As a young cyclist

My son Leo (3) has his first pedal bike. He has had a couple of push bikes and a balance bike, but Leo wants to ride with pedals.

How did I start to ride? My mom or dad could weigh in, but what I recall is my dad had a plastic carrier on the back of a frame. I’m not sure how much my dad rode, to be honest, as even when I had many bikes throughout my youth, I don’t remember him on a bike. When we went to ride Greenlake, for example, he’d be on roller skates.

Anyway, I grew up early on in Burien, on a little subdivision near the airport. I recall one important goal of my youth: To be able to ride before the age of 5.

I rode on borrowed Hot Wheels. I remember the huge front tires, and how the plastic would be whittled away, and in some cases worn through. There was a cul-de-sac where there was a bit of a hill and you could spin around and somehow there were ramps and whatnot to jump off of.

As for my actual first bike, I remember a training wheels bike. Red, perhaps? The training wheels were cheap white plastic, held on by metal brackets. I think mine were not attached well and eventually came off one day and I had to rely on balance to hold myself up.

Bicycling at around age 5-6 or so, I remember transitioning to my older sister’s red Schwinn. Actually, I’m not sure of the brand, but it was too large and had a big seat, big wheels, swept back handlebars with white plastic grips. It felt really awkward. I remember skinning my toes pretty badly one day, when I wore sandals foolishly, and dragged my feet underneath the pedals. There were probably way too many accidents to remember but I got plenty of pleasure out of riding anyway.

Where did I ride? I had a friend in the neighborhood, Trent. I rode to his place and back, which was a short walk, really. I don’t recall venturing out of there, as basically there was just one busy street outside of the subdivision on a steep hill.

For some reason I recall just riding alone. It wasn’t until my parents divorced and I moved to Seattle did I find somebody to ride with me. Did my sisters ride? I don’t really remember much with them. My oldest sister had a ten speed, blue bike with drop bars. I remember the story of when she rode one day ten times around Greenlake, and how impressive of a distance that was. (Maybe 28 miles?)

When I moved to N 6oth street, I rode to McDonald Elementary. At that time, it was no longer an Elementary, but maybe used as storage or a community center? Anyway, it had a really cool playground, with an interesting and expansive wooden structure. And nearby (in “Tangletown” which it wasn’t known for at the time) was a mini-mart with cheap candy, desserts, etc. Opening later was the Honey Bear Bakery, a produce stand, and later deli. North on Latona was (and still is) a mini-mart run by Koreans. A little further afield was Greenlake and its paths. And when I was older I would bike to N 50th, Meridian School, and play in its fields.

This was my known cycling universe as a kid. I rode the sidewalks and streets when no cars were around. I rode by myself. I discovered all the ways to ‘beat’ the hills, or all the side streets I could maneuver safely through. The idea, suggested by my parents, was that don’t count on cars to see you; to pretend you were invisible. So whenever a car would appear I would dart up somebody’s driveway onto the sidewalk.

Summer times, besides spending time on the computer, was also making the neighborhood rounds. I’d take money from my mom, go buy a sandwich or snack, and head down to Greenlake for the day.

I had no helmet until about Middle School. It wasn’t common in the early 90′s, but when I was moving further afield and my parents finally got me a red Fuji bicycle, it seemed appropriate. This was a Fuji; a serious bicycle from an actual bicycle store. My friend Jeremy was living about 2 hilly miles away, so well within bicycling distance, but there were lots of busy streets in between, but I rode anyway.

Luckily I have completely avoided accidents with cars and really only hurt myself. I rode my bicycle, for example, into a bunch of gravel off the Greenlake path and really scraped my legs. One time I flipped coming downhill into a surprise pothole on NE 65th Street, late at night, and bruised myself really badly on the road. (The street was finally repaved maybe 10 years after that? Seattle streets, especially those patched up over the ages, are not really safe to ride.)

As I made new friends throughout high school (Kevin, Ian, etc.) I rode further and further afield. There were some bigger hills, but really I didn’t go much further than a few miles from home until high school. High school senior year I had my biggest revelation when I participated in a bike to work rally in Westlake Center. I recall meeting my calculus math teacher and getting lots of free food and drinks. It was also awesome having him show me the route from Downtown Seattle to Garfield. And from then on I started riding by myself to school, which was about 6.5 miles each way.

It wasn’t every day, but it sure beat taking the bus.

Flipping through my high school yearbook, I also saw some pictures of the Lopez Island bike trip that Mr. Hudson would put on. I think I only did that two years, but it sure was a great trip. I recall them renting a great big moving van, they would stack the bicycles in there, then put a layer of plywood on top and stack more of them. Hopefully nobody’s handlebars were ruined.

Those trips to Lopez, I probably got just barely south of Lopez Village, no great feat. But the hills were pretty difficult and it was great fun finally riding on the road, not afraid of cars.

I had some ambitions past senior year for me and friends to ride from Seattle to La Push (160 miles). As I looked at the map, though, I realized I was no match for the distance. Fifty miles a day was inconceivable. Yes, I could ride from Seattle to Marymoor Park and back, but that was brutal. And so instead I planned a trip to the San Juan islands, which turned into a really great time. (That’s a separate post.)

Thinking back, really I was timid about the whole thing. I had to figure out cycling on my own. I really needed a mentor or somebody to ride with me, and my parents (post car accident) weren’t really riding much. I also could have used better equipment or better adjusted equipment, as I doubt I did much more than put air into tires or whatnot until things broke.

Now with kids, they will likely have ever advantage they may want (or not) as a cyclist. I’m not sure they are going to be into it, but I don’t really know of any alternative.

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Two kids on a bike

Weather-wise it’s been a tumultuous week. It definitely feels like autumn now, with all the rain and leaves beginning to fall, but today was summer time temperatures, and definitely a good day to ride.

The morning started with Leo getting up and leaving the bed. I’ve been sharing a bed with him, partially because I often put myself to sleep after story time, but also Hitomi stays up later than I like and wakes me up, and baby Luca wakes me up as well. Leo also has a habit of waking up in the middle of the night and storming into the bedroom scared of ghosts or something. Anyway, once Leo gets up, I have to get up too, because immediately he heads toward the kitchen, which isn’t the safest spot for a 3 year old.

From bed, I can hear the dragging of a chair, and crinkle of plastic wrappers and I knew he just was helping himself to some bread. Yes, some day he might help himself to the knife block and start cutting fruit (or his body) and I’ll have to answer to somebody. But he’s been good. And eventually Hitomi had woken up, after Luca started crying. I heard her head down the stairs, and then I need not worry.

It was Saturday, but Hitomi needed to work. Hitomi left and I ended up with two kids. Timing being what it is, I was left with Leo who had (again) dumped a couple boxes of toys out around. Dumping out toys is okay by me, but then he refused to pick anything up, which got me angry and I yelled at him. After scaring him a bit and cleaning up, I knew we ought to leave as well.

I wanted a bike ride. With two kids on one bike, I headed to Magnuson Park. There’s a bouncy castle area and if anything Leo could use some wearing out.

The park is directly east of my house, on NE 75th street, a street definitely hilly on a regular bicycle but I had an extra 70, maybe 80 pounds of kids and seats on a bicycle weighing 50 pounds. (As an aside: I ought to have put in more air in my tire, but I misplaced my pump value. And I ought to have wore lighter clothing: It was quite warm. But once you have the kids on the bike it’s hard to make yet another trip back to the house.)

NE 75th is quite busy with cars. They have recently painted bike lanes on both sides but given the steepness, I can’t see them encourage much use. Really, there’s no need for bike lanes on the downhill, as they are actually pretty dangerous as drivers don’t always “see” the sides of the roads. On the uphill side, bike lanes are quite useful as anybody but the most fit are crawling up on the lowest gear and speed. With Luca in his car seat strapped to the front of my tandem, drivers, but especially passengers were fairly curious. The expressions I saw from both were a mixture of amusement, surprise, and perhaps concern. For who in their right mind would endanger a baby like this?

I certainly share the sentiment. But baby or not, nobody on a bicycle stands a chance against a 5000 pound SUV.

At least in Seattle, the drivers that do notice you usually do give you plenty of room and pass at a reasonable speed; although there are sometimes cases of not so pleasant encounters. With a baby—who would dare honk at a baby—drivers are friendly. I believe the danger comes from drivers not paying attention. Which, thanks to modern technology, are compelled to pay more attention the virtual world than traffic around them.

We arrive at Arena Sports, mostly indoor soccer, but we’re hear for bouncy castle-land. At around 10:45AM, the bike rack’s mostly empty, but the parking lot is very full. I think it’d be nice if there were more bicyclists around, right? Bouncy castle time is only until 11:30AM, and I’m asked if I would I still like to get in? Of course.

It’s carpeted inside, so Luca gets to crawl around a bit, I surreptitiously check my iPhone and (coincidentally) read yet another article about how cyclists and cycle facilities make car drivers miserable. I try to rest but Leo can’t leave me alone and wants me to play with him. So then I carry around Luca and climb up places I shouldn’t one handed with the baby—and slide down steep slides carrying Luca which is probably not a good idea either. In any case, I want to rest not bounce.

Around closing time, Leo pees himself. This I discover after he asks me to take him to the bathroom. When removing Leo’s pants they’re quite wet. Of course, I find plenty of Luca’s clothes, no change of pants that will fit Leo. I put Leo into a diaper sans pants, and he looks fairly ridiculous as he’s half naked wearing rubber boots. And sadly, Leo looks tired and miserable, especially after giving him a hard time about not going to the toilet. I give up further discussion, and we head to the U District Farmer’s Market for food.

Again with the hills! Ravenna Boulevard’s quite a nice ascent, but fairly excruciating with the weight. I’m hungry but Leo’s now fast asleep, so how are we going to eat? On the flip side, Luca now has an opportunity to eat before we do. I place Leo still in his seat down on the sidewalk, lean him on a building so his head is leaning back, and feed Luca some soup and cantaloupe.

I do my grocery shopping carrying Luca in one hand, trying to pick out veggies with the other. And then the rest of the market is a bit of similar one-armed juggling. I forgot the carrier for Luca, sadly, so I’m stuck lugging Luca’s baby car seat.

Once Leo’s awake we can shop and eat. Leo’s a good follower, fortunately, so I managed a sweep of the stands I like. There’s no wood fired pizza today, which was promised to Leo, but Salvadoran food is good if not better. Luca can eat the cooked plantains, and Leo likes rice and beans.

I find a spot on some grass so we can all sit, but what little grass there is is in the vicinity of some ripe smelling dog shit. Leo and I are shouting kusai! 臭いよ!(it stinks!) to the heavens. I get clever and try to kick the shit into the street, but my kicks are not far enough and the sun has its way with ripening it more on the pavement. Well, I’m hungry so I do what I can to not smell it. And I feed both kids at once. Luca after eating his plaintain is in search of more food crawls up my leg and gets himself fed some part of our pupusas.

Fed, I’m hot. I load the bicycle, take off my long sleeved shirt—now I’m half naked!—and do what I can with two kids and a ton of groceries going home.

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Kayak’s Not Done

I had my first trip yesterday in Lake Union with my new kayak.

Finally, it out in the sunlight, not in the garage and it looked great. It looked like a finished product—at least from a distance—and I was soon to put it into the water. Yes, I knew it would float, but would I fall in love with it?

Earlier that same day, I had taken Leo to the Center for Wooden Boats. They have free public boat rides on Sunday. I showed up at 10:15 and signed up for an Umiak (big canoe) ride for Leo and myself at 1:30. It was a very nice day, so I figured Leo and I could spend few hours near the water and have lunch.

Of course, as soon as I’m in line to sign up, my dad calls. He’s wondering when to meet up and given the timing of things, 4PM. I would have rather seen him earlier, but I had already biked my way down to South Lake Union, there’s no point in leaving until our boat ride was done.

Killing times with kids is pretty easy, if there’s a body of water nearby. There’s a fairly new park with a beach just next to MoHAI, where at around 10:30 in the morning had quite a number of dogs (not kids or adults) splashing about. It all seems a bit brazen of the many dog owners to let them off leash with a nearby sign explaining a $500 max fine for them at the beach.

I’m not really sure what I think of the dog owners, but I knew Leo was going into the water at some point and I know he’s understandably frightened of them.

Having biked my way here, I was soon hungry. Just across the street on Westlake, there’s a row of restaurants, one very large sports bar (capacity 600+) and down a few doors, a barbecue place, with again a sports bar theme. This being Football Sunday, waiters and waitresses were in Seahawks jerseys.

Leo’s actually fun to take out to a restaurant. Every time I’ve done it, it turns out better than I expect. And in many ways it’s easier than with the wife and other kid. Maybe because I don’t have to calibrate Leo’s behavior within the wife’s parameters, or maybe I can just focus my attention on him and the food, rather than the n-way dynamics.

In recent memory: Duke’s Chowder House. I order fried fish and a side of clam chowder; he ate and was happy. (Yeah the neighboring table of made-up ladies gave me dirty looks when he played with the the stanchion rope, but he’s just a kid.) Pizza at Veraci and Tutta Bella was easy. I also remember taking him to Pike’s Place market and eating at a fried fish place. When the food comes quickly, it really makes it easy.

Much like his mother, he’s also really enthusiastic about food. I mean, if you mention cake to Leo the previous day, at breakfast he’s wondering when he’s going to eat cake that day. It’s all a bit absurd.

Anyway, lunch was good. We even had a good time when he went to poop. I’m always impressed with how much cable is laid. It’s always good cheer when your young ones use the toilet like you’ve been asking. And then we were off to the small beach again.

This time, no dogs, and lots of kids. I don’t even manage to take off his shorts before he’s flopping in the water. Though Hitomi always packs in a few changes of clothes, although we had a spare pair after he wet his pants watching a float plane take off nearby—Kenmore Air—we were down to a couple of pull-ups. Dutifully, though, every time after that he peed in the bushes.

Nearby the beach, lots of kids were jumping off a foot bridge. And despite “No Diving No Swimming” signs, parents didn’t seem to mind or even photographed the transgressions, which I thought was a good thing. I had thought to jump as well, but who would watch Leo? Besides, I had no change of underwear and I was going to paddle and still have to bike home.

The Umiak we were about the paddle held about 12 people, plus a captain. Originally only Leo and I were signed up, but later about 10 more high school aged kids came by. And most of them were frightfully obese it became an issue of getting everyone off and on the boat using help from the dock.

Getting the group to paddle was another problem. About half the paddlers paddled, and it was small miracle was we moved at all. The captain (Elizabeth) chose the small bay in the corner of SLU park, which wasn’t very far. After orientation and boarding, we didn’t have a lot of time anyway. We frightened off a sunning turtle or two, but the group still had a good time waving to motor yachts we went by.

I eventually realized that Elizabeth was Betsy, Kevin’s stepmother. She obviously didn’t recognize me, with the hat, sunglasses, and half-Asian kid. I thought I’d bring it up the fact I had, many years ago, slept in the same house with her, but obviously she had her hands full with the many newbie paddlers signed up that day. What made it a certain match was her impromptu lecture on how learning to wait patiently in line as a kid was critical, because it made you prepared later in life to wait your turn in traffic.

I know in many ways, Betsy and Ken (Kevin’s dad) are upstanding citizens, but operate on a different plane than most mortals. Meaning, they are perfect and perfectly nice but for whatever reason not fun to be around. I don’t really know, though, but that’s sort of the cemented impression that I got as a teenager staying at Kevin’s house.

It was now 2:30 or so. I rode my bike home and it was hot and Leo was heavy, and heavier asleep. I wanted to get back and get my kayaks ready for launch when my Dad arrived.

Now I realize it was a bit insane to start out on another trip this late in the day, but it was likely my only chance. Dad was going to ride in the double with Leo, and I was going to try out my kayak. We’d paddle to Gasworks (and beyond), turn around, and eat dinner at home. I had dinner ready in the queue.

I juggled dinner, kayak loading, and what-not. I was hot and tired. Leo didn’t sleep at home. (He enthusiastically resists nap time now.) But after I loaded my new kayak on the car I was determined to make the outing work. Now, the double…I struggled to find the proper straps and resorted to jury-rigging with red tie-downs.

But then we were in the car and on route to Lake Union. Then there was the parking, and then unloading. Then the figuring out the rudder for Dad.

My first impressions of my kayak (the Murrlet) on the water: It looks great. Not as tippy as I was hoping for, really, probably because of the long waterline. It really doesn’t feel as narrow as it looks. The cockpit is pretty roomy. But I could easily turn and keep the kayak pointed where I wanted to. And then my Dad had a hard time keeping the double going straight and so there was a lot of waiting. I didn’t really get a feel for the speed, with all the chop on the lake.

So maybe it’s not fitness craft I want, but really more appropriate for kayak camping and the like.

Leo, despite all his bounciness, managed to stay peacefully in the front of the double, though I figure he may only be good for about 30 minutes without landing. With food to occupy him, maybe longer. He’s way too short to paddle, though maybe with a high enough foam pad he could sort of do it. If I was able to load and unload the double on my own, I’d really be looking forward to taking him out on milk runs to Agua Verde for tacos.

For a quick snack and stretch the legs, we ended up at Roanoke Street Mini Park, where Leo and I split an apple. I decided to switch boats with Dad, since the double was hard to steer, which turned out to be a mistake. He was furious about the seat back being uncomfortable, although to be honest unless you really sit leaning slightly forward, which isn’t that natural, you really are going to suffer.

Since it was maybe a year or so since my last paddle, I was pretty wobbly getting out and my chest felt sore. My body’s no longer that of a kayaker.

Getting home was easy, and dinner was pretty good. Despite my Dad having a hard time all is forgiven over a nice meal.

So today I finished strengthening the interior (the joint between the deck and hull) and now it’s just sanding and varnishing to be nearly complete. I also need to add end pours, holes for toggle lines, and rig the deck. But more importantly I need a strategy to get more time in the water.

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Mixed Feelings

I was working on my kayak this morning, doing a saturation coat on the deck. I’m hoping to get the project done in time for some summer time paddling.

When I work on the kayak I have the garage door open. Working on the project is a natural conversation starter. I’ve had more than a few people come by and ask me about my kayak project. One was a guy selling Real Change newspapers at Safeway and talked to me for about 30 minutes or so. But most people are just walking by on the way to the medical clinic, Safeway, or Roosevelt High School and just stop for a minute or two.

School’s been out for about a month but some chubby high school girl, sipping on a Starbucks drink walked by. Leo (and Hitomi and Ilana) have been decorating the driveway with chalk. The girl asked me if this was Anpanman? and I replied yes, it was. She apparently was half Japanese and knew how to read Leo’s name in Japanese, etc.

I asked her what she was up to, and she replied “Summer school. But I had nothing going on in July anyway, so it’s not so bad.”

I was taken aback, “But July is so nice, why wouldn’t you have anything to do? Like go camping or something.” At this point I had to get back to the epoxy, now starting to set up.

I had been camping the past four days at Mt. Rainier with friends, but I suppose if it were me back in high school I’d be out bicycling, playing games, swimming, doing sleep-overs, water fights, movies, video games, etc. I would die if I had to go back to school in July. I could not believe this person.

Back working on my kayak put me into thought. My first thought, surely no half-Asian would be taking summer school. Japanese parents, even singularly, would not let this happen. Secondly, could it be that my kids could turn out this way? I certainly disliked going to school, though I went. But maybe my kids would dislike it and also refuse to attend. Thirdly, Starbucks is evil since I’m sure it’s making people fat.

But really, how can somebody of her age be bored? I cannot find time for half the things I would like to do during the day.

Still, she seemed pretty nice, so I hope she comes by tomorrow. I’d like to know to more about her.

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Top Smells of Japan

  1. 青い畳, or green tatami mats. When I visited Japan in 1993 with Garfield Orchestra, we stayed in a newly built resort in Kobe that had green tatami. (The place we stayed was 神戸市の総合福祉ゾーンしあわせの村, in case I ever want to go back.) Anytime I step into a place with fresh tatami, I feel like I’m back in Japan.
  2. 石油, or kerosene. As much as you try not to, you spill gas everywhere. And the stoves rarely seem to burn it clean. Reminds me of my time staying in a very old Japanese house in Sendai. Though I burned a lot of fuel, the heat went right out through the roof. Perhaps if my bed was elevated I might have gotten some of that heat.
  3. 炊飯, or cooked rice. Open up your rice cooker sometime and put your face into it. You may become addicted to it. (Wait for the rice to finish steaming or your wife will complain that you’ve let out all the moisture.)
  4. 洗濯石けん. Laundry soap scent. Yet another chemical smell, but oddly puts me back in Japan. I don’t use scented laundry soap at home, so perhaps the American stuff is similar. When traveling I seem to hit the same scent every time. When you’re drying clothes in your hotel room it hits even harder.
  5. コンビニ店. It seems every convenience store (Family Mart, 7-11) standardizes their scent. Since you seem to go into one all the time, it becomes a smell you learn. Does it come from combining the oden (fish cakes in broth) with fresh magazine chemical smell? I don’t know how they do it.
  6. タバコ. Tobacco or cigarette smoke. Hey, they still smoke in restaurants in Japan. It’s not that the smell is unique to Japan, you just notice it in different places than you’re used to and it reminds you you’re not in your home country anymore.
  7. 廊下のカビか. Wander the closed air hallways of apartments in Japan and there’s some sort of stale odor. In Seattle apartment hallways, we end up with mildew and mold smells. There’s a similar unpleasantness going on in closed air spaces there, but probably with different mold species or something.
  8. 杉風呂. Cedar bathtubs. Every time I come across one, I decide I want one at home. I’ll probably never own one, though.

I’ll probably add more smells as I come to remember them.

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Japan 2014 – Part A

Due to birth of my second son, which allowed me to take off a lot of time from work, I got to travel in Japan for over 3 weeks.

Hitomi planned out the entire trip, and for this I am grateful. Logistically, a lot goes into planning a long vacation, especially with children. I was fortunate to attend a concert and get to go skiing on my own, despite having two children to take after.

Asakusa 浅草

Hitomi got us tickets on ANA, on the new Boeing Dreamliner 787. Despite the problems it has had, the Dreamliner was probably one of the most comfortable planes I’ve been on. We were seated in a bulkhead row, which allowed the use of a bassinet for baby Luca. Since the plane handles higher pressure better, there was little ear discomfort, which can happen especially with children.

The flight attendants (all women) were something else. Having children I guess gets you extra attention, I suppose, but I never had so many beautiful ladies so attentive. Leo kept busy with his videos. He got a special meal with lots of treats and toys. The food in general was better than most, although it still had that gelatinous quality of reheated food.

On our flight coincidentally was an old friend Max Pham who we met at from Sakura-con–and later helped with a special convention she helped put on for gothic-lolita fashion. Max was going to visit Tokyo Disneyland and various military resorts or bases in Japan with her family (husband, two children). I thought we might have a chance to meet up in Japan, but no, not with our schedules.

In Japan, it always feels late but it’s early. This time (spring) the sun was still out. Once we made it through immigration (I’m still a ‘visitor’ though my kids are Japanese) and customs, we take a local train (we didn’t make the ‘Skyliner’) on a Keisei railway. With our bags, half asleep kids we transfer to Asakusa station, and then check into this very narrow (though modern) hotel.

By narrow, I mean probably less than 15 feet wide, yet maybe 8 stories tall. Places in Tokyo are like this: Built to whatever width land is available. The room was very small, yet big enough for the four of us. For an American, the room (a double nonetheless) seemed like an impossibility, yet was equipped with every comfort (and even a decent bath).

Dinner was MOS Burger, which is was a favorite from back when I was a student in 1997-98 in Japan. The burgers are fairly small and fleshy, but the toppings and bun are the perfect proportion, plus the accompanying fries and drinks are always good. We’d be having nicer dinners the following few weeks, anyway.

We woke up at 5am or so. NHK (public TV) kept Leo and us okay until breakfast was obtainable. Breakfast was on the top floor, from a small room overlooking the river. The weather was cool and rainy, yet we see the (part of) Tokyo Skytree across the way.

The original plan was to see some cherry blossoms, old Asakusa and its surrounding area, and the Skytree. Then head to Odaiba for Anime Japan. With the rain and cool weather, the blossoms were not out yet, and instead the mall seemed like the place to be.

If you are a particular fan of a show in Japan, anime or not, there is something for you to buy. If you like toy trains or cars, there are shops for you. Yes, I’m not a mall guy, but the food and things are much more interesting in Japan. Plus, they really make it easy for breastfeeding mothers and diaper changing fathers.

Other than consuming, we also went to the Sumida Aquarium. The main exhibit was on jelly fish, circulating in some sort of round or donut shaped tanks, of course illuminated with colored lights. Then there were the penguins. Apparently the Japanese have more penguins in aquariums and zoos than any other country. There was of course a huge tank: My favorite part was scaring Leo with the big shark who would appear from time to time.

Odaiba

We took a very cool ferry to Odaiba, a man-made island where Tokyo Big Sight is located for Anime Japan. Hitomi fortunately reserved tickets beforehand, since it seems to be a popular ferry. The ferry was designed by Leiji Matsumoto and had narration (mostly regarding the bridges we passed under) by several of the cast of Galaxy Express 999.

Once we arrived, the weather was pretty good (windy by sunny) and Leo had fun tossing rocks into the water from the beach. Leo’s love of throwing things into the water is intense. Eventually we head out towards the hotel, taking the long way through the park along the water. I think to myself, what a nice place to be, though it’s not maybe so pleasant in summer.

On island are bicycles (even electric and family carrying) for rent, unfortunately Luca is too young to yet ride at three months. I feel like I must ride a bicycle, yet I will have to wait until next trip to do so.

Checking in to the Grand Pacific Le Daiba, there are plenty of bilingual (English) speaking staff on hand and once they figure we speak Japanese they do too. Hitomi hates getting the English map (which is “hard to use”) but one of the staff explains you can enjoy the flavorful way the Japanese translated the map text into English.

Anime Japan

The main convention, for those of you who have been to conventions in the U.S., was the equivalent of the industry you might see at a U.S. convention of the exhibit hall, but more in proportion with like E3. The old E3. Probably most impressive was the life-sized model of a Patlabor, loaded onto the truck like in the anime, and possibly used in the upcoming live action movie.

Besides industry booths: Several regions of Japan were promoting otaku tourism. Many manufacturers of goods and services (e.g. cakes) were selling wares. One of the most interesting was a booth selling ‘hanko’ (chops or signature seals) which can be customized with various anime characters, usable at ordinary banks for approving documents. There were a couple of kid play areas, one where you could get your photograph taken with various popular characters, or another where you could work on crafts.

A cosplay area was setup, complete with dressing area and costumes for rent. There were custom backdrops from various shows. Unfortunately I was too large for most of the costumes and Hitomi wasn’t keen on wearing one herself. We did have fun posing (especially at the end of the show when the crowds left) with the various backdrops.

The other part of the convention were events. Hitomi fortunately had the foresight to sign up for various events ahead of time. Events were the U.S. convention equivalent of panels, though more polished, where questions were arranged ahead of time. I managed to attend the Patlabor live action panel, where Mamoru Oshii, this very soft-spoken and diminutive old man, could barely be heard: Was he really a director?

Hitomi attended an event in the morning where Haruko Momoi and Koike (‘Aniki’) were re-united on stage to talk about their days as Under17. Personally, I have a great fondness of that time, of that unique moé music. I suppose anime fans might find that music a novelty today but really a lot of factors came together, at that time to make it really authentic and fresh. I really enjoyed seeing the event, but poor Hitomi is short and only got to hear it…

Speaking of which, the downside of a good event is too many people were there. The crowds (especially when ferrying around kids) make it tough to really enjoy things. Plus the noise was incredible. There was a retrospective theater (favorite anime from the past 50 years), and they showed the new Mushishi but the theater was part of the convention floor, and who can watch such a show with such noise?

The convention was over early. Around 5 or so on Sunday. It felt fairly short.

One of the highlights for food was an Oyakodon restaurant. They serve these very orange and big eggs in Japan, which you eat mostly raw. It wasn’t particularly kid friendly, but a nice meal. I appreciate that Hitomi let us go for it: She is very concerned about disturbing other diners. (There was a very kid friendly place, and pretty good food which we ate at earlier: Think ball pit where the kids can run around and the adults can watch and eat.)

Noitamina (animation spelled backwards) Shop: Late night anime seems to have been around forever, and despite being impossible for employed people to watch (do people just tape it?) continues to grow. Anyway, this shop has both goods and an interesting seating arrangement, sort of like a lecture hall overlooking a screen, but at night overlooks the Rainbow Bridge. (Seating I suppose is for singles or couples to sit side-by-side, not a bad idea.) There was a special menu inspired by Silver Spoon, which just had a live action adaption come out, and we ordered some things off of it.

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Luca

I started to write a few weeks back about the birth of my second son, Luca. Time has slipped and now we’re in a new year, and so slips the details.

The birth was so fairly ordinary, although all births are extraordinary it felt like it was already rehearsed a dozen times. I know from Hitomi’s point of view, it was excruciating and difficult but outwardly appeared to be done perfectly.

This time Hitomi had hired a doula, mostly for after birth care but the doula came (as part of her training) to help with the birth process. I sat on the sidelines, as ultimately the austere Japanese midwife and her managed the one hour process. I headed back from the hospital soon after and slept as Hitomi had yet another fitful night.

Leo has grown fairly attached to mama. Ilana, my part-time nanny, came to watch him during the night. We convened in the morning and headed to the hospital to visit. Did Leo understand what had happened? Ultimately, he ended up throwing a fit and throwing up reddish cranberry juice as I tried to take him back home.

Hitomi was going to have another day in the hospital. So now that I was off of work, I needed to watch Leo. Leo goes from feeling boredom to curiosity, grief to glee, dissatisfaction to fulfillment, so quickly I am jealous of his neurological wiring. But it is very wearing. I knew with the baby born, I was going to be faced with more time with Leo.

The baby had a name, Luca, which I was worried if the name would be good. It’s so feminine in Japanese chances are they’ll think he’s a girl. (Though same with Leo.) This isn’t a huge problem, though. Although cute (meaning in some sense, friendly and attractive) isn’t terribly revered in Western Culture, but in Japan cute is (maybe) not highly respected, but at least socially valuable. Thus Luca and Leo appear not cute in English, they do sound cute in Japan, and so I suppose they’re fitting for half Japanese.

Well then, I had the rest of the week off but now I was pretty much one-on-one with Leo. I took him to daycare as well as on Sunday to his daycare’s annual Christmas event. He was supposed to sing songs with his class but mostly was cheerful and hopped and clapped a lot on stage. In general I tried to wear him out physically. And so I didn’t spend much time with Luca at all, who (even now) spends most his time not more than a few feet away from Hitomi.

There was one scary event, that turned into a bit of a farce. Luca, a few days back from the hospital, had started to cough up blobs of blood (fresh and red, I might add). He had seemed fine otherwise, but it was concerning. After calling the hospital, I took him to the Northwest Hospital ER, which is a bit of a surreal experience having never been into an ER myself. To best describe it: A lot of people show up, then disappear, then show up again. Lots of the same questions are raised. Insurance data is checked and rechecked. Monitors get hooked up. Having a newborn, I heard a lot of ahhs and oohs from the female nurses. Then, having done a test determining blood in the stool, I’m asked to take him to Children’s Hospital, and I get to help the ambulance crew strap a baby car seat to a dolly.

His vitals seemingly fine, cynically, I feel like there’s no real emergency and I’m guessing the ambulance ride is costing a bit more (and taking longer) than me taking him in my Subaru. And then repeats the same sort of experience at Children’s, though at least there they have a bed more appropriate for somebody weighing 8 pounds. There’s also a heat lamp to keep him warmer. They run a few more tests, taking blood and x-rays, and I’m feeling tired and sorry for poor Luca who’s hungry and tired too.

Ultimately, the diagnosis is one of those things that some babies get after they’re born. And I’m simply asked to follow up with a doctor in a few days. Relived, I hire a taxi ride back to NW Hospital. I buy a scone and cappuccino from the in-house 24-hours-open Starbucks, and buzzed from caffeine, I’m also elated to take Luca home.

Christmas was also around the corner. I had about 2-3 hours to shop on Friday, and I sort of felt like I had outgrown malls or something. I wasn’t going to wander around and have presents for people jump out at me. I really do care for my family but I am not good at deciding what to buy.

Christmas itself went fine. On the 24th, the side of the family who can’t stand Tim (namely my sisters) showed up and we had a good meal. The 25th was with Tim and we had another good meal. I didn’t have a tree, but I have a good gas fireplace and that was cheer enough. And of course a newborn, which everybody got to hold, when it wasn’t shoved up Hitomi’s shirt. I handed out two pressure cookers (will they get used?) and although failing to wrap a single present a few other things as well.

One of the odd things was we still planned (after Christmas) to go to Mt. Baker. We had rented a cabin with two friends (Gary and Rebecca) who had a 3-month old baby. It was a bit of an odd thing doing a road trip with a newborn. (We had done a trip with 6-week old Leo, to Canada, even.) With a combination of not so great weather (warm and rainy), taking care of Leo, having to cook and cleanup, and being woken up by a newborn, it was a tiring way to spend a vacation. Still, being in the mountain snow and seeing old friends is nice, and I did indeed ski a few moments, on freshly waxed and edged skis no less.

The most reassuring thing about having a second child is you know you’ve dealt with the same things before and thus you have little to worry yourself with.

I know having two to deal with means less time to do the things I enjoy. An old boss of mine suggested that having children was monotonous. In some ways, yes, changing clothes and diapers, reading the same books over and over again, and taking them to daycare seems repetitive and frustrating. Before and after enlightenment carry water, chop wood. Meaning, your life is full (dull) of things to do, and rather think past them, fully experience those moments.

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