Monday, July 21, 2008

BuzzBQ and Bye-Bye Blue Corn

Sunday was our third, and likely last, BuzzBQ. It's always held at this tiny little hard-to-find park in Yokohama (I know it's hard to find, because anyone who hadn't been there before sent me dozens of texts saying they couldn't find it). Anyway, it's right by the water and mostly in the shade, so it was the perfect place on a really hot day. It was also the BuzzBQ with the highest attendance ever. It might have had something to do with the fact that there would be Yokohama fireworks in the evening. Like they were just for us. Yokohama saying goodbye. Not, not really, they do it every year. But the entire usual Buzz crew was there, plus my gaijin friends. And more kinds than just ours, for once, including some new babies! There were vast quantities of food and drink (that kept needing to be replenished due to the high volume of guests), music, sports, and the fireworks. It was a wonderful party, and I'm sure Macky was very pleased.

By the way, the last few pics are Walter's; I stole them from his facebook album. If some of you latecomers are wondering why there are no pictures of you, it's because I was sick of taking pictures by the time you showed up. And then it got dark. I probably should've. Oh, well, I'll get you Saturday.

After, a few of us went to the Blue Corn. Kevin's parents were there. They seemed like nice people. They had the front open, so we got to do our drinking in the open air, which was nice. After a while (Kevin wasn't feeling great: might've been the Jager), it ended up just Cynthia, Osamu, and me, and a deck of cards. That was kind of surreal, sitting outside, playing cards, drinking Maker's, watching the dawn arrive, knowing that when I left, it would be forever (maybe). I drew it out as long as possible. When we were the only customers left, Susan came and joined us, and we taught him how to play rummy. Then Takeshi and the other guy, who's name escapes me at the moment, also joined us. Takeshi and Susan both took pictures of all my tattoos for some reason, and we did group pictures on 4 different cameras. With the Cowboy/Indian. Takeshi, who I am sure was close to tears, dumped a margarita glass full of Blue Corn matchbooks in my bag. Hugs all around. It was 7 am and I was really tired, but it was kind of hard to leave. That place was a comfort-zone for me in a place where I feel like I don't fit in. Thanks, Blue Corn staff. And thanks to Helen for bringing me there.

The rest of the week is booked up with various social and logistical events. The big one is Saturday night: Buzz Attitude and house party. Man, it's going fast.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I didn't do anything, but Jeff did

I haven't done much in the past week besides hang out with some folks. I met Helen for lunch, who suspects, as you already know if you've been keeping up with her stuff, that she has latent TB. Here she is, very happily showing off her skin test gone blistery in an ominous way:

I also, that day, saw the people lining up for the new iPhone (some people for the past 3 days, I guess) on Omotesando-dori. I guess it's really cool , I don't know. At the moment I just want my phone to make and recieve calls and simple text, but I may change my mind after Jeff gets one and I have phone envy.

I wandered around for a couple hours and got kind of lost on purpose to avoid shopping on Takeshita-dori, and later met with Martine, with whom I went to Kichijoji for my farewell to that bit of Japan. I met Andrea Innocent, whom I knew was talented, and her friend Beck, whom I did not know, did not know was talented, and is. She made these:

Those two (Andrea and Beck) went to karaoke with Martine, Christian, and Dr. Dave, and me.

If you've ever wondered what karaoke in Japan is really like, well, here ya go. If you're not wondering, too damn bad, because I just got a new laptop and I can actually make movies with my computer crashing, so I had a good time making it whether you watch it or not. And maybe you don't want to.

I took the kids to Ueno Zoo the next day, not that exciting, I've posted pictures of that already but JEFF WENT TO GO CLIMB MT. FUJI. With Macky. That's way cooler. I stole these photos off of his guide's website.

He said it was hard. And great. And he'll never do it again. Except maybe in a few years if the kids want to do it (maybe), or me (fat chance).

Then I kind of lost the rest of the week. Something about meeting Cynthia for lunch and getting home at 5am. Oh, yeah, that was the night we met up with Helen and Kevin (shhh!). Stuff was closed, no darts, no pool. Some cards, I think. I'm not sure what happened. And then, did I mention I got a new laptop today? I also went to Jeff's farewell BBQ on the base. But only because he bribed me with a new laptop. He got a giant signed-by-coworkers picture and a really nice speech was made about him. Cuz he rocks.

One thing that did happen this week is that I turned around and noticed that we have TWO WEEKS. Shit. Go ahead, ask me if we've started packing. Go, ahead, ask me. The answer is HELL NO. We don't really have to, anyway. It's being packed for us. All we have to do is put aside the suitcase stuff that we can't do without for a month, and get rid of a bunch of stuff we aren't taking. Kids' bunks are going on Monday. POS half-working washer-dryer (have I mentioned that I've finally gone Japanese and started hanging my clothes outside to dry on one of those 100-yen plastic things? Why do some clothes dry so stiff and nasty, like tube socks and towels, but other stuff is fine? Ancient domestic knowledge that has died off in my neck of the woods) has a home, as do some other household items. Car needs to go. Some books. Fish. I keep thinking there's time for these things. But the days are slipping by.

I swear to god, Helen, if you leave me a sad comment, I'm gonna stuff you in my closet with all the suitcase stuff.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Happy Knife Day

We went to our first live muay thai fight last weekend, courtesy of Martine's sweet new promo connections. It was at Ariake Differ (same place I saw Johnny's fight). It was rather surprising to see Martine, a pacifistic soul (I thought), get into it. She was so excited to take pictures, she went right up to where the press photographers were. Nobody said anything to her, beyond some encouraging thumbs-up from some spectators we suspect were interested the view of her from behind. Anyway, the Thai guy, of course (despite the crowd cheering for the Japanese guy) won the final match, but this was an earlier one, in which I saw my very first live K.O. It was awesome.

We also saw a guy carried off on a stretcher. M was all excited whenever there was blood.

Wednesday, I checked off one of my last-month goals. I had been searching for a "ramen" lantern for Jeff, and my internet search yielded Kappabashi-dori, which is the Kitchen Street of Dreams for restaurants and cooking geeks. It's near Asakusa, which happened to be having it's matsuri that day. Asakusa is crowded on a normal day; that day, it was nearly intolerable to me and my second-day hangover from hanging out at the Tavern with Cynthia and Osamu (strongest drinks in Yokohama, especially if you are friendly with the bartenders), and later, Smiley at the pool hall. Anyway, the good thing about the matsuri was that there was the obligatory yakisoba stand, which is my favorite hangover-remedy food.

It was a relief to get away from the Sensoji area and its throng, and walk to nearly-deserted - by Japan standards - Kappabashi-dori. (See here for vague directions. Not great, but they got me there). I had fun looking at all the kitchen shit I could've spent lots of money on had I known of this place's existence two years ago. And all the plastic food! I managed to just buy my treasure-in-mind, and yes, it made Jeff very happy.

Speaking of Jeff, we went to see Shonen Knife at Shinjuku Loft last night (it was our secret-anniversary celebration. 14 years!). For those of you who don't know them (incredibly) they are a Japanese girl band that gained mild popularity in the US in the '80s and '90s, far more than in their native country. But they totally rocked and I have never seen a Tokyo crowd so excited. There was a mosh pit and some crowd-surfing and lots of sweaty pogo-ing fans were happily bouncing around. There was a heavy gaijin presence. Maybe that had something to do with it. (There was this little mohawked guy who totally reminded me of Tom Smurfski. Few of you will know who I'm talking about. Val, are you reading?) There was a new bass player, about 20 years younger than the original members, with a huge, permanent grin. And they played the most rockin' version of "Top Of the World" I've ever heard, for an encore.

It was also a night of amusing train ads.

Read this one fast.

And this one reminds me of the conversation Shannon and I recently had about nonsense phrases. You know, those meaningless syllables you say when someone is rambling or saying something that makes no sense? Personal extrapolations of "yaddayadda" and "blahblahblah." Seems like a lot of people I know have had those things, like "orble-jorble" or "ee-ba-dee." This one is Shava-Dava. I don't know what it is, but it's a funny name for a drink.

Today I am back to Tokyo (been spending a lot of time there lately), for lunch with Helen, and an evening of karaoke with Martine and the Kichijoji crowd. I get to meet the illustrious Innocent Girl, visiting from Australia, at last. Looking forward to it.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Beginning of the end...

Well, it's happening. Starting to say goodbye to people. Said goodbye to Janie and family last Friday.

After we hung out on Thursday, I wished we had spent more time together. She was lonely, too, and an outsider-mom like me. Oh, well, there's always the internet.

Also said goodbye to Hamza's family, at a farewell Turkish feast last week. As there were no men present, Sevda was sans headscarf. First time I ever saw her hair. She's the one in red. The other one is Shirin, with whom I finally have something to talk about, now that she's pregnant (congrats!).

It was also the first occasion I ever had to buy one of those ridiculously-priced boxes of mikan. $30 tangerines. I was kind of hoping she would bust out with them at the feast, but I never saw them again after I handed them over. I hope they were good. They left for Turkey for the summer soon after.

On Saturday, I did the kid hand-off in Shibuya to Jeff, who had just flown in from the States. M got to say goodbye to his teacher, one of the good ones and who is probably too good for HJIS, Cynthia Thomas.

We were off to Miss Norie's sayonara extravaganza of dinner, karaoke, and dancing 'til dawn.

I made some new friends that night, like Wye-Khe and Walter; kinda wish I had met them sooner. Coulda used some more male friends in Japan. Oh, well.

What followed were 2 days of M & I hanging around the house, due to various indispositions and D being off at Yokosuka base day camp (which he resisted). Not too exciting. D begged off camp the next day, insisting that he really just wanted to hang out with his brother, and we walked to Mitsuike Koen for a lazy day in the sun.

M made some friends on the playground, where kids speak the international language of Yu-Gi-Oh! D and I laid on the grass, enjoying nature and talking about this-n-that.

Next day was an official DRS Outing (Jeff's company) at Fuji-Q Highlands with Wilson's and Frank's families. That was the third trip for the kids and me. Jeff braved the scary-ass roller coaster that you couldn't pay me to ride (the name means "it's all good," more or less, but it definitely isn't, if you ask me):

Eejanaika, 249 feet tall, 78.3 mph. Opened in 2006, it is only the second "4th Dimension roller coaster" ever built (the first being at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California). As a "4th dimension" roller coaster its seats can rotate 360 degrees forward or backward in a controlled spin, thus allowing Eejanaika to invert 14 different times, even though the actual track inverts only three times. It surpasses the first built "4th dimension" roller coaster, X², in both height and speed.

He said the build-up was totally justified. We also did Great Zaboon, the wettest water-ride ever (you buy ponchos to wear on it),

and Jeff and I finally got to do the Haunted Hospital.

It was pretty effective. The setting reminded me of Condemned: Criminal Origins, the xbox game that I won't play because the atmosphere is too creepy. You get a small flashlight and no clear idea of which way to go (we actually did a loop twice by accident). Then they take your flashlights away. There were plenty of live actors around, and they didn't just pop up randomly to scare us, they also followed us around, sometimes two at a time, and occasionally chased us shrieking down the dimly-lit halls. One of them kept appearing beneath my skirt with a flashlight. This was called "a perk of the job."More like perv. Lots of missed opportunities to be truly scary (the sometimes-shoddy models bugged me a bit), but good fun all in all.

Yesterday was, of course, the Fourth of July. We took Cynthia and her visiting family to the Navy base with us for the festivities. Plenty of the usual carnival games and contests , plus "The World's Largest (Military) Yakitori" (which was apparently hard to flip but came out quite tasty),

and performances by Eagles (not too bad), Fleetwood Mac (eh), and Madonna (pretty sad) tribute bands. Ironically, the bands were mostly Canadian. "Madonna" was backed by, we believe, strippers, and her fake Gautier-Blonde Ambition Tour gold cone-boobs kept pointing in odd directions. None of the energy of the original.

Good for a giggle anyway. And of course, there were fireworks.

Cynthia, her sister Liz, and I went out for karaoke after, at Liz's request. I think that after this past week and next week's Kichijoji-sayonara, I might just be karaoke'd-out for a while. Which is good, because, really, can you get decent karaoke in the US? I don't think so.

Also spotted an umbrella vending machine at Tsurumi station. Can't believe it was the first time we had ever seen one.

Oh, on a side note, Kevin is finally getting out of the hospital! He will be on home isolation, but at least he'll get to eat more food and not get hassled for humming while brushing his teeth. And he won't be surrounded by hacking, wheezing Japanese men with whom he can't communicate. And Helen won't have to make the trek out to the clinic every night after work. I'm sure they are both pretty happy about it.

Tomorrow we get to go to the Muay Thai championships! I'm pretty excited. Next week is my week "off." Both kids are going to camp on the base. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my time yet, but I have a couple ideas. I am also open to suggestions.