Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Neighbors

I've been in my Mitaka Apartment for ten weeks now and I really haven't met any of my immediate neighbors. A tad unsocial of me but when you think I've lived in the same house for eight years in Arizona and I don't know the names of my neighbors on either side, you can conclude that I'm not a shake-hands over the fence kind of guy.

I have given my neighbors in Arizona baseball tickets and we do say hello but that's about it. In Mitaka I've made some observations regarding my neighbors but only nodded to the guy living in the next apartment.

First, directly outside my door I've discover two frogs living in the bushes. Technically they may be toads but I don't know how to tell. One is bigger than the other so I think they are a mating pair therefore, there could be more of them. (The biggest one scared me one night when I was taking out the garbage.) My knowledge of frog reproduction includes a vision of tadpoles swimming in a pond and there isn't a pond out there that I can see. I doubt they drop the froglets in the dirt and hope they survive but nature is fairly creative when it comes to reproduction. I won't get into that here but I could.

Just over the fence from the frogs is a full size house. It is surrounded by other buildings and has a number of large trees in the yard. It is very dark back there. Even in August when the sun was shining so intensely the entire house was in shade. I haven't seen any people in the yard and at night I've never seen lights on in the windows. There is a mailbox and it isn't overflowing with abandoned mail so I think someone does live there.

The apartment above me was vacant up until a month ago then it seemed that a Celtic Clogging team moved in and based on the energetic thumping they produce I think they're from the heavy weight division. And there are no time limits. Who ever is up there likes to stomp around the tatamis at all times of the morning. Last night I heard them at 3:15.

Relief is in site though; I'm a curious guy so I checked the website to see when that unit would be available for rent again. Lucky me, I think it is in two days and I hear them cleaning the place. It sounds like suitcases rolling over the floor so I may have the quite restored fairly soon.

Shortly after arriving in Mitaka I heard some shuffling steps go by my front door. You know the kind of shuffling older people do when they aren't too sure of their balance. One day as I was leaving my place I heard the shuffling and it was my neighbor returning from the street. When he saw me he stopped in his tracks and stared. I said good morning and he grunted then raised his hand to indicate that he wanted to get by me and, that was how we met.

I've seen him walking to the 7Eleven store and the other morning when I was leaving he stepped out of his apartment wearing a jacket and tie while carrying a briefcase. We nodded to each other but based on his shuffling speed I turned and quick walked out to the street. Two days later I saw him working with the Gardening Maintenance Wagon that sits outside my side window so I think he is the live-in maintenance man.

Out the back window where the fence is just six feet away, there is another house. They have a dog who I now know is named, Omi. The problem is that Omi doesn't know his name is, Omi. He should, his owner yells it at him enough. Some things, and I haven't been able to nail down what they are, set this dog off into a fit of rapid fire barking that goes on for minutes at a time. If the owner is away at work they don't last too long but if he's home you hear, "Roof, Omi, Roof, Omi, Roof, Omi, Roof, Omi…" for what seems like an hour, especially at 1:00 in the morning.

To the street side of my apartment is another apartment building. After two weeks of quiet sleeping here in my apartment, one night I could hear a constant boink noise followed by some quick tapping or thudding sounds. I finally figured out it was the noise of a video game and the player was bound and determined to get through all the levels before he went to bed. His play was interrupted by a phone call so he must have put the game on hold and gone out to sit on his balcony because all of a sudden at 12:30 AM it was like he was sitting beside me and I had the windows closed.

Who ever he was talking to I'd like to meet because based on the uncontrollable loud and obnoxious laughing my neighbor was doing, the guy he was talking to must have been the funniest most entertaining guy in the world. The laughter went on for about an hour.

This happened a couple more times over the next two weeks and one night he had a friend with him so he had to repeat what the guy on the phone said and then the two of them lost it together.

I was looking out my window one day and saw a couple in the apartment directly across from mine. They appeared to be renovating so I don't think the noise was coming from that apartment. Might have been the one on the second floor.

Away from the apartment at the businesses out on the street I have gotten to know some of the owners. There is a flower shop just down the short alley to the street. My girlfriend purchased flowers there one day. I usually say good morning or hello to the lady inside. The clerks at the 7Eleven have gotten to know me as has the lady at the dry cleaners. Also, I've become a semi-regular at two izakays. One here in Mitaka and one in Kichijoji and I took my girlfriend to both of them. When I went back after she was gone both places asked me where she was and felt bad that I was alone.

I do stick out a bit here in the neighborhood. I haven't seen any other westerners walking around here so the shop owners who see me everyday recognize me. It's been comfortable here all along but now that I'm just two weeks away from leaving I'm thinking more about not being here. I've started planning what I have to do to make sure there isn't much left in the room the day I leave. It's daytime now and I can hear the people upstairs really giving their apartment a good cleaning. It makes me sad to think I'll be doing that soon.

I'm also thinking about the places I have to go to say goodbye and all this with the realization that I won't be coming back to this exact spot ever again. Next time I visit for this long I'll be in a different apartment.

The good thoughts right now are related to work. Work has been going good. My second novel is still with my editor but I'm expecting it soon. Because I don't have it back I've been working on my third novel and making pretty good progress. The development of characters and plot and then the redevelopment as you get deeper into the story are the most fun. You'd think sitting at a keyboard for hours at a time would be boring but your mind is busy in a creative way so you are entertaining yourself and you are completely in control.

I've also done some things related to promoting book one, A Wind In Montana. The Great Falls Tribune newspaper contacted me about the book review they are publishing. The story takes place in Great Falls so they wanted to ask me a few questions. I used to go to Great Falls to visit my grandparents and have vivid memories of the city. The reviewer from the Tribune asked when I lived in Great Falls and which High School I went to. She also asked if I was a chemist since my main character is involved with chemistry and a competition to win a prestigious chemistry scholarship.

I'd sent a copy of the book to the Tribune back in March so you never know how long it will take to get noticed. I've changed the book cover since I sent them a copy so I sent them a new image of the cover to print with their review.

I mentioned earlier that I published an Ebook version of my book and it has been accepted to go into Smashwords Premier Catalogue so it will be getting better exposure in all the major Ebook retail sites.

To help get things started I created a discount coupon for purchases directly from the Smashwords website. The coupon number is available in the caption under my book cover on the right side of the blog page and also on my author page at my publisher's website,

Next up I'm meeting the couple I'd met in Hawaii a few years back and we're going for Teppanyaki then off to the Edo-Tokyo museum. The next day I'm going late night fishing.

My friend from La Rochelle restaurant has lined up a friend of his to meet us in Yokohama. We take a late train down there, fish all night then take the first train back in the morning. I asked why we were going to go fishing at night and he said you catch more fish at night. It should be interesting. For days they have been predicting rain in that area during that night but they just changed the forecast and we should be alright.

I'll let you know what we catch and show you some pictures before and after the fish are cooked. If we cook it and if we don't catch anything my friend tells me there is a fish market nearby and we can catch what ever we want.

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