Oooooooobama!

Posted November 23, 2008 by schmeicheljp
Categories: Uncategorized, Wonderings

Tags: , , , , , ,

I don’t mean to be a Bitter Bill about all this, but the God-like admiration for President Elect Barack Obama that seems to be sweeping the nation the world right now is giving me an upset stomach. I agree the guy is charismatic, and he knows when, where, and what buttons to push. But if you put someone, anyone, up on a pedestal that high, they are bound to fall. And when they do, it’s the people that erected the pedestal in the first place that are the most disappointed. I have read comments from many Obama supporters who hope for another Kennedy. But once Kennedy fell, America faced some of the worst upheavals in the country’s history.

I am not cynical, though. I would love to see Mr. Obama change the world like he promises to do. I welcome his ideas and attitude towards the public office with open arms. But I cannot, like so many people in America, accept that the war is over. Mr. Obama won an election for the chance to bring change so badly needed, but that is all he has done. The woes brought on us by the Bush administration didn’t go away on the evening of November 4th, 2008.

I am excited for the future of my country for the first time in a long time, but we need to see through the illusions politicians and the media weave, and not jump blindly up and down crying and screaming that our savior has come before he’s done anything to prove it. I’d love to hear why you think Mr. Obama is right for the presidency, or how you may be disappointed in the choice America made. And if you are not from the States, I’d love to hear your view on everything.

Rant over. Nothing to see here. Carry on.

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Don Flamenco

Posted March 23, 2008 by schmeicheljp
Categories: Short Stories

Tags: , , ,

One of the few Nintendo games I ever beat, back in the day, was Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. It’s still on my list of favorite games and I would probably play the hell out of it now, if I could get my hands on it. In the game, there are many colorful characters, but one stands out above the rest. His name is Don Flamenco. Don wore a wispy scarf and tiptoed around the ring with a rose in his mouth. Was this a gay Nintendo character? I have no idea, and as a kid, I never even noticed. Don was just another crazy character in a lineup of crazy characters. Ah, to be young and naive again. Could Nintendo get away with having such a strong homosexual stereotype portrayed now? Probably not. But I do know, or at least I believe, that it wasn’t a frivolous or baseless stereotype. Because, you see, I met the real Don Flamenco, in a seedy little bar in the middle of Japan.

Before I get to it, I would like to preface this story with a little background. If you had read “The Easiest Money”, you might just know a little about the bar I used to frequent quite often. For the first six months of my first year here in Japan, I never went out except to go to work. I would just go home to my cockroach-infested apartment and read. Sometimes I would try to watch some Japanese baseball on the telly, but there’s only so much bunting to advance the runner a guy can take. One day, my friend Paul called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to the bar.

How did you make friends if you never went out?, you might ask. I have no obligation to answer your petty questions, but I will anyway. It was Paul’s job I took when I came over from America. Not only was his contract not renewed, but Paul was also forced by the company to show me the ropes. He could have been swearing at me the whole time, but luckily Paul was from Manchester, England, so I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. I think he liked me though, so he called me.

We went to a foreigner’s bar called “Hunter”, and had a blast. After that first night, a breaking of the seal, if you will, took place. I went to the bar almost every night for the next year. Within two months of my introduction to Hunter Bar, I was playing guitar every Thursday night, making some good coin, and meeting some good friends. And that leads me into the story.

Hunter bar was like any other dive in any other city. Islands of yellow light shines on the green felt of the two lop-sided pool tables, surrounded by dark booths and cast-iron benches. And in the far corner, next to the karaoke machine, was a little alcove where I sat and played my heart out. Usually my friends would come out and give a listen, although, because the were from various countries like New Zealand and Australia, they would inevitably call out Crowded House or Midnight Oil for me to play.

So, on this particular evening, I could tell when I first entered the building that it would be a slow kind of night, the kind where I could play just about anything and get piffling applause at best. It didn’t matter to me though. I had already downed my four shots of tequila. (After four shots, I sing like a god, after five, they need a forklift to get me off of the floor.) And I was getting paid, if they paid attention or not. I played my first set, mixing in some Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Bob Marley. Every once in awhile, someone one would sing out with me, but overall it was turning out to be a nice and quiet gig. How deceived I was.

My second set started up with some old-school Creedance. Up tempo, with a beat you could really bug out to. And that’s when Don stepped in front of me. There was no rose in his mouth, but everything else was the same. The scarf, the tiptoes. But the most amazing thing was he was actually dancing the Flamenco to CCR. It would have been laughable if he wasn’t so damn good. Twirls and hand claps, stomping off beat. It really was an amazing thing to watch, and the whole bar, which had filled up since my first set finished, turned to watch this man dance in front of me. He was alone. No one else dared join him and look like a fool.

I looked around at all of the faces in the bar. Mostly drunk and happy souls. Alright, I thought, this is a bit weird, but people seem to be enjoying it. That’s when I felt a little tug at my ankle. I didn’t want to, but I looked down, and there was Don Flamenco looking back up at me with “come hither” eyes as he placed three, thousand-yen bills into my left sock. He stood up and walked towards the bar, turning around once to give me a wink. And that was the last time I saw Don Flamenco alive.

But the story doesn’t end there, as much as many of you would like it to. It was such a surreal scene that I felt I needed another shot of tequila.

But Schmeichel, you may ask, wouldn’t that push you over your limit? Yes, yes it would, and it did.

How were you able to finish your set? Stupid pride. You see, after I set my guitar down, I walked over to Jason and one of my other friends, Darren. Darren was on the floor, under the bench, laughing so hard tears were rolling down his cheeks. Jason just held his face in his hands, eyes wide and unblinking through his fingers.

“Not a fucking word,” I said, pointing at both of them. This seemed to be the proverbial pin in the balloon, as Jason burst out laughing, spit flying through his fingers, some of it hitting Darren on the cheek. I had to get back on stage and finish it, just to shut those two up.

I don’t remember much after that, but I do recall my two friends, Jason and Darren, periodically dropping ten yen coins into my socks.

Bastards.

The next day I was all too lucky to wake up with a clear head, and only an 62% memory recovery of the night before. As I rode my bicycle into town, I saw my private dancer, Don Flamenco’s face plastered across telephone polls and community bulletin boards across the city. I smiled then, and thought about the evening before. So what’s the moral of the story?

I don’t really know. But I guess it would be something like this: Although it was awkward at the time, how many of us can say we had the chance to play for a professional flamenco dancer? At least it wasn’t Mike Tyson.

Hello Kitty! Can Kiss My… Pt.3

Posted March 1, 2008 by schmeicheljp
Categories: Japanese Frequencies

Tags: , , , , ,

I had the distinct pleasure of walking through Marunaka, a popular supermarket in my neck of the woods, with my daughters the other day. We were there buying the usual suspects: milk, diet coke, bread with nasty bean paste in it etc. you know, all the things a hybrid Japanese-American family needs. I wasn’t on the look-out for anything weird or out of the ordinary. The supermarkets rarely have the wonders the convenience stores offer. But these things seem to search me out. I was walking through the snack aisle, trying not to look at the tempting bags of potato chips, when a box on the shelf caught my eye. I had picked it up and put it into my basket without truly understanding what it was. I just knew that I had to get this product to you, my faithful readers, as soon as possible.

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Ebittcho.

Ebi is Japanese for “shrimp”and the “cho” is a good example of how the Japanese love to abbreviate words into cute alternatives. The “cho” is short for chocolate. That’s right. Chocolate covered, shrimp flavored rice puffs. It’s not the idea of two distinct flavors combining to form one super taste. I enjoy chocolate-covered pretzels and celery with peanut butter. As a matter of fact, the same company that makes Ebittcho also makes Potatottcho, chocolate-covered potato chips. Those are even slightly appealing. Seafood and chocolate though, makes me queasy. Naturally I had to try a few in the interest of curiosity, and to inform my readers, so that they don’t have to experience this “delicacy” first-hand.

I put the first Ebittcho in my mouth and got the chocolaty taste first. Good, cheap chocolate. But what soon followed is hard to describe. It was as if the shrimp taste was a waft of flavor, not quite a bouquet, but definitely a presence. It didn’t center on my taste buds, but slowly made the rounds through my tonsils, up my nose, into the part of the brain that instantly recognizes when someone farts nearby, or when someone hasn’t showered. The chocolate was still there, hanging out, probably having a good time. But then some homeless guy sat down next to him and he realized there was nowhere to hide. I tried a few, because sometimes these sort of things need a little getting used to, but the third and the fourth went down just as yellow and sick as the first.

Ebittcho is a good example of the sort of product you might find on the shelves of a store at any given time, but soon disappear from existence, or so I thought. When I asked some of my Japanese friends if they had heard about Ebittcho, not only had they not heard of it, but they couldn’t believe that there was even a product out there like that in Japan. So I got to taste something Japanese-made that even the Japanese themselves wouldn’t touch. I feel very privileged in that fantastic sort of way where I pretend I am the President of the Universe and everyone is hanging off my every word. But this time, when the men from the funny farm come to take me away, I will have photographic evidence to prove I didn’t make Ebittcho up. Unfortunately, they might just put me away for trying this shit in the first place. Until the day I decide to write again…

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Home again, Home again, Jiggidy Jig

Posted January 16, 2008 by schmeicheljp
Categories: Sports

Tags: , ,

Well, I’m back from a little hiatus. You might say to yourself, or to your virtual friends on Second Life, “What gives him the nerve to take a break when he has only written a few posts?” I have nothing to say to that.

I have been working on a little piece that I hope to make a continuing thing, but my research isn’t done yet. You may be interested, you may not give a hoot. I’ve decided to rank all of the sports movies that I have seen. Why? It’s more for me than for anyone else. It’s a look into my psyche, a look into my ability to critique, and a chance to sit in front of the t.v. for “research” purposes. My wife doesn’t have a foot to stand on. I’m going to go Bill Simmons style on ya’ll, though, and if that offends some readers, so be it. Bill is one of my favorite sports bloggers, and he started this thing where he ranked sports movies, but in no particular order. One movie could be ranked third, the next, one hundred forty-two. He may have had a list somewhere, but he hasn’t seemed to follow up on it.

So I have compiled my list, and have started writing witty words. But there are so many movies I have to re-tread, and a few that I just missed out on. I mean, what if I start ranking films now, and then, all of the sudden, out of the blue, Air Bud blows me away and I have to reconfigure everything? As Bill Simmons would say, “Not good times”. I’m working on it. I also have a few new, snazzy Japanese frequencies to give you, and a few more interesting stories about my life in Japan. There really is a little bit of everything here. Until next time…

Enmity

Posted December 12, 2007 by schmeicheljp
Categories: Sports

Tags: , , ,

I just looked this word up in the dictionary because I’m stupid and don’t know a whole lot. (There. That should shut up the haters) I will give you an example. There is an enmity between me and the Boston Celtics. Not that I would actively try to disrupt the organization by, say, kidnapping one of their players or stealing all of their uniforms or anything. I’m a Pistons fan and was at a very impressionable age when the rivalry between the two teams was astronomical. Some of the greatest characters in the history of the NBA were on those two teams during the 80’s. Laimbeer, Isiah, Bird, McHale, The Chief, DJ, Walton, Salley, Rodman, and my favorite Piston of all time, The Microwave, Vinnie Johnson. (I started that list with only a few names in mind, but these faces kept popping into my mind. I couldn’t leave any of them out.) Elbows smashing into domes,  fights every single game,  verbal wars where, after awhile, even the newspapers looked bruised and battered.

For the first time in my life, I hated something truly and deeply and with a pure emotion that doesn’t find you very often. At times it could be terrible and a little frightening, but it also made me feel alive in a time when nothing else did. Maybe a little sad that being a spectator to a sport was the one thing that kept me real, but I’m sure there are a lot of you out there that could say the same thing.

This post isn’t about my hate for the Celtics specifically. It’s about how my idea of enmity has changed. Is it a mellowing, like a fine wine? Now, I don’t hate any team. I dislike some players and I root against some teams in certain situations, but I am much more interested in the sport itself; in the high-flying dunks or the 30-yard strikes, or the 80-yard romp down the sidelines. Who does it and for what team doesn’t matter any more. I know what you are thinking. Maybe I should try to get into the United Nations or run for President of the local school board. With my open-mindedness I could save the cheerleader, save the world. I think that is a grand idea and I applaud all of you for telepathically sending it to me.

There is a problem with all of this though. Where before I felt alive in the magic that the Celtics and the Pistons produced for me, the magic is gone now. I hated the Celtics, but I absolutely loved the rivalry. I don’t have the desire to watch college football from 1 in the afternoon until 9 at night with no break any more. My question is this: Did the magic leave me, or the sports themselves? How do we get an objective perspective on this? What are some of the forces at play here? Media saturation? A PC society? The dichotomy of good and evil? Without the evil, the good don’t look so hot.

I would love to here your ideas.

Hello Kitty! Can Kiss My…Pt.2

Posted November 13, 2007 by schmeicheljp
Categories: Japanese Frequencies

Today I’d like to get back to my fascination with strange Japanese products. I found this next one a few months ago, again at the local 7-11. (Which doesn’t have Slurpees. They do have a wooden box at the front of the store filled with whole eggs, wieners, nasty jellied potato triangles called konyaku, all sitting in congealing soup, so at least there’s that) So with that unappealing vision dancing through your heads, I present:

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The jokes seem to write themselves for this one.

Would you like a piece of my Asse?

Your Asse is so rich and chocolaty.

How much of your Asse can you fit into that box, anyway?

Unfortunately, the taste experience was not nearly as delightful as the visual. Asse tasted like any other ¥100 chocolate. So what I would say to this chocolate if I met her in some bar on a dark night in February is this, “I’m sorry. I thought you had a nice Asse, but on second glance, I see that it is plain and flat. Sorry.” I might at this point mention something about junk and trunks or bubbles or something. But in reality, it’s been so long since I dated, this chocolate bar might walk up to me, take one look at the sad state of affairs, and move on to look for a nice jar of peanut butter or glass of milk. How can I compare to a jar of peanut butter, anyway?

A Cold October Night

Posted October 31, 2007 by schmeicheljp
Categories: Short Stories

Tags: , ,

Again, I felt the soft words stick and move behind my eyes but I could never quite see or recognize. A silent moon glared at me through it’s close-shaved halo. The stone bridge was slippery and she had to hold onto my elbow as we crossed.

“What does cool have to do with it?”

“I don’t know. It just does.” I said, “and if you’d only open your eyes, you would see.”

“My eyes are open.” she replied, staring saucer-eyed like a zombie; a beautiful black-haired, blue-eyed zombie. “Intimidation is not cool. I wish you would have told me this earlier.” We stopped on the other side. She let go of my elbow with a little squeeze.

“How do I tell you, the strongest woman I have ever met, that you intimidate me?” She just shrugged her shoulders. The moon shimmered in small circles on the surface of the water. I stared at it for awhile, until it’s brightness blotted out all other details. I knew that if I got the courage to look up into her face, her eyes would be gleaming just like the water-moon.

“Are you cold? You didn’t bring a jacket.” I still couldn’t look up at her.

“If I were, I’d tell you. And I don’t own a jacket.” She shivered a little. “You know, you really scared me back there.” She said, peeking over her left shoulder.

“What? That whole thing about arms floating down the river? I don’t think anything scary is going to float down that river.” She was holding my arm again. “The only thing you have to be scared about,” I looked to my left, then around her to my right, “are the Hill people. and they only come out when there’s a ring around the… Oh.” I looked up slowly and cautiously.

“Stop it.” She said, with a smile.

“Alright. I’m cold now. Can I have your jacket?” She ducked down, using my body as a wall against the strengthening wind.

“Of course. Keep it. You need it more than I do.” We started walking again. The wind was strong and bitter and we still had a long walk ahead of us, but I’d never felt warmer.

“Hey,” she said, “I’m hungry. Want to go to Taco Bell?” I turned to see her looking all sly.

“How do you do that?”

“What?”

“How can you read my mind so quickly? We’ve only really known each other for a few hours.” I really wanted to know. It was a question that had been poking at me like a broken rib all evening.

“I’ve known you since the beginning of time. Didn’t you know that? Haven’t you realized? ” She said, as if I were the dumb and blind one she had to lead.

“Yeah. I guess I have.”

She placed her golden lips on my blushing cheek and said, “Good. Now let’s go get us some burrito supremes.”

– Halloween was never a very important date for me. Sure, I loved stealing candy from my brother and sister for months afterward, but it was just a sweeter version of any other ordinary day. Now it is one of my favorites. Although this true story actually took place at the beginning of May, 1993, it’s a cold October night here in Japan. Happy birthday, Sara. I hope that someday you get to read this. For everyone else, Happy Halloween.