Seven Minutes in Hell

Every week at least once, I have to take a certain train line along the express route from Kamioka to Yokohama.

Aka seven minutes in hell.

The train is  full before it pulls into the station, but the foot soldiers of the Japanese economy dutifully plod their way forward, pushing and cramming and twisting their bodies every which way in order to board. The railway workers sometimes have to push people, and their belongings, in to force the doors shut.
Once the doors are closed, you are face to face (or face to chin, or face to chest, depending on your height advantage) with a sea of humanity you do not know and hope never to see again. The man who needs stronger deodorant. The woman smelling of face powder. The older man who had dried squid with his breakfast. The younger man who’s Parental Advisory required lyrics are blasting at you, a flagrant affront. 

The average commuter plugs in their earphones or simply closes their eyes and visits their happy place. Mine is a sunny porch near a beautiful garden I once saw in Kyoto. I can’t help wondering about those around me, though perhaps I won’t try too hard to imagine Mr. Profane Lyric’s.

When the trains pulls into the station, we jostle and push and otherwise wrangle ourselves into the (conparitively) sweet and cool air of the platform. Each going his own way, perhaps never to meet again, perhaps never to travel this way again.

Or we might see each other again tomorrow morning.

2015

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On New Year’s Eve, we watched Kohaku, the annual “live” music competition on TV. (I use quotation marks because some of those groups were obviously not singing live, but I suppose they could have been throwing their voices ventriloquist style.) There is a white team, for male artists, and a red team, for female artists, though there is some weird give and take to account for the ever prevalent new-half transgender talent and just to shake things up a bit.

Luckily, my kids haven’t realized it’s girls against boys yet or there would have been a war of the sexes right in my living room. They were both on the white team for Sports Day this year, so they were cheering for the white team.

I didn’t know half of the performers, perhaps because I spent the latter half of 2014 switching between the 19th century with a series of books about Robert E Lee and his family and the 18th century with the Outlander series. Notes to self: next time you decide to start a civil war sign up Robert E Lee’s wife for a general. If you are ever in need of medical care and must go see Claire, bring earplugs so you don’t have to listen to how advanced society was in the 1940s.

At some point the children went to bed, and I spent the rest of the evening Facebooking snarky comments about Kohaku.

It was great. :)

New Year’s Day. HRH went jogging as soon as he got up. All good for him, but we were supposed to be at his parents at 8 and woke up at 7. Which was a bit of a lie-in. Anyway, I had to do the laundry and the kid-readying and lots of crap before we left. Meanwhile, he came home and took a shower, thus occupying our one bathroom when three other people needed to get in it. At 8:05 his parents called, wondering where we were, and he told them I wasn’t ready yet.

Bastard.

We had the normal nasty osechi for breakfast, then settled into a day of not doing anything. It snowed, which made it kind of worse because it was cold and wet outside but not sticking.

POS BIL has been shooting his mouth off for days and days now. He vacillates between being quite gentle and friendly with the kids, to teasing them in a mean way and making mean comments. He also seems to be the only person on earth who is immune to my death stare. So, yeah. That’s problematic.

HRH has been itching and itching to go somewhere for days now; the man cannot stay at home, but it is crowded everywhere (as you would expect when an entire populous nation takes the same five days off.) Plus there is this whole issue with Me Too having a phobia of the New Year’s dancing dragon things, which are quite literally in every shopping center and public space this time of year. We barely made it home a few weeks ago when we came across at least a hundred of them practicing in an open area in front of the station.

Today, I finally relented and we went to the shrine. Or actually it’s a Buddhist temple thing right next to a shrine, cover all your bases in one convenient space- type of place. The kids bought their fortunes (sho-kichi, or little luck, for both of them,) and they came in these cute little wooden containers. People had placed these everywhere on the temple grounds, so we had a nice sort of hide-and-seek looking for them.

Tonight, it’s more listening to BIL shoot his mouth off.

Wish me luck, people.

Jet Lag Hell

I am in jet lag hell.

Someone please remove my head from this bowl of jello that I seem to be stuck in. And while you’re at it, please help my stomach. Hungry at the wrong times and then feels icky whatever I out inside.

The three of us can’t seem to get on the same page of the schedule book. One is hungry, one is tired. One wants to play, the other wants to lay down. And I had a nosebleed this morning (maybe just from exhaustion?) that cause Freak Out 2000. Really, kids? It’s just a little blood.

Needless to say, we are back in Japan.

Barbecue World Tour

We’ve been in the states now for almost two weeks, on a trip I’ve come to call The Barbecue World Tour. I mean, there was that whole my-brother’s-wedding-thing, but what I can write about here is the B B Q.

Unless you also were the child of a preacher boy and moved around small towns in the Deep South, perhaps you don’t realize the variations of barbecue that flavor the small towns across the Bible belt. (Which reminds me, don’t go for lunch on Sunday. Or get there early enough to beat the church crowd.)

Of course there is the pulled pork, red sauce barbecue, that most of us think of when we hear the word “barbecue.” Unless of course, you grew up with the east Carolina vinegar barbecue (like I did.) It’s simple. It’s amazing. It’s awful hard to find outside of a few counties in what used to be ‘backy (tobacco) country. Last time I was there, they’d replanted a lot of that in cotton, creating the quiet whiteness of midwinter in the midst of summer’s heat and humidity. But that was twenty years ago if it was a day. The cotton fields may all be parking lots or strip malls now.

We were in Charleston for a week, and before we left I needed to try the Low Country mustard sauce.

Really. This was a physical need.

Okay, so not really, but a chance to try a new barbecue flavor was the only way I could mentally justify the thousands of dollars I would spend on this trip.

In two short weeks, we managed to check off the east Carolina vinegar, Low Country mustard, standard red, and Texas-style brisket barbecue. Awesome. And somehow I lost two pounds in the process. Guess all the digesting was hard work.

Barbecue World Tour

We’ve been in the states now for almost two weeks, on a trip I’ve come to call The Barbecue World Tour. I mean, there was that whole my-brother’s-wedding-thing, but what I can write about here is the B B Q.

Unless you also were the child of a preacher boy and moved around small towns in the Deep South, perhaps you don’t realize the variations of barbecue that flavor the small towns across the Bible belt. (Which reminds me, don’t go for lunch on Sunday. Or get there early enough to beat the church crowd.)

Of course there is the pulled pork, red sauce barbecue, that most of us think of when we hear the word “barbecue.” Unless of course, you grew up with the east Carolina vinegar barbecue (like I did.) It’s simple. It’s amazing. It’s awful hard to find outside of a few counties in what used to be ‘backy (tobacco) country. Last time I was there, they’d replanted a lot of that in cotton, creating the quiet whiteness of midwinter in the midst of summer’s heat and humidity. But that was twenty years ago if it was a day. The cotton fields may all be parking lots or strip malls now.

We were in Charleston for a week, and before we left I needed to try the Low Country mustard sauce.

Really. This was a physical need.

Okay, so not really, but a chance to try a new barbecue flavor was the only way I could mentally justify the thousands of dollars I would spend on this trip.

In two short weeks, we managed to check off the east Carolina vinegar, Low Country mustard, standard red, and Texas-style brisket barbecue. Awesome. And somehow I lost two pounds in the process. Guess all the digesting was hard work.

Family Planning

Six airplanes. Fifteen days.

Not looking forward to that.

HRH is going on the same plane over, which means he’s all up in my face about what we should bring to entertain the kids. But he’s a novice and doesn’t understand the main thing a parent needs for a successful 13 hour flight, total disregard for the usual rules and an element of surprise.

He’s talking about how we’re going to get the kids to eat their veggies in flight and limiting their screen time.

Meanwhile in the Realm of Reality, I’m loading the iPad with new movies and calculating the maximum snack holding potential of my backpack.

We’ll see how it goes, I guess. On the way back, at least I’ll have free reign.

After THAT title, not quite the post you were expecting, perhap? Sorry y’all.

How to Ruin Your Flight in Ten Easy Steps

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I mentioned vaguely in an earlier post that we were going “up north” for a bit. Those of you who know me may have presumed I meant North Carolina, but we ventured further up than that to Boston. Not exactly the Northern Territories, I know, but I crossed the Mason Dixon. (My fellow Southerners will know what that is, but I linked it for the rest of you. Nice, no?)

The few days we spent in Boston with a friend and her adorable girls was great. That means it isn’t post worthy.

It is the trip home I would like to address.

First, let us pause and take time to thank Delta Airlines, who made all these things possible. Well, except for number one. Love ya Big D, よろしく on Wednesday.

How many things can go wrong with one little flight? Let me count the ways.

1) Get stuck in morning rush hour traffic on way to airport

After we check in, some guy butts in front of us in the security line very blatantly. This makes HRH mad. In spite of me telling him to just let it go, eventually he says something to the guy, who calls him an asshole.

(~_~;)

Boys, really.

Later on this same “adult” shoots him The Bird. Right in front of the kids. Classy, right? It made me laugh, actually. Who shoots birds nowadays, anyway? Junior high boys and old WASPs in the airport. The same guys who keep the action film industry in business.

2) Arrive in time for boarding, only to hear flight has been delayed.
3) Delay for two more hours. At this point, I arranged for us to have spots on a later flight just in case. Which is four hours later (seven hours after original flight was to take off.)
4) Flight cancelled. Get food vouchers.

So the down-on-our-luck Hamakko family got to spend a few hours wandering around the airport. Food was crappy, as per our expectations, but the play area was decent. We bought the kids a few books and had to pull out the iPad, which wasn’t ideal. I wanted to save the heavy artillery for the flight itself.

5) Late flight has a change of airplane to accommodate more passengers. Unfortunately this plane has to return to the gate in Atlanta.

I’ll pause so you can roll your eyes.

6) Sometime around 8pm, the kids were exhausted and grumpy, I was getting less than friendly looks from other would-be passengers. Nobody wants to fly with these kids, now do they? I asked to be rebooked for the next day. Delta puts us up in a hotel for the night.
7) Then they can’t find our luggage.
8) Eventually they find it, we claim it, and realize it’s broken.

I’d been handling everything, which makes sense when we are in America I guess, but really I was doing it because HRH gets short tempered and pissy when things like this happen. Maybe I’m too nice, I don’t know, but I don’t think taking it out on the Little Man helps anything.

HRH had gone to get the bags, but was taking a long time. I walked over and found him trying that intimidation pissy thing the Japanese do so well on the baggage claim lady, and she was taking none of it. I had to step in and smooth things over.

Anyway, we had a nice night in the hotel. I was stressed out and hit the sheets with the kiddies and slept pretty well until HRH and his endless baggie rustling woke me up in the morning.

Do you know a baggie packer? The type who keeps everything in a separate plastic bag and is endlessly opening and closing them? Perhaps you are one yourself.

From the rest of humanity: stop it already.

HRH is convinced he is the packer premiere of the Earth with his ziplock separation skills, but I beg to differ. I especially differ when he wakes us up with the plastic rustle and bustle and zip! zip! at four odd in the morning.

We had a nice breakfast at the hotel, caught the airport shuttle, checked in without incident, get on the plane, make it as far as Atlanta, but then we don’t land.

9)We’re circling, dammit, for more than an hour. As if circling isn’t crappy enough, this was bumpy circling.

10) Then we divert to another airport, equidistant from my Mom’s house, to refuel. We don’t pull up to the gate, so I have no way of checking if there are connections to the tiny airport down the road from Mom’s, or if we can rent a car and drive…. This airport, in spite of being the capital of state number fifty on this list, seems to be staffed by teenagers. That’s how it looked from the tarmac, anyway. Actually, that probably shouldn’t surprise anyone. For better or worse, we ended up staying on the plane and eventually arrived at our destination.

So the two-and-a-half hour flight ended up turning into a 36 hour fiasco, complete with four extra hours on an airplane.

But such is life, I guess.

As the Japanese proverb goes,

When you are in a hurry, turn.

Yeah, I have no idea what that means either. I think they must have learned that at the airport.

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