February 29, 2012

Mother Nature is a Shitter

Woke up this morning to find the city blanketed in snow. First words that came to mind were “the shitters.” This is the first substantial snowfall this year, and it comes at the end of February? What’s up with that, Mother Nature? Why are you messing with us like this?

For those who have read Stephen King’s “Christine”, you know what I am talking about: today, Mother Nature was a shitter.

February 26, 2012

Van Dyked

It was about ten minutes before eight on a Monday, and I was wedged into the commuter train with the other passengers so tightly I literally could not move my arms. I had navigated sleety roads to the train station--cold out, no coffee yet--and I was heading into the office facing a tough week ahead. I made a colossal mistake in my iPod choice for the train ride: a Johnny Cash cover of Nine InchNails’ “Hurt”:

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real

It was that kind of morning.

Stay with me here, people. We all face these bleak early mornings like this from time-to-time, and I know I ride the same philosophical train that billions of others do. My point?  It’s what happened next.

I disembarked the train and elbowed my way through the jostling crowd, cutting through the streams of passengers blocking my path, and distractedly stroked my goatee. The bristles reminded me that my way of clearing the dark clouds of February was growing a goatee for the month. I’ve been doing this for the past few years, and it’s become a habit. The question is why? The first time I grew it prompted repeated comments from co-workers and friends, and I suppose I like(d) the attention. But I also enjoy the temporary nature of my goatee: I shave it off, without fail, at the end of February. The finality of the act puts February behind me, signaling the end of winter.

Plus, a little hair on the face seems to give men a little predator chic. Rougher. Meaner? I’m unsure as to the sociological origins of not shaving a part of my face. I have been striving to leech a little badass, an evil-Mr.-Spock vibe, but I suspect I come off more like Pres. Lincoln the day after a bender. Regardless, I still feel the addition of a goatee adds a bit of spice to an otherwise bland month.

As I was mulling over the words for this post, I did some trolling on the Net and discovered that my “goatee” is technically called a Van Dyke. This means I have been mistakenly defining the hair on my face for years. A fit allegory for the past couple of weeks.

February 16, 2012

Chinese Cajones

It is no secret to readers of this blog that I am not a fan of February. As long as I live in the northern hemisphere, the shortest month always feels like the longest. Now creeping into mid-February, I feel the tantalizing promise of baseball’s spring training, dangling the assurance of summer warmth, just over the horizon, beckoning. This makes the lingering cold all the harsher. 

Trying to be optimists, we often do things on weekends that banish the midwinter blahs. In the first weekend of this month, we went to Yokohama’s Chinatown to watch some of the celebrations of the Chinese New Year. A small park in the middle of the Yokohama Chukagai (Chinatown) hosted traditional new year dragon dances, drum shows, and marked the new lunar year with salvos of firecrackers. Throughout the neighborhood, the air was suffused with the whiff of incense.

One episode shames me into admitting I’m a winter whiner. A Chinese acrobat showed me what a wussy I am: he emerged on stage, amid hundreds of onlookers, in temperatures hovering around five degrees Celsius, wearing only a Lycra gymnast uniform. He then proceeded balance himself on six or seven chairs in succession, ignoring the crowd and the loud exhortations of the emcee. Eventually, he suspended himself on one hand on the topmost chair, and twirled around—all of this at least 20 meters above the ground. That takes tremendous mental and physical discipline, and requires a huge pair of stones. Saludo!

Thank you, Sir, for reminding me that a little cold is only a wee mental obstacle, and nothing more.  And, yes, Lady E. and M both had an enjoyable afternoon in Chinatown.