Taking Care: The Squeegee Man

The rainy season has started here, and rain brings extra traffic. I was stuck at a light for a few rotations today and observed a peculiar sight: a gas station attendant squeegee-ing the concrete in the pouring rain. It was a two-pump station covered by a canopy. The rain was formidable: falling horizontally and made […]

Inauthentic

Olive Garden came to my hometown when I was about eight years old. I begged my parents for weeks to take me there. My family dressed up for a nice dinner out and happily waited twenty-five minutes for a table along with a dozen other Wisconsonite families overjoyed at a Friday night out at Olive […]

The Portable Shrine

Pineapple juice dripped down the skewer and in the dirt of the shrine’s courtyard. I wondered if that was disrespectful. Inconspicuous in the shade of an old gnarly tree, I people-watched. Clustered groups of people chatted while children worked their teeth over chocolate covered frozen bananas on sticks. Flakes of chocolate cracked off the bananas […]

One, Two, Three…

While perusing the streets before a neighborhood festival I spotted a pineapple vendor’s tiny booth between two hot food booths. It was 75 and sunny and I was sweating. A slice of skewered pineapple sounded heavenly. I happily forked over 200 yen, expecting speedy pineapple-on-a-stick delivery. “Do you know the game paper, scissors, rock?” the animated […]

So, now all restaurants are Taco Bell

My husband’s command gave us a huge welcome basket the day after we arrived in Japan. It was a laundry basket actually, which was the perfect vessel for a family with nothing but suitcases and a ton of laundry. We retreated to our hotel and pawed through, delighted to see familiar American snacks and an […]

The Smiling Man

The maneki-neko, or beckoning cat, is common in Japan. It’s perched outside stores, waving paw literally beckoning passersby to come and spend money. I did not expect to see the beckoning cat at the Kamakura Beach Fest. Yet there it was, perfectly sculpted of sand, complete with steps and smartly roped off. What’s more, the […]

The Punctual Observer

I boarded the train returning from Tokyo, dragging my son and pleading, “Stop screaming, please. Trains are quiet places like libraries.” He flailed and whined. He wanted to hold the rings — the hanging handles for people to hold when the train is full. Our train was nearly empty, and I don’t believe the few […]

Active Play

To watch a child play is to watch the wonder of discovery. Childhood is essentially a time of experimentation. How high can I climb? How far can I run? What happens if I pull this, press that? It’s joyous and scary and those who know about kid brains say it’s essential to brain development. Of […]

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

My first trips venturing into the city I saw raised yellow pathways cutting down the streets. Imagine a foot-wide yellow track with the texture of giant corrugated cardboard. These paths went every which way at corners, even cutting diagonally across plazas and splitting like sun rays. I stupidly assumed they were bike paths, although upon […]

Freedom

On my sixteenth birthday, I partook in the American experience of my generation: the driving test. The stakes were higher then, before the advent of graduated licensing: total failure or total freedom. I was nervous, but confident. With minimal sweating, I performed a 3-point turn, remembered to obey all speed limits, did not creep into […]