Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When your nails are all you've got

What you see above is the very thing that got me through a body-emptying experience with the stomach flu this past weekend. I never knew nails could be such a comfort but when your hair is dirty and plastered to your head and you're sporting back-corner-of-the-drawer ratty underwear and the last clean t-shirt you haven't soaked in fever, pretty nails are like a beacon of light. A port in the storm. Swim to the lighthouse!!

As I played fetus on my bed clutching my stomach with one hand, I had time to stare at my other, which would have looked positively claw-like in its twisted, limp positioning had the nails not been adorned with glitter and 3D art. Yes you did read correctly: I just used "nails" and "3D art" in the same sentence bitches. When I drank my millionth glass of Pocari Sweat, noting, in my delirium, that it might as well taste like sweat, I saw four shiny red dots rise closer to my face as I tipped the glass to my lips and my nausea washed away. Clutching the heated throne, I couldn't help but congratulate myself on having such cute nails as I dry heaved into its depths. Too much?

This flu completely derailed me and left me whispering sweet nothings to my stomach in the dark, promising favours impossible to bestow, like no alcohol and no chocolate. The day I got hit I considered not seeing a doctor despite the toilet getting so much action the beau was getting jealous, but as I later rationalized to my mom, doctors here always give you something for visiting. I wanted that something and I wanted it to stop whatever war was being waged in my stomach.

So in my most attractive outfit of leggings, white tennis socks and sneakers (only this level of illness could compel me to wear said items in combination), I grannywalked to a hospital down the block with a plastic bag in my pocket for unforeseen emergencies. When I first stepped foot inside the hospital I thought I had misread the sign outside and that it actually said "Dante's Inferno", for that, dear readers, is how hot that shit was. I wonder if they get more money from patients with fevers because they were pumping uncomfortable hot air throughout the hospital like it was going out of style. I had the pleasure of filling out one of those forms with the tiny boxes designated to fit your whole address, the ones that set you up for failure and you can't help but colour outside the lines. By this time my tongue was practically lolling out the side of my mouth and I prayed for quick relief as I swayed back and forth like a grand old ship.

I found one of the heat-breathing monsters in the waiting room I was sent to, its huge gaping rectangular mouth spewing forth hot air that rolled over me in prickly waves. Bathroom time. Sitting out in the waiting room again. Why do the old salarymen seem to be visiting this place in droves? Do they give out the good pills here?

Back to the toilet and this time it is urgent. I can see a nurse heading in before me and she quickly takes the Japanese squatter stall and starts pumping out the Sound Princess tunes. My situation is far too dire to bother with such silliness and I figure, hey, she must have heard this all before. So I squeeze myself into the Western stall - what do you know, it's one of those stalls cut so tight your knees hit the wall in front of you. I can't even kneel there is such little room, so I bend over as far as the ass/wall partnering will allow and start to dry heave loudly and desperately into the toilet. The nurse must be panicking by this point because the Sound Princess volume hits a crescendo (they have volume control dontcha know) followed by a hasty exit and the door opening onto footsteps in the distance. The bathroom door opens onto the waiting room so you can rest assured the waiting patients all heard my performance.

I come out of the bathroom to a room full of ugly salarymen giving me the side stinkeye and the nurse immediately calls me in asking, are you OK? Lady, I almost said, the oyaji to my left can tell you that. They must not get very sick people in this hospital.

But it's all in the spirit of Japan's pseudo-socialized medicine right? The government pays for 70% so you get to keep 30% of your health issues private. I couldn't care at that moment what the waiting room heard from the bathroom, as they quite possibly heard my whole conversation with the jolly doctor from behind the curtain that only provides visible privacy. The good man pronounced it a "cold caught in your stomach" and sent me on my merry prescription way.

Across the street to the pharmacy where I get to fill out another patient history form, recalling for the second time that hour any allergies or past illnesses. What is the point of this really, when the doctor has prescribed me meds based on this very information already, and my general info is printed on my health insurance card? I think they wanted to see whitie faint.

I almost did and begged the pharmacist to allow me to sit while she carefully explained all the drugs. Then back across the street to the hospital where I sat in a toilet stall for 5 minutes to garner the energy to make it the one block home without keeling over.

Mission accomplished. Meds ingested. Electrolytes replenished with sweaty Pocari Sweat. Resume fetal play on the bed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


It seems as though the Tokyo Metro has gathered a host of previous characters to celebrate my Japanniversary (yesterday if you're wondering). And look! A prince has been born!

Do you remember your Japanniversary? Do you celebrate or mourn it? Mine have come and gone without much to do but they always give me pause to remind myself why I am here. More than the date, the smell around Tokyo at this time of year when the wind picks up is what makes me nostalgic. I know, I shouldn't wax on about luscious spring air when what you really want is more of my snarky tales of Kaisha terror but I love the smell of March and April. It makes me walk slower on the way home so that I can inhale it ferociously. It reminds me of my first week in Nakano getting settled into my apartment and upon the realization that I had come back to a Tokyo void of anyone I knew from my uni days, thinking, well now what? Well now what indeed. If you had told me I would be here now doing what I do and shacked up with a Japanese man I would have slapped you.

The smell reminds me of listening to Slum Village's most recent album on my iPod as I walked to catch the last train out of Nakano to meet the beau in the first weeks of our courtship.

The smell reminds me of late night walks by myself out to Koenji or Asagaya, times I embraced my loneliness and enjoyed the quiet neighbourhoods sometimes punctuated with a small lit-up sign.

The smell does not remind me of the School, which is perhaps not so surprising given I was shell-shocked for some time after arriving for that first day.

I don't know what it is about Tokyo that makes me observe my time here to the day, but I can't imagine doing the same anywhere else in the world. Maybe it's to keep from feeling like the city has swallowed me whole.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Summer come early

I am back from a self-sponsored trip to Vancouver and as much as I'd like to say better than ever, I feel like I've rolled out of a Christmas holiday - less money and more poundage. I knew what I was doing however, when I embarked on my one-woman economic stimulus plan to help the city back on its feet after vomiting money at the Olympics, and the extra trips to the gym are totally worth the poutine, alcohol, Purdy's chocolates and wheels of cheese that have my ass in a death grip.

Some trip notes:

-Weekend nights on the Granville strip are for amateurs and I am shocked by the number of neanderthals allowed to live in the city.
-With a train actually running underground (amen), Vancity now feels something akin to a real city.
-All India Sweets and the Mongolie Grill (the dirty one on W. Broadway) are just as good as they were when I was a high school student just tryin to make it.
-Being escorted to a house party in a real live Vancouver Special by four gay boys is excellent fun until you get to the actual party and have to take your boots off on dirty shag carpet.
-Hello delish $5 smoothies, how I have missed you. Ditto hot dogs on the corner.
-Casual unscripted conversation is totally OK with people you don't know. And the eye contact is mind-blowing! ! !
-Wearing heels in daylight there is the equivalent to wearing them to a day of tree planting set off with a classic string of pearls.
- I love the smell of North American drugstores: that illicit mix of magazine gloss, plastic shampoo bottles and brightly coloured candy wrappers.
- Some of my best clothing finds come from consignment stores in this fair city.
- I now kind of understand how people like the whole "sea and mountain" thing the city has going on. I'm not hugging any trees though.
- Hello Whole Foods, where have you been my whole life?! I think I need to become a high-powered attorney just so I can shop there on a semi-regular basis. Really and truly.

Getting back mid-week has been a shock to my system but I am extremely pleased to let you know that I haven't had any pedestrian rage or salaryman stabbing fantasies yet! I'm sure my post-trip orgasmic glow will wear off in less than a week and I will be back to my healthy bitchy public self. But for now, I am bouncing down the street in the mornings to Rihanna's Disturbia and marvelling at how undisturbed I actually am. I'm still not entirely sure what I want to do in the next couple years (I had secretly hoped my parents would hold these elusive answers) but I feel refreshed and ready for at least another six months on the island before a break.

Despite my well-documented aversion to handing out omiyage, I went ahead with the proverbial shooting of one's own foot and bought some fragrant creme-packed maple cookies for my bitches at the office. I even brought my Secretary and Sunshine an ugly-cute Olympic stuffed animal keychain each in order to encourage better international relations over the quad partition. I figured that if that fails, at least I have something to stuff into their mouths when they are chattering at a fever pitch during lunch while I am trying to work.

I went through the same pattern of pass-the-omiyage procrastination that I do every time, where I try to coax myself into eating most of the omiyage myself so that I don't have to give it to many Secretaries. I ate the two or three broken cookies but couldn't rationalize any more. Then I cleaned my desk, wallet and purse, watered and toileted myself and stared at my calendar for a while before strategizing and pinpointing the targets of my omiyage blitz. Read: Secretaries I think are nice. The two sitting next to me are not all that bad but when the devil from down the hall comes by at lunch all conversation hell breaks loose. Devil is definitely not getting a taste of the sweet maple nectar.

I don't know what it is about passing out omiyage that causes me to sweat, quite literally, but props to Japanese societal pressures, they have most definitely taken effect. I even found myself blushing (or was it flushing?) while making small talk with each Secretary, causing me to wonder if I was going through puberty or perhaps menopause, both stages I had previously thought myself quite far from. When I got back to my desk I felt like the office heating had been turned up to a million degrees and taking off my cardigan barely offered any respite. Thank the sweet lord my omiyage quota has been filled for at least half a year and maybe, just maybe, the cookie-munching Secretaries will pass along a kind word about me to someone.