Saturday, December 26, 2015


“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.  You really are a heel!  You’re as cuddly as a cactus.  You’re as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch.  You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!” 

My kids and I play this game while driving around Portland doing our last minute Christmas shopping.  There's a lot of gifts this year, returning to America after seven years living abroad.
 “You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch.  Your heart’s an empty hole!  Your brain is full of spiders.  You’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch.  I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!”

We listen to the Holiday station, K103.3 and sing-a-long.  Bing Crosby and Burl Ives, Frank Sinatra and Karen Carpenter.  They play on repeat like some satellite shot into space beaming a Christmas message to aliens in the far corners of the galaxy.
 “You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch.  You have termites in your smile!  You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch.  Given the choice between the two of you I’d take the seasick crocodile!”

But every day there's always one!  One Song!  That seems to repeat itself more than usual.  One Christmas song that out-duels the others for supremacy.  Maybe an anomaly, maybe by design, maybe just pure random chance, but while driving in the car for three or four hours, we hear it a half dozen times.
 “You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch.  You’re a nasty wasty skunk!  Your heart is full of unwashed socks.  Your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch.  The three words that best describe you are as follows and I quote:  ‘Stink!  Stank!  Stunk!’”

Jose Feliciano.  Brenda Lee.  Nat King Cole.  Bobby Helms.  Gene Autry.  Dean Martin.  Andy Williams.  Eartha Kitt.  Jackson Five.  The Drifters.  Wave after wave of nostalgia.  These sweet old tunes of peace and love.  Gifts of goodwill and forgiveness.

“You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch.  You’re the king of sinful sots!  Your heart’s a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch.  Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable mangled up in tangled up knots!”

That's a part of Christmas I secretly enjoy, reflecting upon this one day every year spent doing the same things in the same ways with the exact same routines and outcomes... but in slightly varying degrees.  Altered over time, but significant nonetheless.

“You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch.  With a nauseous super ‘naus!’  You’re a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked horse, Mr. Grinch.  You’re a three-decker sauerkraut and a toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!”

I have mixed emotions moving home.  Seven years is a long time, but not long enough.  I walk these fields of my youth.  Feet sink into wet grass.  Jacket pulled up tight around my shoulders and neck.  This isn't about me anymore.  It hasn't been for the longest time.  It's about preserving something.  A signal.  A beam.  Children who know the songs of their father's time.  That's all that matters.

Japanese Flickr Pics!!

Please check out these funny Japanese Flickr Pics!  Just click the link to the right.
 Just silly stuff!

Beautiful Pictures too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I'll Miss YOU! Fake Asian Christmas

There are a great many things about Fake Asian Christmas that I will miss.  For example: 
1.  Working on Christmas Day.  HOW FUN WAS THAT?
2.  Forcing students to participate in "Gift Exchanges" where they can't be bothered to show any interest in one another.  Sign me up!
3.  Confiscating cell phones to stop "X-mas Selfies"
4.  Incompetent co-workers.  Who wants to do another 'Santa Multiple Choice Test'?
4.  AND of course... fake plastic Christmas Trees!
Asia only has fake plastic Christmas trees.  Why? Don't ask why!  The Taichung City Hall Christmas Tree is the biggest fake tree I've ever seen.  There is an actual gingerbread house in the middle... which is oddly kind of cool.
Don't sleep on the fake snow!  This awesome Snow Family is constructed with shredded paper shavings.  

I will definitely miss the Christmas Lights!
And the awesome air-condition paper fire place.  Bundle Up, Kinu!
Who wouldn't miss this great Christmas Sweater?  Santa Wish List:  English Lessons.
Or this "Sleigh Full of Elves!"  There's actually four kids on this scooter.  There's an infant between mom's legs you can't see.  
A Christmas "Lobster Tree," What?  Why not!  It's Fake Asian Christmas.
But mostly... I'll just miss all our awesome friends.  You tell me, naughty or nice?
Merry Christmas, Asia!

Life in Boxes

Packing up!  Seven long years of junk.  It's hard to say goodbye.
Watching your life fill up in boxes puts things in a certain... perspective.
Man!  I'm going to miss waking up to this.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I'll Be Home For Christmas

Sunset over Osaka, Japan

I've got this sneaking suspicion that Christmas is dead.
7-Eleven Star Wars Poster in Japanese.

I don't know when it happened exactly.  Sundays devoted to smash-mouth sports.  Holidays given over to box office figures.  Taking God out of the Pledge of Allegiance.  You can sneer all you want at red Starbucks coffee cups but...  I miss Christmas!
Hilarious Penguin Building in Osaka

What happened to lighted houses and wreaths on doors?  Giant candy canes and inflatable Santa lawn displays?  Are they just in the close this year?  Is Santa just having a bad year?
Dotonbori, Osaka Shopping District

I remember the economic recession of the early 1990's, I left America to work in Korea and I returned a few years later to a great boom in U.S. wealth.  The Clinton administration takes credit, but after living overseas for years, it was so readily apparent upon my return that America was prospering,  Yards were immaculate. Houses were freshly painted.  Boats and RV's were parked beside two car garages.  Just driving home from the airpot I recall feeling such optimism about America's economic future heading into the new millennium.
Glico's Iconic Running Man 

But this year is different, isn't it?  You can feel it.  It's different.
Crazy Yummy Japanese Sahshimi

It's not just a poor pocketbook.  It's a poorness of spirit.  Call it, Christmas Bashing.... maybe people just don't like it anymore.
Mechanical Crab Pinchers.  Trust me, he's ALIVE!

My friends and co-workers are divided.  I have an equal amount of Christian and Atheist acquaintances, but it is an onslaught at work and in social settings.  A persecution, almost  At least a dozen times a week I will hear a secular friend grumble, "F-ing Christians!"  in response and blame for everything from the Syrian Refuge Crisis to Donald Trump's latest antics.  Which always surprises me because it's so terribly unbalanced.  I hear it in coffee shops, at staff work meetings, in house parties, on jogs through the park, "F-ing Christians!"  But I have never in my life heard a Christian person grumble, "Those F-ing Atheists!"  Honestly, I just don't think I've ever heard it.
Dotonbori Night Life

I'm not here to defend Christianity.  Who can defend it?  The atrocities committed in the name of the church?  Come on!
Namba District

But people seem not to consider how much worse the world we would be without Christianity.  The millions of people around the globe in service everyday.  Real service.  Without any notoriety or publicity.  People just doing good out of the love of Christ in their heart.  I've known hundreds and hundreds of these people throughout my life... who ask nothing in return.  In fact, it almost balances out all the public atrocities and disgrace caused by the church... these private sacrifices.
Nipponbashi Bridge

I know... if you're reading this blog and you've made it this far... you're probably flipping me off right now.  I get it.  The world is a cynical and cruel place.  Believe me, I understand cruelty.  
Takoyaki Sweet Street Eats

But... there's something special in the ideas of Christmas:  Forgiveness.  Peace on earth.  Goodwill. These ideas go beyond politics or culture or belief.  Ideas that can melt hardened hearts.
I'm no saint, believe me.  I'm just looking for a little holiday spirit, that's all, and I'm not afraid to say it.  Merry Christmas, everyone.  Really, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Night at the Museum & Little Blue Boy at Osaka Castle

“The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket moulds in his hands.”  -Eugene Field

Osaka Castle was perfect under a marble blue sky.
“Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.”  -Eugene Field

So perfect I thought the figurines would come to life.
“‘Now don’t you go till I come,’ he said,
‘And don’t you make any noise!’
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys.”  -Eugene Field

The tapestries were intricate and woven to brilliant perfection.  Little towns and gates and colorful robed villagers and nobel people to pour over and examine from days long ago.
“And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue-
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!”  -Eugene Field

Geisha and Samurai mugging in funny posters.
“Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face.” -Eugene Field

Wandering among the crowds, shedding layers of jackets and scarves and sweaters with each climbed staircase, I was thinking about little toy soldiers and history figures that stand ready… to come alive with touch.
“And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair
What has become of our Little Boy Blue
Since he kissed them and put them there.”  -Eugene Field

And this old poem by Eugene Field came back into my head.
“Oh! the years are many, the years are long.”  -Eugene Field

It was a lovely morning, kicking around the stones at Osaka Castle, sitting under the autumn tress sipping hot soup and feeling the sun on our faces, poetry like little toy soldiers coming alive in our heads.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Geisha Geisha Geisha Phenomenal Geisha

"Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size." -Angelou

"But when I start to tell them.
They think I'm telling lies."  -Angelou

"I say... it's in the reach of my arms, the span of my hips, the stride of my step, the curl of my lips.  I'm a woman.  Phenomenally.  Phenomenal woman.  That's me."  -Angelou

"I just walk into a room 
Just as cool as you please."  -Angelou

"And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing of my waist
And the joy in my feet."  -Angelou

"I'm a woman
Phenomenally."  -Angelou

"Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try to much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery."  -Angelou
"I say,
It's in the arch of my back
The sun of my smile
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style." -Angelou

"Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed...
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud."  -Angelou