All this happened, more or less...

My name is G and these are the true stories of my adventures.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

London, Days 6 & 7 -- Happy Birthday to S & The Great Schism

Happy Birthday, the London Edition

Friday was S’s birthday and our day of catching up on the things we’d missed earlier in the week.

In the morning, we went to the Tower of London. As we were waiting outside, we happened upon a local tour guide and his merry band of followers. His commentary went like this:

“This is the Tower of London, so... if you want to see it... here it is. And, uh, the rest of London is kind of over there... So if you want to see the Tower, uh, let’s go this way...”


First day, buddy?

The actual Tower tour guides – the beef-eaters – are eloquent, professional, and hilarious. A most-do if you’re hanging about London.


On the flight over, I had watched the movie “The Other Boleyn Girl.” The whole film is a little off and left me feeling sort of queasy, but I’ve never before been so fascinated by the story of Anne Boleyn. I had hoped that in London I might get answers to some questions the film raised for me and find that fine line between legend and history.

No such luck.

Our beef-eater showed us the spot where Queen Anne was privately executed in the Tower courtyard. She explained that Anne Boleyn was terrified of the axe and requested a French-style execution with a sword. Henry granted her request, going so far as to recruit an executioner from France who could ensure the job was done properly. So skilled was he and so sharp was his blade, that when he held up the queen’s severed head, her lips were still moving in prayer.

Good story, right?

Then we went inside the White Tower, which served as an armory for centuries and is now a military museum, and right there in one of the exhibits, they have a massive beheading axe with the caption “The Axe that Beheaded Anne Boleyn.” Bewildered and befuddled, S and I read the fine print, which said this was the axe that So-and-So wrote had beheaded Anne Boleyn, but now we know she was actually beheaded with a sword. The axe in the display is a meaningless example of twisted history, and the sword that really killed Anne Boleyn is probably lost in somebody’s basement with their grandmother’s musty wedding dress and their Deep Purple LPs.

So essentially, the label on the exhibit said:

Except, oops, this isn’t really it.


That afternoon, we returned to the British Museum. Or the UnBritish Museum, rather.

Nothing in the British Museum is British. Really, it’s just a monument to imperialism. If you are not British, and you’re missing some of your stuff, it’s probably here.

Still, they have some pretty cool stuff. Remember what I said about mummies? The gawkers around these guys were so thick, I nearly caught in elbow in the face whilst taking this shot...


Friday night we met up with Our Rob, who took us out for drinks with his work friends and introduced us as “My Americans.” They asked him how he met us, and he looked at me as if I was going to explain that we met on the Internet and try to make it sound like it isn’t awkward. No, sir. If they were my friends, I would lie bold-faced about that shit. In fact, if he ever comes to the States to visit, I already have a bold-faced lie ready.

Then he took us back to his place and made dinner for us, all the while mocking our attempts at fake British accents. Which I think are pretty good, by the way.

Now S may be the only person in the world I’d be able to handle spending 24/7 with for two weeks, but on Saturday, circumstances forced us to spend a little time apart. She had a friend from home coming to town for the day on her way to Scandinavia, and one of our hostel roommates just happened to have an extra VIP pass to Hard Rock Calling.


So S went out to see “Twelfth Night” with her friend, and Dave and I went to Hyde Park to rock out. If there’s a guitar involved in something, I’m probably happy, so I had an awesome day. I even enjoyed watching John Mayer, and I am, as a matter of principle (and a result of hanging out with indie musicians), not a John Mayer fan. He was actually kind of funny, and you can’t deny he has some skill with a guitar, so I’ve gained a new appreciation for him that I never would have gotten from listening to CDs. Among the other performers were up-and-comer Jason Mraz, the always fabulous Sheryl Crow, and the headliner – Eric Clapton. Clapton's a little old for me and not someone I get very excited about, but again, seeing him live made all the difference.

And hey, no complaints about spending the day with an Aussie. I did miss S and her antics though.

What we lack in knowledge...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

London, Day 5 Brighton

When I first started planning this trip to London, I thought, "Yay! I'll get to see British people!" Just the first indication that I didn't really know anything about London.

If you don't know anything about London either, you may be surprised to learn that there aren't actually very many British people there. Especially during tourist season. London's one of the most diverse cities in the world, which is awesome, and it's full of incredible and interesting people, but if you really want to see British people, you're barking up the wrong tree.

S and I brought this dilemmna up with Our Rob, and on his advice, we took a day trip to Brighton to see the sea and the British people.


On Thursday morning, our brand new set of roommates woke up about 4:45 and started getting dressed. All four of them slunk around like ninjas so as not to disturb us. They eased their suitcases out from under their beds and sifted stealthily through them. They gently coaxed the door latch open and closed on their way to the shower. When speaking was absolutely necessary, they kept their voices so low and hushed that I could just barely make out that they were speaking Mandarin. They even pulled the curtain shut to keep the sun from coming in. I was, of course, already wide-awake, but I appreciated the courtesy. Asians are fantastic that way – aware of others and conscientious not to offend.

Then one of them started blow-drying his hair.

S was already awake too, so it didn’t really bother either of us, but we laughed about it all day and teased him relentlessly when they got home that evening.

We actually got out of bed at a more reasonable hour and took an epic bus coach ride to Brighton. The trip was damn bloody long but well worth it.

Brighton Pier is a Victorian era vacation spot, a relic of a time when doctors used to prescribe a “trip to the sea” as treatment for a wide variety of ailments. We needed a little reprieve from urbana, and Brighton promised a relaxing afternoon.


When we arrived, we headed straight for the pier. The sky was a bit cloudy but not gloomy enough to threaten rain, and the crowd of merry-makers was thin enough to be comfortable but steady enough to be interesting.

We crossed paths with a few particularly note-worthy folks in Brighton. As soon as we got to the beach, a random old guy approached us and insisted we take a picture with him. Okay, crazy Uncle Walter. Whatever you say. On the pier itself, we spotted a fellow who appeared very average from his head to his waistline... and then was sporting the shortest pair of short-shorts any man has ever worn. So short, in fact, that his undergarments were visible beneath. That’s what the Japanese call “sekushi.”

The pigeons were just as entertaining as the people. Of course, London pigeons are world-renown, and we’d been enjoying them all week, but the pigeons were out in full force in Brighton as well. Some of them were probably local Brighton pigeons, but a few were clearly Londoners on holiday. There was a pigeon waiting at the bus station in London, first in line for the coach to Brighton. Perhaps his doctor prescribed a day by the sea. The big city must have been giving him headaches. They wouldn’t let him get on though. Something about his ticket... and him not being a person. Then there were pigeons shopping along the beach, browsing water shoes, plastic lobsters, and other holiday essentials. A pigeon even came into a cafe on the pier and ordered a latte. The barista threw him out. Racist.


In the evening, we returned to London and walked over to the British Museum. This time, we had checked the guidebook, which said the museum would be open until 11 p.m. Unfortunately, we failed to realize that only the Great Court was open that late; all the actual galleries closed at 5:30. While you can still go in the museum until 11, you can’t actually see any of the exhibits. Ah! Foiled again!

To cheer ourselves up, we found a red phone booth full of stripper flyers and sang selections from “The Phantom of the Opera” in it. That helped.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

London, Day 4.5 -- PS, re: Roommates

In all the excitement of regaling you with our adventures, I nearly forgot to make note of the shifting roommate situation. After the first night, Naked French Guy vanished into the sunset, so the second night, it was just Aussie David and the four of us girls (myself, S, Anna, and Lauren).


Tuesday, Lauren went home and David left to go stay with a friend, and Wednesday Anna moved to a hostel on the other side of town -- though we met up with both Anna and Dave throughout the week for various shenanigans. In their place came an Argentinian guy called Diago. Being from Argentina is cool, and his presence afforded S and I a chance to hone our EspaƱol skillz. The only problem with Diago was that he didn't come alone. He brought his mom.

Yeah, to a youth hostel.

Awkward, at best, but extra hilarious because of this sign that was posted in several locations in the kitchen/dining room:


I don't know if this means Diago didn't have to wash his own dishes, or maybe his mom was supposed to wash all of our dishes...? Who can say for certain? All we really know is that a youth hostel is not exactly a family atmosphere, buddy, and perhaps next time your mom comes from Argentina to visit you in Europe, you could try to come off as not quite so cheap. Or at the very least, get a private room.

It could have been worse though. At least nobody was naked while Mom was there.

London, Day 4 -- Take a Deep Breath

Wednesday we slowed down. Two days of full-on touristing coupled with two nights of sleeping with the Buzz Saw took a toll on our momentum. We didn't get out of the hostel until 10:30 or so, significantly later than the last two days.

S and I wanted something a little quieter to do in the morning, so we went to the Tate Modern. I get pretty excited in the presence of Art, and S at least did a quality job of pretending to be interested long enough to appease me. They have some really incredible pieces, so if you're into modern art, this is a worthwhile addition to your London experience. If you're not into art, well... skip this and do whatever you're into. Geez, I'm not in charge of you.

Tate Modern

We met up with Anna, our hostel roomie, for lunch. The plan for the afternoon was for us girls to relax and go shopping while we waited for David to get out of work. (Do you like how heavy with gender stereotypes that sentence is? Yeah, me too.) Then the four of us were going to go take a beef-eater tour through the Tower of London, have dinner, and find someplace interesting to go out in the evening.

Well, kids, here's a little lesson in how to be a good tourist: Spontaneity will get you pretty far, but you really should consult the guidebook now and again. By the time we rallied ourselves over to the ticket office at the Tower, we'd already missed the last tour of the day. We really could have made it with plenty of time to spare if we had known what time the tours stopped, so we kicked ourselves over that one a bit. So don't cling to the guidebook -- it was written by LonelyPlanet, not Jesus -- but remember, it's there to help you.

The Tower of London

David ended up getting out of work late anyway, so S, Anna, and I spent the afternoon sitting in a park. We had a great view of the tower and the tourists, and more importantly, we had access to ridiculously beautiful sunshine. Tanning was not on my list of authentic London experiences, but hey, no complaints!

Soakin' up some rays in the park

In retrospect, I'm sure we needed a day to relax anyway.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

London, Day 3 -- Harrod's, Hyde Park, and Our Rob


Before I start on Day 3, I have to briefly wrap up Day 2 for you. We did the tourist game during the afternoon, but that night (Monday night), we met up with a real Englishman and did some real English things. The Englishman was Rob, or "Our Rob" as we would soon come to call him.

I met Rob online. Now kids, I do not recommend meeting strangers in foreign countries on the internet and then flying around the world to meet them in person. It's foolhardy, imprudent, and downright peligroso. But hey, what can I say? I walk on the wild side.

So I met Rob online, and when we were planning the trip and our living arrangements in London fell through, he was kind enough to offer his place. I didn't take him up on it -- even I am not that injudicious -- but I did get his number and arrange to meet up so he could show us around. This ranks in the top three best decisions I made on the entire trip (with staying at the Astor Victoria and buying an Oyster card). Monday night, he took us to The Sussex, a cozy pub near Leicester Square, taught us how to say "Leicester," got us fish 'n chips from Rock & Sole, and gave us the nickel 5p tour of Covent Garden and the surrounding area.

The tourist attractions were fun, but we didn't really start enjoying London until we met Rob, not only because he spoke British to us and loaned us his A to Z (/zed/), but because he is an awesome person who went way out of his way to make us feel welcome. Rob, thank you so much! Couldn't have done without you. Your friendship is my favorite favourite souvenir from the whole trip. Even better than the bendy Buckingham Palace guard (and I am pretty damn fond of him).


So Day 3, Tuesday, was a major shopping day. By "shopping", I mostly mean browsing and not actually spending money, but S and I did pass the entire morning in Harrod's. A disproportionate amount of that time was spent in the chocolate department, shown above. I didn't actually buy any chocolates, but I drooled over a lot of them. S bought Turkish Delight for her Narnia-enamored sister, and I purchased a substantial quantity of tea. I may pass some of this along to my sister. If she asks nicely.

After Harrod's, we walked down to the ginormous Whole Foods on High Street Kensington and met Rob on his lunch break. He gets an hour for lunch every day. I get 24 minutes. *seething with jealousy*

Of course, I also get three months off in the summer...

Anyway, we picked up sandwiches and went to Hyde Park to eat. Half the west side of London had the same idea. Everywhere you looked, people were sprinkled in pairs and trios all over the grass, with the occasional loner napping under a tree. The sun was shining, the pigeons were... well, not really singing, but they were there hanging out, too. Glorious day! Londoners may get more than their fair share of rain, but they have a fervent appreciation for the sunshine. When they get it, they drink up every drop!


After lunch, Rob went back beneath the corporate lash, and S and I went to Madame Tussaud's. If you're on your way to London, I suggest you carve a little niche in your itinerary for this famous (yet bizarre) landmark. For those who don't know, Madame Tussaud's claim to fame was making wax likenesses of important people. She started by making death masks during the French Revolution, including those of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, or so the story goes. In the museum in London, they actually have a diorama of her searching through a pile of decapitated bodies, looking for the queen's head. Charming, eh?

Most of Madame Tussaud's isn't that gruesome. They have wax sculptures of a wide variety of celebrities -- actors, athletes, musicians, politicians, royalty -- and the whole purpose of the place is to let tourists pose with them. Seems a little cheesy, but with the proper sense of humor, hours of entertainment ensue. Among my favorites were Tom Cruise -- who looked incredibly lifelike, minus the insanity and hysterical outbursts of laughter -- and Bob Marley. I typically avoid posting pictures of myself on this blog, but Bob and I look so into it here, I can't resist.

Red, red wii-iii-iiine...  Stay close to me-eee-eee...

Red, red wiii-iiii-iiiine... Stay close to me--ee-eee...


That night we went out with a couple of the roommates -- Canadian Anna and Australian Dave. Relaxed in a little Soho pub for a while, then found a club and danced the night away. Our table happened to be in front of a mirror that rose the whole height of the wall, so when we weren't on the dance floor, we got to watch people watching themselves in the mirror. Great fun! The self-proclaimed star of the night was the guy in the green t shown below. He ruled the dance floor with his fair-to-middling looks, his corny dance moves, and his massive ego. Anna couldn't resist the hypnotic spell of his white-clad butt, as documented below.


Green T guy didn't really do it for me, but I had a marvelous time chatting up David. Not to encourage cultural stereotypes, but I really do adore Australians.

Monday, June 23, 2008

London, Day 2 -- The Touristy Bits


I woke up on Monday morning at 4:15, about four hours after I'd gone to sleep. I could blame the jet lag for this, except that when it's 4:15 in London, it's 11:15 in the evening at home. So that would be backwards jet lag.

No, there are two far more probable causes.

First, as it was just after the solstice, the days were extremely long. You welcome these long summer days when it's still light out at ten in the evening; however, the flip side of that is the sun streaming gloriously through your window at 4:15 a.m. When I woke up, my first thought was: O crap, did I miss breakfast?

Nope, I didn't.

The second cause of my untimely awakening took a moment longer to creep into my consciousness. Then it hit me: Roommate. Snoring.

Now, I actually love sleeping in a room full of people. Even strangers. I find it very soothing to lie in bed and listen to all the little noises people make in their sleep. Maybe this recalls my time in Japan, when I quite often had a pile of friends staying at my place after a long night out; maybe it goes back more deeply into my childhood when my brothers and sister and I spent many pleasant summer nights crammed in tents or pop-ups; maybe farther still to my twin and I bobbing around in the womb together. Whatever the reason, I always prefer to be with someone else.

But o god, the snoring was bad. Normally, a snorer will fade in and out over the course of the night. They'll get themselves in the wrong position and really start sawin' logs. Then they'll roll on their back and quiet down. Then they'll shift again and start all over.

This snorer was a steadily roaring buzz-saw. What made it worse: it was a girl. You can pick on a guy about snoring, poke him in the ribs, roll him over, tease him about it in the morning. But it's just embarrassing for everybody when a girl snores like that.

I laid in bed for about an hour and a half -- actually stuck my iPod in my ear to help cover the maddening drone. When it became clear that I was not going to get any more sleep, I gave in, got up, and went downstairs to beat the morning shower rush.


The snorer actually disrupted everybody's sleep. Even when I was still lying in bed, there was restless stirring among all the roommates, and by the time I got back from the shower, S was up and ready to tackle our first day of the London tourist circuit.

After a quick -- but invaluable -- breakfast in the hostel, we headed for Pimlico Station and hopped on (in?) the Tube. We started at Big Ben, which was... ya know, big. We walked down the street past the Old Bailey, laughed at the massive line queue of tourists outside, and passed a very pleasant morning people-watching in a tiny coffee shop. We then meandered through West Minster Abbey.

Westminster Abby will pique the interest of almost anybody. As frail beings who are daily reminded of our own mortality, we may fear and loath the dying, but we are irresistibly drawn to the dead. We spend millions of dollars making and watching horror movies about them, and we gawk at a corpse any chance we get. If you don't believe me, check out the crowd in front of a mummy at any museum. Well, in Westminster, there are loads of people laying around dead, including royalty and public heroes from over the centuries, as well as some more surprising folks and some pretty intriguing stories. For example, Oliver Cromwell -- who became Lord Protector in 1653 and died of natural causes (probably malaria) in 1658 -- was first buried in Westminster Abbey, in spite of the fact that Westminster is a Catholic church and Cromwell was vehemently and violently opposed to Catholicism. In 1661, shortly after the monarchy was restored, he was charged with regicide and his body (or what they believed to be his body) was exhumed and "posthumously executed" -- that is, decapitated and hung in chains. His head was put on a spike outside Westminster and stayed there until 1685. Whether that body actually was Cromwell's and what has happened to it since then are both matters for debate that you can research on your own time, but I think the moral of the story is clear: Don't piss off the king. Or, you know, kill him.

I can't even get started on Poet's Corner, but if you're a lit buff like I am, you might be surprised to find yourself quite moved by it. Or if you're a physicist or a naturalist on a pilgrimage, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin are interred there, too. So overall, I give Westminster Abbey two enthusiastic thumbs up; regardless of what you happen to be into, you'll find something someone there worth seeing. The Jeremy Irons narrated audio tour is a nice touch as well.

The sky was brilliantly clear, so we decided to swallow the rather large admission fee and go up in the London Eye. I do not recommend doing this on a cloudy day or if you have claustrophobia or acrophobia (that's fear of heights, not acrobats), but otherwise, it's quite a sight to see. I brought my brand-spankin'-new camera and am absolutely giddy over how my photos turned out -- you can see all the way up the river to St. Paul's in the shot at the top of this entry. Thank you, wide angle lens!


After the Eye, we wandered aimlessly through Jubilee Gardens and then down through Green Park. S and I share many passions -- travel, sushi, karaoke, soy products, putting on fake accents, etc -- but one of the strongest is people-watching. London's parks afford limitless opportunities to act as if you're minding your own business while subtly minding other people's. Case in point: the woman above, whom I have dubbed The Pigeon Whisperer.

Buckingham Palace, another touristy must-see, is located on the other side of Green Park, so after our stroll beneath the trees, we watched the guards do their little marching bit. They march exactly as you expect them to, so it actually gets quite boring pretty quickly, particularly on days like this when the palace isn't open for public tours. You simply stand outside the gate and look at it. However, back along the people-watching lines, tourist-watching is its own special branch of the discipline, and fascinating subjects abound outside the palace.

The guy pictured below officially wins my "Stupid Things Tourists Do" Award for this trip. And I say that in love. He brought a teddy bear with a policeman's hat to Buckingham Palace and took several minutes to negotiate with the officers outside the gate in order to get a picture of them with the bear. The joyous photo below came after lots of stubborn head-shaking from them and shameless pleading from him. I don't know what he said to finally make them cave, but it's clear that this moment was the pinnacle of his trip to Europe.

Bear Guy, you rock.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

London, Day 1 -- The Astor Victoria


Some people collect snow globes, some stamps, and some shot glasses. My grandmother collects those little engraved spoons. I don’t know why.

I collect places.

I collect significant places – places I call “home,” even if only for a short while. My newest place is the Astor Victoria Hostel in London. 71 Belgrave. Room 12. Home.

I’d never stayed in a hostel before this one, and kind of like the first doll I ever had or the first boy I ever kissed, I find it strangely irreplaceable.


When S and I arrived, we were struck by how gorgeous the neighborhood was – a long strip of soaring, white columned buildings, mostly hotels and obviously frequented by tourists. Our hostel – number 71 – had a bright red door, a well-polished gold address plaque, and a printout of Fidel Castro on the door declaring “I stay at the Astor Victoria every time I come to London!” We schlepped our luggage up six narrow flights of stairs to get to our third-floor room and claimed the two empty beds opposite the window.

Of course, it is never the place itself that makes a home. Homes are made up of the people we encounter there, the connections we make with each other, the moments that color a place in our memory. We spent that first afternoon in London exploring the nearby parks and shops and returned home in the evening to meet our roommates, a motley crew of global nomads.

First we met the Frenchman, Victor, a dark, curly-headed fellow who spoke little English and went about with a generally haunted air. He probably would have been handsome if he hadn’t given such a strong impression of a startled rabbit. He blushed and twitched awkwardly at our frequent outbursts of laughter, though they were never at his expense. Attempts to stifle the giggles or explain the jokes only exacerbated his discomfort. He quickly gave up, went out, got drunk, and stumbled back in long after the rest of us had gone to bed. The drink must have helped him feel more comfortable around us; when we woke the next morning, he was stretched out on his bed naked as he came from the womb.

Apart from S and I, another American girl – Lauren – was in our room the first night. She was freshly out of college and had been traveling for three months with a few friends. Her body was going home in two days, but her brain had already shipped out. She sat vacantly on her bed while the rest of us got acquainted. She introduced herself but then barely said a word, evidently uninterested in meeting anyone new or having anything like fun. She must have been exhausted.


Anna had the lower bunk by the window, and she was at the beginning of her adventure, traveling abroad alone for the first time. She had no real plan – just a few vague ideas of places she wanted to go, people she wanted to see. When I first started chatting with her, she talked entirely too fast, giggled too much, and was so clearly in over her head that I thought I might drown just sitting next to her. I know the feeling of diving headfirst into the unknown, so I felt for Anna, but I knew too that once she started meeting people, she’d settle in. Over the course of the week, she got her feet on the ground and her head on straight, and by the time we parted ways, she at least gave the impression of being travel-savvy, even if she still had a lot to learn.

Above Anna was David, an Aussie surfer on a working holiday. Like Anna, he was on his own and anxious to meet people and have adventures, though considerably calmer and more confident than she. He was the sort of person who has obviously grown up in the sun – like guys from Florida or Southern California – the perfect roast marshmallow golden brown with sun-bleached blonde curls. And he smelled like sun-burnt skin and salt water and Linx, as all good Australian men should. That first night, he split his gut laughing when S asked him if meat pies really had meat in them. He then tried to convince her that as a child, he had jumped on the backs of wild kangaroos and ridden them to school. She finally realized he was joking when he said you can steer them with the ears and I couldn’t keep a straight face. We call this “cultural exchange”.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Astor Victoria

In a move I can only describe as "rash", I Googled the hostel where S and I will be staying in London. I got this:

Let's hope these folks have moved on by the time we get there...


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oishii no Tabemono

Making Nabe

Mmm, nabe party!

"Oishii" is one of my favorite Japanese words. No matter where in the world I'm living or loitering, I spend a lot of time eating, so being able to say "delicious!" is useful for approximately 75% of my waking life. Combine that with the fact that simply adding "jenai" makes it "not delicious", and I'm good to go.

That being said, the ichiban oishii of all Japanese food really is the sushi. Now I know that sounds like a cop-out answer and you were hoping for something more exciting, but hear me out. There are lots of amazing, astounding, surprising, and incredible foods in Japan. Anything with "yaki" in it is a good bet -- yakitori, yakiniku, yakisoba, takoyaki, and if you're in kansai, okonomiyaki. You can eat all kinds of things alive or nearly alive, including a wide variety of fish and even octopus (see photo below). If you can't eat it alive, you can at least eat it "nama", which means "raw". (Be warned: sometimes they're sneaky and translate this as "fresh".) I've eaten raw things that most people wouldn't even eat cooked. Among the more impressive are sea urchin -- a salty, creamy muck that you spoon right out of the shell -- and horse sashimi, which didn't taste different from any red meat but was a little hard to deal with psychologically. Kind of how I imagine eating a golden retriever would make me feel. And then there are the simply bizaare combinations of foods that on their own would be normal. I once had an omelet stuffed with noodles and soy sauce, for example. Yeah, an omelet.


Dom attempts to swallow a piece of "dancing octopus" -- that is, a tentacle that is still mostly alive and therefore desperately clinging to his tongue and making a titanic effort to climb back out of his mouth.

So there are endless culinary adventures to be had, but I don't miss any of those as much as I miss the sushi.

"But G," you say reasonably, "you can get sushi here at home too."

O reader, it's just not the same. If you go to a decent Japanese restaurant or hibachi grill, you can certainly find good sushi in the States, fresh and only slightly overpriced. Unforunately, if you live in Nowhereville, as I do, you'll have to drive at least forty minutes to get to such a restaurant. In order to justify all that driving, you have to make it into a night on the town, so you add a little sake, hit up a bar or two, do a little dancing... before you know it, an innocent craving for sushi has cost you $200 and a hangover.

One of my favourite things to do when I lived in Yamashina was to pop into the 7-eleven with AJ after work and pick up some sushi. We'd take it home, curl up in front of the Mac, and watch "Spaced" while we munched on our spicy tuna rolls. I also made a habit of running into the Saty for sushi on my lunch break at work. Almost every day. The sushi from Saty was somewhat nicer than the convenie variety and hence more expensive, but it was also fresher (especially since I knew what time each day they put fresh batches on the shelf and went to pick it up accordingly).

In short, I developed quite an addiction to that raw fish and sticky rice combo, an addiction that cannot be sated by a once-in-a-blue-moon trip to a sushi restaurant. If I do ever move back to Japan, this will be one of the top three reasons.


The noodle omelet -- because you didn't believe me.