Monday, November 30, 2009

Back on the Ranch

Whew. Seems like I got back to the ranch in the nick of time. Being down south was really starting to make me crazy. I missed the air, I missed the water, I missed the solitude. In the past, it was easier to put her out of my mind when we were gone, but not any more. I miss her smell, I miss her touch. I miss running my fingers through the earth, the grasses.

"Hi, Orgy Tree!" I hug the giant oak in front of our house.
"Hi, crazy flowering pear trees! Don't you know it's nearly winter?"
"Hey Lizard Gang, I missed you guys."
"Oh, Ellie, I missed you, too." Ellie, the cat, rolls around in delight. Or so I'd like to believe.

Big Dog woke up in the middle of the night, as he often does, and noticed a bright light on our porch.
"There's a light on out there."
"You mean the solar light?"
"No. That one's broken. No, it's a new light!"
He is totally mystified and puts his clothes on to investigate.

He comes back moments later.
"It's the moon."
"What do you mean, the moon?"
"The light I thought was some strange new light on our porch was just the moon."

That made me laugh. Yes, the moon is as bright as a high beam in the darkness of the country night. And, yes, we've been gone too long.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Two Cents Worth

So, over here in the U.S of A., there's a flap going on about Obama bowing to the Japanese emperor. Some saw it as a sign of weakness! (I say making a Giant Deal out of it is a sure sign of weakness. Mental weakness, that is. And Amnesia. Obama was not the first to bow to a Japanese emperor. Clinton did. So did Nixon -- and he bowed not to the current emperor but to his father, Hirohito. Eisenhower bowed to DeGualle. And so on.)

It was an elegant bow and, I think, totally appropriate. A bow in Japan is like a handshake in the U.S. It is not a sign of subservience, but of respect. The way people greet each other differs from culture to culture.

I, for one, am happy to see a president who is so international and so global that he can greet others in their style, naturally and beautifully. I am sure it comes from having grown up in the Aloha State, as well as in cultures and countries beyond his own. One day, I hope the Japanese get a prime minister who can, say, kiss the cheek of the French prime minister. Or touch noses with Inuits... or Moaris.

Some claim Obama does not represent the American people. I guess these people don't think Graciousness or Tolerance or Understanding of Differences are representative American values. That's too bad.

Two cents ain't worth much these days, but there it was.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Medal for the Meddler

"Hi," I smile to the elderly guy holding a sign in front of a novelty shop. I see him there every time I'm back in West LA. Sometimes he's in costume -- like a Spiderman outfit -- but it never looks quite right on him. Maybe it's the fact that he's a pudgy, older Hispanic guy.

"Hi," says an old man, crashed out on the sidewalk near the local supermarket as I walk by.
"Hi," I mumble back.

I notice that the guy's pillow is a backpack. Although he reeks of alcohol, I feel sorry for him -- it's starting to get cold here, especially at night. Perhaps I can get him a fleece blanket or something in the supermarket.

The store didn't carry any blankets, but it was a good thing I didn't buy anything for the old man, because by the time I stepped out of the supermarket, canvas tote weighing me down, there was an ambulance and a fire truck near the sidewalk and they were taking the old man away on a stretcher. Someone must have called 911.

This is what I love and dislike about Life in America. I love that people are concerned enough about their fellow man to act. Sometimes, though, it's a nuisance. For example, I bruise very easily. I probably have at least one bruise somewhere on my body at any given moment. When at the ranch, in addition to the usual furniture and household appliances, I am constantly being attacked by limbs and branches, ranch equipment, hardware, etc. and I live in fear that one day, someone will assume I'm a victim of domestic violence and call the authorities.

It's so different in Japan. People think that getting involved is a Bad Thing. "Don't meddle in other people's business," we're taught. Even if it looks like they might need help. Try panhandling in Japan. People will look away in embarrassment. Or, conversely, try giving a homeless guy some money. You'll be embarrassing him. (Now, busking is a different matter.....especially if you are non-Japanese.) When a young man fell from the platform at a train station, a Korean man jumped down to try to save him (and was killed in the process.) When my mother was unintentionally pushed onto the tracks by some rowdy drunks she could have been run over if another train conductor hadn't spotted her, passed out on the train tracks. (Later, she received a bill from the railway company for causing a delay in their schedule!) Maybe it's the human density. Maybe over there, we have to live with a private mental space since we have no real space. You never let on that you heard your neighbor's loud argument last night, or that you can hear every sigh and moan of the next door couple's lovemaking.

I wish there were a happy middle ground in all of this, but today I'm glad that whoever it was called someone to help that old man. He'll be warm and safe somewhere, even if it's only for one night.

My SoCal stay keeps getting longer and longer and I am beyond withdrawal, I miss the ranch so much. Unlike the ranch, however, there's a lot of human drama here to keep me and my mind occupied.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Turning Japanese

Sawtelle is a great neighborhood in West LA for fans of Japanese food and culture. It's also a great neighborhood for homesick Japanese. I love the tiny Nijiya Supermarket which is so much like the neighborhood supermarkets all over Tokyo. Even the shopping baskets are the same!

The area is also a magnet for Americans infatuated with all things Japanese.

In Tokyo, you'll see Japanese kids trying to look like home boys, low riders, Rastafarians, new-age hippies, etc. so I was totally charmed by a young man in Sawtelle who had the Japanese Urban Youth look down to a T. I wish I had been able to talk to him, but I lost him when I turned to Big Dog to point him out. ("You mean he not Japanese?!")

I think the young man was inspired by manga or music idols. Like these?

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