I forgot to tell you something really crazy that happened to me last night...

I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom (I always wake up sometime in the middle of the night). I did the normal thing... I got out of bed, grabbed a pair of pants and a shirt and pulled them on, and walked to the door in the pitch black. It's not hard to do that in my room... three steps in any direction, and you hit a wall.

About halfway to the door, I wake jabbed awake by this awful pain in my foot. Yeow! I've stepped on toys before, but this was really bad. I yelped and picked up my foot and held it in my hands... I felt the toy drop off my foot and hit the floor with a plunk.

So I was there in this pitch black room, with my pants around my knees and my shirt hung around my neck with my arms out, standing on one foot and clutching the other with my hands. I'm not too bad with pain... after a second I put my foot back down and put my clothes in order.

Okay, I was finally ready to move again. I took another step toward the door.

Ouch! My other foot wailed at me... I'm going to have to get onto those kids for leaving their toys around, I guess. I didn't stop, I just kinda hopped off the toy and took the last step to the doorway. OOOOW! What the heck? My feet felt like swiss cheese. What on earth was all over the floor?

I felt around the bare wall and hit the light switch.

All around me, on the floor in a neat little pathway, were dozens and dozens of pointy little Legos, with their pointy bits sticking straight up. Just laying on the floor, in a neat little strip from my bedside to the door, which was locked.

I knew I hadn't done that, but I was still too sleepy to really think about it. I scooped up the legos and threw them into the bin. No more of that problem, I thought. If only I knew...

I made it to the bathroom without incident, closed and locked the door like I always do. I sat down. I noticed a little Lego stick-piece poking under the door... those things get scattered everywhere sometimes. I think there should be an age minimum for owning anything small enough to carry in two fingers.

The toilet paper roll made its necessary sacrifice to the common good, and I was just washing my hands and thinking sleepy thoughts again, when I happened to look down... and saw the Lego stick slide across the floor and bump against my foot. I did what any thinking person would do... I jumped up on top of the bathroom counter. I stared down at the little red toy, unbelieving.

The tiny red brick slid up to the bottom of the sink cabinet, tilted up a little, did a little bouncy motion as if to say oh-my-word-look-who-has -visited-us, and LEAPED UP and HIT ME IN THE FACE. I automatically smacked my hands on my face, trying to catch the little monster. *bam*. I think I'm going to have that self-inflicted black eye for a while.

"Heeheeheeheeheeheeeeeee"

Ever heard a lego giggle? It might have been cute normally, but it put me in a killing mood. I jumped off the counter... and felt a dozen little bolts of pain shoot through my already-sore feet. I jumped off the little army of Legos and into the bathtub, catching the red Lego in my hands just as it tried to flee. I spiked it into the toilet and flushed it. A little wail of despair issued up from the swishing bowl and was gone.

Plunk.

Plunk? What just went plunk?

PLUNK.

Something was smacking against the door and bouncing off.

KA-PLUNK! I heard something on the other side make a plasticy shattering noise.

About a dozen little pieces limboed under the door, and formed a neat pile in the middle of the tile floor. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I knew that if this was a dream, it was one I was never going to forget. Two bricks in the pile popped themselves together. I snatched a bar of soap from the little wire rack hanging from the showerhead.

The little pile of Legos was slowly turning itself into something, but I couldn't tell what just yet. I was partly puzzled and amused by the amazing thing I was witnessing, and partly terrified... why were these Legos trying to hurt me?

There was no longer a pile in the middle of the floor. Standing in the middle of the bathroom was a little Lego robot... it was really an amazing robot model; it would have probably at least gotten a photo in any Lego-builder's magazine. About a foot and a half tall, it had two little plastic feet, perfect spring-flexed knees, hips, arms, and little pincer claws for hands. Its head looked like a cartoon robot, square with two little circle pieces for eyes.

The robot was looking at me. At least, it sure seemed to be looking at me. I slid my wet feet across the bathtub, and the little pink plastic eyes followed my movement. Very creepy. It moved one leg forward, put its foot down, then made a little yelp and picked the foot up and held it in it's little hands. Heeheeheeheeheeee, it said to me.

Make fun of me and my hurting feet, will you? I'll cram your boxy head into your shiny plastic butt, I thought. I looked at the bar of soap in my hands. I threw it at the Lego robot. The robot shattered.

On the floor, all around the broken pieces of the robot, other Legos had slowly gathered around and made formation... all lined up in neat little rows, each type in a group by itself. Probably half of the legos in the house.

I put one foot out of the tub. Ten pointy Legos whisked to the spot on the floor just under my foot. The foot decided the tub was better.

The robot was back. Only, now all those extra pieces weren't laying around anymore. This robot was five feet tall. It look almost... human, in a way. It had shiny blue eyes with little black pupils in the middle, a mouth made of out lots of little flexible pieces, hands with four fingers and a thumb on each, two feet with five wiggling toes each. I could see a little plastic contraption pulsing in its chest.

"You will not take a single step this way. Do you understand?", I said.

The robot took a step towards me.

"Stop right there. I will SO turn you into cute little spaceships if you even TRY to touch me."

The robot raised its bumpy black eyebrows, lifted its arm, and popped one of its eyes off. It held it out at me, winked the remaining eye, and threw the little Lego eyeball at me. It bounced off my forehead and fell down my shirt, wiggling. Plastic fingers picked up fresh Legos off the floor and stuck the new eye back into the empty socket.

I jumped out of the bathtub and swung at the plastic jerk in front of me. My fist connected, shattering it into hundreds of little pieces. I kicked the rest of it out of my way and yanked open the bathroom door...

All the way down the hall, in neat little clusters, were pointy little Legos, waiting to make suitable impressions on my soft feet. I closed the door.

Thirty seconds later, I opened the door again and strode out of the bathroom, my feet wrapped in fluffy rolls of toilet paper. I suppose I could have made it to the end of the hall, if I had ducked.

As it was, the Lego cannonball hit me in the middle of the chest, knocking me flat onto my back... onto all those neat little clusters of pointy things. I lay there, gasping for air and moaning, until I felt something bump against the bottoms of my paper-ensconced feet. I lifted my head up and looked.

There, at my feet, on complicated Lego-borne tracks, was a miniature tank, made entirely of those awful plastic bricks. It paused for just a second, then rolled over me. I was just drifting away into unconsciousness when I heard the front door open.

I woke up in the hallway floor this morning.

All of our Legos are gone.

How Doth the Potent Orb…

    How doth the potent orb
    perk up his shining treacle?
    Amidst the jukka gel it absorbs
    All through his darkened pupil!

    How readily he ululates,
    to welcome noders in,
    From across the frozen wastes
    With an icy jagged grin!

    E.Haulfield

With apologies to Carroll

It's sort of like being a fishmonger

In Which A Struggling Author Listens To Music Of Poor Quality And Pretends To Be Inspired, Though In Reality The Power Was Inside Him The Whole Time

I paid five dollars for that radio. It does AM. FM. Cassette tapes. Only one speaker, but stereo is for pussies anyway, right? Anyway, no iPod. No shiny white plastic ear-things. Just me, my radio/cassette player that was made on the backs of starving Asian children of some description, and my bed, and my nineteen ninety-seven IBM ThinkPad notebook computer running Notepad and, since I'm listing, my clothing, in a beat-up foot locker, and a broken TV and a flask with nothing in it because I don't drink but I like the image. That is, the image of the alchoholic writer. Hemingway, Poe, all those famous fuckers drank or did opium or something like that.

If this were a movie, I would have already guaranteed a PG-13 for that one epithet. Were it practical, I'd toss another one out for the R, but then I'd feel obligated to have a set of tits because you can do that in an R but frankly, there just aren't any in my life. Excepting the computer. It has rather a lot. Well, my two fifty-six memory stick does. The computer is a tad overloaded as is, what with all the writing and stuff I do. See how I used "stuff" instead of the s-word there? Someday someone's going to buy the movie rights to pretty much everything I write, see, and I don't want to give them an excuse to butcher my work. Damn Hollywood. I can say damn, though. DamnDamnDamn.

Anyway, my radio. See, I was feeling pretty dull this one time: uninspired, y'know? So I figured, every artist a cannibal and so on. I could pop in some music for inspiration. One of my characters was doing pretty good and I needed some angsty stuff to put him through and all, so music was good for taking ideas from. All I had was this tape, though.

There's a story behind that tape. Me and it go way back. See, I was hanging with this friend of mine and we were in a dorm at the end of a year, right? People were throwing stuff out left and right. Good stuff, too. Anyway, this friend of mine, a chick, is all laughing, and she says she found some funny music in a garbage can. Now, this music stinks metaphorically and literally, and she decides it's not funny anymore and gives it to me.

So I pop in Millenium by the Backstreet Boys.

From the beginning, the first few song are all singles. I know this because I listened to the radio a lot before I discovered indie, y'know, stuff like Neutral Milk Hoteland Modest Mouse before they got on the radio. Anyway, so I'm like halfway through "Larger Than Life" when i get some good ideas and I write a whole bunch of stuff and kill off a character and wrap up a plot and then the side of the tape ends and I realize that it's really bad. I take it out and put it away and don't throw it out though because the girl that gave it to me was really hot. It wasn't helping me write anyway, it was just making me angry. Fuck.

Thud

There's a certain quote that comes to mind at times like these:

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
Oscar Wilde
I find this quote to be particularly appropriate, as I am currently lying in a gutter staring at the stars. Although this locale is not of my choosing, I am endeavoring to enjoy myself, until such time as my legs feel like working again. In the meantime, I will be Nick Copernicus. No, not Copernicus, that doesn't make any sense, I'll be fucking Tycho Brahe. The only difference between us, in fact, is that I smell and he did not.

There sure are a lot of stars out there. Or at least I'm told so. Bugger it if I can see them, I'm lying in a ditch in the city. But what the city costs one in stars, it more than makes up for with that delightful pollution haze.

Oh, Pluto! The schoolchildren mourn for thee! As do the adults whose knowledge of Astronomy is confined to memories of grammar school! I, for one, have never liked you. I am not the sort of person who likes an underdog. I'm glad the Spartans lost at Thermopylae. Seabiscuit was a chump. And I root for the Yankees. I always thought Jupiter was way cooler than you. You're smaller than the red spot! That being said, the big fancy astronomers who recently demoted you are a bunch of idiots.

First off, there are not eight similar things in the heavens which behave alike and form a group that you do not belong to. There are four big spheres that rock, and there are four big spheres that have gas. Any definition that includes all eight of 'em would probably include you and those other mooks you're stuck with now. Hopefully they'll find seven "dwarf planets" and no more.

It did appear for a while there that the Astronomers were on the verge of being reasonable. For years Planet has meant absolutely nothing. "Something that orbits the Sun and has enough mass for its own gravity to pull itself into a sphere" is short, simple, and allows us to instantly divine whether or not any object we might find in the solar system is a planet. This nonsense about having to "clear the neighborhood" is subjective ad hoc bullshit, and anyone with any sense knows so. You, sir, were the victim of circumstances. You should have been called Hades anyway, the names of Roman Deities are stupid.

I am awoken from my dark astronomical ruminations by the distant sound of singing. I stand, hesitantly, leaning against a fence. A large party of drunken revelers is roaming the streets, singing off-key. My kind of people. I might even know them. It's hard to tell.

They're all wearing masks.

Sunday



I reach over Jeannie's lap to get into the glove box. We're out of cigarettes.

"Told you we should have stopped," she says, and smiles. When she looks away to roll up her window I see that downward turn of her lips, how even in profile she's frowning. She told me when we first met that she can pull a good pout, and she can. I think about telling her to go to hell, and I also think about pulling over right here, and letting the air conditioner blow the sweat off my back while I make this fucker rock.

Instead, I turn on the radio.

And lord, how we're sweating. Even with the air on. Sun's high, coming in from every direction in the universe, and not a cloud in the sky. This is Arizona - sun and road and dirt, and sun, and sun, and sun. When we stopped a couple hours back (when I did not get cigarettes) a couple of the locals told me that it was hot here even in the winter. Since it's the middle of August, I said, "I'd hate to see how it is in summer," and then I laughed. They didn't laugh.

"This would be more romantic in a Cadillac", Jeannie says. I look at her, smile a little, say, "I'd like to see a fucking Cadillac do 110 for more than forty five seconds." She smiles. I realize that I probably look handsome, driving all fast. Then, sooner than I expect, I see flashing lights from maybe eight cops in the rearview coming up out of the horizon.

The car can't speed up much more.






In the old days, when you robbed a bank, the tellers would sneak timed ink canisters in with the money, so that they'd fire off when you were on the run and ruin all the bills. Apparently, they still do. Jeannie's got about a gallon of blue in her hair. I tell her, "you look like a clown."

She wipes a bit of blue paint off the end of my nose with her fingertip. "It's all ruined. We don't have a single good dollar." She giggles a little, a little high, and stops, a little sudden. She's trying to smile. The cruisers are getting bigger in the rearview.

I hear something on the radio about a pursuit, and they say Jeannie's name. There's a sound behind the reporter like an engine running. I hit mute, and hear blades whirring: there's a helicopter over us.






I never thought I'd be happy to see a crucifix.

We were going too fast for me to read anything off the sign at the city limits. But you better believe I saw that crucifix. Crucifix coming out of a spire, coming up out of a church. I haven't been to church in a decade. I'm not a praying man. And I'm not about to become one. I hit the dirt lot going so fast I almost spin out when I hit the brakes.

Jeannie doesn't seem confused when I drag her inside.






Sunday morning sermon. We throw open the doors to a church full of people. It smells like sweat. The preacher only stops preaching when we're in front of the altar.

Jeannie's wearing the jeans and tank top she changed into while we sped away from the bank. She told me when we first met that she's never worn a dress. Oh well.

The preacher almost faints when I pull my gun. I reach over the altar and get blue ink on his Bible. "Find the part with the vows."

Sirens and gravel crunching outside. Through the church windows, you can see a dust devil from the helicopter's blades. That's right, I think. Get a good shot. My baby would look better in a dress.

Car doors opening. They tell us to come out, peacefully. They think we've got hostages.

"Make it fast," I tell the preacher.

Wordmongers' Masque
Communication Breakdown.

"Testing. Testing. This is J. Miller of Delta Station. Repeat. This is Delta Station. Anyone out there?" I wait half a second before putting another mark on the board. That's check eleven of the night. Three more and my shift is done.

I'm just about to go back to my book when the lights of an incoming signal flicker on. The radio crackles to life: "Listen everybody." I run through the list in my head.

Make sure there's a fresh tape in. Check. Hasn't been anything on any radio for months. Either that tape is fresh or it's Collins' singing, which we'd all be glad to be rid of.

Start recording. Check. I may be used to the silence, but damned if a break in it makes me forget to hit that pretty little button.

Give immediate response. Right. Keep it short, but let them know someone is listening.

"This is Delta Station. You're coming in loud and clear."

Right. Next step. Send word to the compound... Shit. That means breaking the number one rule when a signal comes in. Stay on the line, ready to respond. The system was designed for one person to operate, but always have two people manning it. That way, one could always send word to the compound. But we hadn't had an extra person to spare for months. The morning operator won't be in for another hour at least. I guess it's on me.

Again the signal flares up. It is a man's voice. And the words, faint through the crackle of a bad radio, are vaguely familiar: "We've all lost people we love. We're all scared. We just want to go back to the way things were."

Why do I know that voice? It... Oh Christ. That was Suthers. Mike Suthers. This recording must be years old. That speech was from the beginning. When some thought there was still an outside world to go to. Suthers was trying to keep us together. He had to have known it was over. People we giving shouts of war. The idea that we could somehow fight back. Suthers figured it out right away. There had been a war. But we'd lost already. It wasn't time for us to strike back. It was time for us to hide.

He'd known.

He died a year later. A group had gone out to get revenge after we lost Alpha Station. They were gone three days. We presumed them dead. Looking back on it, they probably were. But before they'd died, they'd given us up. The Krags didn't even bother to send an attack force. They just bombed us from the air. More people died that night than had from the entire move to the Beta Station.

"But right now, I need you guys to put that all aside. We have no clue how bad things are elsewhere in the world, but we know how bad it is here. And we need to do what we can here-for us-before we can focus on everyone else."

God damn it. First sign of life outside of Delta and it's a recording. Well. First sign of human life anyway. The Krags are always around now. They're why you never go above ground alone. Hell, you never go above ground at all unless you've got a damn good reason. Me, I haven't seen sunlight since... Since we gave up on recon. Nothing up there but death. We searched for two years. We checked the major cities. The towns. Highways. Farms. Anywhere we could to find more survivors. And the only thing we found was the dead.

I almost shut the whole thing off. But my better judgment kicks in and I start to ask a few questions.

The first is the only one I really get to. Where the hell is this coming from? That should have been answered a few thought processes back. It's definitely on the checklist.

I'm supposed to bounce a meaningless signal back towards the source and track that. It sounds like complete nonsense to me. And to be honest, it most likely is. The system we have set up is complex and I was given the dumbed down tour. That whole bouncing thing amounts to me flipping a switch and turning a dial. It then shows up on a display that looks a lot like one of those old sonar machines. You play with the settings on that, pull out a map and come up with the grid co-ordinates of the incoming signal.

I make a mark on the map and compare the distances. It's a long way off. Too far for us to waste the resources on getting a team out there. At least, too far for a recording. Not that it's my job to decide that.

"Right now is a time to be selfish. To think about you. To think about those around you. Some of us have lost family and friends. Today, we need to band together. We have to be each other's family. We need to be each other's friends."

The recording sounds like a sad mockery of Suthers. He was the reason that almost all of us survived through the beginning. Without him... It's hard to think of. But the voice coming through the radio seems weak. The static gives him an almost broken voice. For some reason it makes me sad.

I allow myself long enough to wonder if I've gone a little bit crazy. Then, I begin to recheck the location of the signal. Busywork. At least that's what I was telling myself. In reality, it was just an instinct.

Good thing too. I had been completely off with my first location. It was almost four miles directly east of where I'd thought it had been. Christ. I may not know exactly how this system works, but I know how to do the work to locate a signal. It was almost completely body memory. So how the hell had I been off so much?

The soft noise of Suthers voice got louder. As if I'd spun the dial up a few notches. "I'm not forcing you to stay here. If you want to leave, you are free to. But consider the fact that the world outside these walls is no better. The only happy ending we'll get is if with stick together. Out there will be chaos. People will be fighting for food. For shelter. For anything they can get." I was sure that wasn't supposed to happen. Buildings, land masses, whatever. They could all interfere enough for a signal to be weakened. But there was nothing between the source and my position. Hell, there had been nothing between either source and my position.

Thinking that our transmitter must be broken and bouncing the signal incorrectly, I turned to the fall back method. The display that looked like an old sonar machine could actually be configured to act kind of like that. It would scan the surrounding area for any open com channels and if it found one, the display would light up a path from the antennae to the source.

Immediately a path was traced. Six miles northeast. Hell, that was close enough to send someone to check it out. I'm just about to shut off the display when it makes another cycle and shows another path.

Four miles northeast. Another cycle pass. Three miles.

My eyes close for a second. And in that second, I understand.

"Oh shit..." I drop to the floor and yank the machine's cord out of the wall. The display shuts down.

The Krags must have been sending the signal. They must have gotten a hold of old tapes. "But here... maybe we can make it work." Christ it's loud now. "We've enough food to last us." They knew we would be keeping the radios on in case of contact. "We've got shelter." They planned this whole damn thing "We've got heat."

And I fell for it.

Faintly, I hear the noise of a Krag ship above the building. Their humming engines. I grab the shotgun off the table. And my pistol. If it's a scout ship... If they're just trying to find us and then send word to their forces. Maybe I have a chance.

I slam the shotgun butt against the little red button on the wall. That gives me less than sixty seconds to get clear of the building. After that, it'll take anyone and anything around it to meet up with God.

"And most importantly, we've got each other. I'm not telling you what to do. And I'm not saying it's going to be easy. I'm just telling you that, as long as you're here, you're one of us."

"Go to hell," I turn to unload a shot or two into the radio. Before I get the chance the wall behind it is blown away. Half a second later, I'm pinned to the floor by a chunk of cement. The shotgun is out of my sights, but my pistol is well within my reach. As I grab it, I realize that there isn't a way out. The Krags don't take prisoners. They don't need to. It's widely believed that they can download information from any living being's brain. But they do have a sadistic pleasure in torture.

I glance a smoky shadow coming through the broken wall and grasp the gun firmly in my hand. And I take the only shot worth taking...

"And together, we're going to make it through this."

Boldness is a mask for fear, however great.
John Dryden

The quest for a passport, take two

Ah, yes, my quest continues. Still, it's no fault of mine, of course.


Hurrah...?
So, this Monday I went to the police station and reported my passport missing. The nice policeman said sure, no problem. He'd write a report pronto. It was pretty standard.

"And then you just fill out this application form for a new passport."

"Well, I'm not Danish; I'm Finnish, so I'll have to go to the embassy. I just need the police report."

"Ah... well, no problem. Then I'll need your passport number."

It took me a while to explain that since I had not actually set eyes on my passport for the last 20 odd years, I did not, infact, have the number. (I didn't say, but I am fairly convinced that 99.6% of the passport-carrying population of the world do not have their passport number written down. But, of course, I may be wrong). In the end he and his colleague decided it was okay, and they could do without the number. I got the report (once they located the correct form for me to fill in) and I was outta there, report safely in my bag.

Next stop was my workplace (I'm really on vacation, but what with finances being what they are I'm vacating at home, in front of my computer). My very nice boss took a picture of me and printed it on real photopaper, in the correct measurements and all that jazz. No need to waste money on pictures, after all.

This is getting silly
Armed with the pics and all of my paperwork I went to the Finnish Embassy.The kind lady (the consul) took one look at my pics and told me, sorry, they were all wrong. I was smiling. With teeth. No teeth are allowed; the machine won't have it. She told me there was a small photo shop some 300 metres that way, and they'd know how the pics ought to look. Yay...

The photo shop girl was very nice. She took my picture, no teeth (and it was just about the most awful pic ever taken of me. Nobody - and I mean nobody, will ever get to see it, apart from the people letting me into and out of countries!

Back to the embassy. Ah yes, the pictures were fine now. The consul even managed to keep a straight face while she looked at them, which I thought was pretty strong. All we needed now was for me to pay for the passport. I whipped out my plastic and saw the smile on her face fade.

"We are only allowed to take Danish cash."

"No problem", says I; "I'll just nip along to the small shop across the street and get some cash."

The shop attendant informed me (after I had waited in line for ten minutes) that they did not allow customers to withdraw cash. But I could go 600 metres that way, to find an ATM. Well, wow; how about posting a big sign or something. Dumbass...

So I trotted along, again. And as I passed the photo shop I thought I'd ask the nice girl if she'd allow me to withdraw some cash. She sure would, the sweet thing. Just as soon as that other customer got off the shop's telephone. He was trying to get a fax number from someone who did not seem to have it. It took him almost five minutes to ascertain that he could not get the number, and hang up. I got my money and hurried out (as I left the shop I heard him say "Oh, the fax number is right here, on the invoice."), almost running back to the embassy. It was nearing their closing hour.

Like, really silly
Back at the embassy I prepared to pay for my passport. But no... no, no, this was not over yet:

"We called the administration in Finland, and they say you moved from Sweden in 2003, yes?"

"... No. I moved from Sweden to Denmark in 1968."

"Ah. It says 2003 here..."

"I was 9 years old when I moved. It was in 1968." I may have sounded a little bit defensive here.

"Well, there might be a misunderstanding... Can you give me your parents names on this piece of paper? Maybe we have the papers of someone else..."

At this point in time I was beginning to have some serious doubts as to whether I was going to go anywhere, ever. My ticket to the US was non refundable, so if this quest ended with me crashing and burning that'd be 800 dollars (app. 4400 Dkr) I'd never see again. I really did not like that thought.

I wrote down my parents' names on a piece of paper and pushed it under the bullet proof glass. It may have helped that our names are not very common; the administration in Finland seemed to confirm that I matched my parents, and that the date in their papers had been mixed up somehow. After some discussion - in Finnish, which I don't understand a word of - I got the green light from the administration! Yay.

Nnnghaaarg...
The consul leafed through the papers in my file. The clerk lady typed away on her computer, printing more papers for the consul to look over. I watched her warily, and sure enough she soon started to look like she was searching for something.

"We need your adress in Finland"

"I have no adress in Finland. I have never even been to Finland. I am a Finnish citizen because my father was Finnish. Such were the rules then."

"Yes... Well, then your adress in Sweden."

"I live here, in Copenhagen. On Østerbro. I was nine when we moved from Sweden, and I can only vaguely remember some street names."

She looked at the papers again. "Then we just need a paper from Folkeregisteret to confirm your present adress in Denmark."

"But... but... "

"I know," she said, almost apologetic; "I think it's silly too, but there you have it. Folkeregisteret is in Dahlerupsgade, by the Lakes. It'll cost you some 100 Dkr."

"So... I'll just come back tomorrow, I guess."

I must have looked extremely deflated because the consul almost carried my bags to the door for me, and waved, saying "See you tomorrow then..."

So now, besides taking a lot longer than it ought to, this passport is also turning out to be an expensive affair. Adding to the cost is the fact that the streets around the embassy are rather rich in clothes shops and shoe stores, and I have a soft spot for those places, so...

Yes, yes, YES... YESSS
Ah, yes. A happy ending. The paper from Folkeregisteret was a mere formality (and only cost 54 Dkr), the walk through Copenhagen from the Lakes to the embassy was delightful. I took the opportunity to call a dear friend on my cellphone, and thus I had a very pleasant stroll across town. The consul brought me the final paper to sign (one last obstacle: the pen had dried out, so she needed to find another. I think The Powers That Be tries to tell me something here). I signed, we smiled, I was informed that they didn't normally do this kind of work for one passport, because they are understaffed; I promised to bring a box of chocolate when I pick up the passport in four weeks time - and I left. I am home free. Nothing can go wrong now (I did the 'jinx dance' after writing that), and I'll be flying to Washington in October.

Thank you for your time.


And rest assured that if I should find my old passport, I am not going to tell anyone about it. I'll shred it and burn it and bury it in the garden. When I get a garden. Or something.

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It's been a very busy weekend.

Let's start with Friday. After classes finished, most of HIF packed themselves onto a bus to head to an elementary school in the community. I biked the way there with a group of other ashi ga aru students, which let me get a good view of the school's surreal beauty. It's a very well-kept building right on the ocean shore. The playground is separated from the sand by nothing more than a fence. The school windows look out on Mt. Hakodate and the long beach that stretches from the school toward the mountain. I don't know how the kids pay any attention in class.

Speaking of the kids, they were adorable. All elementary schoolers, so this whole gaijin business is still the coolest thing since packaged rice to them. The welcomed us into the assembly hall and gave us a couple cutely adult-solemn speeches in high pitched little kid voices, after which we played games.

The younger kids played a chaotic variation of rock-paper-scissors with the lower level HIF classes where everybody wanders around to music, somewhat like musical chairs, until the music stops and you pick whichever partner's nearest you. Whoever loses the rock-paper-scissors match has to grab the winner's shoulders and follow him or her for the rest of the game. If one train of kids loses to another, they merge. With around thirty kids and twenty students, you could see how this might get real crazy real quick.

The older kids played more familiar tug-o-war with the higher level classes. My team won both times, probably because all the aggressively macho guys (and me, accidentally) happened to be split to one side.

After the games, the kids all got together and, of course, bowed to us in unison. I'm used to it, but sometimes it still makes me giggle, all this bowing. Then they taught us the Hakodate squid dance. All I can really say about the dance is that it involves a lot of hopping and wiggling.

For our part, we taught them the hokey-pokey. Let me tell you, they found the "you put your backside in, you put your backside out, you put your backside in and you shake it all about" part high-larious.

After the dance, we were literally mobbed by the kids as they picked their favorite gaijin to grab and drag toward a classroom. I had four different kids hanging off me, all screaming "Se takaaaaai! Sugeeeeeei!" to each other as they bum rushed me toward the fifth grade classroom.

In the classrooms, each group of students introduced themselves and played a game with the kids. Our group did pictionary. There was entertainment all around.

Fifth graders at the very least aren't nearly as stiff as our impression of Japanese schools makes them out to be, and the classroom was as brightly colored and welcoming as any normal American fifth grade would be. About the only thing different was that the kids automatically raised their hands from the very beginning of the game instead of calling out answers, behavior which would probably take a little coaxing from American kids. They still waved their hands like they were having seizures from excitement the exact same way though.

When the school day ended, a group of HIF students decided we wanted to explore the beach. We found an access point through an alleyway and hung out there for a while taking silly pictures of each other and talking about the things university students generally talk about. Someone went and bought beer, of course, so we added a bit of drinking to the mix. Which you can do here, because there's no open canister law. Which is a terrible, terrible idea and I love it.

Speaking of lack of open canister laws, that evening we all congregated at Goryoukaku again, which has become the well-established hang-out of HIF students. We're probably being recognized as the pack of drunken foreigners who sort of speak Japanese by now. There's a particular konbini that we always meet at called Lawson's, which supplies us most of our alcohol. We go in and out of there probably eight or nine times a night, and spend most of our time congregated outside it talking.

This would be hardcore nuisance behavior in the US, but two weekends worth of the same very recognizable foreigners (we've gotten to know the Lawson employees too) and there've been no complaints or visits by the cops. I mean, we are legitimately providing that store with a very tidy profit--it's certainly not as though we don't buy anything, and out behavior certainly isn't anything Japanese people don't do too when they're drunk (I need to reiterate that the Japanese are NOT in any way shape or form polite, courteous, restrained, or consciencious when they're drunk. They're raucous, obnoxious, loud, and they weave in and out of traffic unabashedly). Nonetheless, I feel like a bit of a troublemaker.

After getting fairly trashed off Lawson's finest, we set out looking for an 'izakeya,' a traditional Japanese style bar. I figured this was going to fail from the get-go, on account of us being one big horde of twelve foreigners who'd never fit in a single bar and would be horribly out of place if we did, but the others were insistent about it. We tried a couple places with no luck--all of them wanted to give us a private room to drink ourselves silly without disturbing everyone else. Exactly the sort of objection I was predicting.

Eventually, we just congregated at a trendy bar and accepted the private room deal, but I was getting tired and it was turning into a "izu the cold, wet rag of emo and sniffliness " drunk evening rather than the "izu the giggly and entertaining" drunk evening I was hoping it'd be. I bowed out before drinks were bought and shared a taxi with a friend.

I'm actually getting kind of tired of Goryoukaku drunkenness, more of which occurred Saturday night as I'll tell you tomorrow. I'm sure Sapporo will be the same too. As a weekend stress reliever, it has its ups, but it's expensive and kind of repetitive. I prefer an evening of playing video games or watching a movie or just chilling at someone's apartment, you know, anime-kai style. Call me square.

So that was Friday. Tomorrow, you can read about me climbing a mountain, hanging out with very prim, flustered private school girls speaking English at a barbeque, and then hanging out with very rough, drunken hipster guys speaking Japanese at Goryoukaku. All in the same day.

Author's note: this was written about a month and a half ago. Izu is now back stateside.

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