....as I slowly settle into my apartment. With a terribly leaky shower. And the dirty unfinished tiles. And come to find, no central heat. On the upside, I've got some plants now. And a bed. Bookshelves are nearly sufficient to house the herd. Maybe I need one more. Bikes are bountiful. Toaster oven cooks pizza! Moka makes coffee! Fluorescent lights rejuvenate grandfather's desk lamp! Deadbolts and locks replaced with not too much hounding of landlord!
And today two wondrous things happened. The first was a much needed 50 lb trip to the laundromat. Thanks Bubble'n'Squeak. The second was a long-awaited clean get away with a truckful of junk to end my two and a half year old affair with one of New Haven's storage facilities. Once I get all that unloaded I will definitely need another book shelf.
OK, back to the business of digging backwards through time. I'll get to my fieldnotes and interview transcripts soon enough, but first, another round of road trip pictures! Wyoming and South Dakota!
Oh.....I just realized the first round was on facebook not here. Oops. Hmm.....maybe they'll migrate.....
A little on the slow side here. My computer is a 24" iMac I bought in fall 2006 before writing grant proposals (good excuse, eh?). The screen property paid off and I somehow managed to be very well funded over the course of my last 18 months of fieldwork in Tokyo. I was nervous when I shipped it there--$3,000 of insurance just in case, USPS air, well-packed in the original box. It arrived unscathed save one corner of styrofoam packing material that evidently took a hit and split down the middle.
Nearly two years on the veranda later (uh, the box, not me....off the verandas, fieldworkers!!), I loaded up the box once more. The outer box was badly weathered but still seemed solid enough to cover the inner box and styrofoam inserts. As an extra precaution I taped the hell out of the outer box and reinforced the broken styrofoam piece too. Shipping to Japan was about $90, shipping home from Japan by the Japan Post's EMS service ran closer to $200 but arrived much more quickly. This time with only $2500 on insurance but the same number of crossed fingers (I didn't go that native! But who knows, maybe my big mistakes are yet to come...ok, enough yakuza-talk). Last week when I opened the box somewhat timidly I was happy to find that my computer had again made the trip unscathed. Two more of the styrofoam corners were broken, however, and I decided it was time to retire the box. Good service to the international moving cause, box'n'foam. Your sacrifice will be remembered.
So, I was lucky. Very lucky. And of course had everything backed-up twice over just in case ;)
And lastly a couple great shots of what I assume is a veteran of WWII telling a young man about the war, by this guy (<-----). My fellow Japan anthropologist in training (I guess we are beyond that point by now? I mean we both got our prospectus passed. Umm....nah, still in training) Ryan Sayre. Ryan is just getting settled into his fieldwork year in Tokyo. Hopefully he'll keep everyone posted on his site. He is a lively and engaged thinker and writer so I am always looking forward to reading the next installment. I was roused to action on the 15th by a call from Ryan at Yasukuni asking where I was. In the midst of moving out, I had planned on stopping by later that afternoon. Sometimes you need a reminder. I was there about 30min later and we toured around a bit before I was whisked off to lunch by one of my informants.
I used to play this particular game a lot a long long time ago....and watching this was heart-pounding entertainment.
Apparently it's a version of the game where you can design ultra hard levels for your 'friends' and watch them die of frustration. Yipes. And kudos to who ever's commitment and determination are on display here. Get a job, you!
Up in the Twin Cities area folks are speaking a new language. Or, should I say Palinguage. It sounds sorta familiar because it's Latin based. But different from the plain English we're used to speaking, in Palinguage recognizable words take on new meanings. Won't you take a moment to learn some Plainguage so you can talk like a hypocritical conservative?
REPEAT THE FOLLOWING:
If you're a minority and you're selected for a job over more qualified candidates you're a "token hire." If you're a conservative and you're selected for a job over more qualified candidates you're a "game changer."
If you live in an Urban area and you get a girl pregnant you're a "baby daddy." If you're the same in Alaska you're a "teen father." (Actually, according to your own MySpace page you're an F'n redneck that don't want any kids, but that's too long a phrase for the evil liberal media to take out of context and flog morning noon and night).
Black teen pregnancies? A "crisis" in black America. White teen pregnancies? A "blessed event."
If you grow up in Hawaii you're "exotic." Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, you're the quintessential "American story."
Similarly, if you name you kid Barack you're "unpatriotic." Name your kid Track, you're "colorful."
If you're a Democrat and you make a VP pick without fully vetting the individual you're "reckless." A Republican who doesn't fully vet is a "maverick."
If you say that for the "first time in my adult lifetime I'm really proud of my country" it makes you "unfit" to be First Lady. If you are a registered member of a fringe political group that advocates secession that makes you "First Dude."
A DUI from twenty years ago is "old news." A speech given without proper citation from twenty years ago is "relevant information."
And, finally, if you're a man and you decide to run for office despite your wife's recurrence of cancer you're a "questionable spouse." If you're a woman and you decide to run for office despite having five kids including a newborn... Well, we don't know what that is 'cause THAT'S NOT A FAIR QUESTION TO ASK.
And a couple videos worth watching:
A short (?!) note:
We made it to London's house late late late on Friday night after a very nice dinner with Allison in Pennsylvania and a rousing police story in Fort Lee. I think we got in to CT around 1:30 am. Damn.
But good to be back.
On Saturday morning Ami and I drove to New Haven for a very brief tour. I wanted to show her where I'd be living for the next while, and to swing by the apartment I am supposed to move into on Monday. The place was a bit of a wreck, but the current tenant is moving out Monday morning and hopefully the place will be presentable by the afternoon/evening when I come knocking. Bad news: water damage from the shower has rotted the floor in the bathroom. It was torn up mid-repair when I stopped by. Afterward I had a nice long conversation with the landlord, and it sounds like he will get things taken care of. The space is really nice, and it definitely has potential, but for nearly $900 a month there is a certain level of cleanliness/repair that needs to be met by move-in. My bad for taking the sight-unseen route. Hopefully things will work out. Beware ye apartment-seekers.
After that stop, Ami and I had a smooth drive back to New York and checked in to a Ramada at JFK. The wait was long and the staff grossly overloaded, but after twenty minutes (!!) we were upstairs relaxing and getting ready to head out again. This time it was Williamsburg to meet Ami's jr./sr. highschool friend and former Yale MFA painter Yui, the lovely mutual friend who introduced us last March in Tokyo. She has a great studio/living space in a converted industrial area. She slapped together a quick but tasty dinner for us and we made a mad dash to Times Square for the Lion King.
Musicals aren't usually my thing, but it was staged nicely and the bunraku-esque animal costumes were more than enough to keep me interested. The actors were all very good and the production was solid, so that also helped. One bad side-- a woman decided to bring a toddler to the show. The kid was right behind me and babbling loudly when she wasn't kicking my seatback. Ugh. Ami loved the show though, and I was buoyed by her enthusiasm enough to only audibly sigh once or thrice. I did glare at the lady a few times though (as did everyone in earshot at least once...).
Back to Yui's afterward to hang out for a few hours, then to the Ramada. Morning was a quick shuttle trip to JFK and then a nice but too short time hanging out before Ami went to the gate at 11:30. Take care in the air, my dear! As I took the Airtrain back to the hotel I saw her ANA plane on the tarmac loading up, but missed getting a picture. I am back at London's now, reading and uploading pictures, and starting to think about school again. What I really should be doing is sleeping. That is next on the list.
The last week has been great, but 4,000+ miles of driving over a week span takes it out of you.
But what a wonderful, wonderful trip. Thank you Ami, and thanks to everyone along the way!
Super quick update since the battery is going fast. We spent last night in Custer City, South Dakota, just south of Mt Rushmore at a great little motor lodge called the Rocket Inn (buffalo!). They definitely deserve a write-up later--it was a really great place! (pronghorn!)
We had a comparatively early start and made it to Mt Rushmore (mountain goats!) in time for lots of silly pictures, then continued on towards I-90 for the Badlands. Along the way I got a low-pressure warning light and stopped to check, but all the tires were at 35 psi. Need to find out how to reset it. Also got the 'maintenance req'd' light a couple hundred miles later. I stopped and checked and added oil, but now at the hotel Google has revealed that it is not a 'smart' light--it just comes on automatically every 4,500 miles. This trip we are already over 2,000!
The Badlands was amazing. We did the loop road ($15) that comes down from I-90 and stopped a few times for the photo spots, though we didn't do any of the hikes. (prairie dogs!) I'd love to visit again sometime. We had a decent and very reasonably priced meal on the way out of the park. Back on the road and we were off. Ami experimented with American gas station food. The verdict: far too sweet, far too salty. Weather was good in SD early in the day but began to deteriorate. Gas mileage fell by almost two miles per gallon to 18.5. Another hint that the oil change should happen tomorrow, it seems. We were also going about 80 mph into a head wind....bad scene.
A sad tale. As we passed Sioux Falls, SD into Minnesota rain brought frogs into the road. Real life Frogger. I tried not to be the game-ender, but the roles were reversed and I am afraid I may have ushered a toad or two into the after-lilly. Ami hoped to see one and her wish was granted. But then....after we had listened to the DNC convention speeches on NPR and had got into a discussion about penalties for crime by minors, a mad raccoon dashed out into the highway! I, perhaps unadvisedly, swerved slightly to the left to avoid the rather large animal as it headed for the right shoulder. Seeing that, the thing darted back to the left. Damn.
And thud. As the right front wheel took it out. We were shocked and saddened and then on an adrenaline high which we put to good use by thinking of scenarios in which we had taken out a bad raccoon, or by which we'd have to explain our selves to the raccoon society or, on and on. Sad, to be sure, but it was nice that Ami was there to the talk it out with me. We drove on.
Then the rain came. Hard, real rain and the semi trucks were imposing walls spray in front of us. There weren't many, but when we were alongside them the visibility got even worse. Then the rain kicked up another notch. Cartoon film noir style. We pulled off to get a hotel. I was toying with the idea of pressing on to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Another two hours. It was midnight already but I was high on a Red Bull, large coffee, and raccoon-slayer adrenaline. A heady combination that kept my eyes open and my mind alert, though I could feel the fatigue in my body built up after the last 15 or so hours of driving.
But this place was too expensive! Rain be damned, I'm not paying $129. Press on. Back to the freeway. Head south toward Omaha? Something like that. We ended up approaching Albert Lea from another angle and found a Comfort Inn. Also a bit pricey, but not in triple digits. The clerk is nice and discounts the room further. And the rain is still coming in angry sheets.
I take a shower, Ami is next with a bath. I check my email and find Allison's correct cell number. Type up this entry, and now we sleep. Morning comes early, and I need to find a JiffyLube.
Is Thurs.......and we press on! Is there anything interesting on this side of the US? There's gotta be, right? We were planning on Madison, but I think we'll forgo that and head for PA. Hopefully crash somewhere beyond Pittsburgh, but who knows. If I get the fire in my sole, I'll keep the gas pedal down 'till Amish country.....otherwise, that is the plan for Friday day-time. Night time we hope to make it to Yale anthro partner-in-criminality-made-good Allio A. Maybe dinner, maybe crash. Then to the Big Apple!
Wish us luck!
The trip is going great!
Wyoming is beautiful. We stayed last night at the Wolf Hotel in Saratoga (thanks for the recommendation, Daniel!). The Wolf is a historical hotel built in 1893, and the decor draws on that history in a way that isn't kitschy. The restaurant was wonderful and we had a massive hamburger (Ami) and veggie kabobs (Nate) and some local beer (Moose Drool Brown Ale) (Nate). The bathroom was tastefully modernized and the bed was super comfy. that was good--especially since we were coming from a night camping in north eastern Nevada.
We are making good time and the weather has been beautiful. We are also taking a ton of pictures---a greatly edited selection of which will end up here soon enough. The best photo opp so far has been walking out on the flats to the edge of Salt Lake.
Ami says hi to everyone! We had a great rendezvous with family in Woodland on Saturday before hitting the road on Sunday morning. It was really nice seeing everyone and we are sorry we missed Kenny (how's the olive oil)? and Steve and Natasha.
The truck has been doing great (thanks mom!) and we've been averaging just over 20 miles per gallon. Not bad with a full payload and lots of hills.
We set off now and head toward South Dakota via Cheyenne. We want to get up near Custer and Mt Rushmore. Probably camp. Wednesday we will press on and have a long day, hopefully arriving at Madison.
Thursday night will also be pretty long, but I'd like to get well into Pennsylvania. See some Amish country. And Friday night we hope to visit Allison in eastern PA.
.......and we're off!
Ami and I had the longest travel day ever.
Started on Saturday. Massive sell-off of furniture and detritus. Continued on Sunday but the sale morphed into a party. Nice to see lots of friends on the eve of our departure. Thank you, all.
Monday.....cleaning like a mad man, shipping computer and books and random bike stuff. Pick-ups buy the local recycle shop takes the left-overs. Run for the train with a bike, four external hardrives, a laptop, a couple cameras, a change of clothes, and a clutch of special books I didn't want to mail.
Ami and stayed at the ANA hotel near Narita courtesy her parents. We arrived so late that we didn't get to enjoy it properly, but it was a much appreciated respite from the travel schedule.
Tuesday the 19th! To the airport! Early flight! Giri-giri. Lots of luggage and excess fees. But we made the plane with time to spare and managed to collect a nice selection of omiyage and souveniers for the folks back home. The flight went quickly.
Tuesdday morning AGAIN was in New York, this time with London and his truck to ferry our payload and selves back to the well-heeled wilds of Fairfield County. Another short respite, then we were on Metro North, then the subway, then the airtrain back to JFK for an 8pm flight to Ontario, California.
The flight left at 10pm.
But somehow, inexplicably, we arrived only twenty minutes beyond our orignial arrival time of midnight:08 in California. Another truck, my dear mother at the helm, dropped us at one of the hotels I knew Redlands had but never had the need to stay at. And here we are. 4am. Completely fatigued, but somehow awake.
The schedule for the coming weeks:
Tomorrow the 20th---to Blythe!
21st---- to San Diego!
22nd---- stops in LA and Carpinteria on our way to Woodland!
23rd----- family stuff up north
....and then, on the 24th we start the big drive!! Hopefully I can update along the way, but wish us luck!
A wonderful going-away soiree and a closet full of rightwing magazines left in the dust, tomorrow is the day! Back to the USA. Ami and I are at a hotel near Narita, Tokyo's intl airport. Tomorrow morning it's breakfast, luggage, check-in, then taking flight at 11am. We get into New York at about the same time, but 15 hours later for us. Then at 8pm we fly to California's Ontario airport. This is getting ridiculous. But exciting, to be sure.
Friends and family in CA for a few days the we head east. East to Broadway. To Broadway!