The cure for hiccups

This is the cure for hiccups. Think it’s strange if you like, but trust me, it will not fail you. It’s never failed me.

Stare at yourself in the mirror. Then draw in a deep breath and hold it. Then draw in some more. Draw in so much breath that you’re practically trembling. All the while, keep staring at your eyes. Stare those bastards down.

Next thing you know, your hiccups will be gone. Very weird, but true.

I can’t remember how I came up with this, but after 30+ years, it’s never failed. I suggest you try it.



Learning Japanese through booze

As much alcohol as I’ve been putting away recently, it seems only fitting that this most recent post revolve around the ol’ fire water. And Japanese, of course.

The alcohol in this particular case is chuhai, and while many people know what chuhai is, not many seem to know the origin of the word. Luckily, TAKARA brand Shochu Highball — a drier, less sweet cousin of the run-of-the-mill chuhai — has provided a mini history lesson right there on the side of the can. Enjoy.



The Origin of Chuhai.

It’s said that chuhai originated in the 1940s shortly after the war, in Tokyo’s Shitamachi area, as the “shochu highball.” “Highball” referred to alcohol mixed with carbonated water. Because the carbonated water had been mixed with shochu, the drink was known as a “shochu highball.” This was shortened to “chuhai,” which would seem to be the origin of the word. To this day, the drink remains popular in Tokyo’s Shitamachi watering holes.

Good stuff, huh? Good. Now get drankin’.

Aooni IPA

Why the hell did I never post this entry? I’m weird. But trust me, drink this beer.

It’s been a shit day, dear Reader, full of pointless errands, job rejections due to “sudden and unforeseen mergers” (that’s a new one), and inane sample translation tests to prove that yes, I can indeed speak Japanese. I’ve been hitting the cheap booze for a couple hours, but now it’s time to reward myself.

The lovely beast you see here is Aooni, an IPA (India Pale Ale) made by Yo-Ho Brewing Company, the same guys that do Yona Yona Ale and the lovely Tokyo Black Porter. Aooni clocks in at 7% ABV; the head is fruity, not too deep, but the beer itself has a nice body to it, a good balance of sharpness and sweetness. One complaint — as much as I enjoy this beer, it always seems to have a tinny taste to it. I wish they’d sell it in bottles instead of just cans.

I don’t suppose I’ll ever find a substitute for the manna from heaven that is Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA, which I would frequently consume back in the U.S. of Arse, but when I have to get my IPA fix on, so far Aooni has proven itself to be my brew of choice.

The Japanese script for the Matrix – Updated!

After a long absence, I’ve posted another scene from the Japanese script for the Matrix. See here to relive Neo and Trinity at the club talking all kinds of stuff. In Japanese.

The Player

Here’s an anecdote from a couple years ago I never got around to publishing. Not sure if it will be interesting to anyone but me, but here goes.

You’re walking the streets of Ikebukuro, killing time before your rendezvous with some co-workers. As always, Ikebukuro is awash in neon, packed with the exotic rubbing shoulder-to-shoulder with the socially inept.

In the midst of this, The Player catches your eye.

He intrigues you so much that you actually follow him a few blocks to see where he’s headed.

The Player has bleach tips in his hair, a swagger to his stride. He’s decked out in a fancy if somewhat over-sized business suit. And there are, you’ve determined, only three types of people who wear suits in Japan:

-Office drones
-English teachers
-Guys who work at “host” bars

The Player is a fellow foreigner, which is what initially got your attention. He doesn’t look like a drone, and has an arrogance to him that says he knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s a confidence born of experience, rather than being a shaky front like that of so many foreigners here that you’ve met.

He enters a Family Mart and gets a coffee. Still following, you grab a chuhai and duck back outside to do a bit of street drinking.

When he exits, there’s an awkward silence as you stand side by side. He sips his coffee and you sip your chuhai. You view each other from the corners of your eyes, all the while pretending not to. You’re an old Japan hand, but this guy is confounding you. He doesn’t conform to your stereotypes. “Dammit, man, what do you DO?!” you want to scream. Is this guy, a fellow white devil, really a foreign host? Is there even such a thing? And if so, how well does it pay? Lord knows you could use the money.

In that moment, the Player walks away. You watch him in that slightly too-large suit as he goes.

And you think, “Damn. I should have asked for his card.”

And then, of course, there are these fools

I cannot tell you how happy this skit makes me, having dealt with my fair share of this sort of folk in my time.

Click this link for extra happy fun time now, OK?

If you’re offended, you’re missing the point.

Or it hits too close to home.

Or you have no sense of humor.

Oh, well.

Birds and Days Thereof

Thanksgiving has come and gone. So, yes, I’m late for the party with this post.

No big surprise there.

I started writing this after reading a post over at my good friend Billy’s site. Somehow, it struck a chord with me that ended up becoming a rather melancholy one.

Let’s not mince words — when it comes to food, people in the U.S. tend to stuff the heck out of theyselves. Most of the time, the wife and I split an entree when we go out to eat, because whatever we order is just too damn much food. Things can get especially bad around Thanksgiving; I’ve seen one too many holiday-season weight gains, far too many tryptophan-induced food comas to think otherwise.

And yet…

I never really felt homesick when I was living in Japan. But I did miss certain family-based traditions. Christmas, sadly, long ago became a time of stress and drawing a single name out of a hat (because people in my family have apparently become unable to buy more than one gift for one person at any given time). But Thanksgiving was different; the only obligation was to show up and eat, and it was the one time of the year that my manic, ridiculously large family was able to gather together in one place. But not this year.

For the first time in the memory of a lot of people in my family, this was the first Thanksgiving without the grandparents. They both passed away last year; I was present at my grandfather’s funeral, a pallbearer at my grandmother’s. They’d lived well into their 90s, and every year they were the glue that kept our family together. But this year, with them gone, the family was scattered.

Siblings were conspicuously absent. Dad and the new girlfriend were off in the hill country. What remained of the family gathered at my uncle’s house, trying to keep the spirit alive. It was fun, but sad at the same time. The holidays aren’t what they used to be.

There was eating, but not much gorging. There was drinking, but a surprising lack of drunken drama. There was family, but not enough to fill that old house, even bigger now with its renovations and widened-out rooms and palapa in the back yard.

I miss my grandma and grandpa. I miss how much influence they had on that one time of the year that, somehow, we all managed to get around the same table.

And it sucked not having any tamales this year.

And now, an inspirational moment


Hello, internets. It’s been a while — more than two years now since my last post, when I wrote about putting jalapeños on a demi-baguette to try to de-blandify the local food options.

I’ve thought a lot about this blog, and have wanted to do an update for some time. The problem is, that update would break one of my initial rules: that nitty-gritty, personal details should be avoided when possible. Ultimately, as you can see, I said screw it.

I started this blog during my fifth year in Japan, my second in Tokyo. After losing Office Job No. 1 due to the Lehmen Shock back in 2008, I bounced back and landed Office Job No. 2, a surprisingly well-paying position at a global financial institution.

It was fucking hell.

I loathed how the company was run. I dreamed of seeing my boss, whom I later learned was nicknamed “The Dragon Lady,” being stabbed to death by bloodthirsty Mongolians. But it was my primary source of income, and when the economy soured and I was let go from that job as well, it hit pretty hard. That’s when the former Mrs. Turningpin announced she was leaving.

Oh yes, dear Reader: I never mentioned her, but there was a Mrs. Turningpin. Ten years of marriage to a non-English-speaking Japanese can do wonders for one’s language skillz, but not even a decade is enough to address real, fundamental differences. Apparently, she’d been planning her exit strategy for a while; after informing her of my being released from the company, I was told over a dish of cold noodles, “Let me know when you’re done eating. Oh, you’re done? I can’t be with you anymore.”

I am Jack’s wasted life.

I had just over a week left on the spousal visa. I was able to get an extension, thank goodness, but the next month and a half was pretty miserable. I’d said my goodbyes, had moved to Japan with the intention of staying there for good, but now things were different. My personal life had gone to hell, and I was sick of the crowds and commutes and unrelenting asshole-ishness that permeates Tokyo. So I packed up and left.

Nothing quite spells fail like getting divorced in your mid-30s and moving in with your sister; with everything you own fitting inside 17 boxes, each having been lovingly ripped apart by customs; with, after hearing stories of husbands being suddenly left by their J-wives and thinking, “The poor bastards,” you are now one of those selfsame bastards. But somehow, I was already picking myself up.

In between drinking too much and interviewing for jobs in the heart of Fuck-All, Alabama, I began building a small but steady client base. It wasn’t long before I had more work than I knew what to do with, and — save for a four-month stint where things got slow and I took an office job, only to reaffirm that office jobs suck ass and I promptly quit — I have been working from home, doing Japanese translation while raging out to heavy metal.

I’m no longer living with family, I’m pleased to say. I’d been back in the U.S. for about five months when I started reconnecting with some of my old high-school friends through facebook. I sent one friend request, a simple “Remember me?” message, to a girl I had junior-year English and senior play with. She did remember me, and she wrote back.

We were married four months ago.

So there you have it. It wasn’t so long ago that, frankly, I was at the lowest point of my life. But I got through it, readjusted to life in the States; I bought my first truck, got a dog, put a 10-year mortgage on a house the size of which would have been impossible in Japan. I even married the cute girl I knew from high school 20 years ago. There’s still no shortage of things for me to hate on, but overall, life is pretty good.

As for this blog … there are some things I’d like to address (finish up the Matrix script, for sure, and bang out some of these long-lingering draft posts). But in the interim, I’m glad to have finally written this update, to let the rirekisho vultures, perverts and other wayward folk know what’s been going on with me.



Showing bread who’s boss

breadI’ve started to get a bit antsy regarding the — let’s face it — blandness of a lot of the food options here in Nippon.

I therefore decided to spice things up by getting medieval on the corner supermarket’s cheese demi-baguette, or チーズフランス (“Cheese France”) as the locals call it, by throwing some jalapeños on it and popping it into the old toaster oven — or “oven toaster” as it’s for whatever reason referred to in Japanese. Hrm…

In any case, my pimped-up bread rocked. Yup.