Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Add to this the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and well that's my excuse for missing my semi-regular M,W,F updates. Sorry Mom, CIS, DS and the three other people who follow this.
I am working on my first beer review for Belching Monkey!
I'm reviewing Mishima Banana Soda and Mongozo Banana Beer.
Monkey? Banana? Get it? Awwww, come on.
I did a bunch of baking to make goodies for the office.
I did some part time work last Saturday and wore a "christmas kimono" ensemble which I thought was tacky but ended up being well-received.
I went out with the Server Support team and ate, drank, exchanged gifts and watched them play SMASH BROS for our holiday get-together.
I got the house decorated for Xmas, and like I promised in the last few posts - pictures.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Kenji Miyazawa, translated by Rogger Palbuse
Strong in the rain
Strong in the wind
Strong against the summer heat and snow
He is healthy and robust
He never loses his temper
Nor the quiet smile on his lips
He eats four go of unpolished rice
Miso and a few vegetables a day
He does not consider himself
In whatever occurs ... his understanding
Comes from observation and experience
And he never loses sight of things
In a field in the shadows of a pine tree grove
If there is a sick child in the east
He goes there to nurse the child
If there's a tired mother in the west
He goes to her and carries her sheaves
If someone is near death in the south
He goes and says, "Don't be afraid"
If there's strife and lawsuits in the north
He demands that the people put an end to their perttiness
He weeps at the time of drought
He plods about a loss during the cold summer
Everyone calles him "Blockhead"
No one sings his praises
Or takes him to heart ...
This is the sort of person
I want to be
Monday, December 15, 2008
No snow here. The house looks cute enough, but I didn't decorate as heavily this year.
At some point, I will put up pictures. The tree is really pretty this year and my tree topper is pretty funny, too.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
Had dinner with our dear friend Masako. We ate ourselves silly, surrounded by the clamor of year-end parties, a haze of cigarette smoke (not so fun), and the bustle of the waitstaff. Cozy, informal, easy and wonderful. Masako remarked that it didn't seem like we've been friends for more than three years now. Without her friendship and help, I never would have been able to learn as much about Kimono as I did. I sincerely hope she can visit us in the USA sometime.
A few emails about jobs, nothing stateside and nothing where we want to go. Germany fell through about two weeks ago. I'm fine with that - one less decision to agonize over.
I'm tired of the ongoing crap with this new contract. I'm sad to be leaving some of the aspects of my home- and work-life here behind, but I am also looking forward to dealing with a different kind of stupid back stateside. Change can be good. Even if it's just a change in the scenery of stupid. We have a plan of attack and I am ready to fire the opening salvo. I am painfully excited to see my friends - who have been very good about fb, email, twitter. Thanks, guys. You know who you are. I can't wait to see you all again.
My Aunt Den made Christmas more excellent for me by sending a care package of indigenous Buffalo/Western NY foodstuffs that I've always missed terribly around the holidays - DiCamillo's baked goods, her famous shortbread cat, homemade pistachio bark, sponge candy. No molasses cookies this package, but I am not complaining. Hilarious shotglasses - I need to youtube a video of Chris and I doing shooters with them. The shotglasses have LEDs in them that flash when you bang them on the table. Mine says "Reindeer Fuel!"
I did the holiday decorating over the weekend. It made me feel better to put the tree up a week earlier than usual. I'll even be able to observe my tradition of taking the tree down New Year's day. This is a nicer way to end my run in Japan then having Xmas in a hotel room. I am grateful for the opportunity for this "proper" (at least to me) closure. We will be out of the house on January 19th, living in a hotel for a few weeks, then we come back to the US.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008
Waiting for the final word and then I will reschedule our packout and our travel arrangements.
I am excited to be in my cute little Japanese house for one more Christmas!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I am trying to reschedule the packout. It feels like stepping in front of an oncoming freight train and saying "stop, please."
I JUST did all my xmas cards and put information in them about our temporary contact info. Sheesh.
I GAVE AWAY THE XMAS TREE. I hope Tatum will let me borrow it back!
Monday, November 24, 2008
A lot of phone calls tonight, from family and friends. Cp called and I was SO excited I actually had to sit down. The job interview that was supposed to happen at 10pm did not. I'm hoping it was simply an oversight.
Tore through 25 items on my to-do list, not easy stuff either, with the last thing remaining being to call my company's travel office and get stuff set up for our fly out.
eta: it's now 12:44am. The Japan hotels are booked. The flight is booked. The rental car is booked. The only glitch is there's no extended-stay hotels available for the month of January anywhere in Baltimore. Argh.
The shopping for T-Day is done, the rented tables and chairs have been picked up and set up. The tablecloths got ironed and I got the place settings arranged :
Not happy about the paper plates, but I had to cut some corners somewhere in order to accomplish everything. At least there's not paper cups. Tomorrow, oh, no, wait, today's Monday. I don't have to start any cooking/baking until Wednesday.
I woke up with this joke in my head today: What do you get when you cross an Amish guy, a Chinese guy, a spastic, a polack and a dumb blonde? Misawa's Server Support Group. Ha ha ha.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Our packout date is December 4. The packout means the movers come and cram all our things into crates and get them shipped out. Our "final out" for the house will probably be the 6th of December. We will be staying in a hotel until the end of the month, although this is subject to change.
I am sad to be moving out of our darling house but at least we are moving forward again, after being stalled out.
Monday, November 17, 2008
We spent a late autumn weekend away and it basically amounted to finding something to do between eating fantastic kaiseki meals. Autumn is for eating? Hells, yeah!
So we (being me, my spouse and Benri the Ninja) travelled to Hakodate, a city on the southern end of the island of Hokkaido. This was our third trip to Hokkaido, our second to Hakodate. Chris and I were celebrating our 5th wedding annivesary. Benri was celebrating being back from the desert, seeing clouds again, and tempratures less than 140 degrees farenheit. We spent Friday through Sunday at the beautiful Wakamatsu, a traditional Japanese ryokan.
Ryokans are reknowned for the level of service, the loveliness of the rooms, and the fantastic kaiseki meals. Some ryokans have onsen or hot springs, too. Wakamatsu had a gorgeous onsen, all marble and pale wood. The outside bath was on a balcony!
We were the only people on our floor and there were scant few guests at the rest of the ryokan. We had a huge room with a gorgeous ocean view - we were about 100 feet away from the water. The sound of the surf was amazing! I can understand why the Japanese Royal Family chose to stay here.
Did I mention the food? I think I did. But I will mention it again. The whole stay revolved around eating.
You can see pictures on my flickr photostream.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
My truck is done sold. I had to drive Chris' enormous Surf today, which I hate because it is so huge and I feel completely lost in it and I swear to the zombie babby jeebus that it doesn't fit in the parking spots no matter how carefully I manuever it.
I will say the Surf is considerably more POWERFUL than my Tonka Truck ever was and as a result I ended up consistently 30 klicks over the speed limit. It doesn't feel like you're going all that fast for some reason.
Anyway, no news on the repatriation home front. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
That's really 4 tons, I am not exaggerating.
Sylvia is 25 days out from departure.
We are 39 days out.
We told the Aizawas on Sunday (11/2) that we are officially leaving. They took it well.
I am anxious and excited but totally bummed that I will not be in my own home for the holidays.
I also found out that Sylvia has a totally nice butt that really nice to squeeze! I really want to bite it, but a brief discussion with Sylvia allowed us to figure out: a bite on the butt = a punch in the neck, nothing personal, that's just the way it is. ;)
Monday, November 03, 2008
Today I also stopped by the hospital and picked up my dental records and made arrangements to get copies of my medical records.
The I went over to the comm squadron and dropped off one of my smart cards/ID cards that I no longer need.
Next was a trip to the Personnel Flight to find out what I need to do transfer my car to the new owner. Short answer, come back tomorrow with Joy to get stuff started.
At work, I packed up my little corner work area and brought all the crap home, stopping to pick up Chris' dry-cleaning on the way home.
I also scheduled the survey of my house for the packout, which will take place in December (date to be determined).
I am currently working on my household goods shipment paperwork.
We are both still trying to find jobs but at least now I can focus and move forward.
Wow. It's really starting to happen!
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Benri is composed of parts made in China and assembled in the USA.
Cockroaches came before dinosaurs but we're still working on the chicken/egg thing.
It is better to be pissed off than pissed on but there's money to be made from both situations.
An airplane on a giant treadmill still can take off, duh.
We are yet undecided about quantum crystalline versus adamantium in terms of overall strength. It might be apples and oranges, but at the very least, it's two different universes.
Darth Vader would probably win a fight with Superman (we worked through several scenarios).
The Borg could most likely assimilate a virus but based on the episode with the cycling phaser frequencies, a couple of Borg would have to be infected/die first. One really interesting thing - everyone responded to the question by first asking "What's the virus' payload?"
Monday, October 27, 2008
To my "numerous" readers (ah, ha ha ha ha) go leave him a comment, wouldja? He was totally like "I want comments on my blog, waaaaaaaaaaaaah" at the office, while SOME of us were trying to do WORK.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
It rained today, but stopped by late afternoon. Definitely a fall sky and for the eleventy-billionith time in my blog, I'm going to mention how awesome the clouds are here. The cloudy weather is not awesome (there's too much of it) but the clouds themselves are splendid. I got out my Audobon's Weather Guide to see how many kinds of clouds I could spot. How can you not like clouds?
Sylvia's pack-out is November 18th. That really drives home how rapidly the end of my time in Japan is approaching.
Since this is the first weekend in a long while that I won't be spending most of my time studying, I am going to do some grocery shopping, home-office stuff, errands and then some knitting and sewing. It feels weird not to be studying, but I've got plenty of other things that have piled up. I am looking forward to getting back to the gym on a regular basis, too.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Saturday and Sunday were the days for the Big Bazaar. There's not the variety or quality of vendors like in years past (vendors PCS, retire, etc) but that hardly mattered. People who had just arrived in Misawa were excited and it was contagious. Everyone was in a really good mood and having fun. I talked about (and sold) kimono to oodles of people. This Bazaar was my last one and it was probably the most fun I have had.
Near the end of the day on Sunday I was a bit tired and everything had a tinge of sadness. I couldn't believe that I've been helping Mr. Ikeda since 2005. I didn't want the bazaar to end and I didn't want to leave and I think Mr. Ikeda could tell - this bazaar was the only time he has let me help with packing up the shop. Even so, it went so very quickly. We said our farewells and off I went. I cried a bit on the way home. It's really beginning to hit me that I am really going to be leaving soon.
PS - I am also studying/cramming like crazy. My last test for my MCSE is on Wednesday and I am really struggling. It would suck to bomb out on the last one.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Normally I try to update the blog on M, W, F. With me being so focused on doing my MCSE tests (one left), I haven't been updating. A whole week rushed by without my even realizing it.
Between studying, studying, studying, eating, sleeping and working (barely) I've been looking for a job. Send me luck. THANKS!
Speaking of sending stuf, SD sent me a lovely care package - beer and dried snacky things. THANKS!
I am a bad influence and made Sly buy SHOES. HAHAHAHAHAHA! YOU'RE WELCOME!
Mom emailed to check up on me - THANKS. I LOVE YOU, TOO!
Skully and I finally connected - chatted about vivisection, bacon and POOP. I miss you, dude!
The big bazaar is tomorrow. My last one! I am excited and very sad, too. I am going to wear some of my fancy fancy kimono for my last hurrah. But where did I put my fancy hair?
The weather has been gorgeous. I don't want to leave. But the fact that I am going to makes it that much more of a wonderful last autumn here in Japanland.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
That's not to say I didn't think of him, because I did. But thinking waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back, it hurts a lot less now than it did back then. After my examinations are done, I'll knock back a few drinks (of the alcoholic variety) to honor him. Actually, it's sort of stupid to drink to the health of someone deceased but my father would appreciate the gallows humor there. Oh, I wanted to make it even more authentic, it would be something made of CHEAP alcohol, but I'm past that now. Besides it conjures up memories of the most studendous hangover EVER, courtesy of Dad's penchant for cheap rotgut whiskey (and beer).
Monday, October 06, 2008
Friday, October 03, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
There are summer and winter uniforms and they are changed out appropriately. The day that the uniform change occurs is called koromogae. For summer, it is June 1. For winter it is October 1.
If you are an anime fan, you've probably seen this change referenced, particularly if you are watching an anime dealing with kids in school. The old chestnut being that one student always forgets the changeover day and comes in wearing the wrong uniform.
Last year, I almost drove off the road laughing because I saw a few kids that had obviously forgotten it was koromogae time again and had on the wrong uniform. Their friends were very clearly giving them crap.
I know I've blogged about this before . . .
Monday, September 29, 2008
It was cool, calm and peaceful. I really like(d) living here and I was stuck by sudden melancholy about leaving this place soon.
Then I was struck in the forehead by some giant-ass nasty bug and that brought me back to reality: jobs go away, people move on and in a few months no one will ever know I lived or worked here. The town won't look much different, someone else will be out running on the ridge and enjoying an early-autumn sunrise.
I barrelled towards home and a hot shower.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The building and grounds are fantastic.
Click on the picture to go to Flickr. There's more photos in the set.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. Then the days begin to get shorter, like our time here.
I love Autumn here in Misawa, and part of me is really sad that this will be my last one. I miss having the sun up at 4:30am though.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
The moon as seen from the balcony of my house.
My tatami room.Mochi. The yellow ones have white bean filling in them. The pink and green ones have red bean.The Japanese don't see a man in the moon, they see an usagi (rabbit).Stems of Susuki grass.
Susuki grass fronds.
I enjoyed a cup of matcha (green tea) with my mochi. Since green tea is sort of bitter, it goes nicely with the mochi. The chawan, or tea bowl, dates from the end of the Meiji era (about 1926). Ume (plum) blossoms are usually a late winter theme, but I like this bowl a lot and wanted to use it.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
It's now still dark at 4:30 am and the quality of light has changed, too.
Looking forward to the change of seasons/scenery.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Friday, September 05, 2008
Well, guess what? The game works here in Japan. I've seen Japanese analogues for a number of my family and friends:
My maternal grandmother
My paternal grandmother
My paternal grandfather
My father (which was weird)
Me (only from the back, she had the same haircut and color, and dressed in a style similar to what I like but was definitely Japanese. Chris pointed her out. I found it gave me a distinct sense of unease to be walking behind "myself")
My cousin Matt
My Aunt Den
Chris' brother Tim
Chris' brother Gee
Chip F. (gets even weirder, because Chip looks like a really thin version of my dad, who hated the game, as previously mentioned)
Don S. (although we are not sure if it counts, because he's Chinese)
Ben L. (again, not sure if it counts, he's Chinese, too)
The Individual Formerly Known as Spouse
The guy at the tollbooth here in Misawa who looks exactly like Hiro from HEROES (we weren't the only ones who noticed this either - the whole office was talking about it one morning. Not sure if it counts as he's already Japanese. Maybe that makes it a meta-analogue or something?)
I'm sure there's some I've forgotten, but you get my drift.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Monday, September 01, 2008
After enlightment, the laundry.
Since I am nowhere near satori, after the laundry, there's the dishes, the dusting, the vacuuming, the yardwork, etc.
Calligraphy from a local artist, done at my request. And yes, it's hanging in my laundry room:
Friday, August 29, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
An informal poll has revealed that most of my friends have been getting pretty drinky lately.
One of them was like "Oh, good, it's not just me."
Speaking of drinky, I need to go make myself another stripey cocktail.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
There was a three hour long parade down the newly-renovated White Pole Street (which should be renamed simply White Street as the poles are long gone now), ending at the newly-dedicated American Park. More stuff in the Misawa City Festival Flickr Set.
The guys from the office volunteered to carry a mikoshi (float). Here's short clip:
Friday, August 22, 2008
My mom, living in Cape Canaveral (Brevard County), Florida...is neither flooded nor hurricaned-out. Mom's boyfriend is making good recovery from a minor stroke (minor stroke? Is there such a thing?)
I made up three care packages, for friends that seem to need a pick-me-up.
Sylvia made it to the top of Mount Fuji!
I bought the makings for gelato (wonderful local eggs and milk, and superfine sugar) to be made tomorrow and picked up three bunches of flowers at the farmer's market, including some of my favorites, Gerbera Daisies. So Cheery!
That is all.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Weather like this calls for something heartier than just cold soba salad or cold tofu or all the other cold, light dishes I associate with summer. So here's a veggie and rice dish, along the idea of paella. My buddy DS posts pictures of the meals he makes, so I thought Iwould do, too.
Asparagus, yellow squash, zuke, tomatoes, artichokes, peas and carrots. Seasoned with bay, paprika, saffron, salt and pepper. Made with the local rice. It came out pretty tasty, which is good, it made so much that I'll be eating it for the next few days (Chris didn't like it - too vegetable-y).
Monday, August 18, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
It's been raining for a week straight again and it's been hot and muggy. Everything has begun to smell musty. I can understand how Kodo (Art of Incense) evolved here, now. I just used up the last of some amazing (and expensive) incense we purchased in Osaka. With the heavy, humid air the fragance stays around but not overwhelmingly so and the house smells good in a subtle way (not like GLADE or PINE SOL arrggggh). Of course, Kodo is highly ritualized and I certainly don't practice it properly, with the stand and charcoal, whatnot, et cetera, but do try to put some thought into the fragrance I pick and even the incense holder. Kodo Light for Gaijin, I guess.
I use different incense at different times of the day or even of the year and in different parts of the house. Right now, I am using a very sensual-smelling incense in the bedroom (bow-chicka-bow-bow) with notes of fennel and olibanum, (better known as frankincense) among other things. It has a deep, chocolatey sort of smell and is incredible, lush with out being heavy and interesting without being overly complicated. It's smooth and deep and I can sometimes pick up similar notes in the port wine I occasionally drink.
Ideally for the bedroom I prefer something with notes of lavender, because the scent of lavender is soporific, but that's cancelled out by the fact that lavender seems to trigger an allergy response in the spouse, causing him to snore and cancel out any of the sleep-assisting benefits I get from the lavender.
While lavender is relaxing, citrusy notes are invigorating, I had incense with lime and pepper notes and I liked using it in the mornings on the weekend, when I would be working in the home office - updating blogs, uploading to flickr, making care packages to send. I need to order some more of that.
I use aloeswood downstairs in the living room quite often. One of my favorite scents is no longer made - it contained notes of blackberry and wasabi. That was good for the living room, too.
I rarely use any incense in the tatami room, as I like the smell of the reed mats on their own. I will occasionally use a bit of sandalwood to freshen the room - in the rainy season, sometimes the mats will start to smell a little sour.
While my asian friends complain if I use sandalwood (they say it smells like a temple and usually a buddhist one at that and buddhist rites are associated with funerals here), I use sandalwood a lot as it is calming and there are claims it is antiseptic, as well. I learned the hard way not to use cheap-ass sandalwood either. You can smell the difference!
One more unusual way I've used sandalwood incense is to "smoke" my Kendo armor before testing. On the advice of a hippy-dippy aquaintance, I figured I'd give my armor a good smoking not only to get the smell out but to also "purify" it before I tested for my blackbelt. Usually you can't beat kendo gear for sheer, powerful stank (with the possible exception of ice hockey gear), no matter how carefully you keep it. To my suprise, the sandalwood smoke did help both with the smell and my nerves.
Much later, I found out that samurai often used to do the same thing, so that if they were to die on the battlefield, they would smell good. I think the ritual aspect of the incense helped me more than anything, combined with the fact that I had to prep the armor prior to smoking it, so I knew my armor looked good and was in top condition prior to the test. That and the nice scent of the sandalwood calmed me a lot.
I burned some the other day called "Hane" - the stick itself was sort of a powder grey color and one of the notes I detected reminded of how down comforters smell. "Hane" is the word for "feather". =) it wasn't quite right for summer...but it will be perfect for late-fall-going-into-winter.
I have a couple of really pretty incense burners, purchased throughout Japan. The fanciest one I have was a gift from my Kimono Sensei, and is gold plated. I have one that looks like an eggplant and a handmade glass one that looks like a piece of candy.
I also lost one of the points off of my angled bob haircut last summer, trying to peek into one of the burners as I was lighting some incense. NO amount of incense will get rid of the of stench of burnt hair.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
In astronomy and space exploration, the velocity that is sufficient for a body to escape from a gravitational centre of attraction without undergoing any further acceleration. Escape velocity decreases with altitude and is equal to the square root of 2 (or about 1.414) times the velocity necessary to maintain a circular orbit at the same altitude. At the surface of the Earth, if atmospheric resistance could be disregarded, escape velocity would be about 11.2 km (6.96 miles) per second. The velocity of escape from the less massive Moon is about 2.4 km per second at its surface. A planet (or satellite) cannot long retain an atmosphere if the planet's escape velocity is low enough to be near the average velocity of the gas molecules making up the atmosphere. Encyclopædia Britannica
In 1973, the year my brother was conceived, many people in Buffalo, New York watched the Senate Watergate Hearings on TV. Far away, the last American troops pulled out of Vietnam. Secretariat won the Triple Crown. The year my brother was conceived was the same year that Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion nationwide.
In 1974, the year my brother was born, Buffalo was dying, beginning the transmutation into the hollow Rust Belt hulk it is now. Bethlehem Steel closed plants. The General Motors Engine factory cut jobs. Businesses moved to the Sun Belt. The same year my brother was born, roughly 36,000 people in Buffalo were unemployed.
Everybody tries to leave Buffalo. People swear “ This is it!” as they hunker down for one last winter as cold and icy as Dante’s seventh level of Hell, only to find that by spring they have developed a layer of rust that corrodes their will and binds them in a ferrous-oxide clinch to the half-dead city. There’s a resistance to leaving, even if the place is killing you mentally, spiritually, financially. You need big-ass booster rockets of determination and no small amount of luck to leave.
My family has a huge, bristling arsenal of embarrassing stories about each other and is so trigger-happy, they will launch them whenever there’s a window of opportunity. Except one--one tale is completely off-limits. It is so taboo that it has only been spoken of once.
The tale is that my brother, William Roy Trautman (Bill), was an accident. He was conceived, as far as Mom can recall, one May evening on the bathroom floor. I was planned; my kid brother was a surprise. I still believe that fate compensated him for his “accidental” arrival. In the Cosmic Diner of Life, my brother got an extra helping of serenity and an extra helping of charisma. He also got the karmic equivalent of a bottomless cup of coffee – an absolutely unending shitload of good luck.
Bill’s first “lucky accident” was actually precipitated by me when he was a toddler. Trying to teach him to walk, I gave him a helpful push, which landed him in our huge, 1970’s console TV. There was glass and blood and Mom was screaming. Had Bill fallen a little differently, he would have lost an eye.
The worst that came of the accident was five stitches in Bill’s forehead, right between his eyes. Mom says Bill was so calm that even the doctor remarked on it. Bill still has the scar, although it’s gotten fainter over the last twenty-five years. He has never held the incident against me.
Amazingly, Bill went through the rest of his childhood unscathed. It wasn’t until vehicles became involved that his uncanny luck poured forth. In 1989, barely an hour after getting his driver’s license, Bill lost control of the family Nissan. He had attempted to take a curve at 80 miles an hour on winter-slick Buffalo roads. The car went skidding, spinning around and around with a perverse grace, a steel skater on an asphalt rink. A telephone pole suddenly shot into view. Just as suddenly, the car inexplicably slowed and straightened out. Had this not occurred, the collision would have broken the telephone pole and brought it crashing down on Bill’s head, really getting rid of the scar from those long-ago stitches. Bill was undamaged, but the Nissan was not. Right down the middle of the passenger’s side was a neat crease, like a fancy folded sheet-metal napkin. Nobody saw the accident, so Bill drove away. When he got home, Bill lied to Mom about the incident saying he had skidded in a parking lot and whacked some trashcans. Cosmic luck and teary-eyed looks let him get away with it. On top of that, Mom told Dad SHE had dented the car, so Dad wouldn’t be mad at Bill.
Four years later, a very powerful Toyota Supra replaced the Nissan. It was a cool car, cooler now that Dad had just finished painting it. The red, sex-shiny paint was still “soft” when my brother roared out of the garage and down the gravel driveway in a ZZZRRRRRRRRing reverse wind. The car (and Bill) slid off the driveway and brushed against a flanking tree. This scraped off the fresh paint job and a nanosecond later, completely removed the entire right side of the car. Dad had been watching my brother pull away, admiring his work. Dad was a man prone to explosive fits of rage and the wanton destruction of his first-class paint job should have made him go ballistic. Instead, he just ambled over to survey the situation and seeing that Bill was uninjured, simply shrugged and motioned for the car to be put back in the garage. Four days later, after all the repair work was done, my brother slowly backed down the driveway and into a ditch, removing the entire rear fender. Dad put the fender back on and never mentioned it again.
Just when it seemed Bill’s luck had run out, it would replenish itself. In summmer 1993, Bill was motorcycling through scenic Niagara Falls, Canada. It was dusk and a little chilly, so he decided to pull over and put on his jacket. As he was doing so, he hit a gravel wash and the bike lost traction.
Both parties, Bill and Bike, fell down but did not completely part ways. The bike provided Bill with companionship by skidding right alongside him; moments later the bike deserted Bill and slid clankingly into a ditch. Parts of the bike that had rubbed along the road were ground down to nothing. Parts of Bill had also rubbed along the road--for 300 feet, going more than 30 miles an hour.
Most of us have accidentally rubbed our fingers while grating cheese. Well, take that grater and rub it really, really, hard and really, really fast over most of your body. Alternatively, picture a young man, roughly 5’6 and 140 pounds. Now picture him made out of ground beef. There were no witnesses but that also meant no one around to offer help. However, aside from being one giant-sized walking rugburn, Bill was not injured. Oozing and woozy, he staggered to a payphone a mile down the road and called his girlfriend to please come get him. He waited by the side of that road for almost an hour, quietly scabbing over.
Bill was taken right to the doctor, who having gotten one look at him, immediately dispatched Bill to Burn Treatment where Bill had the gravel scrubbed out of him. This was done twice a week for several weeks. The usual procedure involved a sadistic nurse and, Bill swears, a wire brush. Bill’s injury should have resulted in severe scarring, but he healed perfectly, skin soft and smooth.
Sometime later, there was a call from the Canadian Police. They had found a motorcycle abandoned in a ditch and traced its owner—one William Roy Trautman. Bill explained what had happened. The police explained that Bill had left the scene of the accident and they were citing him for it. There was a court hearing but the charges were dismissed as the judge ruled that Bill had been in shock and therefore unaware of his actions. Only Bill and I know that he was also drunk the night of the accident.
At least where vehicles were concerned, Bill seemed to be moving at high enough speeds to shoot him right off the face of the earth, let alone out of his hometown. But on further reflection, vehicles had been effective only in getting him in accidents, instead of getting him out of Buffalo. Now, college seemed to be the answer.
Bill went away to school in fall of 1993. He flunked out two semesters later. He simply preferred being with his friends to being in classes. He returned home in spring of 1994.
From 1996 to 1998, Bill blasted off. He joined a band talented enough to get regular gigs touring around the United States and make a decent living at it. Our family, ever dubious that this was a “real” job, reluctantly deemed Bill successful, even if he was a musician. I thought it was ...well, glamorous compared to my nine-to-five.
One night, I got a call. Bill was in some awful bar behind several feet of barbed wire and four inches of bulletproof Plexiglas. He was calling in case he didn’t make it out of the gig alive. Bill wanted to make sure that someone would know where to go to claim the body…if the body was ever found. As luck would have it, Bill lived. He even made some friends in a part of a city where people would kill you for just accidentally making eye contact.
In awful situations, Bill maintained a Zen-like composure--something no one else seemed capable of doing. While touring, the band’s truck broke down in Valdosta, Georgia. The rest of the band freaked out. Bill looked at it as a vacation from the road.
The first day of “vacation” was relaxing, even though the band ended up staying at what Bill swears was the “Bates Motel.” The second day was okay, too. But by the fourth day it had turned into “exile” and everyone had developed a thousand-yard stare and was looking through the dry, kudzu-choked pit that had once been the motel pool. On the fifth day, Bill discovered a flabby basketball amongst the music equipment. Ever resourceful, Bill stole a wastebasket, nailed it onto the railing of the motel’s second floor, and shot hoops. On evening of the sixth day, Bill set out to find a bar. One was said to be “down the road a-ways.” As he walked along, Bill saw a pack of huge dogs. He noticed that most of the dogs looked like a cross between a heart-stoppingly ugly Rottweiller and the Hound of the Baskervilles. The dogs noticed Bill. The pack growled and bristled, but hung back. Something told Bill not to run but to just keep walking. Suddenly, salvation loomed just ahead in the form of a lumpy shape in the dusk -- the bar! Bill bolted in, just as the dogs went crazy.
Bill slammed the door behind him, leaving the dogs on the porch, frothing and snapping. It was a “country bar” –a bar in someone’s house, set up in what had been the living and dining rooms. Undaunted, Bill approached the barkeep. “Wow! I just got followed by a pack of really mean-lookin’ dogs! I’ll have whatever’s on tap.” The barkeep pulled a draft for him. “Fellah up the road a bit owns them dawgs. They won’t bother yew, til yew run. Then they’ll give chase and prolly chew yew awl up.” My brother slugged back the beer. “I guess I’ll remember that walking home, then.” “Oh, yeah,” said the barkeep, “Doan walk tew close tew the road’s edge, there’s ‘gators in them ditches.” On day seven, the truck was finally repaired and my brother got out the hell out of Valdosta, Georgia. That was pretty much the beginning of the end of Bill’s professional music career. Mechanical breakdowns were one thing, mad dogs and alligators were another.
Shortly after Valdosta, Bill moved with some friends to Rochester, NY and started looking for a “real” job. Unemployment in Rochester is minimally lower than in Buffalo; Bill was in for a long search. Or so it was thought. After being in Rochester all of a few days, Bill walked into a small hardware store and found that they needed help. My brother had worked in a hardware store before, so he had plenty of experience. This store also did small appliance repair. My brother has a brain for all things mechanical and proved an exceptional repairman. He was also an exceptional salesman. Old ladies bringing in ancient, wheezing vacuums to be repaired were absolutely charmed by Bill, who sold them tons of stuff they didn’t need, yet refused to let the old ladies buy anything he thought was junk.
In July of 1998, my brother returned to Buffalo for a weekend visit. Bill met up with some buddies, borrowed Dad’s boat and went water skiing. There was a mishap, if that’s what you want to call having your leg come straight up and touch your ear. Medically, it’s called a fracture of the femoral head. It hurt Bill to move, so he didn’t. Two hours later, being in the cold waters of the Niagara River got old; Bill gritted his teeth and pulled himself back into the boat.
At the hospital X-rays showed that, due to the “mishap,” the end of Bill’s tibia was no longer properly held in place--it had popped out of the hip socket and was being hoisted upward by the pull of various muscles. The X-ray technician, somewhat unnecessarily, pointed out that Bill’s left leg was now two inches shorter than his right. But Bill had happened to arrive when the best orthopedic surgeon in the area –the same doctor who treated the Buffalo Bills’ injuries—was on call. This doctor would fix the break by careful endoscopic placement of three two-inch titanium screws. This doctor also mentioned that if the break had been a quarter of an inch longer, it would have required major surgery. Bill was released the same day he had been admitted.
Within three days, Bill was hobbling around on crutches. There were other inconveniences, such as not being able to drive or hold a job. As a result of all this, Bill had to move back into our parents’ house. The only thing that really bothered him was that his injury prevented him from playing golf. Bill wasn’t particularly keen on his physical therapy treatments, either. However, weeks ahead of schedule, he went from crutches to a cane. He did like the cane, since it made him feel quite the dapper gentleman. Bill was back in Buffalo again, but it wasn’t a problem. He would be staying until his luck ran out.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
However, I forgot to get a picture of it before he and some buddies lit into it.
This was one of his gifts: a custom calligraphy scroll. It reads "Repetition becomes Power." It's a saying that is commonly associated with Kendo and other martial arts and it is one of his favorites.
He also got fancy cufflinks, and a set of authentic pint AND middy (half-pint) beer glasses. I suppose it takes the sting out of getting older.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Monday, August 04, 2008
My husband woke up this morning with a fever, covered in clammy sweat and generally looking like shit-on-a-stick. I stayed home to keep an eye on him (and also to avoid work) and at one point, seriously began to wonder if the son-of-a-bitch had up and died on me -- once I realized he had been sleeping for twenty hours straight (completely unlike him).
I was just getting ready to go upstairs and begin dealing with the logistics of removing a 200+ pound corpse from my bed (where's a chainsaw when you need one?) when I heard groaning, stumbling and a flush from the upstairs toilet.
He went back to bed after being given some Tylenol to reduce his fever, some fluids, and a light snack. Kowaiiso (poor thing).
Friday, August 01, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
In other news, we have been extended here through December 31, 2008. I won't be coming back stateside as soon as I thought I would. This is both a relief and a source of consternation.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Just past dawn,
the sun stands
with its heavy red head
in a black stanchion of trees,
waiting for someone to come
ith his bucketfor the foamy white light,
and then a long day in the pasture.
I too spend my days grazing,
feasting on every green moment
till darkness calls,
and with the others
I walk away into the night,
swinging the little tin bell
of my name.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
The scroll is currently hanging in our tokonoma (alcove). I change out the decorations in it around the first of the month. Sometimes there are scrolls, sometimes kimono, sometimes sculpture. I like to mix it up. Since July is my birthday month, I decided to hang up my gift.
One of the reasons I adore my husband is that he "gets" me. How else would he know that I would love a scroll that reads "The first breath is the beginning of death" as a birthday present? And in spite its zen sound, the quote is from Thomas Fuller.
The gentleman who did the scroll is a retired school teacher, who taught computer programming (COBOL and FORTRAN) and also worked as the principal of the school. He's retired now and doing calligraphy as a way to earn a bit of money. He was very sweet and took the work very seriously. We liked his work so much that we ordered a scroll for Chris (also a birthday gift) and a placard for me, which I will photograph and feature later.
The image below is a close up of the character on the bottom. The drier-looking strokes where the brush has begun to dry out and you see striations is termed "flying white" and is what gives the calligraphy its dynamism and is one of my favorite parts of the work.
Calligraphy is interesting because every rendition is personal and unique and you can see the artist's personality shine through. Two artists writing out the same phrase will have completely different-looking results. If you follow an artist from the start to the end of career, you can readily see how experience affects the strokes ("experience" includes the aging of the body). I recommend The Art of Twentieth-Century Zen: Paintings and Calligraphy by Japanese Masters by Audrey Yoshiko Seo with Stephen Addiss to see some great examples.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Friday, July 04, 2008
Chris was kind of grossed out. I was a teeny bit, too, but mostly I was utterly fascinated AND I got to hold a plastinated BRAIN!
In case you were wondering, the brain was pretty heavy and it felt similar to soapstone.
We also went to the permanent exhibit. One of the "famous" permanent exhibits (a giant dog sculpture) was closed for cleaning/renovation and as a result, we got two pencils free from the gift shop. This cracked us up because the ticketing clerks totally apologized for it and handed us the pencils with much pomp and circumstance. Hee hee!
Monday, June 30, 2008
We've been in Japan for four years now and I can't believe it is coming to an end.
I am not sure how I feel about any of it; I am simultaneously excited and terrified.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Additionally Kanji have both a Japanese pronounciation called Kun and a Chinese pronounciation called On or Hon, because Kanji came from China. With a few exceptions, I only know the Japanese reading.
What I do know are usually pictographs, symbols and a few ideographs. I know very few phono-ideographs, which are what makes up about 80% of Kanji (they're the hardest to learn).
Here's the wiki entry on Kanji.
Honestly, I really can't read. So a better question would be how many Kanji can I recognize?
In no particular order (and I know I am forgetting some, I'll add them when/if I remember). If I wasn't lazy, I would put the Kanji in, too, but that involves a lot of cutting and pasting.
Camelia (Tsubaki) I learned these two together because I use camelia oil as a hair treatment.
Noisy (made up of three little versions of the kanji for woman. Ha ha ha)
Horse (that comes from learning it to avoid eating horse meat, a popular dish here)
Wheel (included in the characters for car, bike and train)
Goods (like in Dry Goods)
(all of these are actually a series of Kanji)
Raw or Draft (nama, used as in Nama Biru - draft beer)
Wool (same kanji as "Hair")
Book (one of the few I know both Japanese and Chinese readings)
Big (also know Japanese and Chinese reading for this one)
Book also used as Origin - Japanese and Chinese reading)
Friday, June 20, 2008
He is surrounded by "hot anime babes in bikinis" - my husbands tacky collection. Eh, whatever.
It's been a rough week: I've called for him a few times, got confused about where the food dishes got off to and when I was shopping yesterday, almost picked up a new collar for him.
I'd like to thank everyone who emailed, messaged, called or otherwise expressed their care and concern.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Our Little Furry Guy
March 2003 - June 2008
If you click on the picture, you can see Genji's flickr set, going all the way back to 2004.