Yoshida-Machino Futon Cleaning, Inc.

On my first trip to France, I fell in love with Paris. It just felt like home for some reason.
Mostly this was thanks to Taro’s girlfriend at the time. Her father was some Spaniard nouveau rich hombre dude who hit the lottery. All other aspects of her life were offbeat, as well. I think she was a gypsy, and I mean that in a “spinning dervish nomadic salt of the earth” type of way. She and Taro had met on his 2-year journey across Australasiurope (easier to show on a map than describe it with words), and he had spent 6 months with her living on the streets of Paris with interesting people.
I met some of them after spending a few days in Bordeax with friends (and my dad!). Nighttime arrival to the cold, foggy streets of Paris was kind of a shock after the hot afternoons sampling sparkling wines in St. Emilion. We got lost a while but eventually found the squatters camp where Taro’s friends were sleeping. Every last one of them were icons of Parisian street culture. Nose rings, tattoos, passable English, and real friendly to friends of friends. We spent a few nights partying out with them. They had these wild ghetto parties, where the commotion would start in a single apartment room then spread to surrounding rooms and eventually the whole apartment complex. Only still images of those nights flash through my mind when I try to recall everything that happened. Egg-sized balls of nepalese choco shaped into miniature Incan gods. Karaoke speakers pushing the voice of would-be Solaars so hard the cones cracked, then disintegrated. Olive drab cots covered with yellowing futons that leaked cottony entrails onto a beer-damped carpet. And a guy who looked Laotian.
The next day, in one of those strange coincidences that utterly convince you that everything is somehow connected, Taro brings up a new business idea. Apparently he had not not seen the futon I described above, but had noticed other futons that his friends used and proposed that we start a futon cleaning business. To this day I have no idea if he was serious or not, but I ran with the idea in a flurry of verbal diarrhea: Funto cleaning? I have zero knowledge of the subject! Oh, you want to bring an somebody who has experience here? Why not just airlift an old man and his entire shop from the riverside in Kyoto and set him up in front of the Arc?
For some reason, this idea never got past the early discussion stage.
Before we came back to Nippon, there was another futon coincidence. We were at the street markets watching these African guys cook bright red sausages over oil drum fires. These are the goat sausages called marguez that sometimes have hair in them; they are the ultimate ghetto food and melikeslikeslikes. Stuffed in baguettes ala kebab, these were second in yumminess only to roast duck on that trip. I walked through the market and browsed while stuffing my face, pink grease streaming down my chin – ah, the joy of unashamed public gluttony! We passed through stalls offering cheap clothes, toys, junk. It was refreshing to see cheap clothes and oily plastic products from somewhere other than Asia for a change. We saw clothes made in Senegal, and a teacup made in Luxembourg (!). Then we came upon the drums.
There were several adjacent stalls selling hand-made djembes, ashikos, and other hand drums. It was a sea of drumming wonderfulness. These were the real deal, hand-carved from wood with rough metal fittings or (depending on price) intricate hand-tied webbing for holding on the goat skin heads. I could not help but taste the spicy sausage stuck in my teeth and wonder if I could buy a whole animal bit by bit… After all, there were those leaf spring knives with goat horn grips at the earlier stalls.
To make a long story short, I bought a shitload of djembes. As in, too many to carry home. Far too many. Taro’s girlfriend offered to send them to me if I would send her some disposable hand warmers and a futon from Japan in exchange. I asked why she needed a futon. Apparently her sister’s had gotten funky and stank to high hell no matter how many times it was hand-washed, because the filling started to mildew before it could completely dry…
Does anybody know if there’s a futon cleaning shop in Paris now?

Jayzus, my comp just scared the hell out of me…

I’m blogging from a slightly worn but surprisingly comfortable lounge chair I happened upon in the foyer of a wedding hall, located in a once-was-ritzyish hotel in Ibaraki, a lackluster suburb steadily infesting the area between Osaka and Kyoto. I staked my claim on this cluster of chairs and their centerpiece hardwood coffee table about half an hour ago…
As I type, people are staring at me and my baby U3 as they walk by; I can discern the suspicious technophobe-types from those who are just curious by their furtive glances and hurried gait. In all fairness, the ‘phobes are relatively open-minded toward tech, compared to just five or ten years ago. I suspect my open flaunting of it just disturbs them on some primal level; it touches raw nerves to see that the machines are steadily taking over the world.
I believe that the Japanese telecom industry’s advertising efforts to push broadband on the masses – a great percentage of whom are probably not even sure where to affix virtual postage stamps on e-mail – have a marked effect. Like I said, these ‘phobes are relatively in the know. Whereas 10 years ago my comp might conceivably have been derided as a tool of [entity of choice] without even the possibility of identifying it’s particular function, I imagine the unspoken sentiment of the modern day ‘phobes as: Why would you use a computer in public, when the whole purpose of going outside is to interact with real, live, emoting people?
To which I reply:
I gave up on people like you a long time ago.
Now shut up.
I am tweaking my blog again.
In Haiku form:
Waste no time on you,
Dumb ox, shut your gaping maw.
Typeface: Sans-serif.

Tatoo Blues

I want to relay a story about a bad day I had two Saturdays ago. Actually, I’ll skip over the really bad parts and jump right into the fray (and that’s a good definition of my life in general). I ended up that day with a friend who was going to get a tattoo. We went to the tattoo dude’s apartment in separate cars (completely unnecessary detail), and to make a really long story short, I ended up waiting for 3 hours in the living room with 3 guys, friends of the tattoo dude, who were hard at work. Their profession of choice was of the “Receptionist/Driver for Escort Service” category. All I can say is, I am damn proud of my gutter Japanese skills.
These guys knew I was a foreigner and were consciously/unconsciously shrouding the content of their conversations concerning shady/sleazy deeds by using the absolutely most Kansai-inflected dialect and verbiage… And I understood every word of it. I’m a big fan of yakuza flicks and have always loved studying the Kansai dialect, and probably know more underground/sleazeball slang than any Japanese not sniffing thinner or missing fingers. These guys were talking about the craziest shit right in front of me.
Some gems:
– I heard them consulting each other if they had girls in the stable that were anorexic, for some client with a thin-fetish they were had on hold
– One more than one occasion, I saw the old customer service trick where they say “please hold”, cover the mouthpiece and wait 30 seconds, then smugly tell the caller that whatever they wanted wasn’t possible (ad-libbing the reasons for why, as well)
– They referred to one of the girls as “the one who likes coke bottles”
– There was also apparently another girl who looks like a young Seiko Matsuda, with a third nipple
– In an academic bout between calls, I heard the most (sorry about this, Corky) retarded summation of the war in Iraq to date. I am an avid peacenik bloghunter, so this means a lot. Pre-war economic sanctions were described as “the UN not buying oil from Baghdad because Bush’s father said it was of poorer quality than Saudi Arabia’s oil”. (Actually, I kind of like that explanation)
– One of them shared a business revelation: If you drove around in a van and stole all the satellite antennaes attached to people’s balconies in Nara, you could ship them AND the van to Baghdad and make a fortune selling them on the street. I almost encouraged him to do it, because all I could imagine was the Iraqi headline in six months, “Jap’s Imported Loot Ganked by Local Entrepeneurs”.
Well, I think Net Nanny will officially bust a nut with this post.

About a Girl

On Saturday, I was awakened by Kohei (the guy who gave me a Devo hat when I was like ten) who had the nerve to call me at ONE THIRTY in the afternoon. As I groped to find the ringing cellmonster around the gap between futon and tatami, my arm brushed against the wet spot on my pillow (I admit, sometimes the whole pillow is a giant wet spot. That’s when it’s time to flip it over.). Somehow, the saliva rub woke me up almost instantly, and it was act-like-you-weren’t-sleeping talkfest time. You know that feeling, when your tongue moves two steps faster than your brain…. But I Digress Heinously.
Kohei was coming down to Kobe from Nagoya with New Companion in Tow. Still dazed, I said let’s meet up, so Nam and I got in the car after a 30 min. cosmetic application sesh… Actually I played CS while brushing my teeth (although I had applied to Asahi-net for the switch from A to B Flets the night before, I didn’t try Hikari out until Sunday night because It Takes Time for the change to be noted – and I was too lazy to take the end of the Cat 5 cable from the ADSL modem to the ONU and try it out right then.) and was on a roll with 15 kills and no deaths but got distracted because the toothpasty foam in my mouth started getting too minty; it felt like the Doublemint twins were grinding stiletto heels into my tongue…. Sorry, digression problems.
In short, we met up in Kobe. I proposed Harborland as a meeting place, as the flowerbusheep at Canal Gardens are my favorite Kobe meeting point (will explain flowerbusheep later – Maybe). It’s really funny when people get up close to look at the flowers on the face and it suddenly starts baaaaing (Willow, you iiidiiiiiot!). That’s exactly what Pat, Ko’s new girl, did. Heh heh. We walked around looking for signs of the Kobe Matsuri which was supposed to run on Friday through Sunday, but found that the middle day was the odd one out and there were no signs of festivities either at Harborland or Motomachi (There were live parade broadcasts on TV the next day, though – it looks more like the Rose Parade Without Floats and Just a Marching Samba Team than a matsuri, though). So we walked around and shopped. Ko went aggro and got the look I’ve seen in my dad’s eyes before when he wants to buy a specific thing for my mom that she doesn’t really want to buy (at the time, at least – no woman can suppress the urge to buy – anything – for very long) but will concede to buying just to get the crazed “buying fever” out of his brains. Well, that day Kohei was for some reason convinced that Pat needed walking shoes. I know this sounds innocent, but it breaks one of the basic tenets by which all men should lead their lives and that is, Never Choose Shoes for Women. Yes, he chose to walk the dangerous route and basically steamrolled her to buy a pair of shoes, which I must say, were pretty darned Fugly (explanation necessary?). In fact they were Beeg, but that’s another story and I’m starting to scare you with my new language (New Sandovenese subvariant). Digressing you say? Me?
We had a nice day. Tonkatsu moundage for dinner after finding that all restaurants on the second and third floor were overflowing with people and/or yakiniku smoke. On the way home, Nam and I decided to go on an impromptu trip and I went straight instead of turning left for the 4Km suspension bridge (2600 yen toll one way!) for the island. We went to Himeiji. I had left Baby (Vaio U3 and Air ‘H PHS card) at home since I’d not charged her (bought another car cig lighter inverter at Autobacs on lunch break today to avoid this problem in future), and because of this, discovered the secret Himeiji night culture.
It seems that people in Himeiji do not sleep. This became evident after finding video rental stores, clothing shops, liquor stores (that sold imported cigarettes – Marlboro Mediums! – by the carton, something I’ve never seen here), and a big-name electronics store open at midnight, with signs indicating they were open until “26:00” (the electronics store was only open util 25:00). Weird. But Cool. After the semi-long but pleasant drive, I was on cruise control. I browsed through used rental videos and CDs that were for sale, and spent a few thousand yennage. Cool. Someone please tell me why the hell I felt compelled to purchase “Number one with a Bullet” for 300 yen. Got a soft spot for Lando Dee Williams, I guess (props to Lileks for that one).
I had intended to fold down all the seats in the van to make a bed (cool loaner car, Kataoka san!). The van model by the way, is a Bongo Friendee (Mazda). I have an uncle of Chinese descent who we call Uncle Bongie, so this car is of special interest to me, but perhaps not to you, but this is my blog, so I can rant incessantly and all you can do is close your browser window, LOSER! (sorry! -Ed). Anyway, I wanted to sleep in the car and in fact had – by myself – the day after I took my Silvia in for shaken after getting loaded at Bill’s. However, I soon remembered that girls like sheets and blankets and stuff, so we stayed at a hotel after driving by the local Kenkoland (got directions at the video store; “turn right at the JA building intersection” – but went a totally different route and found both the JA building and Kenkoland by accident) and pronouncing it even less desirable than roughing it in the van. Oh, I forgot. We had ramen somewhere along the way, and found out Himeiji has kick ass ramen at 2 in the morning. Nam got a regular sized chashu-men and it had more pork than any chashu-men I have ever seen, I mean like 20 slices (albeit the thin stuff, not fatbelly). We ordered it with the tonkotsu (there was also shoyu and miso or something like that) stock, ichiban koi (of four levels of richness for the soup, nam ordered Thick and I ordered Mud). But heavenly mud this was. It was the best ramen I had since we were down in Kyushu visiting Japan Noobie Adam. I might add that I ordered extra garlic and it was chunky, funky, and there was a good heaping tablespoon of it in a mound on my noodles. Ambrosia.
We came home yesterday after going to Himeiji Castle. On the way home, we saw a large warehouse type building that looked possibly like a Costco, so I took the exit (Kakogawa). It was pachinko. Pretty damn big, too. The parking lot was so huge, there were guys on motorized carts that would ferry you from your car to the entrance of Gaia Pachinko Heaven or whatever the hell it was. I will make the next part quick and to the point: I lost a lot, and Nam won wnough to buy one or two tickets back to Thailand, depending on the season. On the way home, she bought me dinner (Awaji Beef). Good Weekend it was.

Nice Thai Doc

Oh, I forgot – the doctor didn’t charge me anything (I used my previously prescribed meds, as described below.). I love Thailand.

DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis

During our trip, I realized that I’m possibly suffering from an RSI. DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis. My wrist has been painful for a couple months now, but it all culminated in Phuket when I threw a beach ball to a little Aussie girl while swimming in the pool. The motion of that overhand throw (two handed) hit a sweet spot, and I ducked underwater to scream as loud as I could. Cool! The most painfully painful pain I have experienced in a while. Purifying, in a pure-grittish way. I went back to the room and laid on the bed for awhile. We went to see the local clinic the next day, where the doctor told me I was suffering from tendinitis. I accepted this at face value and let the nurse (who was kind of cute but not pretty or lovely or understanding like my girlfriend, I might add) wrap my wrist. Later, Nam’s sister, Nok (who is the most selfless person I know), convinced me to see a famous doctor in Bangkok, and I did so in order to get a second opinion. Good thing, too, because this doctor knew his stuff a lot better than the Phuket guy, who was probably more used to injecting penicillin into Fat German Ass or urine testing Recently-Impregnated Japanese Princesses than diagnosing specific types of RSI.
But this Bangkok doctor was great. He runs a private clinic located in the heart of the city. It opens every night after he finishes his rounds at a big local hospital. When I first walked into the place (comprised entirely of a large fluorescent-lit waiting room with a small adjoining treatment room), I immediately was reassured because the nurses/receptionists were Old Women, Greatly Experienced Yet Non-Bitter types. As I waited, I noticed that some of the patients in the waiting room were bearing gifts – flowers, food, etc. – and placing them on the reception desk after being treated. In retrospect, I’m absolutely sure that these people had no money and that the gifts were actually barter (Is that the correct word? I’m using it to express “goods for services”). This reminds me of stories about my dad, who accepted goods (one specific example was jars of Tupelo honey) when patients did not have money to pay for treatment (props to pops for that), and also my pal Taro’s dad who accepted produce from families that sent their kids to his juku (cram school). Thinking about this kind of stuff makes me happy. Buddha would be moved (In fact, he is).
He did more specific testing involving twisting, tapping, and squeezing my hand, wrist, and arm to isolate the specific area of Pain. I now know this area is called the tenosynovium which is the slippery covering of a common tunnel for two tendons – the abductor policis longus (APL) and extensor policis longus (EPL). I assume my l337 mousing caused the irritation to I read that the reason this is important is to distinguish it from another type of tendinitis where the intersection of the tendons is irritated (and hence requires another treatment). Doc approved of the meds the Phuket doc had prescribed (a pain reliever and a “muscle relaxant” – at first I thought it might make me crap my pants or enable Gumby-like contortions), and said that if the pain persisted, cortisone shots to the wrist would be next. All I can think about is how much a wrist injection would hurt. Pretty bad, I imagine. Also, the last step, which is apparently a final solution of sorts, is surgery to widen the tunnel surrounded by the inflamed tenosynovium.
All this Latin reminds me of a documentary I saw in high school history class. The narration ended with the words, “we can woe the plight of doomed Australopithecus,” delivered in Britspeak (Lorries, brollies, biscuits, etcetera, etcetera, and so forth. Is the word “soldado” used throughout the former British Empire [colonies reconizeable by Commonwealth Game attendance] or only in OZ?).
Surgery, huh? Gotta ask dad about this one.

Weaned off the Packet Teat

During spring break I proved to myself that continuous netfeed is in fact NOT necessary for survival. My entire Internet useover 10 whole days consisted of a single e-mail written in 5 minutes at a net cafe in Phuket. Additional “unconnected” computer time was comprised entirely of loading images from the Nikon 4500 to Baby (Vaio U3) via Compact Flash cards and a PC card adapter, plus a single one-hour Counter-Strike sesh (with my bro, Adam) in a gaming lab on the 4th floor of MBK center in Bangkok. It was an unfulfilling sesh (session) because the comps were slow compared to my own so I had to adjust for graphic bottlenecks, plus the tops of the movement keys (W, S, A, D) had been worn out from use. There were holes on the top of the keys, and my fingers touched down on the plastic ribs that crisscross the inside of the keys directly over the pluger thingy that actually initiates output of a character (if you can describe this any better, or even just understand what the hell I just wrote, please contact me). The tactile effect was equivalent to tapping your fingers on the tip of a blunt-tipped ballpoint pen (Bic, maybe?).

Worn. Down.

Well, I barely made it through this week. Working with clients that are powerful and inefficient is kind of like driving a jeep – it’s fun once in a while, when you want to do it for the thrill, but if becomes a day in and day out kind of affair, it becomes a chore. Whatever that sad-ass analogy means.
Tired. Tired. Hungry. But tired.
Have to pack. Going to Thailand tomorrow! But must eat. Must sleep. Must wake up at 5:00 AM!?! What the hell kind of vacation is that?

Thai Text Workaround

Missed the haircut because i spent a while trying to figure out a way to send Nam an e-mail her brother sent in Thai script. A challenge since Nam only had her phone (au) on her. I took a screen shot in WinXP after formatting the text to cellphone screen size in the OE compose window. Then I optimized in Fireworks and tested the 1.65K gif (and then png) by sending to my phone, also an au (albeit newer and way cooler – it’s got image conversion and editing capabilities and video – more on this later) but the attached files were not viewable. The error message displayed claimed size limitation errors, but I think it had to do with image subformat. Well, that was all a colossal waste of time.
I got a sudden inspiration and just took a pic with my phone after setting typeface of the Thai script to bold for screen legibility. This unbelievably crude hack worked better than I could have imagined. I swore I would never use a camera-equipped phone for taking snapshots (got me a pinhole camera, yes sirree!), but I found an honest to god practical use today. It was like finding out that those tits on the hog actually produce milk. Yippee!
In related news, the other day on our way back to this island (Awajishima), we made a pit stop at a highway rest area. I came out of the john and saw that Nam was waiting for me in front of the impressively lit vending area. She motioned for me to come over and was gesturing toward something on the ground in front of the Asahi vending machine. I jogged over and saw one of the coolest moths I have ever seen! It was shaped and colored just like a gingko leaf! It was so strange looking, I would not have been surprised to find it on the fifth moon of Endor, let alone at a highway rest stop. But there it was. Links are forthcoming, but impossible while my ISP is screwing around with my account. Actually, these smug bastards are in line for a class action suit from the state of Florida, so I better clear my crap off their servers, um, like, soon.