Sunday, January 30, 2011

AMS?


Snapped a paparazzi shot of the lead guitarist in local rock legend Sinnocular at a tram stop this morning. He probably knew what was going on. That's what you get for being famous - Sinnocular are not only featured on the cover of this month's "Fukuoka Now" magazine, but an interview with the band as well as preview footage and concert dates are on the front page of the Fukuoka Now website!

I was so excited about Austin. I still am excited about Austin. But there is a new layer of possibility, and it's famous for pancakes, legal vice, and outspoken anti-Islamic politician Geert Wilders. If I do in fact require everlasting culture shock and stressful acclamation to new countries and funny foreign languages to course through my veins at all times, chasing my man to the Netherlands with no visas, job leads or Dutch language skills could certainly satisfy.

I picked out that jacket and bought it for him. I wish someone would hire me to play paper dolls with rock bands. I'd be a great and much needed help.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Initiating a breakup.

I think Austin is going to win. I really love the idea of it and no matter what, there will be more going on there than there is in Albany, NY.

Not that there's anything wrong with "The 518," "The ToC," or "Smallbany" (a modest sampling of its many monikers) - on the contrary, I really loved growing up there and I had loads of nice friends, a great nuclear family with a big house with a great park literally in my backyard. Since Albany is the capital of New York State, there were internships to be had at the state offices downtown, some music festivals, and smatterings of interesting nightlife.

I suppose I realized I'd outgrown my pond a bit when I went home to visit last summer and felt like I had managed to do everything there was to do in the area in two weeks. Most of my friends from childhood are married, engaged, parents, soon-to-be parents, or otherwise domesticated. Some moved to other cities and states, and quite a few more simply grew boring and useless to me. My parents hate the high cost of living and the snowy winters. I found the lack of Thai restaurants indicative of many things.

(Universities and colleges in America are ranked informally by their percentages of Jewish and Asian students - the higher the percentages, the more expensive and competitive the school. I use a similar system to rate cities. Cities with lots of Thai restaurants have lots of arts-conscious 20-somethings who have passports. People like me. Albany has no well-known Thai restaurants and only a small handful of Indian places. Manhattan/Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and Boston have at least eight of each on every block.)

Walter will be coming to Austin too. There we intend to recreate our present perfectly betsu-betsu (separate, individual) lifestyle - each keeping our own apartments and doing our own things, forming our own circles while having loads of adventures together. Our relationship and our bond seems unshakeable today, but if for some reason we don't make it as a couple, it's not like there's any shortage of cute single people around. Austin is consistently ranked as one of the best U.S. cities for young singles. Single girls make good girlfriends. Everybody wins.

My parents will probably move to the area too, since as I mentioned they are not fans of winter and in their mid-sixties are becoming a bit fragile for heavy-duty shoveling on a steep driveway in icy conditions. Dad's from rural Tennessee and Mom's from Dee-troit; they're both already sort of out of their elements in suburban upstate New York. Austin is still Texas, but compared to other major cities it seems, on all accounts, more foreigner-friendly, at least toward atheist liberal types. I've been doing some research; housing is affordable compared to NY and they should be able to find a tiny house or condo near downtown to grow old in.

In the past, my breakups with boyfriends have all been fairly straightforward, like ripping off a Band-Aid that was sort of falling off already anyway. I think saying "smell ya later" to my hometown will be like that, too. I'm ready for change and coming off of a three-year stint abroad, if I don't immediately flood my senses with more excitement and change, I'll wilt like a corsage after prom night. I'm so excited for this.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oysters

On Saturday I went to an oyster festival in Mojiko. I'm not sure if this is peak oyster season or what the cause for celebration was, but it was definitely my first time being around oysters at any capacity. Unforgettable and delicious they were, and naturally no event in Japan (or anywhere on earth) is complete without a plush mascot.





Thursday, January 20, 2011

Starting the day off right



My buddy John Redcorn came to town for dinner last night. We sat at Joyfull (the Japanese equivalent to Denny's) for a few hours completely engrossed in various conversations about life, living, seeing the world, whatever. He convinced me to move to Texas with promises of deep fried butter and beer at the Texas State Fair. He also surprised me with a wonderful souvenir from his recent trip to Vietnam: a coffee maker and 200g of ground coffee!

I'd describe Vietnamese coffee as some strange middle ground between espresso and Turkish coffee. It's potent for sure but not the super-creamy concentrated consistency of espresso, yet its texture and flavor is distinctly different from Turkish, and it is drunk with condensed milk for sweetness. I'd never had proper Vietnamese coffee before today, but so far this might be my favorite subgenre of coffee - and that's just made at my own clumsy hand using months-old sweetened condensed milk!

Needless to say, upon this joyous news I drowned the sorrows of this week's emotional hell (special woman time + the misery of nicotine withdrawal + readjusting to normal diet) in delicious thick coffee with liberal squirts of sugary condensed milk. Tittering and grinning ear to ear with pride at how cool my little coffee maker is, the entire mood of my day was saved. I will look back on January 20, 2011 fondly for all eternity.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Eating my way through Germany

In chronological order, these are a few of the Facebook status updates I made on my trip.

12/28 (midday): having a gigantic breakfast with like five different kinds of cheese prepared for me, sitting around listening to reggae, and there is a picture of a topless asian chick scotch taped to the toilet. life isnt easy in germany!

12/28 (night):
Today: french fries with mayo, giant piece of cake, western style sushi, dark chocolate spread on bread with Brie, and I bought a wheel of goat cheese. Got a KONNICHIWA from an employee at a sword/weapon shop too but I shouldn't be surprised.

12/29 (morning): I would talk about all the cool things I have been doing but honestly I can't think of any. Just eating bread and cheese 5 meals a day.

12/29 (afternoon): Yesterday was pretty good. Pizza, chocolate twice, a giant taco thing, a tuna melt with onion rings at an American diner, beer, red wine, absinthe, and mead straight from the bottle. Oh and a giant bowl of pasta with salad right before bed

12/30 (afternoon): officially splitting buttons on a dress that fit perfectly yesterday. brunch today: chocolate spread, Brie, aubergine cream cheese, hot mustard, jam, sun dried tomatoes, cucumber, dill, fried tofu, clementine orange, espresso, and approximately an entire loaf of bread. and yes it is 3:30 pm

12/31 (morning):
Heute gehe ich nach BERLIN!!! Was kann ich essen da?!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure: Where Do I Go?

Gadling.com: Top 10 Travel Spots in the United States

You know, out of the places on this list I've only been to three. I've been to far more interesting cities, towns and mountain ranges that didn't make the top ten list, but the fact remains that I ain't seen nothin' when it comes to my own country. Since I'm not recontracting to work another year in Japan this means I'm going back to the U.S. in August. Rather than just staying in the Albany/Capital region of New York forever, I intend to relocate somewhere new - preferably somewhere with less snow and lower living expenses. There are so many options. Where am I supposed to begin? I guess making a list of considerations has been overdue. Here are five so far.


1.) Austin, Texas.
+The only city in TX with a considerable number of Democrats and Thai food places. Job market OK considering. Warm weather, little snow. Lots of young people and artistic types. Friendly to country and cowboys. There is a decent airport. Living costs reasonable compared to Northeast.
-Far removed from pretty much everywhere else in the country. TX is flat and plains-y, a stark contrast to the woods and mountains I'm used to. Rich Tex-Mex food means it will be extremely difficult not to get fat. I'd need a car to get around.

2.) Boston, Massachusetts.
+Near home, visiting the folks would be super easy. Lovely city and I already have a lot of friends and acquaintances there. Great public transportation means I wouldn't need a car. Lots of young people, great restaurants and entertainment. New England is familiar.
-Cold snowy winters. High MA income tax. Rent and other costs of living very high, would need to share living space. Completely urban environment may be off-putting and overwhelming due to competitiveness.

3.) Knoxville, Tennessee.
+A change of pace from the Northeast. Family all over town. Comparable size to where I grew up. Proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Decent if not great arts scene. The airport is OK. Cheap cost of living, could probably afford my own place.
-Southeast means lots of conservatives and other people who non-ironically voted for Mike Huckabee. College football dominates everything. More sheltered worldview than bigger cities. Would need a car to get around.

4.) Tucson, Arizona.
+Definitely no need to worry about shoveling snow in winter. Beautiful surroundings and lots of outdoor recreation. Active arts/nightlife/entertainment/music scene. Airport is fine. Cost of living reasonable though not especially cheap. Good food.
-So hot in summer that I could die if my A/C unit breaks. Would need a car. Would also need to learn Spanish to be an ideal job candidate. Somewhat isolated from the rest of the country. Currently host to a whole load of political and racial tensions that may take a while to clear.

5.) Los Angeles, California.
+Ideal climate and weather. I already know lots of people there. Unbeatable restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. Excellent international airport. Proximity to beach, desert and mountain hiking. I would have no trouble keeping weight off.
-Very expensive to live in; would need roommates, car, and connections. Cutthroat competition for everything, possibly very isolating environment. Rampant eating disorders. Traffic and pollution a real concern. CA income tax very high.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Arctic Chill

Lately it's been cold here in Tagawa. Not so cold that it's hazardous to step outside or anything like that, but just relentlessly unpleasant. The temperature hovers around freezing, and if we're lucky it's ten degrees warmer inside.

I believe I've voiced complaints in years prior about the Japanese lack of effective heating in homes, schools and offices, but every year it's such an all-pervading onslaught of discomfort that being cold becomes the only thing I can think about. Every night I fill a 2 liter bottle with boiling water and place it in my bed where my feet are supposed to go, and every night I squirm around for at least half an hour trying to get my feet warm. Every day at work I hover over a kerosene stove cursing Japan and the weather gods in an effort to warm up freezing fingers. Students pop their heads into the staffroom and exclaim "It's warm!" because the hallways are even colder. Teachers come and go, every other phrase uttered: "It's cold!"

What bothers me about this isn't the cold itself. It's the fact that even though insulation and double-paned windows and central heating are a very tangible reality that has been adopted by countries with much smaller economies, the vast majority of Japan just won't do it. Instead they've come up with temporary solutions like kotatsu, a heated table you sit underneath, and kerosene heaters that require you to crack open a window. Sitting under a kotatsu is great and all but wouldn't it be nicer if you didn't need one at all?

I suppose this rage has been inspired by my recent trip to Germany. Germany, like Japan, suffered great losses during the Second World War, and was at least partially rebuilt with American funding. They're both well off financially but Japan is slightly richer. The cost of living seems comparable, and the people in both nations are infamously rigid and workaholic. Both have cold snowy winters and warm summers. They're not so different. So why is it that the Germans get to be warm indoors all winter long while the Japanese refuse to adopt modern comforts?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011