today i got stabbed in the face a few times by a 140 pound japanese man with a large needle.
huh, i just re-read that and maybe i should say that the small japanese man was a doctor.
the last few days my jaw had become increasingly swollen with some sort of nastiness and when i woke up this morning i could barely open my mouth without a special type of pain enveloping my life. i crawled out of my bed cubby and when i looked in the mirror i couldn’t stop laughing. the lower half of my face looked like jay leno. total bummer. i went to school and taught kids looking like a giant jawed monster not even being able to smile.
hello best monday ever!
still not sure what the deal was but there was some evil inside that needed to be let out and with a few quick jabs of a poky metal tube out it came in all the gross human body glory you can imagine.
blood for days!
so if you’re not sick from all this yet i’ll tell you a story from yesterday.
yesterday i went to a soccer game with a couple of friends. it was sunny, warm, and pretty perfect minus the remnants of a 2 day raging japanese power monster hangover from friday night when i watched both my friends fall off their bikes a few times. the soccer team is semi-pro and they play in the next big city up, the one with the castle. i tried to get into the game with a ticket that was left on my desk at school that i’d heard was for children. as expected, i couldn’t use it, even after a friend told them i had a 3rd grade reading level. it was the opening game and almost 7000 people showed up to enjoy the merriment.
of course our way to enjoy the sunny day was to head to 7-11 and stock up on beer because we’d heard that you could take cans into the stadium as long as you took them back out. this turned out to be only kind of true. they let you take beer into the stadium, but not in cans. at the gate, you have to pour your beer into cups that they give you (japanese people are so nice) and leave the cans there. this is all well and fine if you’re only trying to bring in the respectable beer or two. when you saunter up with a plastic bag full of 4 tall cans, things get weird and the only rational course of action is to stand outside the entrance with families streaming into the stadium around you and pound two of the beers as quickly as you can so you don’t miss kick off.
people took pictures of me.
once we were in and our team was well on their way to losing in the second half (i guess our team always loses), i went with a friend in search of more refreshment and found that the stand selling budweiser for 5 dollars a can was packing up. the lady said she had one last beer, it wasn’t cold, and it was still 5 dollars. my friend jeremy told her in japanese that warm beer is sad beer and she laughed so hard she cried. these people are strange.
after the game we walked maybe 2 hours home, bought stuff for a barbeque, and made cheeseburgers on a tiny grill in the parking lot of an apartment building using english muffins for buns and drinking ‘eurohop’, the store’s cheapest beer that tasted neither european or of hops.
and here’s a little lesson for anyone planning on spending extended time overseas, in a country that’s not your own.
well there are two i guess.
the first one is to drink pretty consistently because it’ll help with everything and the second is to take what you can get. seriously. just take it.
right now i’m thinking about that screensaver that used to come on our computer in the upstairs ‘computer room’ when i was 7 or 8. well, there are two that stick out in my mind as far as childhood screensavers go but one was the 3d pipes one and only came out with windows 95 so before that i’ve got one big giant memory of flying through space.
if you’re 18 or older and grew up in a home that wasn’t located under a rock, you know what i’m talking about. little points of light starting small in the center and then getting bigger and more pixelated moving faster and faster out towards the edges of the screen until they screeched past and were gone.
i could stare at this for hours when i was little. hell, i still can if i boot it up on youtube and loop it. it’s brilliant. it gives you the feeling of moving, moving fast, while you do nothing but sit and watch. my life the last few weeks has kind of felt like this and i haven’t been able to figure out whether it’s good or not.
either way on sunday i went to matsumoto for a barbeque with a few teachers that i work with to meet a guy that used to work for our company but had moved on. i went to the store and looked for things that were suitable to take to a barbeque and left with a package of sausages that said ‘burgerwurst’ (it was in english), day old bread (it was discounted), and a few tall cans of something called ‘strong zero’ that promised, by picture, to taste like an 8% boozed up grapefruit (it was cheap).
we took the train to matsumoto and then walked for an hour along streets lined with cherry trees in full pink and white bloom along a river until we came to the spot our friends were at. the next few hours were merry. exceedingly merry. i met an irish guy named jim and his two adorable half irish half japanese children that kept themselves busy by playing with empty beer boxes and throwing rocks at each other. i met a few white guys who had been in the country for a couple years and made friends with the locals when they began to pee in the river in front of the kids and got yelled at by everyone around. wait, that means i didn’t make friends with them.
by the way, grilling sausage bought from a brazilian store next to a river coming down from the mountains in japan with a local surgeon who does cochlear implants on children and mimes their impressions when they hear for the first time beats a lot of things.
so seven hours later it’s 9pm, the sun is gone, it’s cold again and we’re walking towards an old castle, like twice as old as our country old, and things are getting weird. they shines lights on this thing only for a couple weeks a year when the cherry blossoms are doing their thing and it seems like all of japan got the memo and came out for a sunday night photo shoot. i saw some of the most ridiculous camera set ups i’ve seen in my entire life sunday night all good and ready to take a picture of flowers and a really old building. but really, whatever floats your boat is good with me.
after that i walked for what felt like 4 hours to get a burger and then walked another 4 hours home and fell asleep and woke up way too early to head to school to teach a bunch of little japanese kids english things like: fat cat, my name is (beeeeeeeeeeeeeep), i like to watch pokemon, hamburgers are good, and my dad is stronger (probably) than your dad (maybe).
alright, that’s all. i’m a little ashamed to say that something is wrong with me and i listen to an inexcusable amount of dubstep now BUT i will say that this rework it way better than it has any right to be. the indie internet loves james vincent mcmorro (he’s irish and has a beard to prove it), and i do too, but i love the spin that montreal based adventure club puts on his song we don’t eat even more.
i’m not going to even try to add this song at the end. here it is up front and fantastic, young galaxy’s we have everything.
with this song as soundtrack i could do the following things:
ride a bicycle to france.
climb a small to medium size mountain.
drink a lot of beer.
(a lot of beer)
dance for four hours.
think about things that i shouldn’t think about because they make me feel weird.
never be bummed again.
hell, with this playing, i’ll even forgive them for being canadian.
so a few things happened last night.
first and foremost, i spent way too much money (on beer). as a result, i now find myself on a 5 dollar a day budget for the next two weeks.
i learned a lot of japanese words from a student of mine that joined us out that i immediately forgot.
i stood outside of a 7-11 and ate too much ice cream.
i ate a teriyaki burger and fries at mcdonalds at 3 in the morning and then rode a bicycle with a squeaky light uphill in the frigid dark to my home.
watched my friend kyle from missouri fall off his bike two times. once in a parking lot skidding to a stop on his face and again four feet away from the stairs to our apartments.
i guess this a double music feature because here’s a song that i heard probably three months ago that i can’t for the life of me seem to ever get out of my head. seattle’s glorious own, lemolo - whale song.
observations from my first few weeks as an assistant english teacher at a japanese public junior high school.
- it’s totally possible for 15 year old japanese kids to really suck at using chopsticks.
- while fat kids are statistically more likely to fall asleep in class (probably having something to do with them being warmer than the other kids because of the aptly named ‘blubber effect’), skinny ones will fall asleep too. but only probably because they’re tired or something.
- the P.E. teacher/baseball coach chain smokes in the dugout during work and wears asic track suits every day that have the word ‘antelope’ printed in capital letters (if you can’t imagine what it looks like here you go - ANTELOPE) on the back.
- i am definitely the only teacher riding a bicycle to work and am pretty sure all the laughing i hear when walking in most mornings is at least 50% directed towards this fact.
- every living person in japan, and by that i mean anyone who’s breathing, yes, even babies, knows who ichiro suzuki is and that he’s the only good thing the mariners have going for them.
- the drip coffee in the teachers room is real bad. like, it’s just really bad stuff.
- using a squat toilet in a 4 degree tiled bathroom when wearing slacks, a button shirt, and a tie is about as fancy as it sounds.
- this school only has wood doors that slide open and closed.
- *i take the one above about sliding doors back. the large majority of doors at the school are sliding wooden ones.
- i am the only male teacher, besides the chain smoking baseball coach, who doesn’t wear a suit with a vest every day. i’ve been assured my clothes are fine, but it’s still just a little weird.
so all of this plus the huge fact that everyone in japan is shy and timid and the scariest thing in the world to these kids is making a mistake so they never even try for fear of being wrong makes most days pretty interesting.
also, i found a new best friend. joining the ranks of the internet, nicholas benavides, and pictures of juicebox in terms of their indispensability to me, is a 14 dollar bottle of kentucky whiskey called early times.
there are lots of really beautiful things in the world but i think one of them is clouds.
clouds over mountains especially.
i’ve definitely had worse commutes than a 15 minute bike ride beneath clouds hanging over mountains every morning.
definitely had worse.
on wednesday nights i teach a 14 year old japanese kid who moved to the states with his family when he was 7 because he dad got a job in san jose, california. i don’t know if you’ve been to san jose or not, but if you have, why’d you go, and if you haven’t, think long and hard about your life decisions before you do. it’s not terrible, it’s just kind of bad is all.
anyways, the kid is cool and it’s really awesome to see a 14 year being fluent in two languages already with his entire life ahead of him, well i guess his entire life minus 14 years, and he comes to classes because his parents worry that if he doesn’t continue speaking english apart from his classes at school he’ll lose it from disuse. this makes sense to me because my fifth graders in thailand spoke more english than my 9th graders in japan do. srsly.
so what this all amounts to is me getting paid 27 dollars and fifty cents to talk about bicycles and cars and dream jobs with a 14 year old kid who reminds me more often than not that there are plenty of things still worth doing and trying to do with our lives even when it seems like we’ve kind of got a set direction that isn’t going to change much.
it’s warming up here lately and because of that, the cherry blossoms are coming. they should be in full bloom this weekend and for that i’ll be heading to matsumoto to see the castle lit up in the night, to buy craft beer brewed in nagano, and to look for a new bicycle because my current one is a giant piece of total shit.
also, listen to this song because bon iver is nice, covers are nice, and 14 year old english girls who play the shit out of the piano and have nice voices are nice.
here’s a story from my my day spent sitting in an office wearing a tie and not doing much.
i was asked to make a poster today of where i come from. the fabled land of america. so, i did, and when i finished, i looked down upon my enormous creation of color and country outlines and space needles and realized two things.
1. in the ‘american food’ section, without even thinking, i put pictures of double decker bacon cheeseburgers, apple pie, root beer floats, hot dog eating competitions where people’s faces are smeared with mustard, peanuts, lasagna (i know right?), and budweiser beer helmets.
2. canada is horrifically huge. like, that place is something from your nightmares large, and it’s right there above us. just sitting there, getting ready to wander into your backyard sporting chops and a gut and say ‘eh’ a lot.
there were no english classes today. again. third day in a row. this means that i sat at a desk for 8 hours memorizing japanese vocabulary and trying not to fall asleep by drinking too much caffeine. the shakes, a stomach ache, and a huge surplus of nervous energy were all i had to show for my day at work. just as well, it’s the beginning of the year and things are moving slowly. i’m still getting paid, it’s just boring.
after riding my bike home from school i went for a run. it was cold. surprise! then it started raining on me. it was colder than it was before. double surprise!
it was worth it though because i went through a tunnel and popped out on a hillside looking down at this valley i live in and it was stunning. the clouds were breaking over the mountains and the light was one of those weird shades that makes everything look huge. there’s a river that clamors through the center of this ‘u’ shaped place and on a bridge above it is where i stopped to take a look around.
good thing i did!
out over the farmland there were eleven, i think, huge reddish brown eagles finding their place in the storming currents of air. they just floated there, moving up and down and side to side, never flapping, just slightly twisting huge and gorgeous in the air above me.
unreal. giant red japanese eagles hanging in the air like they’re just on wires waiting for a fish to show up.
i don’t really feel good when i paraphrase poems because it’s certainly not my place to pull a part out of a whole.
but sometimes, i can’t help it.
galway, forgive me.
The Last River
A girl and I are lying on the grass of the levee. Two birds whirr overhead. We lie close, as if having waked in bodies of glory.
And putting on again its skin of light, the river bends into view. We watch it, rising between the levees, flooding for the sky and hear it, a hundred feet down, pressing its long weight deeper into the world.
The birds have gone, we wander slowly homeward, lost in the history of every step …
i just got about 50 minutes into the adjustment bureau before i had to turn it off to avoid being sick all over my computer. total bummer. you know how when you sink a good amount of time into something you know isn’t worth your time, but you kind of just finish it out to say you did it? i didn’t do it. i stopped watching, drank some water to calm myself down, and then deleted the hell out of that movie.
today there weren’t any english classes so i sat in the teacher’s room and learned numbers in japanese. 82? hachi-juu-ni. boom. there you go.
i also got a cell phone tonight. if you’d like my number so you can call me (yeah right, i know how cheap you all are) please send me a message and i’ll get it to you. apparently japan still thinks that flip phones are cool, so being young and impressionable, i do too. this phone reminds me of my days spent using one of those razors which any of my college friends will tell you were days filled with misery and coded text messages once my #2 key stopped working. it’s good to be back!
on my bike ride to school this morning i listened to some music by a swedish band called the deer tracks. they’re not bad and while they kind of make me think about music i may have listened to my sophmore year of college, there’s something about adolescent tweeny electro pop that may always tweak my heart. how can you say no to a song that repeats ‘let’s drink ourselves to sleep.’ listen here.
people from seattle get all worked up over the head and the heart and i’m thinking that this is ok because they’re pretty good. i’m thinking you should maybe listen to this song by them here called down in the valley and then read the rest of this.
i’m looking at these pictures i’ve hung on my walls here in japan and wondering how long it’s been since i’ve seen a lot of the people. how far we’ve come since we met, since we pressed these images to paper.
with some, i think we’ve come far, but it’s not been long. with others i feel like we’re the same people, it’s just been a long time. i guess pictures are interesting because they serve as a direct visual link to a part of your past, a part of your life that has been gone, and let you relive it in a way.
i look at this photo hanging here that i took of a tug boat drifting through the sea and the evening fog from a pier in san francisco and through that i see who i was with (nicholas and lauren), what i was doing (drinking beer out of paper bags and fishing for crabs), the time of year (december, it was freezing), my state of mind (mostly happy), and where i was on the line that’s been made to map out the course of my life (moving from seattle to san diego to start again, again!).
turns out you can only start again so many times before that again becomes something that’s already been tried.
i bought japanese toothpaste at 7-11 last night well after midnight. i walked there. on the walk, my hands froze. i tried to take change out of my jacket pocket to pay for the toothpaste with dancing teeth on the packaging but i couldn’t make my zipper work. the japanese lady standing there kept saying something in japanese but because i’ve only been in this country for a week i had no idea what she was saying.
that’s not really the point.
the point is that the toothpaste i bought from 7-11 well past midnight last night had dancing teeth all over it. and not just normal smiling dancing teeth like the ones i’m sure you’re imagining, but dancing teeth that were doing all sorts of crazy spins and flips and jumps and international styles of interpretive dance. like, i’m talking about professional dancing teeth. none of that side show performing in parking lots crap.
tomorrow is my first day of school (again!). i have to ride there on a bicycle in a tie and (tight fitting) dress pants for 30 minutes in the cold. then i have to get up in front of an entire school-full of junior high kids and talk about myself. the problem is, i’m not that interesting, and even if i thought i was, they don’t care. they’re 13-15 years old!
think about yourself in junior high. all you thought you wanted to do was to kiss a girl but it turns out you were too scared to do it that one time in the gym and then all your friends made fun of you when they found you didn’t do it. wait, what?
anyways, tonight i sat down in a classroom with pictures of aquatic animals pasted all over the walls with two japanese business men and talked about absolutely nothing important for 70 minutes. it was awesome.
it was almost as awesome as this song whirring by the joy formidable. seriously, their joy is intimidating. and loud. sure, this song might sound kind of maybe the same as this one, but since it all makes me happy and want to do nothing but drink beer with friends outside on a porch on a summer evening, who cares?
this morning i woke up in my little bed cubby at 9:30. it was wonderful. i was so warm and happy. then i remembered that i was supposed to be at my work in an hour, which in itself wouldn’t have been so much of an issue if i didn’t have to show up at my work in an hour wearing a suit.
"oh no!" i said to myself in my warm and comfortable bed, "i don’t have a suit! what will i do?"
"i know," i said to myself, "i won’t wear one! instead, i will just dress up and wear a tie and nobody will notice!" proud of my decision making and problem solving capabilities, i went back to sleep for fifteen more minutes.
i spent today driving around to the three different schools i will be working at (two elementary and one junior high), shivering in the freezing sun, introducing myself to new coworkers in japanese, bowing a comical amount, and grinning a lot.
also, while i know next to nothing about canada’s desolate alberta region (i assume the whole place is desolate?), i do know they’ve produced a band that i think is great.
once upon a time i was supposed to see the band midlake live in san diego. if you haven’t heard them, you should have, someone failed you.
it was setting up to be one of those magically perfect nights that you used to have but rarely have anymore mostly because you’ve graduated college, don’t live with your closest friends, and in some people’s cases (not mine), you don’t drink so much these days.
but, this was one of those nights where nothing can go wrong. you’re with your friends that you live with, you’re drinking beer in the backyard of your friend’s house that lies directly under the landing path for the san diego airport, and every 15 minutes jets are roaring only two hundred feet overhead. when the jets aren’t screaming their descent above you, there are stars, so many stars, just sitting there for you.
midlake was playing at the casbah. shows there are never on time and always end ridiculously late. through the years, we managed to chart out the ideal level of drunk to get to there with, to avoid spending too much money at the bar. it was a balancing act, and naturally, some of us did it better than others. this evening however, none of us did it correctly.
looking back, i can blame our staggering drunkenness at such an early hour that evening to the temperature, not having eaten lunch or dinner (a much more common occurrence those years than my mom would like to know about), being in the rapturous presence of friends you just deep down know, and that rare but unmistakable feeling that graces certain moments of life with just a little bit of transcendence.
either way, whatever happened, we showed up way too early and way too drunk. after wasting time sitting at the bar drinking more (thank god for $2 pbr tallboys), and waiting for the openers, i followed one of my friends outside and watched with dismay while he stumbled around for a bit, flopped down onto the sidewalk smiling, and then stood up and puked behind a dumpster in front of the bar.
the bouncer was not impressed.
i called my friend’s girlfriend and she came and got us and took us home. such a lovely girl! i put my friend in the shower and then fell asleep trying not to think of my friends still at the show who were by now undoubtedly listening to this fantastic band perform live.
so now, dear friends, imagine my dismay the next morning when i woke up at 6:30am, wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and deal with my hangover by sleeping til noon, only to be confronted with the reality of having to fish puke out of the shower drain to get clean, get dressed, and get to work.
my life! (i wouldn’t trade it.)
anyways, all this nostalgia was all brought on by hearing ellie goulding sing this really fantastic cover of midlake’s song roscoe.
listen to it here and love, really love, how a song can take you places.
actually, she asked, "estas enamorado?" it was great. i love spanish. everything is so much more important in spanish.
but no, i thought, no i am not. and then i laughed and thought of this song which came out a while ago, and which i may have even posted on this site at some forgotten point in time, but which is still good. (x3 which for the bonus.)
moving from a country you feel at home at to one you don’t, is interesting. it’s like picking up and going from one city to another, but it’s minus your friends, your sense of comfort, and all things that have become normal to you in the last however long you’ve spent somewhere.
here, there are no elephants. there are no tropical jungles. there are no islands filled with five-dollar-a-night babmoo huts on the beach, fresh fruit all day, and wonderful black cats that fall asleep on your chest while you nap. (juicebox i miss you!)
here there are mountains topped with snow, drop bar bicycles with lights that get their energy from being rubbed against the front tire, bars that charge you 300 yen for sitting down, apartments the size of storage units and air that feels cold and fresh and new in my lungs.
tonight i rode through the city and over a bridge to a bar filled with wood. i ate grilled squid, fried squid, and fish eggs. i drank sapporo beer out of the tap and it cost a ton of money. so much money. but i didn’t care. because it’s japan. and it’s life.
if i seem full of life, it is because i am. come visit. come see for yourself.