Monday, December 31, 2007

The land of Chaos

During the last week of 2007, I flew from Tokyo to Bangkok and spent 7 days traveling around Thailand. The first few days were very busy with traveling and getting used to the atmosphere. However, on Thursday, I had the urge to begin chronicling my journey. I have been meaning to transpose them into a blog entry as I am sure many of you would like to know what Thailand is like. Finally, the time has come.

Thursday, December 27th, 2007
I am writing you from Thailand, or what I like to call the "land of chaos". I am drinking and chainsmoking `round midnight beside the pool under the guise of getting more ice for my injured leg. My travel buddy, Chu, warned me against drinking, as it will probably cause me to bleed again. However, I am in pain, and these Japanese aspirin aren't helping much at all. I am at the mercy of Singha beer.

You see, about 2 hours ago, I fell off of my motorbike. Luckily, it happened at about 10 at night. I mention time only as an explanation of how traffic dramatically decreases once darkness falls. Had I the same accident during rush hour, I'd likely to have been pancake-ified. Allow me to clear up the next obvious inquiry---No, I had not been drinking. Crazily enough, I’ve remained sober 2 nights in a row due to motorbike riding. I broke my keitai (cell phone) in the spill.

I also have a gigantic gash on my knee, and I even managed to reopen the wound that I got on my foot yesterday while attempting to climb up the coral in order to sit upon a rock in the middle of the ocean. It was pretty stupid endeavor, now that I think back on it.

My reasoning was to appear as Jesus walking on water, as the rock was merely inches underneath the surface of the water. Anyway, for future notice, coral can be very sharp, and the current of the water seems stronger when you attempt to steady yourself onto a stable object. I failed in getting onto that rock, so I climbed one that was a little easier.

I blame my fall from the bike on my own ignorance of not knowing the proper procedures for stopping fast. Chu was ahead of me on our way back from eating at the food stands lining the Nathon ferry pier. Dinner was delicious, by the way. I had Pad Thai made right in front of my eyes, and I dare say, it appears so simple, yet I doubt I’ll be able to make it that delicious again. I bought some squishy yellow pastry stuff that tasted of banana and coconut, and of course, I washed it all down with fresh coconut juice in its original gangster husk.

So as I was saying, I was somewhat struggling to keep up with Chu, (as I was a bit scared of riding at full speed when my headlight was a bit dim and the street was so dark, yet I still tried) I saw something fly out of her basket and I had the urge (which of course comes from all the stupid action movies I’ve watched in the past) to lean to the side and catch it. Of course I didn’t do that, but I did begin to stop.

The bike I had rented before that one had very weak brakes, which I had to press really hard in order to get my bike to a full stop. However this bike, which I had only since that morning had one weak brake and one strong brake. As I was stopping I squeezed both as hard as I could. This made it lose balance and slide. I slid right along. As I was lying on pavement with my hands holding my bloody knee, I shouted “itai! Itai!”, which means “pain” in Japanese. However, they use it as “it hurts” and I’ve grown accustomed to saying this whenever I hurt myself.

Anyhow, the Thai couple, who was right behind me, had made it to me first. I was pretty disorientated and the guy had picked up the bike off of me, while his wife knelt before me squeezing me leg. Once I realized this, I kept saying “it’s okay, it’s okay”. I wanted her to stop squeezing my leg, but I guess she was just checking to make sure it wasn’t broken. At the time, I felt the only way I could get her to leave me alone was to stand up and prove to her that I was okay. So I did, but boy was it painful. By this time, Chu had arrived and convinced them I was okay and they left.

I wobbled over to some steps, sat down and smoked 2 cigarettes. I was very disappointed in myself, and worried how this was going to affect the rest of my trip. I was also worried just how injured I really was. However, Chu’s calmness regarding the situation made me a little less worried, however she did say something that hadn’t caught my attention before then.

Since that night I had left my helmet in the hotel room, she said that I am persistent in trying to take care of other people and make them safe, but maybe I want someone to tell me to be careful. The conversation ended there, however, you know me. A conversation with me never ends when the talking stops. If something’s interesting, I’ll think about it for a long time until I come to a conclusion about it.

Anyhow, the reason she said that may have come from the events that happened at the full moon party in Ko Pan Ngon.

Christmas Eve, 2007

Ko, I learned on this trip, means island in Thai. Yes, this island hosts a huge dance party on the beach every month on the full moon. It just so happened that my trip coincided with these dates, so of course I went. I had a few beers at our hotel while getting ready for the party. The night view from our room’s balcony was magnificent.

The reflection of the moon onto the water made a line on the ocean, illuminating the entire sea. After cabbing to the ferry dock, I was surprise to find that we would be taking a speed boat to the island. It was quite exciting. By the time I arrived at the party, I was sober again. Upon Chisa’s recommendation, I bought a “bucket”.

A bucket consists of just that, a plastic beach bucket with a 5th of booze, a mixer, and an energy drink. I chose a blue one which accompanied rum, coke, and a Thai red bull. They mix it for you when you buy it and there I began the night’s journey. Walking toward the music, it was about midnight. My friend, Dave, has this term he uses to describe crazy drunken parties. I had never heard it before, but it really is the perfect description of what the Full Moon Party on Dec. 24th, 2007 was: a shit show. By the time we arrived, everyone was already wasted.

During my late teens and early twenties, I used to frequent giant, rave-like events with then raver friends Kenny, Janine, and Daniella. The full moon party was a slight reminder of those times, however the atmosphere was completely different. There was intoxication, but it came in the form of hideous drunkenness instead of love drugs. There was musik, but it came of shitty DJs playing radio station hits instead of dancey electronicky stuff. There was love, but it came in the form of sex on the beach instead of people helping those in trouble on their tummies with their face in the sand. There were booths and vendors, but in the form of Senor Frogs, and the local Thai venders selling their food, obvious to everybody that they hated these kids on their beach.

I saw a girl trying to drag her drunken friend away from these guys trying to take her shorts off, and when I asked her if she needed help, she told me to go away. When we were leaving the party on a speed boat, and this young kid couldn’t awake his buddy, and left his friend behind, I slapped the boy awake and forced him to climb out of the boat to find his friends. When we were on the open back taxi trucks on the way back to the hotel, I suggested that someone hold onto the drunken stranger hanging off the back of the truck, and I was told to mind my own business.
(a daytime photo of the truck taxi)

Seeing these things under the sensitivity of the full moon left me in a puddle of reminiscence for the old times when friends were friends and even the youth felt compassion for their fellow kind. Perhaps I wasn’t drunk enough to drown out my ability to notice the things around me, or perhaps I’ve grown up and turned annoying, or perhaps things really have changed. I can’t be sure.

Anyway, this was why Chu had made that comment as we smoked our cigarettes and prepared to make our way back to the hotel. When I managed to get myself back on my bike, I was terrified. I knew there was no choice but to ride back home if I wanted to avoid any further hassles. So I rode slowly through the dark.

Tears began to form, and I felt a great surge of emotion, of helplessness, dependence, loneliness. I felt like a child, and I did what any child would do in this situation, I cried. I sobbed, letting my feelings surge, and I yearned for the comfort of my mother. I fantasized that she would be waiting at the hotel, come with me into the shower and wash my wounds. She’d insist that I move my hands from the cut so she could pour antiseptic. She’d let me squeeze her hand if it hurt too much. She’d help me into my pajamas and pull the covers and talk to me until I fell asleep. I also allowed in the childish thoughts that tomorrow is ruined. I can’t ride the elephants, or see and swim in the waterfalls, or explore the island and get the tattoo I’ve been wanting (a tree and a moon for my owl).

As I turned onto the street of the hotel, I wiped my tears away. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry and I reminded myself that I am a big girl and that I can take care of myself. I got myself into this situation, and now I must get myself out of it.

At the front desk, I asked for some assistance and they gave me some iodine and bandaids. I also ordered 2 beers and they brought them up for me as I wobbled my way up the stairs. As so here I am now, finished with my shower, sitting in front of the beautiful pool, shooing away mosquitos and indulging myself in beer and writing. I’ll let you know how tomorrow goes.

Friday, December 28th

This morning I could barely walk to take my morning piss. It took me about 10 minutes of mini limps to get to the bathroom door. I went back to bed and was very grateful that Chu had brought me up breakfast and ice for my knee. I was severely disappointed that my last day in Samui was to be spent in the hotel room. After watching the end of some horrible Mel Gibson-in-a-boat movie, then a British drama called Kinky Boots (about the son of a shoe company owner who befriends a black drag queen in order to save his failing business), I decided to flee the room. Keeping Beatrix Kiddo in mind, I willed my leg out of entropy, got dressed, and rode off on my motorbike.

I drove to the waterfall, but became disappointed when I learned that it required a 2km hike through rocks. I wasn’t hardcore enough to continue seeing as how I could barely make it up a flight of stairs. I got back on the bike and began my journey around the island. It had been one of my goals. Right now, I am still about 20Km from completing the circle, but I thought I’d stop by the one gay bar on the island.

I’m almost finished with my Singha, and I’ll be heading back to the hotel. I could really use a Thai massage about now.

Thailand does have its charms. I am attempting a travel piece, but only come to talk about myself. For this, I apologize. I know my thoughts and memories grow tiresome, so I will try to get into objective mode.

On this 7 day trip, I’ve seen Bangkok, Surat Thani, Ko Samui and Ko Pan Ngan. I spent 5 days on the island of Samui, and I’ve found it to be a tourist island. Everything seems to be geared towards tourism. The reason it attracts so many foreigners is its absolute island paradise-ness.

This photo was taken at the Coral Cove Bungalows which we quickly renamed "Chu's Beach". She loved this place. I did too. We shared a bungalow here on Tuesday. The bungalow was about 20 feet from the shore. In fact, here is the view from our balcony.

Chu loved this bungalow even though it was a little lacking in the cleanliness department. The shower had only cold water, and I had found some dirt and some crawly creatures on the bed, so I was a little suspicious of the place. However, this probably was the best of all our hotels since you could hear the sounds of the ocean as you slept, and could drink your morning coffee overlooking a magnificent sandy beach.
The next day, however, we parted ways for a night because her friend, Ileana had an extra room at the Coral Cove Resorts, which we parked our belongings on the night of the Full Moon Party. I stayed in that room which had a hot shower, air conditioning, and running electricity. I spent that night relaxing in luxury and writing postcards to family and friends. That night, the sunset was absolutely amazing.

On our first night in Samui, we met a couple in a cab who used to come here back in the 70s. They said that at that time there were only 2 hotels and all the streets were made of dirt. This island was originally used as a coconut plantation and the beautiful beaches were untouched and a crystal blue. They said the elephants, which they now exploit for riding and photo taking were trained to drag coconuts onto boats meant for export. The husband said that he brought his son to one of the 1st full moon parties which was composed of a bunch of hippies smoking pot. He and his son enjoyed smoking pot together.

Thailand is the first country I’ve been to that is ruled by a king. There are pictures of him everywhere.

His name is Bhumibol Adulyadej and I’ve been told that defacing his image is punishable by prison. The currency used here is called a baht. There are about 30 bahts to a dollar. A full course meal such as this one cost us about 200 bahts each. A fresh coconut cost about 30 bahts.

This is probably the best meal that I had while in Thailand, and this is the one I am referring to in the said example.

I bought about 10 of my favorite movies on DVD as well as 2 seasons of Nip/Tuck for 500 bahts. I probably could have bargained him down since that’s the norm here, however I’m terrible at it. I can’t help feeling like a jerk trying to bring down an already low price.

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

It’s amazing how much time the land of chaos provides one. Here I am now sitting outside the Surat Thani Airport at 9pm.

Here I am in front of the airport during our arrival. I can guarantee that you would not see me smiling had this photo been taken on the day of our departure. Air Asia sucks!!!!
My flight has already been delayed 4 hours, and the estimated departure time is half past midnight. It is amusing to watch how this small airport has been completely overtaken by the 100 or so pissed off passengers. I watched one British tourist threaten to “break every goddamn thing in this bloody airport” if she misses her flight to Beijing. The guards have turned off the baggage X-ray conveyor as everyone began ignoring them and passing through beeps and all. I can see a group of children inside having rolly cart races near the check-in counters, and I have plugged my Ipod into a speaker set I bought here, some Aussies have hijacked all the TVs and set them to the football game, and most of the adults have beers in their hands. I am aching for a shot of the whiskey that the group beside me are pouring themselves, but I’m too shy to ask.

Though the situation is quite shit, and our entire Saturday has been wasted on traveling early to the airport, then waiting a millennia, I can’t say that I'm not amused. I think it is time for another beer. Cheerio mates!

Okay, now I’m pissed. The snack bar (beer stand) has closed. God fucking damn it!

As for some of the other activities of the trip, I will describe through pictures.

Perhaps it was Wednesday night when Chu and I explored the area around Chawang Beach. We walked down the less touristy area of town and stopped at a couple of marketplaces. Here is a fruit stand where we found many kinds of produce which we couldn't identify. Chu purchased a couple, which we tasted, and we found that there was nothing that wasn't delicious.

After visiting the shops, we heard some music and decided to see where it was coming from. We found a stage where a local band was performing, so we found ourselves a table, order a beer, and danced. I enjoyed the music, and I wish I could have bought their CD. I enjoyed that night. During the 2 hour ferry ride from Surat Thani to Ko Samui, you could roam around the boat and relax with both locals and tourists as they passed the time.

We had found one family who settled in one corner, indulging in their premade Thai delicacies.

The boat ride toward the island of Samui, was ridiculously beautiful. Despite the tourist atmosphere of Ko Samui, I would recommend visiting this island to anyone who asks for my travel opinion. The ferry ride alone, is one the most alluring sunsets that I had ever seen. In fact, my photo does it a bit of injustice. I apologize for technologies' inability to mimic a memory.

Upon arriving in Bangkok, we were new to everything that Thailand would offer. Our first day, we walked around the area of our hotel and found a beautiful temple. I was amused by the glasses. Do you like? On this particular walk, we discovered what the locals did on a Saturday morning. I ate the most delicious coconut ice cream and fried platanes that I've ever tasted. We encountered mangey dogs, a train station, and even a 7-11.

Here is Chu and Liz, two girls I've met through my good friend, Chisa, who used to be a JET in my prefecture. We had all wanted to come to Thailand, and just so happened to be going at the same time, so we coordinated plans accordingly and explored this strange land together. On this trip, I got to know both of them better, and I was happy that I had ventured into the unknown with them.

Our last day in Bangkok was spent visiting the massive market square, of which I forgot the name, but I bought most of my おみやげ (souvenirs) there. I also got a chance to drink a freshly made Thai iced tea, which was made by a very talented man who made quite a spectacle of it.

After that, we went took in a Thai massage. Actually, I found it quite painful. In fact, after the massage, I was quite sore. By the end of the night we had found the girl bar, Shela (photographed below).

At this place, we watched an awesome all-girl band performing covers as well as their own original Thai indie rock music. I was greatly impressed. One of their covers had me beneath the stage singing the lyrics to "Zombie" as it was performed quite genkily. (元気ーgenki-energetic)

Should you ever want to visit this bar in Bangkok, please consult the map that Ileana left for us.

In conclusion, I will say that Thailand is a wonderful country. I recommend everyone to visit this place at least once in their life. I often referred to it as "Mexico Jr", as it certainly a 3rd world country, yet offers an array of beautiful scenery, friendly, yet cash-yearning locals, めちゃうまい(supremely delicious) dishes, unique shopping experiences, and an exquisite language and cultural experience that entices one to want to visit again and again. I certainly plan on exploring this country once again.

The weather is always warm. We happened to visit during a peak season, when the rest of northern Asia (including Japan) grows cold and desolate, and Thailand becomes the beacon of warmth and relaxation. Since it rests near the equator, the summer (I've heard) is unbearably hot, yet the winter cools down to the perfect 85-90 degree F weather that is perfect for laying on a sandy beach. Who doesn't love a warm, pristine beach at Christmastime?

I'll tell you, nobody.

Should you want to see more pictures of the trip, you can visit this link on facebook.

2008: Year of Purifying Toby, A Rat's Recuperation

The Reunification of Mind, Body, and Soul: Simple Goals for a Simple Girl


1) Read about things that I am lacking in knowledge.
(World History, Current world news, economy, languages, finance, photography)

2) Study Japanese: baby talk is no longer acceptable for someone who has lived here for a year and a half. Enroll in a real class (around March). Until then, learn 10 Kanjis a week, 30 vocabulary words and 5 grammar points.

3) Write in a more scholarly way. Begin Tokaido travel guide. Write and submit 5 short stories to a major publication. No more of this lazy blogging shit.


1) No drinking and No smoking.

2)Each week, do 2 PEs with students, and 3 after school sports with clubs.

3) Become a pescatarian and water drinker.


1) Meditate and do yoga every morning.

2) Expel angry, sad, evil feelings into the river, or tea fields. Ignore negative thoughts and replace them with happy, self-motivating thoughts.

3) Do yoga everyday.

4) Practice guitar at school.

5) Decide the plan for the next few years. Think of something constructive and meaningful, and devoid of hesitation and self-doubt.

Accomplishing this few simple goals will make you a much better person.


Alas, here I am on New Year's Eve, blogging like a loser. Tonight I came back from Thailand and I ought to be at a big party in Tokyo, but instead, I chose to stay alone at Chu's and chill by myself. I'm terribly tired as I woke up at 5 am in order to make it to the airport on time. Besides that, I'm still not walking all that great since the motorbike accident, and I don't think an all night bender in the city would be the best thing for me right now. And lastly, I'm a bit uneasy about seeing someone who I had a rather strange hook-up with not long ago, and I don't think I'm in the right mood to feign nonchalance and しょうがないness.

I'm glad to be here, though, drinking alone in someone else's room. Since this will be the last night I'll be indulging in the spirits of freedom, it ought to be done exactly like this. It's not that bad though, since Chu left me a bowl to entertain my lonely mind for the night. She's pretty fucking awesome, but you may have already learned that from my Thailand blurb. I could probably hang out in her house for days as she's got tons of books, that I have already reorganized into a shelf of what I want to read and in what order. They mostly have to do with cooking, sex and Mary Jane. There's some alright fiction in there, as well, though. She's also got a bunch of good movies, a guitar and computer. Ya, I know, huh.

I briefly mentioned that this will be the last night in a while that I will be writing to you from a drunken Japan. My New Year's Resolution is going to see a bit crazy. Believe me, it took about three weeks for me to completely digest the fact that I was actually going to do this. In fact, the idea came from someone who I like to call my "monthly AA sponser". Well, actually, this friend is my closest neighbor in Japan who has partook in two, month-long sobriety stints that forbade the use of both alcohol and tobacco. When Dave told me his plan take the quitting game on for an entire year, I nearly fell off my bicycle. However, I came to realize that this is the perfect time to implement the purification plan that I've been meaning to do for quite some time now. I made a detailed list and chart of all the things that I want from Toby and 2008.

And here they are.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Shimada meets Los Angeles

I visited home, but also accompanied my students on partial pieces of their school trip to California.

If you want to hear the students' impressions of their trip, as well as learning about the preparations of their trip, please visit our 二年生の英語のブログ。(2nd year English class Blog) at this blogspot address:
(島田高校の英語のブログ)Basically, my students being awesome, as always!

My sister and I went to Los Alamitos High School, one of the 3 schools my students visited. This was one of the classes that my students gave their presentations in. It was Japanese class. Had I known how frustrating it is to live almost 2 years in a country without a good command of the language, I'd have studied it in high school. Oh wait, I attended a tiny Catholic school without certified teachers. I barely learned Spanish. I wish I could have gone to a super school such as this one. I had Koko envy.

All the students had an American buddy to show them around the premises. Somehow, I got them to collect to take a massive picture. I don't remember kids listening to teacher figures, but somehow, it still happens.

My sister loved my students.

I love my students, too. Here we are on a Main St. ice cream shop in Disneyland.

And here we are again waiting just off of the Finding Nemo submarine ride.

A class photo of 23 homeroom.

Nemo, found.

It was so cool watching the kids give the presentations they've been work working on for months. I was like a proud mamma bird.

And the American kids loved the shit out of it. It gave me a newfound respect for kids these days. Go babies!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dearest Aunt Esther and Cousin Becky, and the rest of the family....

As you all know, I visited California in late November while accompanying my students on their school trip to America. I was only home for a week, and I got alot accomplished during such a short amount of time. However, I was disappointed that I hadn't a chance to meet with you guys like we had planned. It was nice talking on the phone, and our conversation made me feel all warm and happy inside.

I thought I might share some pictures of the family that I took during the welcome home Thanksgiving-esque barbecue that my Mom threw for my welcome home. It was wonderful to see my family and close friends, and I wish all of you the Merriest of Christmas's this year. I wish I could be there!

It is always such a good time to catch up with everybody at Jessie and Debbie's house. I'll especially miss hugging all the babies and seeing how old they make me feel. It is a real slap in the face when the kids you used to sneak beers with out of the ice cooler suddenly show up at the door with a car seat instead of a 12 pack:)
Please send me pictures of this year's Christmas, as I'll will send you mine of my debaucherous adventures in Thailand.

Had I to do over again, I'd have waited till the holidays to visit home so that I could be with you all. Let me walk you through the new developments of the family.

Here is my dad, Cynthia and Alex posing in front of the football game that all the men seemed to be hovering around. I'm not sure what was so important about this game, but it inspired quite a few shots of tequila which I didn't partake in. I don't believe in football.

I know, huh?

It was great seeing Ricky and Rayna. She looks older and more Jack-like everytime I see her. Joking aside, they were great companions and totally made my week due to their halarious tomfoolery and silly ways. They are quite a bunch of sillypants. By the way, her jacket reads "I'm not handicap, I'm just lazy". I tried to steal it, as I am also not handicapped, but lazy.....however, she pulled it out of my suitcase when I wasn't looking. She also stole my cool new white sunglasses. Punk.

I was quite happy to see that Rayna has been continuing to play the drumset that I left her, as well as happy that Ricky brought his guitar to the party. It is always great fun when we have our little jam sessions. This one was especially funny because of the newest Siguenza hit "Foot Fetish", where Ricky ad-libbed a hilarious ditty about how the reason that Rayna's boyfriend broke up with her was due to her freakish foot fetish. This is not completely fictional, as she constantly asks us if we would like a foot massage. I blame this creepy affliction on my mother, who makes poor Rayna massage her feet everyday.

This photo is one of my favorites because it includes some of my best friends in the world, Janine and Kenny. You have probably met them at other important occasions such as my Japan going away party, college and high school graduation, or any other family party that we have had. They now have a young son named Mikey who is quite the cutey pie. He also makes me feel old. I'm not sure if you have met Ricky's girlfriend, Stephanie, but she is the blond girl that Ricky has his arm around. The blondest child is named Christopher and he is Stephanie's son, and soon to be Ricky's kid.

I went to Disneyland for the first time in about 10 years. Here I am posing with Mikey, Kenny and Janine's son.

At Disneyland, Alex and I rode Autopia.

On my last night in California, Ricky and Stephanie came back to the house and she dyed my hair. During this time, I got a chance to speak to her more, and I came to like her very much. Stephanie is a very nice girl, and I think they are a cute couple. Perhaps you know by now, but she's pregnant.
Yes folks, my little brother is going to be a daddy soon. During the time I spent with them, I have seen Ricky take a father's role with her son, Chris. He is very playful and joking with him, but does seem to have the iron fist of discipline that can be compared with my mother. Seeing this, I have already started my very own campaign of spoiling the kid rotten. If there's one thing I know, it is that one Toni Jr. is enough, and I think they ought to have a Grandma Esther influence of pure indulgence close by their side. That's gonna be me.

Here is Chris already loving me after only a week of my attempts at friendship. I seriously cannot wait to spoil this little boy, along with the baby coming soon. Do you like how Stephanie cut and dyed my hair?

At Disneyland, I was too cheap to buy the Splash Mountain photo, however I did take a photo of a photo. This is us. It was a very good time.

Here is a photo of MammaBear in the haystack scene of her new job. She took me around and introduced me to all of her coworkers. I was touched at how she seemed so proud to pass me around and introduce her "daughter who teaches in Japan". Despite their nonchalance at my presence, I did understand her love for her job once she introduced me to her boss. This lady was a very intelligent individual who surpassed my expectations of anybody working in social services in LA. She complimented my mother's diligence in her work, and encouraged her to get back into school and become a manager like her. I liked her boss, and I'm glad my mom is happy with her job. Toni is always happy in her job as long as she is being appreciated. Even if it has crazy long hours, shitty benefits, and bad parking, she will go to work every morning with a smile on her face as long as she feels that she is doing a good job.

At these times, I like to be compared to my mother. Another beautiful quality that she has is her willingness to do silly things to make someone (namely her children) happy. What I mean by this, is that when I jokingly asked her to sit in this Thanksgiving scene and pretend to eat the corn while petting the sheep....she did it without an ounce of embarrassment. I love my Mommy.

And this brings me to my friends and brother, Alex, pictured here on Main St shortly before closing time at Disneyland. My loved ones are a great crowd, and share that quality of my Mother's. Which is to do whatever makes them laugh, be happy, and entertain their friends...even if it is dancing in front of a large group of people at Disneyland for the sheer sport of photo-taking.

Auntie, Becky....I love my family and friends, and I hope you enjoyed the update.
Miss you lots,


If you would like to see more pictures from my trip with family and friends, please visit the facebook link:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Trees and such things........

There comes a point when you find that adult life doesn't stretch much farther than childhood. Playing NES as a child, you might remember games such as the Legend of Zelda that spanned for hours, days, and (terribly enough) weeks on end. Before the existence of memory cards, there were codes that would become unlocked once you successfully completed the next stage. I remember the times that either my brother or I would shout across the house in an excited frenzy when one of us would succeed in completing a level, gaining a weapon, or unlocking a new territory. Notebooks were filled with countless lines of 8 digit letter/number scribbles.

Today, I ate at the popular, yet not-all-that authentic American food chain, El Torito in the maniacal shopping district of Shinjuku, Tokyo. This was the last meal, last beer, last duration of quality time I was to spend with my good friend, Leonie, in Japan. For she has boarded her plane back to New Zealand with no immediate intentions on coming back to visit. Of course, I will surely plan a trip to that crazy sheepy country before traveling back to America, and in return, she plans on joining me on a cross-country trip across the United States. However, today's lunch was quite sad.

We shared an appetizer order of guacamole and chips, which of course had me criticizing the Japanese for their inability to authentically copy a realistic rendition of another country's cuisine.

On my journey back through an unfamiliar train route home (Shinjuku-Kozu-Odawara-Atami-Shimada), I thought about how my video game brain had unlocked the Avocado.
During my 7th summer on this earth, or what I might call my Avocado year, I shared a bunkbed with my 5 year old brother. We lived with my father, his wife and new child in a 2 bedroom house with a large avocado tree in the backyard. The warm weather of the Southern California city of Alhambra provided the perfect environment for a thriving avocado tree.

This tree was perfect for children to climb upon, due to its 3 foot, T-shaped stump that sprouted large 45 degree angle branches that led a path up onto the roof. I was significantly better at climbing trees than my brother, due to my stronger arms and unrelenting fearlessness of danger. He had quickly become prohibited to climb the tree soon after the time that my father had to pull the truck into the backyard in order to pluck him from a dangerous branch. We ate quacamole with every meal.

Summer was the pinnacle of the time we spent in that house because of the fact that we were left alone to play until my father and his wife returned home from work. We soon discovered another gang of kids, a bit older than us who lived down the next street. Isaac and Aaron were brothers, and Paul was their Chinese neighbor.

Isaac, Aaron, Paul, Ricky and I would meet with our bikes at the tree every morning at 10am. Every day would sprout a new adventure of riding our bikes down into the sewers, playing Avocado-tree freeze tag up in the branches, listening to scary tapes inside of Aaron's dad's tool shed, or playing games of truth or dare in our adult-free living room.

I recall that despite being the 3rd oldest, which in childhood means you are at the allegiance of superior's orders, I was the leader and plan-maker of each day's activities.

Upon unlocking the Avocado memories, I remembered the 5 of us eating the plums we had stolen from the witch's garden who lived across the street. She was a mean old woman who constantly complained about keeping our little kid feet off of her front lawn.

Isaac had climbed the fence, and filled the shopping bag full of the sweet, ripened fruit as we watched from the toppermost branch of the avocado tree. He ran back excitedly, carrying the accomplishment from his arm, joining us on the roof.

It was at this time, with the plum boneyard connecting us all, that I told them that we must celebrate this occasion. And it was there, above the cars, housewives and caged-in pets of the immediate suburbs, that all of us took turns kissing each other. In the age of innocence, nothing about this seemed wrong at all.

Monday, December 10, 2007


For some, it is waking up in the tank
For others, it is beating the shit out of their toddler
For me, it was finding The Genius of the Crowd
hugging the bookmark I made for him in second grade.
The bookcase was amess with reasons.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


After a particularly unfortunate night in late October, I woke up without my wallet. I returned to the city of Susono a couple weeks later to check with the police to find if any progress had been made in locating my belongings. Despite the shockingly honest nature of Japan's people, my wallet had not been returned, however a few its contents were scattered underneath a tree and reported to be waiting for me at the local Koban.

When I arrived, there was some confusion in exactly which police box held my account cards. I was mildly disappointed, however I soon became distracted by an interesting discovery. On the walk home, my friend and I discovered this beautiful area tucked away behind a grassy field beneath an old wooden swingset.

The single detail that caught my attention was the striking similarity of the playset to the one that my brother had fallen from when we were kids. That trip to the Alhambra park had eventually led us to the emergency room, where my brother had to get yet another set of stitches in his head, also leaving us to never visit that park again, which wouldn't you guess, was one of my favorites. Due to this connection, I was facinated by that jungle gym, and began to walk toward it.

My friend commented on the Japanese father and son bonding in the parking lot over a set of training wheels. It was right before she commented on how one of her adult-aged students referred to his weekends with his family as "sabisu (service) hours", which troubled her enough to correct him on his English, telling him those words aren't a very nice way of describing weekend family time. I just gave a nod of understanding while shortly pondering on how japanglish really does reflect the interesting phenomena of cultural differences.

Watching the man with his son did make me smile in remembrance of how my father used to put in his service hours at the park. I sometimes forget how my Dad actually did try to make up for his absence. How could I make any complaints when my own memory of riding alone on two wheels was when he let go of my pink banana seat and I tumbled into a bush only to get my first and only bee sting.

Not long after we entered we heard the sound of rushing water. This is what we found.

The wind was wild that day, and because it was becoming autumn, the leaves were flying playfully to their doom. As picturesque and natural as it may seem, it was doom nonetheless. The environment was astounding, and my tuna-mayonaise onigiri tasted quite good despite it being washed down with a convenience store-bought Starbucks latte. I'd probably bet a Jackson that none of my sweetie pies from America have ever indulged in this culinary combination. It may seem most disgusting, however, on that day, on that beautifully leavey and windy was perfect. Perfect.

After finishing my lunch, my friend and I separated. I wanted to explore the waterfall because for some unexplainable reason, I am ridiculously attracted to waterfalls. For some reason, it is the body of water that most excites me. I feel both scared and calm when i come near one. I love the feeling of the mist on my face, the beads that form on my clothes, and the puddles that form beneath my feet. I become respectful of the loud, pulsing noise that strangles my eardrums and starts in on my heart. I like to climb on slimy rocks and breathe the greenish smell of truant moss. Waterfalls are my favorite.

Once I grew bored of being alone, I went off to find my friend. She had taken a photo of me by the waterfall, then vanished into the trees. I climbed up the stoney staircase to find the source of the silencable falls.

Once I caught up to her, I found her taking photos of a strange dirt building. There, about a couple meters away from the pre-fall pond was a dirt-walled shed that stood beside a quiet temple. This shed was surrounded by abandoned, rusted farming equipment that gave the impression that eventually all things are forgotten.

The walls were made of rope and mud insulation. I suppose that the elements have had their way with stucture.

Unlike most things, once we began to look closer, the place grew more interesting and unexplainable. The only two openings to the shed was a sealed door with a small window and this small boarded window, that left but a crack to peer into.

After wiping the dust from the glass, I could see inside. It appeared to be a study that had a small desk in the corner and one of those hot pot inside-the-floor-things that I ate shabu shabu from amongst strangers last Christmas-time in Takayama. A fire is built in a hole in the ground inside the living room, and everybody sits beside it to cook and keep warm. It was difficult to tell how long this room had gone without any visitors. Though it appeared well-swept, with no spiderwebs lurking in the rafters, which, believe me, is unusual due to the overabundance of spiders during the autumn season. The room kept to its mysterious self.

I took photos of the serious statues, stepping my gaijin feet all over the graveyard. I made annoying sounds with my voice in the form of talking to my friend. If the gods grew angry, they might punish me for the many wrongs I have made in this world. My dubious soul is staunch, expecting and incredibly American. Still remaining, and unpunished.