No curve was too sharp for them and their bicycle. No puddle was deep enough to stop them. -- Friends by Helme Hein

24 April, 2010

Wilco Musings

Wilco played to a sold out crowd on Tokyo's Odaiba Island last night.

We first saw Wilco four years ago at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, when we were just young whipper snappers living in different European countries. Maybe it was the last minute meeting in Holland for 2 people tired of living thousands of miles apart, the bicycles flanking the streets or the romantic light coming in the stained glass windows of the converted church, but I think that may have been the best show we've seen.

Fast forward to last night, and we found ourselves on a man-made island (built on top of a landfill) at Palette Town's concert venue Zepp Tokyo. The scene of concert goers changed from flannel shirted-pot smoking-bike riders to young hipsters in suits just getting off work and the train. At concerts in Japan, the audience is ever so respectful---no one crowds to the front and sumimasens pepper the air as people politely jostle for a spot. Dancers quietly knee bob in their individual square foot of space. It's an audience that I'm sure must phase musicians at their first show. What, no hecklers? No fights? No moshing?

This particular crowd was probably made up of 15% foreigners. A good hour into the show, between songs, someone yelled out "Say something!" to which Jeff Tweedy replied, "shut-up." After a few songs he apologized to the Japanese crowd saying that "shut-up" wasn't for them, but for all the Americans in the crowd. Apparently, Americans at his shows want to make a connection from the audience and seem to think he is speaking directly to them. Charming.

The show was incredible. The music sounded even better than on the records and we loved all 2 hours of it. They are great musicians. It's a little bit disheartnening to watch your favorite band start to show the slow and eventual spread of the bellies and loosening of the hair. Rock stars aren't supposed to be mere aging mortals like us, but comparing the band member's physiques to that of 4 years ago makes me realize we are all growing up (and/or out).

The flannel shirts, shaggy hair and acoustic guitars made me homesick for Oregon. I know where my roots are and they seem to be calling me back home more and more these days.

22 April, 2010

Glimpses of Japan from the iPhone

James's iPhone captures great images on the fly that we might otherwise be too shy to snap. Every once in a while I remember to pull them off his phone. Here are a few shots of the strange, the bizarre, and maybe even the unimaginable (ok, probably not).

Deep vein thrombosis (economy class syndrome)
This was on a health card at Nagoya airport. As if we poor commoners didn't already have it bad enough back in coach!

I'll never get over outrageously priced fruit. The front 3 melons go from about $100 down to $60.

An $18 bunch of grapes.

At the check in counter for our Air Philippines flight to leave Boracay, we had to step on the scale WITH our baggage! That was when we knew we were dealing with a top notch organization.
*That is not James's hairy arm. I do not know this poor unsuspecting and possibly over-his-weight-limit man.*

Costco Japan: Looks pretty much the same with the exception of the SUSHI counter replacing the deli counter and that young boys run around in pajama pants and Uggs. James got cold in the freezer section and stole my scarf.

I was thinking just a piece---Matt suggested the whole American pie. We've never felt so collectively sick after a meal. Bleh.

Who isn't attracted to a giant fish head in the grocery store?

20 April, 2010

Adventures in Cooking

I learned about mirin the hard way tonight.

Never having used mirin in my cooking, I googled it before I started cooking the recipe for salmon, soba noodles and miso dressing. Trusty Google told me it was Japanese rice wine commonly used in cooking. Perfect, had some of that in the cupboard. So, I added the mirin to the sauce pan and let it simmer while I got the fish grill and another gas burner going.

When the fish grill didn't light, I figured I was overloading the oven. Ever impatient and hungry, I tried again instead of backing off. Instantly the most piercing alarm I've ever heard went off. Flashbacks of my mom baking chocolate chip cookies came into my mind as I quickly fanned what I thought was the smoke detector on the kitchen ceiling. But, it didn't work. I fanned some more, turned off all the burners, opened doors...nothing.

Instead of abating, the front door monitor started yelling at me in Japanese and flashing a picture of water spigot and the characters ガス (gas). After about 4 minutes of incessant beeping, James finally climbed up and took the sensor off the base. The beeping stopped. I pushed all the buttons I could make out on the monitor and it finally stopped flashing impending doom at me.

Problem solved. Sat down to a yummy dinner.

Doorbell rings, Japanese man on the speaker, but no more video. I fumbled with the monitor and realized I somehow screwed up the buttons during my earlier debacle.

I've had Japanese men in security uniforms at our door in the past. I knew what to expect and thankfully I started my Japanese lessons yesterday, so I'm already fluent. Our conversation went something like this:

Jesse: Sumimasen! (excuse me)
Security: Did you set off an alarm you crazy gaijin? (paraphrased)
Jesse: Gomennasai (sorry)
Security: Ryori desu ka? (Are you cooking?)
Jesse: Hai. Ryori desu. (Yes. Cooking.)
Security: Mirin desu ka? (Mirin is it?)
Jesse: Hai...mirin desu. Ahhhhhhhhhhh, so desu ka? (Is that so?)
Security: New to this cooking game are you? (paraphrased)
Jesse: Hai, hai. Gomennasai. (Yes, yes, sorry.)
Security: Namae wa, nan desu ka? (What is your name?)
Jesse: Watashi wa, ジェシ desu. (This translates directly to: As for me, Jieshi it is.)
Security: Sayonara you silly girl (paraphrased again)
Jesse: Gomennasai!!!

My Japanese teacher will be so proud and it seems I won't be cooking with mirin again any time soon. James came up the stairs and asked me how the security guard knew I was cooking with mirin. I said, either it happens often, or it's the empty bottles in the doorway. Does anyone know about this? Does alcohol come off as a gas when it is cooked?

17 April, 2010

More from Boracay

I stole a few pictures from Craig and Charity. I think their photos better capture the beauty of the island than mine do.

These kids are gorgeous.
Land is on your right, James.

Being away from Tokyo makes us realize how vibrantly colorful the rest of the world is.

Island living is tough work.

The highest viewpoint on Boracay.

ugh. I still don't know why I voluntarily suited up in lycra for most of my holiday.

Oh, I want to go back! Reports say this is the coldest April on record in Japan in 50 years.

Ferry from Caticlan to Boracay.

Trikes on at the ferry dock. I want a mango shake!

12 April, 2010

Meet Easton

My newest nephew was born to Emma and Beau this week. His name is Easton and he is the picture of perfection. Dang, sometimes it's hard being so far away.

04 April, 2010

They're Back!

The sakura blossoms bloomed 6 days earlier this year. Shocking, since its been such a long, cold winter in Tokyo. It's Easter Sunday today and it feels cold enough to snow.

We had Good Friday off and did a little wandering with our cameras and bikes. Unicycles are really popular with little girls. I can't imagine a school in the States stocking unicycles for recess.

Entering through a stone torii at a temple.

These are Maneki Neko (fortune cats) on a 4 story shelf at a neighborhood temple. Cats with their left paw up in a welcoming fashion are found in stores and are supposed to beckon new customers to the shop. Cats with their right paw up welcome good fortune or wealth.

These are James's favorite fresh baked メロンのパン (melon pan) at a shop in our neighborhood. They are soft balls of dough shaped like melon, but usually topped with cinnamon, chocolate or maple syrup.

The clouds parted long enough on Saturday to have a hanami in Kinuta Koen with friends. This park was more family friendly and less rambunctious than last year's hanami in Yoyogi Koen.

4 month old baby Natalee kept me warm when the sun tucked behind the clouds. She belongs to proud mama Ingrid and daddy Montani, but I think I would like to take her home.

01 April, 2010

Lucky to Be Alive

When Craig and Charity's flight from Boracay to Manila was delayed last year while the ground crew duct-taped the wing, we should have been warned. When our plane landed in Boracay and James grabbed my hand and said "hold on, honey" because the plane landed sideways, we should have been warned. And when the dive instructor told us about a plane that crashed at the Boracay airport and was going to be sunk soon for underwater exploration, we should have been warned. But now Europe has warned us about Air Philippines, Philippine Airlines, Zest Air, and Cebu Air, all flown by all 5 of us at some point on this trip.

I'd say we are lucky to be alive, and yet, I'd probably fly them again just because Boracay is that amazing. And if you know me, and my fear of flying, you know that's pretty much near a miracle.