A New Year’s Nod to Nihon

Think of it as Black Friday in Japan — without the violent pushing, shoving, fisticuffs and occasional weaponry.

New Year’s in Japan — Nihon in Japanese — is abundant with traditions. Far more than I’d attempt in a post. Every detail has meaning and significance. Many things do I miss about life in Japan, particularly New Year’s.

No year passes without a heartfelt nod to the country that I call home on the inside at New Year’s, their biggest holiday bar none.  I’ve incorporated some of those traditions into my American life. O-sooji, for example. The Great Clean.

Another post perhaps.

Hatsumode it’s called. The first visit to a shrine or temple to welcome the new year and pray.

People flock — oh do they flock by the thousands to the bigger or more popular shrines — in those first few days, which traditionally is time off to serenely mark the new year and spend time with family and eat all kinds of very weird foods reserved for the New Year that even the Japanese admit are pretty unpalatable but hey, it’s tradition.

A peek at the traffic the renowned shrines are getting as we speak:



And that’s at the toori! — the gate in a long passageway to Meiji Shrine

Traditionally you offer a prayer and deposit coins into the box. But because they can’t get up close — not without a 2-hour wait which btw they’re often VERY WILLING to do — they pray and toss coins from afar, hitting visitors on the heads.

In America, country of Whiners and Blamers that we’ve become, that’d be an immediate lawsuit. Not so in Japan, one of the least litigious societies in the world. (Another reason I miss it.)

Then there’s the kadomatsu — decorations of pine and bamboo with additions of writings, oranges and other goodies — each element again having significance. They’re set outside homes and businesses to purify and bless but they come in all sizes and could easily be set at a workspace or inside your tiny apartment! Well, I’m not in Japan at the moment (perhaps again one day …) but I can certainly bless my blog!


Kadomatsu — traditional Japanese New Year’s decoration that cleanses and blesses.

Then there’s one of my favs, hatsuhinode  — the first sunrise. Like the shrine visits, EXTREMELY popular! People flock — “flock,” what Japanese do consistently and well — to the coast and high places — manmade structures like Tokyo Tower are very much included! — to view the first sunrise. It is an EVENT, its own Disneyland in a sense for the special hotel and travel packages at primo viewing places around the islands.

Traditionally, that first sunrise is imbued with magical powers. It’s believed that Toshigami, a god of good luck, appeared then.

If the mountain won’t come to me, I’ll go to it — on the train of cyberspace, destination Mount Fuji. Fuji-san, as it’s called, is off-limits at the moment. It’s outside climbing season (which is dated precisely — precise, like all things Japanese!) and freakin’ cold.

I just love this photo — and appreciate it all the more for special efforts required to photograph hatsuhinode (“hatsu,” shared by all these events, means “first”) at Japan’s most famous peak.


A special All Nippon Airways flight last January 1 designed for passengers to capture the first sunrise alongside Fuji-san, Japan’s most famous mountain.

Prayers to and for the light for 2019

Happy New Year

Akemashite omedetou



A (blah) buh-bye to 2018

Feeling tongue-tied this New Year’s Eve — with 4 hours remaining in 2018.

Were that I had something inspirational to write.

Were that I did resolutions, that’d be something to write about there.

I feel blah. But not so blah to keep me at home. (“Home” is a rental room in the roommate’s condo so not home a’tall.)

I’m heading out anon to the little metaphysical store for a party. There’ll be readers, drumming, acupuncture, food and champagne at midnight — all for $12. Low-key, small group, about my speed.

This’ll be different for a New Year’s Eve celebration!

My first New Year’s Eve since moving into metro Phoenix a couple months ago. It’ll be memorable, however it shakes down.

Thanks to technology and live-streaming, we don’t have to be at Times Square or even own a TV to view that major event. I took a peek to get in the spirit. Boring musical performers so I switched over to Spotify for New Year’s Eve playlists. An improvement.

‘Tis the end of the year, no denying that, and while it’s not been the worst year, it’s been challenging enough, particularly in health developments, so I’m eager to view it in the rear-view mirror.

Really just wanted to write something before bidding buh-bye to 2018.

No pearls of wisdom here tonight. No boisterous celebration or excitement about the coming year just yet.

Here, a handful of one-liners to lift the mood and end both this post and year on a high(er) note:

  • A woman walks into a library and asked if they had any books about paranoia. The librarian says “They’re right behind you!”
  • My wife accused me of being immature. I told her to get out of my fort.
  • Did you hear about the Italian chef that died? He pasta way.
  • As I suspected, someone has been adding soil to my garden. The plot thickens.
  • The other day, my wife asked me to pass her lipstick but I accidentally passed her a glue stick. She still isn’t talking to me.

White Trash (Mix) has got serious street cred

Let’s talk trash. White trash.

Specifically Alton Brown’s white trash.

Alton Brown, you know. The esteemed, witty, sorta snarky science-y chef on Food Network and elsewhere.

So last night I was scouring web sites for hours for cookie recipes.

I’m an excellent cook and foodie and super-discerning recipe reader. Separating the wheat from the chaff — how suitable that saying at this very moment! — takes patience, endurance, persistence and time.

Which, according to the calendar, is tick-tick-ticking! How’d Christmas get so damn close?!?

Now, I don’t wanna throw just any ol’ chunks of sugar to my (adult) son, the only person I gift — invariably from the kitchen — at Christmas.

Then I stumbled upon: White Trash. A decadent delight of sweet ‘n’ salty.

Hmmmmmmmmm, this is different. I’m intrigued. Scour on.

OMG! It’s got serious street cred. People loooove it. Crunchy Chex cereals, nuts, pretzels, M&Ms, all coated in white chocolate.

That’s the core. Tweakings are vast and varied, to understate.

Even folks who don’t care for white chocolate (c’est moi) report they can’t stop eating it! That it’s dangerous to have in the house.

I press onward, eventually landing onto Alton Brown’s recipe.

Wait! The smart ‘n’ sassy Alton Brown’s got a recipe for uber junk food?!? Indeed he has!

I love it!

Well, except for the quantity — 25 servings. I’m treating my son and his familiars, not a militia!

It’s different from annual cookies. Easy to make. Affordable. Ships well. Keeps well.

What’s not to like – save for sugar sugar sugar.

Anyhow, I’m in, venturing into the snacky scene this season.

Since I discovered White Trash randomly via some stranger’s post, I’m gonna pay it forward … with the link to Alton Brown’s recipe and a couple pix.

If you’ve tried this concoction, talk to me, baby. Talk trash. Make it white, make it tasty.



“Dole this stuff out carefully. It is highly habit forming,” warns Alton Brown.


A snack that’s called “crack.” Will report back on that.

Superman and Tom Cruise collide

I met a man with the powers of Superman and the wealth of Tom Cruise.

Of course I didn’t know that when he and I struck up a conversation at the nice bar last night.

I wasn’t drunk, though in retrospect it may’ve helped.

Bill was slightly inebriated but then Superman’s got a lot on his plate. He’s entitled to unwind. Especially at his age, a guesstimated 54. He’s done plenty for the planet through the decades.

My curiosity posed to him the question: “If you knew you had only 24 hours left to live, how would you spend them?”

Straight-up. For real. Within the parameters of planet earth.

The uber-short version. If you knew how this all really went down, you’d thank me profusely!

First, he’d go home and give his wife all the passwords to his online accounts and such.

That’s an hour. You’ve got 23 remaining.

“Next I’d drive to the beach,” he says. San Diego. A straight shot west. Some 400 miles (645 km).

That’s 6-1/2 hours driving at the very least. Under the most ideal and impossible of conditions. Little to no traffic in southern California or Phoenix. No accidents bringing the fast interstate to a dead halt (which happens frequently).

“I can make it in 4 hours,” he says. Absolutely serious. “You’ve never seen me drive.”


To accomplish that, he needs to sustain a speed of 100 miles an hour (161 kph) for four hours, including through southern California.

Realistic? he insists so. “And I won’t care about speeding tickets since I’m about to die.”

Granted. Delusion is beginning to grip his mind but he doesn’t or hear it. He’s morphing from Kent Clark into Superman before my eyes.

He arrives at the beach in the wee hours. Too cold to swim. So he and the wife get a hotel room. “A nice one, since the end’s near.”


But he doesn’t sleep. Still things to do in the some 13 hours remaining.

So he goes fishing. Not at a lake or stream. Ocean fishing. He hires a boat off San Diego. No advance notice. No reservation. Just walks in and off they go. Bill pays through the nose but no problem. “Money talks.”

Now at this leg in his story, he’s become filthy rich.

He’s not the quiet middle-aged IT guy sitting by himself at a bar I met 25 minutes earlier. He’s loaded and insists every word’s true even as I endeavor to steer him back to reality.

Every fantastical step leads to an even greater fantastical step.

His Southern California fishing expedition ends around noon. He’s got 6-1/2 hours left to live. What’s he do now?

“I’m going skiing.” In northern California. Tahoe.

How are you doing that?

“I hire a helicopter.” On the fly. Like the boat.

Again, dead serious. Neither a flinch nor a sly smile suggest he’s goofing.

Not a short flight from San Diego to Tahoe, where he says there’s snow. Maybe there is. Maybe not.

Who am I to question the prowess of Superman or the opportunities availed by unreal wealth.

Speaking of unreal …

With only 6 hours left to live, I wonder whether this helicopter ride across California to the mountaintop is a realistic goal. He says it is.

Because he’s got money. Not just some vague wad of cash but $20 million!! Not as much as Naomi Watts but close.

“Wow! You’ve got $20 million?!?!?!”

You’d never guess by his homely appearance, blue jeans, sports shirt and quiet presence in a bar in southern Arizona.

With that moolah, you’d think he’d at least live in a nice home away from the sardine-canned Phoenix and have dinner beyond the discount happy hour appetizers and beers. But whatever.

“You’re buying me dinner and paying for my two beers then!” I say.

He doesn’t oblige.

So now he’s skiing – though never explaining how a helicopter lands on the snowy slopes.

“You’ve got like 3 hours left. Is this where you die? Skiing down the slope?”

“No,” he says.

“Now the helicopter”– that he’s paid millions for at the drop of a hat, don’t forget — “takes me to Universal Studios. For the tour.”

“A HELICOPTER takes you to Universal?! Reeeeeeaaaallyyyy. Where does it land?”

“In the parking lot. Between the cars”

For the 10th time, unflinchingly serious. He’s speaking delusionally and all efforts on my end to introduce parameters of  realism fall on deaf ears.

“So it doesn’t matter about the FAA — aviation — regulations? Or that there’s NO SPACE for a helicopter to land? Or that the pilot could lose his license?”

“Nope. Money talks.”

He confirms for the 10th time that yep, he’s got $20 million — mostly in assets. “Does your wife know? Can I text her? She should know.” He won’t give me the number.

So his wealth, pull and power — even more extraordinary’s than Tom Cruise’s!

Here’s where his 24 hours and this story end.

Thank god.

He stopped being “fun” to talk with 30 minutes earlier, when he insisted he could make a 400-mile drive across two states in 4 hours.

But I pressed onward — in a hope that he’d hear how outrageous he was being and answer in the spirit of a good question,

He stopped being realistic.

He stopped being a somewhat entertaining conversationalist.

He kinda became a jerk.

He became uninteresting. Whatever entertainment value earlier had already evaporated.

Then he became kinda scary.

What I observed is a quality sometimes found in the criminal mind — delusions mingled with a soft of sociopathy. I even told him so.

As a criminal, he’d be a tough nut to crack. He’d frustrate investigators with an ability to build his house of cards with a stone face and tell their tales as if he truly believed the cards were real yet knowing full well they’re not.

In the same broad ballpark as psychopathic lying.

What’s especially troubling is that he’s got a long career in IT. A field where parameters is in the earliest vocabulary and the abilities to discern, analyze and plug into reality must far exceed the norm.

Talking with him — there’s an hour I’ll never get back.

I was done when he slowly turned his journey into one fantastical.

I shut him down and out. Pulled out the library book that I’d intended to read when I arrived and said not one more word to him.

Soon he confessed he doesn’t have $20 million. Oh no, you don’t say!!!

Then he tried his hostile damnedest to turn the topic to God and religion. He tried to rattle my chain.

A religious zealot. Not surprising.

I didn’t bite. Or nibble.

I read my book, sipped my beer. I was done with him.

He soon left.

If ever we cross paths again, I shan’t waste a minute of my time. I do feel sorry for his wife.

It all illustrates that it’s not what you do for a living that matters really but who you are as a person, the quality of your mind, the depth of your reasoning and breadth of your sanity.

Tonight, thanks to this story told, Superman is getting his cape back.

As for Tom Cruise, not even he, with his immense fortune, persuasiveness and star powers, could accomplish what Bill accomplished in his final 24 hours. Not even half.

Tonight, Tom’s spending his bucks in 3-D time on earth.

And the planetary orbit rights itself yet again …


My Tour de Force keeps rollin’

My dream of a white — I mean blue — Christmas may come true!

A lil’ early but I’ll take it.

I’ve been tailing, figuratively, a car in this subdivision for weeks. The issue is twofold.

(1) The illegality of a car abandoned and/or unmoved for days to weeks at a time, per local code:

“Any vehicle left unattended on a street/highway for 48 hours may be removed by any police officer/employee.”

(2) The incredible strain that the owner, by leaving his car perpetually unmoved, is putting on residents already struggling under the weight of a severe parking shortage.

Like I’ve said, welcome to the Big (Rotten) Apple of Arizona … La Aldea subdivision in metro Phoenix, where parking’s as scarce as New York City’s.

By tailing this vehicle that the owner’s storing on the streets as if they’re his personal garage, I mean persistently and diligently reporting it to the police.

They come tag the car — big shoutout to the police, THANK YOU! — with an orange 48-hour warning stickie on the window.

The car owner eventually spots this, moves his car then leaves it to sit again indefinitely. Or until he’s warned again and under the threat of towing.

The car’s actually never driven or used.

Like a chess piece, it just gets moved — by inches or by yards — enough to satisfy the legal requirement that it be moved and thereby evading towing

The car was last tagged Saturday when I called it in.

Some 24 hours later, it still sat, warning tag still on the window.

YES!!! We’re halfway home!

Another 24 hours and the car could be legally towed, an invaluable space opened for the community and this longstanding problem maybe resolved.

Then the very next moment, the car … wait for it … got moved.

Obviously its owner spotted the warning — his 4th or 5th in two weeks — and moved his car …


But where?!

This is progress because thus far,  he’s moved it, well, as little as possible.

My roommate, who’s less invested in doing the right and legal thing than I but is supportive witness, noticing the car was moved after this last warning actually cruised these streets twice to locate it.

Didn’t find it, he said.

How curious.

I’m gonna be conducting my own Tour de France here shortly.

Make that Tour de Force.

My one goal, my one purposeful and impassioned ambition by year’s end is to get this resolved, legally and justly.

The car needs to go.

The owner needs to assume responsibility and face the results of his ongoing (shitty and illegal) actions.

The situation on all levels needs to be rectified and righted, like a listing ship at sea.

How that happens is not my call. That is to the divine.

I’m only the driving force. Driving. No pun intended.

I need to just keep doing the right and fair and legal thing. Each veery step of the journey and no matter its length or duration.

I have stayed the course, despite massive obstacles and roadblocks — again, no pun intended — heaved my way, many of which were from the HOA itself.

A loathsome bunch but that’s another subject.

Part of me’s elated. This may finally be resolved.

Part of me’s cautiously optimistic.

Just because the car’s not illegally hogging space at the moment doesn’t mean it won’t reappear.

So a pending celebration. Ice the champagne but don’t unleash those bubbles just yet.

I’m off to scour these subdivision streets for that Subaru Tribeca (with New Mexico plates). See whether the results are identical to my roommate’s.

My Tour de Force keeps on rollin’ … yet with Spirit as my witness, the finish line may may be in sight! {yahoo!}






















I’m dreaming of a blue Christmas

I always take the higher road, no matter how unjust, horrible, infuriating or cruel the situation and its players.

BUT! Doesn’t mean I don’t fantasize about taking the lower road!

Road. Sheer word luck.

Story short, there’s a car that’s a thorn in the side of residents in this subdivision where there’s a SERIOUS shortage of parking. Bad as the Big Apple’s — New York City’s — hence the moniker for La Aldea subdivision: The Big (Rotten) Apple of Arizona.

This car, a Subaru Tribeca with New Mexico plates, is NEVER driven. It is NEVER moved except under threat of towing, as stated on police-issued tags:

“Any vehicle left unattended on a street/highway for 48 hours may be removed by any police officer/employee.”

This has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks …

Car sits illegally AND takes up priceless parking space. Selfish son-of-a-bitch owner.

He gets tagged only because I call it in.

Moves the car — in one instance, rolled it merely 6 inches for its two flat tires — thereby satisfying the legal requirement that a vehicle must “be moved in a 48-hour period” and evading towing. Selfish clever evasive son of a bitch.

After the most recent tagging one week ago, and after the car had sat with two flat tires for about a month, he put air in and did move it … wait for it  … half a block.

Where it has remained, unmoved and undriven since.


He’s using these streets as his personal garage. What he’s doing is ILLEGAL and so absolutely sickeningly selfish and disrespectful to residents seriously suffering lack of parking that I want to punch his lights out.

No wordplay intended.

The car needs to go.

The car needs to go.

Like I said, I always take the high road despite the deepest of stressors.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t fantasize about the low road!

All times daily that I pass that car, SITTING THERE, breaking the law, hogging space … I’d like nothing more than to sneak up at night when no one’s around and unscrew those caps and leave him with four flat tires.

It’s that the worst damage that can be inflicted on a car?

Absolutely not.

A more vicious spirit could conjure much worse.

But acts of even minor vengeance — especially when earned, especially when well-deserved and for the good of many — remind me of that fundamental truth:

Karma’s a bitch.

So, enlightened creature that I am, I acknowledge my desire to strike back at this asshole for this problem enduring weeks into months …

and I do the next RIGHT thing.

The higher-road thing.

The legal thing. I contact the police and report the vehicle. Time after time week into week.

The officer had warned me: It can take calling in a car 20 or 30 times before the warned owner slips, forgets to move his car within 48 hours … then buh-bye car hello towing company!

Much as I don’t want it, looks like that’s the path I’m on.

You may be dreaming of a white Christmas. I’m dreaming of a blue one.

Blue as in assistance from the police, yes.

And blue for that vehicle’s owner who finds stuffed into his stocking not a piece of coal but rather a big ol’ impound fee.

A blue Christmas joyous!

Parking Purgatory Shifts Into High Gear

Never underestimate the curative powers of alcohol.

For the third time in about a week, I’ve bowed outta my evening plans.

One reason. Always the same reason.


Parking at La Aldea subdivision in Gilbert, AZ

In words, Parking Purgatory.

Happened again last night.

There was an evening event yesterday. Recognized the probable tradeoff — of no parking spots when I got home.

I went because I really wanted to attend. At such cost.

Sure enough, I got back early (for me).

At 9 p.m. On a Wednesday.

Up and down and round and round every street I went.


Once again, yet again, I was forced to park at some other subdivision, sprint across 6 lanes of speeding traffic — potentially deadly day or night — and walk 1/3 of a mile home.

Only I didn’t walk. I MARCHED. FAST. I was ON FIRE. INFURIATED. Smoke pouring out my ears. Surprised no one reported a house fire!

Because this has been going on since I moved in 1-1/2 months ago and I am at the end of my rope and patience.

I’ve observed that on a particularly bad night — like when I cut an evening many hours short to improve the odds of finding a parking spot yet FINDING NOTHING — forcing me to park in some strange complex far away — recovery takes two nights.

Meaning I won’t drive anywhere come hell or high water if it means returning to Parking Purgatory after 6 p.m., when availability fast dwindles then vanishes.

Which is why I bowed out of tonight’s much-anticipated writing group — my first visit to boot. ARRRRGH. Sad.

Because I’d get back around 9:30 p.m.

The Parking Dead Zone.

Truly, as much as I want(ed) to go — and I do — it’s NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT worth the rage, stress, frustration, yet another reminder of the utter stupidity of the city and La Aldea planners that slaps me in the face every time I (fight to) park.

So yet another social event bites the dust. The Parking Purgatory is shifting into high gear the longer I reside here.

Hence it bears repeating: Do not underestimate the curative powers of alcohol.

Say cheers! to my curative cocktail.


(Diet) Ginger Ale meets Rye Whiskey