2 'active' boys
+ rainy Monday inside
= mom tempted to take up daytime drinking
I noticed that most of their non-uniform pants were either too small or had holes in the knee (M's uniform pants have one, too, but at $40 a pop or whatever, too bad. Don't even get me started on the practicality of small boys having to wear white shirts everyday), so off to Tsurumi to buy pants and some long-sleeve shirts in preparation for the cooling weather. They weren't that excited about buying clothes, as most boys aren't, but I had an ace: a nearby weird pet store we could visit.
My triumph, small as it may seem, was thus: taking the right bus to Tsurumi station, and not only knowing at which store to get said kids' clothes (SEIYU in the station's west exit), but also knowing where, on one of the adjacent streets, to get cash (the ATM at the post office I found last week by figuring out a map posted near the station - most places don't take American ATM cards), where to get American Spirits (a vending machine I noticed on the way to the post office), and where the cool pet store was.
I know this may not seem like much. Perfectly commonplace activities. But for someone who was born without a sense of direction in a land of unlabeled streets at ridiculous angles and a total inability to read any signs (not like in some Latin-based Roman-lettered language where I could at least hazard a guess), it was awesome. Not a single wrong turn or backtrack or uncertainty, and the whole trip, from home and back again, took under 3 hours. The kids were even entertained: they found clothes they liked, at reasonable prices, as well as a set of stickers each from a kiosk on a lower floor (where I actually had to ask for the stickers I wanted), AND got to see the cool pet store.
OK, I know you want to know why the pet store was so cool. It was a stack of cages on the outside, as the interior of the store was dark and tiny and no place for customers. There were the usual critters - bunnies, hamsters, cockatiels, finches, BUT there were a few things that one wouldn't see in an American pet store:
and praririe dogs
some pretty-plumed pheasant thing that refuse to pose properly
D, of course, wants a chipmunk. Too high-strung for me: I bet the instant you tried to hold it, it would bite your finger and zip off to hide behind the fridge. The prairie-dog was cute. Fat rodent, cuter than a guinea pig, if you ask me. I don't know why they don't have those or the chipmunks in the US stores: they exist in the wild there, so why not? I'm still holding out for the hedgehog, which I haven't seen yet.
I did have one more little triumphant moment on my way to Japanese class: I realized that I now had enough hiragana to read arigato gozaimashita and kudasai on the signs on the bus. Now, I may never be able to read the bulk, which is in kanji and maybe beyond my memorization skills at this point, but it was exciting to me. That knowledge, coupled with a really cheesy podcast from Chad in my ears and the discovery that the station vending machines had now switched to vending hot drinks as well (I didn't need the coffee, but it was chilly out and novel) put me in a great mood for class.
Backtrack to the weekend: I had a marvelous and much-needed night out with Helen on Saturday. We met at Hakuraku station (life revolves around the train stations - have you figured that out yet?), where someone had told her about a street fair. We didn't see much at first, probably because we were early, but then Helen ran into a guy she knew was performing. Standing next to him was an older gentleman in a suit, most likely the event organizer, who took us on a tour. All the people and beer and food, as well as most of the assorted music-dance venues were in a hidden alley that ran the block-length. We grabbed a couple paper cups of beer, walked past a troupe of bellydancers standing by to perform, and ended up back where we started, which was a small square between buildings where a band was setting up.
While watching a decent Ray-Charlesesqe band play, I emailed Macky to see if he was aware of this event, because I figured he'd dig it. He replied to ask me if I was there already, and as I was typing my reply, he appeared next to me! Small world. Apparently he was there to get his hair cut. He went to the local combini and bought more beer. I love that you can just drink beer on the street or on the train or whatever. I was told that you can also drink in a car, also, as long as you aren't the driver.
After that band was over, we had a stroll around the alley, where we saw some flamenco dancers and a zydeco band (I'm beginning to realize that the music scene in Japan is pretty international). We came back to the original spot again, in time to meet up with Michael and Shingo, my new favorite people. The band, Mooney and His Lucky Rhythm, was truly outstanding! All New Orleans, old-time hot jazz. Those who know me know that I consider myself a reincarnated flapper (not to be confused with the "slapper" Brit Helen described to me) and cannot stand still when I hear this type of music. As I'd had a couple beers and a few weeks of pent-up energy in me, I danced in the street like a fool, grinning like a maniac.
After, Helen, Michael, Shingo, and I went to the Blue Corn to catch the end of a female folk-singer's act. Sachiko, barefoot, long-skirted, and long-haired, had a lovely voice, reminiscent of Joni Mitchell. The rest of the long evening was a blur of red wine (one Pernod) and conversation with my sanity-saviors. Helen, I loved already. Michael, whom I had met once previously, kills me. He's Czech originally, but has lived in various places around the world and with various lovers. He has wonderful stories, sprinkled with language and situations that would be too graphic or crass out of most people's mouths. I don't know if it's the timbre of his voice, the accent, the matter-of-factness, or what, but he just ends up sounding like a charming, wordly gentleman. I had never really hung out with his current long-term partner Shingo before, but I adore him. He's Japanese and speaks very good English and is very easygoing. I allowed him to use my knee to play spoons at the Mooney show (there's this song that everyone knows you're supposed to have spoons ready for - next time I will, too). He drank the Pernod with me.
I don't know why I didn't take any pictures of them. That shall be remedied. Anyway, as Helen was falling asleep on the bar, we noticed it 4-something. There is no last-call in Japan. I got home in a taxi around five a.m.
I woke up to a quiet house and looked at my clock. It was 2-something p.m. I haven't slept that late since I can't remember when. Since my Sunday disappeared, following is a guest blog by Jeff:
Next AM I rose completely fixed... Sandi came home completely broken - I was so proud! So there was this pretty decent typed letter in English (very strange for our mailbox) we got last week about a community sports day at the elementary school nearby. I took the boys. We walked into what's probably as normal as it gets, but completely surreal for me and the kids. It was field day, full of the Japanese neighborhood, of which we knew no one. Me and the kids sat nervously watching the Japanese kids run across the finish line with bags of buns in their teeth, preceeding the lunch lady race. Finally one guy about my age turned and said hello. He was from our apartment complex and had two kids a son 9 and daughter 8. He proposed he will teach me Japanese and I will teach him English. He took me under his wing, making sure I knew how to do the ball toss game, tug of war, three legged race (ni nin san kyaku - "2 people 3 leg"), 200 yard dash, and the relay race - which I had to anchor. The kids did games, too. I won a box of tissues, spagetti, fish flakes, saran wrap, a coffee for my places in the games and a backpack in the raffle at the end of the day. By the time we got home I happily found Sandi with a report "I'm alive, but it hurts." We watched a movie and then I slept, after a strange fight over who had more english speaking friends to engage in deep conversation. In the end, we both agreed it was not enough for either and we would need to add each other to the list. The dessert on the weekend was waking in the middle of the night to recall the dream I just had where a great black blues genius on drums told me I'll play for you stupid white kids, but my real job is making pizza. In the middle of his song he asked (to me I think), "what is it that you do?" On his second song the lyrics said, "how many?" This meant to draw a question that would be an answer, i.e. "how many what" or "how many more" or "how many times." What you asked, you then answered, which told you what concerns you most and maybe what you should do. He was a fucking great drummer and he made some great pizza. I woke up extremely sore. I should have stretched before sprinting.
Thank you Jeff or filling in that missing day.
This weekend, Halloween weekend, is going to be history-makingly fun (I can make up words if I want to - I have a degree). Friday night is our first party, maybe 20 people, tons of food. Saturday is Buzz Attitude. I've got my costume ready.
Wow, and I thought I didn't have much to write this week. Reminds me of MocMoc (R.I.P.) lyrics: "words rolled off my tongue like a rockslide/sentences bounced out of control/I could only watch the destruction..."