today smells like high summer. not exhausted, wilted summer, but the beginning of the real thing. the cicadas are still practicing, winding up and winding down, but the quiet will soon be destroyed by their endless piercing song, making the trees scream evilly. that's one of my first memories of my new home: angry, inpenetrable forest hanging over the road. now i know the forests become friendlier as the year wears on, and i see them as beautiful in their own unfamiliar way.
this was a notable week because i finally got my little engine-powered rollerskate, my car. i drove it back from a city two hours to the north, through the winding mountain roads that make me sick when i'm not driving, but guess what, i was! we arrived in kumano about ten, and i was beat but satisfied. it's actually really surreal to have my freedom again. i can go to the 24 hour market, i can pick up anything or anyone, and i can do it with air conditioning! yesterday i took my first drive alone, just to the bank, and it was like being a new driver all over again, but it was oh-so-amazing too. i flew by my students on bikes and smiled to myself. they can't see me, and yes, it's a relief. i drove kara and i to shingu for yakiniku, and we went shopping. like He-Man and She-Ra, I HAVE THE POWER!
as a final celebration of this year, kara, allison, and i went to osaka last weekend. it was the first time i had been there since my first visit to japan in 2001! we had planned on staying at a nice capsule hotel, but sadly all the ones we know that take women were full. i'll have to return in order to experience (and share about) that. we went to den-den town (den is short for denki, meaning electronic), the gamer nerd's paradise with old school/new school nintendo, busty manga heroines, and lots of glazed stares. yep, i'm a little bit of a nerd, so i enjoyed all the toys. there was even a sucker dispenser that's like gambling: you put your money in and then push a button to stop at the number of suckers you win. i got four!
for lunch we had, sweet deprivation, mexican food! every one of us was speechless in the presence of cheese and sour cream.
kara retired for the evening with her new super mario game, and allison and i got dolled up for a night on the town. do you know how long it's been since i really danced? at least a year! simply unacceptable. i wore a tube top as a skirt and a top made of shirt fiber that dissolves more and more each time i wash it. we were barely a block down the street before a cute japanese guy told us, "it's on me!" he wasn't creepy, so i harassed him back, and he laughed and stumbled on. a girl in his group noticed we were looking at a map and pointed us in the right direction of the bar we were looking for. the bar was cinquecentos, my heart's delight, a martini bar! the whole menu is 500 yen (only about $4.15), and as soon as we walked in, i felt welcomed and comfortable. it was a good mix of locals and foreigners, and the drinks were delicious. the cute bilingual boys behind the bar (one with an attractive brogue) were dancing and chatting, they seemed fun and real, and there wasn't a leering creep in sight. i wanted to be a local just so i could go back there more often.
we finally slipped off our stools and headed to the club, joule, a maze of stairwells with a dark mass of people heaving to the house music. in seconds we had wound our way near the front and joined in the sweaty, flashing light and motion. i danced to be young again. i danced to forget i'm a teacher. i danced to remember who i am in the context of the world. i danced for sheer exhileration. we spent our drink tickets wisely on water and stuck closely together. eventually we were manhandled by some forward japanese chaps (there's a first time for everything), but we shoved them away and they didn't return. finally at the brazen hour of 4:30 (even i was shocked!) we tripped home. only in japan can two ladies walk home undisturbed before dawn on the city streets. yes mama, i was still keeping an eye out. needless to say, we had a very quiet trip home the next day.
osaka is also home to this eye-catching love hotel, rose lips. euphemistic? you decide.