Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Things You Leave and Take.

The little things you leave behind can be worrisome. For the last 15 years that I lived in Calgary I went to the same barber. He gave me great haircuts; he understood my hair. When I arrived in Arizona I was concerned that I wouldn’t find someone who could cut my hair as good as Frank. Now, as I prepare to leave the country for a period longer than I can go between haircuts, history repeats itself.

I tend to go too long between haircuts but I’ve never gone 12 weeks. The long wait comes from when I was a teenager. I wanted long hair and avoided the barber as long as possible. One summer I was grounded until I got a haircut. I was only allowed to run errands for my mother or go to the used book store. Peer pressure finally saved my summer for me but my friend’s mothers weren’t forcing them to get haircuts so it was no sweat to them if I got a trim.

As an adult I wait a little too long because I’m an adult and I can decide for myself when to get a haircut. It’s a meaningless form of rebellion against the strict grooming code that I suffered as a teen; like some nights Woody Allen has cake for his dinner or Jerry Seinfeld says he can now eat a whole bag of cookies before dinner if he likes.

My Scottish barber Frank had lived in Canada for over 20 years when I met him but he still had a thick Scottish accent. He was great to talk to, we had many interesting discussion but I will only tell you one here. It is food related so it kind of goes with what’s to come in this blog, Japan travels and a lot of food.

Frank one day asked me if I ever made ‘Chip Buddies’. I said no and asked what they were and he gave me the recipe. Take potatoes and make French fries. Put them on white bread and slather them with butter. Add another piece of white bread on top and you have a ‘Chip Buddy’.

I’m sure I sat there in shock thinking of the cholesterol bomb that Frank had just described. Frank went on to tell me that he and his family would get a craving for ‘Chip Buddies’ and would call friends, also from Scotland, to come over for dinner.

Now I’m sitting there thinking, theses chip buddies must be good if you get excited enough about eating them that you call over friends and they get excited enough to come. So, I want to try one. It never happened. Still today I want to try one but I don’t know if my blood chemistry is willing to make the sacrifice.

Moving away from Frank to a land of unfamiliar barbers meant that I spent a year trying a number of different barbers and never found one I was happy with. While complaining about this at work one day my boss said, “Why don’t you try my barber?” How do you say no to that? If you do, you imply that your boss has a bad haircut.

I went to his barber knowing that she could hack out large swaths of hair leaving an uneven cubist interpretation of a haircut and I would have to go back to the office swearing it was the best haircut I ever had. Luckily, she gave me a good haircut and I’ve been going to her for the past 15 years that I’ve lived in Arizona.

Now, I’m leaving her behind and I’m worried about the first haircut I’m going to receive when I’m in Japan for 3 months. My previous trips fell well within the time gap between haircuts so it hasn’t been a worry in the past.

By coincidence this week's episode of, Begin Japanology, on TVJapan was about Japanese hairstyles. One segment dealt with going to a barber and I'm glad I saw it. First they cut your hair, then they give you a shampoo. The sink folds out of the counter under the mirror and you lean forward to get your hair washed. After the wash and dry, the barber gives you a neck and back massage; all for one fee, about $30. It would have freaked me out if I had not seen it first, now I know what to expect .

Timing the conveniences prior to a 3 month trip is tricky. The other growth control issue I have is the lawn. It’s a bigger issue because I do it weekly. It could be stretched easily so my girlfriend will have to decide how she wants to handle it. The lawn I’m going to try not to think about. Medicine is another concern. I take an over the counter heartburn control medication and I’m planning to take a 3 month supply. I just hope that many pills in my luggage don’t raise any suspicions at Japanese customs.

The first full day of our first trip to Japan in 2005 we traveled to a smaller city to attend a taiko drum concert. We arrived early and my daughter’s boyfriend asked if we could find a drug store because he had heartburn. We’d brought anti-acid tablets but left them back in the hotel so off to the drug store we went. In this small city the people didn’t speak much English and we had difficulty explaining what we were looking for so we set off looking at the boxes on the shelves hoping we would find something that indicated the product was for stomach ailments and, we did find that section.

There were many boxes and a number of them had pictures of internal organs such as the stomach but we couldn’t determine what ailment was being depicted. There was one which had some arrows which seemed to show the direction in which things should flow or would flow and we concluded making things flow wasn’t what we were looking for. What if it was a laxative or the Japanese equivalent to ipecac? The young lad may miss some of the concert. Without knowing the expected results of the medication he chose to suffer.

I’m making sure I have the right medications. My heartburn pills, some ibuprofen and that’s about it.

I also have to think about the other toiletries, like deodorant and toothpaste as well. How much of that do you take? I don’t know the rate of consumption I have with those items. Also books. I’m taking some of my language books but what about books to read? I have a nook (recommended, that or a Kindle) and can take a number of books in that form so maybe that’s not an issue. I’m only taking one travel type bag on wheels plus a carry-on bag for my computer. For a 3 month trip I can’t load the bag with books like I usually do.

A couple of updates for you. I checked on the apartment and it still doesn’t show as being available in August. Starting in early July my friend and I will be trying to get a better picture of the availability. The other update is related to the money. My bank said it would not send me yen via FedEx so I will probably carry a little more cash than I had planned and trust that the banking machine will accept my debit card.

A little tidbit for you about Japan. The other day I was reading an article about the law in Japan and the writer mentioned that in Japan it is illegal to be rude to someone in public. The Law was created in 1907 but left written in archaic Japanese until the mid 90s. I don’t think the law has anything to do with the fact that the Japanese people are extremely polite. I think they figured out that things are better when polite.

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