Life with Subtitles

~ Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Last night Barry and I stopped in front of a convenience store downtown to chat with our friend Adam, who we kept running into. So, as we were talking I was people watching. First, a young guy wearing a three-piece, nicely taylored suit rode by on his bicycle. That wasn't strange, I see salarymen all the time riding around on bikes. However his headgear was a tad out of place--he was wearing a hand-towel on his head! At first I thought it was just a funny hat, but after he rode by I could see where he had knotted it in the back.

The next weird thing we saw was a ubiquitous, middleaged salaryman buying pantyhose. Convenience stores here are about the best thing ever. They have everything from sushi and 120 kinds of drinks (no joke) to hair gel and pantyhose. So, this guy was looking through the hose. He finally goes up to ask the woman working the register a question. So, they stood there for 5 minutes considering several pairs before he bought one. So, our converstaion then was puzzling out who they were for. Barry didn't trust a Japanese man to do anything as liberated as pick up a pair of pantyhose on the way home for his wife. He said, "Let me put it this way, would you trust me to buy you a pair of pantyhose?" I told him I would, but I would most likely tell him exactly what I wanted. "Well, then you wouldn't need to ask for help would you?" -Point! But, we also decided if they were for the guy, then he also would know what he is looking for and wouldn't need assistance. I decided they must have been for his mistress at the hostess bar.
Today, I saw that our school made the papers for yesterday's lesson in bicycle safety. Now aren't you impressed!
~ Monday, September 29, 2003
This morning I came to school and found a strange sight and intriguing sound. First as I rounded the corner toward my school, lovely Nagara Kokou, I heard these tinkling sounds. First I thought it was windchimes. When I got inside the gates of my school, I thought it sounded like someone playing random notes on a xylophone in the music room of the junior high right next door. Then when I actually looked over I noticed, it wasn't that at all. It was a group of about 5 men in yellow safety vests and matching baseball hats, accompanied by the home-ec teacher. They were were doing a safety check. Part of which was to test the bells of all the 800 or so bicycles that my students ride to school everyday. It made a strange and delightful sort of accidental symphony.
~ Friday, September 26, 2003
Last night I went out with my new friend Aiko. She lived in Australia for a year and speaks wonderful English. She is also a really interesting person. She went to art school and she studied how to make these traditional Japanese paintings that are made like Navajo sandpaintings, but from ground up colored stones. She works at the local history museum and likes to talk about art, traveling, books, and movies.

We had a great time talking about our lives before now, including a funny chat about our first loves and Kindergarten boyfriends. (We got hushed in the tiny little restaurant we were in for giggling too much.) We talked about traveling and where we want to go next, live next, see next.

It's been hard for me here to meet people I feel like I have much to talk about with. There are lots of people that I love, but very few people that I would consider kindred spirits. I feel like I am often struggling to keep my head above conversational water. But, I don't feel like that at all with Aiko. I feel relaxed and free. The conversation just goes on it's own and then spills over into something new and fantastic to discover. It's always wonderful to find a new friend, to feel that excitement of getting to know someone, where they have been and where they are going.
The last week or two I have been having the craziest dreams! The kind of dreams that are so unsettling and bizarre that you wake up feeling like you haven't slept a wink. So here are my dreams in order of appearance in their incomprehensible narrative:

1.) Tea made from kittens. Small grey tabby kittens freeze-dried and sealed in plastic, so they stay fresh. So when you look at the package you can see the profile of the kitten, the whole body. I had to drink the flavorless kitten tea because it was a specialty of the region. If I didn't drink it, I would insult my host. However another local informed me they never drank the stuff, it was disgusting to kill kittens for tea.

2.) In my dream, I put on and wore a Noh mask of a woman's face. Wooden, lacquered white, with kohl trimmed eyes and blood red lips. That was actually a beautiful dream, but the mask was helping me to hide, which made me feel upset in the dream.

3.) I dreamed that my brother, Andrew, had AIDS. Very scary dream!

4.) I dreamed that one day this baby showed up. I didn't actually have the baby, it just appeared. Barry somehow thought it would be a great idea to name it Homer, after The Simpsons. But, I didn't know what to do with Baby Homer. I didn't know what to feed him and was trying to feed him all sorts of strange things, like pizza. He was not so healthy after trying to feed him potato chips, so I decided to breastfeed him. It was a disaster because he was like a little vacuum. It was really painful. Then Barry left us and I saw him a few years later at a folk music, hippy fest somewhere with his gay lover. They had matching dreadlocks as a show of their love.

5.) I dreamed that we were in lobby of a Japanese hotel with ratty carpeting and decor that was dusty and outdated but nice. In the lobby was a giant fountain. In the giant fountain was a life-size plush animitronic alligator. When people would walk up to the fountain it would trigger some kind of switch and the alligator would go charging down this ramp into the water and make a splash. However, unlike Disneyland, you could see the alligator go back into position, which was pretty humorous to watch.

6.) Another sad dream. My friend Angela was standing outside a funeral home. A friend of ours had gotten run over by a car walking along the side of the highway.

7.) A nudist moved into my VERY white-picket-fence suburban neighborhood. At first it was shocking when he'd be out mowing the lawn or whatever, but later everyone got used to it. In one part of my dream, he was out washing his car naked and a few neighbors had joined him. The humorous and unsettling detail of this dream is that he was tan, except for a blindingly white butt.

8.) A chameleon giant bumpy shrimp/lobster creature that at that particular moment was paisley. --Also, in suburbia.

9.) My last freaky dream from the other night was seeing one of the neighborhood alley cats dressed in a plaid mustard tweed suit, complete with matching waist coat with brass buttons. No bowler hat, but that would have been great.
~ Thursday, September 25, 2003
This week is Banned Books Week. I was looking through the site and read through the list of banned or challenged books. As an English teacher, it was a little surprising but not shocking to see the canon of young adult literature listed there. The reason they are taught is that they make kids think!

The reasons are sometimes understandable where parents might be concerned that the values or issues and values in the books conflict with the perceptions and values of their own family. But, some of the complaints just make no sense. Like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry-- a book about the experiences of a family African-American kids growing up in the South and their experiences with racism-- being called racist.

It is still quite strange to see Harry Potter there on the list. I remember when I went back to the US for a visit after the first movie had come out . I was flipping through the 502 cable channels, which gave me the choices at lunch time of the fascinating documentary on Animal Planet about pugs and the fundamentalist Christian Channel arguing over the evils of Harry Potter. After living in such a secular place like Japan. I was even more shocked. I watched them debate for a few minutes about the conversion of their children into witches and Satan worshipers before flipping back to watch pudgy dogs trot around and drool. I thought the dogs seemed much more intelligent and engaging.
~ Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Right now I am reading the most fabulous book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It won the Pulitzer Prize and a host of other prizes. Which usually means that the book is dry, scholastic, and generally way to arty for its own good. But, this book is not any of those things. It has great characters, an interesting plot, as well as history on everything from WWII to the origins of comic books to the quirky personalities found in art history. (For example Dali in his diving get-up at a cocktail party.)

Michael Chabon is a genius. (BTW, I rarely use this word.) The kind of writer that strikes you with his description in such a way that you sometimes just stop to soak up the image. Roll it over in your mind. Sometimes they are so vivid, I would just like to devour them.

I am not even finished with this book yet and I am already sure that it's going to be up there in the top 10 of my alltime favorite books list. I love this book so much I feel like shouting out to everyone to read Kavalier and Clay. So, here you go..."READ THIS BOOK!" *PHEW* I feel much better.

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