Wednesday, December 30, 2009

snow day

It snowed yesterday, for the first time since I got to Oregon. (inappropriate shoes)My dad used a stray pine branch to brush off the windows of my car, because that's how we roll in the Northwest. Despite the fact that it snows pretty much every year in Oregon, people still freak out and drive like utter shit. I tried to go downtown but the highway was a parking lot and my car broke down after sitting at the onramp for twenty minutes. Ah, it's good to be back.

Monday, December 21, 2009

here nor there

I got to talking to a coworker the other day, a teacher that I don't often see because he works at different locations and on different days. We were rapping about the usual jabber, and it came up that I am a part-timer, and not going to school. The question of my visa was raised, at which point I mentioned that I'm half-Japanese, which removes some of the visa hoops that other folks have to jump through.

"No way!" said my co-worker. "You don't look it at all! You're NOT Japanese."
Yeah, well. I am.
"But you have such big eyes!"
"And your English is so good! Your intonation is so natural."
DUDE, I am a native English speaker.

On the flight over to PDX, I did the unsteady tiptoe to the back of the plane to go to the toilet. The galley was stuffed with half a dozen guys shooting the shit, (alchoholic) beverages in hand. Waiting for the w.c. to become free, I stood next to a middle-aged geezer (MAG for short) of the type that you might find in Venice, CA, or Eugene, OR: shoulder length grey hair, overbaked skin, cargo shorts, bullshit life philosophy studded with gems like "It is what it is".
Trying to inhabit as little space as possible (a skill that I've perfected living in Japan), I squeezed myself into a corner, eyes fixed on the red-lit "occupied" sign. MAG, seeing me there, began performing a series of tipsy antics that he dubbed "stretching". At first, I tried to be a good sport, joining in for a simple spine stretch that I needed anyway after six hours stuffed into an overbooked flight next to an arm-rest hogging seatmate. MAG contorted himself into a jerky, rabid downward dog, arms and legs akimbo, face red and shirt flapping. He righted himself, sloshing coffee, and went in to woo me.
"Are you Israeli?"
Nope, I'm not.
"You're not American."
Yes, actually, I am.
"No way. You're not American. What could you be?"
DUDE, I was born in San Antonio. (I seem to have a propensity for using DUDE with these geniuses, these men among men.)
"But you don't look American. And Mexican doesn't quite fit either."
Yeah, okay.

I didn't have the patience to argue with him. What do you say to people who insist on telling you, in their infinite wisdom, what you are not? I am what I am. And it is what it is.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I made jammy cocoa cookies to send off in batches today. I reached into the pantry for a jar of jam and came up with... こけもも.

Kokemomo? A peach of some kind? I searched my pocket dictionary, my phone dictionary, and my electronic dictionary. Finally, Jim Breen came to the rescue. As usual.
苔桃 【こけもも; コケモモ】 (n) (uk) cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea); mountain cranberry; foxberry; partridgeberry.

Partridgeberry?!? Excellent! Since I made gingerbread, coconut macaroons, cashew-cranberry chocolates, partridge-berry jam cookies are the perfect way to round out the packages.

Some random guy added me on Facebook today. I have a general preference for not adding people I've never met in real life. The last time I bent this rule is when some guy who CLAIMED to have met me lied his way into making me agree by furnishing fake details of our meeting circumstances (a party in Ebisu; I HAD been to a party in Ebisu, and there were a lot of people there). I later found out he was a LIAR with 800 friends and about as many updates per day. Blegh.

Anyhow, I didn't think I knew today's adder. When I looked at his info to try to jog my memory, he had a website link (and 800 friends). I clicked on it. And I don't know him, after all. But his photos are pretty awesome. And it's a really pretty slideshow. I would even put this on as a screensaver if I wasn't using the computer.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What he cooked

This is my favorite website for writing. He lives in Australia and writes about it simply and beautifully. His last few posts have made my breath catch.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

livin' on stew and drinkin' bad whisky

Sorry I couldn't be bothered to post the last few days. I've been busy sitting next to the heater and listening to Gordon Lightfoot.
Luckily, there's a willing guest poster available.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

po po

When I was in college, I took a little detour and got my EMT Basic license. The EMT Basic is the first rung on the ambulance staff ladder. I was inspired by a paramedic friend and learned a lot of first aid, CPR, and anatomical terms and medical language.

I never followed through with it after becoming licensed, and one of the reasons was because of some of the EMTs, paramedics, and other medical professionals that I met during my ridealongs and emergency room shifts. They were rude and dismissive of sick people, calling them frequent fliers and bemoaning their lack of private health insurance. They didn't fuss with things like basic dignity. I was helping to insert a catheter into one granny and the nurse didn't bother to close the curtain. The old lady was distraught and embarrassed, and I rushed to close it. It was all old hat to the nurse on duty.

I know that instead of being turned off by the adrenaline jockeys and jerky docs, I should have risen above and aspired to be part of the solution. But I didn't follow that path.

I have a shaky relationship with cops for some of the same reasons. I have been unnecessarily harassed by police people who were bored or racist or on a power trip or needed to fill their quota. I've dealt with a lot of cops who seemed to think their position elevated them above other humans and gave them the right to treat people with less than respect. Most of the ill treatment happened in the States, where I think this kind of behavior is more prevalent, but I and some friends and family have been treated with suspicion or dismissal in this country, too. This is not true most of the time, and most of the police I come across on a daily basis are helpful and kind. This more benevolent behavior has caused me to reconsider my previous reactionary stance on police officers, with the angsty "fuck the pigs!" refrain.

Today in Machida, a couple of cops were talking to a transient guy curled up on the floor next to the ticket machines. He was inebriated or sick, very out of it, very filthy. The officers were talking to him kindly, saying,
"Oda-san! Are you okay? Hello? I know you're sleeping, but you're making people worry about you!
Hey~ Oda-san! Oda-san!"
(He had fallen back asleep mid-conversation.)
"Oda-san, this is not a good place to sleep, in the middle of traffic! How about a bench? Let's find a bench!"

Mr. Oda may be a familiar character to the cops; I don't know. There are a few transients who hang around the station and I can recognize most of them, but I'd never seen this guy before. It shouldn't be surprising and make me happy to see people in power acting with compassion and respect, but it does. I guess that's pretty sad.

Friday, December 04, 2009


The weather was craptastic yesterday, but I barely noticed because I was laid up with a cold, in bed all day.I feel better today and the weather is beautiful. And my maple tree has finally bloomed.
I'm not sure when to say momiji and when to use kaede, when referring to maples. I know two people with those names. One is a girl and one is a dog.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

fat spread is not vegetarian

Hungry for lunch, I decided to make a veggie burger but had no bread. I threw on three layers and went to the store two blocks away for something bun-like. I picked up this pack of kurumi onsen pan because it most closely resembled the right size and shape for a burger. I didn't even look at the ingredients because walnut bread should be fine, right? It practically has EAT ME VEGETARIAN written all over it.Until I got home and read the package. Uh, shortening. Hmm. And fat spread?? What's this? This was a first for me. So I googled it.
Not satisfied with the sketchy information presented on wiki I called the company.
Hello, Onsen Bread HQ!

Um, hello? Uh, I have a question about your walnut onsen bread...
Absolutely, what is it?
Well, there's this stuff called fat spread... what is that exactly?
Uh, it's a kind of margarine-
Yes, but what's it made of? Is it vegetable or animal?
Please wait.
Hello? Yes, fat spread can be made from both vegetable and animal sources.
Oh. Well, milk is okay but what about animal fat?
Yes, it's made from animal fat.
Alrighty then. Thanks.
Thanks for calling Onsen Bread HQ! We are eagerly awaiting your favor!
Yup, bye.

Dammit. It sneaks up on you. Does anyone want a two-pack of walnut hot-spring bread? It expires December 2nd.