Tag Archives: taco rice

A broad national consensus

I’m on this high speed ferry to Zamami island, barely inhabited town/landmass south of Naha, and we’re hitting choppy water like Jackie Chan, chop-socky, enough to make me wince just proceeding. I think back to bathtubs, plastic boats with peeled-off stickers, how I’d launch them off my leg waves, this grand landscape: porcelain walls and caulk rot, wonder how the little Playskool people are getting on in there. One of them turns to his notebook, to channel his thoughts. I like to consider the unrepresented horror beneath their unchanging facades, never-ending comas, as they cry out internally, thrusted forty bodylengths in the air at the whims of a young boy. Oh god, help me, they beg, but I am the only god they have, and I am angry as these very seas, a twisted psyche that knows no ends. Today the young boy is a Playskool man, thrusted at the whims of some other god, the keeper of the ocean, this grand landscape: sand-circled mountains and Sammo Hung waves, ebbing along like I’m rollin’ with my homies, only an island when I’m finished, only a rock in the water. We bank, begin the final approach of the boat world, I’m in the upright and locked position as the seas calm to welcome me, then we pitch down and my left hand digs into this spiral, for the amusement of a young child, for the amusement of my only god, carving nonsense into the Penco Progressive Recorder.

Otsukaresama deshita, they tell me, nice work. No problem guys, I did it all for you. I get off the boat, seawater salt and forty body lengths of trees. So this is Okinawa, but really this time, no trains or Lawson convenience stores, a group of kids on bikes in the alley, an empty shed on one side and a soba shop on the other.

As the last bit of daylight leaves us we barely light the charcoal before a man assists us. We met him earlier, in town, after he told us the local shop owner (who could sell us a lighter) was out harvesting his sweet potatoes but would be back in an hour. We sap the last bit of fluid out of a borrowed red clicker and he strolls up from behind our tent with a tabletop gas canister in one hand and a nozzle in the other, perhaps sensing our desperation from afar, then ignites the grill’s coal like firing pottery or field cauterizing an unexpected amuptation. I watch the reflection of the fire in his crazed eyes! On the metal grill skillet Jessy and I fry thawed chicken on skewers, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and miniature hamburgers that we picked up from a different market earlier and let out at the camp site to de-freeze while we combed the beach for sea glass and ankle-deep skipped flat rocks off the waves. Dessert is a hearty metal can of Pork and Beans heated in the can and eaten with plastic spoons, a rare treat that somehow completes the night.

After a few hours of restless sleep I hear some rustling, some scrape-y sounds from outside our tent, and while figuring they are from some manner of hostile beastie I choose to investigate anyway with the aid of Jessy’s tiny broken-Crayola-sized travel flashlight. Under the space left inside the scalene triangle made with the ground, an off-kilter tree, and the propped-up grill tray, I see two large hermit crabs stretching their pincers out like Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam to scratch the bits of stuck-on chicken meat that still remain, and then I pan the light and see more of them and more, twenty or thirty of them congregating and marching through the place where we had tossed a couple tough mushroom stems, some oil from the griddle, poking at the ground. They prattle on, larger hermits with tiny ones following them, as the oceanic pied-piper, not but a hundred feet away from our tent, plays for them. The music for me is the ebb of the ocean, rhythm guitar to their tiny little steps over dried leaves and pine-needle kindling, sounds like we’re a piece of sliced banana in a bowl of active Rice Krispies and the world is snap crackle popping.

We do other things. We take a kayak out on the water, get caught in a thunderstorm while bringing home a bottle of wine, and peer at old garbage like lost histories washed ashore. We eat goya, a bitter melon, and shikwasa, a sour lime. We drink Orion beer, root beer, Dr. Pepper, eat fried bread with chicken inside it, chicken with potatoes around it, potatoes with cheese and chili on them, sesame seed ice cream, rice with taco meat, pasta, steak, Korean soup, Japanese breakfast. I eat a bowl full of pig ears slathered in miso sauce and walk through an open air market where the dead eyes of fish peer into my soul from beds of ice. I sit on beaches and stand on mountains just to look. We sit in bathtubs full of hot water outside and drink little glasses of mango juice. I wander into a two story arcade and destroy a huge gold robot with Chun-Li from Street Fighter and a guy that looks like Speed Racer. I buy Okinawan liquor and special salt to bring home, I ride a rented bicycle through puddles, I burn my skin in the sun.

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If the flower is to be beautiful

As if on cue, as is typical with Japanese weather, suddenly today it doesn’t suck total mung, and it’s fifty Fahrenheit and the sun be glowin, people are stopping to look at each other’s dogs again, and walking with their heads up, and I took off my scarf and felt great about it. Today would be March if it weren’t for The Leap Year, a day that happens as often as the summer olympics. I am drinking a 7UP, which up until recently you couldn’t really get in Japan except in its “CLEAR DRY” weird sugar-free version, and oh it is nice. In fact, it almost makes up for the fact that Japan has now in the last year or so briefly introduced and then immediately discontinued Sprite, Mello Yello, and Citra.

We’re slowly gearing up for our trip to Okinawa, on which we leave in about two weeks. Okinawa is pretty much the last place in Japan that I have really wanted to visit and still haven’t, so I’m looking forward to it. I heard the food down there is real outta line. Okinawan cuisine in general is markedly different from the mainland, so they say, and they even have their own beer called Orion, which I have had canned and which tastes like every goddamned other Japanese beer but I will still drink myself stupid. They also have taco rice! Taco rice is like a big taco in a bowl, but instead of a tortilla or a shell, it is rice. Taco rice is awesome. Anyway, despite it being basically summer down there and being all kind of beaches and shit, it will still be something new and different and that is really all I ask.

japan in one photograph

JAPANESE STUFF OF THE LATELY
– “Nama pasta,” which is fresh pasta in little plastic bags in the cooler that you boil at home, and which seems like a groundbreaking new concept to me despite the fact I am sure we had this shit in the states and I just never bought it cause I was a tightwad
– This French/Japanese newscaster girl Christel Takigawa who is in all kinds of commercials now and who I will probably have to divorce Jessy for pretty soon sorry jess
– Went to a shabu-shabu restaurant last Friday and ate so much meat that I was like “oh god, I ate so much meat” then I drank a bunch of sake and some whisky and beat up my friends in real life in Street Fighter IV
– This new game show called TORE! which you should really click here to watch some of where talent stars have to answer silly word game questions or get shoved by foam blocks into a bottomless pit, among other ridiculous challenges, it is basically the second best show on Japanese TV behind VS. ARASHI
THAT’LL DO PIG

DOWNER ENDING

I “dealt with” the news that I received yesterday that one of my young students from the blind school had passed away unexpectedly of the flu by googling his last name + インフルエンザ, assuming that the hyper-paranoid infuruenza fearing gods would have already sortied and converged on the news. I tried his name and the city, I tried the school’s webpage, but there is only nothing, just an e-mail from a co-teacher that one of my students, who I had just talked to about foods in Thursday’s lesson, was a hundred and four on Sunday and dead by Monday. I found myself strangely grasping for something, perhaps trying to embrace the false but comforting thought that somewhere there exists a permanence to replace the idea of impermanence, an external source, a confirmation, the idea that somewhere someone has written something, set it up somehow like I always have to do for myself.

One of the things that fucks me most about it is that pervasive Japanese school mentality this whole time that I have completely disregarded as being a total farce, that Oh The Flu Menace, and “we wear facemasks” and “we sanitize our hands” and “we cancel large school assemblies because of flu” but then I mean, they wash their hands in freezing cold water, they turn on the heaters in the rooms and leave the windows open, and whups, one of our students died of the flu, which means they either their bullshit straight up Doesn’t Work or without the worthless masks half the school would be dead, I have no goddamned idea.

All I can remember is we last talked about fried chicken, and he thought it sounded delicious, and we went to lunch which was not fried chicken, and he could never remember what came after August (Septoner). At Christmas he told me that what he wanted for Christmas was Yui, another one of my young students who wears enormous coke-bottle glasses and loves dogs. I wrote two simple English stories for her once about dogs so she would have some dog-fiction. One of them is named Gourmet Dog and it features Dog President Bark Obwanma, “wan” being the Japanese noise for the sound dogs make. I also wrote Skydog, which is basically the story of Star Wars. I wrote it only so I could make a character named Wan Solo.

AN ABRIDGED VERSION OF SKYDOG, BY BRANDON

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, it was Thursday. A dog took a walk. His name was Skydog. He was a small dog and he had blue hair. Skydog wanted to go on the space shuttle. But he had to do his homework first.

On Friday, Skydog met Wan Solo in the city.

Wan Solo said “I have a space shuttle. Let’s go to space together!”

They went to space very fast!

But, in space, there was a big star. It was so hot! It was dangerous to the space shuttle.

“Maybe we can never go home!” said Wan Solo.

But Skydog had a plan, because he studied science every day. He barked very loud.

“Bark bark bark!!”

Then, the big star went away.

Skydog, Wan Solo, and all but one of their friends got presents.

THE END

Anyway, he will not get Yui for Christmas. I also used to put a chicken hat on his head during Halloween dress-up days, which seems to be too many chicken-related memories for one person. I believe that it hasn’t affected me in the sense that composure-wise, I am the same person, and I still joke with Jessy about horrible terrible things, and I still laugh at stupid crap, and I still cook supper and drink tasty drinks and swat Kiki around. I suppose if you teach for long enough and meet enough people it’s bound to happen, especially at a school where kids have disabilities of various sorts. But it’s lodged in there somewhere, the idea of it, without any other pretense, so there it stays. I don’t feel less or more but it’s just stuck, cause I thought about it while I was going to sleep last night, not with any real feeling but there it was, and here we are again, even though I don’t feel like I need to say anything. But I was googling for an article, and I guess I need there to be something about chicken hat boy, who has ceased to exist, even if the article is only for me. So here it is, for now or later.

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