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    Harvest

    So I got this e-mail from my buddy Alan yesterday, asking whether I had any advice on improving reading comprehension in Japanese. It seemed odd. For one thing, his characteristic “Hiya darlin'” salutation was missing, and for another, he essentially works as a translator. If my reading comprehension is better than his–big if–it’s not by much. It’s certainly not by enough for him to be asking my advice about improving it.

    But, having been asked, I wrote a paragraph of very earthy bitch-snark about the gross guy who’d been hitting on him when we were out a few nights ago and then a paragraph about reading fluently. Then I did what everyone who sends a lot of work-related e-mail does out of force of habit before clicking on “Send”: I checked the address line. Whoops! The message had come from a different Alan, a reader with whom I’ve corresponded a few times who’s studying Japanese in the States and who most assuredly was not sitting on the stool next to me being come on to by a falling-down-drunk guy in his 50s on Friday night. So I carefully excised the paragraph of bitch-snark and sent the rest along, thus sparing a fortunate reader a serious surprise in his inbox.

    The surprise Atsushi got in his mailbox yesterday, on the other hand, was intentional. He’s been worked to death lately, but he still makes time to come home at least once every third weekend, so I thought I’d get him a new business card case. You know, so even if he’s meeting with trying clients, he can have a little reminder that I’m thinking about him. While I was at Seibu, it occurred to me that I forget to bring my own business cards places all the time–that constitutes a real problem in Japan, where exchanging them can be a multiple-times-a-day event–so I may as well pick one up for myself, too. The idea of his-and-his matching card cases struck me as a bit on the cute side, but…well, this is Japan. Cute rules. I absent-mindedly told the saleswoman to wrap them both as presents, and she looked at me askance. Probably thought they were Christmas presents for two girlfriends who don’t know about each other.

    Atsushi’s officemates, on the other hand, will doubtless assume that the sudden appearance of an expensive new business card case is yet more evidence that he has a secret lady friend. A few years ago, when he brought Mozart chocolates back as his souvenir gift from our trip to Prague and Vienna, his colleagues joked that he must have gone with a chick because, as a man, he wouldn’t have known about them. (Too precious, I guess? But the travel guides all tell you what the proper face-maintaining souvenirs to bring back to Japan are, and I would assume most single men just kind of get whatever’s at the top of the list. I can’t imagine Mozart chocolates aren’t at the top of the Austria list, even if you don’t do Salzburg, though I didn’t really look. My own office got the Empress Elisabeth chocolates–I like the apricot and marzipan together–but they’ve known all about me from day one, so no eyebrows were raised. Need I mention that if we’d brought back anything but Mozart or Sissi for our gay friends, our status would never have recovered?)

    I wonder whether the Dominican Republic–I’ve mentioned that I have a meeting there next month, yeah?–has any Japan-ready souvenir candy things. A sugar cane theme, maybe? If it’s been a resort center long enough, getting them shipped back ahead of me so I don’t have to carry them might be easy, but I don’t think it has. Since I’m going home to the States, too, I’ll probably bring back Jelly Bellys. They went over big when Atsushi and I brought them back two years ago. I have no idea why; they’re just jelly beans, for crying out loud, even if you can mix them together to taste like pears poached in port with crème chantilly and slivered almonds, or whatever.

    Speaking of desserts based on fall fruits, I have to think of something to make for Thanksgiving this weekend. Atsushi can’t be home on Thursday, of course, but he’s coming on Saturday. Our first Thanksgiving together was in 2001, so it’s been obvious from the get-go that I’m not blasé about it the way I am other holidays. Maybe I’ll even look into getting a turkey, though convincing Atsushi to take out a second mortgage might take some doing. And I’d have to dismember it to get it into the oven. But considering what the Pilgrims went through, the trial of shoehorning a farmed turkey into a little portable oven is hardly worth fussing over.

    I hope no one has read this far expecting me to make a point. I’ve been a bit nettled lately by people praising Atsushi and me for maintaining a long-distance relationship and vaguely thought that might come up organically here, but we seem to have ended up on Plimouth Plantation exchanging business cards and faking Indian cornmeal pudding from three flavors of Jelly Bellys, so maybe I should save that for another post. (Yes, by the way, this is exactly what living with me is like.)

    7 Responses to “Harvest”

    1. Toren says:

      I didn’t care much about Jelly Bellies either until Tomoko brought me a bag of the “buttered popcorn” flaver. And they tasted like…buttered popcorn. I was impressed. I mean, you have to give mad props to a company that can make a little blob of crystallized sugar taste like buttered popcorn, fer gosh sakes.

      My niece got a bag of the Harry Potter-themed “Bernie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans” last Xmas and damned if they didn’t have the various hideous flavors in there, too (earwax, booger, sardine, etc). I only had the nerve to try the sardine and…yup, it tasted like sardine. Hideous!

    2. Pity the taste testers for that product line.

      Your comment made me wonder…I was pretty sure I’d seen, printed on the box or something, the candies pluralized as “Jelly Bellys,” but when you look at the website, Jelly Belly is very carefully used as just the brand name, with the products themselves called “Jelly Belly beans.” There’s also, naturally, a cute Reagan story.

    3. Alice says:

      The only way you could go to Austria and not notice Mozart chocolates is by being blind. As far as I can tell, Mozart is a lot more famous there for his chocolate factory than any of his other less significant achievements.

    4. Portia says:

      (Yes, by the way, this is exactly what living with me is like.)

      So… raised eyebrow… Instead of nettling you by praising you and Atsushi for maintaining a long-distance relationship, I’m going to praise Atsushi for maintaining a relationship in the face of clear and obvious provocation to run screaming into the night. :-) (Ducks and runs very fast before Sean can find something to fling at her head. Fortunately, he’s momentarily distracted by a glimpse of his unshaven self in a mirror.)

      P.

    5. Alice:

      “As far as I can tell, Mozart is a lot more famous there for his chocolate factory than any of his other less significant achievements.”

      Stop it–you’re killing me!

      Seriously, I think that, if you’ve lived in Japan for any length of time, you just stop noticing stands selling little boxes of souvenir sweets, no matter where you go. There are so many of them here.

      Portia:

      “Instead of nettling you by praising you and Atsushi for maintaining a long-distance relationship, I’m going to praise Atsushi for maintaining a relationship in the face of clear and obvious provocation to run screaming into the night.”

      Let’s at least pretend to be nice to the host, there, sweetie, okay? Luckily for Atsushi, while most of what I say is disjointed and random, I don’t say very much. But he’s a man of few words, too–a characteristic that’s only heightened by the way it’s customary to communicate in sentence fragments in Japanese.

    6. Portia says:

      Let’s at least pretend to be nice to the host, there, sweetie, okay?

      LOL. Actually your conversational style sounds exactly like my husband’s. It’s very… mentally demanding to follow. Like trying to piece a song from bits and pieces heard from far away :). Has kept me interested for the last twenty years, so it’s not like I’m complaining.

      P.

    7. What I think makes it worse, actually, is that my job is in educational publishing, so I spend all day making things that are focused, coherent, and linear. My native scattiness has no escape valve until I get home.

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