Tag Archives: tomomi itano

I never travel without my Stetson

The struggle straggles on dear reader–yet bound to the perils and quandaries of adapting to New Life I grit my teeth and like palm trees that stood their ground during Andrew hope that no blades of grass or other tiny projectiles come flyin’ my way. I hold my arms in real tight and try to make myself a small target: awake at six, breakfast made for the two of us somewhere in there, dressed and out the door by seven to drop her off and hit my own job by eight, pick her up at five-thirty, supper ready by six-thirty or seven, maybe we squeeze in a movie before I pass out like a cantankerous old fuckhat at nine and a half tops.

The natives remain a source of intrigue, though I struggle to define them as easily as I did in the strange land of Japan, where everything already has a convenient social perception and stereotype automatically baked into it, stitched on like a mattress tag that you may flirt with the idea of removing but dare not actually ever attempt to rip off because hey you never know when you’re going to need it. I do not, in practice, see anyone wearing cowboy hats or driving massive Olds or Buicks with steer horns on the fronts of them, I have never met anyone named J.R. but lots of people say y’all it is true, in such constructs as “did y’all get y’all’s reports this morning” &c.

Today there was a terrible driver in the car behind me, he was picking at his face while examining it in the flip-down mirror. He didn’t use turn-signals and crossed the solid line to get into the turn lane that I was also going to get into, the impatient little ass crinkle. I was half-singing to a song playing through my radio at the time, I had changed it away from the normal talk program I tend to listen to during my “morning commute,” I really am a fucking American now aren’t I. I fancy the guy behind me is a serious asshole in real life, because it makes me feel better, and speed up to get in front of him. I watch his face in my rear view as I do it and his mouth takes the shape of a heavily-serifed capital letter I, and I just shake my head, this poor cretin, this dumb mother fucker, I wonder what he ate for supper last night, and if he is upset about DirecTV removing the Weather Channel, and if he is the kind of guy who buys bottled tap water.

We watched a movie called “Dallas Buyers Club” last night, the title made me think it was about a salesman but then Jared Leto was winning these awards for cross-dressing or some shit and then the movie starts with a frail Matthew Mc-connahee bangin’ some ho in a rodeo pen and then they are all like, getting drugs and I had no idea what kinda movie it was before I started. As I watched it all I could think was that they sure made a decent movie and I bet it hardly cost a bit of money to make it, it only cost five million dollars, which is basically nothing but a fraction of that would pretty much set me for life. I borrowed Dallas Buyers Club from a friend who I know who lives somewhere who is borrowing it from his friend who does the voting for the Oscars, they send out copies of movies on DVDs so the voters can see them without having to go to the goddamned movie theater and pay twenty dollars like all the other poor fucks to get pissed off by little stupid babies and idiots who don’t know how to just watch a movie. As it turns out I like to see movies in my house too so I borrowed it from that person. I promise I will cast a vote, not that it will count for anything, kind of like a real election!!!

CURIOUS AMERICA, PRETTY WEIRD SHIT
– There are new “Doritos” corn chips on the market here, they are called “DYNAMITA” and they called them that I guess because they look like little sticks of dynamite? they are “rolled” chips which means they look kind of like little tubes, like if you were to roll up a money into a tube to snort coke out of only it is a dorito, boy don’t make that mistake next time you’re snortin’ cocaine, if you grab that dorito hoo lawdy! it will be bad for you i think
– It turns out that dead cat from a couple days ago is actually still there, I just didn’t see it that one morning so that’s kind of a bummer but I always wonder like how many dogs that these wasps from up on Swiss avenue walk by it are all like “hm i’d like-a get me a bite of that dead ol’ cat there” and probably it is not a small number of them who think in that way
– Our heater/cooler or “HVAC” as they like to call it here stopped working on Friday, and the landlord was like oh hey I’ll give your number to the heater people, and they called me on Monday to schedule an appointment to come fix it, and I was like okay so when can you come, and they were like oh we only do service from eight to four-thirty Monday through Friday, and I was like well what if I have a job, which I do, and they were like um, and I asked if they could come on a weekend, and they were like no, and I wonder, how did they ever actually become a business going to people’s houses to repair things that people without jobs could not actually afford to own or operate, and I thought maybe I will start a pizza company that only delivers pizzas between eight and four-thirty, and when people call in to order a pizza I will say “ooh, sorry bro we only deliver pizzas during the time you are at work” so basically we are never fixing our HVAC sorry landlord
– I wonder which random chain-restaurant I will be forced to go to for lunch today because there are no normal restaurants
I’M SO TIRED OF YOU AMERICA

If I keep doing this and get used to it again I promise I’ll get better at it and I will be able to bitch about everything but still be entertaining to myself and maybe you. For now though it is just bitch bitch bitch. Maybe I will get some of those animal horns to put on the front of my car.

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A positive, get-it-done city

For all they say about Texas bein’ the land of the yee-haw and cowboy bewts and root-tootin’ assless chaps spurs kickin’ up a dust trail gitalong, little dogie, all I have really seen that was way outside the realm of the ordinary was a bar fight culminating with a man pulling a literal switchblade and brandishing it, like in the movies, then apologizing to the whole bar profusely after the man left (and mere moments before we got the fuck outta there).

But then, what kind of operative word is “ordinary,” anyway? To me, fresh off four years in perhaps the least ordinary place in the world which had become Most Ordinary to me, virtually anything different is of note. I derive no small amount of enjoyment from being able to purchase bottles and draughts of my most favorite beers from a variety of excellent drinking establishments and supermarkets, only one of which I was ever afraid I might get stabbed with a switchblade in. There are tacos, tacos everywhere, generally of the soft variety and in great quantity over burritos, which I for some reason imagined would be more popular. No, in the few days since moving here I have eaten pan-fried fish tacos, a tikka masala chicken taco, a few shredded pork tacos, a mushroom and cream cheese taco with lettuce as the tortilla, fried crawfish tacos, beef tacos, chicken tacos. I am even eating a frozen burrito as we speak, which seems less than exciting after all them good real tacos I been eatin’. I have yet to eat a single piece of “barbecue.”

My current state of affairs affords me a peculiar and unusual viewpoint. For the first time since when, eighth grade? I have no school work to do, and no job lined up, and am on the verge of being unemployed and thirty (yet well clear of a basement belonging to any of my parents). Having now become accustomed to the unsettled drifter lifestyle over the last three months, I face no real problems living out of just a small duffle bag, and wonder “what do I need all these other boxes of items for, and where will I put them? Surely not on the furniture I also do not yet have–I am writing this sitting cross-legged on the floor with my laptop resting on a black trunk. With enough money in the virtual safe to last me a few months of paying my rent and student loans (along with the occasional purchase) I’ve been afforded a unique opportunity to have time to write and square away all the things that I need to get squared away. But surrounded by my fresh young upstart roommates who are all working impossible hours as new teachers in the Dallas school district I can’t help but feel like a bit of a lowlife. I’ve given myself a full month at least, to pound out as much as I can on the novel, to get the steps put in motion to get a new driver’s license, to take care of picking up the Huge Load Of Shit I Mailed from Japan at the warehouse in a couple weeks, to absolutely walk three buildings down to the Garden Cafe this Thursday for what is apparently some seriously sublime chicken fried steak.

Can I still do this hmm i wonder CURIOUS AMERICA THINGS OF THE NOW
– The local big supermarket FIESTA and its extensive selection of Jesus-themed glass ensconced votive candles (also plenty of chorizo)
– There being absolutely no bottled green, or any other kind, of tea that does not include fifty grams of sugar, citric acid, or a battery of artificial sweeteners
– Having no phone “Where did you leave it?” “No, I don’t have one” “Oh, did it break” “No, like I don’t have a phone number”, which makes me feel strangely less on edge but also isolated from The Cool Kids
– Dollar Tree, a store where everything is a dollar, and mostly I mean there are three-liter bottles of soda and bread products branded with Larry The Cable Guy’s fucking face
– A surprising assortment of bars that have really excellent beer and at which I can order different beers instead of just doing what I did over the last four years which was say “beer please”
BETTER CHILL OUT NOW

It is probable that you’d have already noticed this, seeing as how you are now viewing this very article, but the dickrats over at Go Daddy dot shit decided to not automatically renew my nomaday dot com address and would like to charge me eighty dollars to get it back. I am not cool with that, so in the spirit of America I have changed the URL to nmdy.us. You may notice the .us! That is because I am now in the US. Simply remove all the vowels from “nomaday” and add a .us! The domain cost me 99 cents for a year, which also seemed quite American.

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How happy he who crowns in shades like these

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

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

TREE STUFF

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

but you knew it was coming

8636353-755725

I AM A TOUR GUY

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

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

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

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

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Turn not pale, beloved snail

There’s this game store in town that I sometimes go to that has an inventory that has essentially not changed in two years. It is a little sorta room, and every time I go in there without fail the same man is sitting behind the counter. He sits in this chair against the wall so that you can barely see his head peeking up over it. I figured oh, maybe he has a little TV or somethin’ just behind the counter and he is playing a game because this is a game store. But I took a peek and there is literally nothing there, he just stares at the empty back of the showcase all the time. There is no feasible way that he makes enough money from that store to even live, I have no concept of it. All the games are overpriced, you would have to be crazy to buy almost anything from there, every time I go the exact same games are there nobody must ever buy anything except sometimes I buy something for a buck or two if I find it. Sometimes the radio is on, but never tuned to a real station, it is like half horrific static and half almost-melodies. I bought a copy of Wrecking Crew cause it was easier than paying the Yahoo Auction transfer fee and shipping, the guy sat back down after he handed me the bag, I guess the back side of that showcase is really something special.

The kids are graduated again, which means that there is officially fuck-all for me to do for the next month. For this situation I am excellently equipped, having only the best role models surrounding me, real experts, real savants on how to appear busy while not actually doing anything. For starters, I can type lots of words into the computer. This has the bonus side effect of making absolutely nobody even bother me at all because of all the crazy letters that are coming out and I am just typing so fast! Actually behind me some guy is literally coughing up pieces of his lungs, I am afraid he is going to die before long. Oh he just walked by me and belched sorta under his breath, like a secret. “Don’t tell anyone what I am about to share with you. This is my bond, my promise. Listen close child and keep it under your pillow at night do you understand me.” Hey while I am remarking on the crazy antics of my coworkers how about my office lady who just sneezed and then treated it like a shocking horrible revelation. She screamed in terror and shouted and raved, oh I sneezed, oh my goodness, oh. She does that for every minor occurrence in this office, like if she drops a pencil case or something it is the next great Japanese tragedy, a pencil case was dropped at school today, the news reporters will announce, and there were two Japanese pencils among the dropped, and some other foreign pencils.

Sometimes when the students come in here to get toilet paper they have to like squat down to get the toilet paper right in front of me, cause the box of toilet paper is under a table next to my desk, and I just am like man, look at you grabbin’ up that toilet paper, well, I know what you’re gonna do with that.

The heaters are on here in the office today for some reason even though it is kinda nice outside. It is still not hot enough to be considered “atsu” so of course the teachers still run in from the hallways screaming “samu, samu, aaah samu” even though it is fuckin’ gorgeous out there. But the Japanese language does not have any words for “the weather is inoffensive” because it was designed by masochists and it is easier to just say things that don’t mean anything. Ha ha I am just kidding. muzukashii

CURIOUS JAPANESE DERPS OF THE HERP
– my lunch today is a “wrap” and on the package it says “tortilla (ham cheese)” and it is basically a “wrap” but instead of it being like wrap stuff it is pretty much just a Japanese ham and cheese sandwich in a tortilla, which means it is 98% mayonnaise with a dusting of shredded shrimp farts
– my pal made a list of the best band names in Japan and it features such shocking names as Husking Bee, Yuji cut the man T, and Coaltar of the Deepers, you can read it here
– none of them will compare to my unmentioned personal favorite Japanese band name, Snail Ramp
WELL IT IS TIME TO STOP MAYBE

In the dying hours of last Saturday I half-drunkenly flipped through Japanese television after a spirited round of Jeopardy with a friend of ours, and stumbled onto a TV program I have seen before, entitled “BAKASOUL” featuring some guy in thick blackface impersonating James Brown. Baka means fool basically and boy were they ever. It featured “comedians” which means that they come out and say some catch phrase and then wait for people to laugh, which they do for some reason maybe because they don’t want to be left out. Last year I saw a band on there called “TOTALFAT” and it was pretty great. The last act that I saw before we turned it off was those comedians who are famous for wearing only Speedos, jesus it was stupid. In conclusion I love Japanese television.

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Now they grow up sharing McDonald’s and Disneyland

I’ve taken to wearing a beard and mustache, which I prefer to spell moustache, for no explicit reason. Having never actually witnessed what happens when I do not shave my face, I decided to give it the old college try for the first time last November, a month that some people have taken to dubbing “movember,” perhaps because mustache starts with an m and they want a sanctioned excuse to not shave and look like filthy mountain men. It was a short-lived experiment, I didn’t like the way it felt. When I left for Thailand at the end of December I decided not to bring my electric razor cause it was bulky. I haven’t shaved anything off since then except for a little trimming. So here I am, kinda mustachey, kinda beardy. It took a while before people at my schools started remarking on it, but things are in full swing now. It came to my attention the other day, via one of my good co-workers, that “many” of the students have been asking “why” I am now wearing hair on my face. I told him, as I struggled to come up with an answer, that I was basically doing it to see what it would be like. They thought it was hilarious, a reaction I often encounter when I say something that is not funny at all.

I told them that Jessy liked it, that it was just kind of interesting to see, personally, how it would come in, if my mustache and beard would ever connect (they won’t, it seems), what I would look like. I asked them if they had ever grown a mustache or beard and they said no. One of them is probably sixty, the other is two weeks younger than me. I considered asking why they had never tried it, just to put them in my shoes. I did not ask them. In a way this minor act of growing hair on my face almost makes me feel more foreign, since nobody at the school has a mustache or beard–I feel like I’m slowly re-Americanizing myself in preparation for the move back home.

Speakin’ of America I accidentally got into a conversation about old times today and found some pictures that I had of my room when I lived in Pittsburgh, and it sorta depressed me because I looked at them and the first thing I felt was man, I miss living in that place. Like you always think about a time when you are most happy or something, and I really felt “I was more happy then than I am now” and it was kind of a sad thought. I want to be happy! I wonder what it is I need to change or do. Maybe it is just the impermanence of living here that is driving me crazy, not that anywhere else I’ve ever lived has been any more permanent. It kind of seems like the times I get the most depressed are when I’m sitting here at night school doing jack shit except thinking about things that I used to do, which is probably confirmation of my brand new and groundbreaking theory that idle hands lead to minds that wish their hands weren’t idle but don’t have the ambition to make them move. Yes that’s it

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE NOM
– Today’s gummy snack from the FamilyMart, featuring three different flavors of gummies: melon soda, cola, and lemon sour, and named “Cola up! &Friends”
– My distinctly non-romantic idea that because tomorrow is Valentine’s Day me and Jessy should go on a date “to the curry restaurant in the basement in Sannomiya that we both really like” but hey she was like OH MY GOD YEAH and I was like take that, someone
– The loudspeaker van that I walked past on the way to school that was yelling in the top of its lungs about Japan needs to REVIVAL!!!!! but he sounded so angry about it
– Ate McDonald’s MEGA MUFFIN the other day for breakfast, it was pretty mega if i am to be perfectly honest with you. It is part of their annual “Big America” series of strangely-themed “American” sandwiches like Texas Burger and Idaho Burger that are both nothing like anything available in America and at the same time a good reflection of what a global burger company comes up with when they want to portray “America” to the average Japanese person
mcdsTHE END OF FOOD IN JAPAN

I went to karaoke last weekend again with some pals, a kind of renaissance of karaoke after having not really gone in over a year or so. Evidently, somewhere along the line, the Big Echo place replaced all their ancient fuckin’ TVs and the horrible stock videos that play behind the lyrics with brand new widescreen TVs and newly-shot HD videos. It’s kind of a bizarre change, updating the old fashions for the new. The old videos were really amazing in a way, most of them obviously shot at-or-around the turn of the century, full-frame, people in ridiculous clothes and dated storefronts, hilarious foreign actors recruited by Japanese companies to shoot these things. These new ones are sort of a strange anachronism, brand-new high-definition video matched up to goofy lyrics for Take Me Home Country Roads like some teenagers hangin’ out in an apartment eating pizza or whatever. I feel like there’s a short story in there somewhere, that whole scene must just be the weirdest goddamned thing.

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Many foreigners have come and gone

I’m eating a piece of Pumpkin-not-cake-not-bread baked thing, prepared by my “head teacher” who speaks shocking, disorienting, English that would be almost perfect except for the occasional times he just doesn’t know a word. Imagine conversing with a good friend of yours but then every now and then you bust out a sentence like “My sooth-saying has been verily challenged by your keen insight,” and then your friend says “what is keen?” He got the recipe off a website of some girl from Iowa who apparently posts recipes for baking things on the Internet. Remember when I used to post things on the Internet? The baked thing is not bad. I am eating it while drinking a paper container full of “abundant milk cocoa,” which tastes sort of like semi-notable chocolate milk. In the refrigerator are two ham and lettuce sandwiches, I am going to eat them later after the novelty of pumpkin thing wears off.

I took a really long trip to Thailand and Laos over the winter break, it was a thing. I only wrote anything down once in my notebook, because writing full on out my brain with a pencil and paper is too slow and I cannot keep up. This is what I wrote. I was gonna write more later, but then I did not, and the longer I don’t write something the more all I do is think about writing it instead of writing it. So here is what I have got from my trip, typed directly out of them pages and onto this screen.

STUFF I’VE GOT FROM MY TRIP

The first person we meet in Luang Prabang, which is a city in Laos, which apparently is a country, before anyone that seems interested in checking us into the hostel we’ve strolled up to, is a shorter, slightly more pathetically facial-haired version of a beanie-wearing young Matthew McConaughey, Dazed and Confused era, named Reuter, or Rutger, or Ruben, maybe it was Ruben, or something.  He says yeah mate a lot and cheerses our 10,000 kip (~1 US dollar) beers over virtually anything it is possible to cheers, even the act of clinking the bottles themselves together, yeah mate what a nice sound I will cheers to that.

He is on holiday with his “crew,” literally all of which have followed him to this very hostel, ten or so of them.  I recognize the types but cannot be sure if they are merely emulations of the filthy backpackin’ hippies we all know from movies and Woodstock reels or if this is what passes for one now.  As we talk about our lives submerged in a bit of drink I notice for the first time in my life that I feel acutely older than someone I could theoretically consider a peer.  I think the phrase is “I remember when I was your age.”  I don’t say it but wonder if my relaxed disposition gives it away–I don’t have the energy necessary to chameleonize anymore, and I’ve seen where the roads lead.  The mystery of the unknown is gone.  Or maybe that’s just it, I can just make it out up ahead like a familiar billboard.

LiORdjf

When Rooper begins laying down “the rules” of what goes down here at the $3 a bed per night dorm-style hostel I feel like I’m actually back in college, I am eighteen years old.  I check out, my brain turns in the keys.  They go off to smoke and drink, I hit the sack at 8:30, the day after my New Year’s Eve in another country entirely, off a handful of zs.  Then I am awakened by a baby, or two, screaming and screaming.  And a rooster squawking so hard its voice gives out, which I did not know could happen.  And the tuk tuk drivers, who are insane, parked outside the place, revving their little motorcycle engines like if they do it hard enough some tourist will jar himself loose from the sky and fall into the back, pay him 500% the normal rate for a trip across town.

The next day most of them leave, a thing I am sure of because of the elephantine stomping that echoes through the old house.  I know it is old not only because it is old but because there is a handwritten sign in the lobby, pieced together presumably by the owner, using the English phrases that seemed appropriate to him at the time.

We shall never replace the building with modern luxuries like concrete and steel, it says, we will not alter the building and will preserve its natural history.  This note is glued to the wall, written in permanent marker.  Up around the top of the room, where the walls meet the ceiling, I can just see some ornate decorative painted designs that have at some point been painted over, I step on a hastily repaired piece of wood as I pace the room to check them out. It creaks a little bit.

WELP THAT IS IT

We did other things on our trip too. For instance, I took a propeller plane and tried to not be scared of anything, because my New Year’s Resolution this year was “don’t be afraid.” I tried to clarify the resolution with explanatory conditions but can’t quite get it perfect the way I want though. Don’t be afraid of anything!!! seems a little broad, we should probably fear some things. But then if I start making exceptions I have to consider each time I am afraid of something if it’s a thing I am allowed to be afraid of, which is just bullshit so maybe I should leave it, don’t be afraid. Anyway I lived, on the propeller plane, then I bought some Valium without a prescription and a half-hour before my next flight I took some and woke up in the air with a mere half-hour to go, that worked pretty well.

I ate lots of food out of dirty filthy street carts and paid almost nothing for it, except my life. I drank lots and lots of beer and slept in beds next to strangers. One day I took a “cooking” class and didn’t really learn anything. I saw three movies. On New Year’s Eve, a neat band rocked my head off in a small bar while we drank Coca-Cola and gin out of a literal plastic bucket with straws, maybe four of us to a bucket. I was propositioned by suit tailors approximately eighty-five times. Before we came home to Japan I bought a cheap duffle bag and went to the supermarket, then filled it with food and checked it as my piece of luggage.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE LAST HOW MANY FUCKING MONTHS HAS IT BEEN NOW
– There is a new convenience store next to the exit for my usual station, it is a FamilyMart which is maybe my favorite kind, and I actually thought “finally, a new convenience store” even though there are already two of them on my way to work within three minutes walk of each other but I am so damned sick of them ooooohhhhh
– The yen is tanking because everything in the country I guess is turning to shit
– One of my short stories that I like got translated into Japanese by a couple friends of mine, I would show you it but it’s all in Japanese
– I bought a new kind of gum, it’s called “Megashaki” and inside each huge piece is a reservoir of sour Pop Rocks goop and you are like “yowza” when you bite it
– You can buy 7-Up here now
THAT IS OK I GUESS

I added up all the words in every Nom a Day I have ever written the other day, it was some crazy number like 132,000 words which would be really great if it was anything worth a damn!

But it is just this stuff.

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He ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends

If there’s a single decent thing about summer it is that it reminds me that life isn’t always this shitty like it is now, that no matter how much I hate sweating to death and being sapped of energy and moving, at all, things by default will be better when winter rolls around again. You ever heard of that made up mental illness called “SAD” which is short for seasonal affected disorder only I think they say it is from people who have no sunlight? Maybe I am the opposite of that. TOO MUCH SUN. Anyway, I don’t know how long it took me, in my life, to realize that I had seasonal preferences. Maybe it wasn’t until I even came to Japan that, like with my declared religious belief, favorite food, “hobbies,” and other menial answers to frequently asked questions, I firmly decided to Ultimately Choose that winter was my favorite and I hate summer. It just makes things easier, since nobody understands my ambling, self-exploratory responses that play around the edges of answers like people fingering the ridges of a quarter with the end of their thumbnail. One word answers are king here, where people would rather not have to work to understand what I’ve just said.

Maybe part of it is that there is literally nothing I would ever enjoy doing that would be much better in summer than it would be in winter, appropriately clothed at least. Beach party? Pf. WINTER beach party? Sign me up. Grilling outside in the scorching heat? Fuh. Cooking a pot of stew over a log fire while exposed to the elements? YEAH! What I mean is just that unless the occasion is “being scantily clothed outside,” and actually enjoying it, I will take winter, especially this pussy willow Kobe winter, where At Freezing makes people bitch and complain, and I am like “ah, this is great.”

On my sweaty walk home from a small office party last night, some crazy man followed me and my coworker through the ticket gate (he ducked under the barrier to avoid paying), then followed us onto our train, and for a few stops repeatedly gestured toward me while speaking to other random people sitting down, trying desperately to ignore him. He was saying stuff in Japanese like “hey, check out this foreign guy, don’t you want to take a picture of him, I bet he is American, they sure beat us in the war, they sure did their best in that war didn’t they, look at this tall gaijin, he sure ain’t Japanese.” I told me coworker that in America we have a nice phrase that goes something like “fuck off” that we would say to annoying idiots like this, but in Japan it is generally accepted that if you pick a fight, absolutely nobody else is going to help you, look at you, or say anything at all. I turned my back to him, occasionally making eye contact with other horrified passengers, a stupefied grin on my face, shrugging my shoulders like Michael Jordan hittin’ ethereal threes. “Sorry dudes, I just am so foreign.” then i killed the guy

WEIRD SHIT THAT SHOULD SEEM WEIRDER THAN IT DOES TO ME BUT I HAVE BEEN HERE TOO LONG
– Didn’t have my hanky yesterday cause I washed it and it needed to dry, felt tangibly uncomfortable all day with no hanky to dab my forehead with
– I ate a cow’s tongue last night and actually thought it was delicious
– Drinking almost exclusively green tea, am beginning to be able to tell the slight differences between different types
– Fake bands made of fake high-school girls wearing real bikinis continue their relentless popularity, “obviously”
– Of course you can’t buy beans in the grocery store, why would they need strange ethnic foods like beans in the normal supermarket
ENOUGH

I’m taking three days off next week for summer leave, during which I plan to cook awesome food and visit a local beer brewery. For some reason I am thinking that the perfect accompaniment to my vacation would be a viewing of Doctor Zhivago, I am truly becoming insufferable.

Love,
Brandon

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Kissing a girl who is leaning away from you

At a fancy table I mentally fidget with my lines–I am a couple minutes away from getting up in front of everyone who holds any sort of employment at my school to give a short speech in Japanese. We’re all piled into a fancy dining room on an upper floor of the ridiculous monstrosity the “Meriken Park Oriental Hotel,” a triple-A lodgery which according to Wikipedia was designed by “a corporation” to resemble a luxury ocean liner “for some reason.” If you could move the upper image on my website a little to the side, you’d see it there, a staple of the waterfront view. I’ve had a few beers at this point, though it’s hard to say exactly how many due to the irritating yet awesome Japanese office party custom of always refilling the drinks of anyone next to you any time you see they aren’t completely full. When they call my name I realize that the speeches everyone else have given have been pithy, short introductory missives, cursory pap delivered obligatorily in the native language of this country. Mine is a two-and-a-half minute jaunt down ha-ha road, originally penned by myself in simple English, simplified even further for easy translation, translated by a co-teacher of mine, then personally re-simplified to make the Japanese sound like it could theoretically have been pieced together by my infant brain. Before I get up there, I realize I have no idea what the fuck I have done.

it's on the right

The topic of the speech, an introduction and farewell to one of my coworkers, who has been recently transferred to another school but returns tonight to receive the honor of this speech (along with a couple envelopes of money from the PTA), is the concept of the relative humor that we share, and how sometimes during our conversations in English, neither of us knew exactly what was funny and what wasn’t, leading us to ignore jokes and laugh at the mundane, which is perfectly enough what I tend to do even if I can understand you. In a case of art imitating life (intentionally), my speech, written in English and delivered in Japanese, finds itself bouncing around in my mind like an enigmatic memory, constantly analyzed: which section of this is precisely when “the joke” comes out? Will their sensibilities allow them to find it funny, or will they, fearing staff retribution, laugh only at the safe parts? Perhaps appropriately, even though I analyze my own speech on numerous occasions prior to delivering it, as I orate in a foreign language I barely understand even as speaking it, I receive laughs at unplanned junctures, and my perfect pronunciation of “Iwasaki-sensei wa naze KONna ni waratterundaroukaaaaa” gets only a few titters. Jessy suggests that perhaps the inflection of the line was too good, making me sound serious “why the hell were you laughin’ at that, Iwasaki?!” instead of endearing “wonder why she’d laugh at that, hmm!” It’s happiest for me to imagine that for just a moment I sound like a violent, rough-and-tumble Japanese gangster with a knife to the throat of my dear old lady coworker, but not at all out of line for me to believe that, as with English, they just can’t tell if I am being sarcastic or not. Then I tell them all to choke on their fried mayonnaise shrimp and flip themselves inside out.

One teacher later on in the evening stops by to refill my drink for the seven-hundredth time and tells me that my speech was “by far” the best one of the night, which mentally I assume is because I had actually written one and liken to defeating a gang of Antarctican six-year-olds in the indoor-heating knowledge Olympics. Still, the victory is sweet, sweet like Chinese wine, which I glug down until I cannot remember who I am. Another office party victory, filling myself up with open bar liquids and Chinese food that is too fancy for me to appreciate.

Yesterday’s solar eclipse offered the fun opportunity to watch various Japanese humans stop themselves in their tracks and stare directly up at the sun, searing their corneas into ash. I, never one to over-prepare, determined that I did not need the special glasses and that taking a peek using the reflection of my cellular telephone screen would be enough. It kind of was, I could see that the sun looked like a little ring in the sky. I read a story that at a zoo here all the lemurs went apeshit cause it got dark so they thought it was night and then it turned day again. I like to imagine how crazy that crap must be to you if you are a lemur. “Holy shit, the day only lasted five minutes and now it is night again, does that mean there is a new episode of Jeopardy already or.” Knowing that, if I was privy to that information ahead of time, I think instead of just planning to watch the eclipse I’d have tried to get me a ticket to the zoo and go watch the lemurs go crazy instead.

I also enjoyed considering what the prevailing mentality must have been way back in the turgid-cortex brainflop days, before people could understand at all what was happening and perhaps, for a time, assumed that this was truly the end of days. Did they resort to the mentalities of unrestrained monkeys, ranting and raving? Maybe for a time they all picked up ancient acoustic guitars and told it near the train station, hurry and adopt Our Lord And Savior before it is too late! At any rate, by the time I was at my desk doing my “job” which during midterms this year means “nothing,” things in outer space were all back to normal. I celebrated by eating a old rice cracker I found in my desk that tasted kind of like dried squid for some reason, and maybe the reason is that they made it taste that way on purpose.

Defying the odds, Mello Yello is somehow back, or maybe it just never left and they’ve brought it into higher distribution for the summer. I bought a bottle because I missed seeing it, which might lend some credence to the Coca-Cola company’s theory of seasonality. Surely if it had been here all along I’d have paid it no attention, a cruel and shocking allegory for what my daily life truly amounts to as I pump on through the days and nights. A few weeks ago just to make things different I switched the living room again. That’s when I move all the stuff that’s on the north wall to the south wall, and move the stuff on the south wall to the north wall. It tricks me into believing things are fresh and new, regardless of whether they are or not.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE LATELY
– Osaka’s mayor, who is on a personal crusade to fire anyone who has tattoos, is prohibiting dance clubs from allowing dancing, and who apparently never saw the movie Footloose and thinks the current year is 1928
– The popular American movie “The Avengers,” which, despite having been out in America for a few weeks, will not release in Japan until August 17th, by which point several people who are alive today will certainly be dead
– Television
OH THAT WILL BE FINE

I’ve been doing a tongue twisters lesson in class for the last week or so and I have so many stupid tongue twisters memorized that I cannot handle it. If two witches could watch two watches which witch would watch which watch ripe white wheat reapers reap ripe white wheat right we’re real rear wheels scizzors sizzle thistles fizzle six thick thistle sticks eleven benevolent elephants betty botter made a batch of bitter batter but with butter it was better rory the warrior and roger the worrier were reared wrongly in a rural brewery.

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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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Where your taste buds are at

Lunch today is two “korokke,” which I suppose you could use English by way of stolen French to call “croquettes” even though they’re kinda different. What they are is pretty much mashed potatoes and some microscopic chopped meat bits and some corn or something and then they roll it in flour and bread crumbs and deep fry it. I, being firmly of the mind that deep-fried anything is good enough, have no problems with either the methodology or composition of korokke. So I’ll hog ’em down and a rice ball too for good measure, a culinary polyglot.

The cheap (60 yen) morsels do quite handily clash with my extravagant dining sessions of the last couple days, however. Now that Jessy’s once again away, this time in America for her mother’s wedding, I have found myself (figuratively) all dolled up with (literally) no place to go. I’ve taken advantage of the opportunity not only by nomming shit that she would never touch (homemade sloppy joe sauce mixed with boxed macaroni and cheese, pork and beef curry over linguini noodles, salted grilled chicken dipped in nacho cheese), but also an assortment of fancy meals. On Monday I got me hence to the slightly-more-upscale of the few sushi-go-round restaurants that I know of and stuffed myself on tuna, shrimp, crab, and salmon, washing it down with an icy cold draft Sapporo. And just last night it was cook-at-home evening, for which I planned to make a nice steak and some fries but was torn between this idea and sushi again. I met myself halfway and just cooked a steak and and bought some pre-made sushi, an unconventional yet comforting surf-and-turf. As I chomped into the raw fish and savored the raw center of the steak it occured to me I was enjoying the benefits of the uncooked deaths of several distinct creatures, all of which shoulda known how tasty they were and that they had it coming.

hgnghsnarrrf

I stopped by the local Uniqlo store the other day to pick up some more HEATTECH shirts, which are made of a delightfully smooth and stretchy material and purportedly insulate your body for maximum warmth in the winter time, because the Japanese have not yet engineered the technology enabling the house to be heated and so it is important to conserve every little bit of body heat. I also took the brash step of acquiring a couple wool button-up sweaters, and I am prepared to call them cardigans. I got a grey one and one that is sort of brown that when I look at it I think “burnt umber” but it’s probably lighter than burnt umber, maybe lighter even than umber but not quite beige, and there must be a color in there but I don’t know what it is. One of my students the other day said that I looked nice while wearing this undefinably-colored sweater, and I remember her because she looks exactly like this popular AKB48 girl who is all over the television and posters, and I remember her because in my mind, somewhere next to where I have stored “burnt umber,” I remember her name, which is Duckface.

quack

In much the same way that Jack Nicholson’s Joker was completely unable to stop smiling, I also believe that Duckface (actual name Tomomi Itano) is incapable of making any sort of facial expression that is not the duck face. In conclusion I love Uniqlo, their clothes are always cheap and when I go there and I buy a medium-sized article it is actually sized for medium-sized people so it fits me instead of hanging off of me like a tarp.

The time I’ve spent not purchasing clothes and food this week has been mostly devoted to occupying myself with one type of game or another, be it of the card, board, or video persuasion. I finished a game called “The Ballad of Gay Tony” in which I at one point threw a man out of a helicopter and then skydived to catch him and then parachuted and missed where I was supposed to land and drowned us both to death. That was pretty neat! Also I have continued to practice my guitar playing every day with the assistance of that piece of software called Rocksmith, which gives me a little guidance and a game-type structure for practicing my techniques.

I’ve been sleeping in the spare room with the comforter over me. Each morning when I wake up it feels like I’m somewhere new.

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