Tag Archives: pizza

Annie, are you okay, are you okay Annie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I woke up at 2:30 this morning.

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As stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after

I went to Ikea last Saturday and though we intended to get a lazy morning breakfast in their restaurant section we were indeed too late to break fast. So for some reason instead of getting the meatball plate I chose the daily special, curry rice with a pork katsu. It was in retrospect a bizarre and uninspired decision, because who goes to Ikea’s restaurant for breakfast, and who goes there and in the absence of breakfast chooses the meal equivalent of “spaghetti with sauce?” The only things more common on the dinner table than curry rice in Japan are either seaweed or stuff with their eyes still in them, perhaps covered in some sort of vinegar (the curry rice was, expectedly, of a middling to low quality).

Speaking of frightful things, today I actually expressed some excitement to a coworker about making mochi again on January 12th at my night school. Last year’s mochi-making day was the coldest evening I have ever experienced in this country, the weight of which was tempered only by the deliciousness of hot chicken soup with beaten, gooey rice wads in it. You may recall this particular event being mentioned to me last year by way of my now dearly-departed principal, who cryptically warned me about it with just a single line: “Cover your jacket with something when the beatings happen because the splatter.” (This phrase has since become a sort of personal life mantra, applicable in nearly all situations.) I anxiously await the return of Big Hammer, and all the stretchy rice-based delights that will come with it.

As an aside, I think those guys who were turning Japanese could not possibly have had the brash outspokenness necessary to record an electronic pop song declaring it so if they actually were turning Japanese. (I really think so)

I’m already starting to feel separation anxiety a bit, still two weeks out from when I’ll be boarding a series of public transit devices to fly away from the place I’ve called home for the last sixteen months. I’ll only be gone for three weeks, generously, but look what I’ll miss: Christmas cake, Kentucky Fried Chicken, drinking myself stupid, nabe party? Receiving bad-luck fortune at Ikuta Shrine, NHK’s year-end celebrity-filled singing competition, silly grab bags full of random goods, Paul McCartney’s Christmas crime against humanity being piped through all PA systems in every store in the country nonstop for days.

Of course making a list of all the stuff that I already miss and will get to enjoy will take much longer. I am kind of excited about the following things, excluding family, the obvious but not-entertaining bullet-point: Buying a carton of milk which is a full gallon and wondering how anyone could ever fit that inside of a refrigerator. Enormous, affordable pizza with thick buttery crust and lots of cheese and absolutely no mayonnaise. Strolling through a Target store and being all like “whoa” at the Blu-rays priced under sixty dollars. Shootin’ guns! Television, signs, and conversations in my native language, football and people who know that football isn’t soccer, Taco John’s, Subway, Arby’s, Chik-fil-a, Thai Kitchen, Cocost, Hickory Park, steaks from a grill that have names other than “cut steak”, cheap beer, cheap fruit, cheap everything. Finally, seeing some men my age dressed worse than I am, and also snow. I trust I will get to revel in the carefree and brazen excesses of most of, if not all of, these things.

But what about the weird stuff? Will it be difficult to get used to the fact that I can’t get very good food at a convenience store, or that trains can’t zip me around wherever I need to go, or that I can’t just walk somewhere with five hundred dollars worth of cash in my pocket and feel safe about it? Will I god forbid have to drive a car (on the right side of the road)? Will I cope with eating every meal with a fork? Yeah probably.

I got a haircut the other day at “BILLY” which is a hair salon I’ve been to twice now that allows racism to work in my favor: specifically, though a cut for any old Japanese person is about 4500 yen, a cut for a “foreigner” is only 3000. The place is run by a guy and his wife, who both speak English and worked (I believe) in London for a time. That thirty dollars gets me a pretty meticulous and careful cut, a shampoo and conditioning with minor scalp massage, a blowdry, and even a little dab of product all up in there, about forty-five minutes of attention. The place is named after their one-time pet dog, BILLY, who is taxidermied and watches over you as you are trimmed. On one side of the place is a weight bench covered with magazines; I like the guy’s commitment to simultaneously working out and staying informed about what Ms. Kardashian is up to.

I can’t quite figure out why it’s cheaper for me to get my haircut there unless they see it as kind of an occasional and random way to keep their English sharp by having a chance to practice with real foreign people–it’s the only thing I can think since the foreigner discount isn’t really posted anywhere in the store and they give it to you without your asking. Now, if I go to my Real Japanese Place, a kind of trendier but franchised salon called END, I can get the works for only about 2500 and they spend maybe an hour on me (you even get a hot towel on your face while they wash your hair, a more vigorous scalp/head massage, a free drink while you wait, and a piece of candy and grateful bow as you leave). The rub with that whole thing of course is that I have to speak Japanese, which gets pretty pathetic for both me and my stylist pretty quickly. Making an appointment can also be… troublesome. This time I just got my hair cut as short as possible to prolong the amount of time before I’d need to get a cut again. I’m happy with it, though after my first day back in the real world I received the following occasionally confusing comments:

– Is that from hazing or something (guy at Japanese class)
– Miss Misumi says a handsome guy is a handsome guy either way (teacher at school)
– You are same, same (a student pointing to his friend, head totally shaved)
– It’s like a David Beckham haircut (Jessy, akin to maybe someone saying “it’s like a Ronald Reagan haircut”)
– Your new hairstyle is very nice (a third-year kid, followed by the class erupting in unbridled, monkey-like shrieks and laughter)

At any rate I feel colder, though it is a fact that the weather itself is cooling off. And I think I actually caught a bit of a cold last afternoon, though I can’t attribute it specifically to the hair. Copious amounts of chewable vitamin C seem to have mostly helped me bounce back after only a day or so though (thanks for sending it Mom!).

Oh I almost forgot about the CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEE k
– Ringer Hut, a restaurant where you can order champon, a kind of chewy noodle dish with thick soup, offering either standard size, 1.5x size, or double size, all of which are the same price (and I only ordered 1.5x because in a totally un-American moment I thought “I know it’s free to get more but I don’t know if I can eat all that”)
– Monster Hunter Portable 3, probably this year’s biggest non-Pokemon game, for the PSP, which comes out today and which many of my students (and several of my teachers) have been talking about for the last two months, and which I can’t play cause I am sure there is a Butt Load of Japanese, not that I’d have any goddamned time for it anyway
– Red Ginger soda from Suntory, which is totally bright pink in color, and adorned with a black and pink wrapper that looks like some sort of lascivious corset, and which I bought without really considering how girly it looked because I like ginger ale and I like red, and which tastes exactly like regular ginger ale, a fact I only discovered by shamefully drinking it at work like a total woman
– Went to the music store to find Square Enix’s Christmas album and got sidetracked looking at the Jazz, which is conveniently separated into “Jazz” and “J-Jazz” sections to totally confuse me when I can’t find any Japanese artists in the Jazz section
– Mos Burger’s Mos Burger, which is a burger with a slice of tomato and this special red sauce that is kinda like a big dollop of meat sauce with cream cheese in it and Jesus Christ would probably come back from the dead to eat one jeepers is it ever fucking delicious I want one now immediately I will buy one after work.
THAT’S QUITE ENOUGH isn’t it

On my train ride home from night school last week I had a beer and sat in the front seat of the Port Liner with the big front window, and there was one of those huge manga magazines that someone had left there. So a little tipsy I made the decision to pick it up and as I flipped through it looking at the bikini models in the front and the colored-paper comics in the back while the lights of the city shot past me I realized for a second that nobody who saw me reading the comics could possibly know I didn’t understand the things that were happening in them. They might have even thought I bought the book myself, who knows! I felt like a real cock of the walk, which was also part of the illusion. For ten minutes I could pretend to read manga while looking at the pictures like anyone else, and nobody was the worse off for it, like I got to operate myself from outside, a simulation, a battery of tests. I have come to realize that for an often-inhibited and occasionally inexplicably-depressed sociopath such as myself, this is why alcohol works: not to alter the world around you, but to alter you around the world.

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