Tag Archives: yen

A parked taxi with the meter running

The last week and a half has seen me become a drifter, free of obligation or mental roadblock, free of the famous Jessica Dovey, who may or may not have been dead at any given moment in the Himalayan mountains but ended up being not dead and actually gets back home tonight. While she was gone I engaged in a variety of scandalous activities that would be forbidden if she was around, like: leaving the air conditioner on even while I slept sometimes, occasionally leaving the toilet seat up, and one time I smoked a cigarette on the balcony and did not close the door to the house. The illicit things that I did are even more scandalous. For instance, I cooked linguine noodles instead of the spaghetti ones and I drank two entire Mello Yellos on a weekend evening and stayed up well past 9 PM.

While she was gone, in typical Japanese fashion the massive social hoopla built and built for Typhoon Ma-on, which was first a Category 5 super typhoon, then slowed down, then was on a direct collision course with Kobe, then wasn’t, then hooked up back toward us, then didn’t. It ended up being about the biggest non-event in history, the non-event to end all non-events. At its most troublesome it stole away some of humanity’s precious three-dollar plastic umbrellas, and I fear we shall never see them again. I, tasked with caring for Jessy’s garden plants on our balcony, did an admirable enough job saving the tomatoes, though the useless little green beans in their tiny pods were a casualty of the wind, tossed to the ends of the earth.

As penance for my slight transgressions, I took it upon myself to finally throw away the Christmas tree she had stashed there on our balcony, dead for seven months and wrapped in a red fleece blanket, secured with shoelaces that look like the pullstrings for purple Zubaz pants. I believe that it was serving as a reminder, a grave one, to the living flora and fauna: do you see what we do to you, if you die? You will finish your days in this place covered in synthetic fibers and left to roast in the sun like a carcass for the vultures, and not even the smallest creature shall mourn you. Opening the blanket up was like unearthing a mystical coffin containing Santa Claus. Pine needles fell all over everything, and I was reminded of that magical Christmas of 2010, which we spent with a fresh tree until December 17th when we left the apartment for weeks. She had tricked me into letting her buy the Christmas tree from IKEA by pointing out that if you brought it back after Christmas with the receipt they would give you a special gift card for store credit, something she absolutely “would do.” I am an elephant, woman, and I will not forget this savage, cruel deception. This year there will be only a Christmas box, which will be a box in the corner of the room, and inside it will be other, smaller boxes, and inside them will be nothing, and it is all for you, and you will be happy to receive it.

A beneficial side effect of cleaning off our balcony was that I remembered I had twenty cans of V8 stashed out there from a Costco trip, so I moved them inside. I think they enjoyed being next to their vegetable brethren for a while though. It must have been more fun out there than it is in our refrigerator’s pull-out beverage drawer, where the only friends are a huge jar of pickles and a pineapple, which, according to the tag, is named “Sweetie-o.”

One thing they will not find in there is a spare bottle of today’s new taste sensation, another new limited Pepsi flavor. This summer it’s Caribbean Gold Pepsi, which is stylized on the label in a way that elicits memories, for me, of perhaps my mother’s mysterious sun-tanning lotion in the early-to mid-90s. Or perhaps some brand of VHS pornography, or maybe a kind of stereotypical name of rum? It does not seem like a typeface for the year 2011 is what I am saying. The I in Caribbean is even a palm tree. The flavor itself is purported to be “WHITE SAPOTE FLAVOR” and I had no idea what a sapote was until I looked it up online (it is a kind of fruit, I guess, “from the Caribbean”). This necessary research finds itself among comfortable previous experiences vis-a-vis the time I spent looking up the previous Pepsi flavors, chief among them Shiso Pepsi, Azuki Pepsi, Baobab Pepsi, Mont Blanc Pepsi, and now Caribbean Gold Pepsi. One thing is for sure: this shit is sweet. If you can imagine an even sweeter Pepsi, this is it! Unlike the superior (now, inevitably, discontinued) Mont Blanc, which had a delightful coffee taste, this one is just sweet. SWEET! I will never drink it again, but it’s okay I guess.

Japan switched from analog to digital television broadcasting over the weekend, and celebrated it on television by setting up tons of old TVs then showing them go to a blue error message at exactly noon on Sunday. I suppose it is kind of a hard event to publicize or cover, at least that is what you would think, though this being Japan it was accompanied by a series of bizarre stuffed mascots, tons of confetti, people dashing at the camera and yelling “uwaaaa!!!!” and other such things. Speaking of weird television I watched a segment on a variety show last night the name of which I do not know but that I’m calling “Sanctioned Sexual Harassment Mega Excite,” the concept of which is this, as I imagine it was pitched: two hideous men, both slightly fat, and one with a farmer’s tan, will put on Speedo swimsuits and go to a swimming resort, where young girls in bikinis will model for them as they make insensitive remarks. To allow the guise of information we will say this is an overview of “the popular bikinis of 2011.” The uglier of the two men will assign “point values” to the quality of the women, while measuring their curves and breast size with a giant plastic protractor. He will carry a little foam finger on the end of a stick, with which he will poke the women in the soft places until they tell them to stop, which they will not because no means yes! At the end, he will yell “DYNAMITE BODY!”

Obviously I watched the whole thing.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE LATELY, AS THOUGH THOSE ARE SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAN WHAT THESE ARTICLES ROUTINELY DEAL WITH IN THE NARRATIVE ANYWAY
– My local import store, which recently received Hot & Spicy SPAM and is now selling it for 650 yen a can
– Me, for buying one at that price, which with the soaring yen value equates to buying a can of SPAM for something like eight U.S. dollars, and not regretting it even a little
– The goddamned cicadas, which produce a deafening, alarm-like scream in the wee hours of the morning, and which I can hear even while standing in my kitchen or toilet room by way of the overhead vents
– Oreo brand chocolate bar, which is the size of a Heath but instead of toffee is just Oreo and macadamia nuts
– This guy I saw yesterday, who was following his dog around, and the dog looked like he was poppin’ a squat to take a dump, and instead of waiting for him to finish then scooping it up into a bag or something the dude pulled out a paper plate and stuck it under his ass and the dog took a shit on the plate I am seriously not joking I left before I could see what he did with the plate
UGH

I went in for my annual health check yesterday, a requirement of the school system or something like that. I left work at noon to go to the clinic, where, despite being told I would not have to submit to a urine test, I was asked to submit to a urine test. Lucky for me I usually have some of that around. Anyway, the way it works is you are marched on a path around this building kind of like a cow being led to his slaughter, stopping along the way at each little station for the next part. The first station is of course the bathroom. Next to the sink there is a little rack with paper cups and markers, and you take one and write your name on it. You’re supposed to go in it up to the line, then you set it in this window, a window between the office part and the bathroom part, like a drive-thru, like going to Taco Bell, only I am the restaurant, I am cooking up what they have ordered, which is a steamy cup of my piss. They have asked for it, so here, please wait gotta get it ready, and then I set it on the little window and that completes the order.

At the last stop the doctor needs to check my heartbeat and the guy asks, can you please lift up your shirt, then I start doing it but almost as I reach for it the older lady assistant rushes out from a pocket in space time, like I have no fucking idea where she has come from, and starts jerking up on my shirt, she is literally trying to rip it off me, so politely at the same time though, apologizing as she subjects me to this sort of violation. It is a slim-fit shirt, I tell her, you can’t lift it up let me un-button it, and she does not listen, tugging it up, it is rolled back, crushing me, I am horrified oh god, let me help me. The doctor says my heart rate is high, no shit doc. “Take care of yourself,” he tells me. I cannot think about anything except the guy who put the paper plate to catch that dog’s shit, man that was so fucked up.

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Annie, are you okay, are you okay Annie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On things consuming other things

I swear to god I’m gonna die, for about three seconds, every morning I walk to school.  There is this one dude’s house that I walk by, and he must have some kinda goddamned dog-repelling device or something.  This high-pitched noise just wrecks me whenever I walk by, then when I leave it’s gone.  Maybe it is an American-repellant as well?  It would not surprise me to discover that there is some sort of ¥90,000 device that you can buy that emits unpleasantly high frequencies to prevent animals from hanging around your place, and it would surprise me even less to discover this man has purchased and uses one to protect his lawn (it is the most meticulously groomed I have personally seen in this country, and I catch him sometimes outside bent over primming and trimming his masterwork).  To assume such things is of course to ignore the plain fact that he has erected a fence of brick and steel around the entire perimeter of the plot, with a wrought-iron sliding gate in front.  Maybe the high frequencies are just to discourage little doggy or neko-chan: you hear this shit?  If you can get in, you are not getting out (I am not afraid of eating you as a component of my traditional breakfast).

Last Friday, somewhere around a thousand stairs into the side of Kompira-san, a massive staircase up the side of a mountain, lined with vendors that taper off as they give way to a liberal assortment of shrines and temples–and the nearly-sole attraction of the tiny town of Kotohira (aside from the train stations in and out)–we spot a stone statue of a turtle.  He’s got a few 1-yen coins on him, and I can’t tell if he’d appreciate or deride those who place such worthless trinkets on him.  It is a monetary gift, at least, to the turtle, and who could fault the by-and-by wallet-weary trekkers?  By now, even the most stingy among them has reached in for coinage a dozen times, every shrine inviting currency, to be justly delivered with a hollow wooden-box thud and, if one is hardy, a hand-clap and bow.

She reaches out to him and I wonder if he’ll pop his head out and snap.  I consider what horrible misfortunes might befall me if I were to take one of the useless coins.

The view at the top of the mountain, after another three-hundred some odd steps, is stupid, which I mean in reference to dumbfoundment: no man should be allowed to look upon anything from this high, lest he begin to ponder his tiny existence.  Precisely, I assume that is the allure: check out how worthless you are, now drop that coin, while you’re at it care for a charm of protection only five-hundred yen?

To say it was an experience would be about exactly right–more meaningful having quested there by our own means on foot with thin hollow bamboo walking sticks lent from a feisty elderly woodworker near the bottom of the mountain, where the vendors still number in the high dozens and the prices of cold drinks are expectedly proportional to the altitude.  I was neither dumbstruck nor underwhelmed: so this is what it’s like up here, is it? Now time to get back.

The turtle silently mocks me on my trip down the mountain.  He has the right idea: get up here once, stick around, and enjoy life as people place money on you and fear taking it lest they be cursed.

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