Tag Archives: friends

The bittersweet memories

On the east edge of lake Saiko is a restaurant hotel, Ma Maison.  Apparently it is a chain but I have no knowledge of the other store locations.  It is a quaint, wooden building with a white exterior and eaves.  The inside is dark and lined with wood trim, the kind of place you would never think twice about spending hours in.  Early twentieth century replica pictures dot the walls and the place is lit entirely with dim twenty watt tables lamps.  Soft romantic music from the thirties and forties lilts through the air, mixing with the hum of the old confection refrigerator.  Ella Fitzgerald and red table cloths almost bring a tear to my eye, dredging up memories of dates I had brought here.

Initially the Fuji Lakes were a private retreat, a solemn sojourn of deserted campsites and endless sessions for reading Kerouac.  But in time, it meant so much of me that I had to share it with the person I desperately wanted to understand me.  And so each trip of hiking, horseriding and campfires drew to a close with a bottle of asti and the enchanting haven all to ourselves.

I thought I had grown too old and too strong to be moved by a little atmosphere, but I suppose there are a couple of embers deep inside that still smolder.

Something about life

Just the right amount…

Of daylight, waking at 5:20 to see the sun.

Of discomfort, to ride five hours on a local train reading Catcher in the Rye while watching suburban Japan peel off.

Of friendship, a balance of Miho’s zeal and hurrying to a certain place while I wait, and listen, to take a roll of photographs at the end.

Of alcohol, to be together enough to tell Dad when we’re done but gone enough to explain passionately how I feel about life and be well-received.

Of family, to do whatever I can to help Mom with the dishes and talk to Dad’s protege’ while bitching about Yakult and our perennial disappointment.

Of life, my body aches in numerous places for a myriad of reasons, but today was so fulfilling it nearly made me cry.

A brief pause

Work has reverted to the Saturday/Sunday combo mode again temporarily, so most of my plans this weekend were squashed. However I did manage to leave on Sunday around 4:30 so I could visit my friend Daisuke’s restaurant in Edogawabashi. He’s in the process of renovating the new building for business, and selling excess dishware in the process.

I met some new people and made friends. It’s hard for me to remember names off the bat until I get someone’s personality lodged in my mind, so I try to associate faces with kanji (brother 聖也、sister 麻衣、father 弘).

The L.A.

So my business trip to Los Angeles ends as quickly as it began. Fifty-one hours of Pacific Standard Time. It was educational, warm, fully of tasty things to eat, and garnered a few more memories to weave into my sterling silver bachelor’s band.

I got into town at eight-thirty Tuesday morning, seven hours earlier than when I left. Having a good amount of time on my hands before I could check into the hotel, I took a cab to Venice Beach and walked up Santa Monica to enjoy the weather. Along the way I met a pair of recently discharged Japanese office workers from Kyushu, and stopped at Big Dean’s for a ginormous double burger with fries and a pint of Sam Adams at the lovely body clock time of five a.m.

In between meetings I picked my way along the walk of fame and spent a good deal of time in the hotel conferring with coworkers back east. In some ways I think I could get used to living on the road: my room was about three times the size of my apartment and had a pretty decent view of the sunrise and Hollywood Hills.

Oddly enough my good high school friend Adam who I’d seen once in the last twelve years lives about five minutes’ drive from my hotel. We walked the dog, talked about old times, and his fiancee made us some lovely Cuba cuisine.

It was a short trip, but well-balanced and even had a good degree of intrigue and romance. Ah, the two carry-on lifestyle.

New Year, old friends, manga, cookies, and swords

Last weekend, for founder’s day I got a chance to visit with Nami and her husband Taka at their home in Sumiyoshi. Nami and I have been friends since the first day I came to Japan, so she and I have quite a considerable amount of history. We met at the 2002 IWEC workshop in Makuhari. At the time she was studying art at an applied media school while I was starting my internship with ATR.

I’ve always been a fan of her doujinshi (fan published manga), the vibrance and exotic nature of her style always electrifies me.

For our New Year’s party I decided to make some cookies to share. The most fun part was decorating them.

Taka and Nami both wore kimono for the occasion, and I was fortunate enough to be able to try on Taka’s outfit after dinner.

Wearing hakama (divided skirt worn by males on formal occasions) feels pretty cool, actually. I put on my best Final Fantasy-inspired pose. Can’t you just imagine me overcoming all adversity to save mankind and more importantly, the heroine?

[Yes, technically if I was indoors I’d have my wakizashi out instead of my full length sword, since I’d very much be likely to get it stuck in a rafter during a strike, but this just looks cooler and my daimyou wasn’t around.]

Saying Goodbye

Today I have to say goodbye to someone very important. Today I have to say goodbye to my mentor, Randy Pausch. Randy died today after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was my inspiration and my teacher. He came into my life when I was lost and aimless, and he gave me something to live and dream for. He helped make me who I am.

He was intelligent, outgoing, and an excellent speaker. He talked about ideals and dreams, and what to live for, and I believed in him with my heart and soul. He was honest and straightforward; he demanded much from me because he knew what I was capable of.

From the moment I met him I admired him, and he drove me to excel beyond my wildest imagination. I sought his approval and recognition, and through my efforts and my passion, I achieved them.

When I was was joyous, he rejoiced with me, and when I was lost he showed me the way. He spoke to me plainly, and wisely. He made me feel good about who I was, and what I could achieve.

After I found out he had cancer, even though we were apart, he still continued to touch my life. As the world came to know Randy Pausch, I found an even deeper lesson to learn from him. In his suffering and trial, he endured with a strength that defines the beauty of the human spirit. He will always live in my heart.

I cannot repay a fraction of the compassion and wisdom he has taught me. I can only hope to spend every remaining day of my life to live as he did: with honor, and strength, and endless gratitude for all that I have been given.

I miss you Randy…


I’m sitting in a kotatsu (or is it under a kotatsu), and sipping my morning acerola juice. I’m currently at a friend’s vacation house in Nasu, Tochigi-ken. This is the first time that I’ve worken up after eight o’clock in several weeks. Usually waking up at this time requires turning over, and half not-sleeping for a number of hours. I’m not sure if in the end this is beneficial or detriimental, but Mom usually says, “You needed the sleep.”

I came here with my firend, Matsutsuka-san, and his co-worker Hayakawa-san. They both work at Fuijitsu, but I know Matsutsuka-san because he’s the husband of one of my Japanese sensei from Carnegie Mellon. I walys feel just a little off-blaance aournd them, because she was my teacher and all, so I fumble over culling all the slang and off-color jokes from my Japanese. I don’t want to make any mistakes; I feel it would be a bad reflection on her if I chattered on like some sort of heathen.

Anyway, we came here to ski, the last skiing of the season. It’s been an exceptionally warm winter, so we’re lucky if there’s any snow left. There isn’t any here, desptite being in the base of the moutnains. But Matsutsuka-san said he called the resort a couple of days ago and they still had a few feet of snow on the trails. I’m really not sure what’s going to happen. Every other time I when I went on a ski trip it was always a package deal with a hotel, fixed meal times, etc. We got here at about two a.m. (work), and then had some drinks and snack before bed, which I think are partly responsible for my uncomfortable daze. I want to get in as much skiing as possbile, but since we’re going to be here for a couple days, it’s probably best to take it easy so I can pace myself. Usually after about six hours or so my leg muscles start to wear out and I can’t make the turns I need to anymore. Then I just get sloppy and crash.

Since we may be on the slopes for three days, I finally took the time out and bought myself a pair of skiis. Wednesay was the first day of spring, which is a Japanese holiday, so after a photo shoot in the morning, I went ot the Alpen in Kanda and chose my blades: a pair of 175 Dynastar Troublemakers.

I read that you’re supposed to select a pair of skiis just above your skill level, so you have room to grow. I think that these will work out for now. So far I’ve had the best luck with rental carving skis, but these Dynastars are of the “freeride/new school” variety. I’m don’t know that menas, but they’re light, not very narrow, and dual-tipped. I’m not sure how to interpret that, but in theory I should be totally sweet.

A friend comes to Japan

If you were in Wal-Mart to pick up a few necessities, and you saw one of my products on a shelf behind the cashier, would you buy it? Maybe this has occurred, but you didn’t realize it because game developers’ faces don’t really appear on box… unless you’re John Romero or something. But if it did, that would certainly be something to make you smile, especially if we lived over six thousand miles apart and hadn’t seen each other since college.

The other day I was starting to feel the effects of a stress-induced cold. I’d taken my kanpou, but still I figured those little antibodies duking it out in my bloodstream could use all the help they could get, so I took a break from managed code exceptions and sauntered down to 7-11 for my oft-quaffed vegetable juice. When heading towards the register my eyes swung past the discount DVD section and what caught my attention? Two letters, O.C.

Ben Schenkkan (Benjamin McKenzie as you may know him) lived on the fabled hall of Emmet First Left in the the fall of 1997. We sang karaoke (badly), we went to some parties, and we played GoldenEye together for hours on end, nearly ruining our academic careers in the process. I know Ben is a really great guy, even though we never had a chance to get close since we were in different schools. It’s kind of amusing with all the hoopla surrounding him now. I remember going to his plays at Culbreth towards the end of my time at The University.

After he got the role in The O.C. I tried emailing him with information from the alumni directory, but I didn’t get a response. Judging from all the fan sites, I reckon once someone figured that address out it stopped being usable for him. Anyway, I hope we can get together again some day, and talk about acting, stardom, and Kent girls. Until then, I wish him the best of luck.

Ben, if you get bored and decide to Google yourself, eventually reading this, I bought your DVD at 7-11; and Japan misses ya, big guy. 🙂

I’m sorry

When I do things unintentionally, but carry the effect of something that would bug me, I remember that not everyone can keep up with all the stuff people care about. (Things like no email replies bug me the most.) Anyway, I just realized that Ken has been linking to me politely for quite some time now, and he even got the title, “autumn tactics”, correct as it appears in the banner above, no caps and all. So, Ken, if you read this, I’m sorry. I dropped the ball here. You’re sharp, you’re on task, and you’ve always got good, solid advice when I need it. From today onward, I link to you, right below Big Dog on the left.

By the way, I’ve been meaning to have an extended conversation with you about camera hardware. I think the exhaustion of last month’s trip prevented me from broaching the subject during the couple hours we were together. I’m writing you mail. Let’s get a lICQ/gAIM thing going on.

Back and better (I hope)

So, the vacation is over, and I’m back in Tokyo, for better or worse. I didn’t write much on this trip, as I tend not to on trips where I have contacts in the region that I’m visiting. I had a lot of quality dialogues. I think that is the outstanding theme of this trip. I talked to Mark, I talked to Brandon. I talked to Adrian, I talked to Ken. I talked to Professors Knight and Jones. I also had several very prophesying dreams and in the end I somehow managed a rather eloquent soliloquy at the airport in Toronto, despite being at the height of exhaustion. I was firing on all four cylinders vocally, in Japanese mind you.

Most of all, I didn’t wake up once feeling the sick dripping nausea that plagues me so often on bleary Tokyo mornings. I want to really figure out why that is, but unfortunately the scientific method fails me here with not enough meaningful data and too many experimental variables. Why does Tokyo smell so comforting to me?

Tony performs in the optometry section of Wal-Mart. “Save the farm, Babe!” Happy pumpkin. Dad during a tight 7-1 loss to Tony in air hockey.

Narita kicks the stuffing out of every other airport I’ve been to. It’s compact, efficient, and you can get through it either way in twenty minutes. It’s a great introduction to everything that comforts me about Japan: quiet, efficiency, etiquette, and crisply energetic women.

As an amusing little “you had to be there”, when making my way from the gate to immigration, I decided to take the stairs to the quarantine check as everyone else was queuing up to board the escalator. This is nothing strange for me, as it satisfies several of my core principles associated with selecting manual over automated anything. But since I was the only one who did in this situation, burdened with a number of bags I drew a brief peppering of remarks and hushed comments from the elderly ladies riding the short escalator.

Wakai ii ne. Erai, erai! Etc. (It sure is nice to be young. Wow, [he’s] great, fabulous!)

The catch here is this prompted a handful of elderly men behind me to get out of line for the escalator and in a ruffled sense of pride, huff their way up the stairs as well. Yes, I’m home, drawing attention and savoring the Spartan nature of my life yet again.

Mr. Jefferson. Our national champion lacrosse team. The middle of a narrow victory over NC State. Rachael enjoying autumn.