Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Out and About

Keeping with the traditions from the old country I found a way to celebrate Thanksgiving. No Thanksgiving is complete without a fine turkey dinner. Seeing that Japan does not celebrate the holiday, there are not a lot of seasonal events to attend. Watching an American Football game is all but out of the question; unless I want to track down a pub that shows replays. None the less, I was able to book dinner at a nice restaurant called Beacon.

I had actually been looking forward to a pleasant Thanksgiving dinner. It has been a while since I eat an American style dinner. I like all the different kinds of food Tokyo offers but sometimes I want a good old American meal. I can only eat so many rice balls and lunch boxes until my body begs for something closer to home.

My gal has not had Thanksgiving dinner in several years so she was excited as me. She confessed that she had missed eating a nice American holiday dinner. Although, I remember the last time she cooked Thanksgiving dinner we had baby octopus as a featured side dish. This year there will no cooking at home. I guess the fast paced Tokyo lifestyle has rubbed off on both of us because the thought of cooking Thanksgiving dinner sent chills up our spines. There was no question that eating out for Thanksgiving dinner was the only option which would sit well with both of us.

The evening got off to a rough start. Our reservation was not until 8:30 pm so I decided to wait until around 4:45 pm to get ready. This did not sit well with the gal who got off work around 5:00 pm. She wanted to hang out in central for a while before we had dinner. She never likes to wait on anyone. When it comes to waiting on me there is no room for mistake or no extra time to wait on me. She got a little upset and talked a little shit but she got over it soon enough.

We made it to Shibuya about 7:30 pm. Seeing that we had some time to kill we made our way to a First(Fucking) Kitchen for some coffee. The coffee at this chain fast food joint is almost as bad as McDonald`s. On a cold night in Tokyo the quality of the coffee takes a back seat to the over powering desire for warm energy giving liquid. This also gave me a chance to get the gal in a happy holiday mood. Conversation and funny off color comments are always the perfect way to get M.K. all smiles and up for an enjoyable evening. Over the years, I have learned how to handle this female. It takes a lot of throwing my pride out the window and being a mellow fellow to cheer her up.

After the both of us were just as happy as a pair of coons on trash day, we made our way over to Beacons. The place really was a step above what I am used to experiencing. I felt a little out of place in such a classy joint. The people working there all spoke very good English; which was a big surprise to me. Whenever I go out I make sure to remember my very rough Japanese so I can order. Self embarrassment was not needed as the staff spoke in Japanese to my gal and in English to me. The place had a real post-modern urban feel. The gal was just all shit and giggles that I took her to a decent place. It is always nice when the gal is pleased with the choice of venue.

I am not really a wine drinker(this changed as of 2010) but it appeared that ordering wine was a must for this dinner. The gal was all about ordering an entire bottle of 2000 vintage. Not my style, at the time, but it made her happy so I went with the flow. I never know how to react to the wine guy. They always act as if I am about to have to best drink in the world. They hold the wine bottle like a baby. You would think that they made the stuff themselves.

The dinner itself was amazing for the most part. A full five course dinner complete with all the fixings. I had duck liver for the first time. I must say it was really good. It melts in your month. The only thing I did not like about the duck liver is that it was served with a thick soup that was just a little too sweet.Although, we both got a damn large amount of turkey. I was expecting maybe a few slices but they brought out something like seven or eight large sized pieces of turkey each! It was prime turkey as well. The stuffing left much to be desired. It was just too sweet. They had a apple sauce theme going though out the meal which was not working at all. In fact, I have never seen someone add apple sauce to turkey stuffing. Overall, the meal was very good and I got stuffed.

Everything went down very good. This is the first Thanksgiving in years that something crazy did not happen. I spent a wonderful evening with the gal and eat a great dinner. No one got hit with a beer bottle or any other DYI weapon. Another reason to like Tokyo: Can have Thanksgiving dinner with no one doing anything crazy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Friendship Key to Maintaining `Balance` in Tokyo

Recently, I hung out with my pal Hamed. I have known him for a few months now. We met though work and have kept in contact. It is always fun to hang out with Hamed because he is kind of on the same vibe as me. We think alike on many things which makes it easy for me to talk to him. This most recent adventure with Hamed has got me thinking about how important it is to have a few friends in Tokyo.

I have read on several blogs the topic of finding or maintaining emotional and social balance a problem for a lot of people adjusting to life in Tokyo. I have almost been in Tokyo for a year, and while I do not feel that I am an expert about life in Tokyo, I can say that you have got to have at least one running mate. Living in Tokyo can be a very lonely and depressing experience for some people. This city has got a way of crushing people under its massive weight of emotional and social pressure. If you are not Japanese this pressure can be enough to send someone into a deep hole of hate and jadedness.

Now there a lot of people who have a large cycle of `friends` yet still find themselves just as unhappy as before. I think that some people get stuck in the `a lot of people know me but no one knows who I am` kind of situation. It seems that there is a focus on who you know rather than what you know in Tokyo. Social networking is the name of the game so many people end up knowing a lot of people and think that they have friends. The reality is that almost all of those people who say they are a friend are actually out to get some type of benefit. In order to have a true friend and maintain balance a person has got to separate friends from those who you just social network with at times. With that said there are some people I social network with who I would not mind moving over to the friend list; that is a topic for another day.

I guess what I like about Hamed is that I have never had a social networking relationship with him. While we did meet because we came up though the same company together I have never felt that Hamed was a point of contact for business or other wise. From the first time I met Hamed it has been very easy to talk to him. Too often I feel some pressure or stress with people I just social network. I have never felt that pressure with Hamed. We always seem to have a good time together and never have any disagreements.

So, a few days back I met up with Hamed for a few drinks and good old hanging out. I really enjoy just hanging out with people. This works best for me because the god of chaos is always watching and waiting to punish me for making plans which are too structured. When planning to hang out with a friends in Tokyo I keep a few ideas as to what to do in my head but I do not write anything in stone. This half-ass method of planning adds some adventure to hanging in Tokyo. I like the idea of never exactly knowing what is gonna happen. I kept the same method in West Virginia which usually led to some strange experiences. I think that now days leaving the details to be worked-out as I go along keeps things fresh for me and adds value to the hang out experience.

My half-ass plan for hanging with Hamed involved meeting up at Shibuya station. While, this was completed with little trouble things quickly ventured off into a totality different direction. The idea struck me to venture over to Harajuku and check out a few things. We made our way over to Harajuku by way of Yoyogi park. It actually did not take long at all to walk to Harajuku. I am always surprised by how close Shibuya and Harajuku are to each other.

I took Hamed to a shop called `Love Me Tender.` It is a Elvis tribute and `50 retro store. You can buy just about any kind of Rock A` Billy CD. The shop also offers vintage outfits and plenty of Elvis stuff. One of the things which gives Love Me Tender its charm is the Elvis statue out front. You get greeted by the king himself at Love Me Tender. Sadly, the shop will be closing its doors forever on Jan. 16,2009. I got word from Jack(who runs another 50`s retro shop) there are two send off parties going down for Love Me Tender. If I find out more I will share the info.

I also dragged Hamed to Jim Sin/Yellow House. This place has been in Harajuku forever. It claims to be the first punk rock shop in Tokyo but I am not so sure about that fact. Anyway, I go to this place from time to time. They have got a great selection of biker jackets, pants, and shirts.

After returning to Shibuya we headed over to this Irish pub for a few drinks during happy hour. It was a nice place but the beer prices were a little high to say to least. It did provide us a chance to just hang and chat. It has been a long while since I had a conversation with a fellow native speaker of English. It has become to real treat for me to talk to someone who can understand every word I say with no problem.

We ended the night smoking spice in an internet cafe. It seems that every person I have shown spice to has gotten hooked. The fun part for me is showing people how to get their hands on this odd little herb. Head shops in Tokyo do not use adverts much and tend to stay low key. Unless someone shows you where they are at it can take some exploring to find one.

So, having a decent drinking buddy and running mate is a very important part of keeping personal balance in Tokyo. When I lived in the country side in the states it was easy to live a more reclusive lifestyle and be happy. In Tokyo the daily grind is much more stressful. It is a must to have someone to blow off steam with.