There’s a little church I pass on the way to the station. Every Christmas, the church people put up a small creche, which is actually fairly tasteful, but then they put a semicircle of bricks around it and fill it with sand. I assume the bricks are meant to deter people from messing with the figures, but they don’t deter the neighborhood cats, who often leave little presents in the sand. Perhaps they’re emulating the magi, but pooping in front of baby Jesus did strike me as somewhat sacrilegious, although I doubt that cats have strong opinions about religion. But then it hit me that the original manger was set in a barn—no room at the inn, right? So there would most likely have been a fair amount of cow plop and goat goodies strewn about, so maybe the kitties’ contribution gives the scene an air of authenticity. On the other hand, the blinking lights and plastic apples on the tree next to the creche rather detract from that theory.
Japan has a rather strange but wonderful relationship with Christmas. For one thing, it’s not a holiday here, so although we get all the same hype as in the States, normally it’s business as usual on Christmas day. Most celebrating is done on Christmas eve. Kentucky Fried Chicken and strawberry shortcake are the treats of choice. I’ve never figured out why.
But this year, Christmas landed on Sunday so people got silly at the gym. I can understand Santa and Rudolph, and these two are instructors so they can do what they want, but imagine punching and kicking to the rhythms of Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells while your classmates include a woman in a maid’s costume, two beefy guys in Chinese dresses and a guy dressed like a chicken. As with KFC, I can’t imagine where the costumes idea came from, although that might explain the chicken costume.
I managed to dig up a red t-shirt and thought that was enough. After all, I was the only foreigner in the class and it was my country that taught the world how to commercialize Christmas.
But then, who am I to make the rules?
Walking to the station yesterday, I passed a car flipped over onto its roof, shattered glass everywhere. I had to tiptoe through a pile of it to get past. There were a couple of guys trying to push the car up onto a flatbed truck. I was in a hurry so kept going, but it bugged me all day. The car was in the middle of a dogleg intersection of very narrow streets. It is impossible for anyone to have been driving fast enough to flip their car there. And checking on the way home, I noticed no damage of any of the buildings there, so it couldn’t have crashed into anything. Then I also remembered there were no ambulances and the people watching seemed more amused than concerned. How could this possibly have happened? It finally struck me that the car must have fallen off the truck and there was nobody in it. Eliminate everything that could not have happened and you’re left with what did. -Sherlock Holmes
When I got to the station, they were making announcements that there was a major accident somewhere and the entire line was shut down until further notice. OK. Back to the street, grab a bus to Shibuya where there’s a different train I can take to the office. In the end, I was only 15 minutes late.
Was there some kind of blip in the space/time continuum around 12:30 yesterday? At least all of this distracted me for a while from the gaping hole in my chest where my heart used to be.
Plato died in my arms last night. I’m relieved that it’s finally over, no more injections or force-feeding, that he’s at peace and no longer suffering, but God I’m going to miss him. I keep thinking about never gonna. He’s never gonna trip me as I’m going down the stairs with an armload of laundry. He’s never gonna prance around on my bladder when it’s full in the morning. He’s never gonna charm me out of bits of my food. He’s never gonna sit on my lap and demand pets when I’m trying to work. He’s never gonna follow me around like a besotted puppy. He’s never gonna curl up in my arms and chocolate-syrup purr me to sleep. He’s never gonna be there, warm and soft and willing to be loved.
He’s buried in the garden with the sleeves of the nubby old green sweater he liked so much wrapped around him. He was the best, and not since my childhood have I loved anyone so completely.
This is our sainted vet, second from the right, at our favorite Nagasaki noodle shop. He came back on Wednesday bearing a large bag of needles and syringes and rubber tubing, so I’m all set to go into the heroin business.
Doing the IV isn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be. And anybody who knows me knows I would rip off my arm and beat myself to death with it if it made Plato feel better. He is responding very well. Just a couple of days ago he felt like a bag of bones, but he ate solid food for the first time in a month this morning and is putting on a bit of weight. After he ate, he came back to bed and purred me back to sleep.
Rochi has started calling me Doctor Mommy.
I was considering cancelling the chicken party because I’ve been so depressed and worried about Plato, but I did promise, so we went, I cooked, and dull-as-dishwater chicken and mashed potatoes were a big hit.
While doing my research on how to deal with Plato, one suggestion was to find a vet who does house calls. Sound advice; Plato hates his vet, who is extremely loud, and I was afraid he might not be strong enough to deal with that. But even if such a thing as a house call vet existed, I can’t imagine what he might cost.
Shinsuke’s dad is a vet, but I didn’t even consider asking. They live in Otsuka, which is not close. But then, while eating his chicken, he offered to drive down here today and check on Plato. He gave him an IV, an injection, and a couple of kinds of medicine, all in the comfort of our futon, on the quilt my Ma made. And he wouldn’t let us pay for any of it.
That was two hours ago and Plato is already feeling better, offended but not traumatized. I am weeping with gratitude. God bless the lowly chicken. The milk of human kindness is flowing thick and rich today.
Rochi’s friend Shinsuke runs a ramen shop. He and family have never been to the States and have never had real American cooking, so they asked me to come to their house and teach them how to make roast chicken and mashed potatoes, of all things. I decided to throw in gravy and a Waldorf salad just for kicks. Much to my distress, I will have to forgo the stack of Wonder bread, which isn’t available here. I really wanted to give them the full treatment.
My Ma always made Waldorf salad with cabbage and raisins, but Fawlty Towers informs me that it’s celery, apples, walnuts and grapes. The interwebs say the original didn’t include grapes, but I’m with Basil on that one. My roast chicken isn’t exactly classic American, either. Lemon and garlic inside, then rub the whole bird with soy sauce and sprinkle with chopped rosemary before roasting. The aroma will drive you wild and the soy sauce gives the gravy a nice umami. I once used this recipe in a dialogue I wrote for a textbook and my editor added that you have to be very gentle with the bird. “No, no,” says I. “You can slap it silly if you want to. It’s already dead.” Before prepping the bird, I always pick it up by its wings and say “bgawk-bgawk” a couple of times. This is essential for proper roasting.
So we’re off for this gastronomic adventure tonight. The good thing about serving something my diners have never had is that they won’t know the difference if I screw something up. And it’s charming that they think something as ho-hum as chicken and potatoes is exotic. I don’t have a clue how they make the soup for their noodles, so for me that’s exotic. I guess it’s all relative.
Hey! I made it through a whole post without any of those pesky parentheses. (Well, there were some, but I took them out.) (Oops.)
Doopa? What’s a Doopa? Shorthand for doodle pad? What’s that got to do with hair?
In class the other day, my partner accidentally kicked me somewhere she shouldn’t. It didn’t hurt and we had a good laugh, but I continue to be grateful that I’m not a boy.
Update October 29: According to the online Urban Dictionary, Doopa means butt in Polish. Now I’m even more confused. One hardly ever sees hairy butts in Japan.
Pet peeve #3647: Smart phones. I hate them. It was bad enough being sandwiched between annoying people on the trains as they tapped away with their thumbs sending text messages. Now I get sandwiched between annoying people flailing their fingers about and looking rather spastic. It gives me the creeps.
My phone is not Smart. My phone is Stupid. It’s a Granny phone. My service provider is changing their system or something and everyone has to get new phones. The only free ones are huge and hideous or ones that are specially designed for old people—easy to use, large characters. Mine even has a built in pedometer so I can make sure I get enough exercise. It probably has a function to automatically call an ambulance if I’ve fallen and can’t get up, but I can’t find my bifocals so I can’t read the manual. Anyway, it’s 5:00. Time for dinner, Jeopardy, and off to bed. Where did I leave my dentures?