Friday, 21 February 2014

Thanks, Yuna

Source.
Rude Boy: My father thinks liking figure skating is “gay.”
President: Watching hot girls in skimpy costumes is gay?

I touched recently on how I'm kind of a huge fan of Kim Yuna (or Yu-na, or YeonA), undoubtedly my very favourite athlete. I don't really care about the rest of the sport; I just like Kim Yuna. This is because she's fucking adorable, and – almost as importantly – because she's an amazing figure skater. Drinking with President at a small bar last night, I outlined my opinions.

Rude Boy: She is perhaps the second most attractive female Korean athlete. Glad you asked! Ee Seul-bi, the third from the Korean Women's Curling team.

Although it's close!

When I was a full pitcher and two pints deep, President pointed out that her short program had come on the TV behind the bar and I kind of lost my shit. Then she told me to calm down, because she didn't want people to think we were weirdos.

And then tonight I watched her long program. Holy. Fuck. Her adorably made-up face. Her beautiful costume, perfectly tailored to show off her smooth, muscular back. And, you know, her performance itself! I'm no sports writer and I lack the vocabulary to explain it, but I thought it was fucking rad. Like, seriously, is there any art form that matches the combination of elegance and excitement of figure skating? Or, for that matter, any figure skater who matches the elegance and excitement of Kim Yuna.

Not for my money. Not for the commentators', either, as after the Russian girl went (I forget her name because she's dead to me), one of them explicitly said, “Well, she's not on the level of Yuna, but that was a great performance.” The judges agreed, at least about it having been a great performance. In fact, they thought it was better than Yuna's.

Which it very well was fucking not. Not even close. I watched the Russian girl's long program and it was really just ok. The commentators were like “wtf.” I was like “President, I just...this is...gwarrrrghuhhhh???????!!!!” exactly like that, because it was a text message. Seriously, you've gotta be fucking me. SILVER? Bullshit. This was the one thing I'd been waiting all Olympics for and I'd been kinda assuming Yuna just had it, and after watching her skate I assumed it twice as hard as I had been already. And then this happens. Fucking robbed. [UPDATE: If you disagree or don't know what I'm talking about, here's an analysis by The Korean at Ask a Korean! explaining.]

Asada had kind of a disappointing finish, although she managed to bring herself up from 16th after the short program to I think 8th in the end by putting out what I heard was a fairly excellent long program, so I was hoping she and Yuna might square off again in a media-manufactured rivalry kind of a way, and then place a distant second. But I'm happy she was able to at least partially redeem herself. This is a Japan blog, so this paragraph satisfies the quorum for requisite Japan-related content per post. Because mostly, Kim Yuna.

And now I'm hearing that she's retiring from competitive figure skating? Terrible. But I guess I understand. Next winter Olympics, she'll be 27, and so probably not in any serious contention for a medal. At least, that's what President thinks. I want to believe she could have one more gold in her. And that she could have other things in her, as well.

Sigh. What is it with Russian figure skating judges and cheating all the time? First Jamie Soleil and David Pelletier, and now this shit. It's like they've misunderstood the Olympics and think that it's supposed to be a competition amongst judges, to see who can be the most corrupt.


Whatever. She's first in my heart.

Monday, 17 February 2014

This weird old guy I met

I don't blog every single story, obviously. Some just aren't that interesting, like the farewell party with my Doushisha friends, which, while fun and maybe suitable for a Tumblr mention, was too uneventful to lend itself well to a spirited Blogspot retelling. Others I feel it would be too crass to post publicly, so I excise details or hold my tongue entirely. In this case, I felt like it was kind of ongoing, and I didn't want to psych myself out about it too much, so I let it sit. Obviously it's now progressed as far as it's gonna go for the time being, so let's have at it: my last big story from last year.

It starts, in a way, the night I first met Udon. You'll recall that she was there with three other people – I didn't explain this part? I'm telling you now. One was a guy in his early 50's, with a short grey mohawk and what I remember as a Hawaiian shirt, although it probably was not, but it fits his character so let's go with that. He got my LINE and the promise to hang out again. At first I thought he was kind of a pest, as he repeatedly asked me to introduce him to some other ryuugakusei so he could expand his social network, though at least he was transparent.

But I quite quickly grew to like him, as, I believe, do most of the people who meet him. Udon says he's “like her father” and sends her LINEPOP hearts every day. And every morning, he sends the message 「今日もいい一日を」 to every single person he knows. Sometimes pictures of things he finds interesting, too, usually bridges or potted plants. He's a weird one. Anyway, within a few days he'd invited me to a party at his house. I envisioned uncomfortably sitting on a couch in a smoky, poorly lit living room, drinking tea and politely refusing endless slimy delicacies while making awkward conversation with various quintogenarians. I hummed and hawed for a few days, trying to find an elegant way to beg off, but in the end I decided to give it a chance. Maybe it would be fun. Besides, I could cite my busy schedule and duck out halfway if it sucked.

It did not suck. In the car ride over (he picked me up from downtown), Jin-san, as he liked to be called, explained that in all the world he wanted nothing more than to bring people together, and so from time to time he held parties like this one as a low-stress meeting place. This is why he wanted me to introduce him to ryuugakusei, as, unsurprisingly, those in his regular circle were all Japanese and almost exclusively shakaijin. He lived in a fairly big mansion near Karasuma Oike. The first thing I saw when I walked in was two women working in the kitchen, one of whom, I knew, would be Jin-san's fiancee/wife/girlfriend-type-deal; he had referred to her as all three on various occasions. And I really hoped she was the one stirring soup, because although both were extremely attractive, the one making salad was downright smokin'.

I was led into the attached dining room and was relieved to find that, although I was indeed the youngest there, there were two other young guys as well, one my same age and one a year our senior. Also in attendance was one of the other old guys from the night I met Udon, as well as a stranger, and, arriving later, a couple in their thirties. It turned out that, with a handful of exceptions, everyone there was only just meeting each other for the first time – Jin-san was for many the only common connection. Meanwhile, the entire apartment was sleek, professional, and clean. It was an unusual situation, but there wasn't a thing suspicious about it. Jin-san mainly sat back and let friendship happen, gently guiding conversations and providing details where need-be, and what started as hesitant, very formal discussions gradually evolved into a lively, boisterous party over the course of the night.

Of the couple, it had been organized partly in the guy's honour, as he was leaving for Australia the following week – to walk across it. For fun. He'd already done the Philippines, and he told me that he was planning to do Canada next. Which suggested to me that he might not realise how big Canada actually was, but I casually suggested that if he came near me, I could probably get him into the newspaper and if was interested maybe meet my university's Japanese Club, of which I was formerly Vice President. He frowned with gratitude.

“Ah, that would really save me!” he exclaimed. “I can collect donations for my trip!”

Um...no. Ask university students for donations for your world travels? Yeah no, that's not going to be a thing. Especially after we've graciously invited you onto our campus. Some people, I swear.

There emerged comparisons between me and the same-age guy. He was loud and spoke without thinking; I was thoughtful and chose my words carefully. He, they said, was immature; I was sophisticated. In truth, I was on my best behaviour. Surrounded by a bunch of elders, none of whom I had ever met before, and also definitely wanting to be invited back at some point, I was listening carefully, nodding along deferentially, and bringing out my very shiniest of keigo. Which is, all things considered, not especially shiny, but although I'm much more comfortable banging on like an Oosaka gutter rat, speaking politely in Japanese, as in English, has the effect of making me seem more intelligent, even when the ideas expressed are exactly the same. Certain people like me a bit better when I try to speak keigo, is what I'm trying to say. And tonight I was really turning on the charm.

The smokin' girl turned out to be Not Jin-san's Wife, as I had hoped, and, I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but somehow me and the older young guy got moved to the seats beside her, competing for her affections. And...well, what can I say? It was a blowout.

For me, I mean.

I sort of wish I knew what I said, but I at least remember that I was complimentary, politely confident, and genuine, which sounds like an obvious strategy but I guess I was doing it in a particular way that I can't often pull off. She asked for my LINE and everyone cheered, because somehow this had become the main event of the night and the entire rest of the table was spectating. “Appeal Time” was over; the other guy hadn't even gotten to try. Ha!

It wasn't long before I was asked to guess her age, and I thought, well, isn't that always a fun question. She looked about 25, but what if she turned out to be younger? That would certainly be points against me. So, thinking quickly, I said that she had the cuteness of a 20-year-old, but the prettiness of a 25-year-old. Nice one, Rude Boy!

Her actual age? 31.

Holy...wut.

To be completely honest, for about five seconds, this really threw me, and everyone saw it. I mean, I can go a few years older, but I don't know if I can surmount a gap that wide! But then I recovered and just kept laying it on. 31? Sure! With everyone around us prodding, we jokingly declared that we were now dating.

Rude Boy: You know, the sooner we get married, the sooner I can get my citizenship.
Nuna: Oh, great, I can have mixed kids!

Oh, I named her Nuna because we were discussing the Korean language and I taught her a couple of words. You tired of nicknames yet? I'm not.

By the time I left, it was four in the morning and I'd been there for over eight hours, just chatting with Other Old Guy, Jin-san, and his shy, beautiful, feminine woman. As for Nuna, joking aside, I'm pretty sure there was some mutual attraction in there, but I didn't actually expect to ever see her again. I was therefore quite surprised and rather pleased to hear from Jin-san that she would, in fact, very much like to see me again. Unfortunately, her work schedule transpired to be quite rigorous, but she did offer that although she would not be attending the bowling tournament the following week, she could at least drop by the nijikai. Well, ok then! I'll take it!

The bowling “tournament,” such as it was, was pretty fun, except for the huge delay at the end. I'm not comfortable saying this is an entirely Japanese thing, but, well, every big bowling event I've ever been to in Japan has had this problem. There seems to be this inexplicable belief that there must be prizes, and that the doling out of them must be undertaken with great solemnity and thorough scrutineering. When this collides with poor organization, you get excruciating results. I know some people don't have a lot of experience in event planning, but come on.

First the scores of over a hundred people were tallied by a team of only three, while the organizers desperately attempted to keep us entertained with increasingly boring and nonsensical monologues about not really anything. Then they finally announced the results – of every single team. All of them. One by one. The number of the team, their members, the scores they got in each game, their total score for all three games, and finally, where they placed. And then all members had to come up, take a commemorative photograph, and then individually high-five the captains of all other teams. My fingers brushed my chin and I realised I'd grown a beard – and it was white! Then a Morlok wandered in and a man flew by on a jetpack and killed it with a laser gun.

Luckily we were off to eat, drink and be merry, and, in my case, hopefully meet Nuna again. The restaurant was Vox, which I'd always assumed was a girls' bar or maybe a skeezy but legitimate club, but which turned out to actually be a fairly nice spot to sit down and dine. I was a little distracted, of course, and couldn't keep myself from constantly looking at the door, as if she might walk in just as I craned my head around, or that my staring might somehow hasten her arrival. No dice; she couldn't get away from work, and I never saw her before leaving Japan.

In a way, this did at least simplify things for me somewhat. See, this is right where I was really starting to talk with Udon, and to be perfectly honest with you I had (and still kind of have) every intention of pursuing them both, since both seemed open to persuasion. Which is an excellent problem, but at the time it was a source of great distress for me, like, really? Why NOW, right as I was set to leave, and not in, say, November? I seriously felt like I was being trolled by life. So once I knew that Nuna was at least temporarily out of the equation, I was able to focus on Udon, whom I still message from time to time, trying to keep the oven warm in the hopes that I'll be able to make it home relatively quickly. Though, assuming she even remembers me, I won't entirely discount Nuna just yet...is that lame? Oh, let me have my fun.


I guess the takeaway here is, the next time you meet some weird old guy in a shady dive bar at 3 am and he invites you back to his place, you should totally go.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Kanadajin Tales!

Just because I'm not a gaijin at the moment doesn't mean that the people around me have stopped saying hilarious things.

*

President: I don't really go to that bar much anymore. Not since my one friend got knocked up with twins and the other one moved to PoCo to be a stripper.

*

President: You gonna walk me all the way to my class again?
Rude Boy: Yeah, I always have plenty of time to make it all the way over there and then get back to mine.
President: “Plenty of time” meaning “less than five minutes late?”
Rude Boy: Sometimes ten.

*

Rude Boy: Magma is beneath the earth, lava has already surfaced. Though I don't know why you need two words. I mean what the fuck do you call water when it's still underground?
Friend: Groundwater.
Rude Boy: Um, ok, what do you call gold when it—
Friend: Groundgold.

*

Rude Boy: How's Valentino?
Jugs: He's being detained under the Mental Health Act in a hospital in Salmon Arm.
(beat)
Rude Boy: Why Salmon Arm?

*

Rude Boy: I really badly want to learn more Korean.
Jugs: Maybe you need a Korean girlfriend.
Rude Boy: Maybe. There's a pretty hot K-girl that I see around campus sometimes.
Jugs: Well, get on that! (beat) Literally!

*

Jugs: The Chinese girl at Subway made me a terrible sub and I'm really upset about it! Lol
Rude Boy: Yeah? Cause id really like to...“eat her sandwich.”

*

President's ex-boyfriend: The job market's pretty much shit everywhere. Like my friend in Kentucky, he says, “I theoretically know how to manufacture bioweapons, and I'm working in a cafeteria! Serving bioweapons!”

*

Driving down a long, straight, four-lane stretch of road at 1 am, I saw a few teenagers standing around. One was crouched next to the curb, but I assumed he was just readying himself for a fast-action jaywalk when I passed – until, that is, he ran straight at my car, actually leading me a little. I swerved away and sharply accelerated, then loosed a blast from the horn, which, unfortunately, was probably very much to their satisfaction, but felt kind of necessary, since I was now hurtling through an uncontrolled intersection going the wrong way.

The game, I surmise, was to try and touch me as I passed, which struck me as an exceptionally stupid pastime. Setting aside how much it would hurt to touch 1000 pounds of metal travelling at 60+ kph, what if, you know, I had run him the fuck over? I tried to decide if I'd have played such a game when I was in high school. Yeah I totally would have. But you know what. Bullfighting, BASE jumping, driving at face-melting speeds, doing face-melting amounts of heroin – I totally identify with the need to slap death on the ass. Go out and do what you have to. But for God's sake, if you're going to risk your life for the thrill of it, don't implicate anybody else! I love driving, don't fucking ruin that for me.

Although, I'm sure they weren't doing this to push themselves to the limit and conquer the last enemy that shall be destroyed. They were probably just idiots.

*

Rude Boy: Damn, looks like the hot Chinese girl from Subway has a boyfriend! Better think of a way to break them up.
Jugs: That should NOT be your first reaction.
Rude Boy: What, like I'm going to sleep with her while they're still dating?! That would just be immoral!
President: You're a terrible person.

*

Rude Boy's father: Do you charge your phone every night? Or whenever it is you sleep?

*

Rude Boy: They're razing the doutonnbori bridge to make way for an outdoor swimming pool ARE YOU ACTUALLY KIDDING ME HASHIMOTO WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK
President: Umm k?
President: Outdoor pool = Osaka girls in bikins tho? Lol
Rude Boy: ...down with the doutonbori bridge
President: Lol

*

Rude Boy: I'm putting all my stuff together on top of the fridge. So don't try to set things on fire with the beer or drink the butane.

*

President: Hey, sup.
Rude Boy: Hey Sugartits.
President and friend: (blink)
President: I guess that's my new nickname. I'm not even going to question it.

*

Classmate: (hands Rude Boy a printout)
Rude Boy: Thanks. You should be a quarterback.
Classmate: ...because of my pass?
Other classmate: That joke was bad and you should feel bad.

*

Politics major girl: She and I had a prior class together.
Rude Boy: You had a pirate class together?!
Politics major girl: A prior class.
Rude Boy: Oh, I got excited for a minute there. I thought maybe this was a new program they were offering this year, like you could get your Major in Piracy or something.
Politics major girl: I think you can, it's called “Business.”

*

Jugs: Is it still cold as tits out?
Rude Boy: Nah, it warmed up.
Jugs: Hm. I'll take two jackets anyway, it might be cold as tits again later.

*

Jugs: Valentino's a straight gay man. He's completely straight, but he dates dudes. It's weird.

*

Driving home one day, doing about 90 down a long straight stretch, a deer jumped out at me. Like a moron I hit my brakes and swerved too hard (luckily the animal immediately went “Nope, fuck this” and bounded away), and unfortunately it turned out I was on black ice, you know, just for good measure. 

 completely lost control and was pretty much just along for the ride from here on in. My entire vehicle swung around 270 degrees, so that I was now perpendicular to the road, with still going what had to have been at least 70 or higher, which is generally faster than you want to be going when you're travelling straight sideways. My rear wheels carved a huge scar through the snow as I slid but, incredibly, I didn't hit anything other than a few withered weeds. And this is going to sound like posturing, but at no point during this did I feel at all alarmed or frightened, but just like, well, nothing to do now but wait until we stop. It was interesting.

Once I finally slid to a halt, a looong way down the road, I sort of sat there for a moment to see if anything else was going to happen, then, when I realised it wasn't, I set the car into gear, eased back onto the road, and continued on my way, except ratcheting things down to 60.

Coincidentally, a mechanic later looked over my winter tires and was like “lolno” – still good tread left, but grown hard as tits. To recap, deer, black ice, bad tires – so, completely my fault, but also kind of not. I am kind of glad I had the experience though, as I now know what it feels like to spin around and to slide like that. But perhaps more to the point, it was a goddamn miracle that it happened on a straight stretch.

*

Jugs: I have three boyfriends and two girlfriends...except one of my boyfriends broke up with me because I wouldn't stop sleeping with his ex-boyfriend...and one of my girlfriends has a Japanese boyfriend who doesn't know about me.
Rude Boy: I'm going to quote that in Kandajin Tales and provide no context whatsoever.

*


Jugs's coworker: My hair today is ri-dyke-ulous! (beat) It's funny because I'm a dyke.