, some carrot, chicken, and raspberry dressing, and they were way more awesome than you generally figure a salad to be
– We also watched that Baz Lurhmann movie Australia, and it was pretty alright despite needing some editing in the first third awful bad
– I’ve made breakfast burritos the last few days with some tortillas I brought back from the States and they are slammin’
– The sole literally fell off my shitty worn-out black shoes yesterday, and I sat in taffy in my newly dry-cleaned suit pants
– Somehow, the taffy came off the pants
WHOA GRIPPING

The best thing about being back in Japan is ironically that things are now “back to normal,” here in the land of good convenience store food, hyperactive nonsense television, tissue-packet distributors, ramen shops, and all-girl 48-member idol bands. It is thanks to Jessica that I find an anchor, as occasionally worrysome an anchor as it is, though not as worrysome as Big Hammer, which I have to be careful of tonight when the mochi beatings happen “because the splatter.”

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Various premium

Today’s the neon Times Square to the every-day corner bar: with about four times the screen real estate I am finding myself left feeling a little naked. Today instead of my diminutive Eee PC I’ve got my main laptop, the big ol’ Studio 15, with me here at night school, and it’s almost a little shocking to be typing a Nomaday on a full-sized keyboard instead of that cramped little wonder. The screen on this one is so vibrant and bright in this new setting that I actually had to dim it a bit to feel more comfortable.

I didn’t just lug this thing all the way out here for kicks though. Spurned on by an only semi-planned viewing last evening of A Charlie Brown Christmas, I took it upon myself to acquire said Motion-Picture in the highest of defs, and plan on showing it to my kids tonight as our final lesson until January 12th. All I want is what I have coming to me! All I want is my fair share! (This movie, upon further review, probably had more of a hand than I had consciously realized in shaping my own linguistic tendencies at a tender age.) Though the ending happens to be a little heavy-handedly Christian in its message, at least the damned thing deals with a Christian holiday. Christmas may very well be about Christ! I’m just not seeing it. Truly of all the Charlie Browns in the world, I’m the Charlie Browniest.

That said, I cannot imagine that my kids will be shocked, offended, put upon, or even aware of any sort of message that exists in the film which happens to be conveyed by dialogue, well-meaning but only-kinda-knowledgeable high schoolers that they are. This one will need to survive on charisma (and Snoopy) alone. The show is 25 minutes and my classes tonight are a shortened 35, so I’ll only need to blow a few intro and extro minutes with a bit of simple exposition (Charles Schulz invented these characters, they play this on TV every winter, it is 45 years old, yes Vince Guaraldi is the Man). Then we’ll be all set.

As luck would have it, it hasn’t been just any ordinary day that I chose to heft this weighty machine around. No, instead of going straight to work at the prescribed time, today I accomplished some most famous errands: the contest prize that I promised a lucky N-Sider reader has been verily, and tardily, sent off, with a few little toys and treats included as a bold repentance for my sins. In addition, after a somewhat linguistically baffling trip to the immigration office, I am now the proud bearer of a Japanese multiple re-entry permit, which allows me to enter (and re-enter) the country as many times as I do so wish until the day my visa bites the three-year big one. Of course to enter the country I must first leave the country, which I will most certainly be doing approximately a week from now. Hopefully in the future I’ll leave it again for at least India and Thailand, the only two places nearby that I really give enough of a shit to want to pay to visit. And at about sixty bucks for this permit I had better get my money’s worth! A final task this morning was to pay some slightly overdue bills, which I did at FamilyMart while buying a Monster Hunter Portable 3 branded bottle of soda and a piece of spicy breaded chicken in a paper envelope. (I chose the FamilyMart over Lawson specifically because I prefer FamilyMart’s spicy breaded.)

Kobe south of the station is decked out like a carnival and lit-up like Gary Busey thanks to the annual arrival of Luminarie, a massive exhibition/celebration in remembrance of the Great Hanshin Earthquake fifteen years ago. This thing consists of a variety of enormous white arches totally covered in thousands and thousands of little twinkly lights, set up over a street and ending in the community park. This has resulted in absolute throngs of people swarming the area for about a week now. I strolled through during the day today for not the first time, which provides an eerie duality: totally vacant but for the tarps of the street vendor’s tents. I haven’t been to see it at night this year, but if it’s anything like last year, and of course it is, the other side of the coin is feeling like a crayon in one of those 64-packs of Crayolas, and you’re in a case with other 64-packs, and the case is on a pallet with other cases, and the pallet is on a boat with a fucking million people slamming into you and stopping to take goddamned pictures all the time. If you are wondering, obviously I will go see it again this year, because I hate myself and I routinely do dumb crap.

Now ended, like many other things this time of year, is my Japanese class, which has shockingly improved my abilities to comprehend what others are saying while not entirely improving my ability to speak at anywhere near something approaching a conversational level above that of a broom talking to a wall. The only solution of course is to Speak More with People, but it’s hard to consciously take the mental hit and reduce yourself to broom level. As a compensation I have begun and will continue to study kanji and vocabulary, easily my weakest points. If I can read it and understand it I can interpret it and “translate” it, which is essentially endgame when it comes to my ultimate desires regarding the Japanese language. Now that I’ve turned in my acceptance form for a third year on my contract, I’m guaranteed to at least have some more chances to utterly embarrass myself in this foreign land that happens to be my home. I will never criticize anyone who is trying to learn a language again (as long as they are trying). Unless that language is Klingon.

CURIOUS THINGS
– Mitsuya Cider “THE PREMIUM,” which apparently cost me about forty yen more than a standard Mitsuya Cider, and which comes in a glass bottle with a metal lid and gold label, and which bears a label proclaiming its 99.9% naturalness percentage, and which says in cursive script White crystal sugar is used for various premium sweets, which is a phrase that not only tells me nothing but instills in me little to no confidence that white crystal sugar is actually used in this drink because they are too busy using it in various premium sweets
– Modern complex board games, namely one Arkham Horror, to which I was semi-introduced by a friend, being yet another potential hobby that promises to be expensive, time-consuming, space-consuming, and virtually impossible to seriously engage in so long as I live on this island four thousand miles from America
– Last weekend’s Chinese course meal and all-you-can-drink birthday party, which absolutely loaded me with draft beer, eggdrop soup, spicy rice noodles, chicken salad with peanut sauce, deep-fried orange chicken, Mabodoufu, hot Chinese wine, and Krispy Kreme donuts for dessert
– The ensuing karaoke fiesta, which started with six and ended up with nearly twelve people in a room the size of a hotel bathroom with a TV at the front, two microphones, two tambourines, unlimited whisky highballs, and the theme song to Married with Children
– This bitchin’ beef stew that I made last night with huge chunks of carrots and potatoes and beef and which I instinctively prepared a huge pot of rice for while thinking that “you can’t have stew without rice” and which I ate with rice anyway and which was bitchin’ like I said
– My cat, who while I slept last night, came to rest on my pillow, wrapped himself around my head, and meticulously groomed with his tongue the entirety of my visible hair, which is after my recent cut now short enough that it felt like my head was being brushed with a dish sponge, and who I tried to stop once but lacked the persistence to follow through with, and who I eventually just let go because fuck it it’s your mouth, cat (I will not be returning the favor)
CURIOUS THINGS

I’ve taken again, as I often do in cycles, to playing some games on my PSP lately instead of reading or listening to music during my commute and down time. The most recent one is a game called Half-Minute Hero, which initially consists of an RPG where you have to save the world from the Dark Lord. The trick is that as soon as the game starts he casts a spell which will end the entire world in thirty seconds, so you need to level up, buy equipment, and get to the castle and kill him before thirty seconds are up. More games should be like this, because my attention span is pretty bad alrea

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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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Beneath the wool

Today I had the displeasure of paying a man 10,500 yen (the cost of one hundred individual goods at the 100-yen shop, plus tax) to come to my apartment on my morning off with an enormous tool that looked kind of like a machine that you might use to give a robot an enema.

I don’t own any automata but he definitely reamed something other than my wallet: our shower room’s drainpipe, which clogged Monday night and flooded the kit and kaboodle while Jessy tried to do laundry. The only physical good I have been left with as a result of this monetary exchange is a sizable, tightly woven wad of assorted hair which now rests in peace inside a vacated tissue box planted firmly in the garbage can. After removal, the man gestured to it sitting on the shower’s tile as though it was either a cancerous blob or some sort of holy implement; I’m not sure, I don’t know the vocabulary for what he actually referred to it as. I am sure at least that since it was mine it became my “honorable disgusting wad of gross crap,” at least. I cannot recall the specifics. Anyway, though I am missing out on the boatload full of potential 100-yen items, I can now bathe myself and wash clothes, which has to count for something.

Last year’s Nomaday from this very Wednesday in 2009 reads like an eerie parallel of the current situation. To excerpt: I am again waiting to receive this year’s [i]Call of Duty[/i] shooty-game in the mail, I’m attending the Japan Games Festa in Osaka this weekend, I’m really looking forward to payday next Tuesday, and it’s my birthday today. I am not doing anything too special, unless special includes paying a man to dig hair out of my plumbing.

In other news I’m happy to report that the weather is really starting to cool off, and it’s no longer an incredible, shitty pain in the ass to go on trips.

How about the cat? He is as cat-like as ever, routinely lying around, sleeping, headbutting hands and legs, lunging mysteriously at toys that he is suddenly frightened by, attacking every rug in the house, and meowing for no reason. When the bathroom was flooded the other day he hopped in, then freaked out and leapt three feet in the air. Sometimes I pick him up off the ground and hold him like a baby to see how long he can go before he tries to squirm his way out. He lasts longer each time, and before long I’ll be twirling him above my head.

I am happy to report that although I am not participating in this fool’s errand you may have heard of called “national novel writing month,” I have indeed been doing some meaningful work on my novel over the last few weeks, albeit slightly limited in word count. At any rate, I am pleased with its quality. Perhaps it is because I routinely compose 2,000+ word articles over at N-Sider or in this very journal that I am not compelled or content to write simply to produce strings of letters, though for every man who has that super exciting Ninjas vs. Cast of Glee fanfiction epic bubbling up inside them I am sure this communal opportunity for shared busywork is a godsend.

Anyway, I just couldn’t leave you sitting here any longer without at least something in you, precious journal. You looked old and dead and that was creepy. So here you go, right on schedule, three weeks back. Maybe I will find some other, better time to use on the story-writing, because by gosh I missed you.

IN JAPAN
– Pepsi released their new “Mont Blanc” special-edition cola last week, and though they claim it tastes like chestnuts what it really tastes like is a cross between Vanilla Pepsi and the maligned Coke Blak–a delightful combination of sweetness and coffee. It is slammin’. Other new product? Pizza Margherita Cup Noodle, which tastes more like pizza than several actual Japanese pizzas I have eaten
– That Russell Crowe movie Robin Hood, which came out in the States some months ago, finally releases in Japan some time in December. In honor of its impending release, we downloaded the uncut high-definition version from the Internet and watched it at home
– I’ll be going back to America for the holidays in approximately five weeks, and I’ve already bought the ticket. I reserved it on the internet, grabbed a confirmation code from an e-mail, went to a Lawson convenience store, used their special terminal to print out a payment slip, then took it to the cash register and bought my ticket by slapping down well over a thousand bucks, in cash. She didn’t act like it was a big deal
– Japan and China kinda hate each other right now, because everyone seems pretty focused on fighting over a bunch of dumb shit like someone’s boat running into someone else’s boat. I think Japan is forgetting the good things about China: they invented fried rice, and some other stuff
– Still learning and studying Japanese, at a bit of a deliberate pace. Even at two nights a week I am stripped of virtually all my weeknight free-time, and despite my time investment just last week I finally learned how to say that I want something. It’s hard to say how much longer it will take, but before long I anticipate moving from the level of cerebrally-challenged carrot to that of slightly-stilted squash
– Street Fighter IV is more and more a Japanese game as I continue to play it: your performance is attributable solely to you and dependent on no other factors outside of your opponent. This game still incites stronger feelings of accomplishment and self-hatred than virtually any other game I have ever played, which is kind of reflective of the Japanese spirit in general
NAPAJ NI

We’re getting a new refrigerator triple the capacity of our current one next week, which is a concession I made to Jessy despite my desire to return to simpler times when we had less stuff. As a sort of compensatory event we have agreed to at least rid ourselves of the old, tiny fridge, and perhaps trade the desk for some open space. Still, despite the additional space gobbled up and the expense, I am having a hard time not being excited about the fact that I’ll be able to keep more than two beers in the refrigerator, and I’ll be able to buy huge packages of meat from Costco and keep them in (one of!) the freezer(s). The damned thing even has a fourteen-space egg tray! In addition to the fridge on top and the two freezer drawers on the bottom, the very very bottom is a vegetable crisper drawer, an impossible luxury. The idea that I might be able to preserve a quantity of food significant enough that I need not visit the grocery store four times a week is liberating and shocking, and soon I will understand what it means to live in this bold new year, 1968.

I think part of my apprehensiveness to getting more things is knowing that as usual I am still transient. Though physically I now settle into a comfortable sort of established life in Japan, the fact that I’ve become increasingly aware that my time is limited causes me to revolt against the idea of being comfortable. Part of me says that’s what life is, always coursing on with the possibility that any day could be your last one in any certain place for whatever reason, and the other part says for the same reason, why not get comfortable? I think it might become a little different once the prospect of moving does not involve sending everything I own 6000 miles across the ocean.

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Must swim three times

I am surrounded by men, women, antsy kids, Jessy, and television screens in a multi-floor building as nice as a hotel. I’m near Shin-Kobe station, and on the third floor of this big place, where a man has hung a little plastic card around my neck that says Guest. In a tiny room adorned with what I can only classify as “exotic brick-a-brac” we watch the television screens together. It’s a live broadcast from an area near Mount Fuji. Highlights: man screams and shoots an arrow into a bush which is then lit on fire, man chops at the air with a sword to cleanse it from barriers to self-realization, old lady wearing little hat does hand motions while holding tiny sticks, which are then tossed into the fire. Together the people chant around me in a language I cannot understand, a situation I figure I should be more used to than I am by now. I am attending a special Buddhist service as a visiting member of the Shinnyo-en school, which literally means “Borderless Garden of Truth.” As believers we seek the awareness of the self through meditation and Buddha’s Mahaparinirvana Sutra. Am I a believer? What’s there to believe but that I am or am not? I figure in general it’s harder to not believe in stuff than it is to believe. After temple I buy a bag of chickpeas because we’re gonna make some hummus this week.

Japan is currently doing what it is it does, gearing up in much the same way as it did last year for the full arrival of fall. Though fall is technically officially here it’s still occasionally warm enough for people to get the wrong idea, and until the light scarves and jackets come out I hesitate to wave the flag. My true barometer is merely the appearance of special food products and fall-themed drinks, which haven’t really started popping up yet in any great numbers. I did spot new Cup Noodle flavors today, Beef Stew and Cream Stew, which I guess are kind of fall-y, but these seem to be some sort of microwave-requiring things which is just a bunch of crap. To be perfectly frank I myself am dreading the end of fall, which is slightly preventing me from enjoying it now: in the middle of December I’ll likely be embarking on a grueling couple-dozen hour journey across the ocean and back to the rolling plains of Iowa to spend the holidays, my first trip back to home soil since I arrived here. I am “not fond” of flying, which means it is my least favorite thing in the entire world except maybe getting stabbed.

Speaking of favorite things I think I’ve come to the conclusion that the root of my existential angst is not that I don’t have enough free time, but merely that I like too many things. My pesky nook e-reader has done precisely what I intended: made acquiring books so painless and reading so simple that it is my new default activity for my morning and evening commute. I read nine books in September, and the PSP and DS weep, because they want attention too. I will not even start in on the home activities, which command not only the time there but often the television. The result of all this is that I am forced to choose one of my hobbies at a time and I never get too far with any of them. It’s good to have options, I guess, but it means it just takes twice as long to do what I want. There is no point to these ramblings, just a sort of reminiscent defeatism: remember when you were 16, had no social life or significant obligations, had virtually nothing other to do than play games, and did so most veritably? If only I could go back in time and relive the same late November snow day for years and years.

Speaking of years, I ran the numbers the other day and figured out that since I’ve lived here for fourteen months and had the equivalent of about two months where I taught no classes, I’ve essentially taught twelve months of about fifteen classes a week. If you add it all up that comes to seven-hundred-and-eighty classes that I’ve taught now, which at least outnumbers the Nomadays, N-Sider articles, and every journal entry, poem, and story I’ve ever written, combined, in number (though just barely). What else have I even done 780 times this year? I’ve only woken up about 432 times. I suppose I’ve had at least 780 meals since arriving. Have I eaten popcorn 780 times in my life? Have I watched over 780 movies? Surely I’ve played over 780 video games since the age of ten or so.

At any rate I encourage you to run your own numbers, to become shockingly aware of the time we spend, without concrete markers, doing what it is we do.

Yet another thing that I’ve been doing lately is attending Japanese classes, which is enjoyable in that I am actually learning more concretely how to communicate with the people who literally surround me every single day. These skills also assist me with things like navigating the internet and securing exciting products from various websites, products which excitingly get to compete with everything else that I do for my attention.

There’s a bakery on the basement level of the Sogo department store and it’s called Donq, a name that you might expect to be the only Donq-sounding place of business in Kobe but in fact there are two others: Don Quihote (shortened colloquially to just Donki) and Bikkuri Donkey, a restaurant which literally translated means SURPRISE DONKEY. It is a hamburger steak restaurant, and scarily I enjoy eating there, perhaps because I enjoy the taste of donkey when I am expecting something that is not donkey. Anyway I have been enjoying going to Donq and buying baguettes lately, really delicious crispy-crusted bread with chewy, stretchy crumb. Last night after work I got one and had a big hunk of it eaten before I even finished walking home, then assembled a chicken breast sandwich with it and some mozzarella cheese, lettuce, and some Cookies’ barbecue sauce, a bottle of which I brought over here last year and which I still steadfastly am working at using up. I think it will take a lot of chicken sandwiches. The moral of this story is that I love Donq.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEEK
– My psychotic Japanese cat, who sometimes believes so fervently that the little stuffed mouse is stalking him that he’ll take one swat at it and run away so fast that his feet cannot provide enough traction to prevent him from sliding sideways into the wall like an out-of-control racecar
– A trip down memory lane at my soon-moving pal Jools’ place, during which I laid eyes upon 6+ years of gaming goodies, including but not limited to an unopened case of Cowboy Bebop gashapon figures, Morrigan and Lilith bookends (these came home with me), a variety of Japanese DS games, a couple Club Nintendo prizes from 2004, multiple variations of special peripheral controllers used to simulate shaking/strumming/beating/dancing, and a stack of Edge magazines that found their way into my apartment somehow
– My new favorite donburi place, where I can slide a bill into the machine, press two buttons, and be given an ice-cold draft beer and a big bowl of rice topped with thick slices of juicy fire-grilled skirt steak, lettuce, and spicy sauce for about nine bucks (you can also get grilled dark meat chicken or Korean beef)
– One of my teachers here at the night school, or more specifically the huge plastic bag full of green and red peppers and eggplant that he dumped out over next to the computer, which he grew on his farm and has extra of, and the resulting pile of vegetables, of which I am going to take, bring home, and nom
– A beverage I drank during a break, which said “hot cake flavor,” and was indeed a sweet, milky drink that tasted like a cross between drinking pancake syrup and cereal milk
– There’s a special red Nintendo DSi coming out for the Mario 25th anniversary, and the first I heard about it was seeing a video advertisement on the LCD screen mounted to the back of the cash register while I bought a melon soda at 7-11
END OF CURIOSITIES

I always manage to get through it all but I’m so tired today that I’ve almost fallen asleep at my desk twice. The bad news is that since it’s my late day I won’t even be teaching for another three hours, and I likely won’t be home for another six. Tapping my foot isn’t really doing it and I already ate my two string cheeses and drank my soda. I took a little stroll down the hall to the restroom too, just to see if I might snap out it. No luck! If I have the energy once I’m out of here, I am buying the nicest beer a handful of change will get me, and sucking it down as I breathe in the wind on the way to Kosoku-Nagata and home.

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The mute appeal to sympathy for our decay

I wrote an essay last week for the high school’s English journal, where my pieces are frequently accompanied by a silly bishounen pretty-boy manga-style drawing of myself, done, I presume, by some commissioned student. The teacher before me had one of her too, and they are both too caricaturely spot-on to be stock illustrations, unless someone’s got a folder titled “goofy gaijin clip-art” sitting around on a hard drive somewhere. In the essay I talk about how invigorating it is that summer, that bitch, is finally gone, and how nice it is to be able to breathe the crisp air again, and how I really love not losing 5% of my body weight in sweat every time I walk to work. I do not know if anyone read it, but I told them this is their chance for a fresh start! A chance to take a nice deep pull on that grassy breeze and re-evaluate their lives! So I did it, and things are mostly the same, but with minor adjustments. For example, the other day I got rid of nearly all the non-jeans clothes I came here with, cut for big wide western boys instead of slim Japanese boys, and noticed how 92% of my wardrobe is now comprised specifically of clothes to be worn to work. Then I decided I want a good kitchen knife, and conned Jessy into asking me what I wanted for my birthday so I could tell her the exact model number and specifications of the knife. Then I ate potato chips. That doesn’t have anything to do with the essay.

Anyway, it’s all true! My favorite time of year is finally starting to show its head and good god is it ever overdue. A couple days outside of October and we were finally able to put the air conditioner off (for good?) about a week ago, opting to just keep the sliding doors open. Our increasingly brave feline also enjoys the change, and it allows him to plop down and stare longingly out through the screen doors at the pigeons, which I am sure he dreams of brutally, mercilessly murdering. This makes us fast friends by default, though he has taken to rubbing and brushing and head-nuzzling at all opportunities he has anyway in case I didn’t get the picture. The other day when I was achieving a 90% completion rate on Space Invaders Infinity Extreme my eyes fogged over and I dreamt again of catching one of those birds and tying it up, only this time I would put it in a cardboard box and then drop the cat in and close the lid and treat what happened in there as our little secret, our dirty evil secret don’t tell your mother or father this is just between us and it feels so nice.

And how about that cat. In about a month’s time he’s gone from refusing to emerge from the couch at all to coming out when beckoned to coming out at the sound of shaking food, to just staying out unless he’s sleeping during the day. Things he is talented at: laser-focusing on every rug in the house and messing them up, eating all his food within seconds, losing his toys, licking toes, getting in the way of your feet while you walk so that you accidentally step on/kick him, refusing to sit still for two goddamned seconds so I can take a picture of him with my slow cell-phone camera. I worry sometimes about the decision we made to adopt this Kiki, because I, unlike Jessica, sometimes think about the future, and the enormous day-long plane ride in the cargo hold that he’ll need to endure, and the ways we’ll need to care for him as we transition back to life in the States ourselves. But those things, like most things, can be overcome, and for now it’s nice to have our occasionally psychotic and always loveable magic cat prowling the apartment.

We left him alone for a day last weekend to go with a group of friends to Universal Studios Japan, a hop/skip/shuttle train/staircase away from Kobe over in Osaka. Universal Studios Japan is sort of horrifying as an American because it is done up to look like some bizarrely idyllic America itself, which is one of the major draws to Japanese tourists. I tried to imagine what something like “Hello Kitty World Minneapolis” would look like, but couldn’t stop thinking of the other Japanese amusement park I had recently attended for the third time, Costco. In the spirit of this situation I decided to kick off the morning by eating a chicken sandwich from Lawson and downing it with an 8:15 AM Asahi Super Dry (which I casually referred to as “vitamin B,” my finest hour). PROTIP: The B stands for beer.

It had been over a year since I had seen a traditional red stop sign, but they’re everywhere in USJ, lining the fake streets where there is no traffic, and where I felt paranoid walking because I was afraid the non-existent cars would run me over. At one point I saw an honest to goodness blue United States Postal Service mailbox beside a fake store; the lid was welded shut. Even our sort-of-bartender at the sort-of-Irish pub Finnegan’s was cut from the American mold: born in Bangladesh, speaking conversational Japanese, and using his naturally-accented English but strange phrasing on us, he offered us green beer (in September) to go with our plate of beef stew. Accompaniments: four green beans, three potato wedges. Across the street was a hot dog cart and Spiderman’s ride. In the middle of the park Peter Pan and Wendy floated around with wires, and then I sat in a fake DeLorean while Japanese-dubbed Christopher Lloyd screamed to me that I needed to stop “Biffu! Biiiiiffuuu!” My friend thought that later in the day I was just screaming “beef” for fun even though I was impersonating Japanese Doc Brown. At the end we watched scenes from the early 1990s movie Backdraft, with videos featuring director’s commentary from a dubbed Richie Cunningham, and then an enormous million-lightbulb freak parade happened. It was a weird day.

Though the weather is getting nice again, my schedule is unfortunately unable to say the same things about itself. I am now bogged down with obligations, owing in no small part to the resumption of my Japanese language classes, which I was first told I didn’t get into, and then was later told I did get into. That means I lose Monday night and Thursday night every week for the negligible benefit of a two hour language class, with Wednesday night always gobbled by my night school, giving me Tuesday night and Friday night free (conveniently, the very same two nights that Jessy has her own Japanese lessons). This virtually ensures that we will rarely, if ever, see each other, and is a blessing for the continued sanity of us both.

RETURN OF CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE NOW
– My new Nintendo Game and Watch, which is a reproduction of a 30-year-old electronic toy, and which Nintendo had made by the actual guy who made the original, working from only original units and virtually no documentation, and which I love
– A new orange beverage I got at the Daily Yamazaki called “Morning Rescue,” which I figured contained vitamins and stuff, but which I didn’t read closely enough to see that it actually contains ukon, an anti-hangover drink, and which I believe has caused the people around me to believe I may be drunk, which I kinda wish I was
– A promotional video for the new video game Dead Rising 2, which consists of a somewhat weird-faced woman wearing a bikini and sitting on a yoga ball while playing the game and bouncing up and down, the camera doing wild zoom shots on her cleavage instead of the actual game the video means to promote
– I’ve been to not-my-favorite ramen place several times recently for their tomato ramen, while my favorite place, with WILD BOAR COUNTRY RAMEN and a frozen lychee, remains neglected, and I need to change this immediately
– The old-ass NEC laptop on the desk next to me, which looks really, really old, and which, merely sitting there idle, sounds like an electric pencil sharpener
– Fucking McDonald’s, which has still not brought back the Juicy Chicken Akatogarashi sandwich, and which I am going to get very mad at unless they do it soon
– Sofmap clearing out a lot of their old PS1 games, which means that yesterday for fifty yen each I got Cool Boarders, Bust-A-Move, Ridge Racer Type 4, and Parasite Eve all in immaculate condition
– My Japanese PS1 game collection in general, on which I have not spent more than a dollar for any individual game, and now numbers fifteen titles
– A new fashion trend among dolled-up young Japanese ladies, which involves hanging a fox tail from your belt loop regardless of whether you are a professional trapper of wild game or not
THIS HAS BEEN CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE NOW

On Friday it’s my school’s sports day, a bizarre and confusing event in which participation, like English education, is compulsory for all students. They grunt and slave together through a variety of strange events and then a class is rewarded for their crushing victory. Though not officially compulsory for me, this marks the second year now that I’ve been asked to run in a relay race with other teachers. As with last time my only real prayer is that I manage to find a good seat in the right place, enjoy watching the events of the day, and most importantly don’t fall down when I am running. Dear lifeforce just keep those feet pushing off the ground and don’t get overanxious. I don’t even care if I slow the whole damned group just keep my face off the gravel please. And when I am done, I will drink beer, and it will be delicious, and it will be the weekend, and I will try yet again to light my goddamned coals.

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I’m Pat Sajak and Vanna White

I can always tell when someone’s from somewhere else cause I get stuck on the escalator. Yet another unwritten rule of Japan: in Kobe you stand on the right and walk on the left. When I’m parading down the left side all “la-dee-dah gonna miss my train” and see a traffic jam I look ahead to whomever’s in front, comfortable in the knowledge that they are not one of us, that they are the outsider, and that even if they don’t realize it, they understand how I once felt here. For the tiniest moment, I have something significant in common with a random stranger passing through, and I want to tell the poor shit to take a step to the right you dumbass, and open your fucking eyes. But I usually just exchange glances with a surly looking elderly person nearby, glances which say “normally we would hate each other, but let’s hate that person screwing up the escalator instead, together. Man that guy sucks.”

In other news yesterday Japan made the bold political decision to do nothing regarding the selection of their current Prime Minister to the office he already holds, a leader who they did not elect, but who they have now elected merely by striking everything they said last year down and admitting that no, we thought change was good when we chose the LDP, but Hatoyama was a nutjob, and then we got Kan, and Kan’s okay right? it’s easier to just leave it this way, change is bad, Yes We Kan(‘t), let’s enjoy Hokkaido butter. I agree with all of that except the Kan stuff, which I basically have no opinion about because since I am a dirty foreigner I can’t vote anyway so who gives a shit. The yen is now at a rate of 82 for a dollar! I’m rich, or would be if I could actually save any money and didn’t have to send tons of it home every month to make the minimum loan payments.

Speaking of using money wisely, on Friday after work I’m hopping on a bullet train to Tokyo, from where I will zip along the bay to Chiba for my first trip to the Tokyo Game Show, a dream I’ve had since I was but a wee young lad. As N-Sider’s Japanese correspondent I will deliver a variety of articles under the guise of journalism. At the Tokyo Game Show an attendee is surrounded by lines of people who are waiting to play the brand-new barely-ever-seen unreleased games that he would like to play, but cannot because there are too many people. I assume. Also there is a thing called Cosplay Alley, where young males and females of varying levels of attractiveness exhibit the costumes they’ve spent fortunes on by dressing up like characters from anime, manga, and video games, 10% of which are mainstream enough for a person to recognize. Am I making it sound like I have been to TGS before? I haven’t. These are just guesses, like how I am guessing that tomorrow will still be not cold.

With the secret of the pressure-activated ass-blasting nozzles now firmly revealed (I read an article about them, during which I discovered that the bidet people found the “best angles” by collecting data from upwards of fifty seriously devoted company employees), there are now precious few mysteries remaining as I continue to persist here in this off-beat land. I set about tackling a couple of them in tandem the other night: special giveaway contests and online Japanese auctions. See, in Japan you can participate in a giveaway contest for almost every field and with nearly every product. They are usually targeted to obsessive otaku geeks like me (I am in the process of sending away five “special stamps” from limited edition packets of Cup Noodle for a shot at one of a thousand special Cup Noodle plastic Gundam models). Another easy target is shut-in losers with nothing else in their lives to look forward to or derive pleasure from but a contest win, a category I don’t particularly desire to place myself in but well.

Invariably these things are called “campaigns,” and they will always successfully terminate with a “present,” the number of which will be given away always being clearly stated. The word campaign used to make me think of only politics or military war events before I moved to Japan, and now all I can think of is photographing QR barcodes on the backs of gummy packages and limited edition Yoshinoya beef crossovers with Daily Yamazaki convenience stores for special gyudon steamy buns. For kicks, I sometimes imagine these are military activities anyway and that the Japan Self Defense Force is secretly manufacturing Coca-Cola sandals in an effort to protect themselves from North Korea.

My personal vice is gaming, and so one of the first courses of action I took when I arrived in Japan was registering for Club Nintendo, a point-accumulation reward program that delivers menial amounts of points to you as you spend godforsaken amounts of cash on Nintendo products and type in the special codes that are included on little papers that come inside the box. Accumulate enough points in one October to September campaign period (400), and you reach “platinum status” for that year, entitling you to a free, mysterious present that they announce and ship out roughly six months after the period has ended. In the past they have given out stuff like special-design accessories, a TV remote that looks like a Wii controller, plush Mario hats, and last year an exact replica of the first Nintendo Game and Watch (Ball). For dweebs like me the elements of fan-servicey fan-service combined with the knowledge of a proven track record for platinum gifts along with the mystery (oh god if I don’t hit platinum status I won’t get the free prize even though I have no idea what it will be but I am sure it is going to be GOOD!) synthesize a brutal cocktail–there was simply no “deciding” whether or not I was going to get platinum status, I Must.

Therein lies the rub. Despite going out of my way to this year purchase three Wii Remotes, a MotionPlus accessory, two Classic Controller Pros, Mario Kart Wii, an extra steering wheel, a black nunchuk accessory, Wii Fit with a Balance Board, Sin and Punishment 2, Captain Rainbow, Super Mario Strikers Charged, and some other shit I am surely forgetting, I now have (two weeks from the end of the campaign year) a paltry, insulting 285 points, relegating me to pathetic “gold” status, for which I will receive the shittiest calendar known to man.

Enter mystery number two: Yahoo! Auctions! I mean, why not? There have to be lots of people who are addicted to selling stuff in online auctions instead of chasing impossible contests, right? As it turns out, yes! A cursory Yahoo! Auctions search turned up a man who for the low price of only about 15 bucks was willing to sell me a full 400 points worth of Club Nintendo codes, enough for me to hit platinum this year and get me damned close next year. So I bought it! (Well, after I spent thirty minutes making my Japanese Yahoo account, registering it for the auction website, and figuring out how to actually bid.) After I won the auction I realized there was a problem and that problem was that I had no idea how to pay the man without a credit card. So I sent him an insultingly simplistic Japanese language e-mail asking “where does the money go” and he responded with a list of Japanese banks and numbers and his name and all this shit that I tried and failed to type into the ATM last night and so I haven’t given him his money yet but I sure will try again soon. In conclusion I am doing some stuff in Japanese that I didn’t think I could do but I seem to be capable of doing (sort of). Mysteries obliterated! Was that interesting to read? I doubt it.

KIKIWATCH 2010

Here, look at my fucking cat:

Man Kiki is just the coolest. He is comfortable enough now to actually be out and about as long as we don’t make any crazy sudden movements involving our scary legs. The other day I found him just chillin’ in the bathroom sink, all like “what.” He sometimes comes up on the couch now, he plays with his toy which is a little fuzzy thing on a stick, and he also really loves it when I give him this special meat snack thing which is like a big hunk of moist fish jerky. Also, when the fatass runs out of food and water at 3:35 in the morning, he walks into my bedroom, plops down on the floor next to me, and meows until I wake up and refill them. Surprisingly enough this doesn’t fill me with rage and hate like it used to do with other pets, perhaps because I know that this one is my pet, and this apartment is my apartment, and if I refuse to be kind to the cat there is nobody else for him to bother except Jessy, who is more of a loose cannon. I heard her saying “shut up shut up shut up” to the cat yesterday morning at 3:35, which is just stupid since he is a cat and he can’t understand you because he is Japanese and doesn’t speak very good English you twerp.

END OF KIKIWATCH

I guess I should be proud that I made it through twelve weeks of this year at night school before not really knowing what to do anymore–my kids here are of such disparate skill levels that to play any game that implies or requires English ability is essentially a wash with most of them, and a game that requires equal participation from everyone is equally futile since generally none of them want to be here. The best games are of the kind where students are prompted for no more than a letter, number, or word of their choosing, and after Pictionary, a number counting game, a mystery word game, hangman, vocabulary bingo, Jeopardy, and a few other things, I am all but tapped out. Tonight I will take a big leap to a new game I have made up called hot seat, where I will present the class with a basic list of adjectives, and then for the first half of class I will describe simple objects using basic adjectives and get them to try to guess what I am talking about. For the second half I will force a sampling of students to describe a mystery object themselves to the rest of the class, which will likely fail miserably.

Or I’ll just play hangman with point values and call it Wheel of Fortune then drown my sorrows in vending machine beer on my walk home.

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Keep an eye on the cat and another on the frying pan

I have harbored our new cat Kiki for the last four days now, but if you entered the apartment you’d be hard-pressed to believe me if I told you (were it not for the litter tray and dishes of food, which let’s be honest, I could be using myself). You see, the cat is in my home, but he lives so mysteriously! Like a sun-allergic breakfast sausage he spends the entirety of my waking hours tucked into the empty, cloth-covered space behind the couch, unreachable, invisible, uncoaxable, unresponsive to everything. To that end, following in the footsteps tread by the best footage suppliers of America’s Most Horrifying Security Camera Videos, I have today engineered my computer to act as a motion-detecting video recorder, trained on the main area of the living room in an effort to monitor this secretive beast while I am out humpin’ for yen as a tool of the Japanese public school system.

I’m not sure what I expect to see when I get back home and Go To The Tape. The only things routinely disturbed are the handful of anemic flowers which sit inside a ceramic vase on the table, and they’re not even so damaged, just knocked around, a single joint in the stem of each flower. Will I see him nuzzling the television? Rearranging all the furniture with his head then pushing it back to normal two hours later? I left a small, catnip-stuffed squishy mouse in direct view of the all-seeing eye in an effort to coax him into providing entertaining viewing, but am unsure if my efforts will yield watchable television.

Kiki must be so proud of his considerate handiwork. He seems to be an exceptionally harmless cat–he hasn’t broken anything or torn anything apart or bitten or scratched us during his secretive night-time exercises. Even when I ruined myself in his eyes forever by trying to yank him out of the couch and move him to a smaller room for his own comfort, he never once attacked or yowled or bit, just slunk further into the couch. He has begun recently to start acknowledging his strange new self-contradictory thought processes, which we figure go something like this:

“I am a cat, and my situation is very new and frightening, but I crave the love and attention of the two humans who inhabit this weird place! I will leave my safe and cozy tunnel now, and perhaps I will watch them sleep, meowing just outside the entrance to their bedroom as though I desire contact, but then THEY SAW ME OHSHITOHSHITOHSHITOHSHIIIIIIIIIIohshit”

The crux of the situation is that the cat eats, drinks, sleeps, and uses the litter box routinely, just not during any time when we are in view. He occasionally lets out a few tiny squeakmeows, presumably to say either “what the fuck where am I” or to verify whether we are or are not around by listening for a response to his yip. Caught between fear and desire, we figure it will just be a matter of time before the mere sight of us does not cause him to arch his back like the McDonald’s logo. I suppose the real question is whether the duration of that period will be a few more days, weeks, or months. I want to tell him “we do not want to hurt you, and in fact want to love you,” but I am having a hard time translating that into cat.

BONUS: security cam footage of the cat jumping on the table from today since I just got back home!

Oh god, have I become one of those people who talks about their cat all the time? I assure you it is only because my life is devoid of more exciting tropes at the moment. Close runner-up: classes are back in session, and I’ve already taught ten of them with two more on the way and it’s like I never left. In my English Speaking Society yesterday (a smallish club populated with two first-year girls and a boy), we were having a conversation about winter in Iowa, and then they asked me if I ever “burned marshmallows” before, and then I proceeded to tell them about S’mores (the word is short for “some more,” I explained, because they are delicious, and you always want some more of them). Being presented with the concept of the graham cracker seemed to be an Earth-shaking, revelatory experience for them.

“The graham cracker is a cracker, made with honey,” I tell them. They ask me “is it a biscuit?” “Well, no.”

In conclusion, we will be using the English Speaking Society’s meeting time to make S’mores at some point in the near future, once I figure out how to get big marshmallows and graham crackers in Japan.

All that most people in Japan seem capable of talking about right now is the summer and its associated phenomena: “it’s hot,” “it sure is hot,” “this is a very hot time,” “it is not a cool day,” and so on. It makes for a thoroughly boring societal experience, bombarded by uncomfortable, humid weather, unpopulated with any sort of seasonal festivities, and lacking the refreshing charm of a season that has now been dragging on for well over three months. The one thing we did have in August was a thing called Bon, a time period distinctly uninteresting to foreign people, during which the people of this country recognize the deceased family members they have known in the past. Their spirits return to the world and then leave it again. I personally am more fond of cherry blossom season, where you celebrate by sitting outside in “some shady” by a tree, looking at the tree, and drinking beer. Yes, I hate the summer. When will it be October? Oh, in about a month. Something in my life doesn’t seem as refreshing as it used to be, and I am blaming the summer and the fact that leaving my balcony door open would be like running a garden hose in the living room right now. It is the air, the air, the air. It’s gotta be! Maybe it is something else.

AND NOW, A BRIEF ASIDE DEALING WITH MY OBVIOUSLY DEPLORABLE CONDUCT IN THE SOCIAL COMPANY OF OTHERS

Oh hi! The other day Jessy and I went to a little party on the island with some new people on the program and it was pretty fun. I drank some gin and colas and listened to some relaxed and nice people talk about Dungeons and Dragons, whisky, the Sega Saturn, and other excellent things. Then on our way home while we were talking to a nice couple who taste wine as a hobby and play Jazz music together and who made couscous and ordered a piano or something, I made the mistake of asking Jessy about a facet of her “special” school, a topic which she brought up! Here is a representation of the conversation:

Jessy: “In my nakayoshi school (translator’s note: nakayoshi means “special friend”) the kids got injured while they were trying to make a human pyramid!”
Me, somewhat quietly, directly to Jessy, in total deadpan: “Retarded pyramids?”
The other couple, non-verbally, apparently, cause Jessy told me about this since I didn’t actually look at them since I was not considering their reaction to my stupid joke: Total mouth-agape shock
Other non-American friend, in damage-control mode: “Did you know Americans still use the word ‘retard’ seriously? It’s true!”
Me, American: “I had no idea.”
Mosquito: Bites me
Jessy, later: “Brandon you asshole!”
Me: What

But I do not mean to blame the victim-couple for having no sense of humor, or even for being from another country with vastly different political-correctness sensibilities (they elected a woman as Prime Minister, after all). In fact, the wife of the couple laughed at one of my jokes earlier (it was funnier than the word retard, and I cannot remember it). One time a while ago they visited our house to comment on the overbearing sweetness in a bottle of eight-dollar peach wine that Jessy bought and invited them over to try, because they like to taste their liquor. I thought that was pretty funny! (At the recent party, Jessy tasted “pretzels and licorice” in one of the wines, but I am not sure if those are valid wine-taster tastes to notice.) Anyway at that time I did a horrible thing by inviting them to the living room to play Mario with me and Brenden, then they got bored, and so I am a bad person because we kept playing Mario even though they were bored. I went from being a good host to being a jerk so easily! Should I too have attempted to detect pretzels and licorice?

I guess what I am wondering is, is it worth the effort to make friends? Or should I just spend time with people who are naturally disposed to being friends with me with as little bullshit involved as possible? Oh, what am I talking about, anyway!

I had better watch out what I say in here, this might end up like that time when I was drunk and I told someone at a party that I “couldn’t stand 95% of the people in this room” and some people overheard it and actually believed I was talking to them instead of the person I was talking to and then held unreasonable silent grudges against me until they actually talked to me and discovered I do not actually warrantlessly hate all people and that alcohol changes my demeanor from “says very little” to “will say dumb shit.” Besides, there were only like fourteen people in the room, it’s impossible to hate everyone and then just a fraction of someone else.

So, couple-who-I-said-retard-in-front-of, if you ever read this, please know that I did not intend to mine your political sensitivities and deliver a precision ‘tard strike in your vicinity. (I meant not to mention the word “retards” again and make another senseless joke at the hands of the impaired, but censoring myself in text is one of my handicaps and going back through to edit my personal journal is kind of mentally challenging)

I mean, the people who write all those offensive jokes for comedy shows are probably pretty nice people, right? You guys seem pretty nice too, and I also think it is nice of you to taste things in wine, cause all I can taste in Japanese beer is piss, and I stopped looking for it after a while. You guys should come over for some Scrabble, I will even accept Australian spellings! Also I am not a horrible person, honest! Well maybe a little horrible. I guess what I am asking is, do you hate me? I know what it’s like to hate, because after all it has come to my attention that I hate 95% of all people (but don’t worry, there are lots of persons with notable mental disadvantages in that other 5%, especially Jessica, with whom I live for christsakes).

THIS HAS BEEN A BRIEF ASIDE DEALING WITH MY OBVIOUSLY DEPLORABLE CONDUCT IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS

More excitement this week: I didn’t get my application in lightning-fast enough this semester to get a spot in the impossibly popular (and free) Hyogo Japanese language classes, the first section of which I finished in June. This guarantees there will be plenty of spots for real achievers like the couple guys I had class with last time, who have lived in Japan for five years, are still speaking at an introductory level, and who have failed the last three times they have taken it, mostly because despite getting a spot they never actually go to the class. Anyone know a place I can take some lessons and learn at a good clip (need not be free)? Full details please, responses akin to “I know a guy who gives me lessons out of his basement for a hundred yen a month and he cooks me free curry and taught me how to massage my prostate with an ancient artisan calligraphy brush but he’s all booked up and no you can’t have his number lol” will be summarily the cause of me saying “I hate you a lot” and erasing you from my world (assuming you are already in it).

TINY STUPID CRAP OF LATELY
– Months after its release I finally got around to buying Bayonetta for my PS3 (you can read some impressions I wrote based on the E3 demo more than a year ago over at N-Sider by clicking this link). I bought the new edition, which has a cool reversible cover, and inside the case rests a fun game, and it’s fun partially because you can bite demons in half with your evil hair, which is also your clothing, yes I am saying your hair is your clothes in this game
– I have finally woken to the pleasure of Google Reader, an RSS management service that lets you read all the updates from your favorite sites in a handy aggregated list, and I bet that if you are the kind of guy or gal that is used to checking many different websites often and wants a faster way to see what’s new you’d really enjoy it, and also my site has an RSS feed so you can add it to be sure you never miss a gripping update
– The money exchange rate for the dollar is down to 1 USD = 84.84 yen, which means if you were planning on buying/importing stuff from Japan any time soon it just got more expensive for you to do it and which also means since the 23rd of August I’ve gotten a thousand dollar increase to my yearly salary which is mostly useless since all I do with US dollars is pay off the education loanwhores
– The Tsukimi (moon-viewing) Burger is back (back from where?) at McDonald’s, completing a yearly cycle that I wrote about last year, and making that two McDonald’s mentions in this very entry
– In the last week I have conned Jessy into watching Judge Dredd, Demolition Man, and True Lies, three movies she would never agree to see normally, and the latter two of which she really liked, further evidence that Judge Dredd is just no good no matter how bad you want it to be
– If someone tells you that you are eating a BLT sandwich in Japan and they hand you the sandwich, you know that they are liars, because what they call a BLT is not a BLT at all, but I eat them anyway and trick myself into believing they are
– I wonder what the cat is doing right now don’t you
GOOD THING I HAVE A SPYCAM TRAINED ON HIM AHAHAHAH!!!!! aha

Last week I for some reason agreed to go to Costco with Jessy tomorrow. If you have been reading Nomaday since May you know how I feel about Costco in Japan (summary: it is a outlaw ranch/family amusement park). I do not want to go, but perhaps I will be able to secure a few 24 packs of contraband American soda–a fine reward for braving the hellish gauntlet of culturally shocking warehouse shopping.

What can Jessy possibly want to purchase? Knowing her, cleaning supplies and nothing else. Maybe I will beg for another five pound bag of gummy bears. Maybe I will buy five more webcams, and wire the entire apartment to record the harrowing and mesmerizing adventures of Kiki, the scaredy-cat who watches me while I sleep. Maybe I will sit in the parking lot, gripping my knees, and rock back and forth, shrieking until the moon comes out (and then I will view it). When the employees ask me if I am okay, I will climb them like a jungle gym and defecate explosively, launching myself into space, where it is not summer, and where I love 95% of all people, and where my cat plays the keyboard and unlocks the mysteries of the universe.

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If I don’t fight, I’ll eat this planet

Go back to 1978 and clone Wal-Mart somewhat unsuccessfully with a drop of Japanese sweat thrown into the tubes and you’d end up with Kohnan (unrelated to Barbarian, Detective, and red-haired talk-show host), a self-proclaimed Home Center that sells everything from drinks to power tools, office supplies, and home decorations. Also they have forty gashapon machines. I went there with Jessy last night under the pretext of securing some supplies for our future-cat Kiki, who is now beginning to enter Earth’s atmosphere and will meteorically impact our apartment some time this weekend.

In the back of Kohnan there is a place called “Pet Land,” which sells all kinds of animals for totally exorbitant prices. The cats they have start at around 300 dollars, topping off at over a few thousand. For a mere $8,900 you could take home a genuine Harry Potter owl and watch him brutally murder your other pets to shreds then leave a rock hard excreted pellet of fur and bones on your sofa as he swivels his neck 270 degrees to watch you shit your pants.

Me, I enjoyed the fact that to purchase a prairie dog you’d literally have to shell out $3,800, and had past- and future-pity on any parents or outliers who were convinced by little Toshi that they really needed to welcome a prairie dog to the family. Is this the kind of shit that housewives spend their husbands’ money on, and is that why the suicide rate is so high in this country?

In my mind I played out a very real series of events beginning with a bunch of Midwestern folk loading their rifles, and ending with dozens of liquefied, mutilated prairie dog corpses littering the aisles while sobbing salarymen try to resuscitate them and protect their investments. Instead of gunshots ringing out there are only the clangs of cash registers, and at the end the Folk have subtracted a billion yen from the economy of Japan. While they listen to “More Than a Feeling,” the hunters construct World Champion Belts out of exhausted six-pack plastic rings then drape them around themselves like Persian silk before shouting “ya-heeeew” in unison and ejaculating wildly all over each other.

Though I steadfastly resisted the prospect of ever buying any sort of clothing items for my cat, one horrible decision was made in the form of a ten-dollar plush hat that velcroes to an animal’s head and makes them look like they are actually some kind of citrus fruit. I was powerless to resist Jessy’s tossing it in the basket, because I imagined my cat as a citrus fruit and it melted my decision-making center. I have spent more money on things in the past that brought results far less satisfying than photographs of my pet with a plush citrus fruit hat on his head will be, and that is a fact, as my limited edition Lotteria Evangelion hamburger calendar can attest to.

We also bought the cat lots of food that looks mostly like canned tuna, but it is in little pouches, and we bought the cat some meaty smoked snack sticks, which also look like canned tuna. I am not going to lie, I am wondering how long it will be until I taste the cat food.

Because buying bunches of shit for a cat I don’t have yet soured me, I needed to buy something for myself which had strong and immediate ramifications: a small metal grill with fold out legs and an adjustable grill rack, along with two kilograms of “coconut charcoal,” charcoal shaped like little donuts which smells kinda like coconut. This is my first grill in Japan, and it only cost ten bucks, which is a marked value when you consider other stupid purchases I have made in the past, like a plush citrus fruit hat for my cat to wear on his head. I plan on buying some meat, heating the charcoals, frying some rice on the stove with garlic butter, MSG, a dash of soy sauce, and some peas, and then cooking the meat and enjoying it all with a nice frosty Coke. I say Coke now not wanting to think about beer, because in the spirit of the heat I drank four cold beers not long before bed last night, and now it is two in the afternoon, and I am at work, and I have the most shameful mini-hangover in history. I’m such a weak shithead that I barely have the motivation to insult myself, and doing that is a pretty core element of my basic mental functions.

Jessy, if you’re reading this as I write it, which is impossible because I won’t be able to put it online until I get home, I am sorry that our apartment looks like you snuck in while you were gone and destroyed everything and used up a hundred dishes and didn’t pick anything up. In the future I will try to leave the house looking more like you’re used to seeing it after I’ve been home for a while, and less like I’m used to seeing it after you’ve been home for a while. P.S. you left your iPhone in the closet, P.P.S. I love you

THIS WEEK’S NOTABLE THINGS NOTABLE FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN BEING NOTABLE
– Today is the first day of September, and although that signals the beginning of fall in my mind, it has no bearing on the actual climate or weather or temperature, which is still as hot or hotter than it was yesterday and has been for the last three months and which makes me hate everything
– Corn on the cob, which you can so rarely find in Japan, and which I bought at the grocery store this week for $1.25 an ear, and which I felt all nostalgic shucking, and which was so, so goddamned delicious
– The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy, a book by Bill Simmons (a.k.a. The Sports Guy), which is 734 pages long and which I just finished today after a week of reading, despite having no concrete interest in either modern or historical basketball, and which is fantastic, and which at one point concerns itself with a multi-hundred page list of the 96 players Bill Simmons considers to be the best ever, and which contains hundreds of footnotes that I read, and which I really do not know why I kept reading but I read six times more of it than I have ever read into The Lord of the Rings
– My shoes, which are falling apart, and which bear now-flaking black paint, ensuring that nobody can possibly believe these are leather anymore
– Simple pleasures like crunchy plums, juicy grapes, Chili Tomato Cup Noodle, corn on the cob, and Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages, made all the more special by the fact that like many other things in Japan, their appearances are rare and fleeting, their prices high, and their tastes exceptional
PERHAPS THAT IS ENOUGH

Classes start up again at my main school in a couple of days, which means that after two months of twiddling my thumbs I’ll be back in front of the kids, being sized up by every pair of eyes, evaluated, silently judged. I have already blown several of my good games and activities on them throughout the first term so I think I’ll start off strong with a tell-me-about-your-summer-not-vacation-cause-you-were-at-club-activities-every-day lesson, then follow it up with Jeopardy trivia the following week to re-endear them to me. After that I can probably have them work on filling in speech bubbles for comic strips for a couple weeks, which will result in dozens of “I am gay I love you” jokes for me to read, and that brings us into October! Look, I just did four weeks of work in one minute.

In an effort to change our lives, my younger co-teacher (the one who is prone to inserting superfluous fucking curse words) has suggested that we go into business together. The kind of business will be “burger,” he says. We will have one item on the menu, the burger, and it will be the only thing that people will be allowed to buy. I suggested that we sell some fried potatoes (the term they use for French fries here), but no, just the burger. When the people come to order, we will ask “how about a burger,” and the customer will say “ok,” and if he says no, that is too bad because do not have anything that is not the burger. The name of the store will be “Burgers of Tom,” which he claims will be a good name for a burger shop because it is like the phrase Peeping Tom, even though the only two people that work there will be he and I, and there will be no Tom. Burgers of Tom, meet world.

So averse to the idea of beginning to teach classes again after our two months off, he mentioned to me that tomorrow he will surely see “some scenes of hell.” Most people have a concept of heaven and hell, he tells me, but most of the time he only experiences hell. The one way to ease the suffering of teachers returning to work, preparing to meet with scenes of hell?

Surely a delicious burger from Burgers of Tom.

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