Tuesday, July 31, 2007

the epitome of unpretentiousness

My dad thinks wine is good for you, but doesn't really like the taste. So he mixes it with juice.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

come a cropper

A funny idiom, with thanks again to Mr. Bryson.

6. come a cropper, Informal.
a. to fail; be struck by some misfortune: His big deal came a cropper.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

ESL games

We sometimes play UNO in my classes. Usually it's a reward for having finished our textbook work, and sometimes it's to get the kids focused and having fun. It's good for practicing colors, numbers, and a little reading, and I ask the kids to declare their card as they play it, thus practicing adjective-noun combinations. (It's a red seven!) They bungle their numbers and colors a lot, but they do improve as the game wears on. When they can't play, they say "pass".

We were playing in my 10-year-old girls class. They're pretty sharp - they can form simple sentences and understand a lot. They play fast and know the cards. It came to Aya's turn, and, not being able to play, said, "Oh my god! No! Pass!" I cracked up. Where do they get this stuff? Not from me. In another class, an 8-year-old drew a card and declared "Mamma Mia!" These kids don't speak English. Where do they learn Italian?

Monday, July 16, 2007


fighting with the fists; a fistfight.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

same as it ever was

It's raining a steady patter on the scalloped Japanese rooftiles that surround this upstairs window, the window of my uncle Masayasu's room and more lately sister C's room. When I was a teenager, I came and stayed here, in my grandparents' house, in this room. M's ski posters were still on the wall then and the house smelled of my grandparents and of Japan: of tatami and tea and the small dried fish in a tin that my grandma would fling out the window at the neighborhood cats. The smells - so different from those back in the states. Dark and green and pungent, like moist dirt in cracks and wet straw.

Then I loved, lived, to walk around in the streets just roaming, Mazzy Star and Suzanne Vega on my walkman, desultory and dreamy. I spent ages poring over minutiae in the local department store, Sotestu Rosen, and deliberated at great lengths over which beverage to choose from the legions at the Family Mart convenience store, now no longer there. Peach soda? Honey-lemon? Calpis? Aquarius? Or one of the mysterious bottled teas, so strange to me as an American teen used to stacks of Mountain Dew and Coca-Cola. The closest one got to tea, in my experience, even as a Japanese-American, was the big jars of sun tea that they brewed in Texas where I lived when I was five.

Now my grandparents are gone and I live in their house. It's changed a lot, as has the neighborhood. New things have cropped up, others have gone (the Uny department store, its top floor on which I spent so much time as a kiddy in the candy arcades pumping the gumball and cotton candy machines full of ten-yen pieces from grandpa's generous change purse, is sadly no longer); but a lot is the same. The "body parts shack", as my family likes to call it, the tiny corner izakaya and yakitori shop made of corrugated tin and sagging paper laterns, still remains the same as it ever was. The Jan-Jan pachinko parlor with its Statue of Liberty on top beckoning the poor, the weak, the tired, ragged, and huddled masses, or however it goes, sits staunchly at the intersection. My mom remembers when this neighborhood was all fields. The former landowners still live on this block, on a grand multi-building property. Most of the people in this neighborhood are older and probably remember that time as well. I wonder if they remember me and my brother and sister, the little half kids that have been visiting for the past 25 years, and if they associate those little kids with these grown up foreigners living here now. Surely we were a curiosity in those days, in this not-so-cosmopolitan town. Now it seems as if this sleepy station is crawling with gaikokujin, but when I was younger, I remember a lot more staring, a lot more people stopping and asking to take a picture with you because you weren't Japanese. Most people, in Tokyo anyway, are blasé about foreigners now - old hat, no big deal. Which is nice, in a way. Nice not to be bothered, not to be singled out so much, to be more or less (on the surface, anyway) accepted as a normal resident and a normal human. It wasn't always so, and still isn't in a lot of the country. Friends living in "the provinces", in places like Tochigi and Shikoku, report of still being viewed as constant curiosities.

And though our stuff has melded with theirs, piling on to the layers and years, my grandparents' house is still full of relics, turning up unexpected memories at every sifting. Same as it ever was, and different too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


DON'T drive to Kamakura from Tokyo if you can help it. Take the train.

I hadn't visited the Daibutsu since I was a kid, so it was nice to see him again. As temples go though, it's a bit stark. The Buddha is the only thing there really, and though he is impressive, there's only so much staring you can do. Then you can pay the extra 20 yen to go inside. Hey! He's got windows in his back! Ventilation! Cool! Makes the whole thing seem like a giant nesting doll.

More rewarding is Hasedera, right down the street. Lovely gardens and nice temples with more do-dads and stuff to poke around. The major highlight is the cave, which is very Goonies-esque, and filled with interesting nooks and crannies.

Friday, July 06, 2007

judder (chudder)

A few days ago I was CONVINCED that chudder was a word; but looking it up in the dictionary, didn't really find anything that substantiated my idea.

Listening to Car Talk today, the Tappet brothers used the word "judder". A-ha! I thought. THAT'S what I was after.

1. to vibrate violently: an old automobile with a clutch that judders.

Love the sound of that.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

ghost shower

Alone in the house.

I. was away for the weekend and I was enjoying the time to myself. Everything at my own pace. I fed the cats and finally got up to bed around midnight. Early morning class meant I would get about six hours of sleep if I was lucky.

As I was drifting off to sleep, I thought I heard the clink of a cat's collar. Tux coming upstairs to crawl into bed with me. I nickered at her, but she didn't come. I looked around the bed. No Tux. Guess I was wrong.

Drifting off again. Thought I heard water. But the houses are so close together here - you can hear clearly what's going on next door, sometimes as if it's your own house. Finally asleep.

The next morning, I stumbled downstairs to take a shower. Funny, the floor of the shower room was wet. It's not unusual if someone's taken a shower in the last few hours. But I hadn't showered since the previous morning. Weird. It is really humid right now, being tsuyuu and all. It was probably just with all the moisture in the air, the water from the day before hadn't evaporated yet.

Taking a shower, I noticed that the soapdish was full of water. Yuck. A pet peeve. I shower in the tub so that the drain doesn't fill/clog too fast and so that the soapdish doesn't fill with water. I. always leaves the soap swimming mushily in a puddle, and when I come into the shower, I routinely drain it. But I.'d been out of town since Wednesday. I thought I'd drained it since then. But maybe I didn't.

Off to work. Didn't lock the house, as usual. Forgot about it.

The next morning, though, it's still humid. It's still tsuyuu. But the water from the previous morning's shower had completely evaporated and the shower room floor was totally dry.

Am I daft?