Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Real plums

I did a Thanksgiving, my first one, by ordering seven pounds of frozen bird over the Internet and then hacking it apart from bird form to part form in my kitchen without using any guides or advice or instructions. In retrospect perhaps I should have, because Jessy asked me at one point where the wishbone was, and all I could say was that it was probably attached to the other bones, you know, the ones that I bent until they snapped wet like fresh branches, buried in the carrot peels likely, over in that tied up bag, if you wanna dig for it. She did not. I managed to save The Backbone, after busting it in half and cramming it into a Ziploc. When I open my freezer I see it and wonder what a compulsive person-killer must think as he slides open his freezer and sees a hand or something. “Yes, backbone, I cut the parts from you and later I’ll make soup.” But for now it’s just chillin’, hee hee.

Jessy lugged back two boxes of Stove Top instant bread-stuffing from the America, and I cooked them, remembering fondly my poverty-stricken Pittsburgh days. I once purchased a box of it ($1.39!!), and then later in a bout of rip-roaring self-abuse just ate the entire box of Stove Top for dinner. It was excellent and I will do it again, I will do it. My Japanese Thanksgiving meal was rounded to a close by a batch of old-style noodles which I enjoy calling Peasant Noodles because it makes me sound like a peasant, and also I braised the turkey on a bed of vegetables that I later mushed up to make some manner of gravy. Did I mention the Oreo-crust cherry cheesecake. I seriously cooked some food, it is undeniable. No pictures exist of this feat, despite me at one point thinking “hey, maybe we should take some pictures of our first self-cooked homestyle Thanksgiving.” Instead we did not. In the last three days I have been e-mailed two different pictures of me asleep with the cat also sleeping on some part of me. Jessy took them, and they are pictures I now have. We also ate cranberry sauce.

I had a conversation with someone while we were playing board games as a group last weekend, more of a communal conversation really, about tapping the top of your beverage can when you open it, presumably to “dispel the impending explosion.” At that exact moment I realized that such a thing was impossible, that I had been wasting my fingertap effort for years. I mean since my late teens anyway it was really just a formality, I wasn’t even tapping it with the force necessary to do a damned bit of good. And in the process, I tried to ask you know, at what point can our finger-tap force really counteract whatever shaking has occurred? What is a normal amount of shake, I ask, by tilting my new, unopened beer slowly to one side and then the other. What is the amount of real-world shake that a can undergoes in the time from procurement to refreshment? Then this guy, who I think I have met but I don’t know really and I just kind of am going with mentally “I think I met you but we didn’t meet enough to have met really,” he takes my beer and shakes it pretty violently maybe three times, and says that is a real world shake. Why would you do that, beer-shake guy whose name I forgot maybe it is like Shawn? Cause I was going to drink the beer. Maybe where you come from it is a real dog-eat-dog world up in that bitch, and you need to get your shots in early, like making sure nobody gives you a wedgie, or you gotta ink some swear words onto the chemistry test of the kid next to you, and you are just conditioned to be the Alpha drink shaker so nobody calls you gay while you are waiting in line at the Powerade machine. Later in the game I had the chance to deny him one thousand dollars, and I did so to penalize him for his errant fuckery. Then I opened the twist-off lid of the water bottle I had used to pre-mix rum and cola at home, and it sprayed on my hands. I won the game. I won all the games.

My friends bought me a gigantic sheet cake for my birthday from Costco. The logistics of purchasing it and bringing it back to my apartment are staggering to think about. They mentioned that they gave it to me because it needed to be refrigerated, though they had the social graces to at least sing Happy Birthday to me first. After it was given to me it became “my problem,” fortunately for them. It said “Princess” on it. It was a princess cake for me, and I ate some of it. Then, it barely fit in my refrigerator so I had to move all the milk to somewhere else. Every time I opened my refrigerator it was all like “Princess.” The cake was bigger than any reasonable measure of cakes. No human could possibly have eaten the entire cake. I threw some of it away, at last, carrying it to the garbage area of my apartment in a coup de grâce, which is French for coup of grâce, tossed into a garbage bag by itself. There was an old man digging through the discarded items, kind of like how I found my most recent television set. I sort of wanted to say, here dude, here’s a fucking bag of cake, it’s all cake in there, straight up. It was, I wouldn’t have been lying or anything. Just a bag of cake, not like I put anything else in there. It was probably still good but let’s be honest, I wasn’t gonna eat any more of it. I like to imagine that after I left, he checked out the bag to see what the foreigner was throwing away. And maybe he tied it onto his wooden dowel and carried it over his shoulder back to the apartment, and told his woman look at his fresh kill, a wild bag of cake, and he stripped it and cleaned it like a squirrel, and all he could decipher were the letters ncess. “This cake once belonged to a person of real esteem, this cake can teach us about how They live.”

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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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How many licks

For as often as I’m emphatically told “we have four seasons in Japan” as though it is some sort of rare anomaly specific to this country, it’s sure hot today, the second of December, a month I have traditionally associated with the season of winter. By the time I made it up to school I think I even started to break a sweat, though it may merely have been because of the embarassment of running into a few kids on the steps who tried asking me bizarre questions like “handsome desu ne” and “singuru or melly,” which I assume are only removed one level from the stage of outright vulgarity due to their merely lacking the ability (or confidence) to deliver it. Perhaps this trio could learn something from last week’s electronic dictionary outburst, courtesy of the guy I now know literally only as “ecstasy kid” in my mind.

It’s exam week again, which means for the most part the children are cramming as much knowledge as they can into their creamy chocolate centers while trying to Tootsie Pop harden the exterior and prevent any of it from escaping. Most of them just seem really stressed, which I can understand. The real victims though are the teachers, one of whom told me he was at school until eight in the evening doing work on the test stuff. I told him to take a break, but I’m not sure how simple a process that is for the Japanese office worker (actually I am, and it is not). Those bearers of the 35-40 hour work week in the States rejoice: at least you (and I) are afforded the option to have a life.

Curious Japanese Shit of the Week:
– Student “review” lessons coming through in the win department full sail ahead:
Ka-Ru is king of snacks!
I like Ka-Ru very much. I eat it everyday.
Ka-Ru is king of snacks because.
It is very delicious. This taste is oriental miracle!
It is very beautiful. This body looks like gold!
I think that Ka-Ru achieves God territory.
Thank you the creator for wonderful present.
Let’s eat Ka-Ru.
– One student telling me this movie was the “moungliest” she had ever seen, whatever being moungly is
– New “TIROL Cheetos+Chiroru”, which appear to be chocolate-covered Cheetos even though I have not opened up the package for a taste yet
– The day after Jessy puts in for a day off from school later this month to pick up Final Fantasy XIII for us, a commercial begins airing on Japanese TV in which a teacher announces to his students that he is going on a short vacation, because he’s been waiting for this game for three years
– One of my students being apparently oblivious to the real meaning of his red, yellow, and green pencil tin bearing an illustration of a giant marijuana leaf and the word “CANNABIS” in huge block letters
– Old cranky lady with a grey old-style Nintendo DS muscles past me to get on the train first, cuts to the right to go for a seat, then is cut in front of by another old cranky lady who takes the seat instead
– New Cookie flavor Kit-Kat is the greatest Kit-Kat I have ever eaten, and I think they know it because it’s only sold in tiny boxes of ten or so super-minisize Kit-kats instead of the larger bags that the other kinds come in, the punks
– One kid telling me “you are cool, you have girlfriend?” and me saying “maybe” and once the kid leaves my teacher saying in nice English “that bastard” and laughing maniacally

I had the most interesting Thanksgiving-evening meal in my relatively abbreviated history last Friday, aboard a cruise ship “Concerto” as part of the year-end office party (similarly to the Mid-Year conference, taking place decidedly at a time that is not exactly the end of the year). Between trips to the expansive Chinese buffet, as I sipped on Asahi Super Dry and hot cinnamon wine, one teacher reminded me that the American holiday was currently taking place. I had thought of it the day before, Thursday, in terms of the holidays coming with me to Japan as though they could have all just packed onto the plane, but this particular bit of information stuck around in my head. Holidays in the U.S. continue without me, whenever the hell they may please, even if that means that Thanksgiving is on my Friday, and steamed dumplings are my mashed potatoes.

As a sort of door-prize distribution system, we played bingo, with the first bingo-ers getting the better prizes. It turned out to be good Japanese practice for me, as all the numbers were obviously not spoken in my native language. I won late, pathetic, and took home a pair of fuzzy “high socks,” the packaging adorned with oddly phrased sentiments comparing their pastel rainbow color scheme to a warm melted candy. They became Jessy’s, after I threatened my teachers that I’d wear them to work.

Unrelated segue: I want a drum set. There’s not a goddamned place I’d be able to play it in my apartment without likely pissing someone off, and I’m trying to think around that. There’s also the matter of it being probably impossible for us to move it from the Hard-Off (where I’d buy it) to our apartment, which is much further away. Also I have never owned a drum set before. But that’s kinda why I want one. Alas, I feel this particular endeavor will likely end up on the Japanese cutting room floor with the surround-sound speakers, full-sized arcade cabinet, pinball machine, soda fountain, pool table, electronic dart board, and other weighty monoliths to the space-occupying excess that is totally possible in the U.S. and retardedly outlandish here. At least I can cradle my only occasionally obscene PVC action figures as I cry myself to sleep (dear future self: send money, i spent it all on lady ninjas and transforming secretaries and a black mage thx bye).

It’s almost an afterthought for me to consider mentioning such a thing in here, since I haven’t actually seen a game all season, but the Colts have won every one they’ve played so far, and all under the leadership of a new post-Dungy coach. I’m sure they’ll drop a game eventually, but it sure is nice to know they’re winning for now. I read Peter King’s Monday Morning QB (on Tuesday) and check Sunday scores on Monday night. It’s not exactly the same as strong beer, crispy pizza, and excited friends, but it works. Kinda.

On Saturday we’re going to our city’s enormous “Home’s Stadium” for the last J-League soccer game of the year (Vissel Kobe), on the goodwill dime of a can’t-attend fellow teacher of Jessy’s. If my longstanding axiom holds true–that sports which for me are unwatchable on TV (baseball, soccer, golf) become tolerable in person only while under the influence of alcohol (beer, whiskey, shochu)–then I anticipate becoming some kind of temporary soccer fan until Sunday morning.

For now the weapon of choice is Fanta Melon, and hours to go before I sleep, and hours to go before I sleep.

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Liftoff, Space Cosmoship

The electronic dictionaries that my students possess are so wondrous that yesterday one of those little hellions set to work on something nefarious, culminating in a freshman coup-de-grace: room silent between snippets of conversation, a digital female voice emerges and says, in English,

“Ecstasy”

and the kid and his buddy are losing it over there and I try not to, because dammit I’m a teacher. But I remember what high school was like, and if I had an electronic dictionary that said whatever I wanted it to say when I was in high school I’d have been in detention a lot more than I was. I couldn’t help it, I laughed anyway. It was a harbinger of sequelitis, certainly, this punk’s behavior validated, and later in the class we all got an “UHHHHH” from the same voice, in the middle of some kid’s speech. That one I tried not to react to, lest some real whoppers follow. What’s next after “ecstasy” and lascivious moaning? Scallywag? Consarnit? Poppycock? Actual cock? I dare not investigate any further.

This was after one of the students told me I was “lookin’ suave,” wherever the hell they learned that. I can barely conduct routine conversation in Japanese and these kids can say “lookin’ suave” in English. Obviously I need some lessons. I told the kid “nice pants.” He looked at his pants.

Despite my constant struggles with the language, I did manage to use it to do a Secret Special Order at Yoshinoya the other day (the popular beef bowl restaurant) by asking for my gyudon “tsuyudaku,” or with extra sauce. This was during the lunch break of my Mid-Year Conference, mentioned in the last entry. I hoofed it from the government building to Sannomiya and ordered up then walked back stuffed with beef and rice and onions. After that was over I stopped off and bought a Kirin six-pack and a bottle of Suntory Old Whiskey then went home and played Modern Warfare 2 for a long time. It was awesome! (take my word for it)

NEW WEEKLY FEATURE

Curious Japanese Shit of the Week:
– One person’s perception that Hot Cocoa (which exists here) and Hot Chocolate (which apparently does not) are distinct and separate beverages, with Hot Cocoa being “really sweet” and Hot Chocolate necessarily being “even sweeter”
– The only clearance flavor of Hi-Chew candy that I’ve ever seen, and the flavor is “American Cherry,” not that I knew American Cherries had such a distinct taste as to necessitate their own classification as an artificial candy flavoring
– Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino speaking English on a Japanese evening cooking show on television and being the two celebrity judges in a cooking contest between two chef duos, consuming hot pot clam chowder, steak, and attempting to slurp noodles before imploring the viewing audience to go see their new movie “Inglorious Basterds” (actual spelling), which is about Nazis
– Guy outside main center street shopping area downtown standing on precariously balanced plank-on-cylinder while juggling knives to a huge audience of almost totally unenthusiastic bystanders
– Being corrected on my katakana-pronounced order of a “Quarter Pounder with Cheese” at McDonalds by having “Quarter Cheese? Quarter Cheese?” repeated to me (wrapper that sandwich arrives in says Quarter Pounder with Cheese on it)
– A 350ml bottle of cherry soda designed to look exactly like a Tabasco sauce bottle but saying Tabasco nowhere on it nor tasting anything like Tabasco

END OF NEW WEEKLY FEATURE

We used our Japanese Thanksgiving Day on Monday to take the ropeway line to the upper areas of Mount Rokko. Our cable-car-companions were a young, stylish couple, the man in which was being relentlessly teased by the woman for “being scared.” I couldn’t blame him cause the thing was honestly kinda fucking terrifying. I dunno maybe the girl has ridden all the perilous-looking fiberglass composite gondolas suspended from braided wire in Japan or something. From the top of the mountain you can drop a hundred-yen coin into those mechanical binoculars and really get a good view of the city. I could see our apartment complex from there, and tiny boats cruising around in the sea. Then we took the hiking path down, behind a few tourist retards including one girl who was literally wearing heels trying to hike down a mountain and failing miserably. I resisted the urge to help her down with a soccer-style ass-kicking. We saw a waterfall further down, a picture of which you can find over in my Twitter feed in my Twitpic. How twittly! Excited, I got to jogging so quickly down a stone path that I almost fell off the side, but reached out for a railing bar and grabbed it, flipping myself about upside-down.


(not my photograph)

Speaking of physical pain, I had my second encounter with the Japanese health-care system on Saturday morning, having slowly developed agonizing inner-lower-left back pain that flared up whenever I’d engage those trunk muscles. I wanted to let it be, but it hurt even worse after waking up, and so that inconsiderate live-in harpy who’s hogging the air in our apartment (hi jessy) insisted that I go to the hospital (virtually across the street) to make sure I wasn’t going to die or something. As it turns out, I am going to die, but probably not because of this injury, which is just some kind of muscle sprain or spasm caused by my getting drunk and subsequently dehydrated Thursday night at the Sky Buffet (which was as awesome as I predicted), waking up Friday, going to Mid-Year Conference which involved walking four miles, and wolfing down an L-size beef bowl in the meantime. They gave me an ultrasound and discovered I am not pregnant, then “prescribed” me four tiny shitty painkiller pills that don’t work at all. Still, for my appointmentless 8 AM emergency room visit (with an English-speaking doctor, and including the aforementioned ultrasound, blood pressure tests, a urine-check (can’t be too sure I guess), and the cost of my medicine), I only paid about 3,000 yen, or about twenty-seven bucks at the current exchange rate. Thanks Japanese national healthcare system, for your questionable success rate but affordable peace of mind! Anyway it’s mostly feeling better now as long as I don’t do the Locomotion or anything or practice my hula hoop skills out in the yard (I don’t have a yard).

Other things I don’t have: the day off tomorrow, unlike all you lame-guys back in the States, during which you will gorge yourself on roasted bird, stuffing, and whatever other gruesome spreads you are able to secure for yourselves. My Thanksgiving lunch will literally consist of a special-school-prepared government-supplied calorie-rich rice and grain combination, somewhat flavorless miso and seaweed soup, vaguely room-temperature high-fat milk from a glass bottle, a lightly mayonaissed salad likely containing some kind of root or pickled vegetable, and a main dish that odds support being heavily stewed vegetables or fish in some type of sauce. Handily offsetting this (I hope) seems to be the endeavors of one of the western locals, who will be hosting an evening meal more in line with what we’ve come to expect from the occasion. I’ll bestow upon her a Pot of Dumps, dumplings in the true spirit of my mother and her mother and all other dumpmakers back in that rich line, flour and egg and the tiniest bit of water and salt all boiled up hot and tasty. I will eat them all myself except for one, and then as it is reached for, snap it away with adept chopstickery and flick it into the air like a flipped coin before plucking it from the air with my prehensile lizard tongue. It will be my most memorable moment ever, and probably the greatest and best of history.

Tonight I’m going to have the kids play Battleship, only it’s English Battleship where you can only attack by putting together parts of sentences instead of a letter and a number. So instead of a room full of people saying C-5 I’ll have a room full of people saying I would like to… walk to the store (or “remain totally silent with fear”). Anyway, because regular Battleship is lame, I’m making this into SPACE BATTLESHIP, which is fucking rad. They will have Space Battleship, Space Cruiser, Space Cosmoship, Space Ferry, and Space Guppy. The Space Guppy is obviously the one-square ship. They will say “You sunk my Space Guppy,” and things will be okay for me, for tonight at the very least.

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The Easter Bunny Vespucci

The time difference has introduced peculiarities into the measures with which I am to judge precisely at what rate I am decaying: though I took my first glance at this Earthy place at around four in the morning, in Iowa time, I suppose the demarcation of one’s “Birth Day” does indeed cover all hours of the associated unit.

That said, it’s my birthday right now, where I am, anyway, here in Japan, by Japanese time. But my body’s clock senses the lie. It knows that not for another hour will it have become the tenth in Iowa, where I came from, and it feels slighted. However, joy of joys: I will celebrate for all of my Japanese birthday, and then, at three p.m. Japan time, when it becomes the tenth in Iowan time, I will Start My Birthday Over Again, to fanciful effect.

I have spent the day teaching my children about Thanksgiving, the mysterious United States version of the holiday anyway, a compelling story that begins formally in the year 1621, when some people from England decided they wanted to believe basically the same things as the government said but a little differently, and then brought a bunch of diseases to the people of America as a present. One of my students, after having been told the story of Squanto (in English) had only this to say when I asked him “Who was Squanto?”:

Santa Claus.

Of course! The Famous Native American Santa Claus, who helped the pilgrims survive their stupid adventure and then took the next day off to drop presents in all their chimneys.

It’s okay if you can’t understand the history of Thanksgiving, I tell them. It’s mostly about being a pig and eating a lot of food, then maybe watching football on TV if you are ambitious enough to hit the power button on your remote. They also really enjoy it when I tell them what gravy is, and extol its virtues.

The last several days have been what I have come, generally, to expect, with a few exceptions: after a delicious stop at a ramen place in Sannomiya, Jessy and I popped into NAMCO LAND, which is an enormous video arcade with an entire wing devoted to UFO catchers, which I have talked about in here before I think. These are crane games, only in Japan they are actually popular, and have awesome prizes, and there are Arcade Attendants who monitor the machines and restock them right after you win stuff, and basically ensure a bitchin’ time. In fact I probably need to write a Nomaday some time about all the different varieties that they have. Anyway the exception is that I actually won something cool: an Evangelion statue figure thing.

When I won it went PING as the little claw flicked the ring holding the box up off of the peg, and then I felt like the most sweet and cool person alive and it was the best. Also this week I finally picked up Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii from the library of games I brought over and proceeded to get all the stars in it and unlock the Luigi mode which was pretty cool.

Tonight I think I might go out for that fabled delicious Kobe beef steak for the first time, as a birthday treat. If I never write again, know that it was because the steak was so delicious that I am comatose, or that I choked on it.

I have to teach a class in a minute, so this will be a little short for a Nomaday. In the words of myself, as I often end class, “See you next time! Okay you can go. Please leave now goodbye.”

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