In Which The Alien Umbrella Bursts From E@L's Chest Again.
AS the bus pulled up at Kichijoji Station I realised it was raining.
Shit! How tethered is this?
Someone had recently talked me into buying a briefcase with a built in trolley-wheel thing, great for these trips to Nippon where every day you are rattling along to and from the train station blah-blah and you donít have to carry your laptop bag, blah-blah.
They didnít think of days like today, when you have to go 500 metres in the rain with a trolley briefcase AND a suitcase(with decomposing wheels). This particular trolley briefcase does not have a slot to slide over the handle of the suitcase (with decomposing wheels) as most non-trolley briefcases do these days. So I have to place them both on the ground, pushing one, pulling the other in order that they do not bump into each other in their low-centre-of-gravity relcalcitrance and tangle up behind me and rip my arms off at the shoulders in the ensuing carnage.
Umbrella, you ask. Yes I have one, I'm not totally stupid (at least not today). But there seems to be something missing. I know! A third arm!
I massage the distorted spokes of my ageing fold-away umbrella to go in the right direction and provide umbrage (& I donít take umbrage at this) from the rain but I have to think of a way to support it over my head without using my hands. What I do is stuff the handle of the umbrella IN the gap between two buttons on my shirt and OUT between next button-gap. Then I rest the spokes on the umbrella on my head and try to make some distance. The umbrella slides backwards and tilts off my head and the knobby handle suddenly pokes further forward out my shirt, making me look like a bloodless John Hurt in the breakfast scene from Alien.
I rearrange things, primarily by tucking in my shirt to provide some resistance against the natural tendency of the umbrella to go backwards. OK only a little way to go, I can see the hotel, just beyond the Isetan store. This short distance takes quite a few minutes for as we get going, the decomposing wheels of the suitcase lock-up on all the freaking yellow-dot things in the footpaths they have everywhere for those bloody annoying blind-people and the resultant jerks pull out my shirt-front and the Alien umbrella bursts from my chest again. Children scream and women faint in horror.
By this time the rain has eased to a mild downpour so, fuck it, I resolve myself to a mild case of drenching hypothermia (isn't this what killed Heathcliffe?) and drag the clunking wheels of the suitcase and the spinning dervish of a briefcase through the puddles to the hotel's "Front".
I presume they mean Front Desk, but were trying to save... what, letters?
Downstairs in the sushi bar, I met two of the European girls (one is actually a Yank) from last time in Tokyo (when I left my laptop on the desk and flew home to Singapore, had you forgotten that?), but they had just finished eating, gave me a couple of lovely hugs (they now have the flu) and left, but not before recommending the sushi-chef's skillÖ
Truly, it was different - as in the way I believe it used to be, or still is in the places I can't afford to frequent. Individual service with suggestions and explanations, etc - I guess being the only customer left in the place was a bonus. I am not a sushi expert and I am so used to the crap quality of kaiten sushi (sushi train) that of course anything freshly prepared directly for me would be a novelty. The main sushi chef, the taisho, used to own a sushi restaurant in New York back in the 70's, or so he says. His English was excellent, but with no Bronx accent that I could detect.
He certainly presented me with some interesting twists on otherwise straight-forward sushi, subtle things I had never tasted before. My old adage, "If you eat raw fish often enough, eventually you will put something in your mouth that tastes like raw fish," didn't apply here.
The first surprise was how he made a network of extremely fine triangular nicks up the back of the calamari (not the cross-cuts that you are thinking of), then flamed it with a hand-held acetylene burner thing so he got these tiny black curls of squid standing up like hooks, salted lightly and sprinkled with some lemon juice! Amazing.
Next, some (just a touch) fermented fish stomach on prawn - sounds weird but this was a revelation, creamy and not all "fishy", just a bit tart to complement the sweetness of the prawn. Out of nowhere!
Some fluke (a flatfish) with shredded seaweed and lime juice sprinkles. Delightful!
And finally some very fatty tuna from Indian Ocean Blue Fin that he cut into 6 or so fine layers then pressed together again so I didnít notice it wasn't just a normal thick slice - it had a texture like cream-cheese! So soft and melt in the mouth, divine!
A few other things, some delightfully tender octopus, marinated tuna maki, some stuff I can't remember - all up only about $40! Great birthday meal!
Although I was by myself :-(
I didnít tell the girls it was my birthday or I am sure they would have stayed, because really I think I am still contagious with this mild throat/chest infection.
Headlines: Irresponsible Person Takes Health Of A Nation Into His Own Hands.
I snuck in through Narita customs today without filling in a health declaration form, which I should have done, as I was in Vietnam last week and I do have some slight feverish illness - so if everyone in Tokyo gets bird-flu or SARS in the next month or so, bill meÖ (And if they really do, watch this post disappear!)
I wore a mask all through the flight and will wear one during the training tomorrow. See, I am a good little Japan Vector Patient One.
OTHER MONKEYS SAID
Reminds me of arriving in Manila one time, the place was under water, two bags, several marooned jeepneys and a short swim later I make it to the hotel with no electricity. 'Welcome to Manila' says the receptionist.
Without A TRACE of irony.
or -- "why didn't you bring the bloody electricity?"
Sorry, been on the old vino again tonight...