Monday, April 25, 2011

Hope & Reliance - tohoku earthquake part seven

The ramen shop was flooded with light and familiar smells. My wife and I, our boys between us, sat across the low table from Jun, his brother Yu and his friend (girlfriend?) Miki. We ate as we would on any night, though the cooks couldn’t make a couple of dishes for lack of certain ingredients. We talked as we would over any meal – hometowns and high school memories, jobs and friends and the soft-boiled eggs Yu had this thing about. Yamato slurped his noodles, splattering his soup. Seiji fussed and laughed and ate and refused in turns. The radiation we had run from seemed far, far away.


Yet the reason we were there wouldn’t fade from my head. Not completely. Not for a moment.

Back at Yu’s apartment we would share snack food and drink a random assortment of beer in cans. Yamato was given his first taste of video games and Harry Potter. Seiji entertained before he started tiring; my wife would skip his bath tonight and try to get him down. We talked more, about all manner of things, though somehow – as it seems to happen in Japan – we never scratched too deep below the surface. This because maybe the Japanese are inclined on all levels to remain one of the group; tipping the conversational scales in any one person’s direction, particularly their own, is not the overriding inclination.

Monday, April 18, 2011

You are getting sleeeee-py.....and irrrr-itable....Your throat is swelling shuuuut....

In a previous post I documented an hour of channel-surfing Japanese TV. Admittedly I devoted the lion’s share of my attention to the commercials because they are short and I could squeeze more material out of my self-allotted hour. I didn’t mean any disrespect to the actual programs, which by and large are always just as silly as the adverts.

Though I considered trying, it would be borderline impossible to write an equally bone-splittingly hilarious post about the programming here. Not because TV in the US is any less ridiculous than in Japan, but all four of my devoted readers live in the States so anything I say would be either redundant or offensive, and faster than you could say American I Dull down the drain goes my hard-earned fan base.

Fortunately two weeks ago my mom left the TV on in the den after the recent NCAA championship game.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

North - tohoku earthquake part six

I recognized the woman at the door immediately, despite the mask that covered her nose and mouth. I knew her daughter too, as one of my son’s many pre-school friends. ‘Konnichi-wa,’ I said, trying in vain to recall either of their names. The woman offered a slight bow, awkward enough with her daughter on her hip, forget about the underlying circumstances. ‘Kevin-san, domo.’ She handed me a small, heavy plastic bag.

My wife had said she’d be dropping by, with milk formula for our little boy. In the intervening moments I’d forgotten her name, but I remembered very clearly one thing my wife said: she was going to be driving to Sendai.

‘I’m leaving tomorrow,’ she said in response to my casual query. I glanced over at her boxy car, already half-stuffed with blankets and bags. ‘Are there any buses running out of Sendai, do you know?’ I asked. She shook her head. ‘Maybe, but I don’t know.’ With this we both understood: I was looking for a way out of town, and while she really would like to help…

Friday, April 8, 2011

Things, We Didn't Know - tohoku earthquake part five

The subject of the text message was simple: 'Run!'


With this one word all the thoughts I'd fallen asleep to came crashing back into my head. My friend had spent the night thirty miles up the road in Yonezawa. 'We'll go further today, if we can,' he said.

If we can?...

In my head it sounded right out of a movie, too dramatic to be real. And he wasn't the only person I knew who was already heading west, away from the nuclear reactors leaking God-knows-what-if-anything into the air. A co-worker of mine, one of the sharpest and most level-headed guys I've ever met, had also hit the road. He too was with his family, making his way toward the Sea of Japan, unsure of their destination, living out of their car. 'Just to be on the safe side,' he said.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

NCAA Men's Hoops Title Game Review

Already three and a half minutes into the culmination of the greatest sporting event of the year (don't argue with me, it has been scientifically proven) and I am just now tuning in. The kids have a knack of keeping me from life's most important moments with their needy little habits - bedtime stories, clean diapers, rehydration - but they are finally all tucked in. Now my mom and her husband are in a silent power struggle over control of the TV. What about my needs?


So I'm watching the game on some Internet channel or another, no idea if I'm paying for it. Check that - no idea if mom is paying for it. Got this document window open to about the size of a playing card so I can see the entire screen. And a few key stats along the sidebar. (Quick question: How do you pronounce 'Oriakhi'?)

So UConn's Kemba Walker just got the smack down by Andrew Smith after traveling down the lane after getting hip-checked by aforementioned Andrew. Looks like we're in for some fun tonight.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Who Cares Who Matters?

The front page of this Saturday's Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger almost made me toss my oatmeal. Top and center, with a bold headline and a big photo added for extra intellectual value, was an article (two actually) involving someone I was until this Saturday morning completely, utterly and in hindsight blissfully unaware of.

It seems certain people at Rutgers University recently decided it would be a good idea to pay someone $32,000 to come talk to the students for two hours.
My first thought: 'I probably would have done it for half that.' But of course what could I possibly have to say that could rival the wisdom, the priceless inspiration, the sage life-altering advice of...a reality television mouth? With a self-given nickname that rhymes with a snack food?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Home, Neighbors, Cake & What's Coming - tohoku earthquake part four

After faking his own death Huckleberry Finn hides in a tree outside a church window, looking in on all the townfolk crying at his funeral. 'I never had any idea so many people cared about old Huck Finn,' he says as the tears well in his own eyes.


Of all the scenes of all the movies, all the passages in all the books I've ever read, this was the one that came to mind as I stared at the screen of my laptop soon after returning home on Sunday.

The population of the shelter was about half what it had been the first night. In the morning air I felt a mix of restlessness and lethargy; the aftershocks had all but ceased, and though they'd probably keep the gym open for anyone wanting to stay, I knew it was time for us to go home - utilities or no.