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.
I’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.
Everyone knows the internets are the fastest way to get things done these days, but sometimes you still have to rely on the post office. Recently, I had to back-and-forth some important documentation with extreme haste, so I made use of the post office’s 速達 (sokutatsu) express delivery service, and it really came through for me. Sokutatsu is explained in English as express mail on the Japan Post’s official website, but for some reason the English description varies wildly from the Japanese version, hence this write-up.
Just take your letter, postcard or package to the post office (you won’t need any special envelopes or packaging) and say 速達でお願いします (sokutatsu de onegai shimasu), or, “I’d like to send this by express mail.” The person behind the counter will then stamp a red band on the item you wish to mail, indicating special priority.
Just how fast is sokutatsu? In my case, I sent a letter to an address far removed from Tokyo; it arrived the following day, and when sent back on the day it was received, it was back in my mailbox the day after that. That’s pretty darn fast. To speed things up, I’d included a self-addressed stamped envelope (切手を貼った返信用封筒, kitte o hatta henshinyo futo) that had also been affixed with the sokutatsu stamp.
Express delivery service begins from 270 yen for a letter (domestic), with prices increasing according to weight. Click here for a list of prices (Japanese only).
“Oh, man” The Plain mutters.
The Plain often mutters to himself. Usually it’s about things IT related — in your short time with the firm, you’ve never seen anyone more prone to software crashing, computer rebooting or hunt-and-peck typing than The Plain.
“Oh, man” he mutters again. You hear the mutter from behind you; your attention is face-forward on your work.
“What is it?” you ask, still not turning around.
“It would seem,” begins The Plain — who, while being completely fluent in English, speaks it for some reason with a Christopher Walken-like delivery — “that I’ve gotten myself into a predicament.”
You turn around. The Plain is standing behind you, looking distressed. In his hand is a stack of printouts. At a guess, you’d say around 400 pages of printouts. You immediately burst into laughter.
“Dude, what did you do?” you ask, still laughing.
“I merely intended,” The Plain responds, his face unflinchingly stoic, “to print a single paragraph of this legal document, which I had highlighted. Unfortunately, I printed the whole section.”
Your gaze flashes from The Plain’s intimidatingly large frame to the childlike look of discomfort on his face back to the stack of papers in his hands. You’re unable to control yourself and you burst into an even louder bout of laughter. The Plain eyes you a moment, and then his usually stony features melt and he’s laughing as hard as you.
“Man,” you begin, finally coming up for air, “what are you going to do with all that?”
“I’m not sure.” He eyes his bookshelf. “Put it here, perhaps?” He places the stack of papers on his shelf; it is by far larger than any of the specialized dictionaries he keeps on his shelf, which sets off a fresh round of laughter.
“Nice phone book you’ve got there,” you quip, which gives The Plain a hearty laugh.
You turn back to your work. It is a completely uninteresting piece, and you find yourself resenting the fact that you have to work overtime to proofread it. You’re vaguely aware of The Plain getting up from his desk, walking somewhere and then returning.
“Oh, man,” you hear from behind you.
“What now?” you ask, eyes still on your work.
“This is something else. Could you come here please?”
You get up from your desk, follow The Plain toward the copier. When you get there, suddenly you’re laughing so hard that you’re clutching your sides and trying not to fall over.
“Apparently,” begins The Plain, already beginning to chuckle, “I printed not just a section of the document, but the entire document.”
You eye the massive stack of printouts, completely weighing down the printout tray and threatening to start spilling onto the floor, and break into another peal of laughter.
“How many pages is this?” you ask, wiping a tear from your eye.
“But … this looks like more than 1,600 pages.”
“Yes. It would seem I printed it twice.”
The Plain hoists the stack of papers, dropping it onto his desk with a massive THUD that echoes through the office. The two of you giggle like schoolkids again.
“Seriously, what are you going to do with all that?” you ask when you can finally catch your breath.
“I think,” comes the thoughtful reply, “that for some time, my children will have no shortage of scratch paper.”
Yes, the demise of Michael Jackson is by now old news and has already been blogged into the ground. But I mention it here for the following reasons:
-I have been watching the original Thriller video pretty much every day for the past week, and it still rocks. I mean, it has dancing zombies in it for chrissake.
-Given how much the people here dig MJ, I started wondering if there was a Japanese- language subbed version of the Thriller video out there. Finally found this one here, but it’s like trying to watch a movie when no one in the theater will SHUT THE HELL UP, in that there’s a constant scrawl of “witty” comments that has been added to the vid by the uploader. I’ll say it for the record: Japanese internet culture sucks.
-I subsequently got to wondering if there were separate, Japanese-language lyrics for Thriller posted somewhere online. And I finally found these, which educate as well as entertain; gotta love it when “I’m gonna thrill ya tonight, ooh baby” is translated as 私は今夜、オーッ！赤ちゃん屋スリルつもり. That’s just nutty.
-In looking for the original Thriller video, I stumbled across the so-called “Indian Thriller,” a ripoff scene starring the suave gentleman in the picture above. The video itself is embedded below for your viewing displeasure.
p/s – Sorry for the dropoff in posting, folks. The workload has been taking its toll…