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What is it about tequila that makes it such a fine drink? Some have suggested it’s the way a shot burrows down your throat, burning away every shred of shyness and inhibition. Others seem to think it’s the way it mingles with salt and lime to form a drunken trifecta of alcoholic goodness that loosens both tongues and lips. Me? Well, I think it’s a simple case of magic. Yes, magic. You see, tequila is derived from blue agave (also known as Agave tequilana azul), which is used by local people to perform various spiritual (aka magical) rituals. These magical rituals usually happen like this: a group of young, attractive poeple gather in a circle, with each member in the group holding a small glass of the clear, fiery liquid. In their other hand a slice of lemon is perched between the index finger and thumb. Salt is then gently sprinkled on the back of the hand. Once these preparatory measures have been completed, all members shout “cheers!” or “salud!” (or”kampai!”if you happen to be in Japan), lick the salt, down the tequila and devour the slice of lime. A bit of warning is in order: taking a tequila shot in an order even slightly different from the one just described can result in loss of hearing, blindness, heartburn, and in some extreme cases, erections lasting more than eight hours. If you suffer from any of these symptoms while taking a tequila shot, please consult your physician immediately. Readers from the United States should make a brief stop to the ATM before seeing their physician; the cash will surely be needed.

Legend has it that blue agave and its ubiquitous offspring, tequila, have been used to cure such common afflictions as “broken heart”-itis, chronic “oh my god she dumped me” disease, advanced “I hate my boss” syndrome, and “Dude, I totally bombed that exam!”a particularly nasty strain of the flesh eating virus. Scientists are notexactly sure how the agave, and by extension, tequila, came to be endowed with their extensive healing properties, but research projects are currently underway at the Patron and Jose Cuervo breweries in the heart of Mexico to discover the source of this potential fountain of youth.

Skeptics about the so-called healing abilities of tequila abound, but the proof is in the pudding—or in the margarita, in this case. They argue tequila, rather than healing societal ills, is actually responsible for a host of problems, including but not limited to “I can’t believe I slept with the football team” syndrome, “oops, I just threw up all over your vintage Abercrombie & Fitch 5,000 thread count polo shirt” disease, and “Ah shucks, I just drank away the mortgage,” which is mysteriously derived from advanced mono mononucleosis.

As a proponent of consuming vast quantities of tequila, I would like to offer the following photographic evidence (see below) as proof of tequila’s healing powers. Consider: Healthy people are happy; happiness comes from drinking tequila. Therefore, tequila is a wonder drug. Not since Johnny Cochran’s infamous “If the glove fits you must acquit” has a sounder argument been so eloquently put forth.









As I write this brief post, less than 24 hours remain until I depart Japan, and return once more to the land of my birth: Los Angeles, California, USA.

The past two years in Japan, and more specifically in Kagami-machi, Kumamoto-ken, have definitely been full of exceptionally high highs, as well as abysmally low lows. Indeed, within the pages of this very blog, I have launched tirade after tirade on what strikes me as strange or frustrating about Japan. After a bit of reflection, though, I realize that most of what bugs me about Japan—people dancig in rows at clubs, random people staring at me on trains because I’m foreign, lack of international food, etc.—is largely confined to the countryside. I’ve spent the past couple days cris-crossing the neon-lit streets of Kyoto and Osaka, and not a single person has gawked at me, nor asked me if I could eat rice. And people dance facing each other, ensuing in all manner of salaciously sweaty grinding—the way good dancing should be! I walked into a local grocery store and lo and behold, I found international food: fiber cookies from Spain; more than eight varieties of Twinings tea (commissioned by the Queen, mind you); fresh jam from France, among many other equally international and seemingly delicious items. I havent stumbled upon any authentic burrito mix, but hey, even Kyoto and Osaka aren’t perfect.

It’s not the case that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy my time in rural Japan; I did, but there are only so many years a 25-year-old man can go without indulging in the hedonistic trappings of a large city. And that probably goes for living in the States as well. I can only imagine how raving mad I would’ve become had I been stuck in the Middle of Nowhere, USA, for two years. Somewhere where french fries are considered to be foreign food. Somewhere where Friday night outings consist of getting drunk and raiding the local Piggly Wiggly. Now that would have been rough! To be fair, I have no idea what it’s like to live the Middle of Nowhere, USA, but I can imagine. And I choose to imagine the worst!

In short: Japan, land of geishas, hair dye, talking atm machines, Pokemon, Playstation, green tea and yes, rust and rice fields, thanks for two of the most interesting years of my life. You’ll always have a special place in my heart. (Yes, even you, rural Japan..even you) Sheeee yuuuuuuu again!

Honestly, can you really continue calling it ‘dodge ball’ once the children start drawing blood? I didn’t think so.

It all went down in the taikukan (gym) at one of my elementary schools.

The students were divided into two teams: 3rd grade boys versus a mixed team of 3rd and 4th grade girls. I joined the boys team, naturally, despite threats from the girls that I’d later come to regret my decision. Before I continue with this grisly tale, dear reader, I would like to call to your attention to the fact that at this age, most girls are just as strong as their Dragon Ball-loving counterparts, if not stronger. Therefore, my joining the boys team didn’t put the girls team at an unfair disadvantage. In any case, that’s my story and I’m sticking by it! After a quick rock-paper-scissors match to decide which team would get the first throw, the game was underway.

From the outset, the pace was blisteringly quick. You’d have thought the balls were being launched by cannons rather than the thin arms of small Japanese children. It was all I could do to avoid being hit as the ball flew unerringly towards my head, chest, legs, and, well, other slightly more dangerous parts of my body. In other words, these girls were tough. Ruthless, even! Not that the boys were wimps. They drilled the ball into the girls’ ranks with enough force to make a Major Leaguer proud.

Ten minutes into the game, our team suffered its first serious casualty: one of the larger boys—we’ll call him Tanaka-san in order to protect his identity—was struck in the throat by a missile fired by one of the MLB Players—ahem, I mean 3rd grade girls. That she was petite, with a ready smile and cheerful laugh, made her ferocious attack all the more surprising. Tanaka-san was escorted off the court, and the game went on. Our team was forced to step it up a bit, losing one of our start players and all. And step it up they did!

Hanzo, one of the more agile players on our team, barely managed to catch a lightning-fast throw by Aiko, one of the girls team’s star players, before returning it with a tenacity that brought a proud smile to my face. Uunfortunately, this smile would quickly morph from proud to horror-stricken, for Hanzo’s bullet was headed directly for an unsuspecting Hikaru, one of the girls team’s weakest yet sweetest players. I tried to warn her to duck, or throw out her arms to catch the ball, or pray; but I was too slow. The ball slammed into her legs, and she crashed onto the hardwood gym floor like a shop-aholic who’s just been informed she (or he—don’t want to be accused of sexism) missed a storewide 50% off sale.

I was shocked, to say the least. I ran over to her crumpled form to assess the damage. When I reached her, she began to sob, gripping her leg where the ball had impacted it. Tears streamed down her face. I asked her if she could walk; she grimaced and nodded that she could. When she stood up, I noticed a small rivulet of blood running down her leg. Apparently, the force of the blow had either caused a previous wound to open up, or had created an entirely new one. And you thought dodge ball wasn’t a serious sport!

More surprising than the carnage unfolding before my very eyes in the gym of XYZ Elementary School, though, was the reaction of the other students, boys and girls included, to what had just taken place; that is to say, they had no reaction. Nothing. No one checked if she was okay. Not a single student ran over to comfort her. Instead, they impatiently asked her to get out of the way so they could resume playing their ultra-violent game of murderball. And so she did, dragging her bloody, shattered leg across the court in a wonderful display of what the Japanese refer to as gaman, or endurance. She had taken one for the team. True, she had also almost been paralyzed, but at least she had learned not to place her own selfish needs of a fully functioning body above the group’s need to have a good time.

The game continued for another five minutes or so, when the chime signaling souji, or cleaning time, sounded. The girls avenged Hikaru, however, striking one of our team’s players dead-on in the face. He was a bit dazed, and probably saw celestial bodies floating around his head, but was otherwise okay. Fortunately, no blood was drawn. The girl who threw the ball shrugged, turned the other way, and told me to hurry up and start cleaning. I guess it’s true what they say: Hell hath no fury like a 10-year-old girl scorned.

It was a perilous journey, but somehow—perhaps by the grace of the almighty juju in the sky— we made it through unscathed. Shiho, former F1 driver and part-time actress, musician, and waitress, never lost her cool as we evaded “natives” wielding poison-tipped spears, enraged “African” rhinos (In Japan? Go figure), and a flock of pigeons after Dan’s Country Ma’ams. Is it any wonder, then, that we were drenched in sweat?

By the way, I’m legally changing my name to Indiana Weeks…


Buried deep within the forested mountains of Okinawa, far beyond the sun-drenched beaches that lovingly caress Zamami island, and farther still from even the most basic signs of civilization (i.e., cars, internet cafes, department stores), lies Beach Rock Village, a sprawling labyrinthe of cedar trees, curious teepees, towering treehouses and Mongolian yurts. It is a place that infects you with an urge to run around like the proverbial kid in a candy store, and wildy explore every corner of this green wonderland.  Here, one can enjoy horseback riding on a nearby beach, kayack down a treacherous creek, and even take up the lost art of farming.   Essentially, it’s Disneyland for hippies.


Of course, the main purpose for our visit to Beach Rock Village was lodging.  We needed cheap accomodation and luckily we were not let down!  Only US $15 for one night in a spacious tent (teepees were out of our price range, unfortunately), and breakfast the following morning.  We did have to share the tent with a couple of menacing-looking but ultimately harmless spiders, which I daresay gave Dan, the so-called nature-lover, quite a scare.  Never have I heard such a high-pitched scream of “Oh my God! Kill it! Kill it!”  Naturally, yours truly, a veteran from the Kagami Spider Wars, was unperturbed, granting the presence of our eight-legged friends no more than a shrug and a yawn.


After securing our luggage, we proceeded to drink ourselves silly under a sky dripping with the light of thousands of stars.  Stories were swapped with our hosts, many of whom were recent college grads from the Tokyo area.   Forsaking the frantic boredom of a stacatto corporate life, they had opted for a more relaxing—and more meaningful, some might argue—existence. 


The next morning, Dan, Shiho, Divina and I chased butterflies, dodged wasps at the top of a treehouse, marveled at hippie craftsmanship, and said, “Wow!  How cool!” more times that I can remember.  All in all, a great time was had by all, especially Dan, who finally realized his secret fantasy of drinking maple syrup in a treehouse.  Whoops!  Wasn’t supposed to reveal that juicy tidbit…   


While I don’t believe I could have lived at the Beach Rock Village indefinitely, I would like to have spent a bit more time there in order to get to know some of the volunteers.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  Perhaps the next time I find myself wandering through Okinawa, I’ll make a more extended visit.  Until then, I shall have to be content with pictures and memories.









Because it’s becoming increasingly important to stop, smell the roses—well, sunflowers in this case—and appreciate the small things in life, I present to you my 2007 Okinawa sunflower collection!  Enjoy and have a great weekend!






If only the world were so fortunate!  Usually I’m opposed to wishing painful, agonizing death on others, but for this vapid waste of human flesh, I think exceptions must be made.   Yes, you read that correctly: I am desperately praying, wishing, hoping—hell, even rain dancing!— for the imminent demise of Paris Hilton, a woman (or alien—the studies are inconclusive) whose contribution to humanity falls somewhere between the spork and the unicycle.

Whether this death come in the form a “career” assassination (i.e., choking off her media exposure and thereby ending her purpose for existing) or a more permanent and infinitely more satisfying physical assassination (i.e., a bullet to the brain) is not for me to decide; it’s for the bounty hunter to decide.  Call it a hunch, but something tells me once she opens her mouth—a skill which undoutedly served her well during her recent “jail time”— and a stream of asisine drivel pours forth, he’ll go with the latter option. 

In other news, US Weekly has decided to instate a blackout on all Paris Hilton news (ha!) coverage, citing America’s apparent “Paris fatigue.”  Fortunately for us, they plan to run a series of spreads on celebrity babies instead, because while Americans may have lost their appetite for Paris Hilton, they appear to still have plenty of room for devouring plate after plate of meaningless…there really is no better way to put this: “shite.” 


I made a new friend in Okinawa.  His name is Pablo.  He’s small but big where it counts.  He has his own place, a state-of-the-art mobile shell, and is willing to share his life with a special someone.  He’s a bit shy, though, and it takes some coaxing to bring him out of his shell, but once he’s out, there’s no stopping this charmer! Pablo likes long (and incredibly slow) walks on the beach, lazy Sundays, beach volleyball (with other hermit crabs, of course), and reading Danielle Steele novels (go figure).  If any of you lonely souls out there are interested in a date with my new friend, just leave a comment indicating when and where you’d like to meet up.




Dan, Divina, and I just returned from a five-day sojourn to the always gorgeous Okinawa. Actually, Divina is still there, scouring the salty seas for signs of manatee life. I would love to have joined her, but alas, my much more demanding position as an ALT prevented me from doing so. Hopefully she won’t renounce the pressures of the outside world and become a permanent beach bum. (Divina, if you happen to be reading this at an internet cafe, and have decided to become a permanent beach bum, can I split your chocolate with Dan? We’ll take really good care of it…hehe)

It’s hard to put my finger on what impressed me the most about Okinawa, Japan’s answer to Hawaii. Could it have been the pristine beaches with their miles of diamond-colored sand and warm, crystal-clear waters? Or was it perhaps the forests brimming with hundreds of chirping birds, troupes of colorful butterflies, and and endless procession of lush vegetation? Then again, it could just as easily have been the snorkeling on Aka and Zamami islands that did the trick. After all, nothing quite compares to witnessing firsthand the chaotic symphony of life being performed in the ocean.

Imagine: thousands of fish of every color, size and shape imaginable dash through the water in a breathtaking show of grace, speed, and synchronization; meanwhile, ancient turtles take leisurely strolls past mountains of coral reef. Seaweed sways languidly in what can best be described as an underwater breeze. A curious school of fish provides an unlikely escort as you explore a secret wonderland, occasionally swooping in closer to nibble on a rising air bubble. The sun blazes overhead, but you care not, for the ocean has you wrapped in its cool, liquid cocoon. You have entered a world of peace and tranquility. All is quiet save for the sound of an indefatigable fist beating steadily in your chest. Imagine this, my friends, and you will gain a glimpse at the wonder that is snorkeling in Okinawa.

For me, this was the experience of a lifetime. In my 25 years on this planet, never have I been infected with such unbridled amazement and wonder. Well, that’s not exactly true: I was equally amazed when my dad gave me a Sega Genesis with Sonic the Hedgehog for Christmas 15 years ago. But what did I know? I was just a kid!

Of course, you came here for pictures and not the poetic ramblings of a fool in love—in love with Okinawa, that is.















I should have never bad-mouthed the mushi. That’s what Tony (pictured below) came to tell me. I arrived at my apartment after a tiring day of fruit basket and football (that’s soccer to my American readership), only to find this seven-legged beast lurking in the corner of my genkan (doorway). Why he had seven legs instead of eight, I don’t know; but somehow it only added to his minatory demeanor.


“You’ve got some nerve,” he said, his beet-red gaze leveled directly at me. “I got wind of what you wrote on that stupid little blog of yours, ‘Reading the World’. What was it you called us? Beasts? Hellspawn? Well let me tell you something, punk, we mushi have pride,we have feelings, and we don’t take kindly to some vapid foreigner such as yourself insulting us, when clearly you don’t know the first thing about mushi.”

I stood there in the doorway, paralyzed with an odd mixture of fear and amazement, for I was having a conversation with a spider, who, by the way, told me to call him Tony. Either the heat was getting to me, or I had just stumbled upon the greatest scientific discovery since Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. It was probably the former rather than the latter, but I played along with “Tony’s” little game, all the while frantically thinking of a way to extricate him from my apartment.

“Look, ummm…Tony, I don’t know who put you up to this, but I stand by what I wrote in that fine online journal, and I’ll not be intimdated into retracting a single word, you hear me? You mushi are a disgusting blight on this world, unnatural even, and it’s by divine right that I wage war upon you and your creepy, crawly bretheren.”

In response, Tony arched his back, and slowly began to crawl up the doorframe, no doubt seeking higher ground should our encounter turn ugly. Venom dripped from his mouth like grease from a teenager’s forehead. Subtlety was clearly not one of Tony’s strengths.

After several moments of uncomfortable silence, he said, “We don’t want to cause you any trouble, Mr. Foreigner. But if you keep publishing those nasty articles about us, trouble is exactly what you’re gonna get. All I have to is tap this here door frame and an army of cockroaches will descend upon this apartment with a ferocity not witnessed since the time of Moses. You catch my drift?”

Ah, but our friend Tony had made a severe miscalculation, for not only had I caught his drift, but during his Biblically endowed speech, I had also managed to locate my trusty broom, the perfect weapon to make sure he never left my apartment. Mushi may enter Ellison’s humble abode, but rarely do they leave—alive, that is.

I immediately sprang into action, catching Tony off guard. With a feral battle cry, I slammed the broom into the doorframe. Tony, big and strong though he might be, was not able to withstand my onslaught, and fell to the floor with an audible thump. Dazed, he stumbled drunkenly to the wall, attempting to scale it to once more, but I had other plans.

Before he could launch his ascent, I drove the flat end of the broom downward, pinning him to the floor. A peculiar green fluid oozed from underneath. He screamed and thrashed, in a dramatic but ultimately futile attempt to escape his bamboo prison (Japanese brooms are made from bamboo, in case you’re wondering) into which I had sentenced him. He was strong, I must admit, and it was all I could do to keep him trapped. I applied more pressure; his screaming intensified. Suddenly, I heard a loud crunch. Tony’s struggling ceased almost immediately, save for a few twitches and spasms. I lifted the broom to suvery the damage.

It wasn’t pretty. Tony, his multitudinous legs writhing in agony, had seen better days. I shall spare you the gory details, but rest assured he looked less like a pernicious spider, and more like a serving of okonomiyaki. “W-why…?” was all he could utter before what small amount of life remaining to him was permanently extinguished.

The battle was over. I had won. I laid my bamboo Excalibur on the floor. I had won the battle, true, but the war against mushi would never end—at least not in my lifetime. I scooped Tony’s flattened, gelatinous carcass into a plastic bag, and threw him into a green trashbag. It was the moeru gomi (burnable trash) bag. He would receive a proper funeral for one of his kind: one of fire and destruction. And hopefully a bit of pain.

I am often asked if I regret me decision to exterminate Tony, and the answer is always the same: no. Tony was a brash fool, and hopefully his agonizing death will send a message to the other mushi foolishly contemplating avenging their seven-legged brother.

I’ll end this post with a quote from my dear friend George “Dubya” Bush: “Freedom isn’t free.”


June 2018
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