An American reporter in Japan

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Fish are frightening

Hello! I'm sorry I haven't posted anything in so long...Blame it on myspace..if you look me up by my "calabanya" e-mail my page should pop up, and if you've got an account, make me your friend! Now you're probably wondering about this freaky picture.
These are Yunessun's "Doctor Fish." They live in a tub in a fancy-ass onsen resort in the mountains of Hakone. It's a popular exhibit that's only open three times a day with eager lines around the wavepool. Doctor Fish subsist on a highly complex diet -- of dead foot skin. You've heard of sushi? Well, this is shoe-shi...only the roles are reversed. That's right, your feet are fish food. They eat all the gunk you neglected to exfoliate. Exfolia...whah? Exactly. And because I need a dictionary to find out what exfoliating means, my toosies started a feeding frenzy. Roiling, chumming-the-shark-infested-waters kind of frenzy. The sensation of little mouths gobbling at my feet made me slightly queasy, but yet I couldn't rip my eyes away from the train wreck at my toes.I wasn't humiliated until I looked up.Everyone was staring at us. I looked at their water. A couple of minnows like lonely pepper specks nibbled at the Japanese in the pool. The swarm soley swam around us. Americans were Doctor Fish's favorite patients.It's true -- we're dirty! At that moment, we embodied the Japanese stereotype -- proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by the wriggling black cloud of fish at our feet.Thankfully, it was over in five minutes because the fish were starting to crawl up my leg. If it's dry skin they want, they found the mother lode. I'm pretty sure layers of moisturizer are the only thing keeping me from disintegrating into a flakey pile of skin snow.We talked about our shared trauma as we dried our feet (they actually looked pretty good; mine were glowing).This exercise was supposed to be Barb's "breakthough." Fear of fish had kept her out of the water for many years. But Barb was brave, only flipping her feet out of the tub slightly earlier than the group. She even kept her "Get them off me!" chant to a whisper."Can you believe they only wanted our American feet? We're disgusting!" said Barb.Diane took the explanatory route."Japanese people are really into scrubbing," she said, adding with compassion, "The fish would have starved without us."Patti floated the cultural diet theory."Japanese probably taste like rice and fish and Americans taste like cheese and milk -- the fish probably thought we tasted better."Lia threw cannibalism to the mix. If Japanese people eat a lot of fish, then the fish wouldn't want to eat them because they'd be reminded of their partially-digested lost schoolmates."Fish have a keen sense of these matters," she said.I am not comforted. Though I take a hedonistic pleasure in being dirty, 600 minnows feasting on your toes like it's their last Thanksgiving is the stuff of nightmares. I'm buying a pumice thingy tomorrow. And no sushi for a week.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Ball for the Bumpkin

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, (6,000 miles from Detroit)there lived a highly intelligent, sometimes funny, mostly honest reporter who worked all the time. She loved being a reporter even though it meant she wouldn’t be captivating or glamorous like other women. Heck, most of the time she wasn’t even clean -- digging up dirt kept soil under her nails and there was always muck on her feet from racking it up.
Her hands were crafted for scrubbing floors, not for shopping. She also ate placenta once. In short, she wasn’t cover girl material.
But one day, a good-looking Navy man invited her to a ball. “A ball?” she said. “Aren’t those weird misogynistic rituals copyrighted by Disney or Hans Christian Andersen?”
“No,” he explained. Every year, the Navy celebrates its birthday with a ball. This year, the Navy would be 231 years old. It would take six people to carry in the birthday cake and 300 people to sing "Anchors Aweigh.".
So, ever curious (the reporter liked to poke dead things with sticks), she accepted.
And so, the transformation began. It would require patience, stamina and the help of about 10 people to make her into ball material. There was the kind-Mother and Redheaded fashion friend who helped find a dress (though the stubborn reporter insisted on puffy while her mother liked straight skirts.).
Then there was jewelry. Then there were shoes -- and the painstaking, stress-making mysteries of life: “to wear hose or not to wear hose? To put hair up or down? What the hell does “tea-length” mean? How do you put on eyeliner without puncturing an eyeball? Is it physically possible to apply mascara with your mouth closed? Is there ever such thing as too much glitter? Is it normal for smoke to rise from the curling iron? Where does girdle fat go? And on and on…it took three lovely surrogate sisters to answer and assist the rube of a reporter, even while they experienced crisis of their own, like the freedom-fighting fake boobs, crooked hems, the dress that never was mailed, the dress that wouldn’t stay up and the zipper that wouldn’t close.
The first date arrived an hour early -- he was promptly sent away. The carriages’ of two other dates turned to pumpkins and the girls had to pick them up at the shipyard. But the reporter’s date arrived on time, a dozen roses in hand.
Well, the ball ended up being a wild time – even though the reporter couldn’t entirely get away from work. Everyone danced and made the most of the cocktail bar. And, at the stroke of 3 a.m., everyone withered with pounding heads and tired, high-heel shod feet.
And even though there were hangovers, they all had a ball and lived happily ever after.
The End.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Beautiful Lengths

So I have been growing out my hair for about three years (and I am not very patient with my hair, so that is some kind of miracle). Anyway, I am going to get it cut for this organization called Beautiful Lengths sponsored by Pantene. They make wigs for women who have lost their hair to cancer treatment (Locks of Love makes wigs for children who have lost their hair to cancer treatment). It seems only fitting since I am a cancer survivor & so many women I know have lost their hair to chemo--which can be very traumatic for some. Here's the cool thing--my friend, Ramona, has hair that is past her waist. When I told her I was growing my hair for this cause she said she would get some of her hair cut for it, too. So we are going for our haircuts on Tuesday--she is getting 20 inches cut and I only have a measly 8 inches--but I think it is cool. And we are going to lunch to celebrate our new haircuts.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Voice of Verizon

James Earl Jones came to the Ramsdell to do a benefit for the renovation of the old Dickson School in Brethren (where he graduated from high school). I was lucky enough to be an usher. He read some Longfellow and Walt Whitman, but my favorite was when he read The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. He also took questions from the audience. It was an awesome experience. James Earl Jones could captivate an audience reading names from the phone book or my grocery list!!! It's hard to believe that he was practically mute from a severe stutter as a youth. He credits one of his teachers, Mr. Crouch, with unlocking his voice--to which we owe Mr. Crouch a huge debt of gratitude!!

Impending Goat

Pardon me for not awaiting Typhoon Yagi's approach with bated, bad weather breath.
I have yet to be blown away by all this typhoon talk. The year I've spent here has been filled with frenzied forecasts, but the only typhoon I've seen was a dud. The base went into lockdown last October right after I moved here. I was a-goggle with anticipation. So far, Japanese earthquakes lived up to their reputation -- me and Carly Simon feel the Earth. Move. Under my feet...once a month. I knew my first typhoon was going to be rad! Everyone went home from work early except for this reporter, who was living at the Navy Lodge and works til 9 p.m. All the stores and restaurants were closed. But beyond couple raindrops--all the typhoon meant was I ate out of the vending machine that night.
Where were the thrills, the chills, the Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness? I mean, you can't say "We're in TCCOR 4" without a a twinge of Star Trekkian excitement, right? We chew our nails waiting to see if the tropical storm gets promoted to a typhoon like we were going to get the raise and fringe benefits.
But one can only take so much build up with no climax. Moreover, typhoons at Yokosuka are political -- which adds to the cynicism. Two years ago a typhoon was forecast for the night of the Navy Ball. After all that work, the money spent, the spousal politics -- no one wanted to lock down the base. The ball must go on. Besides, Yokosuka/Tokyo is pretty far north and protected by bays (unlike southern Japan, which always gets hit), that's why the forecaster's foreplay never goes anywhere.
You can image what happened. The typhoon laid waste to the base. Million-dollar warships smashed into each other. Trees fell on cars. Epaulet's swirled into the vortex. People got in big, big, trouble.
So now, a brisk breeze is enough to start freaking out. Yagi, meaning "Goat," is the 16th storm of the northwest Pacific'’s tropical cyclone season (Note: I didn't notice the other 15). It strengthened into a "super typhoon" Thursday and is tracking east of Tokyo, but may blow 45-mile-an-hour kisses to the coastal areas Sunday.
The ships have moved out to sea lest they smash into each other and the sailors are irritated, as they have to sit on a ship instead of getting a weekend. I shot the Cowpens getting ready to shove off for some "impending typhoon art," and one lieutenant urged me to run another picture Sunday "when it's sunny and all the Japanese are playing golf outside."
Forgive the pun, but Japanese do take typhoons as a matter of "course." Even in big storms -- like ones that kill people -- Japanese clean up the wreckage and move on. So have I brought my bottled water? Nah, I think I'm going with the Japanese model on this one...in my town, typhoons are synonymous with "Surf's Up."