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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tears For Success

Once again so many things have happened that I have yet to post about but I am being very diligent when it comes to the journal, so at the very least I can always call back to those entries later on.
We figured that if we were going to rock the "Rookie" sticker we might as well do it in style
Last week, I was in Yonago with Ryan, the exceedingly nice ALT who lives in my town just a couple of train stops over. We had arranged a plan to go into town via his car and do a bit of shopping to sort of have a breather after a couple of busy weeks. I can't believe how much time has passed already, and how many things I've already done. . . but I'll have time to reflect on that later.

The drive up there was as incredible as Ryan led me to believe. Route 9, the route that is basically both vein and artery to Tottori-ken, will take one to Yonago without having to do much other than drive straight for about 30-40 minutes. This length fluctuates depending on how willing one is to bend the suggested speed limit. I adhere to it religiously, but other people [Japanese People] seem less inclined.

After reaching Yonago, we parked at the small AEON (sati) near Yonago Station and took to the streets on foot. Ryan suggested a crepe shop earlier and truth be told it was a place that I passed many times on various walks through Yonago. I was excited at the idea of eating there because I feel there's a real literary quality to the idea of a shop one passes yet never dines in. The only thing better than that is the girl a boy sees everyday in passing -perhaps at a bus stop?- yet never talks to.

Anyway, the food was great but it sounds strange. We had an Ebi Crepe Set. Ebi being shrimp, it was a crepe that wrapped around a couple pieces of breaded shrimp stuffed with lettuce that also had a mayonnaise and spicy sauce. Oh yeah there was also a bag of french fries on the side too. It sounds bizarre, and I make no arguments against that disposition. Honestly, it was a really delicious combination of sweet, spicy, shrimp-y goodness. You'll have to forgive my very professional sounding recount of it but that's the best I can do for that meal. 
I was surprised at how good it was

After hopping around to a few more stores here and there we managed to make a jaunt over to Sargent Pepper's, which is a record store that I was very keen on visiting once again. I believe it was about 7:40pm when we walked in, twenty minutes shy of closing time. I had wanted to pick up a record to show my students since most of them hadn't ever seen one. Within a few minutes of crate digging I went up to the register with Rubber Soul and two Beatles EPs (Australian Pressings).
I talked to the owner about how I had been to that shop before; he couldn't remember me, which was okay. I don't think I look foreign enough to be recognizable, especially after 6 months. We talked about records and my collection back at home in America. He asked if I was a Beatles fan too, and I said of course. I do have all the Beatles studio albums in a nice boxed set actually. I explained that I couldn't bring my records let alone turntable over here because it's just way too much stuff to ship. At that point, almost in passing, as I was paying for the records I asked him if he knew where I could get a turntable. He paused. He thought for a minute before finally saying what I expected. Recycle shops, used stores, second hand, that kind of stuff. Then he looked across the way towards a very nice Denon turntable I had seen earlier in the shop. I figured it was the one he (or the customers) used to test records on before buying them. He said he could sell it to me. At first I was excited, then a little bit realistic because I suspected it would be pricey. He didn't stop there though. Among the things he listed as part of the "set" he could combine and sell at a discounted rate were: the turntable itself, speakers, receiver/amp, cd player, and a mini disc player. He said he would cut the price. The only logical thing to say after hearing that is of course, "how much?"

That's when he floored me.

4000 yen. About 40 dollars.

I looked over at Ryan who was beaming. His eyes told me that if I wasn't going to buy it, he probably would've hit me for being such a fool. I asked Ryan if he wouldn't mind, and his response was, "We've got a car." So we loaded up, the owner helped too. It felt like we were ripping the place off, with the owner's help, and paying that much for it I think we just about did.
The haul in Ryan's car
As we were about to drive off, he gave me some final words both alarming and comforting. He said he hadn't tested it but he didn't believe it wouldn't work. Alarming. Then he told me that if anything were wrong to bring it back to him. Comforting. He said he couldn't fix it, but bring it back. Alarming. But in the end he seemed like such a good guy that Ryan and I agreed he would definitely refund me if it didn't work in the end. And the fact that it worked is almost the point of this whole writeup. We'll come back to that later though.

After the record store we went to the infamous Kaihousoko.
Do you remember when you were little, and sometimes in elementary school, or maybe at the doctor/dentist when you'd do good or the day would be over and there'd be that little treasure box of goodies from which you could take a present. Kaihousoko is that second hand version of that treasure box. It is really is just the most extreme mix of previously owned items catering to anything from fashion to gundam and video game to manga. I walked out without a purchase but there were a couple things I had my eyes on. I'll wait for the next paycheck and gift myself something small (or two) perhaps.
From the outside

Super Mario Advance 2, I'm coming for you next time

There's just... all kinds of stuff
Now to the point of this whole story:

After our shopping extravaganza (which included many more stores other than the ones I mentioned here) Ryan helped me unload my newly acquired turntable and stereo equipment (Thank you again!). It was about 10pm when I walked through the door, and the first thing I did was call up Mitsuko to tell her about the stuff I found.

She picked up over FaceTime and we both marveled at what a good deal it was. She asked if I had checked it yet and I told her I wanted to hook it up that night, despite how late it already was. I just had to know if it worked. I fumbled through the cords, and plugged in the speakers, making sure which was positive/negative, had the amp plugged, made sure the switch for the type of cartridge on turntable was set to the right one, and other such things. I placed my record on the platter, the Rubber Soul one, and hit the switch. It powered on, and moved by itself, dropping the needle on the record, creating a fuzz that I could hear off the record itself, but not from the speakers. I tinkered with a few more knobs, double checking to make sure I had set everything correctly. There was a mute switch that had been hit, and a few more things that I needed to flip on, but it the end it worked.
All You Need Is Love - and a turntable

I rolled back and forth on my floor as, "Drive My Car" started up and resonated in my modest apartment. Mitsuko asked if I was happy, rhetorically.

Then she asked what was wrong.

I was still rocking back and forth, but my eyes had changed. I didn't think what was about to happen, would have happened. But after she asked me I realized how emotional I had become. I was crying.

She got worried and continued pressing, "No… what's wrong? What's the matter?"

After a couple of seconds I explained to her what had just happened in my head. I'll do the same for you now:

Music is really important to me, I said. This kind of stuff, the records, the turntable, it was important to me back at home too. Two years ago I applied for the JET programme and I failed that first time. Whether or not it was my fault or just bad luck is irrelevant. In the end, I didn't get in and it takes that kind of circumstance for one to understand how meaningful something can be. I was crushed more than I could imagine. It was the most hurt I'd felt in my whole life. This thing, this meaningful thing, failed to come together and it hurt. Sometimes you'll go to the store and pick up something that you think is neat or something that's a deal. When you get home to try it out, it breaks, or doesn't work at all. That feeling is pretty depressing, but we don't make those decisions with all our eggs in that basket. I made the mistake of doing that for JET the first time, and I paid a price. Everything after that seem far less inconsequential as a result. When something didn't work, it hurt. When I bought something that was a lemon, I got depressed. It just felt like everything was collapsing onto itself. I doubted myself all the way through the next year. I never once believed that I could possibly come into the program, and that things would continue their downward slope. Lo and behold, I was accepted.

So what does all that have to do with discount turntables and a copy of Rubber Soul at 10:40pm?

Well, quite simply, it worked. I suspected that at least something would be wrong with the system. A speaker that didn't play, a knob that wouldn't turn, skipping, cracking, something, anything. But it was fine. It was perfect. I took a chance and tried something that would be meaningful to me if it worked. And it did. Suddenly I was reminded of where I had come, and what I had done, and that goodness that comes in kind to those who wait. That's why it affected so.

I was just really happy it worked.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rainy Day

It's raining; it's pouring
The old man is snoring
He went to bed and bumped his head
And couldn't get up in the morning

Classes have been canceled today due to inclement weather.


(Who else feels like playing Monopoly right about now?)