December 28, 2009

More Rock n' Roll

About the rock…
In December 2009, at age 40, I became a rock star (in my own mind).
Backstory: I occasionally sing along to songs that are playing on my iPod as I stroll into the office, chipper-early-morning-guy that I am. Several months ago, a colleague, having heard my classic rock warblings, asked me to sing a few classic rock songs at the division’s year-end party with an ad-hoc band, called SKY-B, comprised of my workplace co-workers. I snapped
that invite up before he could finish his sentence, already channeling my inner Elvis Costello.

Long story short, on December 18, I sang "Let It Be", "Summertime Blues" (The Who’s “Live at Leeds” version) and "Jumping Jack Flash", thoroughly relishing the experience. I’m not sure if the audience enjoyed the spectacle, but nobody threw fruit at me. And since I have no shame, here’s the picture:
...and the roll:
The Rising Family is thinking about buying a bigger car next summer. To test drive a likely candidate, we rented a Mazda3 compact for a half-day’s family fandango in the countryside outside Hiroshima. And that was a great idea, because Naomi, Elena and I all fell in love with the car. Comparing the Mazda3 to our current set of wheels, our beloved 660 cc Mazda Laputa minicar, is like the difference between a cheeseburger and a slice of white bread. The bread does everything it is supposed to do—plain, dependable and economical. But a cheeseburger is irresistible, savory and always satisfies even though you know it is bad for you. The Mazda3 is a double cheeseburger in the fun-to-drive category and has the cabin space we will need soon. I was excited and frequently grinning during the drive, and my lovely passengers were equally enthusiastic in their praise for the car.

We drove out into the countryside beyond Hiroshima, first heading up Highway 30 via Hatsukaichi to Yoshiwa. In city traffic, the 3 was good, if predictable. Soon there were was fewer cars clogging up the country roads in the rural hinterlands close to the Mominoki Forest Park. I could allow the 1.5L engine to growl a little more out here, and force the tires to grip the road a little tighter on the twisties that carved the way to the top of the small mountains.
It was gratifying to spend time in a car where the metal’s performance meets the glowing rhetoric. Specifically, I can say without hesitation that the Mazda3 is truly a fun-to-drive vehicle. On the return leg into the city, the ladies both fell asleep and I could thoroughly indulge myself, just grooving to the Doors’ “L.A. Woman”, a great driving album/CD of thrumming blues songs to match the highway motion. And, my friends, there is nothing like hugging the winding roads on a warm December day with the strains of Morrison crowding your thoughts and commanding your fingertips on the steering wheel.

It’s been a great winter vacation so far!

December 25, 2009

Classic Christmas

I think this year we firmly embedded some Rising Family Christmas™ traditions. We simply had a wonderful, family-centered day filled with laughter and the yuletide spirit.

Elena, fast approaching three years old, recognizes the importance of Christmas and Santa Claus. (You can’t escape it—in Hiroshima the merciless marketing starts in stores after Halloween). To give her exposure to the spiritual side of Christmas, we went to church on Christmas Eve. I also pitched December 25 as Jesus’ birthday, which seemed to work.

By early morn, presents had mysteriously appeared under the handsomely decorated mini-tree. We did a little shopping during the day, followed by a Christmas dinner feast. Nota bene: it isn’t easy getting gravy mix in Japan. In other words, I did my best to recreate the happy atmosphere I remember from my childhood in the Great White North. And recapture the excitement, warmth and some of the spirituality of Christmas for the Rising Daughter.

Morning: groggy-but-game Evening: ready for more opening action

And in the St. Nick of time (groan), my Mom and Dad’s HUGE package arrived on the evening of December 25. Talk about great timing! Thank you folks for your thoughtful gifts. Notice that the package (9.7 kgs) is only a bit lighter and smaller than Lady E. herself.

Merry Christmas to you all.