Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, May 22, 2003

There's only been two occasions in Japan where I truly felt like a redneck. The first happened back in November, as I went to the mountain town of Nagatoro with some friends. We stopped at this soba (Japanese noodle) restaurant for lunch. We all chose the day's special, which included a side of chestnut rice.

Now, the rice was served in a unique fashion. It was wrapped in a bamboo leaf, and tied shut with a string. Everyone else was able to untie their string and tie into their rice with no problem, but not me. The knot was tiny and tight, and I just couldn't untie it. Even one of my friends fiddled with it, but it could not be undone. Finally, I said, "Screw it!" whipped out my pocket knife and cut the string.

(I should point out that I only feel like a redneck in retrospect. At the time, I thought it was a very practical solution to the problem at hand.)

The second time happened a month ago, as I was on vacation in Osaka. Now, my head teacher is from Osaka, and she told me I had to eat some okonomiyaki while I was there. "They make the best in Japan!" she told me. Okonomiyaki is constantly called Japanese style pizza by my company's textbooks, but it's nothing like pizza. I think it's more like an omlette. But the truth is, it's exactly like okonomiyaki.

Anyway, it was suppertime, and I wanted some okonomiyaki. Lonely Planet Japan recommended a restaurant called Chibo as a place to get a very good, very cheap plate of okonomiyaki. I easily found Chibo, but what Lonely Planet Japan failed to mention was that it was a very upscale place. So, here is this restaurant filled with men in suits and women in their finest, and in walk I. I was wearing faded blue jeans, a Hawaiian shirt, a backpack slung over my shoulder and my Tilley hat upon my head. All someone had to do was crank up Cowboy by Kid Rock and it would have been a scene from every east-meets-west comedy.

So they showed me to a seat at the bar, gave me an English-language menu, and I had a very good, very cheap plate of okonomiyaki. I walked in with all eyes on me, and I walked out with all eyes on me. I figured I should do something to fit in with the city-slickers, so I paid with my credit card.

In other news, my god, "Weird Al" Yankovic, has released his latest album, Poodle Hat. My good friend Chuck was kind enough to download the album with his high speed Internet and share his opinons with me. He figures the best song is called Ode to a Superhero and he sent me the complete lyrics. I'll just reprint the first verse and chorus for your enjoyment:

Ode to a Superhero
(Parody of
Piano Man by Billy Joel)

Poor Peter Parker was pitiful
He couldn't have been any shyer
Mary Jane still wouldn't notice him
Even if his hair was on fire

but then one day he went to that science lab
That mutated spider came down
And now Peter crawls over everyone's walls
And he's swinging all over town

Sling us a web, you're the Spider-Man
Sling us a web tonight
Cuz we're all in the mood for a hero now
And there's evil-doers to fight

Chuck just burned me a copy of Poodle Hat and mailed it off to me. He says we're practicing "new digital-age ethics: download an album to check it out, then buy it anyway."

Next issue...the Wrath of Jacana!

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