Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bummer Summer 2014

Today the boys and I decided to call this, "Bummer Summer 2014." I see your pictures of fireworks, pool parties and barbecues and raise you a broken arm, typhoon, health problems, personal crises and overall suck. And the kicker?  I lost my Subway punch card. 


Trying to write when so much is going on is a little like trying to compose a postcard from a terrible vacation. I could lie, I could depress everyone or I could just not send one. OR I could tell the truth but do so in such a sarcastic way that no one can tell if I'm being serious. Yes, that feels right.  See, because if you've ever been through heavy shit then you probably possess the good humor that comes with knowing that it'll pass. You made it through that, you can make it through this and you'll make it through whatever else gets thrown at you.   So settle down, take a deep breath and trust in the fact that this isn't the end of the world. It might just be the beginning. 

*Also if you have an extra Subway punch card please hit me up. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Forgotten Spaces

I passed this hotel months ago and finally visited it this weekend. It's on the other side of the island and sits high on a cliff overlooking the sea, gaping black holes exposing its ruin. A few tattered curtains still hang in the windows, though there is no glass and most hardware is long gone.  It is eerily quiet and nature has begin the reclamation process, obscuring the entire first floor from view. I walked up crumbling stairs with no guardrails until I got dizzy and nauseous and had to retreat. I wandered in and out of empty rooms covered in garish graffiti and littered with broken beer bottles and debris. Birds nested in hot tubs and mice made homes in marble columns. It was very surreal, but hauntingly beautiful.   If you're in Okinawa you can find a list of abandoned (some rumored to be haunted) places here.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tokyo | Disneyland

I'm not sure what to say about Tokyo Disneyland. I can't speak for all Disneylands (there are five worldwide), but I've been to the one in California and I'd say Tokyo is its fraternal twin. A few subtle differences noticeable to those who are looking, but for the rest of us it's basically the same park in a different country. It was impressive, even breathtaking (especially DisneySea), but like most theme parks it had long lines that put a damper on the excitement. 
"Do you guys wanna ride the Tower of TERROR??! Because in two hours we'll be at the front of the line!!" 

*Hey. You. Can you tell I'm tired of writing about Tokyo? Sorry, dude. If you love Disney, you'll love Disneyland, no matter what country it's in. The happiest place on earth and all that. Got specific questions about traveling to Tokyo? Email me and I'll be happy to help!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tokyo | Weird & Random

- Eyepatches -

We started noticing a lot of Japanese girls wearing eyepatches and face bandages in Tokyo. After Googling it we discovered that it's sort of a trend.  A weird, gross trend. (No, not worming. Google that anyway though. For fun.)
According to Matthew Stone of
"This increasingly popular style is known as kegadoru(????????????), which roughly translates as 'injured idols.' The look popularizes women who wear cute, frilly Lolita-style dresses, and then accessorize with bandages and eye patches. According to a young woman interviewed by Weekly Playboy:
"When you're covered in bandages, everybody pays attention to you and worries about you. They also provide a chance to start talking to guys, who'll ask you how you hurt yourself, so the bandages are really, really good. One guy told me he likes seeing a thin woman's body wrapped in bandages because it made him think about bondage, and made him want to protect me from harm."
- Your Own Personal Deep Fryer -
Also in Tokyo was the most glorious creation in all the land. A restaurant with a personal deep-fryer built into every table. You pick whatever meat/eggrolls/veggies/fish you want (it's all you can eat, yo), then dip them in breading and fry 'em. I don't really have words to describe the ecstasy that was having my own fryer, unlimited food and a table full of sauces, desserts and dips.  It was...spiritual.
- Louis Vuitton and Poor People -
If you aren't rich, don't go into Louis Vuitton. You will get Pretty Womaned, without the cool part where you get a sugar daddy and go back just to rub your pseudo-wealth in their faces. 

-Manga Porn -

It's everywhere.  You might not notice it right away because most people reading in public use book covers, but if you unabashedly stare at strangers like I do, you'll spot it. You will turn your nose up at this sordid behavior, but chances are you will find yourself looking over their shoulders because it's weirdly fascinating and grotesque.

- The Subway -

My first experience on the Tokyo subway system was overwhelming. I have never lived in a big city, crowds give me anxiety and I don't read kanji or speak anything beyond basic conversational Japanese, yet my dumb, over-eager American mind expected the subway to be a breeze. 

Standing in the station I stared at the subway map, willing my brain to suddenly understand kanji, when I heard a soft voice ask, "Do you need help?" There stood a small Japanese woman around my age who would turn out to be my own personal subway angel. She took my arm and walked me through the ticket machine, told me where to go and even let us tag along with her on the subway. She asked me where I was from and introduced me to her boyfriend. After she got off at her stop I kicked myself for not getting her name.

Late that night as I left the convenience store by our hotel I heard that soft voice again as she called out, "Michele-san!" We laughed at the chance meeting and as she turned to leave I remembered to ask her name. Maki. My first friend in Tokyo.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tokyo | Shibuya

One of the sights I really wanted to see in Tokyo was the Shibuya crossing. It's a huge intersection that's often referred to as Tokyo's Times Square. It's been featured in several movies, most notably Lost in Translation.   There are seemingly endless side streets leading to more shops, bars and restaurants.  Although it seemed overwhelming to walk out of the subway station into the chaos, once you get out of the intersection and into the city, it begins to feel smaller and more intimate.

(Neck Face, Nokier and ERAS are all fairly well-known graffiti artists from the US.) 

At one point after hours of walking I found myself watching a disco ball spin in a small, dimly lit bar tucked into the bottom corner of an apartment building. There were maybe four other people there and it possessed the unmistakable air of abandonment, but it was cool and quiet and offered a respite from the crowds. I watched that disco ball for a while, thinking about how I seem to associate them with sad spaces. When I was a kid I had a friend who had about the hardest life I'd seen, bouncing from one bad situation into another. I went to her house once, before she was placed into foster care and disappeared from my life, and there in her room was a mini-disco ball, casting prismatic lights onto her ceiling.  It felt...wrong somehow. And here, in this little forgotten place, it felt wrong too.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Tokyo | Prologue

Following the pattern of most new experiences in life, my time in Tokyo was fleeting and not at all how I imagined it would be.  I've found that my imagination usually trumps reality, providing the smoke and mirrors necessary to make the ordinary something magical. As a result it's a rare thing when waking life measures up to what's in my idealistic dream-mind. In there I never have to hold my pee for an hour on the subway or walk a mile with blood dripping between my toes because I wore the wrong shoes. My kids never whine about being hungry or beg to go to the gift shop five million times and I never get overwhelmed by the mass of people surrounding me, all frantically scrambling to get somewhere else.  

 Tokyo was beautiful, big and pulsating with life. It was neon lights, buses blasting Japanese pop, horns honking, blisters and sore feet. It was feeling very small, a little lost and eternally grateful each time I returned to my cold, quiet hotel room.  It was Aidin burying his face into my hair on every ride at Disneyland while repeating the mantra, "I don't like this, I don't like this." It was eating and shopping and bright lights beckoning me to buy buy buy! It was saying "cheese" and posing in front of places and then on to the next one. 

*It's not just any dank alley, it's a dank alley in T O K Y O !!!

In a word, Tokyo was overwhelming. I'm still sorting out my thoughts and going through photographs  and I'll share more throughout the week. Topics will include:
Is a table with a personal deep-fryer a real thing? (Yes.)
Why are all these Japanese girls wearing eyepatches?  (It's a weird one. Stay tuned.)
Can salespeople at Louis Vuitton sense poor people? (Yes. And with one sniff of the air around you they can tell how much you have in savings. Don't bother.)
Is the guy next to you on the subway looking at manga porn? (No. Just kidding, yes.)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sticks and Stones

 Aidin falls a little bit in love with every female teacher he has.  He's always looked forward to school because of his amazing educators, each as eager to teach as he is to learn. He adores them for their intelligence, patience and willingness to answer his many, many questions. Thus, the end of the school year always ushers in a period of mourning during which he comes to terms with the fact that he'll likely never see them again. 

Today we completed the bittersweet task of crafting a parting gift for Ms. M.  Aidin wanted to give her something meaningful, so we delved into his extensive shell/rock collection and came up with this: 

(Driftwood, embroidery floss and shells, most with natural holes in them to accommodate tying.)

And Ms. M, if you're reading this, thanks for being so wonderful to my son. Thanks for talking to him about rocks and plants and books. Thanks for letting him text you pictures of his cats and responding with enthusiasm and genuine interest (or really, really convincing feigned interest...either way). Thanks for being the reason he never felt lonely at school and always came home safe and happy.
For all this and much more, we think you are wonderful.