Spicy Catfish Salad

Unsurprisingly, a lot of the photos I took in Thailand were of food. This was a spicy salad with sliced onions, cashews, peanuts, fried chilis, green mango, tamarind, fresh lemongrass, mint leaves and other assorted greens, topped with deep fried catfish. The roadside diner it was served at offered a spectacular view of the Chao Phraya river, and the broken platter only added to the authenticity of the food. It was so well done, the flavors of the salad would come in separate waves of sweet, sour, and spicy.
I don’t know about you, but I’m salivating, and it’s times like this when miso soup and a bowl of rice seem really, really boring.

Papayas in Winter

I have two brick planters out in front of my house (approx. 1 ft. x 5 feet total planting space) where the future of Yoshida Papayas, Ltd., lies. Last summer, on a whim, Nam threw some papaya pits on the soil we’ve seen trying to enrich for the past few years (it was rock-hard dirt when we moved in), and much to my surprise, sprouts appeared after a couple weeks. By fall, they had grown into 3 foot saplings and sprouted very healthy and broad tropical leaves. I became quite fond of them because they looked so out of place in my old neighborhood; vibrant green in a sea of brown and aging wooden houses. I began referring to them as my “papaya forest,” and cleared away all the other plants we had out there.
When the first frost came with winter, they perished in a very ugly fashion – eveything turned black and mushy, and I didn’t even have to clear their corpses as they melted into the earth. I was sad. However, I have had similar experiences with jasmine and other warm-loving, beautiful, wimpy plants in the past, so I knew it was just a matter of trying again this year.
Since we already have learned to transfer the jasmine into pots and bring them in for the winter, I figure it should work just as well for the papaya trees, although they are a bit deeper rooted.
I asked my brother to transfer the papayas today, but I’m secretly hoping he forgets. I miss the feeling of dirt under my fingernails and the moist earth drying on my palms.

Dumbass Gaijin Gets Cyberspanked

Somebody on a mailing list I subscribe to just sent me an e-mail asking if I feel bad “for using the Buddah’s (sic) name in vain” on my website.
I am at a loss for words, loser. Therefore:
Getting angry over heated mailing list postings is understandable to a certain extent, but grow the fuck up already, you little crybaby bitch. Or go weep into your pillow instead of biting it for a change.

Exploring Uranus

It will be no surprise for anybody who has ever visited a Japanese hospital to find out that doctors really are sick fucks:

Now, after a year of apologizing for a necessary exam I think I?ve lost all shame in it. In fact, there are times when a rectal is really necessary and if I could stick my finger up the patient?s ass without even saying ?hello? I probably would.
Now, I say things like ?flip over, WE have to do a rectal examination? (As if he?s participating or maybe he gets to give me one afterwards). Or even better yet (snotty English accent) ?Oh intern, we need a rectal exam on Ms. D, would you kindly skooch on over there and do it??
I?ve found, strangely enough, that I usually connect much better with the patients whose assholes I explored. In a way, it brings us together. In a really sick, kind of demented way.
Rectals are also a great way to punish patients. At least the really annoying ones or those that try to take advantage of us. I?ve lied to patients before and spent an extra long few seconds checking out a prostate. Really checking it out. You now know why this blog is anonymous right?

Go read out the whole post:
What an Asshole

Symphony of Destruction

When I first moved out here to Awajishima, I was as prepared for the lifestyle changes as one can be moving from the inner city slum that is Nishinari (the area of Osaka famous for its troubled history,especially the riots that occurred there in 1990) to a city with a total population of 40,000 (and like the rest of Japan, shrinking).
An early indicator of the trouble I would face here was the list of ten real estate agents my new company provided me. Upon calling every agent on the list, six were no longer in business, two told me there were no rooms to rent, and only the last two had rentals to show me. I ended up choosing the newest of the lot, a two-story lot house with enough space for a bachelor to assign specific roles to various upstairs rooms (i.e., “the not-yet-unpacked box room,” “the walk-in closet,” “the network vault/musical instrument chamber”). It it this last room that I am writing about today.
It started out with my 10baseT hub and hacked AirPort for sharing a dual ISDN connection plus a couple acoustic guitars: An old Yamaha (yes, the motorcycle company) and an even older Suzuki (yes, the violin company) with black flamenco strings. It quickly became home for a djembe, an ashiko, and several other “neighbor-irritants.” It also featured subsequent network and internet connection upgrades, from 10- to 100- to 1,000-baseT, and the jumps from 1.5 and 8Mbps ADSL to 100Mbps FTTH, as well as the wireless jumps from 802.11b to enhanced b, g, a, and finally b/g/a. But I digress with this nerdy shit; I’m focusing on the musical stuff today (besides, all the network stuff is downstairs now since I pinched off the upstairs phone line to decrease line noise). Anyway, it was basically a couple stringed instuments and various drums, plus the usual assortment of blues harps, kazoos, etc.
It occurred to me this morning as I stubbed my toe on a koto that those first-level instruments have been multiplying like rabbits, and something must be done before they take over my house completely. You see, in five years they have steadily been overflowing from that single room to all other upstairs rooms, to the wide corner stair on my staircase, all the way down into my entry hall and into the computer/living room. In five years, on this desolate and remote island I have somehow acquired:
– One hand-carved sitar from Nepal (had to have one; I never play it but might put pickups on it)
– Two more Hohner Blues Harps (they get crusty with spittle if you don’t clean them after playing drunk)
– One Chinese-made harmonica (playing this gives me more blues than the authentic Blues Harps)
– Various castanets and shakers (these all belong to Taro, who sheds/forgets musical detritus like this wherever he goes)
– Another mini hand drum (No fucking idea where this came from)
– A hand-made theremin (mail order from the states, a fucking rip off at $200)
– A Taisho-koto (for lack of a better explanation, a Japanese autoharp)
– Two full-size kotos (I like sleeping next to these because I can wake up, pluck a couple strings, and be happy for some reason, although I stub my toe on them all the time)
– 5 or 6 shittily-made wooden flutes with rainbow airbrushing which people think it’s a good reason to buy in third world countries for like ten cents each and distribute as presents when they get home. Fucking tourist scum (thanks for the presents, y’all!).
Not that I can fucking play any of these instruments proficiently or actually read music or actually practice with my band or anything, but I figure as long as I have instruments and none of us dies, I can still claim we are a band… We are going to make a comeback like the fucking Eagles, dude (and barring that, at least like the Doors).

Hi! We’re Mormons!

One of the curious things you may find as you venture deeper into the rural areas of Japan is the surprising number of Mormon missionaries. Of all the missionaries – including Rastafarians (on Ikoma mountain), Wiccans (in Okayama), and Jehovah’s Witnesses (all over the damn place) – the Mormons are the easiest to spot because they fit a specific profile. Whether it be in front of the local department store where they cause expectant mothers to run away in (sometimes unfeigned) terror, or out on the streets late at night cruising in pairs on mountain bikes (and for some reason, always donning aerodynamic racing helmets wrapped with white reflective tape), they are invariably young white males in black suits, usually straight from – you guessed it – Salt Lake City.
Disclaimer: I hope you aren’t offended by this rant. It happens to be about Mormons, specifically the branch of mormons I will dub the “Sumoto Mormons.” When I was a kid we lived across the street from a Mormon family with 10 kids (which I’m told is like a royal flush in terms of Mormonic karma) who were hella fuckin’ cool around the block because they had not one but TWO AND A HALF Ataris to play with in their home (the 1/2 figure was due to a buggy machine that only displayed the bottom half of the screen – useable for Centipede but not much else if I remember correctly). Therefore I do not hate Mormons, because they had the 2 1/2 times the toy I wanted throughout my formative years but could never convince my parents to buy – it turns out that I’m secretly jealous of them (whew, good to get that one off my chest!).
I am in a somewhat weird situation with the Sumoto Mormons right now. They assume I’m Japanese (I do look Japanese, but I’m AMERICAN AS HELL – somewhere in Yamanashi Prefecture, my Aussie pal John is rolling his bloodshot eyes and murmuring “bloody Yank!” – eat me, dood.), and I have used this assumption to create a new form of entertainment, “Sumormo baiting.” A couple of months ago these guys approached me when I was returning home from a long walk, asking if I had a couple minutes to spare (in Japanese). Call me a devil, but my immediate response was to stop in my tracks, give them the once over with the trademark Japanese “gaijin gawk” (usually reserved for observing lewdly-costumed Russian dancers on Tokyo subways), say loudly, in English, “NO,” and walk away. Fish on. After that, they waited for me on my street a couple other times at night, eagerly fingering paperback copies of the Book of Mormon, but I spotted them before they saw me and I ducked down the back street.
This morning they stopped next to me on their mountain bikes as I waited in my car at a red light. I was zoning out in pre-work zombie mode with my arm draped out the window, blasting track #2 on the Grey Album. The younger guy recognized me right away. “Hey! We’d like to speak to you sometime,” he said, in English.
I tried to brush him off with a sarcastic, “Eigo wakarimasen” (I don’t understand English), and noticed “JAMES” was wearing a plastic name tag with “Church of the Latter Day Saints” printed on it.
“But Elder Thomas said you were American” he replied.
Ah, shit. Got me there. Elder Thomas was the Mormon guy who was in Sumoto before these guys replaced him. I invited him in for a beer once and we had a nice long talk about things. I served him and his trainee dude green tea and felt curiously like a total fucking sinner for drinking beer in front of them. When they left, they gave me a copy of the Book (I ended up wondering if they were going to ask me to pay for it, which I also feel curiously guilty about. They said it was truly a gift and never asked for money, but did use the book as a reason to come by the house every month. Once, as a joke, I offered it as payment to the NHK guy who came around asking for money, but he made the sign of the cross and said, “devil, be gone.”). So Elder Thomas had apparently told James about me and they had caught on to who I was from the street I lived on, apparently. Which does not explain why they never just came to my door (I must have successfully defeated the surveillance devices on the Book of Mormon by wrapping it in tinfoil, sealing it in a Ziploc bag, and sinking it in a bucket of water), but I digress. “Aight, you got me – I was just messing with you,” I admitted.
“As I was saying, we would like to see you sometime…” he continued.
Well, that’s that I guess. No way to wriggle out of this one – now that we have established that we are fellow Americans in a remote and desolate setting, an invite to the house is a virtual necessity. I invited them over at five this evening. Five this evening, as in, in approximately 5 minutes after I post this entry. From work. As in, I don’t imagine I’ll be going home for a few hours, at least. As in, I sure am glad my little bro will be at home to greet my new Mormon friends.
As in, Adam, I am finally getting you back for some rat bastard thing you did to me in the past that I can’t specifically remember right now, but let’s not let that get in the way of entertainment. Mine, specifically. This should be funny as hell. Will update later.

Japan Bloggers News

So was anyone else completely blown away by the message from Nick Denton to the mailing list? I’m very interested in seeing who will be chosen… Will it be one of the seasoned self-promoters who have seemingly sold all of our e-mail addresses to spammers and profess a genuine interest in Japan? Or someone who has already explored such topics as “gadgets, hentai, cars, and computer games?”
Either way, it should be exciting to see somebody I’ve at least heard of here writing on a more professional level, whatever that entails. I mention that because all of the Japan Bloggers I am familiar with are blogging strictly for the kicks, as far as I know. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s what keeps the interesting blogs worth writing (and hence reading).