seminar day 1

Stopped off for some donuts for breakfast, then hit the dojo.
Had a good group of 12 in the morning and we dove right in, starting the seminar by running through the basics then going right into the first 5 seated kata set, goyo. Everyone picked it up quick and after a carnitas burrito lunch we got into the first 5 standing kata set, go-o. Tony went to pick up Hoshina-san at the airport and got to the dojo in time to catch to last couple of hours of practice. We finished off the day by pairing up with wooden swords and running through the ten kata again, checking distance and strike positions. Everyone seemed to enjoy bonking each other in new and excitingly painful ways, and by 5 pm we were all tired and ready for food.
We changed and headed out for some Italian seafood, where the plates of pasta were as big as my chest. Tony opened the bottle of Suimoken sake and we finished it off in only a couple of rounds. James Williams sat next to Hoshina-san and freaked her out a bit when he was talking about Systema by whipping out his giant tactical folding knife and pressing it into his arm ("slice = cut, pressure alone won't cut").
After James and Hoshina-san each finished off a bowl of vanilla icecream, Hoshina-san and I were beat, so we headed back to the motel and the rest of them keep cranking at the bar until the wee hours.

chop chop

Slept like a bear in winter and woke up to a beautiful California day, Tony standing in the doorway with bagels and OJ.
Te gang came over and we started cutting in Tony's backyard. Tony and all practiced their Toyama-ryu cuts, and I did some decent (and many failed) cuts from a seated draw. (Un)fortunately it's all on tape. Ted also came over and, besides being thoroughly entertaining, shimmed and tighthened up my cutting blade.
the Sacramento brothers-plus-wife were in fine form, thanks to a healthy dose of post-airplane-seizure Motrin, and Jimmy Crow from Texas avoided backyard garden hole-digging duty by doing his best Cowboy Samurai impression. We even had a lunchbreak GQ cutting visit by none other than the long-haired fashion man himself.

The afternoon was spent getting ready for the drive down to San Diego; we grabbed more Mexican for lunch (I am now a carnitas burrito addict), I shipped my snowboard back to Toyko, we bought beverages and packed up the necessary stuff. To avoid traffic we opted for a late leave, so we watched the cutting video from the morning, made fun of each other, then watched The Seige of Firebase Gloria, starring none other than Lee Ermey, who's oratory ability is second-to-none: (To a troop of US marines surrounded by enemy Viet-Cong) "There is no doubt in my mind that we are in a deep-shit situation here, people."
After the movie we hit the road and got down to Motel in just over an hour.
Tony and I headed over to the Dojo of the Four Winds to finalize some details, and then we hit Denny's for a late dinner before crashing.

behind the orange curtain

Jorge drove me down to Orange County and dropped me off at BigTony's place. He lives about a mile from the beach. Tony hooked me up big time with some really slick Volcom snow gear, including a board! We got in his truck and ran some errands, grabbing a Happy Burrito for lunch.

In the evening we headed over to Don Angier's dojo and worked out a bit, then all his guys showed up and they had a Toyama-ryu practice. I finished them off with about 30 minutes of Mugairyu as a warm-up for the weekend seminar.
Then we all headed out to TGIF's for dinner and waiter-abuse as Don, despite his best attempts, failed to receive a slice of onion for his burger as requested.
Ted Arnold joined for dinner and I was introduced to the full voracity of everyone's good-natured joke-flinging.

to la!

First a quick stop at Daly City for an In-and-Out Burger, finished off with a Krispy Kreme donut, then we were on our way speeding down the 5 in our shiny Budget rental van. The girls all slept some, with Hiroko unconscious for most of the drive down. We got into Hollywood in the evening and checked into the guest rooms at Jeremy's mom's apartment building, the Doheny Plaza just off of Sunset. Jeremy came by in his 2Mecha Audi and we grabbed some dinner up the street.

nappa valley

59 degrees F in San Francisco, and the temperature started rising as we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and into the valley. 80 degrees in the east bay, 92 when we finally got in to Nappa. By now my shoulders were nicely reddened from the open sunroof and clear blue skies, but a little sunburn can't stop us.
First we stopped at Bouchon for a French lunch, the took some photos outside of French Laundry. Same chef runs both places, but French Laundry takes reservations a year in advance and you still might not get in, so settled for just taking photos. Then we headed deeper into wine country and checked out the cool architecture of Clos Pegase, took a tour of the caves and tasted some dessert wine at Beringer Vineyards, and saw the cooking theatre and corkscrew collection at the Culinary Institute of America.
We came back into the city and for dinner went to Elisabeth and Daniel. We opted for the five course dinner instead of the ten course because we didn't want to be there all night. My wheat 'risotto' with mushrooms was the winner of the evening, and I won't even bother trying to explain how good it tasted because unless you eat it you just won't know.

This morning we're getting a van and driving down to LA for more fun and sun.


Dinner was amazing, of course. And Kei-chan was Kei-chan. A bit goofy, but lots of fun. We ate at the late sitting, started about 9:15 and we were the last table in the place. Finally left about 11-something and drove around Oakland forever trying to find Kei-chan's hotel. It was down near past Jack London Square, but out closer to the airport so we had to drive past the waterfront industrial park and sort of got lost. Finally made it back home about 12:30 and Corrine was still working, finishing up some photo work for freelance job.


Still jet-lagging, but that just means Emi's early-morning antics didn't wake us up. Had a bagel from Rainbow (the hippie market) for breakfast and then went into the city to do some shopping. Hit Tiffany's but couldn't find the pendant Hiroko wants -- thought it was new but it turns out it's old and probably discontinued. Got a pair of linen slacks at the huge Banana Republic, and got Hiroko and slick blue dress for dinner tonight at the birthplace of California Cuisine, Chez Pannise.


Great big salads and great big Americans at The Cheesecake Factory. Eco shoes at Nordstroms. Emi likes french fries. San Francisco is cold when it's sunny. Whole Foods sells the freshest everything.


United flight #852 NRT to SFO. Upper deck seats. Hiroko watched Chicago, then slept. I watched Daredevil. Note to self: Ben Affleck should not wear full-body leather.
Arrived on time, got through immigration no problem (note to self: immigration agents speak Japanese better than I do), and then got to baggage claim:
"United Airlines would like to remind you that we do not operate the baggage carousels, they are operated by the city of San Francisco. Flight #852 baggage will arrive on carousel #5. Carousel #5 is currently broken, but please don't complain to United Airlines."
And then 20 minutes later: "Baggage from flight #852 is actually arriving on carousel #2."
Finally got our stuff, including my sword case, and then we got in line for customs. There were two whole customs agents, so each line was only 400 people long. Finally got through, found Jorge in the lobby, and sped the Audi to casa de Arriola.