I could write you another thousand letters, and it would only make me feel better.
Nothing would be fixed, but at least I'd be trying.
You could try writing me back for a change so I know what you're thinking.
Otherwise, I’ll send you another letter.
Another fucking letter.

Overwhelming Silence

Currently it is 6:00AM in my time zone, and I think I shall soon make another (fruitless) attempt at sleep. I've been trying to amuse myself and keep the tedium and boredom at bay for something like 5 hours, and it's far too quiet now.

Yesterday started off innocently enough. Waking up in an intensely bright spot of my room, stretching and shaking off the hold of sleep. The phone rings. It's a friend, talking about a concert. Today. I look over at my alarm clock. It blinks back the time, a short while after 12. My friend explains that there is a big concert, and it's not even as far out as Toronto. A few big names will be there, and most importantly, a friend of a friend of his is playing. He picks me up in 30 minutes, following my shower and quick snacking on a few doubles my parents picked up at the West Indian store before I awoke. My friend had recently acquired his licence and was putting the car to good use. I saw 2 familer faces, and met a new one. My friend driving turned up the volume, and we hurtled towards Square One with Skinny Puppy blasting from the speakers.

The concert itself was at Sega City, Playdium. I really loathed that place, mainly because it was something of a gathering for people who seemed to model themselves on stereotypes. I loathed them collectively. Today though, it was dominated by punk rock teenagers, bleached spiky hair, denim jackets and plaid skirts. The concert itself consisted of countless garage bands from the area with an overall punk theme. Simple chord progressions, loud piercing vocals, or happy and bouncy tunes from several bands. I passed the time with Mortal Kombat and Hydro Thunder because mostly everything else had a ridiculous lineup.

The evening finally coming, the bands were progressively becoming better presented and more reputable. After countless hours in the scorching sun the main stage was blockaded off by Playdium security and a few police who didn't seem quite as excited to be there as the fans. The big bands were setting up. I disapeared with my friend into the nearby mall for some food. On my return, the security began to move and the crowds rushed into the worn, grassy and littered area in front of the stage. Bands played, guitars howled, screaming fans launched themselves at each other in frenzy whenever the music would peak in intensity. Eventually the one band that I recognized from TV arrived: Gob. The crowds howled and screamed in appreciation, and Gob's guitarist wove complex vibrations into the air, speakers pounding the earth to the bassist's and drummer's movements. The band led the audience through song after song until it reached a climax with "I Hear You Calling". Before they left the stage, they presented their rendition of Rolling Stone's Paint it Black. The crowd was electric, screaming and moshing. I cut my leg in two places and tore my big toe nail (in retrospect, I shall never wear sandle's to another concert). It was an incredible end to a very pleasent day. I even met an old friend who had moved very far away.

I'm here right now, about 30 miles away from my house because a friend of a friend had no parents at his house and didn't mind if I crashed there. I couldn't sleep, so I stayed up until now reading e2 nodes, and sipping overproof rum. Another friend tosses and turns behind me on a couch, probably because of bad dreams. I think it's time to go to bed.

His Name is Daniel

It was a year ago today when it happened. We were celebrating my daughters birthday and my son brought his girlfriend with him. This was a fairly new girl, one I really hadn't had a chance to get to know; althouh, they were already living together.

The minute they came through the door, I KNEW. Don't ask me how, I just DID. I told them I knew... and they denied it. Said there was absolutely no way.

By my birthday (my 39th specifically) THEY knew. They were expecting a baby. My son, my only son, was going to be a daddy!

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. But in retrospect, all the signs were there. If you believe in fate and predestiny, you have to know that every turn of his life in the months prior were but signs of what was to come. He had moved out in April to live with several friends. That's when he met HER. She lived upstairs, though the details are sketchy it seems she was only staying because she had no where else to go.

In June they got their own apartment, and things looked like they might be changing for my Boy. Suddenly he seemed responsible, mature, and ****GASP**** planning for his future. At 20 he often was so torn between being an adult, and being a kid. You know, the free spirit kind that gives no thought to what might some day be.

In October the free spirit won, and they lost everything because of one stupid decision. The car... GONE, the apartment... GONE, the job... GONE. And Mom to the rescue. What could I do? What could I say?

Over the months I realized I do NOT like this girl. She's flighty, almost stupid at times, and has NO common sense whatsoever. But, she was carrying my grandchild. A fact I was still trying to absorb. You see, I'm not a baby person. Even with 3 kids of my own, I've never been one to goo and gaa over infants. Give me toddlers and give me teens... I can relate, even enjoy. But squalling infants??? What's to enjoy?

Then I got the shock of a lifetime. She was carrying a boy! Now, if I have to be a grandma... I want a grandson. One who looks just like his DADDY. But with his mommy's disposition. She's always bright and cheery... no matter what. Stupid, but happy nontheless.

In April he was born. Looking so much like his father at birth it took my breath away. Beautiful skin, dark hair, and muscle tone not often seen in new borns. He has his mothers eyes. But with his fathers native american coloring... well, the ice blue eyes just make you gasp with glee.

As my son handed me his child... my first born grandson, he said to me, "Mom, I know if you had ever had another boy you would have named him Daniel Scott... so, may I introduce you to MY son, Daniel Scott Greene!?

Yes, there were tears. Tears of joy and fear. His parents are in no way financially ready for this little boy. But they will try, I have to grant them that. This week he rolled over for the first time. He is trying so hard to form words... the first of which will be DaDa. And when he's 2 I'm going to take him fishing, bug catching, and climbing trees! Just like I did his daddy at that age.

I received a call from home, this made me happy - but not for long.
This call was for the most part about how my cat had been killed by a random dog.

My co future Mother-In-Law (I need a name for this relationship!) was laid flat with a slipped disk then had surgery yesterday. Her daughter (my future Daughter-In-Law) and/or I stayed with her the whole time (a whooping 24 hours) she was in the hospital and now she has a friend who is a nurse to take care of her for a week. She was in terrible pain. She feels better now, after the surgery. I spent two days last week getting her to MRIs and X-rays and neurosurgeons. You need a keeper and an advocate when you are sick to negotiate our medical system. It used to be you would be admitted and get all these tests; now one has to bargain and maneuver just to get adequate pain medication and to have tests and surgery scheduled in a somewhat timely manner.

Today my husband cut his finger. We spent 5 hours in the emergency room for 4 stitches. Good thing there wasn’t any nerve or tendon damage. It should heal up with no problems.

Hospital time is over now family! Please, NO MORE problems this week.

A very much belated installment of Irregular Zymurgy - batch number 02-6

In the first part of this year, I had adhered to a rigorous brewing schedule, I had at least one batch of ale fermenting at anytime through mid-May. I don't know how my intentions were derailed, but I found the ingredients for this batch on the sidetable in the dining room, the receipt inside the bag was dated over two months ago.

Last fall, one of my housemates made a beer to which he added jalapeno chilis during the fermentation. The result was a golden-colored, and, even when chilled, tingled the lips and had a spicy aftertaste. I was inspired by this example, however I choose ancho and chipotle chilis for a warmer, smoky flavor.

    As usual, I began by boiling
  • 2 ½ gal filtered water,
    and in a separate pot I set
  • ½ lb crystal 15L malt and water to cover
    over a low flame and brought it to the brink of boil.
    This is a new step, as I had burned my last grain bag, so I thought to make a tea of the crushed grains separately, then strain them into the main pot once it boiled. After that boiled, I poured
  • 5 ¾ lbs ultra light malt extract and
  • 1 lb sage blossom honey
    into the boiling water and stirred so that it wouldn't settle to the bottom of the pot and burn. After the pot returned to boiling, I added the bittering hops
  • 1 oz Northern Brewer and
  • 1 oz Cascade.
    I took a bottle of beer out to the porch and read a magazine for about 60 minutes while this boiled. At the end of the hour, I turned the heat off and threw in (another)
  • 1 oz Cascade hops for fragrance,
  • 3 dry ancho chilis and
  • 3 dry chipotle chilis, split so that the seeds could mix into the wort.
    This steeped for 20-25 minutes, until the flesh of the ancho chilis had reconstituted. Then I strained the wort into a bucket with a some ice in it to help cool it down. Later, I decanted it into a carboy and pitched in Wyeast strain #1056 "American Ale". This yeast got a special blessing, for I was feeling unsure of its ability to propagate in the presence of the combined anti-bacterial properties of both hops and chilis.

That evening, conform came over and we reprised the spring's ales, both my Belgian Ale and my Scotch Ale, which have remained drinkable through this summer. However, I can see the back of my beer cupboard, there aren't many bottles left in it, so this batch will have to be ready soon.

Update Sat Aug 3 2002

This afternoon I racked the ale from the carboy into another, clean one. Part of the fun of syphoning ale is helping yourself to a taste. This ale is not tasting quite as spicy as I had hoped, so I added more chilis: 5 chipotle and 2 ancho, as well as another 1 oz Cascade hops. The racking procedure left about a quart and a half of sludge from the grain and hops in the first carboy. This gets flushed down the toilet.

Update Tue Aug 6 2002

This evening bindlenix and I bottled the ale. It displays a sweet smoky bouquet from the roasted chilis, and a good amount of capsaicin comes through in the taste. I can hardly wait the three weeks until it has properly bottle conditioned.

About an hour after finishing the bottling and cleaning, I realized that the back of my right hand was burning. There were no scratches or cuts. As I applied calmine lotion I tried to figure out just what I had done to myself. What I think happened is that the capsaicin left behind in the spent hops and chilis I pulled out of the carboy burnt the skin on my hand.

It is Sunday morning, and the three of us are sitting around in the hotel room.

Checkout time is noon, and Joey and I are ready to go. Sarah is cleaning up and about to shower.

I danced around until the con closed last night at 1:30 AM. Met up with some fellow FF6 characters. It was nice to see old school people instead of the years' popular characters all the time.

Going home today.

Going home and I get to see her.

bring on week 4

weill in japan: day 26

The next three weeks of class look to be pretty challenging, and the ominous midterm exam is just four days away. With that in mind, I went on yet another excursion into Tokyo today.

the pits

Just about everyone who visits Japan is warned about the traditional Japanese-style toilet. Often called a "pit toilet" or "squat toilet" in English, the traditional Japanese toilet closely resembles a urinal mounted on the ground. It's not a complicated-looking device, but a lot of outsiders are confused by the way they have to orient themselves in order to use it. In cities, Western-style toilets are becoming the de facto standard. Many families, including my own host family, have Western-style toilets which have other features like a heated seat and bidet. Bonus.

Believe it or not, I had gone 25 days in Japan without seeing one of these pit toilets up close. Today was the day.

After lunch, I headed out for the train station on foot. I didn't use the bathroom at home before leaving; first mistake. By the time I got to the station, I was about ready to burst. No problem; there's a men's room right inside. Two stalls; one is open. It has the pit.

Half a second of thoughtful consideration later, I bail out and head to the department store next door. Their men's room had a Western-style toilet, and all was well. (The other toilet in the station was also Western-style, but I didn't think to wait there.)

I don't know why toilets are such a talking point when visiting Japan, but I've discussed them with a few other students. I can't honestly say that I've actually used a pit toilet, but I am proud to say that I ran away from one.

calling all freaks

My trip today brought me to Shibuya, Tokyo's heavily youth-oriented district. Sunday afternoon is the most popular time for young people to come together near the station. I had heard many stories about cosplay -- people dressing in the costumes of their favorite cartoon and game characters -- being popular in Shibuya on Sundays, but I saw nothing of the sort today. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place.

The weather was good: a little less hot than usual, due to overcast skies. People were out in force to drive business into their stores, and some shady vendors were offering deeply-discounted goods of questionable quality. My only purchase there was a Japanese soccer jersey for ¥2500 ($21.40), presumably from the World Cup but with the color just slightly off in the front. World Cup goods are very heavily discounted now, with some of the more egregiously overpriced items marked 70% off. (Among the poorly planned items I passed up: "600 days to the World Cup" t-shirts, "500 days to the World Cup" t-shirts, "400 days to the World Cup" t-shirts, and so on.)

Of course, the cornerstone of any big district of Tokyo is the department stores. Shibuya caters heavily to the fashion-obsessed kogyaru ("little gals") who often get money and luxury goods from their older lovers. Regardless of how they get the goods, gals can shop at hundreds of stores, including 92 boutiques in the eight-story Shibuya 109 department store. It's the largest store that I've seen which is entirely devoted to women's clothing.

Since Shibuya is so youth-oriented, department stores are arranged to attract youth. One of them, Nakanukiya, has quite possibly the most bizarre layout that I've ever seen. The ground floor is a large "drug store" (mostly beauty products). From there, it's down a flight of stairs to a computer parts store or upstairs to four more extremely diversified floors. Normally, stores are fairly specialized on each floor. The second floor featured luxury handbags, portable CD players, and lingerie. All next to each other. Going up from there, the next floor had video games positioned very close to adult novelties. This sort of "throw everything at the shelves and see what sells" attitude is extremely rare at department stores here, and I wonder how well this one shop is doing.

The other thing I noticed about Shibuya: inner-city African-American culture is extremely popular here. I saw more black people in Shibuya than I have in any other Japanese place so far, and they were complemented by the young Japanese men and women who have embraced gangsta rap, darkened skin, and even frizzy hair. The look is even more hilarious on Japanese people than it was on the rich white people at my high school who thought they were black. Many stores are staffed by black people as well, perhaps for a more authentic angle.

Lastly, the youth-oriented nature of Shibuya made me very optimistic about finding some quality Engrish shirts, with their vaguely philosophical insights. Unfortunately, not all Engrish shirts are alike. Some of them bear high-fashion labels, and cost much more than appearances would suggest. I was disappointed to learn that a t-shirt reading "I am a sushi boy!" handwritten three times would cost me ¥2900 ($25) when I felt it was worth maybe half that much. Some shirts cost even more than that.

As I passed a Gap store, a Sizzler restaurant, and all sorts of other American imports, I started to wonder how much American and Japanese cultures are poisoning each other with their respective popular cultures. Then I stopped thinking. I had a train to catch.


Some gals have it easy in Shibuya. As I was walking, two heavily-tanned ko gals in front of me were suddenly approached from behind by a Japanese guy who started trying to hit on them as they walked on a sidewalk. The two gals brushed him off, and he disappeared into the crowd.

The shady street vendor from whom I bought the jersey was European, and spoke English primarily. He originally quoted a price of ¥3500 (but "for you, it's ¥3000") but I got him to go a little lower. The jersey's a piece of crap, but I'll see if I get any harsh treatment about it when I wear it tomorrow. Back in the U.S., where nobody knows what a Japanese or even an American soccer jersey looks like, I'll be okay.

On Monday in Kichijoji, I noticed a can of soda in a machine marked "Smap!". It's a marketing ploy for the boy band Smap's new self-titled CD, which bears a picture of the can on the front. Today, there was a building in Shibuya with a giant picture of that can on the front, and a machine inside that sold Smap! soda exclusively. There was a line at least twenty people deep to buy this soda from a vending machine. Maybe I should have hung on to my can on Monday to let it appreciate in value.

At an arcade in Shibuya, I saw the downside to those huge virtual soccer games that have all the players networked. The entire network went down, and I watched as the staff tried to debug the problem.

I have now heard four songs from Dance Dance Revolution 5th Mix on Japanese television. Tonight as I was flipping through channels, I heard the song later remixed by Captain Jack and released as "Odoru (something)" with a Japanese title in the game. If I played the game enough to be good at it, I'd know what it was called. The song was being used with different lyrics as the closing theme to an animated program.

Time to get some sleep, get ready, and get in gear for a week of classes.

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