Seriously, I mean it. Right now, things just couldn’t be better for me. Consider everything I’ve got going for me, right at this moment, and you’ll find you simply have to agree. Just please don’t get angry or jealous; I’ve worked hard to get where I am.
It’s late in the evening here in Japan; I’m sitting at my kitchen table in sweats, sipping tea and chewing on semi-dried persimmon. The wife and kid are asleep – I can hear my wife snoring – so I’ve got the whole rest of the night all to myself. Not bad, huh? As long as I keep quiet as I tap away on my keyboard; noise can really carry in a 500 square foot apartment.
Right now most people on the east coast over in the US are sitting at the breakfast table, whacking down huge plates of eggs and bacon and pancakes and French toast. Good stuff, for sure. And yeah, I suppose I crave such a morning feast every now and again. But with my wife reheating last night’s sautéed vegetables on the right burner that only leaves the left one for me, meaning I can only make one thing – which of course saves me from the time-consuming task of firing up a proper Sunday brunch, and then having to wash all those dishes afterwards. Plus with the six inches of available counter space the sheer logistics of whipping up a batch of pancakes makes me give up and reach for the muesli, saving me even more time, on both ends. Which works out great. I’m a busy guy, after all. No time for Mrs. Butterworth when the book I’ve been working on for three years is so close to being done again.
Well it’s Super Bowl weekend in the US; seems like just yesterday I was home for Christmas, stretched out on my mom’s couch watching the regular season winding down. Which was great, of course, don’t get me wrong, but I’d be doing it all over again this weekend if I were back stateside. My entire weekend would be taken up by a football game that means absolutely zero to me, along with all the friends and beer and cholesterol-packed food that would come with it. Lucky for me I am here in northern Japan, our love seat perfect for keeping me from lazing around and taking naps in front of TV shows about fried shrimp over rice. No wasted weekend for me, firmly planted comfortably for an 18-hour pre-game show, beer and chips all over the place. I’ve got familial duties to tend to, I’ve got to be ready to take the reins and keep my son from falling down the stairs whenever my pregnant wife goes down in an emotional firestorm and has to disappear for an hour or two. Plus my son, at two-and-a-half, has perfected the art of standing up for himself, clinging like box tape to his silly little childish beliefs. So even if we got the pre-game hype here my son would let me know that doing the crow family’s bread shop puzzle for the four hundredth time would be infinitely more interesting than watching four former linemen in neckties grunt and roar and high-five each other over twenty-two hulking millionaires in tight pants. Strong-willed family I’ve got; keeps me razor-sharp and on my toes.
Now the time difference between Japan and the east coast is such that the Super Bowl would come on here at about 8:30am on Monday. This means catching the first half while the wife tries to get our boy dressed and fed and re-dressed in clean clothes again and out the door in time for pre-school at 10:00 would be tougher than getting through a bowl of muesli without my boy demanding half because he doesn’t want to eat sautéed vegetables for breakfast. Fortunately the game isn’t being broadcast here, not on regular TV anyway. It will be on cable, but we don’t subscribe since we can’t fit a full-size couch in our living room. Plus we just don’t have the time. We’ve got old baby clothes to dig out of our closets, we can’t spend precious minutes catching glimpses of quality movies and major sporting events. Besides, if I do end up with a bit of time tomorrow morning I think there’s one of those samurai shows on. Who needs Peyton Manning?
My work situation is perfect too. Freelancing means freedom, so I don’t have to accept any jobs that would require the use of my wife’s car. All my assignments are within biking distance, except for the one over in Hobara but my boss gives me a ride back and forth every week so that’s a sweet deal. And since I do get around on two wheels my boss cuts me some slack and doesn’t make me dress up in a shirt and tie when I teach. I can haul ass through the streets and show up as I am, most of the time either sweaty or sneezing or both but hey, no dry-cleaning bills for this English teacher! Rain or snow can make things pretty interesting too but hey, variety is the spice of life, right? Who wants to show up to work every day the same old fresh and dry person? My students get a good deal of enjoyment out of it all too, though they’re generally too shy to say much.
Speaking of snow, we’ve been getting quite a bit here in Fukushima. This week has been the chilliest of the season too, so there’s even more variety piled onto my already spicy plate. Stretched out on a real couch in the States, whole huge house heated to the rafters, I might be tempted to stay put and miss out on really experiencing the wildest winter in recent memory. Not here, though. The one wall-mounted heater/AC unit in the living room is perfect for that little area of space, once it finally gets cranking. But if we slide open the doors leading out into the kitchen (and the odd adjacent area we can’t really use for anything but is perfect for scattering eight hundred toy trains around) the Little Heater That Couldn’t starts burning more energy than Rush Limbaugh on any day any Democrat says anything and our utility bills go through the roof. So instead we clear a space among the on-going train wreck and fire up our kerosene heater, which is a much more cost-efficient way to minimize the white puffs of steam billowing out of our mouths when we’re talking at the kitchen table. Plus – and this is the real genius of it all – when we light the heater, and again when we turn it off, massive amounts of noxious fumes start filling the apartment and we have to open up all the windows and the sliding glass veranda doors so we don’t succumb. So you see, I can’t help but enjoy the swirling snow and driving winds. And I don’t even have to go outside. Talk about efficient.
When the weather warms up it’s time to air out the tent and tune up the mountain bike – or so it used to be, once upon a time. I’m so lucky not to be bothered with those things now, what with the wife expecting our second child in April. I mean, I want to be the best father I can be, around at all times to help out when the wife gets hit with another of her hormone episodes. All-day bike rides through the glorious mountains, weekends camping with a few buddies and a couple cases of beer, even the occasional Happy Hour, or even the occasional friend, is a distraction I just can’t be bothered with right now. It’s pretty amazing how fortunate I am in this regard.
Still, temptation lurks out there. Just yesterday I got not one but two emails, one from a friend in Virginia wanting to know if I was going to be able to meet up with him in Italy in March, the other from a friend living in Sumava National Park in the Czech Republic inviting me to spend the summer with them helping build a house and whacking down some of the best beer in the world. Of course, I’ve married the perfect woman – she’s managed to effectively hide my passport from me in only 500 square feet of space, destroying for me any chance and therefore any distracting ideas of taking off for a while. Which really is exactly how it needs to be, considering how much we’ve traveled recently and how perfectly uninfested by money our lives are right now. The added specter of a second child makes the realization that I need to work perfectly clear now, so off I go on two wheels, mind focused perfectly on the jobs at hand, no possibility of veering off the laser-straight path before me.
I heard a rumor the Super Bowl might be shown here on regular TV sometime around Wednesday. If our Internet hookup stays on the fritz then I won’t inadvertently hear or see who won, and I can watch the game in all its intensity, just as if I were back home. Minus the couch, of course. And the friends. Of course I can run out and get me some beer; the taxes on alcohol are astronomical here, a six-pack of cans of regular old Kirin goes for ten bucks easy. Which is perfect, of course. Can’t be drinking when you’re sharing 500 square feet with a two-year-old boy and a pregnant wife.