Wednesday, January 4, 2017

I'm the Only Gaijin in This Mansion!

You can count on a number of things happening during holiday season in Japan, and after all these years here, none of it even budges the needle on my WTFometer anymore. Once Mariah stops screeching about what she wants for Xmas, once those Xmas illumination extravaganzas no longer draw prohibitive numbers, and once all the kampai and bonenkai are done, Japan settles in for the actual holidays (that is, actual days off from work - Xmas day itself not being one of them) where people either rest, catch up with friends or make the obligatory trip back to one's hometown to reunite with family. During this time, as you'd expect, most shops and businesses are closed, and many services that generally run like clockwork are modified or suspended...including garbage collection.

 Now, for the uninformed, garbage collection, in at least every place I've lived in Japan, is fairly serious business. Particularly residentially, because unlike with a public receptacle, only at home can you be held fully accountable. I remember when I first moved to Yokohama, I was living in a mansion tucked in the hills of Kikuna, 10 minutes by bike from planet earth. Even the nearest convenience store was a hike, so there were almost as many vending machines as there were mansions.

It was in this residential desolation that I had my first (and last) run-in with a Gomi-Nazi for not separating my trash properly. She was a neighbor (one who managed to be taking her garbage out the same time, or soon after I did, on a number of occasions when I first moved in). I was living with my GF then, but she'd never noticed any neighborly stalking. So I figured it was a gaijin thing (behavior reserved for non-Japanese) or maybe I was just more cognizant of such behaviors than she was. Still, I imagined her sitting at her window on gomi-days, waiting on me to emerge trash bags in hand.

The neighbor, a woman of 70 or so, petite with purplish-silver wispy hair and veiny age-spotted skin, was never without a kind smile and a formal greeting. Even small talk from time to time, on the weather and such. And that morning when she pulled up behind me as I plopped my bag amid the bags piled these, she was very cordial.
"Good morning," she said.
"Good morning," I replied, feeling the warm embrace of Japan. "A little cold today."
 "That it is," she said, glancing around me at the bag I'd just deposited in the area. "You know, that there, kind sir, is NOT burnable," she said in the simplest Japanese she could muster, her finger jabbing at the plastic bento plate that had made its way into the trash bag with the burnables. "And neither is that." Her finger was now aimed at a plastic egg carton.
"Well I'll be damned," I said in English, nodding. Then, in Japanese. "Sorry, next time I'll be more careful."
 She smiled, but did not budge, certain that I was not getting the message that there was simply no tolerance in her neck of the woods for my gaijin slackness.
I was fixing to leave the gomi area and make the 50 yard trek back to my crib, when she smiled and pointed again. I looked to see where the offensive object was this time, but it seemed she was pointing at the same objects.
 Oh wait.
 Oh HELL No!
 Her smile said Oh HELL yes. There'll be no plastics in with the burnables on my watch.
I began to walk away, saying, "Gomen nasai" over my shoulder.
"Excuse me, dear sir, but this, this here, is a no-go," she said.
I could feel the chill in the air more sharply then and I froze in my tracks, literally (I was under-dressed for an extended stay outdoors). There was something in her tone that had a finality to it that was reminiscent of my own mother's finality, the one she'd conjure up when my unflappable force met her immovable objection. A tone that spoke of repercussions of a regretful nature.

And I wasn't about to get into an altercation with my new elderly neighbor over something of which, by her estimation - and I imagined by expansion would be the community's estimation - I was clearly in the wrong.
 "I'm not sure how things are done in your home country, but this is Japan," she said with gravity. "Here, this is a very important matter."
"I see," I said. "Sorry."
So, I backtracked, unknotted the knot I'd fastidiously tied (damn near needing my teeth to do so, and trying not to glare at the woman as I did so) and reached my cold dark fingers into the bagful of shit appropriately called refuse, rummaging for the offending materials she'd pointed out. I pulled them out, praying that in doing so I wouldn't reveal any other no-go objects -- of which I was sure there were a number.
 And just in case I didn't know who was the showrunner in these parts, she added, "And would you be so kind as to refrain from doing so in the future? I'm so sorry."
I carried my cold ass, my grimy fingers, an empty bento plate and an egg carton back up the road to the mansion.
 On another occasion, she (or another neighbor) must have come to the bin after me, seen the offending bag, and actually carried it back to my apartment where it sat until I was leaving for work. It squatted beside my door with a little pleasant-looking post-it note with a tiny kawaii anpanman stamp and some Japanese I couldn't read written on it. A little arrow drawn on the paper actually pointed down at the offending object in the bag.
These motherfuckers!
After that bullshit, I damn near became a gomi-nazi in my own right...secretly hoping to catch my Japanese neighbors, or even my Japanese GF, violating the gomi-rules.
But they never did.
I've long since quit my gomi-nazi ways. It was fruitless, anyway. People, at least in my neighborhood, sort their garbage and take it out on designated days like it's as integral a part of being Japanese as bowing and shoe-removal. I've learned that, at least in these parts, Japanese will invariably follow the rules. But I do still check shit out from time to time, especially when a crisis occurs. Like annually, when the city of Yokohama informs us residents that, due to the New Year's holiday, the gomi collection schedule will be altered slightly. The result being that instead of the usual bi-weekly pickup of burnable garbage, all that funky burnable and increased holiday refuse will have to be retained in your home for an extra couple of days.
And, yes, that qualifies as a crisis in these parts.
I wasn't planning on doing any nazi-ing but the rarity of rule-breaking caught my eye as I ventured outside to make my way to the convenience store. As I passed by the garbage bin reserved for people living in my mansion, I saw something disturbing.


 Now, Wednesday (today) IS designated for boxes and bottles, so those are there as they should be, but you might be able to discern in that pic above that there are some burnable trash bags in there, as well.
 Oh HELL No!
I'm the only gaijin in this mansion!
That means, unfortunately, if any of my other neighbors notice (or the garbage collectors themselves, who have been known to leave offending bags in the bin with terse notes attached to them, sometimes even in broken English!!) I'd be blamed.
 ...and the fucker who did it knows that!
Of course no one will directly confront me about it after the fact. Oh no, that would be unseemingly, being that it is, ultimately, circumstantial evidence. (A rule was broken, Japanese don't break rules, one gaijin lives here. A+B+C=Gaijin). But, I'd have to endure the repercussions, nonetheless. The silent incriminations, the notices slid beneath my door (in poorly syntax'd English) reminding me of the rules I'd been following for going on three years, perhaps a resumption of vigilance from the mansion's gomi-nazi party on the contents of my refuse.
I wish I'd caught that gaijin-ing nihonjin in the act, cuz I'd read his (or her) ass the riot act, politely, of course. Something like: すみません! あの, このゴミの日じゃないですよね--
They probably did it in the middle of the night.
 Shit, that's how I'd do it!


When Hateful People Hate You!

Just saw a link on my blog stats page. It sent some traffic my way so I followed it and it lead to a white supremacist website.
Before I could close the page (my normal response to sick minds) curiosity got the best of me.
Somehow I imagined, in almost a decade of having a prominent internet presence, that I'd been there, done that, heard it, and read it (pun intended), all before, all of it, and nothing, NOTHING, could faze me now. I have scar tissue on my soul.
You see, I tell myself (some variation of) if hateful people hate you you must be doing something right. You know, mantras like that. Not that I subscribe to these fortune cookie bromides wholeheartedly but I admit they have helped me get through some tougher moments.
But geezus, being at the center of all that unbridled scathing hate in one was impossible to come away from it unscathed no matter what mantras you tell yourself. Right about now, I feel like I need to take a shower with a Brillo pad or I'll never feel clean again. 
「brillo pad shower」の画像検索結果
Haters are like terrorists. If you give in to hate, the haters win.
I'm not gonna sit here and start spouting off about love conquering all. I've served up enough platitudes for one post. But just knowing that this shit is out there undermines any remaining faith I have in humanity. I'll retrieve it soon I hope. I always do.
So, you know what I'm gonna do after my Brillo shower? I'm gonna knock out that other bottle of bubbly I was too drunk to drink New Years eve, and keep it moving.

Funky Upgrades and Funky Outbursts

The upgrades to the webpage are coming along nicely. Particularly the #BlackEye page, where every article I've written for the Japan Times can be found (if you're interested, check them out HERE).
 Also making some upgrades to my workshop. Anyone who's attended over the past couple of years can tell you it's pretty tight as it is, but it could definitely stand some fine tuning.

I'll keep you guys updated on the progress, but so far so good. You might recall my first workshop back in 2015.

I posted about it HERE! Here's the flyer:
 It was a huge success, and has grown since then, but now I'm expanding it a bit. Anyway, more on that later.


 Yesterday I mentioned my Hoppin' John triumph. Tasty as hell, it was...however, there were some side effects.


Brings to mind a little ditty we used to sing when I was rugrat: Beans beans they're good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you fart Ate some beans and they were loaded, went to bed and they exploded Loco PS:

Anyone recall singing that song?

Playing the Game of Resolutions

I quit making New Year's resolutions. I make mine on any day of the year except December 31st because then, technically, it's not a New Year's resolution. It's just a resolution. Right?
 I prefer to just do shit without making breakable promises to myself. Because every time I broke a New Year's resolution (and I've broken MANY) I feel like I've betrayed my number one go-to guy (me). And that's bad form on any day of the year.

 So, in order to avoid that ill-fated cold turkey method of stopping bad habits, or the just-as-jarring sudden start way of beginning things, I started the practice of making my New Year's Resolutions early. Sometime in Autumn usually gives me enough of a head start that by the time the New Year comes around I'm already ahead in the game of resolutions.

 For example, I'm a junk food junkie. Even here in Japan...they've got their junkfood here as well. Onigiri (a rice ball, usually filled with mayonnaise and something fishy, Tuna or Salmon) or some snack from the sweet bread section of the combini (I love me some melon Pan) for breakfast, Bento lunch boxes for lunch and whatever happens happens for dinner. Seldom does cooking find its way into that rotation. And the result of this practice haunts me every time I step in front of a mirror. Spare tire doesn't begin to describe what I see there. More like the trunk you store the spare tire in. 

There was a time, not too long ago, when I was so active, and my metabolism was such that I could consume junk at a prodigious rate and not have to duck mirrors. But those days are very much over. This isn't just a vanity thing either. My blood pressure is high, cholesterol level is high, and my risk for heart attack is probably a lot higher than it ought to be for a man of my age. 2016's tally of dead didn't help much either. Not that I'm afraid of death. When it's time to go it's time to go. I Just don't wanna skip line or anything, you know? I've got work to do before I check out.

 So, I resolved one day in September to reduce my junk consumption by cooking more often...and cooking as healthy as my budget allows. It's been slow going with many, MANY, slipups along the way. But by getting an early autumn start, and gradually gaining my bearings and building momentum, and facing some of the challenges of such a life altering resolution without the pressure that the modification "New Year's" puts on resolution, I've been able to gain my footing a bit...and just in time!

 So, come today, January 1st, I'm a cooking ass mofo, and don't feel all that resolution pressure.

 Of course, as fate would have it, I have a whole pot of Hoppin' John to put away...not exactly healthy cooking. But it's the holidays. Gotta cut yourself some slack sometimes. Life is too short... So pass the peas like we used to do!

Happy 2017 from Loco in Yokohama!

Just wanted to take a moment out to wish all of you happy holidays and a healthy, prosperous New Year!

 Your boy Loco has had a lot on his plate for the past couple of years so content on this blog has taken a hit. But this year I'm going to re-integrate LIY into my routine, so you can expect a significant uptick in posts in the coming year. I'll be doing this as much for you guys who've been patient as I am to keep my fingers active and my mind focused, but hopefully it'll result in the type of output you've come to expect from LIY and then some. There's a little rust on this end so please bear with me til I regain my bearings. I'll make it worth your while! So, what's coming up? Well, 2016 has been a rough year, grave and grinding. Loss so many good people. And consequently I felt little inspiration, and my productivity dropped a lot (the creative spirit just wasn't there). But 2017 finds me optimistic with a number of projects underway, and several should see fruition in this coming year. Highlights Including:

 1- The upcoming Japanese version of "Hi! My Name is Loco ..."
2- The upcoming work-in-progress "Winning Abroad"
 3- My first fiction novel "Comeuppance in Brooklyn"

 4- The third (and perhaps final) book in the "Loco" trilogy, yet to be named, but replete with original material. 5- An increased number of public appearances, readings and workshops (hibernation is over - time to step out of the mancave again). I'm not gonna elaborate on these projects just now. Time to stop talking them up, and get them done.

So, stay tuned, and thanks for your support. I'll endeavor, as always, to earn it.

 Peace and Love, Loco

PS: Now, I gotta get back to my Hoppin' John!
Peas are clean and been soaking since yesterday...and they ain't gonna cook themselves.  

Japan has its own Big Bang Theory

14875907_584988968355321_1888216486_oIt's that time again. The latest Black Eye is up and atcha!

And we're closing out 2016 with a Big Bang! Big Bang Nicole that is! Actress, model, dancer AND Pro-Wrestler! She's got a lot more than Hot Sauce in her Bag! Here's an excerpt from this amazing athlete's story:

  “I remember watching matches on TV with Kyoko Inoue, Manami Toyota and Aja Kong. So, to then go work for Inoue, I was just blown away!” Roni says. “All of these women have had such illustrious careers. And now here I am, part of that legacy, part of the Diana family! It’s just incredible.” I’d seen some (OK, maybe more than some) women’s wrestling matches in the States back in the day, and to say it was anything more than a T&A fest with big hair, scant and/or outlandish outfits and unimaginative gimmicks would be overstating it. But, at Roni’s prompting, I watched some video of Inoue and Toyota having it out back in 1992, and I could see what had impressed her. The match was nothing short of off the chain! “I’m very grateful that WWW Diana is such a great company. They are literally one of the only joshi (women’s) companies in Japan with all veteran members who are extremely old school, which is how I was trained back in the States. Japanese old school and American old school are not the same, but at the end of the day, it’s an older style and I connected with it more. I guess I’m old school too.


“The training is extremely difficult, comparable to how Spartans were trained back in ancient times, I imagine,” she says, laughing. “It took me about three months to get used to how intense it was. Fortunately they adjusted it a bit due to my size. By the time you get used to one hell, they hit you with another one. But the training gets you to a level where you can perform consistently and effectively at a high caliber all the time, because we trained six days a week and wrestled two to three times a week.”

 For more of Big Bang's Theories, check out the complete piece HERE And please SHARE it with your peeps! Happy Holidays and a healthy and prosperous New Year to all of you!! Loco

Americans Might be Baka, But We're not THAT Baka!

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Thousands of anti-Donald Trump protesters shut down 5th Avenue in front of Trump Tower as New Yorkers react to the election of Trump as president of the United States on November 9, 2016 in New York City. Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in an upset to become the 45th president. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The latest #BlackEye is up! Shared some thoughts on the recent election... Here's an excerpt:

 “Are you sure she’s going to win?” my Japanese co-worker seated beside me asked. I leaned over and glanced at her computer screen. I saw what had upset her. Texas’ results had just come in, and Trump had sprinted further ahead in what must have appeared to her as a feverish uncontested dash for the magic 270 Electoral College votes needed to clinch the presidency. “Texas always goes red,” I said, looking at that Lone Star State, red as the blood of James Byrd, a black man who’d been lynched there back in ’98, chained and dragged behind a pickup truck driven by white supremacists. Can’t ever think of Texas without thinking of James. “Texas is George Bush country. I don’t even think Clinton’s an option on their ballots. Relax.”


 To read the rest of this article, visit the Japan Times page HERE Loco.