March 4th, 2013


The Three Things I Know About Women

What are the three things I know about women? Well, let me see.
I know, for instance, that I'm not going to tell you anything that I know about women, largely because everything I know about women is wrong. I mostly just wanted to see if I could fake out Kim Sifter into reading this. If it worked, hi, Kim.

Rounding the corner into whatever it is that we call the time just before finals. Pre-finals? End of quarter? Panic time? I have no idea. It's a weird time; the instructors are realizing either that there's no point in introducing new concepts at this late date, or are trying to fit a topic that should have taken six or seven class periods to explain properly into two. The students, for their part, are discovering that everything they learned in the first few weeks of class has completely evaporated from their brains. They search back through their folders and notes, and, in so doing, discover, nestled there in the class schedule like a poisonous spider lurking in a bunch of Whole Foods bananas, the Dreaded Project.

The Dreaded Project might be a research paper, or a presentation, or an annotated glossary of terms. To be done properly, it really hsould have been started right after mid-terms. A project team should have been assembled, duties assigned, research done, materials prepared, and so forth.

But now, it's the week before finals, and whatever the Dreaded Project is, it's due Monday, and it represents twenty percent of your final grade. You'd better get cracking.

But first, some Xbox.

Just kidding. I don't have any Dreaded Projects this quarter, because I had one that bit me hard many years ago when I was at college before. So now I check the schedule every week, just in case, and I bug the instructors about it. I have a couple of things for Rhetoric that I have to type up this week, and a statistics project that I will have to type up over the weekend, but that's it.

So I have plenty of time to obsess over my finals and try to review for those.

And also to play guitar for hours with Martial. We wrote two songs tonight.

- - -

One of the coolest things about vacationing in Japan, and something that I highly recommend should you ever go there, is staying at youth hostels.

Now, in a lot of countries, youth hostels can be kind of skeevy. Across Europe they're mostly okay, I guess, but I've heard some horror stories about other places.

Japan, however, has some flat-out AWESOME youth hostels. I stayed in four on my first trip there, and they were all outstanding.

The first one I stayed at was the Tokyo International Youth Hostel, in Iidabashi, just a couple of stops from Shinjuku. The hostel was (and might be again - it was closed for a remodel for a long time) on the 18th and 19th floors of a skyscraper built over Iidabashi Station. I had a great time wandering up and down Iidabashi and through Shinjuku, and I tasted my first (and second and third, and I think fourth) MOS burger while staying there.

The best part was this. I was spending a lot of time walking around Tokyo through the bitter cold, and my knee had kind of tweaked out, so I decided, for the first time, to try a Japanese bath. I saw that the hostel had one, so I checked my Lonely Planet or Rough Guide or whatever I had to get a handle on the rules for bath etiquette, and went upstairs to the 19th floor.

The first problem I saw was that there were two baths. Fortunately, they weren't right next to each other. There were signs pointing in opposite directions. Unfortunately, they were both in Japanese, and I did not, in 2001, know the difference between 男 and 女. I mean, I knew the actual difference and all, just not the words. In Japanese. Hell, you know what I mean.

So I waited there, just on the other side of the entry, until I saw two guys walk past and head towards one of the baths. I followed them and saw, just past where I had stopped, a big sign, in English: MEN ONLY. Right.

I got in, grabbed a basket, took my clothes and glasses off, and wandered into a big, steam-filled room lined with shower heads and little plastic stools. I sat at one and washed myself all over, being very careful to rinse off the soap before getting into the huge and luxurious ofuro which was, words fail me, hot. Okay, very hot.

But it was, once the initial shock wore off, very nice. I enjoyed it, even after some of the steam cleared and my vision sharpened up a bit and I realized that one whole wall of the thing was just a giant window looking out onto Shinjuku.

Which is actually kind of cool.

I stayed at a youth hostel in Nara and learned to play hanafuda, a Japanese card game, from a very nice man who worked for the Japanese version of the IRS. He spoke almost no English. I gave him a gift, one of a handful of small Seattle souvenir pins I had bought at Fred Meyer, and he immediately poked it right into the lapel of what must have been a six-hundred-dollar leather jacket.

I caught some sort of cold or something while at the hostel in Osaka, and didn't go into town very much at all. I talked the staff at the hostel into letting me stay in my room all day so I could recover. There was one English book on the shelves in the rec room, a work on art history, so I grabbed that and bought several cans of hot green tea and spent the day reading the book, drinking tea, and recuperating.

In Hiroshima, I arrived at the hostel at the same time as a primary school trip. I wound up helping their teacher play some sort of game with the kids; I had bought a couple of what I thought were manga, but were actually strategy guides for collectible card games, so I offered these up as prizes.

All of the hostels had excellent communal baths and pretty good food, too. I had to share a room, but you get your own storage and a nice privacy curtain to pull around your bed, and I just put on my headphones and cranked up some music until I fell asleep anyway.

Privacy can be an issue with hostels, and sometimes you can run into obnoxious people. In Nara, it was some snotty d-bag from Belgium; in Hiroshima, I got into it with a guy from Pakistan who had a problem with the fact that I was an American. But the Japanese guys were mostly cool, and I made it a point when I was planning that trip to spend about half my time in hostels and half my time in hotels. Also, hostels have a curfew, which can be sort of annoying.

But by and large it was great.