December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

From my nutbar family to you & yours, a very Merry Christmas.

I continue to write this blog to help bridge the distance between us and our family and friends. I hope that sometimes it has succeeded in entertaining you, no doubt sometimes it has failed, but I will keep trying to stay in contact, especially on important days like today.

We’ve had a terrific year, with new beginnings and experiences, and so much to be grateful for.
So we wish you all a wonderful day filled with joy and laughter with your loved ones.

December 19, 2011

Pre-Christmas Patter

We’re gearing up for the holidays.
- Christmas cards sent? Check--but they might be a bit late.
-  Kids excited? Check. Marina is not quite with the full Yuletide program yet, and she loves to remove the shiny, colorful bulbs from the tree and place them in her secret hiding spots, like a squirrel. I’m sure we’ll be finding them until summer.
- Christmas tree set up and adorned? Check. Presents are not under the tree yet because we are an id-dominated family; kids (and, truth be told, dad) can’t wait until December 25!

Lady E. revealed a budding Gothic side to her creativity. She proudly presented us with some handmade decorations for the tree which seem to have taken a dark turn.
Look closely: we noted that black and white are her primary colors here, and Naomi says she thought that Elena said “I can see dead people” when she gave us these new ornaments.

There is also a Tim Burton influence on the Joker smile of the other one. What is Crazy E. trying to tell us through her decorations?

Marina, not to be outdone, has recently been waking us with absolute banshee shrieks in the middle of the night. This is not your ordinary crying due to nightmares—these are 30-minute-long, ear-numbing screeches that underscore her toddler anguish. So far we have not succeeded in alleviating these bouts of wailing through long hugs, whispers of support or other parental tricks. Nope. We suck it up, wait it out. ‘Tis Marina’s season to be shrill.

If the promise of Christmas is a mental vacation from some of life’s wonderful tedium, the holidays also open a psychological bay window. Let the bats fly out, my Rising Daughters, and happy holidays to all!

December 2, 2011

Opinion Art for the Festive Season

Dear RD readers:

You're a smart bunch. I like you. That's why I'm sharing this opinion art from the NY Times' Brian McFadden called The Strip. It's an unfailingly funny and incisive take on the times. Just click on the graphic to enlarge for easier reading.

Courtesy of the NY Times
It's important to keep a sense of humor in life and smile as we head into the Christmas holidays.
If you're interested, there's more of The Strip here.

November 29, 2011

New Narcotic: Blue Fall

a. Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance.
b. The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something.

Imagine yourself suspended 107 meters in the air, legs and arms dangling in the abyss that lies only inches away. Then, abruptly you’re hurtling toward the pavement below, the horizon a blur, and the only sounds are the air rushing past your ears—and your screams. I have ridden this Blue Fall to bliss at least seven times so far.

What I am referring to is an amusement park ride called the Blue Fall, at the Sea Paradise amusement park outside Yokohama.

This summer we bought a season pass to Sea Paradise because we thought we’d come a few times, see the aqua exhibitions, the aquarium, rides and other attractions, and the pass made it very economical. Lady E and M are easily entertained here, and, it seems, so am I. The Blue Fall tower caught my eye from the start – love at first fright? – and I soon found that I had gotten far more than I bargained for. I’d found a new addiction!

Click on the YouTube segment below and you’ll get a taste of the visceral euphoria induced by this ride.

We’ve been to Sea Paradise five times, and with each visit I clamor for more opportunities to strap into the Blue Fall chairs and drop, baby! It is such an intense rush that it has become an addiction. I’ve yet to experience anything like it, except for maybe skydiving.

The Rising Daughters can only watch this spectacle for now. When my folks came to visit recently, Naomi and I did a drop together (she is far better at handling the terrors of acrophobia than me) and I truly hope that seeing us reveling in the managed extremes of life –even for just a few seconds – will leave an positive, “go get ‘em” impression on the girls. Time will tell.

I recommend this ride or similar ones to anyone out there craving a thrill, because in those 5-10 hair-raising seconds that you are plummeting toward the Earth, everything in your life becomes crystal clear and focused (as you’re screaming). I adore the irony of a voluntary free fall mimicry of death just to feel truly alive.


November 18, 2011

Sometimes Hell on Rails

The Rising Family moved to Yokohama this year primarily because of my job change. The shift to this larger, more crowded and congested city has altered the way I commute to my workplace. I’d gotten used to the freedom of going to work by motorcycle/scooter, and with a new life in Yokohama I’ve had to embrace a different way to commute. Now I take the train and am more governed by schedules.

Sometimes, traveling by train feels like the stereotypical image of Tokyo—people crammed like sardines in the subway tin can. Other times, the stark, stinky reality is that those stereotypes can be true, especially during the 0800 rush hour. Nasty.

I am a salaryman! I must commute!
Before we decided to live in Yokohama, Naomi and I discussed the distance from our prospective house to my office building, how much time it would take, and of course, how close was the nearest train station. Once I’d started my job, I also began my transformation into Public Transport Commuting Man. A daily commute by car was not an option in this city (no parking, prohibitively expensive, inevitable soul-crushing traffic snarls) and an invigorating motorcycle ride was no longer feasible. Ergo—train ahoy! Here’s a rundown of my typical daily commute to the office, and -- once the workday is done – how I return home.

- Leave house. Board trusty scooter, and avoid slamming into lumbering buses due to caffeine deficit. Park near train station. (Decision point: Apply manly mousse to avoid helmet head hair?)

- Merge with streams of dark-suited comrade salarymen, carefully coiffed salary ladies, comparatively docile junior and high school kids, still-drunk party reptiles going home to sleep, and random persons, all streaming at full speed toward the same station entrance.

- Navigate escalators and stairs
Escalators or stairs up/down have their perils. You have to stay on the left side if you want to ride, lest you be body-boarded from behind by some frantic commuter barreling toward their train that always seems to be leaving in one minute. Or you join the moving fray on the right side. It’s a zero-sum game. If you take the stairs, bodies are forced closer and closer. One’s footsteps must be carefully placed to avoid touching others at all costs or cause old ladies to fall over. Personal space is treasured, because it soon disappears as your nose gets thrust into someone else’s armpit in the onboard body crush.

- Wait for train. Try to decipher all the different types of trains: Local (stops at every station); Rapid (stops at every five stops); Express (damn thing never stops at my station). Avoid spit or puke on the train platform, and avoid embarrassment and potential litigation by inadvertently boarding the “Women Only” cars.

- Shuffle into the yawning mouth of the train. In the morning rush hour, the people pressure gradually increases until you are crammed up against some stranger: the raffish-looking old guys smelling of last night’s binge; the resigned-to-fate college student; the odd person (both sexes, I might add) with nefarious breath and questionable hygiene, and the occasional (and surprisingly uncomplaining) infant toted by weary-looking moms —yep, I’ve gotten to know all types! More intimately than I prefer, I should add.

One legal note: to absolutely avoid being accused of being a pervert/groper (known as a chikan in Japan) I devised an intricate posture of having my soft briefcase looped across my chest, one hand clutched in a hand strap, with the other arm folded in front. I can rest my chin, and rest assured that both hands are up in the air, clearly visible to all. I jest, but groping is a serious problem and I just avoid it by doing this intricate maneuver.

- You may ask: Once the train starts rolling, how do you pass the time?
a) Read work documents, multitask? Yeah, right. Fuggedaboutit.
b) Think about life? Not before coffee.
c) Look around? Must…avoid….eye…all...costs.
d) Smell the fragrant odors that abound (especially in summer). No thanks. Repugnant for the most part, even with Japanese people, who are a very clean and fastidious lot.
e) Scheme about world domination? On occasion.
f) Relax? Read a book or a magazine? Fuggedaboutit, Part II.
g) Talk out loud (to myself) in English? Now, that would really freak everyone out in the chatterless train Cone of Silence. Hmm…“give the crazy gaijin some space….”
h) That leaves my iPod.
Personal devices were perfected in Japan because these kinds of urban commutes naturally created the environment for Sony engineers to invent the Walkman for their own sanity. The technology has evolved, and I use my iPod to keep up with news from home via podcasts. When I am really bone-ass tired, I flip to some music to get my juices flowing before the workday starts.

Once the train reaches my stop, I, together with all the other conscious passengers, are purged through the doors and I join an even greater sea of people trampling toward the office building district in downtown Yokohama. Apparently Yokohama Station is the fifth busiest train/subway interchange station in Japan, serving about two million passengers per day—the vast majority of them taking the same trains, at the same time, that I do.

Is commuting the worst part of the day? No, like everything in life, it just depends on how many painkillers you take.

The commute home? I sleep. Standing up.

October 30, 2011

The ‘Rents Return

The ‘Rents Return
When Lady E. was born in 2007 my parents soon visited to meet their new grandchild. With Marina joining the Rising Daughter party last year, there was little doubt that they would again be making the trip over the Pacific. We were not disappointed: in late September/early October, we took advantage of the pleasant early fall weather in Yokohama for another episode of “Ottawa Invades, Part II: The Return of the “Rents.”
I love these impossibly-buffed-and-polished purkiura prints!
Like many families that live a long way from home, we use Skype and other technologies to help bridge the distance, both emotional and temporal. Marina, still getting used to the whole standing, walking, uttering-first-words thing, was clearly impressed with seeing the computer screen people in the flesh, jet lagged as they were. Elena, being more experienced in these matters, and a little more immersed in Japanese than rapid-fire-Ontario-speak, took more warm-up time. But by the second day in, while I was away at work, they had an uber-grandparents’ day and took the grandkids to the zoo.  The bonding was well underway. All’s swell, right?

Well, yes and no. You see, their arrival created quite a stir in our inclusive neighborhood. Suffice it to say that the local kids who hang with Lady E. near our house are talkative, but they met their match with “Canada Nana.” And despite the obvious language differences, the local kids and my Mom chatted for hours and hours outside on our tiny front lawn.

I did secure some time off, and naturally we went exploring in the city: Yokohama’s famous Chinatown, some local stores near our house, and the world renowned “Taco Bitch” taco shop. Nah, I’m just messing with you: Dad and I just both get a kick out of the shop’s name—another wacky English episode so common here in Japan. Great artwork, though.

So we proceeded to cram in as much activity, breaking of bread, and general merriment as we could within the ten days they were here. That included a trip out to Sea Paradise, a nearby amusement park that also has an aquatic center with a dolphin show and other attractions, including a good roller coaster and other more kid-friendly rides. I cajoled Mom into going on the pirate ship ride—doesn’t she look like she’s having fun?
So my parents, although they ARE grandparents, are not boring and still pack a lot of energy. Dad is increasingly Eastwood-esque, too, he looks like he stepped out of Gran Torino, for crying out loud. This prompted a week-long series of bad Eastwood impersonations with a Japan theme from yours truly.

All things told, we really had a terrific week and my parents were great sports, stress buffers, family historians and watchdogs for the grandkids while Naomi and I could catch a break here and there. Although we missed the presence of Steve-O on this particular trip, it was a splendid visit.

September 30, 2011

Sayonara to Setsuden

Setsuden, meaning actions to reduce energy use at the office and at home, was the buzzword that set our lifestyle parameters for summer 2011. The aftermath of this spring’s Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactor imbroglio left residents around Tokyo and in northern Japan no choice but to power down or face potential blackouts during the summer. Government-mandated setsuden policies implemented for the July-September period resulted in remarkable efforts to cull electricity consumption during peak use hours and leave a cushion in the aggregate power supply. Lights were shut off; average room temperatures rose to uncomfortable levels; dress became downright Panamanian, wrapped around Japanglish terms such as Super Cool Biz; slightly Orwellian graphics of aggregate electricity use were omnipresent on TV and in public spaces. The buzz in the air wasn’t coming from busy transformers, it was the constant, collective anxiety over potential power shortages.

The Rising Family did its part: I worked Saturdays and Sundays this summer, which shifted Thursdays and Fridays to being my “weekends” –but not Lady E’s – and we only flicked on the air conditioner when absolutely necessary, among other changes. I didn’t much like the childcare implications of the changed working days…but I did think that having to really consider my energy use patterns was a philosophical challenge that resulted in behavioral changes for the better.

However, I am not sad to see it end. To celebrate its demise, I am going to offer a Bukowski-esque take on post-setsuden:

the further away I am from the summer setsuden reality, the better I feel
even though I write about the great power down, the further away I am from it, the better I feel
two more megawatts is beautiful, as long as more ice cubes appear without retribution
I like being better lit and cooler
daylight’s getting shorter, but that allows more juice for life
no more piercing LEDs on my desk, no more half-lit drug stores, sticky store clerks
I do not like the harvest of night’s neon glory
I don’t like the reduced hum of machines
I don’t like lanolin-like sweat covering every surface of my cubicle
I don’t like rescheduling three months
I don’t like the fear of future progress curtailed
I don’t like the idea of trimmed capacity, in its every meaning
Summer’s heat is behind us, pushing us forward to a brighter end to 2011
And so it should be.

September 16, 2011

Feeling Grungy

Today, the New York Times published a retrospective on “Seattle, Post Grunge,” some 20 years after Nirvana became a household name in North America. A multimedia recounting of the early 1990s Seattle sound was part of this look back at grunge rock’s stripped-down, high-energy aesthetic.

Courtesy of NY Times online
Key words: “retrospective”, “look back”…as I write this, I am reluctantly feeling my 40s. I even did the obligatory quiz to test my knowledge of grunge rock and passed with flying colors. Still, being a fan of the music that was popular during my university days no more made me a hardcore member of the grunge movement than it made anyone who bought LP records in the 1960s “real” hippies. I’m far too callow to commit to an artistic format that deeply; I just liked the raw intensity of the genre. (Still do.) I was in Seattle for a weekend adventure in mid-August 1990, although to my eternal regret it was to see a Mariners game at the Kingdome...arggh, what was I thinking?

The Times article on grunge was charming and I suspect it will resonate with my peers for the same reason I’m writing this post: it’s neat to see how one type of music ties a group of diverse people of similar age together at a point in their lives and, now, how the same music triggers 20-year-old-memories.  

For the record: the best grunge CD of all time is Pearl Jam’s “Yield” even though it was released in 1998, long after grunge music and the Seattle sound had lost its allure with the media.

I am truly looking forward to the day when the Rising Daughters are old enough to be subjected to the likes Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley on our car stereo. To the day when they scream from the back seat, “Turn that old crap music off, Dad.” I promise you, I will smile.

August 29, 2011

The Summer Metamorphosis

I am the bug formerly known as the author of this blog. In the first week of August, the relentless heat caused my skin to become dry and scaly. I woke up one morning from uneasy dreams, my vision slightly blurred and distorted, and soon found myself outside, chirping, hanging about on branches, and avoiding the sun. I had been transformed into a gigantic insect with a gin & tonic in my feeler.

This change has caused some consternation within the Rising Family, but so far, so good—we’re still as busy with family fun as ever. My new tentacles make it hard to type, though, explaining in part why this month's post is so late.

So what have we been doing this past month? The usual…

- Spending hours and hours in the holodeck, sedated by the limits of the imagination.

- Communicating with the dolphins and taunting them with food.

- Being duped by some of dumbest birds on the planet

-And cooling off bug-daddy in the sizzling heat.

I think I was the first ever man-sized pest to view a Japanese professional baseball game
..and drive a Tesla Roadster!

- Here you see me perched on the human host's shoulder, enjoying a light read.

Ah, the bug days of summer! Since I have only a few weeks to live, I tell ya, I’ve been enjoying the time off from the office.

July 31, 2011

Another day, another earthquake

Copyright Universal Pictures, 1974

At around 0400 this morning my eyes popped open because the room was shuddering, and our house was lurching slightly, groaning. It was yet another earthquake tremor shaking the greater Tokyo area—and with it, my sleeping family. After an internal debate on whether I should get up and do something or not, I grew bored by the jostling and, as it tailed off, went back to sleep. The kids dozed right through it. This was yet another tremor that teased us about The Big One to come: ZZZZZzzzzz.

I never thought I would write this, but it rings true: like bad weather, crime, taxes, or other unpalatable facts of life beyond our individual control, earthquakes are something you get used to, and quickly get over, as you carry on with your day (or night). In other words, we do not negotiate with the terror tremors of Mother Nature.

I have not forgotten about the 20,000 people who lost their lives or are missing due to the horrible earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11. That event has had such a tremendous impact on all residents of Japan that one can never forget it. Nevertheless, as a Canadian I had not experienced any major quakes while growing up in the Great White North. Even after moving to Hiroshima, because it is not situated on a major fault line, I rarely experienced any major tremors.

Yokohama, though, is located right where several tectonic plates meet (thank you, high school geography class). The Great Kanto earthquake hit the Kanto plain around Tokyo – including Yokohama – in 1923, and killed over 100,000 people. I knew that and all sorts of other empirical facts when we were considering moving here. Yet about 35 million people choose to live in this region, despite the threat of the Big One coming at any time. Do we have a death wish?

No, we do not. When I first arrived in May, with people still leaving the area fearful of either a major aftershock or radiation contamination due to the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident, I asked one of my co-workers, a native Yokohamian, about the threat of a major earthquake, and he replied: “It is what it is. You get used to them. I don’t even notice much anymore. So will you.”

Source: CNN
I work through tremors at the office. I sleep through tremors at night. After only a few months living here, I have gotten used to these seismic serenades. So even when a major earthquake happens nearby, like today’s 6.4 magnitude quake that struck about 185 km north of Tokyo and which we certainly felt down in Yokohama, there is a certain cavalier “whatever” attitude of normalcy to it. My only wish is that Mother Nature would have the courtesy not to have the next big one occur in the middle of the night. There is a limit to what I can tolerate.

July 21, 2011

House of the Moaning Sun

I live in an average borough smack-dab in the middle of Yokohama. These days my eyes pop open around 0500. There are two reasons for this. One is that my neighbors have embraced rural folks' tendency to retire to bed early and get a fresh start to the next day. And I do mean a REALLY fresh start. The second is there is no snooze button on my two Rising Daughters.
Since I graduated from high school, I’ve tended to be an early worm. I’m the hyperactive, annoyingly cheerful guy you encounter in the morning whose eyes you want to claw out when I whistle and lay out a hearty “good morning.” The karma has followed me here. The neighborhood we live in is a concentration of houses that are about ten years old. The residents are friendly and many have children just a few years older than Elena. It’s best described as a kid-friendly neighborhood with little vehicle traffic. That’s a major plus for us.
Nevertheless, the urban planning is less-than-a-plus. All these beautiful, modern homes have about four meters space between them. This is the reality of a densely packed city in the Tokyo-Yokohama region—I’m about to whine about that because it literally comes with the territory. One difference between Hiroshima and Yokohama is that here, houses and businesses have window shutters. What is unique about my neighborhood is that more than a few neighbors are brazen early risers. It’s very warm now, even overnight (averaging mid-70s F/ high-20s C) so the Rising Family sleeps with our windows open. This is to our peril, because around 0515 or so, the rackety clack clack clack of adjacent houses' shutters never fails to wake us up. So now I’m living the life of a farmer in metropolis.
Fait accompli: it’s time for me to rise from the futon. Problem is, Marina soon follows, and somewhat later, her slacker older sister emerges from her slumber and we therefore kickoff the day. One bonus of living here is that I can get US Armed Forces Network (the ever-chipper Eagle 810 AM) radio to jolt the morning forward with English news and music, an amenity I never bothered with in Hiroshima even though radio stations are widely available online.

The bookend to this morning protocol is the evening’s “closing of the shutters” ritual, which tends to happen after sundown. This is the signal for everyone to be quiet. It's another cue of conformity that enables this small part of the community -- and the 3.6 million souls that make up this city -- to live in harmony despite a densely packed urban space.

One of my co-workers told me this shutter phenomenon is a local habit which has been carried over from decades past--an architectural legacy with the added value of hedging against the rare case of burglary. There really is no pressing need for the shutters, in my opinion, but like a lot things we humans do, rituals become habits, and habits frame the day. That’s why I frequently see many sunrises of late. At least there are no cows to milk.

June 26, 2011

Steve-O: I, Graduate

What words can be used to salute a talented young man, recently convocated from university and setting out into the uncharted waters of the future, which go beyond the heartfelt-but-clichéd chestnuts of “you did it,” “the future looks bright,” and a quote from Robert Frost?
- You can say congratulations, and mean it.
- You can say they cram information into younger folks these days, but you have always had your own unique wisdom and adult dignity.
- You can say the parchment isn’t half as important as the knowledge you got from the truly great books, friends, experiences, and the invaluable self-discovery of those four years. Those you will have for the rest of your life.

This is my shaggy-dog version of a sincere “attaboy” to my younger brother. One of the crappy trade offs of living overseas is that you frequently cannot be on hand when members of your family back home experience one of life’s important milestones. All I can do from here is write about how proud and happy I am –  as is our entire family – of his latest achievement.

Now, I can’t go this far in buttering Steve-o’s muffin without also invoking the other family characteristic that accompanies praise—a dash o’ smartass to keep it real. So, wipe that cheese-eatin’ grin off your face, and no more power naps, because you're in The Show now.

All the best, my brother, in everything you set your heart on doing in life.

The Hammer in Yokohama

May 31, 2011

Online Yes-Man

I was thinking about a storyline for this post involving the resurrection of the Cookie Monster toy in our home now that Marina is transfixed by it. She is really interested in the Cookie Monster’s repetitive musings—“me like cookies”—over and over again as she develops her language skills.  Anyhow, I seriously considered painting a swastika on the Cookie Monster’s forehead in an effort to contrast this very mundane infant’s toy with the horrific image of a totally deranged Charles Manson that inevitably comes to mind. This would give you, dear reader, something to gnaw on while I natter on about my kids. But, I didn’t do it this time. I pulled back. And for a day or so now, I have been asking myself why.

The answer to this is that I am somewhat leery of putting too much out there into the digital ecosystem which may be perceived the wrong way. Truth is I get these odd ideas of juxtaposing the normal with the utterly abnormal all the time. But with the ubiquitous nature of the online world, anyone can view this. And that means anyone could take the humorous intent a completely different way, and that may backfire. My humor is an acquired taste. So, rather than take that chance, I figured that, for once, I’ll take the road that is most taken and play it safe.
Is this a sign of maturity? Naw. Life is more fun when you sporadically just do things and see what happens. When it can have implications for the entire family, though, that’s another story.

May 20, 2011

Relocated. Revitalized. Really.

Yikes, it’s been more than a few weeks since my last missive and our vantage point is now vastly different. We’re living in a new city now—Yokohama, just south of Tokyo. Apropos to my new home, I experienced two earthquake tremors today; my co-workers laughed when I looked a bit skittish as the building swayed. Apparently, “you get used to it.”

We moved here at the end of April and the action hasn’t stopped since then. Finishing the last few days of my previous job, contemplating the 5,414 days I spent living in Hiroshima, and then being catapulted into the maelstrom of setting up a new homestead in a new city— I felt like a youthful Emilio Estevez circa Repo Man: just forward motion without much thought of future consequences. Amid all the harried moving-in activity, Jerry Garcia’s apparition appeared beside the foldaway lawn chairs in our 10 ft. x 10 ft. front lawn, and welcomed us to the new neighborhood. Who would’ve thunk it?

Part of the move from Hiroshima to Yokohama entailed the retirement of our old TV, a huge old box which took a duo of movers to haul out, and cost me about $75 in recycling fees. It was replaced by a new 32-inch flat screen which gives me headaches and already sports telltale infant thumbprints. But the upside was that this consumer binge has been beneficial to the kids’ morale. In their eyes, I went from a modest Average Performing Father to the Greatest Dad Who Has Ever Lived. Super-sized cartoons now rule the roost in our happy, significantly larger, home.

I am not certain of the etymology of the venerable term “kickass.” But I do claim copyright for kickass², because the Rising Family is now engaged in our very own version of the Apollo program in terms of a new lifestyle. I assure you, dear Reader, we are kicking ass-squared in our new city, new home, and new job.

Marina turned one year old recently. She’s adorable and developing new skills, new balance, and a new appetite for learning every day. We just adore her and wished her a wonderful first birthday, and a lifetime of equally happy years to follow. I’m gushing, but I’m allowed: I’m a dad.

She also took her first steps on April 21.
And so it goes.

April 11, 2011

Spring Forth: Le Quattro Stagioni

Spring has sprung: my neighborhood is expressing rebirth, renewal, change and growth. The cherry blossoms are blooming and so is my outlook on life...everyone's annual rite of passage, I suppose. 

It’s warmer and that certain something in the air – besides pollen – infuses my lungs with an energy that just hasn’t been present so far this year. There are some changes in the offing for the Rising Family, but I thought that I would dedicate this post to the simple pleasure of viewing the four seasons and what variety they bring to the tiny enclave near our apartment building.