Category Archives: Welcome To My Midlife Crisis

Don’t Panic II: The Female Buddha (#2 of a 3-issue mini-series)

Chaos in Print

I got up bright and early on Monday morning and promptly went back to sleep. I gently rolled out of bed at the much more reasonable hour of 10:30. I threw open my curtains to see a bright sunny day, perfect for traveling. Wanting to take advantage of the sun, I grabbed some laundry I did the day before and had hung up in the corner of my room. It wasn’t quite dry yet, so I put it out on my balcony to finish drying. I had a quick breakfast of corn flakes and put on my jacket. I grabbed my camera and stuffed it into my pocket. Ever since my adventure to Mitsumeniguchi, I had been making it a point to always take along my camera when I go someplace new. I did a quick check and realized that my camera needed film, so I stopped at my corner convenience store to get a roll of 12 exposures. From here, I strolled over to my bank. Naturally, on a trip like this, you need some cash. With money in pocket, I was ready to go! I walked over to the train station and saw that the next train left at 12:20. It was 12:15. I bought my ticket and jogged down to the platform.

Continue reading Don’t Panic II: The Female Buddha (#2 of a 3-issue mini-series)

Don’t Panic II: The Female Buddha (#1 of a 3-issue mini-series)

Chaos in Print

Kumagaya sits on the Takasaki line. At the end of this line lies the city of Takasaki. I’ve always been curious about this city. What is the final destination? What things await a person at the end of the line? I’d quite frequently ask my coworkers and students, but they all told me the same thing. “Don’t bother, Mark, there’s nothing there.” One who had never even set foot in that direction described it simply as “a bigger Kumagaya.” So, it seemed like there was little point in going. Until, one fateful day, when I met a Takasakian. (Now, this isn’t a big romantic tale, sadly, although it does involve a boy and a girl.)

Continue reading Don’t Panic II: The Female Buddha (#1 of a 3-issue mini-series)

How to Achieve Enlightenment and Impress Girls

Chaos in Print

So if there’s one thing that everyone should try and achieve in life, it’s enlightenment. I mean, who doesn’t want to have the heavens opened up and finally have it all make sense? I am one of the lucky few, for you see, I am guaranteed to achieve enlightenment in my life. It all happened on my vacation in Nara. Kyoto was the capital of Japan before Tokyo. Nara was the capital before Kyoto. It’s a nice, small city in the heart of Japan’s Kansai region, and it’s home to the place where all are guaranteed to achieve enlightenment: Todai-ji. Todai-ji is a Buddhist temple, and home to the world’s largest Buddha. It’s Nara’s top tourist draw.

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How Can You Keep Smiling?

Chaos in Print

“How can you keep smiling?” she asked me. Her name was Mai. She was not one of my students, but this night I was lucky enough to have her in my class. It was my Saturday 6 pm class, and I’ll admit, it’s always a difficult one. One of the keys to learning English is practicing it, and this class was one of the most tight-lipped ones I had the pleasure of teaching. Add to the fact that it was one of the dreaded speech units. No one wants to give a speech, and no one wants to ask questions of the speaker. Mai, however, was always quite a vocal student. She did stand forth and barrage the students with questions. She gave her speech with such enthusiasm. And, given her silent classmates that evening, her assessment of my class was that things had gone quite poorly. She was telling me this at the close of class. After she gave her assessment, she asked me, “How can you keep smiling?” I kept smiling because it was Saturday, and the job was done for another week.

“How can you keep smiling?” she asked me. Her name was Keysha. It was halfway though our brutal week of training. It was mere moments before we were to give our second practice class. Real students were filing into the training compound. Stress levels were high. But through it all, I wore a smile on my face. Keysha soon noticed that throughout all of training, nothing removed the smile from my face. After she noticed this, she asked me, “How can you keep smiling?” I kept smiling because it was the start of an adventure.

“How can you keep smiling?” he asked me. He was the dear Mr. Anderson. It was shortly after I was told my contract would not be renewed. I was upset. I stopped smiling for a while. I took a weekend to sort through some things, and soon I began smiling again. But this befuddled Mr. Anderson. “But I thought you needed that money,” he said. “You were so upset when that happened. Your plans were destroyed.” He asked me, “How can you keep smiling?” At this point, Mr. Anderson began to lament about his job. He was distressed at how the company wouldn’t stop asking him to stay. He was frustrated at how he didn’t have enough time in the day to pursue his artistic interests. I kept smiling because I was free.

“How can you keep smiling?” I ask myself. I have been home in Entwistle for almost a month now. I’m living with my parents again until I find a place of my own closer to school. So little has changed in Entwistle that it is very easy for me to pick up right where I left off. I’m even falling back into old habits. The more I begin to slide into the old routine, the more my time in Japan begins to feel distant. Names and faces begin to get more cloudy. Memories and stories I once told with relish begin to fade. My experiences in Japan are increasingly feeling like a dream; one of those very good dreams where you spend the first few minutes lying in bed, struggling to remember every detail. How can I keep smiling?

Because I remember. Continue reading How Can You Keep Smiling?

The Conversation

Chaos in Print

So, if you haven’t been following any news whatsoever, one of the current hot topics of discussion in the news here in Canada is the legalization of same sex marriage. Ever since Ontario went and did it, the federal government is thinking of following suit. Naturally, people are up in arms. Now, I love watching the news and hearing the opinions of the people who are against it. I love this one extreme facet that is convinced that a law saying marriage is only legal between a man and a woman is the only thing keeping the population of the world from turning gay. I actually heard one protester say on the 6 o’clock news, “If the government legalizes this, there won’t be no babies born no more.” I mean, how insecure are these people in their sexuality? I’m sure that these are the same people who are convinced that the keeping marijuana illegal is preventing teenagers from getting their hands on it. I just think their reasoning is silly. If history has shown us anything, that is there will always be a few men who like to get it on with women, and a few women who like to get it on with men. We don’t need laws saying that this must be the only way.

Just to make things clear, I’m for the legalization of same sex marriage. I’m a hopeless romantic and I don’t think the government should stand in the way of true love. I also know I’m not gay, and I know a law saying the only one I can marry is a woman is not the only thing keeping me straight. But let’s imagine for a moment that it were. You know, let’s indulge this extreme facet of conservatism. Let’s say we’re all gay, and laws saying we can only marry the opposite gender is the only thing that’s kept the human race from extinction. Let’s peek in on an average suburban household the day after same sex marriage is legalized….

Husband>> Good morning, dear!

Wife>> Good morning!

Husband>> How did you sleep last night?

Wife>> Oh, I slept wonderfully! And you?

Husband>> Couldn’t be better!

Wife>> That’s great, dear. I’ve made breakfast for you, and it’s on the table.

Husband>> Thank you. Oh, I love you dear!

Wife>> And I love you, too!

Husband>> And not because the laws say I have to.

Wife>> I know dear.

(Husband sits down and begins to read the paper)

Husband>> Now, this is interesting.

Wife>> What is it?

Husband>> Well, it seems that government has legalized gay marriage.

Wife>> Really?

Husband>> Really.

Wife>> Huh.

Husband>> Yeah.

(Both are lost in thought for a while)

Husband>> You know, dear, now with this development in the world, there’s something I feel I have to tell you.

Wife>> What is that?

Husband>> I have a craving for young Asian men.

Wife>> Really?

Husband>> Yes.

Wife>> Is that why you always call me ‘Satoshi’ when we’re getting our freak on?

Husband>> I’m afraid it is.

Wife>> Oh.

Husband>> I hope I haven’t broken your heart, darling.

Wife>> No, it’s just that, I have a confession to make, too.

Husband>> What is that?

Wife>> I don’t watch the WNBA because I like basketball.

Husband>> What are you saying, dear?

Wife>> I’m saying that there’s nothing I like more than watching those hot, sweaty, girls running around in their shorts and tank tops.

Husband>> Is that why you always put on k.d. Lang when we’re getting intimate?

Wife>> Yes it is, dear.

Husband>> Huh.

Wife>> Yeah.

(Both are lost in thought)

Wife>> So, what are we going to do now?

Husband>> Well, I say we run on down to the courthouse and get ourselves a divorce!

Wife>> Brilliant!

Husband>> And then I’m going to go to down to my office and flirt excessively with Hiroyuki the intern!

Wife>> And I think I’ll head on down to the high school. You know, Ms. Parker, the new volleyball coach, is built like a brick house.

Husband>> Does this mean you’ll finally stop having that affair with mailman?

Wife>> Why, yes, I believe I will!

Husband>> That’s great! You know, I wonder if Kenji was always hitting on me when he said he had a big package for me….

Wife>> Well, you know you’ll be able to flirt right back now, dear.

Husband>> Yes. Let me just say, darling, that I’m so happy you’ve taken this revelation with such kindness and understanding that, if you were a Shinjuku businessman, I’d be on my knees before you!

Wife>> Oh, that’s wonderful, dear! And you’ve taken my revelation with such ease that, if you were a cheerleader, I’d ask you back to my office for some discipline!

Husband>> Thank you, darling! Come, let’s run on down to the courthouse!

Wife>> Wait a minute. Don’t’ you think we’re being selfish?

Husband>> How so?

Wife>> Well, we won’t be propagating the human race anymore. The world will end as we know it.

Husband>> Huh.

Wife>> Yeah.

Husband>> Oh, well. Humans had a good run.

Wife>> Yup.

(Both are lost in thought)

Husband>> Wanna do it one last time for old times sake?

Wife>> OK.

Truly, a chilling vision of the future. Continue reading The Conversation

The Old and the New

Chaos in Print

So, here I am, back in Entwistle. It’s amazing how little my hometown has changed in the year that I was in Japan. I already find myself slipping back into old habits. I can pick up right where I left off. The only thing is I really didn’t leave off at a good part. I was living in my parents’ basement making slightly more than minimum wage. I mean, I left because it wasn’t a good part. And now I’m back and very little has changed. Well, there has been one significant change.

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You Can’t Go In

Chaos in Print

When my contract with the company came to an end, I knew I wasn’t going to go straight home to Canada from Kumagaya. I decided to take a few weeks and do a little of the traveling through Japan that I had longed to do. Being a mountain man at heart, I sat down with a rail map and sketched a bit of a loop through the Japanese Alps. I would drift by Mt. Fuji, head on up to Matsumoto for a dip in some hot springs, and then I would be off to the one place I had wanted to go since I arrived in Japan: Nagano, home to the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. What can I say? I’m a little Olympic-crazy. Once I had my fill of Mt. Fuji and the hot springs, I arrived in Nagano eager to see the Olympic sites.

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The Rulers of the Universe

Chaos in Print

What you are about to see is a photograph of one of the greatest mysteries of our time. Like Bigfoot, aliens, and the Loch Ness Monster, it’s a little blurry and out of focus, but that comes with photographing a subject such as this. For you see, what you about to view is one of the very few photographs of the elusive and secretive Rulers of the Universe.

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The Purple Rose (or, My Own Worst Critic)

Chaos in Print

I love being back in Entwistle. There were times back in Japan when I would scream at being surrounded by so much concrete and steel. But, back in Entwistle, I find it is so easy to just go for a walk, take three steps, and suddenly find myself back in the middle of the forest. The fresh air, the greenery, I love it. I did a lot of walking in Japan, but it all tended to be through the city streets. It drove me nuts quite a few times. But now, I try to go walking down through the woods as often as I can.

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