Call Me Selfish

I know I shouldn’t, but there’s nothing I want more in my life right now than to get the hell out of Tokyo

Sickness be damned, I want to get out and leave, leave it all behind. Quarantine, rationing, the all-consuming dread that rules everything around me in this new cruel world. We’ve all been told it is our duty to stay in place, to freeze our lives around us, until this entire ordeal goes away or resolves itself, or is dealt with by the proper authorities, depending on who you decide to believe.

But people have to eat. And I still have to work to feed them.

Continue reading

Japalentine’s Day

Japalentine’s Day
Semi-based on a true story

“I got you chocolate.”

“Why?  It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“Uhh, because it’s Valentine’s day.”

The girl frowned, brow curling with the starting pangs of sudden confusion. He felt his own “Look at me being all grown up and buying chocolate for people on Valentine’s Day” grin beginning to subside.

“It is Valentine’s Day, right?”

He reached into the breast pocket of his suit to retrieve his cellphone. He liked to keep his phone there, he was an adult now, after all.

The Bossman cleared his throat and nodded towards an empty classroom. Without a word, he let the chocolate sit.

“First year in Japan, right?” the Bossman asked, shutting the door as he followed his bemused subordinate in.

“Yeah.”

“So you don’t know then.”

The Bossman took a swig of coffee from a paper cup. When he pulled it away his mustache was dripping.

“Know what?”

The bossman paused, looked him over through thin barely there glasses.

“Better if you find out for yourself. I’m sure the staff’ll let you know what you need to know. Hell, they’ll enjoy it.”

Of course, explaining Japan’s various customs, rituals, and odd practices started by well-planned retail campaigning to the resident dumb gaijin seemed to be everyone’s favorite pastime here.

“Uh huh.” He always hated being explained to and hated the Bossman more for setting him up for it every time.

“Anyways, I was actually checking your file just the other day and it said you used to play football.”

“A little, I guess.” Small talk. He hated small talk. It was already what he did for a living. Make small talk in English. Make sure there were no horrible errors being made. Give the customer a nice list of new words to be digested, just to make sure they felt they were getting their money’s worth.

“What position?” The Bossman always kept his questions short and concise. Like he was teaching a class and the teachers under his supervision were his students.

“Linebacker.”

“Oh. Linebacker. Right right.” The Bossman nodded in full acknowledgment even though He knew that the Kiwi probably hadn’t the faintest idea of what that position entailed. “Anyways, your next class assessment will probably be next month.”

“Right. Awesome. Is that all?” He got up, ready to show himself the door.

“Yeah. Let’s get a drink next time I come to town.” He had said the same thing the last five times he had made the rounds to this branch school and every time there had been no drinks.

“Can’t wait.” He let the door slam shut behind him.

The receptionist had been eagerly awaiting his return, no doubt anticipating the chance to tell the dumb foreign person more about how Japan worked. His chocolate gift sat unaccepted atop cheap plastic countertop.

He gave a resigned sigh and let her take command.

“Mister Stephen, boys don’t give chocolate until White Day.”

“White Day?”

“Yes. Next month. Today is girls only.” The receptionist handed the unopened box of department store chocolate back to the dejected teacher.

“Oh right. Cool.” It wasn’t.

He ate the chocolate alone in his classroom before going home that night.

Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan: Chocolate Instant Yakisoba

In case you’ve somehow forgotten, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day which means it’s once again time for Japanese food companies to make their best (or, in some cases, their worst) effort to capitalize on the season.  Case in point:  This limited edition chocolate-flavored instant yakisoba.

Now, I’m told that this particular strange food concoction was also in circulation last year but I evidently didn’t notice or at the very least didn’t care so it’s all new to me. Continue reading

Being a grown-up: Slow and steady wins the race… or something.

Hi there.  It’s been a while.  How’s everyone been doing?

Oh really?  That’s pretty cool.  I’ve been good.  Going to work and not getting enough sleep, the usual grind, y’know.

What’s that?  You don’t know because you’re still putzing around in (university/high school/ unemployed) or busy raising a family?  Well that’s just fine and dandy.

***

So I’m coming up on the six month mark of the whole living and working in Japan thing and I think I’ve settled into what I guess people could call a generally adult life.  I wake up everyday at a certain set point in time (except for that one day that I slept through all twenty alarms and showed up to work half an hour late) and generally go to sleep before the sun rises (though since the sun seems to rise at three in the morning here, that’s not always the case).  I go to work, do my job, take long poops, spend far too much time on the internet and not enough time doing anything productive, I eat (a lot), then I sleep.  In other words, for better or worse, I am finally an adult (if waking up at 10 in the morning and going to sleep at 2 AM counts).

I certainly don’t feel any different than I did when I was in college.   Or really, high school for that matter.  Sure my hair’s a little thinner and I may be wearing different sized pants than before but I still feel like I did when I was in high school, overdramatic romanticism and unrealistic expectations included.  And yet, here I am, typing this up as I sit on the fifth floor of a non-descript office building but a few minutes away from the scenic (perhaps an overstatement) expanses of Mito Station, closing out a workday that I was supposed to have off (my colleague called in sick but that’s another story altogether).

Meanwhile, many of my friends are still grinding through college, though, let’s be fair, the hardest part of the college grind is largely the result of procrastination and binge drinking.  I mean, university was a freaking piece of cake.  I don’t know if I’m a genius or something (most likely not) but I got reasonably good grades throughout all four years of my university experience despite (a) not doing most (okay, all) of the assigned reading, (b) only studying the night before an exam, and (c) finishing the vast majority of my tepid, bloated, self-aggrandizing academic papers a whopping thirty minutes before the due date.  I mean, not to toot my own horn or anything (I hear Marilyn Manson had some of his ribs removed so he could), but just imagine how good my grades would have been if I gave two craps about them.

I mean, the typical college student’s day probably goes like this:

Noon: Wake up.

1 PM: Go to class (or in many cases, ignore your alarm clock and sleep off that hangover)

4 PM: Hang out in the quad

5 PM: Go to happy hour.  Get drunk.

6 PM: Ditch that discussion group meeting you reaaallly don’t like.

7 PM: Hangout with your friends.  Get drunk/high/arrested.

2 AM: Get home.

3 AM: Realize you have a paper due in the morning.  Freak the hell out.

And yet, half of the posts I see on my Facebook feed from my college friends are of the “FML” and “I’m so screwed” variety.  I don’t know man, maybe if you spent a couple more hours checking upcoming deadlines and a few less hours practicing for your Frat’s Beer Pong tournament, you wouldn’t be forced to pull three consecutive all-nighters and sacrifice a goat to an ancient Mayan god in order to pass your bullshit “Transexual Black Jewish Lesbians in Chinese History” class.  (No offense to those of you specializing in Black Jewish Lesbians and their huge role in defeating the Mongol hordes.)  If you guys think life is going to somehow get easier once you get your diploma, you’re in for a shock.

Paying all your bills on time and remembering to wear pants to work everyday.  Now that’s a real struggle.

College days.  So much overeating.  Not enough sleep.

College days. So much overeating. Not enough sleep.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, some of my friends have already gotten to the whole “settle down and raise a family and get that house with the whit picket fence” stage of life.  Sure, this was pretty much how things went in all of society pre-1950 but settling down, getting married, and having kids all in your early-twenties just seems crazy to me.  You can’t even legally rent a car at the airport for God’s sake!  Six years ago, you were the dude drawing in the back of books in the school library.  Now, you’re working really damn hard to pay off your mortgage and leverage your 401K.  Damn dude.  Adulthood must have hit you like a goddamn freight train.

I can’t even imagine having a kid right now.  I mean, I already have a hard enough time wiping my own ass, let alone that of a small cretin unable to clean-up after itself.  And where the hell would it even sleep?  I barely have enough room in my apartment for myself.  Shoving a wife and kid (or two) in there would probably result in a complete and total meltdown.

And the whole keeping track of your finances thing. What the hell?  I am by no means a big spender but I can’t even imagine keeping track of my own budget.  Asking me to watch my wallet for the sake of myself and two others would be like asking Hitler to imagine planning a Bar Mitzvah.  Jiminy Christmas.

And the giving birth thing?  Jeebus, ladies.  How do you do it?  The closest I’ve ever come to giving birth was that time I ate three burritos in one day and, after that, I couldn’t walk for a week.  Much respect.

Young married people, I respect the hell out of you, but what the friggin’ hell?

***

Being an adult means having too much chest hair.

Being an adult means having too much chest hair.

Now that I’ve successfully offended everyone, it’s time to talk about myself for a bit.

My twenty-third birthday is coming up in two days, which is really what kinda spurred this whole rant/thing on.  Where am I on the whole “College lazy person to upstanding adult” scale?  Somewhere in the middle or maybe not on the damn thing at all.

I’m twenty-two, completely un-relationshipped (That’s totally a word, right?), living a couple thousand miles away from most of my friends, really bad at doing my laundry, and spend most of my free time watching film of Sacramento Kings games or weird Japanese TV (I’m pretty sure most of the people running the entertainment industry over here are on some pretty hardcore crap), and shouting at people who have different opinions than me on the internet.

Sounds pretty immature right?

Sure, I have a job and, sure, I do everything I can to fulfill my responsibilities and duties to the best of my underwhelming ability.  BUT I also don’t have much of a plan for the future (scratch that, I just thought of a cool design for a Moonbase) and put far too much effort into doing trivial fun stuff that I really shouldn’t be devoting so much of my precious time to.  So, hey, maybe I’m a bit of a deadender at this current juncture of my life, but you know what?   That’s just fine.

I used to spend most of the time I now spend reading people’s dumb NBA trade ideas (“Let’s trade Demarcus Cousins for Bismack Biyombo!”) and tasting terrible popsicles (Beef stew? Suprisingly tasty.  Spaghetti? Potentially rancid.) on worrying about the future.  I mean, I spent a lot of time worrying.  Too much time.  Sure that worrying and constant fear led to a hell of a lot of creativity and some of the best writing of my life but it also led to depression, anxiety, and a whopper of a mental breakdown that forced my mom to fly all the way across the ocean to retrieve me.

So, hey, enough of the worrying.  Let’s just enjoy the present and worry about what’s around the corner when it sneaks up and sucker punches us in the balls.  Until then, these morons on the internet aren’t going to ridicule themselves.

Being an adult means baking your chocolate candy.

Being an adult means baking your chocolate candy.

Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan: Special Valentine’s Day Edition!

It’s another stormy, cold day in Mito, which of course means I’m spending all my time indoors.  Additionally, it happens to be Valentine’s Day, something which I usually just ignore.  But fret not, the conditions were perfect for a special Valentine’s Day Edition of Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan.  Dashing into my nearest convenience store (pretty sure I deserve some sort of frequent buyer discount considering all the stuff I buy from them), I scoured the sweets aisle for something interesting to eat that is also somewhat related to the choclatiest holiday of the year and found these two beauts.

booze chocos

Two different kinds of chocolate with alcohol contained inside them without any sort of marker denoting that fact (in other words, “Hey kids, wanna get drunk?”).  I’m pretty sure Americans would lose their poo if that were the case in US convenience stores.    One caveat/ potential kid deterrent is the price point.  At 300 yen, the chocolates cost roughly 200 yen (2 dollars) more than your typical bar of convenience store chocolate, probably because of the booze, though you couldn’t tell from the taste.

So in order to make the video taste test more palatable (pun intended) for the casual Youtube viewer, I have split the Valentine’s Special into two exciting parts.

In the first part, I test out the Rummy chocolate, containing, you guessed it, rum soaked raisins in a relatively normal bar of chocolate.  Sounds alright right?  Watch to see what I thought of it:

 

Then, in the second part, I tried out the green Bacchus bar, containing what was supposedly cognac but really tasted more like rubbing alcohol mixed with hand sanitizer.  The chocolate itself was alright if not more heat resistant than normal chocolate in order to keep the liquid alcohol encased inside.

 

So overall, the Rummy beat out the Bacchus in the booze chocolate Olympics.  If you’re in Japan and in a relationship with an alcoholic, you finally have a chocolate to get him.  Then again, Valentine’s Day is over in half an hour so you should probably get right on that or just buy some to give next year.  If you want to tell your significant other you’re breaking up with him or her, then the Bacchus chocolate is for you.  Nothing says “This relationship is over” more than chocolate with rubbing alcohol inside it.  That said, I can’t seem to stop eating it even though it’s probably burning a hole in my stomach.

With that, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day and I hope all you chicks are getting your loves chocolate like any self-respecting Japanese girl.  (I could get started on the intricacies of Japanese Valentine’s Day but that’s practically an entire book’s worth of stuff.)  Anyways, feel free to contact me through the comments section either here or on YouTube or hit me up on Twitter.  I’m pretty bored most of the time so I’ll probably get back to you about a second after you post, maybe even a second before if it’s a real slow day.

Happy headhunting!

-STEPHEN