Thursday, June 28, 2012

I'm Twice the Man I Used to Be

I'm more than a gaijin, so much more.

When I came to Japan, I was just shy of 6ft tall, fit and 180lbs.  One of my first students, a doctor, said he was concerned, because I was "fat".  Then, what with the different foods, and the fact that we tended to drink our dinners (beer and whiskey vending machines on every corner, remember?), I dropped 10lbs in the first 3 months.  My student the doctor said he was worried about me, I was too thin.  Can't friggin' win with this guy...

Boy, if he could see me now...

That is to say, I'm fat.  I used to be built like William Shatner in the original "Star Trek"; now I'm built like William Shatner in "Boston Legal".  I super-sized myself.  Sumo, minus the muscle...  I'm still just shy of 6' tall, though.

No excuses.  I've been lazy, haven't eaten well (or have eaten too well).  My wife popped out 4 kids and lost the baby weight every time.  I didn't.  Gotta tell you, I would have gladly tried breastfeeding if it would have helped.

Other than the obvious health and aesthetic issues of being overweight, you'd be surprised at some of the things that arise.  I said arise, not rise, Dirty Mind, and not that thing, either, thank you very much.

1)  Good fucking luck finding clothes.  I had real problems finding XXL shirts and jackets before (4L in Japanese size).  Now?  Forget it!

2)  I've known some really good doctors here.  My wife's father was the best doctor I've ever known (not trying to stay out of the doghouse here, he really was).  But I went to this quack nearby after her father retired, suffering from breathing problems while we were renovating the kids' rooms, and he ignored everything I said and dismissed me with a quick "It's because you're fat".  Two weeks later we finished the renovations, and even as I painted the walls my breathing went back to normal.  Turns out I've developed a severe allergy to the cedar wood used in my home's frame, and was having an extreme asthma attack.

3)  My doctor now is helping me try to lose some major weight, and keeps saying "Stop eating hamburgers.  Eat Japanese." I want to scream, "How do you think I got this way?  Eating Japanese!"  I must be Jeffrey friggin' Dahmer, I've eaten so many Japanese.  What is this, the Donner Diet?

Oh...   so much Japanese...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name...

is just a flower.

So, what's your name?  You do remember it, right?  Got it?  Are you sure?

OK, now just chuck it out the window.  Names are not so important here, titles are.  When you address people face-to-face, you often use a title which expresses your relationship to that person.  Doctor, Nurse, Teacher, Customer, Professor, even Supervisor, Area Manager and Company President.  Could you imagine what some IBM blue suit would do if you just said, "Good morning, Company President."?.

I used to get offended when students didn't use my name:  "Hey, Teacher. Good morning!".  Then I opened my eyes and ears and realized that Japanese teachers were addressed in the same way.  "Sensei" is used for doctors, professors, crazy karate instructors in the States, et al.  Unless they have a reason to know your name, you will be called "Kyaku-san" at shops.  Hell, even freshly-arrested folk have "the Accused" tacked on after their surname, and convicted criminals have a different suffix.

My kids call me 'Daddy'.  So do all the neighborhood kids.  And most of their moms, too.  Makes me wish I had had my kids call me "Daddy-O".  Then the whole neighborhood would sound like a bunch of beatniks:

"Good morning, Daddy-O!"


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dealing with Disappointment

Boy, talk about disappointing.

I love typhoons!  Strange, maybe, but there you have it.  I like the high winds, the powerful rain, the occasional thunder and lightning.

Here in Kansai, the weather is usually really gentle.  I'm talking bo-o-o-ring.  When it rains, the clouds just kind of condense evenly out of the sky, then a mild mist comes down, followed by a gentle rain.  No towering black cumulonimbus clouds, no sheets of rain rolling across the landscape until they slash across your house, no Zeus-is-pissed-at-you lightning storms like in Tom Cruise's "War of the Worlds".  Just a gentle piss out of the slate grey mist (I'm always afraid I'm gonna come out of the store and find myself in Steven King's "The Mist").

Typhoon 4 hit us yesterday, with weather maps showing the eye expected to run over us.  I was bouncing around, excited, looking forward to the extreme winds.  When we got up in the morning, there were already weather warnings (heavy rain, flooding, mudslides) in effect, then my kids' schools were cancelled.  We were afraid the trains would be halted, so I told my oldest not to go to classes at her college.  Then a high-wind warning was issued, so college classes were shut down, too.  I had to cancel all my classes as well.

Yea, yea!  I can't wait!

The storm turned.  It hung a right and headed off to Tokyo instead (everyone always wants to go to Tokyo...).  Talk about disappointing:  no strong winds, the strongest rain was when I got up.  Nothing exciting, just wet.

"Here I sit all broken-hearted.  Paid my dime and only f....."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

AudreyII "Hey, Seymour. Feed me!"

So, I just came in from doing a little gardening.

Sounds relaxing, right?  Phhppt!  My idea of relaxing is an ice cold beer and a plate of nachos, while sitting on the deck watching you garden.  Let's relax together, shall we...

Anyways, in case I haven't mentioned it recently, I'm a mountain boy.  A Colorado mountain boy, which means I come from a really bumpy desert with trees.  My idea of gardening was to sit outside on the deck and listen to the wind pass through the trees.  Damn trees didn't need my help (unless the pine beetle moved in), weeds didn't grow.  Just yucca.  If the pine beetle did move in, and they came in hard one year, my older brother was really good about taking care of the beetle-kill trees (of course, the Hayman fire put paid to that).  Either he was very responsible, or he just liked the loud sounds of a chainsaw and yelling "Timber!"

But here, the weeds are on steroids.  I tried to grow a lawn, but I've given that up as a bad job.  My kids liked to play with seeds when they were younger, and they brought home all kinds of weed seeds and dumped most of them in the yard.  And these f---ers can really grow!  I did one section of my yard 2 weeks ago, then got busy with my school.  Looked out there this morning, and I'll be damned if there weren't some 3-ft tall weeds there again!

And 3-ft seems to be the magic number.  When I trim my trees every fall, they've grown about 3 ft.  Skip a year, and the branches I lop off are taller than I am.

So far this spring, I've filled 16 garbage bags with weeds, and I still haven't done under the trees.  So I've decided to try a Japanese rock garden instead.  Who cares if it gets really hot in summer.  At least the rocks don't grow!