Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Golden Boy (part deux)

Just at the time Matt arrived, Yumi and I started to realize the guy who said he was "waiting for his girlfriend"- did not in fact HAVE one. Yet. He was winking at us hopefully.

We were rescued by the Polygon pictures folks who had been waiting across the street. After everyone trying to lead the party in different directions at once, we finally ended up going to a bar in shinjuku that managed to be noisy and expensive at the same time. Food was good though. But we wanted to GET DRUNK!

You see, Japan is a drinking society. My husband goes drinking with his coworkers sometimes up to three times a week. Even I'm invited out to drinking parties at least once a week. But the sad fact is most people here (that I have had the pleasure of drinking with) stop after one beer.
Only one beer?! Okay, okay, I'm exaggerating.
Sometimes it's two!

So we foreigners wanted to enjoy the chance to drink substantially more than usual without being gawked at. And this expensive restaurant wasn't going to cut it.
At Matt's reccommendation we wandered into the north side of town, home to love hotels and a large park occupied by several dozen homeless people. Not really the nicer side of shinjuku.
"This used to be the hangout of yakuza and chinese gangs during their height of power in the seventies to early eighties!"
Matt said, hoping to lighten the mood with a little trivia.
"In fact, there are still some hardcore members that come here for drinks every now and then. Keep a close eye out, guys!" He announced with the cheery voice of a tour guide.
Yumi and I responded with a whimper.

We ducked down an alley facing the park, and we were suddenly in a maze-like neighborhood of tiny pubs and "snacks", or hostess clubs. Each side of the alley (hardly wide enough for two people to pass side by side) had dozens of doors within several feet of each other, creating a rather hotel-like atmosphere.
I could only imagine the difficulty police would have finding a fugitive in this place. There must be hundreds of places to hide, all with back doors facing a different alley. On the plus side though, if they couldn't find their guy, I had a feeling they could probably by sheer chance run into some other wanted felon.
After peering into some windows of a lot of empty and sad looking bars clearly past their peak, or very full looking bars of people we wouldn't want to meet in broad daylight, let alone a dark alley such as the one we were on, Matt stopped suddenly in front of a little place with a light wood paneled exterior and track lighting.

"This is the place! The Golden Boy Pub!"
After looking left and right down the alley to try to memorize the way out of the maze back to the station, we nervously entered the bar.
A small elderly gentleman put down his newspaper and turned off the large television that took up an entire wall, and stepped behind the bar.
The tired adventurers that we were were pleasantly surprised by the cozy atmoshere of the 12x6 foot tan-wood paneled room that was the Golden Boy. Graffiti was everywhere, and seemed to be encouraged.

It was tiny. It was old. The five of us found it was perfect for our small party. And just like you would expect from a true gangster hideout, it didn't have girly drinks. no mixers, no wine coolers, or anything of the sort. After my beer, I tried to negotiate with the bartender for something other than whiskey. He did have some nonalchoholic drinks, which gave me an idea.

"Do you have coke?" I asked.
Of course he had coke. Everywhere in the world has coke. I think it's one of the true signs of america's "superpower".
...I eyed the beautiful bottles of strong distilled liquor. Some of them had customer's names on them.
"Do you have rum?" He nodded. "Could you make me a rum and coke?"
.. "Rum and coke? You just mix them together, right?" He said, willing to give this new exotic combination a try. He made me the strongest rum and coke I've ever had. It was deee-lish.

I don't exactly remember all of that evening, but I have a vague memory of doodling on the wall. I even have a picture of it.
(my proof)

I've tried to get Takeshi to go back with me on my quest to find the elusive Golden Boy once more, but he refused. "Only five people fit, right? I think you need to make a reservation."
I explained that it really wasn't the reservation kind of place, since I doubt most of the customers wanted any record of their whereabouts.
Finally he confessed... "I...just don't wan't to go." "But the drinks are good and the old man is really nice!"
"..I'm afraid I'll run into someone I recognize from a wanted poster, and they'll remember me".

Well, that's one good thing about being a foreigner in this town. We wouldn't recognize any such people.
Someday, if one of you guys come to visit, we'll try to make a run to the elusive Golden Boy pub. If you're lucky, you'll see someone from the news.
If you're unlucky, you might BE on the news.

But either way, it'll be an adventure!

Friday, June 16, 2006

But first for something completely different.

I'm interrupting my two part story in the style of a TV drama: with a small commercial break.

Important announcement! Today is June 16th. Which means:
1) Happy Fathers Day, Dad! ^_^
2) It's less than one month away from my wedding! Requesting permission to freak out!
At work it's an odd mixture of being excited and very bored. This results in a rather fidgity person. I try to keep the fidgiting to a minimum by daydreaming. Oh, hush, it's alright, the project is over, NEC's just keeping us contractors til the end of June in case something goes wrong. I have been occupying the time making tests of cases that will never happen and doodling various scenes on memo pads that include:
*me in wedding dress
*wedding rings
what else...
*takeshi in wedding dress

Anyways, please check the wedding blog this weekend. I'll be posting up vital information like maps, plans for saturday, times bridesmaids and groomsmen should meet us Thursday, what to do for wedding gifts, etc.

But in more fun news, I wanted to share some links.
My CGJIG partners in crime shared this site called mojizu with me. The concept is simple: you draw a character, post it up, it gets feedback and is rated on a scale of 1-10. If yours is particularly good, it might be put in a 'moji war' agains other characters to see whose is the ultimate character design.

I put up a character called the ramen baby. So far it has a 4.1/10. I believe that is an F--. *^_^* That doesn't stop me from checking on it every now and then like a doting parent, though. When I saw that Mojizu site I immediately thought of Zach. I'm sure he would submit something great.

And here's a very funny video of some foreigners singing a clever song in the middle of a park in Tokyo, titled Gaijin Invasion. tee hee.

world cup cartoon Last but not least, it's the World Cup! This is nothing special in America, but in the rest of the civilized world, it's huge! ^_~ This will be the first time in twelve years that I'm farther than a few miles from the city holding the event. I was in LA in 1994 visiting someone, then I was in Europe in 1998 for a choir tour, then I was in Japan in 2002 studying abroad. This string of coincidences made me think it was an odd twist of fate, and I thought for a moment some bizarre chain of events would take me to Germany this summer... but alas, it is not to be.

Soccer is mostly a game of close calls, so it can take some getting used to, but it's fun to follow once you're used to the sound of "**oooOOOOHHhhh!!..crap! dang that was CLOSE!**"

Japan lost its first game to Australia 1-3, as most of my coworkers were expecting, but America didn't even get ONE stinking point in our first game. *shakes head*. So dissapointed in you. I will be expecting better on Sunday.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A safe haven in a frightening locale - part one!

About a month ago, some friends I have made from an computer-graphics interest group decided to get together for a little bar-hopping in Shinjuku. I've "talked" to them through email for about a year, learning the quirks and personalities they all have. I met a few of the ones who live in northern california last year when I was up visiting my friends and family before I left for Japan.

At that time, I hadn't been on the list for very long, so just to be on the safe side, I brought my dad along with me. You know, you hear scary stories about "those internet people!".
They turned out not to be scary at all, but kind, friendly and funny, and ...

"Jeez, a couple of those guys were SO NERDY!" said dad after dinner.

Coming from dad, that's really something. Possibly a high compliment. As you can imagine, the whole dinner party got along just fine.^^

Anyways, seeing as how the california set of the CGJIG-ers (computer graphics japan interest group) were good people, I had no qualms about meeting up with some new friends in Tokyo. I had actually tried to go out with them before, but only one person from the list came. He was french. He brought two French friends. They didn't speak English. ... here's how the evening's conversation went:

Me: "Hello, I'm Kyra. Are you Florian?"
Florian. "Yes, nice to meet you. er... do you speak french?"
Me: "not really... um um, I mean, je n'parlez-pas le francais!... how was that?"
Florian: *laughing* (in french -> "")
Me: "okay.. um, nihongo ha daijyobu desu ka?"
Florian:"oh! daijyobu desu yo!!"

And then the rest of the evening we spoke japanese. That must have seemed pretty weird to any japanese by-standers. ^_^

BUT ANYWAYS, as for a month ago, I was supposed to meet Matt and his coworkers from Polygon Pictures.
(I wonder if it's ok to put real people's names on this blog? Maybe if it ever gets big I'll revise it, but I don't think it's in real danger of that anytime soon. )
From his emails he seemed to be a native english speaker. Besides that and the time and place we were supposed to meet, I didn't really know anything about him.
By the time me and my japanese girl-friend I was bringing along met up in front of the east exit, I realized: "Crap. Its's really crowded. And I forgot to bring his cell number."

I naively figured I wouldn't have any trouble finding a foreigner amongst all the japanese urbanites. Oh silly Kyra, don't you know there are TONS of foreigners in Shinjuku?
About fifteen minutes after the appointed meeting time, my friend was a bit worried. "Do you know what he looks like?" She said. I had to admit I didn't.
"Why don't you call him?"

(eep!...please don't make me answer that!!)

"Sure, why don't I do that..." I said, and pulled out my phone. I didn't have Matt's number, but I still had Florian's. I dialed it hopefully, thinking maybe he could get it off the list somehow...but alas, no answer. Crap. "No answer", I said, a little guiltily.
"Is that him?" she asked, pointing at a lone foreigner.
Yeah, better check it out.

"Are you Matt?"
"No." (oops! we backed away slowly) "Sorry to have bothered you"...
"Its ok. I'm waiting for my girlfriend." (oops. OOPS! We backed away quickly. And then we turned around and ran.)
"Kyra, that guy who's not Matt is looking at us and winking!"

Right then, the real Matt showed up.

part two next time!