Death by Noise

140916_1511~01A few months ago, the Powers That Be tore down two old houses next to mine, subdivided the land into three small plots, and construction has begun on two of them.

This is how I’m going to die.

They, or rather, one guy with a staple gun, started a few weeks ago on the furthest away. It’s the most gawd awful cheap construction, nothing but a pile of plywood boxes held together with staples. They built some like that near where I used to live and there were cracks in the outside walls before the owners had even moved in. Most likely this house will fall down long before the owners can finish paying for it. I guess you get what you pay for, but still, I feel bad for them.

Work started on the closest plot a few days ago, two guys this time, with the obligatory staple gun, plus a nail gun. Everything is being done with power tools. Gone is the sound of a hammer hitting a nail. Instead of Dueling Banjos, we have dueling staple guns, a fast forward kacha-kacha-kacha attack on the senses, not unlike a woodpecker attacking a tree, without any of the charm.

No more the gentle voo-bah, voo-bah of Bill Cosby’s Noah building the ark. Instead they have electric handsaws that produce a high pitched screeching whine that is threatening to rip my brain out through my ear canals. Take the sound of a dentist’s drill, amplify by a thousand, and don’t forget the delightful way the sound goes on and on as it ricochets off the surrounding houses.

One of the guys is bronzed and muscled and had an attractive dusting of sawdust on his black tank top today. That didn’t stop me wanting to go test my kick boxing skills on him. I fantasize that they will suddenly see the light, lay down their tools, and join the peace corps. Don’t they realize I only quit smoking a few months ago? Don’t they know I’m living with a crazed feline who attacks my feet when I’m asleep and produces poo more pungent than the chicken I left in my gym bag last summer? How much patience am I expected to have?


I just learned a new word: Gun-Tama-Chi-Bara-Gi. It refers to Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Ibaragi and Tochigi Prefectures, and infers that while those areas are included in the Great Kanto Plain, they are Japan’s unsophisticated outback and the people who come from there are yokels and hayseeds. The cool kids all come from Tokyo; a few from Yokohama are also acceptable.

FYI, I have lived in Tokyo for all of my many years in Japan, but of course, that goes without saying.

MapofkantoThe irony here is that when I was small, I lived in a big old farmhouse five miles from a tiny town in Pennsylvania. When I was nine, we moved to Pittsburgh, which for me was a big step up in the world. In case you don’t know, as image and reputation go, the only thing worse than Pittsburgh is New Jersey.

On top of that, I hate crowds and am slightly claustrophobic. You can’t begin to grasp the concept of crowded until you’ve ridden a Tokyo morning commuter train or attended the annual Tamagawa fireworks. And everything is smaller here, the houses, the food, the people. There’s an elevator at a studio I work in that I can’t ride because it’s only slightly larger than a pair of coffins. I’d rather climb the four flights of stairs, even when my knees are hurting.

There was an elevator that small in my hotel in Venice, where my room was on the sixth floor, but after getting crammed into it with an over-sized German couple, I took the stairs. And I nearly had a panic attack when I went into the tomb chamber in the great pyramid at Giza.  The chamber itself is big enough, but the passage to get to it is terribly narrow and one has to maneuver past over-sized tourists both coming and going.

So how did a Pennsylvania yokel end up in Tokyo? Or Italy, or Egypt? Or any of the dozens of other countries I’ve been to?  I guess I just decided to go. I think I’m part cat; I always have to see what’s around the next corner.

What really baffles me is people who don’t–and don’t want to–go anywhere.

Twitchy News

PT360001This morning, for the first time, the Twitch got into bed with me, but she didn’t want to cuddle or sleep. She wanted to twitch. Fortunately, it was cold enough for a thick blanket, so it didn’t hurt when she started attacking my legs and feet. I didn’t fight back. After about ten minutes, she got bored and left.

I am hoping this means she is starting to see the futon as a place to play rather than a place to pee. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow would be that she sees it as a place to sleep–cats don’t pee where they sleep. And tiny unicorns will tap dance on my pillow and sing jasmine scented lullabies if she decides to cuddle.

Turning her into a house cat is an involved process, much like quitting smoking. I haven’t had a single puff in more than four months, yet all day yesterday I could taste tobacco on my breath. I know it was coming from my head and not my lungs and was probably related to work stress, but that didn’t make it any less real.

I have a theory that around the time the Twitchster starts acting like a normal house cat, I’ll finally start feeling like a non-smoker.

Wish us luck. I’m pretty confident both of those things are going to happen, but we could use all the karma we can muster. I promise chocolate covered brownie points in return for any happy thoughts sent our way.

Good-bye, Testicles

We’re in the process of filming a couple of very basic English education videos for 3-4 year old kids. “Tedious” is a monstrous under-description of what that entails, and I have to be there  and conscious for every pains-taking, aching, dragging, agonizing minute. In the early days, I often went nuclear: “For Pete’s sake, it was fine the first 47 times! Why do we have to do it again?” But I’ve learned a lot over the years. There are still so many technical things that I don’t understand. There is almost always a reason why thirty or so people are standing around waiting with our thumbs up our noses. At this point, I could walk Job through Patience 101; one would not survive this kind of work otherwise.

It helps that the work is sometimes rather surreal. After all, what video would be complete without a potato salad Christmas tree?

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAAnd Kiko’s Dorothy Gale Meets Barbie the Hooker costume was hard to ignore. I may have nightmares about it. I know she does.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAOn the second day, I was sitting with Randy and Melinda. Randy is the funnyman in this series of videos, a down home Southern gentleman from Alabama and qualified circus clown. He wasn’t all that tired.

Melinda (the mother of the kid in the videos) and Skyla (the kid in the videos) had just flown in from the States, a fourteen hour flight. They’d come directly from the airport to the studio. They were tired.

I had sat through fifteen hours of filming the day before and we were coming up on the eighth hour of the second day with no end in sight, knowing we had two more interminable days ahead of us. I was tired, too.

And that’s when the sillies kicked in. I discovered a collection of truly inappropriate children’s literature

testicles…that had sent the three of us into paroxysms of giggles.  Most of the crew smiled indulgently at our antics.

Eventually, near silence once again descended. Melinda was shopping online. I was doing an online jigsaw puzzle. Randy was playing a game. It was pretty quiet.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAWithout warning, Randy (remember he has an Alabama accent) looked up and demanded to know:

Who you callin’ paranoid?

Fifteen minutes later, as we clutched our aching sides and wiped the tears from our faces, we finally pulled ourselves together. This time, most everyone ignored us.

After all, everyone knows all foreigners are nuts.

Amway Lunch

I had lunch in the Amway building today.

I had been told that mere mortals are not permitted to dine in their cafeteria, but apparently all it takes is an Amway membership, and the friend I had lunch with has one.

It wasn’t on my bucket list and the food wasn’t particularly good nor cheap, but I do so love having new experiences. And even more, I love being able to type sentences that I thought I would never type. There have been more than a few of them in this blog. They come to me as my somewhat unusual life bounces its way along the road of destiny and reveals itself to me. So just for fun I’ll type it again.

I had lunch in the Amway building today.

If someone asks, “Have you ever had lunch in the Amway building?” I can nod my head and say, “Why, yes. I have.”

And I don’t ever have to do it again if I don’t want to. There are so many things I have to do  but don’t want to. It’s good to know that there are things I don’t have to do, like eat eggplant or wear high heels or live in Chiba.

It’s not that lunch in the Amway building was a bad experience. The room was spacious and airy and the salad and company were good. It’s just a joy to know that I have choices.

A lot of people don’t.


Moments after I published yesterday’s post, Twitchy peed on Rochi’s side of the futon. Frankly, the bitch in me was pleased. It hurt when she peed on my pillow. If she peed on his side, at least she hates us equally.

But seriously, this was becoming a major problem. I scoured the interwebs looking for a magic bean solution, but nothing seemed to fit. She’s not marking territory, she doesn’t feel threatened, there’s no competition with other cats, we haven’t changed either our routines or what we feed her. I was stumped…and really, really bummed. It’s one thing to clean up cat pee from the floor, but the futon?

Then Rochi suggested that maybe as she’s getting more relaxed and comfortable about living with us, she may be reverting to her old ways. When she lived alone in Fukushima, she probably peed wherever she felt like it. Then I found a site that suggested she may just be lazy. Hmmm. We were told she’s somewhere between one and two years old. In Cat World, that makes her a teenager, and who is lazier than a teenager? Imagine: she’s sleeping on the window sill in the bedroom and wakes up needing to pee. Why go all the way downstairs when there’s a nice soft thing right there to pee on?

So we set up a temporary litter pan by the futon, and glory be, she used it twice last night and has stayed away from the futon all day. Plato and Dana shared one litter pan their entire lives and never had a problem or an accident, so it never occurred to me that Twitchy might need two, the greedy little thing.

So what have we learned? She’s a lazy, greedy, out of focus slut. Come to think of it, that sounds a bit like me at her age. Perhaps we’re better suited to each other than I realized.

At any rate, yesterday I was feeling depressed, bruised and beaten.

Today I feel like this:

cat unicorn


                                    Who, me?

I woke up this morning to discover that she’d done it again, this time at the foot of the futon. So as we set about all the requisite scrubbing, I remembered how painful it was nursing Plato through his final days. A wave of such unfathomable grief washed over me that I could barely breathe.

The thing is, I loved him completely and he adored me. I don’t love Twitchy yet. I don’t even like her much. But she’s not merchandise. We can’t return her. We made a commitment to her and all that entails. Still, the thought of having to cope with such an unpleasant behavior was too much. I had to sit down. I had to sob. The feeling has stayed with me all day, but I recognize that it is grief, not despair.

I’ve been impressed and rather moved by all I’ve seen written about Robin Williams in the past few days. He seems to have touched so many lives. Or maybe his death is hard to accept because he was all about humor. How could someone who brought such laughter to so many have been unable to find any hope in his own life? I can only guess, but it seems like that is the curse of depression. In his case, he could make other people laugh, and could probably laugh at other people, but he couldn’t laugh at himself.

As sad as I am in my unending grief, I still have hope. If I have to clean up cat pee every morning for a while, I guess that’s something I can cope with. I will remind myself that she isn’t doing it out of spite and I will continue to hope that she gets over whatever is bothering her.

On the plus side, just before we left for lunch, she plopped herself down on the floor and let me pet her, and it wasn’t just a touch on the shoulders. I petted her whole back, scratched he cheeks, stroked her forehead. The bud of hope blossomed in my chest. For that kind of reward, I can put up with a lot of pee.

Toy Slut

Twitchy peed on my pillow.

She peed on my warm, soft down pillow that Rochi bought for me when we couldn’t really afford it.

The part of me that has a sense of humor thinks she’s telling us she likes him better because he’s bought her so many toys. Here she is playing with two at once.


To be fair, she did pee on Rochi’s chair a couple of times when she first came here, but that was before he seduced the little slut with all the toys.

The less humorous part of me is heart-broken. Why my pillow? Is it because it smells like me? Is this some twisted natural world message of love and adoration?

“Thanks for all the tuna. It was really good. Here, have some pee in return. I’d give you something else, but I don’t have anything else. And you’re not getting any of my toys.”

I don’t think either of us fully realized what it means to take in a feral cat. She’s so pretty; it’s hard to remember that just a few months ago she was living wild, most likely surviving on dirty water and bugs.

Now she has a safe, comfortable home where the water is clean and the food healthy and plentiful.

I understand. She doesn’t have any reason to trust any of this. She doesn’t know what trust is. She doesn’t even know what petting is.

But did she have to pee on my pillow?

Blown Away

Yesterday, we went to a shakuhachi concert held in a Catholic church during a typhoon.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAOur friend Alec, the one in the middle, invited us. The church was surreal, with a Japanese priest and a primarily Philippine congregation.  We arrived in time to catch the tail end of the afternoon mass and I realized I had never been inside a Catholic church before, except as a tourist, but we duly stood and sat as instructed and it was over soon enough.

I’ve always been fond of wind instruments in general, and the shakuhachi in specific. It’s just a bamboo tube with some holes drilled in it, and it’s played using only the five tone Chinese scale, yet by varying the angle they blow across the mouthpiece, wiggling their  heads around in weird ways and partially covering the finger holes, players can achieve variations of sound that are quite astonishing. A lot of it is based on sounds existing in nature, so if you close your eyes you can hear the wing flaps of soaring birds, the cajoling flow of water over rocks in a shallow river, the haunting, lilting cries of small animals in pain or fear, the wailing of high winds through mountaintop trees. The tones range from bottom-of-the-ocean deep to make-you-cringe shrill. Alec managed to create the sound of a nesting crane using the way you roll an R in Spanish.

They played a variety of songs. Some were traditional, although I wouldn’t be able to tell you if this is sheet music or a restaurant menu.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAThe tall guy, Chris, is a composer and arranged this somewhat less traditional piece.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAYup. Look closely. That’s I Feel Good by James Brown, highly stylized. I didn’t recognize it beyond “gosh, that sounds familiar”, until I saw the sheet music.

The only negative was the two little girls sitting two pews ahead of us stuffing their faces with potato chips and shrimp crackers all the way through the concert. They should consider themselves lucky that there was an old lady in the intervening pew, because otherwise we might have clunked their skulls together. Their mother was too busy playing with her phone to notice so we probably could have gotten away with it.

Otherwise, it was a pretty groovy way to spend a blustery Sunday afternoon. And when was the last time anyone got to use the words “shakuhachi”, “Catholic church” and “typhoon” all in one sentence?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,169 other followers

%d bloggers like this: