Friday, June 29, 2018

Wes Andersonesque

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Swept Away (again)

His eyes locked on mine for what seemed like a moment frozen in time. Then with a wave of the hand he broke the spell and turned, shaking his head while whispering a well worn mantra under his breath. I’ve heard it many times. We’ve been meeting like this for years. He knocks at the door. I answer. He slowly turns and shuffles away. It took two or three chance encounters before I realized he was a door-to-door broom salesman. The four-foot whisker at his side finally clued me in. 

Unlocking the mystery of who he was only made me more curious about what he did. His profession was the granddaddy of door-to-door vacuum sales! Not an easy sell I’d imagine. Then again, sweeping is practically a national past-time here. The rhythmic stroking of woven straw and bamboo branches against the pavement is the sound of morning accompanied by the sight of older women in white aprons clearing the pathways in what is part cleansing ritual, part local news network. Sweeping isn’t just about picking up litter. It’s also about picking up the word on the street and the broom is the medium used to do both. It’s a most magical device. 

People have always believed brooms to possess special powers, using them to get rid of unwanted house guests and even fly. Here they’re used every day to purify the streets and bring people closer together to share a story, a smile, and more. It's a magical sight to behold. What’s the mystery behind these trick sticks? I know one guy who may know but he’s not talking, and I think I finally figured out why. Filled with passion for what he does, they say this steadfast salesman had been scaling the hill that leads to my home for years, and while I’ve heard the brooms he hawked were pricey, it was never a love for money that drove him. 

It was the old lady who had lived here before that he came for. He knocked, the door cracked open but the place where her face once shined had been overshadowed by another and his heart would break just a little more each time. It’s been years since the broom man has paid a call and I feel as though his heart may have become totally shattered, yet even today remains forever swept away.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Signs of the Irish in Japan (a repost)

There have been Ohara's in Japan for well over a millennium. Were they part of some early Irish diaspora or are the Emerald Isle O'Haras but a branch of a tree whose roots stretch all the way back to ancient Japan? It's a riddle best left to barroom scholars to solve. One thing is abundantly clear though. The Ohara's, O-Hara's, or O'Haras (and O'Harrah's, etc.) have certainly left their mark on the world. So this being St. Patrick's Day when we begin to celebrate all things remotely Irishish let's lift a pint and drink to the Oharas, wherever they are, and to wherever they came from.

The Bicycle Diaries

"Are you okay?" she asked in a genuinely concerned way. "I'm fine," I said, but her eyes told a different story.
This ride is going to be long. Get out now if you can. It stretches down the eastern seaboard, all the way to South Jersey, where I have tucked away a laid back beachcomber made by the Schwinn bicycle company, "boasting fat tires that are eagerly waiting to eat up the road.”
[Side note: I used to edit copy for a Japanese industrial conglomerate and those very words moved its motorcycle division to have me “fired” (although I feel like that’s still negotiable). They preferred to call their tires “superior,” not fat and there is nothing “laid back” about them I was informed. “Everybody mounts their motorbikes in an upright position!”]
As far as my fat set of wheels goes, I procured them via the information highway and had the whole thing delivered in pieces to Mrs. Cassidy the Elder’s house, where I assembled it without breaking a sweat. There was a lot of pre-purchase hemming and hawing on my part over whether to get the $96 boys model or the girls model for $12 less. In Japan, where I now reside, everybody and their brother rides what most of us Americans call a girl’s bike and I’ve kind of grown accustomed to them. In the end I went with the more economical design and saved about $7. The math adds up. I used about $5 worth of tape to cover up the pale blue floral designs on the superior orange frame.
It was noon by the time I put all the pieces together and filled those flabby tires with the miniature hand pump ($5.76) I bought with the bike. Since I wasn't too sure the little pump was brawny enough to do the job on the tires, I decided to wheel up to the local WaWa gas station, located about three miles up the road, to top off the inner tubes with compressed air. Given the location of the sun in the sky I thought it best to smear at least an ounce of sun screen on my face and upper extremities. After spending the better part of a half an hour rubbing the lotion into my skin, I was pedaling down the street by 12:30, and by 1:00 I had arrived at the WaWa just a little worse for wear. Mostly I was just hot and sweaty, but now totally pumped.
I popped inside the convenience store that is part of the whole WaWa gas station complex to purchase a bottle of soda pop and replenish any liquid I had lost on the long sweat-soaked ride. When I plopped the bottle of pop on the counter the cashier asked in a genuinely concerned tone, “Are you okay?” I told her “I’m fine” but left a bit puzzled by the nature of her question. In the end I chalked it up to some sort of exotic South Jersey greeting and spinned my way back to my mother’s place. Back in the house, I stepped inside the bathroom where in horror I spied in the mirror the face pictured below.
During the course of
my adventure all the sunscreen that I had expended so much effort rubbing into my skin pours had poured out with the sea of sweat seeping out of my body, leaving behind a white pasty buildup, like clownish greasepaint, over every inch of my face.
I was a bit mortified but ultimately okay. I would ride again. You can’t keep a good clown down.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Flower Shower

March’s showers of falling flowers are sure to put a spring in your step. 
#cherryblossoms🌸 #yearsago

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

This Rocks!

There's a surveyor in my garden. He's looking for a "boundary stone" but hasn't had any luck striking pay dirt so far. You'd think they would have land division measurements recorded on paper somewhere.
I wonder if the elusive rock is one that my son dug up years ago to carry back as a gift to his grandmother in America. If it is, it looks like I'm going to be able to lay claim to a whole lot of land. Finally, the world is mine!

Monday, March 12, 2018


My uncle, a man well experienced in the ways of the world, used to tell a story of walking along the sands of Laguna Beach one night while in a drunken daze. There he stumbled upon a group of groovy kids who invited him to sit by the warmth of their bonfire and share in what my uncle described as "the tastiest nuts" that had ever touched his tongue. Bidding the group good night he proceeded to practice a well-worn family tradition and stuffed a handful of the delicious morsels into his pocket before heading home. The next morning he found himself fumbling around for his keys in the pockets of the jacket he wore the night before and upon pulling out his hand, produced a fistful of what appeared to be roasted grasshoppers. "NUTS!!!" he cried.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

On a Roll

Whenever I see my son butter a roll I feel as if I’ve failed him as a father. Both my sons, String Bean and Broad Bean, butter their rolls the same way. That’s how they roll - always on the same side.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Living with a Crocodile (could be an alligator)

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I’ve had creatures living in my attic before but none as slippery as this one. This one, in the belly of the beast seen here, is my nephew, part-time city ward mascot and full-time free loader. He may be the cold-blooded one, but it was I who heartlessly kicked him out in the dead of winter as he made my blood boil with rage. It’s now been weeks since I said see you later alligator but he’s up there still. I know it. In the still of the night I can still hear him slithering around overhead. They say you should never, ever, ever feed a croc or gator, lest it lose its fear of people. That’s probably where I went wrong. I fed this one on more than one occasion. Now he has lost his fear of me and I’m afraid I’ll be living with this crocodile for a while.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Year without Wisdom

There is no stopping them. Year in, year out, they come. It's usually sometime just after New Year's day. You can hear them before they pounce upon your doorstep. I don’t mean the relatives (but them too). I mean the lions. 

Prowling the neighborhood with a retinue of flutists and drummers in tow, they stop here and there, do a little dance, and if you want, put your head between their incisors to make you all the wiser they say. Except this year. This year they didn’t come. They were stopped dead in their tracks… by my mother-in-law. She stopped them from coming by dying.

Since my nephew, the village elder (a young elder at 30-something) that usually leads the lion dancing party was in mourning for his departed grandmother, decorum dictated that he refrain from taking part in the age-old annual custom. Now without anyone to follow in his footprints the whole village has found themselves mourning the loss of the lions and whatever wisdom they might bring.