Calverts to London

After two years and many adventures in Japan, Jeff and (pregnant) Ericka are off to London.
We had the traditional Last Supper in Fonda de la Madrugada in Harajuku, the best Mexican (as in Mexico, not as in LA) food this side of New York. A good time was had by all, but at least now we have someplace to stay when we go to London!

meat and a haircut, 10 yen

More like 13,850 yen, but never mind the details.
The Mightier Steed galloped me to Omotesando for a visit to Nozawa at UR, where the clippers worked magic and the massage was painfully pleasant.

Then I hopped across the street to Barbacoa for Robin's going-away party. After 14 ("and a half!") years at Morgan Stanley, the grass was greener in the Swiss Alps.
The salad bar was lovely as always, and the meat...oh, the glorious meat!

Robin started The Game, whose rules are unclear but it generally involves the loser drinking, the winner drinking, anyone's who's watching drinking, everyone sitting at the nearest table drinking...Basically a fair bit of drinking. The waiter told us the next table over was complaining about the noise we were making. Ha! We hadn't even started the speeches yet!

Robin got a stylish fishing vest, pockets bulging with Marlboro Lights, and a Morgan Stanley globe paperweight which MUST be prominently displayed in his new office at UBS. By the time our two hours of all-you-can-eat-and-drink were up, many beer bottles were empty, Robin was a teary-eyed mess, and the crowd proceeded to further debauchery as is always the case with these things.


So some guy came back practice last week to check it out. He came early, about 6:15, and I explained to him that we start basics at about 6:30 and then when Hoshina-san shows up we start practice at 7:00. He watched until about 6:50 and then said he had to go, but was interested in starting next week. I was surprised, as he hadn't really seen much, and asked if he could fill out the membership application. He said he didn't have time but he'd be back next week. I didn't expect him to come back, but there he was. So he filled out the application, paid his registration and first month's dues, and starting doing basics with us. He'd been doing Zenkenren so he had the equipment and some basics, though his cuts lacked the 'cutting-ness' of Mugairyu.
By 7pm Tanaka-sensei and Niina-gosoke had showed up, and we started doing kata. Hoshina-san starts to teach this guy one-on-one, but he says he wants to practice the Zenkenren kata because there's a tournament coming up. Hoshina-san explains that, while we do sometimes do the Zenkenren kata, this is Mugairyu Iaihyodo. He insists. She speaks to Niina-gosoke, who, justifiably, explodes: "He wants to do Zenkenren? I don't care either way. But this is Mugairyu. We practice Mugairyu here. We don't go to Zenkenren practices and tell them we want to practice Mugairyu kata! You ask me, Zenkenren isn't koryu budo, it's nice movements, but we do koryu budo here. We cut with intent, this is Mugairyu!"
Suffice to say he packed up his stuff, we refunded his money, and he was out the door. Kind of surreal.

After that we ran everyone through a couple of pretend tournaments, with judges seated at the front, timing the whole thing to give people an idea of what the tournament on Sunday will be like. Lots of nervousness and people forgetting the basics like how to bow and hold the sword!
From 8:30 Niina-gosoke started the Hour of Pain and pummeled us once again. About 8:45, as I was performing a particularly talent-less draw, there was a stupendous "craaaack!" as I split my saya (scabbard.) It was an old saya, the original that came with the sword, and I had patched it up several times. I knew it'd crack one day, so I wrapped the top with duct tape, and glad I did, because that prevented it from splitting in two entirely. Gosoke immediately laughed and then asked "Did you cut your hand?" "No sir, just my pride." and he laughed again. I've got a couple more saya so no big deal, everyone cracks them eventually, but it really does illustrate how lame I am and how hard it is to do clean draws every time.


After practice Misawa-kun took a photo of me with his phone

Yes, I really do command respect from the younger students.

mom down! mom down!

Had a bit of a scare: She Who Simultaneously Smokes, Drinks Ice Coffee, Talks On The Phone, Does The Crossword Puzzle, Watches Television, and Plays Electronic Bridge Whilst Making Quilt Patterns had some chest pains, drove herself to the hospital, and spent a couple of days under the watchful eye of the medical profession. Hereditary heart problems (I got 'em too!) and a bourgeoisie New England lifestyle do not a good couple make. Supposedly she quit smoking (that or they just don't letcha smoke in the hospital, they can be strict that way.)
Now she's down in Alabama. In the hospital with heart problems. In Alabama. Dunno which is worse...just kidding Gene!
I've never been south of the Mason-Dixon line. I drove cross-country once with Patch in his foreign car, he wearing an "I want my RU-486" t-shirt and me with my blue braided dreads. A couple of times in the Midwest I thought for sure we'd be lynch-mobbed. One gas-station attendant wearing grease-covered overalls ala Dukes Of Hazzard took one look at our car and mumbled "Damn fine waste of metal and rubber..." to which Patch mumbled, looking at such fine proof that man did in fact evolve from chimps, "Damn fine waste of skin and bone..."