Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stone Cold

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."
- Michelangelo, the orange Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

Mystery Machine of Stone Spotting

While driving along the coast, my beloved compadres from Hirosaki; Wyomia, Lindsay, Mike D, and I spotted an odd community of statues. Mike D, being the illest of drivers, kindly decided to `back that ass up` and reversed us closer towards the stone haven.
This place was unreal. It was like the woodstock of statue gatherings. There was a two-story house/office in the back and the front yard facing the expressway was littered with a variety of stone carvings. While we saw no signs of life, we were pretty sure the owners were hiding in fright at the sight of the rude and scary gaijin (foreigners).
Everything imaginable had been somehow manifested into an epic stone form. Of course being located in Japan, there were the perennial Shinto Gods, the mystical kintama (large testicles) sportin' Tanuki, and hell even Nintendo`s Kirby made an appearance.

Japan`s coveted monster attempts to take a bite out of Crave. Oddly, he is a rare find, and receives more attention in the US then in his birthplace of Japan.

But in addition to the staple acts, there was quite an omoro (strange) bundle of characters. Overall, it was worth the 15-minute look around. If I only had a handful of benjamins, a garden, and the muscles to pick it up, one of these babies would be mine. Verdict: Scultpures in Japan are stone-cold cool!


Minnie Clubbin` It


`Let's do it like they do on the discovery channel!`

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Want to get away?
Challenge everything you have ever felt, thought, or believed while swallowing some rubbery raw octopus. Yes folks you need to put down your coffee, zipper your pants, and apply to the JET Program! But you need to hurry up as applications are due to the Japan Embassy by November 25th. Damn, they surely moved up the date this year.

I applied within a week to of the deadline, so no worries.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Smack That Ass

Make no mistake about it, chalk loves me. In fact, it never leaves me alone. I`ll often walk away from a lesson looking like gay rights activists got ahold of me and sketched rainbows all over my suit.

Today was no different, but somehow the chalk decided to steal a base taking our relationship to the next level. For apparently, there was plenty of pastel dust on my backside. Though, I didn`t realize this until a stranger came knocking.

I was standing in the center of the room speaking while I shuffled through power point slides, when a hand gently descended down my butt.

I can't lie, it's a flattering moment when someone touches your ass. But this was an unwelcome touch, while 39 others watched. Looking behind me I noticed the good sumaritan, a male student. I paused for a second to see if it was a joke. Alas, there were no chuckles. It was extremely nice of him to sacrifice his smooth skin to adopt the chalk from my ass. I still felt uncomfortable though. But I thanked him and carried on with the presentation. But he continued. Apparently, this cat didn't join the union, as he doesn't stop until the job is done.

Looking back though I relish the experience. It's about time we as a people can comfortably wipe foreign particles off each other's vulnerable areas. I guess in a society (Japan) that shuns all things homosexual, it makes it easier for those of the same sex to platonicly 'reach out and touch someone,' without the fear of being wrongly labeled.

Often I walk into classrooms and see boys sitting on one another's lap. They weren't telling each other what they wanted for Christmas. But it wasn't exactly a soap opera scene either. They were just being platonicly friendly. Think of it as Samwise and Frodo on their epic journey to rid the world of that one overpriced ring. Why not? Two guys can be best of or even casual friends without playing with their 'swords' together. While those hobbits did take out their swords, they only did it to penetrate their enemies, not eachother.

Bottomline: It felt weird, but I`d do it all over again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Special Thanks

Sure my apartment may be leaning on the dingy side...but today it warmed my buns.

Thank you heated toilet seat!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

DD For Hire

Despite the negativity associated with it, drunk driving is one of America’s leading industries. While I’d rather not upset the cash flow in these turbulent economic times, I truly think it’s time the USA reforms its policies on drinking before/while driving. Especially since…umm many innocent people die! Not to mention our fear of drunk driving has created one of the most horrid institutions of self-sacrifice: the designated driver. Seriously, no one should ever have to suffer that fate.

But in Japan, there is someone willing to sacrifice their Friday night to be your DD. Say hello to Daiko (代行) the uber cool taxi service where two drivers show up to your saucy location and drive to wherever your dumb ass has left your car. While one driver remains in the taxi, the other exits the vehicle, takes your keys and DRIVES YOUR CAR HOME FOR YOU!

I was fortunate enough to experience the Daiko magic in the little town of Misawa which just happens to support a thirsty American air force base. Apparently, according to a friend, the Japanese government subsidizes this program thus resulting in the Daiko only costing $10. Talk about a bargain, a.) transport for 4 to our car b.) Designated driving to the apartment. Can’t beat it! The only drawback is that the experience was so earth shattering that is sobered me up.

So a friend and I got to talking and we discussed our “anti-drunk driving policy” for the NEW AMERICA! I think you’ll like it, and if you don’t, well then you’re just a dumb asshole.

1.)ZERO TOLERANCE: Just like Japan, America needs to adopt a system whereby if your blood alcohol registers ANYTHING above 0, you are driving while impaired/intoxicated. If you want to take the risk, then you should be prepared to be busted up, at least financially! : ) I’ve honestly felt this way for quite some time, and I recall one idiot arguing, “well you have to realize that we rely on our cars.” AND YOUR POINT? Stay at home and drink then. Look partying or even a casual drink is a WONDERFUL thing, but it’s still a privilege. If you want to enjoy it, then do it responsibly.

2.)INCREASED FINES: I’m not sure how I ultimately feel about increased “sin taxes” on alcohol, but why not up the fines for drunk driving. Look, save your pity, these people broke the law and put lives in jeopardy, so let them pay through the roof. Sure, I may have “crossed the line” before, but do you see me in handcuffs? Nope. Plus with the 0 tolerance plan in affect, I doubt as many people will dare to take the risk. I for one would not dare risk it. Plus the increased fines could also be used towards providing more adequate public transportation.

3.) DAIKO: Do I need to say more? But to make this happen the government needs to step in and strangle the insurance companies to easily allow for the Daiko drivers to man your vehicle. The name for this service must be called Daiko as an homage to the Japanese who use it and rock it so well. Also, if possible it would be a smooth move to use any left over alcohol tax or drunk driving fines to subsidize the service so that:
a.) It’s affordable
b.) Creates jobs
c.) Eliminates the need to tip. Get rid of that selfishness like NOW!

4.) BREATHALYZER: Every business that sells or serves alcohol, even grocery stores, must have on the premises a working breathalyzer with free use to the public. If possible, have a non-profit company or a government agency manufacture the breathalyzers. What does that equal: JOBS! And please spare me the, “who’s going to pay for it?” Umm, the place selling the alcohol. Look if they can’t afford a breathalyzer then they don’t need to be selling something as fun as a few drinks. If this is a real problem, then I guess we could lower the bar license a tad. I’m open for compromise, permitting it makes sense.

5.) BAR CALLS: Every bar/restaurant serving alcohol must either have a free public phone w/ a directory of all taxi and Daiko services or be willing to call one for you. I’m sure most bars already do this, but we need to make it more readily available, especially for the timid drunks at heart.

6.) EMBRACE ALCOHOL: Make it legal EVERYWHERE in the US to publicly walk around while drinking or intoxicated. But if you still brown-bag your 40, then the police are obligated to high-five you. Put your ill-guided beliefs aside, this is a great idea. First of all it will be easier to spot who shouldn’t be driving, but also it will provide so much free entertainment. Remember, alcohol is not the problem; it’s the losers who hinder the safety of others while under its influence. Perhaps we should even lower the drinking age to 20 or 19. Maybe lower it each year that drunk driving statistics drop considerably. It would be great to see America with the legal drinking age at 5 years old, but handling it responsibly.

So America, or the 8 people who read this, what do you think of this drunken yet sobering plan of action?


Monday, November 10, 2008

Better Never than Late

It’s November 10th; Happy Halloween! At least, that’s what I said all day as I was ‘loaned’ to the Wakaba Nursery School to take part in their Halloween celebration. An eventful day? Nah…not really. An interesting day? Yes!

It’s 11:37am, and I’m five minutes early to ride for the very first time the Japanese metro bus. I’m stoked! My supervisor thought it was a good idea for me to get my public transportation feet wet. Instead they drowned. To clarify, at 11:42am, the precise time I am to board my precious vessel, I realize that I’m at the wrong stop. I need to be across the street. But, I don’t notice this until my bus drives past me.

Though as luck would have it, there is a bus following the same route at 11:49am. I know this only because all of the Kanji written for the 11:42am bus are the same for this time. Also, it helps when your supervisor makes you giant flash cards with the names of all the necessary stops. I just pull a simple “Sumimasen (excuse me)” out of my pocket, point to the card, and see whether or not the lovely Japanese person decides to shake their head in approval, or just stand there gazing into the abyss of my eyes.

Well I got on this bus. But, this bus decides to pull an ‘American’ move and shows up five minutes late. ‘I don't think I’m going to make my connecting bus’ is jumping around my head like a crack baby in a bounce house. I look to my professionally prepared ‘Bus Survivor Guide’ packet, of course prepared by my supervisor. I must say it was a nice gesture. I think I’ve found a 12:14pm bus to take, and seeing as it’s a 10 minute ride and I need to promptly arrive at 12:30pm….I am GOOD TO GO!

Riding the bus is not too bad actually. If you are ever rockin’ the bus tour in Japan, be sure to board from the middle, and promptly grab your little ticket. Then find a seat, but if you sit in a different colored seat, you will be provided with complimentary dirty looks. I kind of knew I was sitting in ‘Priority Seating’ for the nearly dead, handicap, pregnant, and nursing mothers, but I didn’t see anybody coming, and I wasn’t absolutely sure. But when I finally found an open seat, of course I’m even more embarrassed to see that the nature of this ‘special’ seating is written in English too. Oh well, ‘gomenosai (sorry)?’

I sort of hear my bus stop called and I press that magic button. I rarely rode the bus in America, but I do like how EVERYONE receives their own special stop indicator. When ready to get off, you take your ticket and dump it along with the correct change into the vaginal slot of the bus adjacent to the driver. Thinking the driver doesn’t ‘trust’ me, I show him the ticket to ensure I’m paying the right amount.

The stop I need to move to is across the street, so I trek up the pedestrian overpass bridge and make myself noticed at the stop. I’m quite confident that this 12:15pm bus will get me to Wakaba, but I decided to ask two old biddies to make sure. But I have to wait a few minutes because this 60+ year olds are practicing their dance moves dangerously close to the street. When they take a break, I do my trick, but this time they don’t nod in agreement. Instead, they sort of murmur back and forth looking at the various times and descriptions to the scrutiny as if we were at an art gallery. After I ask a clarifying questions, it’s decided, the next bus that I need won’t be cruising through until 12:30pm. Damn!

But once again, due to the obsessively organized nature of my said boss, I got maps! I know the route, it’s 12:03pm and it shouldn’t be more than a 15 minute down this major street. But boy was I wrong. Not only were my feet ‘wet,’ but my entire back was drenched in sweat as I ‘came prepared’ and wore a heavy winter jacket on what turned to be a nice day. Having a heavy back pack doesn’t aide the process either.

But we got a problem folks. It’s 12:36pm, and I’m still not there. I actually don’t end up rolling until about 12:45pm. Being late is not in my portfolio. I’m so embarrassed, and you know you’re late when they are standing at the entrance waiting you're your foreign ass. I do my trademark greeting about 5 times before I am moved to what is referred to as ‘my room.’ My room? Yes, it’s too late the power has seeped to my head. I feel like a little celebrity, kind of like a visiting author. And judging from the progress of my childrens’ writing, that reality may soon materialize.

Though my itinerary reads ‘meeting’ at 12:50pm, this ‘meeting’ is more of the Japanese Teacher of English, my guide/host/interpreter running back and forth from the room to the gym.

For a hospital school that specializes in educating sick children, 28 children, they spared no expense when it came to the costumes. I brought my trump card in my Kappa costume. A Kappa is an ancient Japanese water demon. But the costume is a toe to head fully green spandex body suit. Like those Winnie the pooh from your childhood, but this is tight spandex and one size may fit all Japanese, but me it does not. I’ve rocked the costume a few times, and I think as it began to rip down my chest, it was trying to say “give it up.” But I couldn’t. It’s the only costume I had, and I’m in this cubby hole of a locker room with Mickey Mouse from Fantasia and some creepy lion.

I try to walk into the gym to join the party, but I’m quickly shoved back into my ‘room.’ Apparently, I am to receive a grand entrance. Now I know I’m a star in the making, but I’d like to think it has nothing to do with my skin color and where I’m from. But today, that’s all that matters. You have no clue how ‘in demand’ Americans are to ‘guest spot’ Halloween parties. Honestly though all we do is just stand around and smile.

So the curtain…yes they installed a curtain is opened and into the gym I strut. I just kind of stand there for a minute providing a pathetic round of waves. I’m quite impressed with the costumes. We’ve got a lion with a golden mask, Darth Vader, an orange ghost, a girl with cardboard over her face, and just a plethora of shit I don’t understand, but it does look neat!

Keep in mind that I have NO CLUE what I’m supposed to do. Luckily I’m a prepared bastard and brought visuals, a cd of music, a powerpoint presentation, and some ideas for games. I’m shocked that everything I had asked for it setup and ready to go, namely a projector and a cd player. The Japanese are freaks about details and it shows. Now if I could only understand their language.

Apparently I was supposed to prepare a 30 minute introducton and when my slideshow ends after 5 minutes the JTE says, “that’s it?” So luckily, I’m an ace at filling in the cracks. We just extend the Q&A session (damn do sick kids have a lot of questions, and honestly good ones at that), and a show and tell of popular American Halloween costumes.

The pressure is off as I realize my duties are now lessoning. Another hour goes by with games, odd quizzes. Apparently, according to the Japanese the Irish used to carve into a vegetable that appears to only grow in Japan before they used pumpkins. I tried to explain that it was a potato, but it was useless. I know I’m write because of youtube and wikipedia. Hell yes!

Then it’s time to trick or treat. I’ve done this a couple of times already at my various Halloween Party visits, and I crack up every time. Trick or Treating is all about innocent fun. Gallivanting about the neighborhood and being surprised at what wonderful treats you can acquire. Not at the Japanese party though. It’s too damn organized. Basically, you and a few other adults stand in strategically placed points in the room with their bag of candy. Then the students need to stand in a line, and one by one they approach and must say their name, a favorite of theirs, ‘trick or treat,’ and thank you. They actually had the students rehearse this. Oh well.

But then there’s the grand finale. “Memory making,” at least that's what they called it. After about 30 takes from 5 angles, and 8 different poses, the cameras have captured the memories and I’m done!

Luckily, I tell my host how I must catch a quickly arriving bus and I am spared coffee time with the Principal. I’m thanked way too many times as I’m walked to the entrance. I put my outdoor shoes, and the entire staff bows to me, and I’m out of there.

It’s a shame I had to be in such a pissy mood. It was a wonderful little school, and I give it up to them, they have a tough task ahead. It tore me up to see some of the kids leave the party only to return to their hospital bed as two nurses attended to them. The kids were adorable! They were just so innocent and happy to learn whatever they could get their hands on. A pure treat!

But this Halloween, so of course there’s a trick yet to come. It’s bus time folks!

Talking to the locals I actually get on the right bus. Now I must say, the flashcards: PURE GENIUS! Because, my dumb ass thought I had a lot of time and accidentally doze off for a minute when a polite good samaritan said “Tsutami Bashi,” the name of my stop. I shook my head and he said in decent English, “next stop.” I thanked him thoroughly and was able to get off in time. I love that man! Then I exited the bus and I thought, how did he know that was my stop? Then I looked down and saw the flashcard in both English and Kanji. Fun!

It was smooth sailing as I walked across the bridge to the next stop. The bus arrived a few minutes late but all was good. Until I realize this bus is not going in the direction my map shows. Shit! But I stay on board longer for needed as there is a HOTTIE a few rows back. Normally I would say a “goddess,” but this is not a woman I’d marry. Instead, she’s the type I would prefer to sleep with every night for the rest of my life. She exits the bus sporting her shorty shorts and long pale but ripe Japanese legs and there’s a puddle on the floor. It’s my body having melted from gawking at her. But perhaps she was a gift from above, as the bus starts to turn, and we’re headed back towards home! Sure, it’s not all good news, and I still have a 30 minute walk to endure, but oh well.

I arrive home angry, but sadly there’s no one to blame but myself. It’s not like I was dragged here. I chose to be a guest of Japan, and I couldn’t ask for a better host. But maybe I should learn a few more kanji characters if I’m ever going to try that bus thing again. To close this up, it gives me great pleasure to say, “Happy Halloween!”