21 December 2003

Hit by a car

Well, it finally happened. I got hit by a car while riding my bicycle. This guy was pulling out of a parking lot and didn’t look both ways. I was thinking, Surely he sees me. No way he doesn’t see me. Before I knew it I was on the asphalt. The guy pretended he didn’t see me, but I’m pretty sure he couldn’t have missed my body (which is not a small body) sprawled on the ground. Anyway, I’m fine. Not bruises or anything. There weren’t any cars coming in the lane so I didn’t die.

This interview excerpt from our President is more than a little unnerving. Berto had told me that he heard Saddam was sedated when they pulled him out of “the rat hole.” I couldn’t find anything official about that, but I did find this which is just about as interesting I think. What exactly is "ultimate justice"?

"Would you like to see him?
No. I don't care to see him.
I have no - I've seen him. I've seen enough of him. I saw him getting deloused and after having been pulled out a rat hole. "

Also, let me shove some more pacifism and Stanley Hauerwas down your throat:

"Christians are not called to be heroes or shoppers. We are called to be holy. We do not think holiness is an individual achievement, but rather a set of practices to sustain a people who refuse to have their lives determined by the fear and denial of death. We believe by so living we offer our non-Christian brothers and sisters an alternative to all politics based on the denial of death. Christians are acutely aware that we seldom are faithful to the gifts God has given us, but we hope the confession of our sins is a sign of hope in a world without hope. This means pacifists do have a response to September 11, 2001. Our response is to continue living in a manner that witnesses to our belief that the world was not changed on September 11, 2001. The world was changed during the celebration of Passover in a.d. 33."

DK and I talked about a PETA flyer last night. I’m a bit of a hypocrite as far as my anti-fur stance goes because I wear leather shoes. I still hold to the argument that leather shoes serve more of a purpose than a fur coat, but consider the wind taken out of my anti-fur stance.

17 December 2003

Santa san

Yeah, I know. No, I'm not drunk. It's a long story:

So I got up this morning and was eating my Charlie Brown cereal getting all pumped up for this whatnot and Hagino san, our middle-aged woman translator, called to ask if I wanted a ride to the Kindergarten. She's pretty aggressive about giving us rides which I'm cool about, but I'm trying to cut the cord as it were. So I told her I could make it over myself and thought I had cut the cord, but when 10:40 rolled around and I was leaving to go to the Kindergarten, she was there, waiting to drive me.

We pulled around the back of the school like I was told (by the way, the back side of the school is right on the bay. It rules). I knocked on the door and rang the doorbell like 4 times, but no one showed up. Eventually, Hagino san decided to call them, which she did and instead of the back door opening, the window opened and a couple of old ladies told me that they wanted me to come through the window. "They're kidding, right?" I asked Hagino san, and she said that they weren't. So I climbed up into the window and had to take my shoes off in the process because you can't wear your shoes inside. I guess the coming through the window was important because everyone here is paranoid that the children never learn that Santa san's not real. If I came in the door, they might see me. Paranoid, kids. To an unhealthy degree.

I waited in an office that had all the curtains drawn, though I could hear a mass of children running around outside. Hagino san and I sat and had tea while we waited for the festivities to begin. The old ladies decided I shouldn't put the costume on until before the actual event as to not risk the children seeing me so I just sat around in the red pants. After sitting around for a while and a rather long silence, Hagino san looked at me and said, "Are you trying to grow a beard?" and I touched my burgeoning moustache awkwardly and said, "Yeah, well a moustache really." Then there was another long silence and she said, "Why?" "Why?" I said "Yeah, why?" "Well, that's what you do when you turn twenty-one. You grow a moustache." She looked skeptical. "What, didn't you grow a moustache when you were twenty-one?" and Hagino san just laughed.

Throughout the waiting, people came in and out of the office, all with pleas that I not be found out. After about a half-hour, the old women decided to get me all guised up (note the picture). You can't see the boots they made me wear, but they were those old-school rain boots that were about three sizes too small. I made them fit though. So we waited another half-hour until he kids started singing the Santa san song and I made my way out of the office.

Now, again so that I wouldn't be noticed, they made me take off my glasses. I'm not real graceful as it is and given the lack of my glasses and the shoes that didn't really fit, I was having a hard time walking and had to be guided by the arm. I got into the auditorium and the kids went wild. I couldn't really see, but there were probably seventy kids plus another hundred, hundred twenty adults. I hadn't really practiced my Santa san voice, but it came right out when I got going. So I made my way to the front of the auditorium and there was a kindgarten teacher up there sort of leading things with the Principal behind me translating. I greeted the kids with some crap about how I was happy to be in Fukuoka and how I couldn't wait to see them next week. I can't underplay how shocked the kids were. I mean, they were convinced duder was Santa san. No question.

After the nicities, six kids each got to ask a question (I had been supplied the questions earlier). You know, why does Santa san wear red? or How do you know where everyone's house is? I think I relied a little too heavily on the, "Oh, it's magic" answer. The kids finished asking their questions and then I gave three gifts to three kids out of my bag. Then the principal asks me, over the loudspeaker if I have gifts for the other kids. I answered saying that I would have gifts for all the good kids next week. He looked like that wasn't the right answer, and the teacher started talking and the Principal translated, Now, Santa san, don't you have gifts for the kids today? I was really confused, so I asked him, I don't know, do I? Again with the secrecy thing, he didn't answer and looked more worried so I dug around in my bag seeing if there was something I had missed, but it only had empty boxes in it. The teacher kept talking while I was looking and smoothed things over, I guess, because they told me I could go and sang the Santa san song again.

Okay, so I don't think duder has a career in this, but it was good fun. Plus, they gave me fifty bucks. That was pretty cool. Sensei's son who goes to the kindergarten apparently talked to his sister about Santa san being a foreigner. His sister who has recently been disillusioned when she found out Santa san was a fraud said, "Oh really? Last year Santa san was Japanese." I don't think Kento figured it out.

So, that's all, really, from this week.

13 December 2003


My creepy ear rash has all but dissipated so I’m feeling like I can do just about anything I put my heart to. And speaking of putting my heart to doing something, yesterday I changed a bike tire without much of the modern amenities one would think one might need to change a bicycle tire like a roof over one's head and a nail gun. I really surprised myself when I finally got everything put back together and the bike actually worked. I also know at least four of five wrong ways to put the brake back together. Also, my feet are cold.

11 December 2003

Raining in Fukuoka

Again, it's raining in Fukuoka and today’s news is rather dull so I’ll have to tell a story from yesterday: I’m going to be Santa Claus at a local kindergarten. I’m not real clear why they asked me and I think it’s partially because I’m bigger than most Japanese, but it sounded like fun so I agreed. Yesterday, I went over to the church where the school is to learn the ins-and-outs of being a Japanese Santa Claus. It’s pretty involved actually.

I have to sneak into the building at about 11 in the morning next Wednesday. The principal was very adamant about that. Apparently last year one of the kids recognized the Santa and some sort of unspeakable disaster occurred. Anyway, so I sneak in at 11 and put on the costume in one of the back rooms. I tried it on yesterday in front of the principal and one of the teachers. They seemed like it would work (“Segoi! Wow! Good Santa!”). I get to wear a beard and everything too and ring some sleigh bells.

At about 11:30 there’s going to be this assembly and the kids are going to sing a Santa Claus song and then when they get to the second verse they're going to start yelling, “Santa san! Santa san!” and I’m supposed to come into the assembly, ringing the bells and saying ho-ho-ho and all that crap. Then the kids will settle down and I’m supposed to greet them. “In Japanese?” I asked, but the principal was pretty adamant: “Oh no, no, in English. I’ll translate.” I’m a little confused about this because if they want the children to think I’m the real Santa Claus, shouldn’t I speak Japanese? I mean, can’t Santa speak all languages? This didn’t seem to be a big concern for them. After I greet the children, I’m supposed to answer six questions that will be provided to me on Wednesday. Apparently each class gets to ask one question. Then I give gifts to three of the kids from my bag and leave the assembly. I’m sort of like Batman.

All that to say, I’ve been working on my Santa voice, but it still sucks. Dan’s going to come to take pictures so I may be able to let you see what happened.

08 December 2003

Butt washers & other miscellanea

One day, I plan to take a ride on a butt washer. They're everywhere here..

Fukuoka got cold all of a sudden. I had to buy mittens and a scarf. I also caught a cold. All of these things are bad things for the most part, except that before our evening class tonight I laid in front of the kerosene heater and got pretty warm pretty quickly. My old man was here over the weekend: he left early this morning. I went with Sensei and Hagino san to take him to the airport and was back at the house by 7:30. I went to bed a second time and when I woke up, the whole weekend felt like the most surreal dream I have ever had. I can't put my finger on what was so odd about it. Of course, I love my father dearly, but the weekend was a little more than I could handle.

I think two of our students were hitting on Dan and I tonight. It was pretty weird.

I like Rilo Kiley. I think that's okay.

Curiously, my moustache is actually coming through. I will post a picture maybe next week. It's not quite there yet. Getting there, but not quite there.

I got to talk to a drunk guy on the train this weekend. He was very excited that the US and Japan are fighting together in Iraq. My dad videotaped some of the conversation. Anyway, it was funny enough.

06 December 2003

Teaching death

Best I can tell Friday was a beneficial day for all involved. Let me explain: During our English class this morning, we began talking about the end of the world. Our students were pretty interested. Talked around the subject for the most part, said that one should probably have an idea about what one believes about God regardless of whether the world is going to end or not. We could die tomorrow, right? I said. Our students seemed to agree, as Japanese mostly do about everything you say.

You know, North Korea may not seem like a threat to you all on the other side of the world, but people here are a little bit more aware. That's the backyard, kids: right across the moat.

Last night, now that I have the internet, I watched an in studio performance by The Postal Service. It was pretty sweet. Much better then no live music.

My old man is here and that's been pretty cool. He's doing a good job with all the awkwardness of being in a society that's so wildly different. It made me very aware of how awkward I still am. Sensei seemed to like him so that's cool.

I can only get Japanese google. What's the deal with that?

For what it's worth, I can't find the webpage for the mulleted Japanese boy band that rocked the World Cup Volleyball tournament. I'm more than a little upset. When I find it, I will post it. Either that, or a picture from a toilet here with a guy sitting on a toilet and getting his butt washed.

Speaking of butts, I have this creepy ear rash that I'm trying to get rid of so I went down to the local what-have-you to try and get some anti-itch cream. The best I could find was this stuff that was in a display featuring pictures of like a bunch of different skin irritations. One of them was of some guy's butt, that had like a pimple on it. I don't think that's going to help me at all.

03 December 2003

Riding around

Let's just say that we have the Internet. I'm pretty stoked about the whole thing and will be writing more now. For today, I thought I would copy and paste a story from my journal and then go ride my bike.

From a couple of weeks ago:
"Today, during our English class with Koga san (the older gentleman who talked to us about the war last week), we had an exercise where we looked at pictures of people and tried to choose adjectives to describe them. Koga san looked at the first picture of a woman looking very contemplative and came up with a litany of adjectives, from modest to outgoing to arrogant. He added: I can only see her face, but I think she might also be fat. Looking at a picture of “Mr. Johnson,” an older man who seemed annoyed, Koga san decided that he probably had a garden and retired from a company with a very high standing. He’s very content with his life, he said, He likes to spend time with his grandchildren. Koga san also added, He’s probably very opinionated with people younger than him. Looking at a picture of a younger man, smiling, Koga san concluded that he might like women a lot. Dan, laughing, asked if he would go out with Andrea (the first girl). Koga san looked at the pictures again, and decided that they probably wouldn’t."
Yesterday, when describing the ideal student, he said, "Someone who doesn't bother police officers and is clean of drugs and the ladies like him a lot."

Much more soon.

01 December 2003

Orsen and Andrew

Still no Internet at the apartment house. I will continue to talk about not having it until we get it. And no news in Japan is good news. My old man is stopping by this weekend to make some trouble best he knows how. It should be a lot of fun. We were going to head down to the Fukuoka Blue Note to catch some wild Jazz, but Take 6 is playing this weekend. Now, I like gospel a capella as much as the next guy, but you gotta draw a line in the sand somewhere. I draw it at Take 6.

Andrew WK is coming to Japan but it's about $60 to see him. Seems a little pricey Andrew. Think you might cut that in half a couple times? Yo La Tengo is also playing, again for $60. Things are just more expensive here. I hate that. I may not see any good live music until I get back to the States. Then I shall go to every show I can go to. Every one.

Saw Taxidriver last night and I'm looking for a screen shot from the film that I really liked, but it's nowhere to be found. When I do, I'll post it.

Word is we should have our modem in 2-3 business days then maybe it will be working within the week. I'm not making any promises though. In fact, I'm guessing it will be two weeks until we get it. Or more.

There's nothing good on television. I watched a show this weekend where two fat guys go around eating at different restaurants. Then they are joined by a fat woman who eats with them. They went to a public bath too. It was kind of sick. Anyway, it's all that's on.

27 November 2003

Citizen Kane

Another dreary day in the Land of the Rising Sun. Frankly, I don't think the sun ever rises here. It hangs just below the horizon or behind a bit of grey cloud, mocking, taunting me.

You should, if you haven't, see the American Experience documentary on Citizen Kane. It's the best thing I have seen on DVD since... well, the Big Lebowski, I guess. It's hilarious and DK and I keep quoting it to each other because parts of it are funnier than everything. "And you always suggest sodomy... that's important... very important..."

Other than that, I've decided to try my hand at growing a moustache. While now it is not the greatest thing you have ever seen, it may one day be. I don't yet have the Internet (see next paragraph), but when I do, I'll let you take a look. Clint Eastwood, eat your heart out.

Yeah, we totally don't have the Internet at the apartment house. The good news was that we can get Yahoo! BroadBand and we can get 2.5 cents long distance. Now, it's just a matter of them delivering the modem and us calling Yahoo! BB so they can set it up. You think this might take several days, but in Japan, this sort of simple task may take weeks. DK is patiently waiting at home for it. I got angry about it and said a sort-of bad word. Other than that, things couldn't be better.

There is no Thanksgiving in Japan so I ate some 100 yen noodles with a coffee mug full of coke. It wasn't great, although this Saturday we're supposed to have Thanksgiving with the missionaries. That could rule like nothing else.

21 November 2003

Japanese TV

DK's quote today: "You know what I saw yesterday? A shirt with a picture of an ape with the words 'A Urinating Ape.'"

Also, from today (concerning the Michael Jackson whatnot. Remember kids, innocent until proven guilty).

Me: Oh great, that sucks. Now all of his songs are going to have a creepy pederast undertone.

DK: Like they didn't already?

Oh man. Japanese television had a thirty minute program devoted to it. I counted the times they showed Michael Jackson walking from the car into the police station. 18, that's right, 18 times. It was the most entertaining thing on television. Although DK saw a show called "Check!" which involved a camera crew and a reporter checking what people had bought at the fish market. "Okay, that's great, next person."

I love this country.

20 November 2003


Well, well, well.

Sumo wrestling was better than everything. I don't think I can accurately describe how cool it is. You all think Sumo is just two fat, sweaty, naked men grabbing each other, right? Well, you're wrong, very, very wrong. I mean, that's part of it, but let me tell you, there is so, so much more. My boy Toki won so I was pretty happy. I stood up and yelled for him and I think it helped. The Grand champion (Asas-something or the other) also kicked the crap out of some guy making his tournament record 10-1. He's tied for first and I'm pretty happy about that. Toki is 7-4 I think. Anyway, we were pretty high up in the stands, but we could see okay and I yelled pretty loudly when I could read the name of the wrestler in Romanji. If you have any questions, I've learned a lot in the last couple of weeks. DK and I may be going down on Saturday to see if the Grand Champion is going to clean up again. It was really cool.

This is my boy, Toki, by the way. Note the sideburns that are bigger than Vermont and Kentucky stuck together.

Musashimaru was the number one wrestler who just retired on Sunday. He was in Fukuoka, but lost and retired before we went. He's Hawaiian and fatter than the fattest thing I have ever seen.

When I get the internet at the apartment, I'll post my own pictures.

Other than that, there's not that much to mention. I mean, can you beat sumo? You can't, honestly, you can't.

Today's meaningless Japanese-English phrase: Do you know to mean STAND?! (appearing on a sweatshirt)

17 November 2003

Weather changes

The rain has stopped. Today was cool, wind blowing through the night and making my pants, hanging over the balcony rail, dry. I ironed this afternoon for longer than I would have liked.

Nothing particularly stunning occurred this week. Yesterday, I stood on a Japanese mountain, the Pacific Ocean on three sides. It was pretty incredible, watching the waves come in and seeing the water stretch and stretch.

This Wednesday is Sumo wrestling. Oh, will it rule. I  will take a picture and one day, when I get the Internet in my apartment, I will post so many pictures. You will be amazed at the amount of pictures I will post.


Also, if you were at the Pedro the Lion show at Knox College, tell me how incredible it was. I was shopping downtown and generally in a bad mood because I was missing it.

Please note that I am watching The Good, the Bad, and Ugly, the greatest western ever. I even got to see it in English. Oh, did it rule. It made me want to be Clint Eastwood. Course, I spend most of my day leading seven year olds in the "Phonics March" so I may be lacking a little in the balls department. But I'm sure Clint Eastwood was really good with children.

Okay, that's enough for today.

10 November 2003

Address and others

Today it rained in Fukuoka. Not hard. Just steady. I watch Sumo wresting on TV, ate noodles and spent more time reading Isaiah. Later, in search of a fingernail clipper I walked west, towards the GooDay (the Japanese equivalent of Wal*mart and Home Depot having a child). I didn't find it, but listened to Death Cab for Cutie while I shopped. I found a clipper at the neighborhood grocery store. It was about $5.

Saturday I met a bunch of kids from the JET program teaching English over in Saga City. It was really cool to hang out with Americans. Neither I nor DK fell head over heels in love, but I really wanted to get phone numbers. I didn't. We ate Thanksgiving dinner together and that was really good.

DK and I wrote a puppet show for the service next Sunday. In my opinion, it is some of the best prose ever written.

For everyone who will send music:
Stephen Pihlaja
Grand Haim, 502
2-12-23 Susenji
Nishi-Ku, Fukuoka
Japan 819-0373
Call me at: 82-092-807-7356

If any of you would like something Japanese, I could help you out. There are a lot of those dumb trucker hats that were cool about 12 months ago.

I will miss Pedro the Lion show at Knox College this weekend and miss seeing Braille rock it with them. I will be there in spirit as I do my laundry on Saturday morning.

06 November 2003

"Let's eat satisfaction!"

It is a grey Thursday afternoon in Japan and still no internet service.

I rode my bike over from the apartment to the church and broke a sweat. Here, I ride my bike everywhere as things are pretty close together. We (me and DK) live about 2.5 km from the Church we're teaching at so it's always a bit of a hike to get over here. But it's nice to have some space. We're close to the train station too so we can get downtown pretty easily.

I can't find Pop tarts to save my life. I want a freaking pop tart. Today, I should be getting some popcorn from Costco so that will be good. I eat a lot of instant noodles. Let's Quiq! for 198 yen. It's the best, and in only five minutes!

Japanese English is great . It doesn't make any sense. "Let's eat satisfaction!" or on the flyer for the VBS DK and I are helping with: "Come play happily with Stephen san and Daniel san!" Also, the Japanese missed the whole mullet going out of style movement (basically, the '90's). They are now trying to catch up, but everyone still has a mullet. And the Carpenters are really big here. It's like one big elevator. But the showers... Oh the showers. You shower sitting on a small stool. It's the best thing ever. And you can see the ocean all the time. Japan's pretty cool, all in all.

The Japanese eat raw horse meat sometime, we learned. Sushi is pretty bad, I can't imagine raw horse meat being any better.

Okay, so changing the subject, I initially hated the new Sleeping at Last record. I thought it was ridiculously bad for the first two weeks I had it. Now, I can't get enough. I listen to it all the time, walking everywhere. It's got me in and frankly, I love Ryan O'Neil.

The women's world volleyball cup is in Japan this year (I'm sure it's what everyone is talking about in the states). DK and I been watching it a lot. Logan Tom. Wow. I love the US.

Okay, when I get internet at the house I promise pictures and more frequent entries. For now, this is all I got.

30 October 2003

Now I live in Japan


Now I live in Japan.

More to follow when I get internet service. Much more.

17 October 2003


This will be my last entry stateside. DK and I should be well on our way to Japan about this time tomorrow, our flight leaving Chicago at 1:30 and arriving in Fukuoka at 8 on Saturday evening. We are both, of course, full of excitement and guts. We got our visas and some yen and gifts for the people in Japan on Tuesday. As far as different currency goes, I think yen is bitchin'. Some of the bills have quail on the back. Quail! Now I've seen everything.

Abraham Lincoln must not be that important in Japan because I didn't see him on any of the bills.

I can take my guitar for $130. Yeah, I know, it sucks the big one. But mailing it would be $300, so I guess I'll take what I can get. It'll be good to have over there too. I can play it for the ladies, you know, and for the people at the church and the quail. Oh, the quail.

DK and I have also been talking about what constitutes "martyrdom." Basically, I was wondering if, when riding our bikes to work, we are struck and killed by a truck, would we be martyrs. DK doesn't think so, but says that if I am struck and killed by a truck, he will stand up for my martyrdom. So I guess that's really all I can ask for.

Anyway, other than that, I just been keeping it real at home. Saw the Cubs lose three times in a row. You know, I don't think I ever watched a complete game that they won. I must have jinxed them.

So this is where I'm going. Send your love to me via email: Spihlaja@Knox.edu and if you want to hear our weekly updates for the church folk, e-mail no further than prayfukuoka@hotmail.com. Love you all.

13 October 2003

Giving it away

I’ve given away my car, my cell phone, all my cd’s, my cd player, my flowered shirts… I think this is what missionary work is about. I spent the weekend trying to be with the people I love so much at Knox, only to be hurried most of the time and not really spending quality time with the people I needed to. I didn’t say goodbye to a couple of people because we just missed our opportunity. My sister left today and I cried for the first time about this whole thing. For what it’s worth, I’m genuinely scared.

Death Cab in Iowa was pretty incredible. The bar was tiny like I suspected and made for a more intimate experience. The cubs won that night then won again then lost tonight. I drank a little, smoked a little.

Berto is living in a house with some folks, especially one young lady who enjoys quite the nightlife which means she has really loud sex. It sounded like a rollercoaster, lotta excitement.

I think that’s all for now.

08 October 2003

About Music

This entry will be devoted (mostly) to music.

I saw Braille and Monday’s Hero on Friday and have to say I was duly impressed with Monday’s Hero. I was told that I would be and I was. I certainly was. There is a shortage of good, serious, balls-out rock these days and I am pleased to see the gap is being filled, at least in the Chicago/land area. At the show, oddly enough, I saw a friend of mine from my church bible study, Kristen. It was odd in that I never imagined her as a person who would go to a rock show (she’s a 23 or 24 year old researcher for Baxter). Anyway, apparently her husband was out of town and she was there with her boss’s boss who happened to be Shermie Gass’ dad. Now, I haven’t seen Nate Gass is well over two years since that one time we went to Ohio to see Radiohead, but apparently his band was playing too so his dad corralled Kristen into going. It was really weird: me, Kristen, and Nate’s parents totally hanging out together.

Saddle Creek finally mailed me my Bright Eyes and Cursive records and let me say, I’m enjoying them more than I thought. I’m unhappy with the MTV invasion on the indie scene and the trouble that has wrought on many well-meaning musicians, but both of these records were written before the invasion. I feel like there’s a little purity left. Plus, they haven’t charged my credit card yet. Anyway, I am very friendly to the hyper-awareness both bands have that they are particular bands writing particular records for particular kids in a particular scene. It’s like commenting on your work while you’re creating it. It’s theory at it’s best.

I think if I wasn’t going to Japan, it would be just about time for me to start playing in a rock band again.

Speaking of Japan: ten days. That’s right, get your lovin’ while you can.

Now, I'm packing to go to Galesburg for the week. Death Cab on Wednesday in a tiny bar Iowa City with Berto and Jules. I don't think there's anything better than that.

PS I'm really worried about Roy, you know from Siegfried and Roy. That guy totally bought it. But, and I really hate to say this, I really do, it totally was a big win for the freaking lions. I mean, they've been being taken advantage of, in the worst ways, for like their whole adult lives. So there you go. The terrorists should start thinking about strategic tiger maulings. Ruins the economy, kills one of the greatest stars our country has to offer. It's the best of all worlds.

03 October 2003

The Art Institute of Chicago before moving

I spent yesterday at the Art Institute. I went by myself which I’ve been finding myself doing a lot these days (being alone, not going to the art institute). It’s been good for me, I think. I enjoyed looking at the paintings that I wanted to see without all the nonsense of having to keep up with someone or having someone whine about not seeing what they want to see. I took a load of pictures, many of which didn’t turn out as you’re not allowed to use flash in the galleries. A funny story about that to follow.

As I was taking pictures, my flash turned on accidentally. I didn’t think anyone noticed until one of the attendants, an older black man, came over and began to tell me that if I couldn't turn off my flash I needed to—but I cut him off, apologizing, saying it was an accident. He said he understood, but his supervisor saw and asked him what he was going to do about it. He said he was supposed to kick me out of the gallery, but I seemed like a nice kid. I apologized again, and he held out his hand with two pieces of candy in it (there’s a display in the same gallery from which people are supposed to take candy, an illustration of lives taken by AIDS each day). He said, “Everybody likes candy, right?” and smiled at me. I smiled back and took the candy.

There’s a new Francis Bacon on loan to the Institute. It’s pretty incredible. The picture I took of it didn’t come out.

I followed a tour around for about an hour and learn about Impressionism and gas lighting in French circuses. I realized that art is something I need to learn more about. My oil painting class in college didn’t cut it. Made me think of other things I wanted to learn more about. These things include Modernist philosophy, Jazz (see next paragraph), the Klu Klux Klan, the Japanese language, the French language, France, baseball, and the opposite sex. A more complete list to follow.

I’m now eight hours into Ken Burn’s Jazz. Louis Armstrong is still my hero. I picked up one of his records yesterday. I like it.

Also, the first chapter of my opus "Omerza Walking" was accepted for publication in the fall issue of Catch. Presence, the ugly stepchild of a short story, struck out once again.

29 September 2003

Spectacular and beautiful things

This weekend was filled with many spectacular and beautiful things. I spent Friday, Saturday and a couple of hours on Sunday up in Wisconsin trying to help some high schoolers grow closer to God. This may have happened especially through my ministry of having whipped cream spread on my head and cheese balls thrown at it. These are the things that the kids like to do. They like to have cahrazeeeeee fun at the expense of others. I farted a lot and talked about how growing closer to God is pretty difficult sometimes. But all-in-all. I love those kids a lot. And I love being with them.

I hit two home runs in plastic table leg softball. It ruled like nothing else.

Other than that, I’ve been working it out, keeping it real, trying to raise support for me and DKster to make our way out. But (big fat drum roll please) I will be in Japan on the 18th of October. Yup, that’s right. Praise God, right?

26 September 2003


As many of you may know, I am nearing the end of my Skil Power Tool marketing extravaganza internship. I'm taking a break right now from lifting big piles of wood that are allegedly not piles of wood, but benches. The higher ups have been complaining about how the piles of wood look too much like piles of wood and not enough like benches. "Stephen, I think you should put some sort of backing on this bench so it looks less like a pile of wood and more like a bench." Or, "Stephen, I think you should sand this bench down so it looks less like a pile of wood." Or, "Stephen, could you please spill your blood on this bench so it is 'Skil' red and not the color of a pile of wood." This has been my summer. But I made a little bit of money and was driven to go to Japan so I can't really complain. I guess this is what I needed to get me moving.

Tuesday night may very well have been the best night of this month. I got off work and ate at Burger King which in-and-of itself wasn't very incredible, but I was reading Calvin's commentary on Jonah at the same time and I thought to myself that reading Calvin in Burger King made me an intellectual or something. Anyway, Calvin was talking about how trials constrain men to call on God, something that is normally foreign to us. So much good in those commentaries. Anyway after that I headed down to the Fireside Bowl to see Braille. Being 21 has its perks as now I can sit in the Fireside bar and watch the Cubs win. So I did that and then listened to Braille play and get progressively better through the evening, so much so that by the end of the set, I was completely depressed that I would not be able to see them for the next couple of years. Paul and I talked about college life afterwards and watched Bob Nanna (the guy from Hey Mercedes and Braid) play a solo show. It was boring, best I could tell, so I ended up calling Chase and Sha (my Romanian missionary friends who live off Damen) so I could hang out with them and talk about being missionaries. It was pretty cool: we talked about Christians using un-Christian language and whether or not it was okay to say shit. We then prayed for about a half hour for our respective mission fields. It was an incredible experience. I like talking about grace.

Then I talked to my sister on the phone then some other friends from college and went to bed around two. My alarm didn't go off the next morning and I was late to work, but it didn't really matter.

Next week I'm not working, but spending most of my time getting ready to go to Japan. I'm going to go get my visa and go to the Art Institute and spend some time at St. Mary's in Mundelein by myself. I'm hoping to not have to get up at six every morning.

22 September 2003

Miller High Life

Last night, me and Colin kept it real, best we knew how. Smoked some Acid Blondies which were, frankly, better than anything I've ever smoked, ever. I guess that's not really saying a whole lot though. But dang. They were sweet. Anyway, I also tried to drink a Miller High Life while smoking and I got sick. I mean, real sick. I ended up getting about 80% through the can with the belief that the High Life would not get the best of me. But, frankly, I couldn't. I ended up tossing the can in disgust at the house and getting a Coke.

Beer is a pretty good smoking drink given it's lack of carbonation. But it tastes like piss and I hate it. I need to find the perfect smoking drink because, frankly, Cherry Coke doesn't cut it. It burns your mouth.

So, Miller High Life: 1; Steve-o: 0

My stomach still hurts though. I feel like I'm really full of air and taffy. The taffy I can explain, but not the air.

The general consensus about my hair is that it looks okay, but I'm still not really sure. You've probably seen that I updated my picture to reflect my new hair style. So, for whatever that's worth. I also found some place that will host my pictures: Village Photos. Yeah, it's been real good to me and let's me link here to Xanga without any problem.

So, Photo hosting red tape: 0; Steve-o: 1

Well, lot's going on in ol' Duder's head: lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous. I made a mistake last Friday night, taking my co-worker Kate's advice to cut my hair shorter in an effort to look more like Chris Martin (I typed Christ again. Wow). Anyway, I cut it too short. Now, instead of looking like Chris Martin, I look like Billy Corgan. I will post a picture eventually, provided I can figure out why Xanga only shows my yahoo pictures sometimes. (By the way, if you are an experienced Xanga user and can explain why that is, I really would appreciate it.)

Also, I'm counting down the days until I go home.

Also, my clutch smells like burning.

20 September 2003

Moving and the Consulate General

I am tired today and not very nice to be around. This: I drove down to Chicago to get a visa from the Japanese Consulate General and was missing one key element, a brochure from the church in Japan. I spent $12 on parking, $12 on gas, $8.63 on passport photos and missed work for three hours, making my net loss for today $63.08. I was looking for someone to be angry with. Also, faced with failure in personal devotional life, I am disheartened with my lack of self-control and spotty religious fervor. Do you think God is also upset with my on-again-off-again spiritual commitment? Certainly not. I believe in the infinite patience and love of my heavenly father, right? I certainly do. Without question. So much so that I am willing to tell everyone: "Hey, everyone! I believe that God is not frustrated with me!" Really, I really, really do.

My visa photo turned out horribly. I look like I killed someone. I don't look like Chris Martin yet. I was standing around waiting for it to develop and a woman without any teeth and wearing a moo-moo bought two York Peppermint Patties and rash cream. I thought Walgreens on Michigan Ave. would have a little more class. Anyway, seeing someone odd made me want to write and wanting to write is rare these days. I don't see enough oddity.

Did I mention that I want to look like Chris Martin? I'm doing okay, sort of, I guess. I'm a kinda of stalky guy: I don't think Chris Martin is stalky.

Do you think it's weird that everytime I typed "Chris Martin" in that last paragraph, I accidentally typed "Christ?" I bet the same thing would happen if I were talking about Chris Carrabba. (By the way, I saw his dumb sac on the cover of Spin, looking all serious and "emotional." "I can't believe I used to like you.")

Oooo, I hate him, I hate him.

What else... I still haven't solved my bad smell problem. This puppy's been plaguing me since Sophomore year. I'm thinking of just rolling around in lavender and vanilla every morning. Boy... Then I'd smell great!

17 September 2003


I swear, this job wears me raw. I watch the clock constantly. I've read everything there is to read on the internet. I've peed well over six times. I click back to my outlook window every time someone is approaching so as to appear like I'm really working. Well, I'm not really working. I'm writing this. And frankly, there is nothing for me to do here but sit and get paid which one might imagine to be the best job ever. It is, in fact, not. It's demoralizing.

Other than that, life couldn't be better. Cut these eleven hours out of my life and I would be fine. I played with the worship team last night and enjoyed it over all, except for the nearly thirty minutes we wasted just hanging out and not playing any music. For the most part, I really don't know what I'm doing up there. I make a mess out of most songs, but I try hard so I suppose that's worth something. I think I'm done with the team though as I need to be spending more of my free time getting ready to go to Japan. DK and I are fundraising this week and getting our visas on Friday. We really need to get our housing deposit and airfare raised before we can think about anything, really. It's the patience workshop.

I started a short story today that didn't really get off the ground. It might down the road. During Senior week, we saw the Davenport River Bandits play (a AAA ballclub in Iowa), and I thought about writing a beer seller story, something that utilized harsh fluorescent lighting in the field contrasted with the darkness past the outfield walls. The shadows in a ballpark are so eerie. I see some scenes from the story, but I think I started in the wrong place and haven't really sold myself on a plot for it. I promised Monica a copy of it over the summer so she could read it before she had to teach, but I never touched the idea. I re-read part of my honors project, but just frustrated myself.

I read more from Jorie Graham last night, and kept getting turned over inside of the poems. I can't listen to music when I'm reading her. The first poem sets that tone, I think: a meditation on minnows in water moving, creating movement, being moved. The minnows spin, the water spins, the poem spins. I lost myself in it. Anyway, if you read Graham let me know what you think. It may all just be an academic hoax, but I don't think so. She read at Knox this winter and really made me believe that what she does is important, wildly important, in the time we live.

When I read that the Iraqi police chief had been killed, I was surprisingly bothered by it. I have these fleeting hopes that this will happen quickly, that we will be able to get out before we have done more damage than good. I think we've already crossed that line. I read a horrifying account of US soldiers seizing prisoners in Saddam's hometown and didn't know what to think or feel. It's all ridiculously complicated and makes me want to eat a ho-ho and forget about it.

Which makes me think of Rick Jackson:
Terzanelle of Kosovo Fields

The soldier thinks he can beat the moon with a stick.
His is a country where roads do not meet, nor words touch.
The walls around him crumble: his heart is a pile of bricks.

We sit with the sky draped across our knees and trust
that the shadow of planes whisper like children in the fields,
follow roads that do not meet us, speak words we will not touch.

The soldier lights a fuse that makes a tragic story real:
our words scavenge the countryside like packs of dogs, derelict,
abandoned, hunted by the shadows of planes that cross the fields.

It's true that the blackbirds fill the air with their terrible music.
How could we think a soldier wouldn't turn our stars to sawdust?
Now our words scavenge the countryside, and our loves are derelict.

I wanted to love you beyond the soldier's aim, beyond the war's clutch.
Now bombs hatch in our hearts. Even the smoke abandons us for the sky.
How could we think a soldier wouldn't turn our stars to sawdust?

We live in a world where the earth refuses to meet the sky.
Our homes are on the march, their smoke abandons us for the sky.
Our soldiers thought they could beat the moon with their sticks.
Now every heart is crumbling, every love is a pile of bricks.

16 September 2003

The Green Mill

Dan and I went down to the Green Mill on Saturday night to listen to the Jazz and hang out. I've decided that when Christians go to bars, they should have some sort of way of indicating they are Christians that isn't awkward. Because here's the problem, the Christian moral system doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you're just an average Joe especially in a bar setting. Here's a sample of a conversation from Saturday:

Drunk Woman: So what're you guys drinking tonight?
Me: (awkward) Cherry Coke.
Drunk Woman: Cherry coke?
Dan: He's driving so...
Drunk Woman: Yeah?
Me: (awkward) I mean, I might have a real drink. I just turned 21.
Drunk Woman: So?
Me: (awkward) I mean, I didn't really drink before I was 21. I mean, once I did, at Passover.
Drunk Woman: Passover?
Me: (awkward) Yeah.
Drunk Woman: On my 21st birthday I got all [messed] up. Tons of disgusting shots.
Me: (awkward) Dan just turned 21, didn't you?
Dan: Yeah?
Drunk Woman: Did you get all [messed] up?
Dan: Uh, no, no. I got my passport.
Drunk Woman: (pause) You guys need to move down to the city and get a life.
Dan: (another pause) We're moving to Japan. That's pretty exciting, right?
Drunk Woman: Why are you moving to Japan?
Dan: English, to teach English.
Drunk Woman: You know they have classes there to teach you how to have better sex?
Dan: (uncomfortable) Oh? Yeah, we, uh, probably...
Me: (awkward) Yeah, I don't think we'll, uh, be...
Dan: We're working for a church over there so we can't really...
Me: It probably wouldn't be...
And it goes on like this. Now see how much better this would be:
Drunk Woman: You getting [drunk] tonight?
Me: I'm a Christian, please don't ask me about that.

All that to say, the jazz was good. DK knows a lot more about this stuff than me. He explained some of it which is pretty cool as I don't know anything at all. I only got four hours of sleep on Sunday night and then was pretty miserable at church. I need to not do that.

13 September 2003

Praying to the LORD

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD , "O LORD , is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD , take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"
Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live."
But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"
"I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."
But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

I think the reason I like the Bible so much is that I can generally relate to the folks that are in it.

Which is why I like The Postal Service too, come to think of it. And Songs: Ohia. And Andrew W.K.

DK and I have discussed, off and on, how many days we'd be willing to sleep on the floor. I said a month, but I think that's a little too high.

My jorb would be much more conveinent if they just mailed my paycheck to me and I never had to actually come in. I think I would probably do as much for the company sitting at home as I do sitting here at work. Come to think of it, I imagine I would be writing this very sentence, if I were at home instead of work, but I could be sitting in my underwear instead of this ridiculously uncomfortable shirt that I keep wearing because it doesn't wrinkle in the wash. All my clothes are wrinkled right now, and I'm hoping that hanging them on hangers will encourage them to straighten up and fly right.

Jorie Graham's "Prayer" said something wonderful to me last night. I will try to post it when I have the book in front of me (another reason why I should be at home instead of at work).

04 September 2003

Dead Computer II

The computer's fine now. Apple, in all their wisdom and majesty condemned my 512 MB of RAM as causing my screen failing. It's been quite a soap opera. Needless to say, it's all ended well. I've returned the memory. I'm getting my money back. I'm pregnant.

Also, on the Japanese front, we will be getting letters of guarantee this week and should be in Japan sometime in October. Yes, it is certainly moving along well. Stay tuned as DK's and my adventures in Japan become increasingly more like the Odd Couple.

But really, other than that, life's been quiet. I'm studying for the GRE a lot. Saying goodbye to people going back to school. Wishing I was going back to school. That's really about all.

Berto and I went down to see us some Jazz this Sunday in the city. It was raining pretty hard, but that didn't really deter us as both Berto and I don't really mind the rain. The jazz, at least what we saw, was pretty good, but we ended up just walking around Michigan Ave. looking at music and computers that we could never really afford. My shirt got really wet too.

Today's daily quote: "Back when the earth was flat, water must have always been flowing off the edges. I mean, like lots of water. Probably that water is still wandering through space, floating like a giant river."

30 August 2003


I know I had promised pictures of the trip to Hum, but see the last entry. My computer is still down, still broken, still hurting. It's like a Dashboard Confessional song, only worse.

DK and I are still going to Japan, sometime. I'll let you know if anything happens, but given our current experience with our Japanese friends, it could be quite a while.

Oh, and we also need $11,000. Just make the check out to me, okay?

20 August 2003

Dead Computer

My computer died. Yeah, I know. I'm pretty upset too. Apple has promised to take care of me, you know, make the computer work again without costing me anything except all that work I put into downloading songs.

Also, it seems that me and DK may be finding our way to Japan after all. Some other church is interested in having us teach. This one's in Fukuoka City which isn't on the main island of Japan, rather it's much further south. Sounds like we'll be teaching kids which I think will be pretty cool. Me and DK singing English songs.

18 August 2003

Bamer and Hum

The trip to Alabama to see Hum did happen as purported. I know, I know, I didn't believe it was actually going to happen either. Highlights of the trip will soon be appearing in photograph form on my yahoo photo album, but for right now you'll just have to imagine.

Hum was incredible. Everything we really could have asked for. When Matt Talbot walked out to set up and people sort of realized it was him, everyone just started screaming and cheering. We got close because most of the dumb hardcore kids left before the show started. They played a lot of songs off Electra 2000, but they were really good. They played "Stars," of course, and "Suicide Machine." Lots of harder stuff. "Little Dipper." "I'd Like Your Hair Long." On why they don't play anymore, Matt Talbot: "I know you guys would like us to play more, but we really don't want to." They're all kinda old. Matt Talbot looks like a football coach which I guess he is now.

Andrew W. K. also played the most unbelievable set (unbelievable in the sense that we really couldn't believe what was happening). Like 100 people got on stage with him and "partied." You really couldn't see the band except for a couple times during the show when Andrew made his way to the front of the stage either with someone on his back or on someone else's back. "I...AM...ASKING...YOU...TO...DANCE...PLEASE!" It was pretty wild. There were also about eight kids in the pit running around in their underwear, partying as well. My big question is, what's the difference between being gay and just joking about being gay. I think dry humping your friend in a mosh pit would constitute actually being gay.

I spent a lot of time looking for the real Alabama. Like rednecks with their dogs killing possums. Or fat, drunk guys swearing at their women and beating their children. The Andrew W. K. show was probably the closest thing. Not a lot of people really had accents. No one called it Bamer either. We asked a couple of people about it, and they said we had to go further South to get to the real dirty parts. I was disappointed.

Anyway, I went with the guys from Braille and one of their friends and we had a good time together. I heard the new Monday's Hero/ Braille/ Felix Culpa spilt and it's incredible.

I'm tired and at work and I'm going to try to sleep at my desk without anyone noticing.

15 August 2003

Planes Mistaken for Stars

Hello Everyone. This is my very first entry, so please, bear with me.

Last week, Berto and I decided to venture into the city for a Planes Mistaken for Stars show. Previously, I had heard a Planes Mistaken for Stars song on the Third Emo Diaries Chapter, you know "Something, Something, My heart is broken." I liked the song and so did Berto. On the way down to the show, we went to Seven Eleven and bought these drink cups that had some sort of deal that allows you to put both slushie and Cherry Coke in the same cup without the two mixing together.

The Planes Mistaken for Stars show was awful. Too much shouting. Berto and I felt uncomfortable so we left.

Later, I ate 3 Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers and went to bed at 11:30 because I had to get up at 7 the next day. Berto slept on the futon and killed a spider before he went to bed.