Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Coming Spoon

Please forgive recent vacancy where posts should be. Currently finalizing a move, and homeless without internet. Please stick around, I'll be back soon!

Got a great story to tell about an interaction with Japanese police over what was not actually a traffic violation, but took no less than 15 cops, to "discuss" road signs in order to resolve. Coming soon!

Sooner than you can recite the invertabraes in alphabetical order, really!...

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Japlish Extended

Cleaning my place and came upon another great Engrish t-shirt. It reads:

Laughter here!
We smile
It can live by peace as long as laughter always here!
It is looking at the horizon
which becomes far by two
persons the morning
sun also begins to illuminate
us today your smile
it is very wraps me gently.

Brilliant, I think! There's nowhere else in the world you can be wrapped in sunshine like that!

Friday, July 22, 2005

A breadbasket of bees

What do you call a group of bees?

I know it's not a “gaggle” or a “school”, and I'm fairly certain it's not a “herd”.

Maybe, it's just a “swarm”.

In any case, I'm in such a state of euphoria, exhaustion and ecstatic relief right now that if the most powerful and influential Leader of Semantics knocked on my door now, it would be a trying Sirens' Song test of will-power to not throw the Book of Mormon at his kneecap and a toothbrush at his left eyebrow.

A “swarm”(?) of tiny old Japanese women bees just showed up at my apartment with sponges and mops and soaps and hoses and funny little striped yellow gloves. They whipped through three years of worthless crap and grime in under three hours, like they were a “flock”(?) of humming birds, and my apartment was just their early morning pollen appetizer.

The Japanese really know how to get physical labor-leaning tasks done fast. And impeccably! But, throw anything that requires an amount of actual decision-making or a pinch of critical thinking in, and you'll be tit-deep in paperwork and meetings for the good part of a century! Just another one of Japan's beautiful contradictions.

After the buzzing “crew”(?) of bees zipped out, I sipped humid air in a room of red tape for an hour. Sign here. Fill out this form. Join the International “I love Japan” club. Write your contact information on seventeen different forms. Are you now, or have you ever been a member of Korea?

But, honestly, though… A big Cheers to the Bee Team! Had I asked my friends to help me clean, we would still be sitting around, joking and musing, and occasionally saying “Yup…that over there… it'll have to be taken out to the garbage...

Thanks Kato -san for having introduced me to th Bee Team!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Emotion Large on the rocks!

“Hurry up and write a Japanese Goodbye Speech!” screamed the crowd, as I frantically ran circles around them, sweating like a Japanese baseball team member, running miles in the unnatural heat, trying to get a “hole in one” in a million-holes goal.

(crying over an Asahi beer…)

“Surprise! Here's a beautiful Japanese yukata from all of the teachers! Put it on, and speak in your retarded Japanese to everyone, as we ooh and aaahh over what a foreigner looks like in our women's traditional wear!” The microphone was ceremonially passed in front of thousands of eyes.

(crying for every kid you know… without an Asahi beer…)

This evening:
Too many sincere compliments fell on “foreign” ears, too many truths were told from all sides. Too much. Too sad. Too happy. Too overwhelmed…

(crying over personalities and experiences…)

That's all.

Until next time when I can gain more control over my essential sarcasm over tears…..!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Joy of t-shirt smile

The t-shirt I'm currently wearing reads:

Laughter rushes into
munch world!
Always laughing
at everybody
is important everyone all surely
consider the
same thing happiness
is come by smilling."

Spot on! I couldn't have said it better in my language!


Have you ever gotten a good Sun spanking? I mean, like one of those spankings that leaves you red and pulsing with heat for days, wishing you had been able to convince your neighbors to go in on that aloe factory in the stairwell…?
If you have, you know the drill.
It starts out with a few mild, maternal taps administered by a fiery star hiding behind the crowds. Then, the innocuous taps turn into soothing massages, and then the massages into naked baths….
And, suddenly, you wake up to find that you have become

A giant, ripe tomato.

It's a bit like Kafka's Metomorphosis, except that instead of waking up to realize you are a giant cockroach, you fall out of bed and realize you resemble a tasty red fruit. (It's a good thing you're not in Greece, where you would be immediately directed to the salad bowl. Or, even worse, in America, where you would nap on processed bits of cow between ketchup-soaked bread buns.)

Fortunately, in this case though, I love being a tomato.

It means that we had a great day of sailing today.

Having Japan's #1 sailboat racer as a captain brings Super-Sized inspiration to any sun-spanked tomato! In fact, it begs all vine-hanging red spheres to jump off and learn to sail!

Cheers to all the veggies and fruits with knowledge of the ropes! This tomato is roasted…

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Of opossums and testicles

They're not the cutest animals.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say that they're pretty ugly.
But, they are, nonetheless, amazing mammals that have partied here for over 75 million years.
Yes, they are opossums.
And, yes, they sport thumbs on their back feet.
And, yes, I've had personal interaction with them.
And, yes, they were family members living in the garage when I was a kid.
And, yes, I love them.

But they don't really compare to tanukis.
A tanuki is a Japanese, raccoon-dog creature who is just as aesthetically questionable as the opossum.
I often see them waddling across my path in the evenings and, more frequently, lying lifeless on the side of the road.

But they are most ubiquitously found in statue shape in front of ramen shops and izakayas.

And from them, always dangle two enormous testicles.
Legend has it that these big balls possess the tanuki's shape-shifting power and a number of other magical propensities.

I am inexplicably intrigued and head-over-heels in lush with traditional tales of the mythical tanuki in Japan. But, I have to wonder whether women played any role in carving out these legends…

“Say, Martha, where, in the body, do you think the central chi, or strength and power origin resides?”

“Why the testicles of course!”

...Somehow, I just can't see it...

I wonder why we in the west don't have legends of mythical opossums with enormous breasts….Big Opossum tits that spout Immortality milk and can take out the enemy with a single tit swipe…

Merverous Times

Though he might kill me, I have to post the email that an adult student and good friend just sent me. It's too sweet:

(sorry, the Japanese characters have morphed into random shapes)

“corinne goood morning!!
how is last night farewell party
so many times are party¡∫¡∫¡∫¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡it`s so tough!!
many people want to say ¡Ö°Ëµ°Ëè°ËÊ°Ëé¡Å~¡¡to you
your so big °ËÍ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡
today i will have a camp and tomorrow we will be
volunteer for kaike triathlon. it`s sounds nice.
i`m looking forwad to exiciting about it.
and i`am making a plan for inviting you come to my family
and spending nice merverous wonderful and bra bra bra
they so my family will be also happy¡¥
anyway today starts again. i wish you are going to have a
wonderful time today. and i hope that i also same to you¡¥”

I love this guy! I hope I can spend a merverous and bra bra bra time with his family! I wonder, though, if I am expected to bring extra bras….

Friday, July 15, 2005

Rock-a-By Baby

Some days, I think my Japanese is pretty decent. On these days, I glow with the radiance that only an all-knowing, omnipotent master of language can. I am an acclaimed acrobat, skating my way across a tightrope, juggling vocabulary, nuance and witticism like they were sexual yearnings and wowing my listening audience with my adroit local dialect and impeccable intonation.

Unfortunately, these days are few and far between and tend to coincide with days heavily lubricated with alcohol.

Most of the time, I am a pauper in the slums of Japanese language; tripping over every third word littering the rancid streets, eating vowels out of opened bean cans and slipping in every puddle of sentence continuity.
These days, I nurse my Japanese Language Ability like it were my very own little nipple-sucking baby. I read Dr. Seuss to it, play it Leo Kottke acoustic guitar songs, and wipe its butt with love-scented baby wipes.
Only it's not a baby.
It's more like a stem cell.
Well, kind of… except for the fact that no amount of researching and studying my Language Inability Stem Cell can ever save another Language Inability Baby in the future…Unless of course,
AW, screw it! I seem to have imagination-ed myself into a hole here…

So I guess I'll stop procrastinating and get back to writing farewell speeches in Japanese. Ggrrrrrr!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Cleanliness next to Wobbliness

Before I came to Japan, I never could have fathomed that the hardest part about packing for a move could be sorting the garbage.

Where I live, there are 11 categories of trash into which we must separate everything we dispose of. And I swear to my creator and savior (the boisterous, tuxedo-wearing, mutant pear-eating platypus in the sky) that this is no exaggeration.

The main and most oft-utilized category is the “Burnable Trash”. (It's where you throw your daily waste, like tissues, left-over salad, uneaten fish heads, junk mail, onion skins, and ex-boyfriends' underwear.)
After that, there are 10 more categories like: non-burnable trash, plastics, Styrofoam, cans, glass, milk cartons, Japanese porn comic books, paper, toxic waste, etc.

The difficulty I've found is that NOTHING in my apartment fits into ANY of the categories. For example, I want to toss:

A box of bulletin board pushpins - but… the head of the pins belongs in the “hard plastics” trash bag, the impaling point in the “non-burnable metals”, the enclosing box in the “soft plastics” category and the label in the “burnable trash”

An old canvas wallet - but… the fabric goes in with the “burnables”, the zipper in the “metals”, the ID-covering plastic in “soft plastics” and the Velcro… well, I don't know where Velcro goes (except that I'm pretty sure it goes to heaven).

But, anyway… you get the point.

Basically, I need a full chemist's lab and a team to work my apartment's de-assembly line in order to take out the trash.

If only I had moved in to a paper apartment, had only paper appliances, and eaten only paper for the last three years…

Monday, July 11, 2005

Hermit asses and hiding kids

When I was about twelve, I wanted to be a hermit. I wanted to live in a hollowed-out evergreen, with a little Tolkien-esque wooden door that had to be knocked in a coded rhythm in order to open. I wanted to let my hair fly wild, my calloused feet to grow resilient, and to wear reeds and vines as attire and carry around a little bag of healing herbs. I wanted the stellars jays to be my alarm clock and the beetles to be my contracted house renovators. I wanted to hunt with a handmade obsidian spear, and plant crops by the stars.

If I were a man, I would have been that big, super-size-bearded psycho who exposes his sun-varnished butt to you as he runs mad-man marathon style into the woods, grunting and hooting.

But, I have since abandoned such innocent aspirations.

(This surrendering of my dream happened about the same time that I realized I knew myself too well and could no longer entertain myself with my own arguments. I suddenly realized that I would either have to relinquish my internal hermit, or become schizophrenic and acquire a fourth and fifth personality on top of my first three.)
I went for letting go of the independent, crazy woman within.

This childhood career goal rang the doorbells at the genkans of some of my memory synapses, because I have been thinking a lot recently about a specifically Japanese phenomenon known as
Hikikomori .
It is a strange social mental state under which Japanese kids hole up in their rooms, don't come out, don't go to school and don't socialize with their peers. Every junior high and highschool in Japan has a few of these cases, and it's very hush-hush. It was a few years at my school of employment before I learned that there were actually real live kids that belonged to all those empty desks. They were like these deleted lyrics in each class's aria.

There are lots of theories as to what causes this phenomenon in Japan; none of which I will discuss here.
(Quite frankly, because I prefer to paint the world with little, yellow daisies, pink glittery hearts, teddy bears, and powdered-sugar-covered pigtails rather than depress myself with the reality of it.)

But, maybe there is some silver lining to this sad and analysis-promoting phenomenon. I mean, just think what kind of chaos would ensue if all of these children decided to realize MY childhood dream...

There would be hundreds of butt-naked Japanese kids running maniacally through the shopping arcades of Tokyo, chasing stray cats with fishing spears, cooking subway rats over open fires and sacrificing sashimi to the Harvest deities!

Posts coming soon: Suicide in Japan, random murder of family members, sick and twisted baby-beatings, first-hand accounts of the Hiroshima bombing, and victim stats resulting from Japan's AIDS-talk Taboo.

(*update/edit: for those who don't know me, these last previews are, of course, sarcasm. That, or the prophesies of one of my other personalities who has yet to introduce herself to me...)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Happy B-day! Here's an Elephant!

Why is it that the most sincere and heart-felt goodbye presents have to come in the heaviest packages?

Friend: “So, -c, you're leaving Japan and have to pack up 3 years worth of stuff in two duffel bags and one carry-on, huh?”
Me: “Yup.”
Friend: “Well, since our friendship and time together have meant so much to me, I'd like to offer you a gift.”
Me: “Thanks, but just You being You has been indescribably more than enough! I'll take you back in everything I do.”
Friend: “Yes, but, please take this 40lb statue of Buddha, this ornate traditional vase, this year supply of Daisen soba noodles, 2 kilos of Tottori sand dune sand, this pottery set made by the finest artist in town, this vat of locally-made plum alcohol, this beautiful shogi set, this smiling ceramic Hello Kitty, and 70 packages of cherry-blossom tea.”
Me: “You are too kind. Thank you!”

I'm now waiting for someone to give me a fleet of flying donkeys (wearing super hero costumes, flippers and circus-style snorkels) to courier everything home.

Honestly, though, people are wonderful. And giving. All I, personally need, though, is a piece of the heart.

(yeah, it grills up nicely with garlic and soy sauce)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Suck it to me

OK, I admit it. I can be slightly obnoxious sometimes. For example, when engaged in ordinary, every day conversation with someone, I occasionally like to throw in a few obscure and completely unrelated words or a perplexing non sequitur that follows the preceeding comment like a chicken's neck does an ax. For example:

Friendly person: It's a beautiful day, isn't it?
Me: Yes! And a coffee filter filled with tortoise tongues and absinth should never ride a bicycle, don't you agree?

I could probably get diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (I certainly exhibit signs of abnormal brain function), but, the truth is I have complete control over this out-of-context uttering of random words and phrases. It's a deliberate tact I employ to get people creatively thinking and sculpting their responses. (Well, either that or to get them to drop out of the conversation abruptly and give me weird looks for the remainder of our time together.)

But, after last night's karaoke session with friends, I have to wonder about the health of some Japanese songwriters' serotonins and dopamines. I mean, really, what else besides Tourettes could explain someone writing a Japanese love song and arbitrarily tossing in meaning-confused English phrases? One of the songs sung last night was a poetic and melodic love song in Japanese that actually wasn't too bad on the ears. That is, until it bridged between verses with “Afro Rage!”, “Suck it to me” and “Woo ga shaka disco fever!”

But I am but a guest here in this land of the Rising Sun. What kind of a culturally insensitive prick am I to laugh at the Japanese tradition of spiking their songs with astoundingly ridiculous English phrases?

So, to redeem myself, I decided to do my part for Japan today by beginning to instill this cultural tradition of obscure English in the young and impressionable children. And I found the perfect opportunity for this act of altruism! I was teaching vegetable vocab today to a herd of energetic 11 year-olds by having them repeat after me and then rhythmically clap twice.

Broccoli! (clap clap)
Broccoli! (clap clap)
Eggplant! (clap clap)
Eggplant! (clap clap)
Woo ga shaka disco fever! (clap clap)
Woo ga shaka disco fever (clap clap)
Potato! (clap clap)
Potato! (clap clap)

So, don't come telling me I don't embrace and promote Japanese culture!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Rain Dance

How many head pounds per second does it take to orchestrate a proper post Dionysian beach party symphony?
Well, I'd count…, but I'm afraid the neural activity required would hurt too much.

The rain danced with us this weekend in the miniature-wave coveted cove.
Now, I don't know if you've ever seen a performance of the Rain dancing before, but I can tell you it's spectacular!
It (the Rain) moved with such fluidity and rhythmic grace that even the mosquitos in the audience started biting ankles to the beat. And a lost crab was so moved and jolted by the Rain's exquisite rendition of Salt n Pepa's “Shake your thang”, that he lost all equilibrium and soon found himself upside down, pinchers flailing above the sand. Horny hound dogs with horrendous pick-up lines froze in humility and became sleazy salt statues when the Rain danced its final words of the spell.

The Rain's tap dance was an ego essence-consuming piece that devoured me like a redwood does when you realize you're a part of the forest.

And, for the grand finale, the Rain came and did hip-hop improv break dancing inside my tent.

This soaking number, needless to say, was not followed by any “encore” shouts from the crowd.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Homeward bound with Koalas

To my delight (and that of all the local farmers) it rained cats and koalas today.
The fields felt alive, and the pavement smelt of hot cloud sweat…

I woke up without a bike or car, decided a pterodactyl wasn't the way to go home, and decided to ask a man in a construction truck at a nearby convenience store for a ride.

“Which way are you headed?” I asked in chopped, sliced and sautéed Japanese.

“That way,” he pointed in perfect Japanese.

“Oh, me too!” I said, chopping bits of sliced language and stirring them around with a half-eaten fork.
“Do you think I could get a r---?”

“Muri desu.” (It's not possible/not allowed) he said.

“Alright then, I get it,” I said with only two diced onions.

And off I went, showered in the pouring morning rain; my memory snapping slow aperture shots of yellow blossoms sneaking between rice fields and concrete.

And then, just as I was dripping wet, brinking on epiphany beside a dead strawberry garden,
The same construction truck I had seen before stopped beside me.

“Get in!” the driver said in impeccable farm Japanese. And the kid I'd met before lowered his head and smiled with eyebrows farther away than Neptune.

We chopped a few veggies together on the way home and parted.

“Damn, it's raining cats and koalas today, isn't it?”

And I sat there, and sit here still.... wondering where those koalas are.
And, still chopping brocolli and cucumbers for a superb Japanese salad...