Friday, March 31, 2006
Last night/this morning, Cammy was having some very bad dreams and woke up calling for Daddy Daddy Daddy! So we brought her into the bedroom to sleep with us. Now, she’s uncomfortable and not very sleepy so she’s tossing and turning and not going to sleep and kicking both of us in the back. My sleep schedule is still FUBAR so I decide, why not go and watch a movie. So I made her a bottle, sat her down on the couch under some covers, and popped in Wallace and Grommit. Maybe this will let her sleep, maybe not, but It’s the kind of Dad stuff that my dad didn’t really do and I wouldn’t miss for the world. She’s going to be crabby today but at least we get to spend some time together.
ALSO, Daimushi, I just want you to know that Karma is a bitch because as bad as my snoring was, this past night, both Raquita AND Anubis were sawing the same tree. Man. No rest for the wicked, the weary, or the wily, eh?
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
(Keeping it frosty)
Monday, March 27, 2006
I was going to write this blog yesterday but I got home from Embocca very tired. One of the reasons for the change in picture quality here lately is the fact that the onboard flash on the Camera broke (an apparent problem with this pentax camera model) and the only flash I could find here in Japan is like $200 bucks. So I can only take pictures in really good light. I got some good ones of the Cherry Blossom party though, but there are some other things that I didnt get pictures of. Some are minor, yes, but I still need to explain them. I promise I will but we're about to leave the house so I can take pictures of cherry blossoms today so you'll get the full treastise on the Cherry Blossom Party, Sumo Wrestling in the Park, Being Given a gift of Old Nike Jordans, Drinking WAY WAY WAY too much Shochu, Hitting on random girls in train stations, Eating Okonomiaki, the absolute wonderful natures and spirits that area Shinji and Jun, Ryou, Masami and Takeshi, and all the other people in Embocca that have given me so many gifts, and my strong desire to come back here next year with my family so they can meet the people I met, and we can form our international family, building on the strong strong bonds that Adam has so skillfully crafted. Embocca was a place he just wandered into. Now they refuse to let him go, they want to marry a japanese girl, and stay forever. He has that effect on people. Its why he's my best friend. One of the hardest things I've ever done was give him my 100% blessing to go to Japan. To say dont go would have been the ultimate in selfish acts and I love him like a brother and knew this was the path he needed to take. But dont think I didn't feel it every once and again. So this small post is really a thanks to Adam, for letting me stay in his place, hang out with his roommates, eating his food, taking up a gang of space in his room, making nice with his japanese friends, accompanying him to Embocca and all points beyond, and generally being an excellent host. I know he had to sacrifice a lot to get the time to share with me on this trip and it will never be forgotten.
Kenpai to Adam!
(The phrase 'There are no words to express the joy and thanks I feel' doesnt translate well but It keeps coming from my mouth...)
Saturday, March 25, 2006
All Day in the crib and Im cool like that...
The day after I explored the lovely (and spread out) Kyoto, I decided to just stay home and relax, write blogs, upload pics, chat with Raquita online, listen to music and give my poor aching feet a rest. While this is a visit to Japan, its also a vacation for me and I dont want to be so exhausted that I need a vacation to Recover from this one! So thats what I did. That night though, when Adam got home, I changed clothes into Rippongi-approved gear and we headed to Embocca to grab a quick bite to eat with Tommy, one of Adams friends and a smooth mutha-sucka in his own right.
Looks like a dead fish, tastes like HEAVEN!
Adam brought his friend Uriyah through, a cool cat from Maryland and we bounced to Embocca where I (of course) had a lovely glass of Ohmishu and Tommy, who must have sensed my eminent hunger (I didnt eat anything all day, but I wasnt hungry until Uriyah ordered the pasta with the ham and spinach in cream sauce). So Tommy ordered me some kind of blackened fish, mackeral maybe, with a bowl of rice, some onion soup (not french onion but something much lighter, a little like miso), and a small plate of different condiments to season things with. I clowned it. Jun is, as so many have emphasized with great animation, is an excellent cook and I've not ingested anything in their bar that was not Simply Delicious. So, after I ate and talked to Tommy, who probably will be running for Governor or Senator in a few years, we headed back to the apartment so Adam could change his clothes, met up with the Just-off-from-work Josh, and bounced towards the train station, adventure in our eyes, the taste for liquor on our lips. SO IT BEGINS!!!!
You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy...
A few train stops later and we emerged into the crowded, throbbing, odorous center of Rippongi, a clubbing/bar district and favored hang out of the various military peolple stationed in Tokyo as well as tourists who might want to get their Happy-Ending on, so to speak. They even except dollars here and there are english ATM's so thats all good. We hit the ground running, walking around trying to find a good bar and club. After I grabbed some cash from the ATM, we headed to a place where they play 80's music. It was crowded. Very crowded. And the drinks were stupid expensive...toss a bar stool expensive...we're talking 1000yen for a fucking tequila sunrise! Thats nearly $10!! INSANE. But the best part of that first bar were the beautiful and friendly Londoners we met and talked to at length. Well, lets say that Me and Uriyah talked to them, Adam and Josh sort of played the background, but that was cool. Their names were Naomi (who I talked to and had a shot with), Emily who was visiting her friends, and Sandy (who Uriyah scored the digits and was probably the cutest of the three, closely VERY closely by Naomi). Turns out the two girls were Nova Teachers as well, although they worked in Tokyo. After having a great time talking with them and sharing drinks and laughes, we bailed out of the spot in search of a new bar or club...thats when we ran into Brian from Ohio...Oh Boy...
Okay, heres the plan, we walk in here, distract him, and then dissolve...got it?
As we were crossing a street we had crossed 4 times at this point, we ran into a guy named Brain from Ohio who was pretty drunk and 100% jackass. He seemed like a fun guy at first so we invited him along. No no, I invited him along. At first things were going well...we rushed a spot full of Nigerians playing Hip-hop and R&B where I bought both of us a Tequila shot and he bought us Rum and Cokes. There was pretty much nigerian thugs and thats about it in the club. No ladies really to speak of, except one half black/half asian chick with long blond weave that was 'working' on this white guy in corner. So we're chilling, laughing at this guy Brian who is proving himself to be a bigger and bigger loser as time goes on. He just doesnt have any game, or skill, or personality, or even really a clue. He's just loud and boistrous and talkative and energetic. BUT THEN, thinks take a turn for the Jackassery when a pretty white girl walks into the club and starts talking to the bouncer. Brian saunters over and starts to holler at the girl, who is clearly trying to NOT talk to him when the club owner gets pissed and gets all up in Brian's face with 'What, you dont respect me white boy? I'll fuck you up you cracker ass!' and stuff like that. Brian quickly backed down and walked over dejected and we, observing the girl and the bouncer quickly discovered that it wasnt a lost girl/friendly neighborhood nigerian dynamic or even a tired girlfriend/over protective boyfriend thing. She was clearly working and he was arranging her dates around the city becuase a lot of money was exchanged as well as locations and what not, all in english. We told Brian this but he didnt want to believe it. If homeboy had started a rumble, he would have found us watching him get his ass stomped in while we yelled out 'OH SHIT!! You're getting fucked up dude! Maybe you should protect your face! DAMN!!!' and shit like that.
We quickly tired of the loser who was now hanging on to us like we were his fucking lifeline so we made plans to ditch his ass. That and he refused to stop talking about going to titty bars, which none of us were interested in talking about, much less going to. So we turned a corner, went down some stairs into a bar, with Brian in the lead, and as soon as we got separated from the crowd, bounced out to the street, beat a hasty retreat around a corner, and kept rolling. Cruel? Maybe. Necessary? Oh HELL yeah!
Down and out in Rippongi aint where you wanna be.
The wet streets and the multitudes of drunk horny foreigners, money seeking foreign loving j-girls, the occasional american ghetto thug, and business women running up to you to ask you if you want 'Massagee?' makes the whole of Rippongi an interesting if seedy and at times disgusting place. But I was loving it. Having a good time. One thing that we noticed and Adam mentioned to me as well, was the fact that in Japan, you dont get no sympathy or love. If your drunk in a corner, puking your guts out, next to nobody will come and help you, your friends will bounce without you and you could wake up outside some bar in a puddle of your own vomit. They just dont give a fuck. We saw two girls who were too drunk to even move get left by their friends. Pretty sad. Not a country for the weak and a hell of a place to be lonely in.
But, as the seeds of Jackassery by then had been well planted within us, of course its saplings could be seen creeping into the light. What do I mean? Well, at one point, after we ditched the loser, Adam was hungry and wanted to get a Taco from a mobile taco stand. In front of us were two fairly cute J-girls, getting their tacos. We chatted with them for a minute, and found they were going to the same club we were, Gaspanic 99. But then they called their super-hot friend over to share in their juicy taco goodness. I started saying things undermy breath like 'Oh yeah...you like that juicy taco dontcha girl? Thats right...take a big bite...daddy likes...oh yeah...lick your fingers...oh you're so nasty.' I was just fucking around and being silly but then the girl sort of turned to her friends and was like 'Alright you girls ready to go?' I was like OH FUCK SHE SPEAKS ENGLISH. After they left we all cracked up at the stupidity of it all. I didnt care. THe look of horror on her face was just the right spice on a strange and ugly night.
Our last stop of the night was at Gaspanic 99 where we (they) shared a pizza, we all had a corona, I was informed by a drunk ghetto cat that the best girls were in Guam (how the fuck am I gonna go to Guam??) saw the Nets beat Dallas, watched a few guys drooling over some transvestites, and generally passed an hour until it was 5am and the first train heading back to civilization was on. BUT WE WERENT DONE!!
On to Tsukiji! No rest for the wicked. He looks like a nice guy so lets have him show us around...
After we bid our farewells to Uriyah who was apparently way too tired to continue, we headed to Tsukiji to get some morning sushi and witness the wonders if the giant fishmarket. After a few train stops we emerged from teh tunnel, the sun rising in the east, a barely sober gleam in my eye, Josh and Adam nearly collapsed with fatigue. This is when we ran in to a family of 5, most of which were wearing matching jackets who were touring the area trying to find the fish market. They saw us looking at the map and approached Adam, who seemed the friendliest and asked if we could go with them. They had a little girl with them, who they said they had adopted from Mongolia a few years ago (she was 4) and they were on their way back there to adopt another girl. Adam did a wonderful job of playing host, refraining from smoking and cursing, or going into the details of why we were up so early, and even befriending the little girl Victoria, who refused to let go of his hand and talked with him the whole time. I personally wouldnt have had the patience for it but Adam is cut from a different cloth. Besides if it had been just me, I dont think the family, from chattenooga and seemingly very conservative, would have approached ME to be thier guide. I dont go out of my way to spare other peoples sensibilities, especially when its 6am and Im over tired and hungry and a little drunk.
The fishmarket was pretty cool and I got to see all manner of sea-faring creatures laid low by the appetites of man. Very cool. Once we got to the wholesale fishmarket, we got to see the massive tunas that had been caught in the wee hours of the morning and were being bid on by various peoples. After wandering around for about an hour and a half, I wanted to grab some tuna but our touring family had no idea how to get to the train station so we took them there and by the time we GOT to the station, I was too tired to walk Back to the sushi shops to eat, especially since Josh and Adam didnt want any. So we headed back towards home, exhausted. Despite what Adam says, I enjoyed the trip. No pictures though because Rippongi isnt the kind of place you bring a Pentax to. We got home at around 8:30am and promptly passed out.
Thats it for now. The next day (last night) we slept late, then went to dinner with Dan and his mother at a Korean Restaurant, a YakiNori I believe, where they give you a big plate of raw meat sliced then, yoiu marinate it then through it on a charcoal grill in the center of the table. Very very good and if they have one like it in Chicago, raquita and I will have to hit that place up this summer when we go.
Anyways, its supposed to rain today, and the camera's flash broke so I need to get a new detatchable flash before the Cherry Blossom Party with Shinji and Jun. I just hope it doesnt raint to much and ruin the party. But we shall see. Monday will probably be more rest and I wont go anywhere too far since my JR pass runs out today, and tuesday is the Date in the park and the last minute souvenir shopping.
Friday, March 24, 2006
It's eyes forever burn across
the horizon and still you dream
And I pray, through darkness
and the cold distance and cream
cloud and dark sky
That your dreams caress my
cheek, hear my voice
gently turn you to the sun
my kiss, as it rises
as you awake and
remember my lips
on yours, my voice
in your ear, my love manifest
draped around you
I Love You
Thursday, March 23, 2006
The Next day...
The next morning, after our late night eating Yakitori (which was very tasty and elicited amazed looks from the owner of the spot when we order the amount of food we did.) We woke up late. Adam felt bad about us not getting up early to suck the life out of the day, but I was grateful for the extra sleep. I did wake up early and sent emails and made that first post but then I went back to bed and slept till 11am. Which was nice. No, fuck that. It was wonderful. I mean, once you get past sleeping on an inch thin futon mattress on the floor. Uncomfortable, to say the least, but I'm getting used to it. We got ourselves ready, gathered our things and headed out into the cold Nihon mid morning. We figured we'd go to the Sword Museum, hit up Akihabara to feast on the electronic orgy, grab some dinner and then run around looking for books and what not.
The Museum of Swords...poetry in steel
The sword museum was located in a small neighborhood filled with small, rich looking houses and tons of mercedes coupes. We arrived at the museum with high hopes and were not dissappointed except for the fact that they wouldn't allow pictures inside. So I'll have to describe it to you from what I remember. The art of making a Japanese sword, like a Tachi or a Katana, is a very involved process that I only partially understand. There are no blades in the world that compare. We saw all numbers of blades and I was amazed at the differences between the lengths and witdths and curves of all the blades. Like all things, the sword went through changes depending on the age it was made in. Some ages were longer blades with less curves, other ages saw shorter blades with more pronounced curves. We spent about an hour and a half marveling at all the blades, at their various differences and the cooling marks made along the edges of the blades. Simple beautiful. I would have killed for a picture but there were security guards and security cameras so you'll have to settle for the pics of the sword making implements and tongs and what not, and the two beautfiul cats sitting outside museum (who ran off before I could get the zoom lense on the camera). I have to admit one thing; I was surpised the sword museum was as small as it was. I know that the Japanese people have a sort of strange relationship with their Samurai past, so sometimes I wonder if they dont celebrate it like we would imagine that they would. I figured a sword museum would be a huge, towering affair with thousands of blades and depictions of how to use them and what not, but the Museum was an intimate, cozy joing with about 40 sword blades in all, only a few of which were more than just the blades themselves. But it was still cool to see.
Back to the train and on to the Akihabara
We marched back to the train station but not before stopping by a McDonalds for a bite to eat. Pretty much the same as a McDonalds in America except its 100% cleaner, faster, everything is made fresh, the lettuce on my Bic Mac was crispy and fresh, the fries were hot, the people were friendly and nice and I enjoyed my meal without feeling guilty. So just the same, except the exact fucking opposite of every McDonalds I've ever been in. Oh, and they have a large array of burgers with egg patties on them. I didnt even fuck with those. But sitting down in the McDonalds, overlooking the street down which people were walking home from work, I got a chance to really talk with Adam, something I feel like I havent gotten a chance to do in a long time. He told me that sunsets can be a little rough for him at times because its his lowest energy point during the day so he has to work hard to keep himself up and fresh and poppin. I never knew that about him so the revelation made light of a lot of different times in our friendship when he would sort of get real quiet and shut down at wierd times. Now I understand him a lot more. But there is still a lot I dont know and Japan has changed him (for the better) in so many ways. He's way more confident in general, less prone to apologizing all the time, and has a more 'Go with the flow and see where it takes you' spirit that he has longed to have for so long. Plus he's thinner and healthier wieght wise (although he smokes way too much here). All in All, this trip is doing good for him.
We jumped on the train and headed to Akihabara, the electronic, manga and videogame district of Japan. After a moderate train ride, we got off the train and walked into a neon explosion. I dont know if I mentioned our time in Senjuku, which is a Neon Supernova...but I have picutres of it. I didnt get any pictures of the Nigerian boosters trying to lure us into overpriced Gentlemans clubs but they were there. Anyway, Akihabara is the place to go to get electronics. Now the electronics in Japan arent any cheaper than they are in the US. The real difference is, there are things coming out in Japan that wont hit the US for like 5 years. Adam as a small 1 gig mp3 player that is shaped like a green lighter, just a bit bigger, and you use it by rotating and 'lighting' it. Very cool. But it cost him $200 bucks. We went into a sex shop, of which there are plenty, after we went to a bookstore that had a foreign book section where I bought a japanese phrase book. I've been practicing but not making much headway. We then tried to find dinner at a Soba restaurant that adam wanted to go to but they were closed. Well, at least thats what the lady told us as we were trying to go inside, despite the fact that there were people in there already eating. I told Adam that maybe they were having a private function, but he said, being a foreigner in Japan, sometimes you run into places that are suddenly closed when you try to get in. Xenophobia at its best, I suppose. So, both of us being hungry and wet (it was drizzling slightly and neither of us had an umbrella) we wandered the streets in search of a place to eat that looked halfway decent. All of a sudden, Adam snaps his fingers together and said 'Rose and Crown, dog...lets head there for a pint and I'll bust out my Japan tour book and we can find a place to eat.' I'm all for it so we head to Rose and Crowne, an English pub. We have a couple of Pints of Rose (their incredible house beer that is now my favorite out of the tap, even more so than Amberbock) a quick bite to eat and decided to go to a Rotating Sushi Bar. Basically you sit at a bar and a conveyor goes around and around, while on the other side, the sushi chefs cut up bits of sushi and put them on plates. you grab the plate you want and eat it. At the end they charge you per plate. A plate might have two pieces of sashimi, one big roll, or 6 small rolls. Each plate, regardless of what is on it, costs about $1.50 so we ate our fill. I wasn't nearly as hungry as I thought I would be though but it was pretty good. OH and before I forget. They had fresh Eel, babe. Unagi. Not the sort of dried/pickled stuff you get in rolls. This was more like small fillets of eel cooked and laid across rice. OH. MY. GOD. SO SO SO GOOD! Or as they say around these parts, TOTOMO OISHIEA!!
I actually jumped around a bit. Before we searched for food, we went and got Adam some shoes at one of the rare places that sell shoes in big sizes (13 and up). After spending an hour looking around and trying on differnent things, Adam settled on (with my help) two pairs of really nice black shoes for a 2 for 1 deal that was badass. He was very happy with his purchase which made me happy for him. Now he's got new kicks to go with his new clothes that he's gonna wear when we go out clubbing!
So after everything, we headed back towards home and stopped by Embocca for a drink and some relaxing conversation with Shinji, Jun, and the effervescent Akko. We had a great time talking and joking and they called Adam, with all his hair, Sazaesan, a sort of Giant Female Clam that is SUPER popular with all the kids and adults here. He thought it was funny and we all had a good laugh as everybody in the bar started singing the theme song while adam danced around. I also was dubbed Kintaro, which means Giant Golden Samurai or something close to it. I also had my first taste of Omishu, which is a plum wine. But the wine I had was homebrewed by Jun's mother. Chris had it when he came here. I've never had anything like it. It's my new favorite drink and Im defiantly gonna look for some good plum wine when I get back home. I GOTTA have some of that in the house 24-7.
It is at this point that I have to mention the wonderful deed Jun did for me at the bar. While I was planning on going to Kyoto the following day while Adam was at work, and we vaguely understood that my JR pass would allow me to take the train there for free, we had NO IDEA which trains I could take and when they left or what I had to do. One of the coolest features on all the Japanese phones or Kay-Tai's is the ability to get on the net and check all the different train times and figure out which trains you have to take to go different places. Jun took about an hour out of her time at the bar, stood in the corner with her phone and produced for me a list of trains going from Tokyo to Kyoto, along with times as well as coming back. It was a lot of work, something Adam wasn't able to do and we had despaired of me even going to Kyoto until she did that, which was super cool and the nicest thing somebody has done for me in this country. I forever owe her my thanks and gratitude.
At this point we went home, I packed and made ready for Kyoto and went to bed at around 3am for a few hours of sleep and the conquering of Kyoto in the morning!!
Onward to KYOTO! Mystery Lunchbox Surprise! The Fastest thing on land!
Despite my best intentions, I got up a little late so I missed the very first train out of Miyahara to Omiya. See, Miyahara is sort of a small town that doesn't get a lot of trains so I have to take the Takasaki line to the next stop which is Omiya, a much much bigger station and the one that I met Adam at. Omiya then has a line (I took the Bullet Train of Shinkosen) called the Yamabiko directly to Tokyo. It was fast...like 100mph fast. I then asked around and easily found my super express train to Kyoto. Very nice train, clean and spacious. That reminds me. All of the train stations are super clean. Especially consider some of these stations see a million people plus a day. Not a hint of trash or litter or anything like that. Its incredible. No funky smells or nothing. But, the Shinkosen which is a bullet train but a sort of local one, is super fast. Thats what I took to Tokyo. But from Tokyo to Kyoto I took the Hikari line, which is the bullet train you might imagine, with the super streamlined front and smooth exterior. I got on this bad boy and was quickly shown that I don't understand the meaning of the word speed. As I said in the intro, I've never been on anything that fast or that smooth in my life. If we were going 200mph I would not be surprised. It was so fast that looking outside was dizzying to say the least. The big kicker was how smooth it was. It was the most seamless ride I've ever had, with nary a bump or shudder.
There is something poetic about riding a Bullet Train through Japan, listening to Miles Davis as the miles roll by. Just a beautiful experience that I don't really know how to convey. There are plenty of memories that I will treasure for a long time but this one will be the first thing I think of when I think of my trip in japan.
In the train station in Tokyo, at the insistence of Shinji and Jun, I grabbed a boxed lunch for the trip. I had no idea what was in it because all of it was in Japanese. I just grabbed one that costs 1300 yen and was off. So, about 45 minutes out (after flying through neighborhoods and rice fields, and industrial areas and rivers and mountain tunnels, I decided to bust out my lunch. If you look at the pics I'm about to post you can see the contents of my lunch...Yes that IS a purple tentacle on the left. And it was tasty as hell so back up off me! I ate the whole thing which may have been the tastiest boxed lunch I've had in my life. Worth every penny. Two hours after I left Tokyo, I arrived in Kyoto, excited and curious and happy. I stepped off the train...and realized I LEFT ADAMS JAPAN GUIDEBOOK AT THE APARTMENT!!!
No Plan, No Map, No Clue...sounds like an adventure!
So I walked off the train into the station and looked around bewildered. I'm looking around for a clue as to where I should go when I spot a Kiosk. They've got Tourist Maps!! Sweet. I grab one, pay for it, open it up and am like...okay...where the fuck am I going to go? I then flag down this Aussie couple who looked kind of reluctant to help me, as if I was going to go home to their hotel room and rape them but the sort of explained where I was on the map. I then walked out of the station thinking I'm going northwest, heading towards a cluster of temples and shrines. About an hour later, I ran into two English speaking chaps who informed me that I was actually headed southwest and that where I was going was way way too far to walk to anyway. They then told me which Chikatetsu (subway) and where to catch it and that I should go to the Nanzenji Temple/Shrine/Park thingy. So I hoof it up the road, run into a cute Japanese chick who points me in the right direction and I'm off. Two subway transfers later, I emerge from Kaege Station, near a tunnel. I check a map, and find out the tunnel is my destination. Down the tunnel I go, visiting a small park before I'm off to the big temples. I'm walking and taking pictures and walking and taking pictures. The temples are hundreds of years old, some of which are achingly beautiful and many don't allow pictures inside the rooms sadly. But around 6pm, after lots of walking, my feet were crying out for rest and I was tired and it was getting dark. I had walked about a mile down the Philosophers path, a small stone path along a tiny river that passes several shrines and temples and at each temple I turned off the path and took pics. I walked back to the train station as the sun set over the mountains, the cherry blossoms just beginning to bloom. A beautiful sight that I would have enjoyed much more had I not been so tired I almost paid a guy 2000 yen just to take me on his rickshaw back to the station. But I hoofed it back, just the way I came, and an hour later was on the Hikari back to Tokyo, flying through the night, satisfied with my enlightening journey.
Shinji and Jun and Akko at Embocca, a time for rest...
I had a tough time getting from Tokyo back to Miyahara. Instead of taking the Yamabiko Shinkonsen back, I took the local train which took forever to get to Omiya. Once in Omiya I took the wrong train TWICE trying to get back to Miyahara. I kept winding up in Toro. Fucking Toro!! The problem was The Tagasaki and this other train arrive at the same place and go in the same direction...Im a jackass and kept getting on the wrong one. I finally asked for help and a friendly japanese couple pointed me to the right train.
I got back to Miyahara and realized I didnt know if anyone was home so I headed to Embocca where I found Shinji Jun and Akko chilling out so I had some more Ohmishu, talked about my trip, learned some new japanese and waiting for adam to come through as Jun called him to let him know where I was. We had a great time and I learned that Shinji wants Adam to sing at the party so that will be a blast. After a quick beer, we headed home for some rest. Right now its the next day, and Instead of gallivanting around Japan, I decided to give my feet the day off and am staying in, writing emails and blogs, posting pictures, burning CD's, downloading music, and trying to relax. It wouldn't be good if I got home more exhausted than I left, and besides we're doing an All-nighter in Rippongi, the club district tonight, so I want to be rested. Thats it for now...You know where the pics are, people, so go look at em!
(Miles and miles on the Hikari)
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The true story of how I came to be in Japan, or 'LOOK OUT YOU SLANT-EYED BASTARDS!! THE NEGROS IS COMIN!'
So, I guess, like any other story, I should start at the beginning. Without further ado...
Is that everything? Did I forget anything? Umbrella? Nah, I don't need that!
The fateful words issued from my mouth at about 5:15am the morning I leave. After some frantic searching for raquita's credit card (in case they asked me to show the card I purchased the tickets with) we were off. We stood in line at the airport for about 30 minutes before a lady pulled us out of the line (so my plane to Houston would not leave without me) As I waited in line for the metal detector (which I set off because I forgot to take the damn change out of my pocket and got to be felt up by some guy named bob...he was gentle) we made our passionate kiss goodbye and I was off to find my plane. I later found out my wife went to the car and cried. I thought she would have had a bottle of the bubbly on ice waiting for her in the back seat, to celebrate but...Even as I walked away, I'll admit, I was a little misty eyed. I just didn't want to show it so that she wouldn't get misty eyed either. If she had started crying it would have been impossible for me to leave her. That's not just my wife, there buddy, that's my GIRL. yeah its like THAT.
Two planes, 17 hours, same tiny ass seat
Okay so I need to loose some weight. Seriously. I know this. But riding on airplanes, in those smallish seats really sort of jams that right into the gut, so to speak. I mean, I'm a man of large appetites and healthy posterior. These seats were not made for me. The flight to Houston was okay. I had a window seat and sat next to some wife and her husband who went out of her way to Not touch me in any fashion, how sweet of her. Behind me was one of the dogs that we saw in the airport, just sitting on his owners lap, as quiet as can be, just chilling.
The flight to Tokyo? That was a different sort of plane. I was in the second to last row, by the galley and the bathroom, in similar cramped seats. I would have laid down but the arm rests don't actually retract all the way back so they jab me in my side,s in my back. I made due, watching Nation Treasure several times, writing in my journal that I also need to update, and listening to classical music while I took catnaps and dined on the fine American Airlines Gourmet Fair. The food was actually not that bad. I'm glad I had my headphones though cause the plane was loud as FUCK. With the head phones it sounded like a gentle roar, never ending. Without, it literally was loud enough to set my teeth on edge.
So I land in Japan, go through immigration easily (they asked me for Adams address and phone number, neither or which I could provide, and the guy still let me through with a 'Next time you must have that information.' I'm like, holy shit, I could be a fucking psycho killer or something...they didn't even really check my shit! And then customs. Remember Jamaican customs, Raquita, where we had to wait for like 4 hours just to get up there, the customs officials pretty much lolly gagging the whole time?. This was the exact opposite. I came through to the gate where there was no line, showed my passport, the guy asked me if this was all my luggage to which I said yes, then he just waved me through. He didn't even bother to OPEN my bags to take a look!! Talk about Homeland security. So, I walked into the Narita airport, looked around and tried to find, as Chris and Becca told me, the Ohmiya bus station thingy so I could activate my JR pass and get on my way to meet Adam. They told me that I had to go downstairs to activate the pass. So I gathered my 125lbs of luggage (that's literally what I was fucking carrying. So painful...so heavy!) and headed further into the bowels of the airport, Japanese people swirling around me with curious non-looks that were almost as obvious as stares. I'm a big black dude with two huge black bags. I take up a LOT of space. I knocked into a few people when I stopped to readjust and they didn't expect it, but...well...as Adam is often wont to say about the delicacies of the random Japanese person walking by, 'Fuck em!'
After a few confusing trips to the JR Pass people (If I activate now, it ends on the 26th but if I activate tomorrow neither of my trips to or from the airport will be covered!) I was finally on the platform waiting for my train to Tokyo. Oh, a Note to Chris and Becca; Because I had the JR Pass, instead of taking that two hour bus to Omiya, which was not covered. I got to take a train into Tokyo Central Station and then take another train to Omiya. The whole trip took 45 minutes and was pretty easy cause the girl told me exactly what train to take and where to take it. And it didn't cost me a dime. NEENER-Neener-NEENER!! =0) But that also leads me to the next subtropic;
No no, I have a JR Pass Gents! Drinks and Massage on the house!!! (HOORAY!!!)
So lets talk about the wonder that is the JR pass, which I purchased before I left the states, had sent to me and had activated the day I touched down. The minute I touched down, actually. In Japan, the rail system is quite elaborate and goes everywhere. But unlike in the States, you cant buy a weekly or monthly pass, like they do in NYC or Chitown or STL. You don't buy one ticket and then ride-sally ride. You pay to get INTO the station, get on the train, and then PAY to get out. they charge you by the distance you travel, and that is determined by where you put in your ticket and where you pull it out at. So some trips are a 160 yen (for ease of conversion, 100 yen = 1 dollar) while some lengthy ones may be 1000 yen or more, depending on where you go. That's just one way. And if you fuck up and go into the wrong place at the station or the wrong station, you gotta pay to get out and then go into the different station. After while, that shit can add up. Well, with my handy dandy JR Pass, I just walk up to the booth guy that overlooks all the turn style terminals, flash the JR Pass and he waves me through with a hearty smile. No fuss, no muss and no money exchanged. I did a few experiments my first full day here, which was yesterday for me, where I started out, opening the pass and showing it to them but ended up not even opening the pass at all. The people, so busy looking for fare jumpers and what not (and some of these stations are crazy packed) don't even glance at the pass. Once they so those wonderful JR PASS letters, they just let me on through. Except Adams home station, which he asked me to open up to show him the huge date printed on the inside of the pass. My pass ends on the 26th but if I'm careful and go through major places, I might be able to extend it a bit. We shall see. For now, I'm going to be planning some day trips while Adam is at work tomorrow and the day after that will take me far from his house and would normally be prohibitively expensive for those without. But I am with, and Imma pimp that shit for all its worth. Now, back to the story at hand.
Staring at J-girls, waiting for Adam, jesus my ass hurts...
So I'm sitting in Omiya station, waiting for Adam in the Starbucks above the DNA statue (I don't have a picture of it because I hadn't taken the camera out of the bag but Chris and Becca do) and I'm surrounded by giggling Japanese girls who refuse to look at me or acknowledge my presence. I'm on a sort of balcony overlooking this huge plaza where hundreds of Japanese people pass through, going to different trains, or going shopping as the train station doubles as the mall. For girls, the fashion rules seem fairly strict, with not as much variation as you might see in the states. Pretty much every girl or woman I saw (and it is very hard to judge ages here) wore short black skirts, cowboy boots and short jackets. Kinda cute but they aint got NO ASS, and they got skinny legs. Super skinny legs. Which makes the lack of ass even more pronounced. So Im sitting on this stool and various girls wind up sitting next to me for various lengths of time, checking their phone for messages, reading books, and what not. Not a single one said hi, or hello, or anything, and none of them would so much as look at me, including the girl I damn near turned to openly stare at to see if she would break or freak. Did I try to start a conversation? Nah....I was in observation mode and I was too tired. That plane ride isnt too bad but it is wearying...especially lugging 125 lbs of Luggage! Finally, four hours later, I see Adam and his roommate Josh show up. THANK GOD. So we say our hellos, he hoists one of my massive bags and we're off.
Adams Bachelor pad, Embocca, Shinji and Jun and a Birthday Cake.
So we get to Adams place, drop of my bags, and after meeting his other roommate Dan (who seems nice but way way too uptight...not as intense as Super Joe, but who is?) an d head straight to Embocca to meet Shinji and Jun and have some drinks. And drinks we did have. I didn't take many pictures there, just a few, but we were there for awhile, drinking and talking it up. I had Shinji's Taste Challenge, which consisted of me eating Squid in INK sauce. Yes, INK Sauce. It wasn't as bad as all that, but its not something I would go out of my way to have. Then we got to the drinking. I hade some champagne, because the table next to us were celebrating a birthday. They brought out a tiny guitar, maybe a mandolin or ukele, and a were singing and halving fun...they also had a tiny cake which they shared a small slice with us, and I taught one of the girls how to give dap...which I should have gotten a picture of but I didn't...I also had some Sake, a big glass of Shoju which is like vodka, some beer, and a nice fat tequila shot. Now, they think Adam is big, because in this country, almost NOBODY is overweight. But they saw me and they were like HOLY SHIT HES SO BIG! And you know when I drink, I get a little rowdy and friendly so I was laughing and shaking the stomach, saying it was the fuel tank for the sex machine, which got laughs and cheers and what not. So when I asked for a tequila shot, which Adam boldly took with me, Shinji didn't just pour us a regular shot, he poured us a mega shot which we both decided (Or rather, I decided, Adam agreed to it) to hit it in one swallow. Lets call it a triple shot. Now, Japanese people love to drink but most of their drinks aren't too strong. Not many could have taken that shot to the head and lived to tell about it the next morning. SO when I slammed it back no problem, they were very impressed.
After the locals left, we sat and chatted with Shinji and Jun and presented them with the Wine that Chris and Becca bought them, which they were very pleased and surprised to receive. Jun is an excellent cook and they are just a wonderful couple. I cant wait to spend more time with them later. We closed the bar down, leaving at like 4am to try and be quiet coming home so as to not wake up Dan. Of course we failed (he sleeps lightly as he is almost constantly hopped up on Coke, the soda, not the drug.) And I also snored like a chain saw which woke everybody but me up, but kept Dan up the rest of the morning till he had to work. Sorry Dan!
Hangovers and water, late start to the day, and day trippin
The next morning, I awoke with a slight hangover, but a couple of glasses of water and a few handy Advil and I was right as rain. Got dressed after I sent a few emails, and we left out towards our next great adventure. We decided to go Tokyo to a sort of huge open Bazaar to grab lunch, then walk to the park in hope that the plum trees were blossoming, which they were beginning to, then on to Asatska temple (I know I butchered it but that's what the word SOUNDS like) and finally a boat tour of Downtown Tokyo and then to Shinjuku, which is a sort of club district I guess. I got lots of pictures and what not but I suddenly grow weary. Lets just say that Tokyo is very interesting and has lots of different districts that change the flavor of the place immensely. The park was cool. The shopping district we went to was very cool, looking at all sorts of overpriced goods and what not. We also watch Japan win the World Baseball Classic, which elicited huge roars from crowds gathered around TVs. I ate a Dona Kabob, which is like a Gyro but beef instead of lamb and Hot Chili Sauce instead of tsiki cream sauce. Very spicy but oh so good. I also had various crackers and what not, and a sort of gooey rice cake wrapped in seaweed. It was pounded rice, so don't think of a rice crispy treat. Think of a mozzarella stick. It had that kind of cheesy consistency but it had a lite potato flavor. It was very very tasty and like nothing Id ever had.
Oh yes, and I have to mention the fact that Adam, as we were wandering the Temple at Asatska, decided that it was imperative that we go to the most ghetto, the most Gee-Hetto theme park in all of Tokyo. It cost 1000 yen to get in and THEN they charge you extra for the janky ass rides!! What a rip off. But it was fun, because it was so dismal and ugly. The first thing we saw when we walked in was a Merry-Go-Round, with a sad little girl riding by herself, her fatter off to the side, completely ignoring her. As Adam said, the place smelled of broken homes and shattered dreams. He even invented a song, 'Daddy smells of Bourbon and mommy's never home....why cant I leave this place so on the streets I'll roam...' Fun Times. After the super whack haunted house, we went up on the BEE Tour which is a sort of high ride, where you get in a car, and it raises up a hundred feet or so and you spin around slowly, looking down over the dingy city of Tokyo. I got some pictures of that up there. We kept cracking up because all the kids in the park looked vaguely disappointed, as if to say, 'Its my birthday and you brought me to THIS shit hole? Love you too, dad!' Priceless.
So we bounced from the temple and grabbed a ride on the Boat tour of Downtown Tokyo. It was very pretty but because it was so dark and there was glass everywhere but the back of the boat, the pictures didn't turn out to well. But I got to see the general layout of the land and the man made island (I cant remember the name...lots o high-rises though). After that we headed to Shinjuku where we were accosted by Nigerian guys trying to get us to go to various super expensive Gentleman's Clubs. No Thank you! Good Day sir! Adam was telling me about how the girl s there have all kinds of tricks to get you to pay more...like drink minimums and what not, AFTER you pay the cover charge. Those are the pics of all the neon lights and what not. After that we headed back to Miyahara to meet Josh for some Yaki Tori (Chicken on a stick) and beer, and sort of relax. Came home and got online to chat with my wife and call my job to get my check situation straightened. Got to bed at around 3am and woke up at 7:30 and started writing. WELCOME TO JAPAN!
So that's it for now. I'm going to Kamakura today, I believe. I don't know whats there though. I'll also be planning my day trips for tomorrow and the next day so that should be lots of fun. Scary but fun. But I'm ready. I like Japan...I love the ease of travel though without the JR Pass I think it would be annoying as fuck. Anyways, check http://www.flickr.com/photos/raquita/ for the pictures if you haven't. And I'll post tonite, no doubt with stories to tell.
Holla atcha boy!
(I promise to do the blog thing a lot more than Adam does. He's a lazy wanker, ain't he?)
Out (East...WAY EAST)
Thursday, March 16, 2006
I just read an interesting and maddening article on GNN that I really wanted to share with all the parents out there. It talks mainly about the astronomical cost of College level education in the United States and how, not only is this a travesty of justice but an actual social control to keep down dissent amoung young people who are coming to realize in droves that the system is not trying to help them but really trying to create a new peasant class in America.
If you're working towards getting a University Degree and have ridiculous amounts of debt, do you feel the quality of classes you are taking is worth the price you are paying? Is it worth paying the equivalent of a HOUSE note for 30 YEARS? To those who have just graduated- Do you feel like you degree has given you a leg up in your field? How is the job Market? To those going into the University School Loan system - What kind of terms are in your loan? How much interest and principal do you have to pay for the life of the loan? Is it a variable interest rate?
Why is it that the Price of Education has increased all across the board, even as the QUALITY of same said education has decreased, as well as the salaries of teachers of said education?
Im still trying to decide whether or not I want to send my child to a University in America if I can help it.
Hell, 10 years from now I might not be living in the country, the way things are going. Is that cowardice? I'm not Abraham. Im not willing to sacrifice my child on the Altar of 'Improving America' if I have a chance to put her in a better place than I am, even if that means putting her in a Different place.
Think about it and hit me back...
(The revolution will not only be televised, but it will be market-researched, directed, produced, merchandized, publicized, commercialized, and available on DVD)
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Okay, the short story The Curse of Silver is finished and ready for your reading pleasures. Its not a good story by any means, since it was the product of a writing exercise instead of a labor of love, but I finished it. The writing exercise is as follows:
-Take two random elements and incorporate them in an integral way in a 10 page short story.
If you want to try this task, post your email address or email me at Aeshema@gmail.com with two random numbers from 1-100 and I'll send you your two random elements...and these elements are pretty much on the 'Hey Mom! Im smoking Crack' level of randomness. But that's the challenge! As for me, I pretty much failed in my own task the first time, as the story was 22 pages (double spaced) and I didn't incorporate one of my elements as much into the story as I was supposed to. But, as I said before, I FINISHED IT!! So that counts for something.
If you want to read The Curse of Silver, post your email addy or send it to me and I'll mail it to you. IF YOU AINT SCARED!
Also, my wife is the best cook I know, hands down, with no challengers on the field. And warm Cinnamon Scones are the fucking jones. That is all.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
What is the nicest, kindest, most self-less or most altruistic thing you have ever done for a person, an organization, a team, an old lady, a dog, whatever? I've been thinking over my past deeds of goodness and the list is looking a little skimpy so I thought I might ask the blogosphere and see what they might come up with. Hey, maybe I'll get inspired or something...
Out (but in a very self-less, giving way...)
I'm a gamer. I have been for the majority of my life. I've crushed Octoroks, I've gotten my ass handed to me by M. Bison and his flying head stomp, I've spent hours getting all the spells of every job just so that my Calculator could hit every single person on the board with every effect possible, I've leveled characters, gone on quests, slain dragons and vampires, saved worlds, erected empires, burned villages, made sweet sweet love to princesses in at midnight behind closed temple doors. I'm not hardcore though. I've played a few games in my time, but I don't put myself into them, I don't reach for them like a baby reaching for her pacifier in the middle of the night. At least, not like I used to. Part of that is because I simply don't have to the time or the disposable income to try each and every game that hits the market. I guess I could rent, but that wouldn't help. The demands on my time every day are extraordinary (hey, at least I'm never bored, although 8 hours of sleep is more like a haunting fantasy than an achievable goal) and even if I had some spare time to spend on few games, I have to be very selective as to which game I play. But also, the reason why I've lost some of my fervor....fanaticism if you will, about video games, is that, like many things in popular culture, the creativity that once was there, seems to have been co-opted in favor of better graphics! More Online Play! Multiple Options! Starcraft was one of the best games I've ever played. There hasn't been a game that has captured the love of Strategy gamers in the same way since. Sure there have been great games, but not too many of them. Many games may look beautiful and are technically impressive but simply aren't that fun or engaging. I'm sure that's age and maturity talking as well.
So, the long and short of it is, I have to be very sure that the games that I buy are games that I will want to play and spend time playing and actually enjoy that time. World of Warcraft is one of those games. I don't play anymore and it, as great as the game is (and it truly is a good one, worthy of the purchase if MMO means more to you than a cow with a stutter) it didn't capture me like EQ did (which was whole heartedly and without mercy). Part of that is because EQ was like the first hit of crack; nothing ever compares and you cant ever get that first High....not that I would know....ahem...moving on...
But how, dear, gentle reader, does a discerning older gamer with precious little time and money, figure out which game would be best for him or her? Well, you go on this thing here the youngin's call the INTERNETS and you start to look at previews and reviews and first impressions and fan reviews and what-nots. Places like www.gamespot.com, and www.gamespy.com, are good places to start. AT least, that's what I used to believe. But I learned something in the past few months that, while I knew in a general way, I had yet to fully understand.
THE INTERNET IS FULLY OF IDIOTS
Not just regular, run of the mill, lick the frozen pole idiots, but people who take idiocy to the next level. And the internets, in all it's wonder and glory, through the mighty shield of anonymity, makes possible the airing of all sorts of stupid, evil, ugly, uninformed, slanderous, fallacious opinions, offered as fact or gospel, to anyone who might be unfortunate enough to look the wrong way. Not only is the wild wild web a place full of clichés, just like the high school hell you fought tooth and nail to escape, but also like anything else that has the putrid stamp of Humanity upon it, these clichés will mob up on people who might offer a different view, like a pack of wolves, weeding out the 'weak' wolf. It's insane! You cannot trust anything ANYTHING ANYTHING you read, especially not on the Internets, where people actually can be PAID to go on websites, pose as regular contributors to forums and skew honest discussions about games or politics or whatever by interjecting biased opinions for the sole purpose of creating controversy or a rabid fan base. Sure it happens without the payment, but its still ugly...we all know that negative campaign adds are a fact of life but we hate the fact that so much money is poured into them and so many people are swayed by the FALLACIOUS ( I think I like that word...I mean, hell its root is Fallacio!) ideas put out there.
So, I'm stuck with reading peoples opinions that I don't exactly trust about games that I might or might not buy, finding a strong metaphor to life in the process, but really just being annoyed and not even spending money on a game until I'm DEAD SURE I want it. Like Galactic Civ II. I wonder how many other gamers are out there that feel the same way...
That's all I have to say about that...