Friday, October 31, 2008

Mountain Grammar

While I was checking into a hotel in the quaint, bucolic town of Boone, North Carolina, a woman approached the front desk asking for a copy of USA Today. Here is the response from the young coed working at the hotel:

"The last one just got gone."

Okay, now I'm from North Carolina, and yes, I say y'all and fixin' (as in, "I'm fixin' to go to the store.").  But I have never, ever used the expression listed above.  I can't even repeat it now.  Somehow I resisted the urge to correct her. Actually, correct is the wrong term.  Somehow I resisted the urge to scold her and find the names of all her past English teachers and write them angry letters.  

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Encore Presentation of Game 6: Fukuoka Softbank Hawks vs Chiba Lotte Marines

The link to what should be this story on actually goes to the Hawks/Golden Eagles game in Sendai.  I decided to post the story here.

We couldn’t get enough of Japanese baseball, so we decided to see three more games.  Our sixth game was a matchup between the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Bobby Valentine’s Chiba Lotte Marines. 

The Marines play in a tile-covered stadium about a 30-minute train ride from Tokyo.  The family-friendly ballpark has a play area for children, and there are benches and picnic tables situated around the perimeter near an aisle of food kiosks.  

As with the other teams we’ve seen during our trip, the mascots were out in full force.  A cat mascot made balloon animals for children.  Several fans – mostly adults – sat on the ground in front of the stadium to watch Mar-kun, a seagull, provide pregame entertainment.  Later, Mar-kun and three other birds joined the cheerleaders on the field for a lively pregame dance.

We had a great view of the field from our seats by third base.  The section was populated mostly with Hawks fans, so we didn’t get the full effect of the Marines fan club, Team 26.  Japanese teams have 25 players on their active rosters, so the fan club’s name is derived from the concept that collectively the fans are the Marines’ 26th player.  As a result, no player on the Marines wears that jersey number.  Team 26, sporting bright white shirts, had a tremendous presence in the right field stands and fashioned their cheers in the style of European soccer fans, bouncing up and down in unison.

The Marines won the game 4-2 behind the strength of starting pitcher Naoyuki Shimizu, who was named player of the game after going 7 2/3 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits with no walks and 6 strikeouts.  After his postgame, on-field interview, Shimizu and the mascots walked to right field, where together they bowed before Team 26.  

Former Mets player Benny Agbayani started in right field for the Marines and went 1 for 3 with a single and a walk.  

In a losing effort for the Hawks, pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada threw a staggering 141 pitches in 7 innings.

The best part of the day came before the game.  In a touching ceremony, the Marines paid tribute to Hawks manager Sadarahu Oh, who announced his retirement on September 23 after fifty years in professional baseball.  His 2006 battle with cancer led to the removal of his stomach, and health issues have forced him to leave the game at season’s end.  The Marines played a video highlight of Oh’s illustrious career, and afterward he stepped out of the visitors’ dugout to acknowledge the crowd.  Bobby Valentine emerged from his own dugout to present the retiring legend a bouquet of flowers.  Oh-san shook the hand of each Marines player and received a bear hug from Julio Zuleta, whom he managed from 2003-2006.

Valentine is an icon in his own right, especially in Chiba.  The city has embraced the outspoken American as one of their own, which was easy to do since he won the Japan Series in 2005.  His likeness is everywhere, from the shrine dedicated to him in front of the stadium to his smiling face on food-court menus.  He was on the field even before Oh’s tribute, shaking hands and throwing baseballs into the crowd. 

Our next stop is to see another game with Oh’s Hawks, this time against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Sendai, north of Tokyo.  Waku waku suru! (I’m excited!)

This Post Actually Isn't About Japan

A picture I took of Westminster Abbey when Marc and I went to London in July has been published in a Schmap guide.  Here is the link to my photo.  If you click on the photo, you'll be taken to my flickr photostream.  Cool! 

When the managing editor informed me via e-mail about my photo's inclusion in the guide, she also mentioned a "customizable widgetized version of the guide for my blog.  As soon as figure out what that means, I'll post it.

And I Thought Jet Lag Was Bad . . .

In my last entry, I described jet lag as an evil, energy-sapping force of nature.  I have discovered something that is a close second:  jury duty.  The Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights dictates that we have "the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury . . ." 

Although I am well aware that jury duty is my civic obligation, I’m still annoyed that I had to be there today.  This complaint may seem a bit hypocritical since I took an entire month off to vacation in Japan and haven't worked in six weeks.  But now I must work, and I can't afford to be stuck on a trial.  I showed up at the New York State Supreme Court in lower Manhattan before the appointed time of 8:45am.  My thought process was that I would suffer through today and tomorrow and hope that no one selected me for a trial.  If I were unfortunate enough to be selected, I would simply tell the judge that I am unavailable next week.  That plan was squashed in minutes when the clerk, as if she could read my mind, told the group that rolling the dice and hoping you wouldn't get picked wouldn't work.  I even spoke to her directly, describing the fluid nature of my freelance job and that I don't get paid if I don't work, and that I can't turn down work in anticipation of serving on a 10-day trial that may never happen, and blah, blah, blah.  Although she was quite nice, she would have none of it.  She informed me of my options - none of which I found satisfactory - and told me that eventually I would have to serve, whether it is this week or another week of my choosing.  She suggested I return to the room and watch the "film" (I think it was shot on video) and take a few minutes to think about how I wanted to proceed.  I decided to proceed to the other courthouse to reschedule.

Allow me to digress and discuss this "film" I mentioned earlier.  It is an orientation (propaganda) video that tells the story of how the jury system was created and tries to make us feel guilty for loathing the idea of serving as a juror.  The New York State Court System should consider updating the video because Ed Bradley, the video's host and narrator, has been dead for almost two years.  That bothers me.

Anyway, I was rescheduled by the second nice but unsympathetic woman of the morning to March 16, which is an awful time to be stuck with jury duty.  But there really isn't a good time to do this, especially if one is a freelancer in the sports television business. While it's easy for me to feel sorry for myself in this situation, I know that I'm not alone.  At least the jury system has been in place in the U.S. since the country's inception, unlike Japan, which will introduce juries next year.  I'm sure that will be a mess.

I ended up having the day to myself, which is a good thing.  Now I'll put the agony of jury duty behind me.  Until I have to think about it again in five months.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Evil That Is Jet Lag

Spending an entire month in a country half a world away wreaks havoc on a person's sense of time.  Jet lag is an evil, evil energy-sapping force against nature. defines jet lag as "a temporary disruption of the body's normal biological rhythms after high-speed air travel through several time zones."   It's definitely a disruption, but I'm beginning to wonder how temporary it is.  We've been back for a week and a half now, and I'm not quite back to normal.  Just when I think I'm over jet lag, I'm falling asleep before 9pm.  At least I'm not wide awake at 2am anymore, so that's special.  

An important factor about jet lag that isn't included in the definition is the feeling of extreme lethargy and basic unwillingness to do anything.  Or perhaps that's my true nature, and I'm just using jet lag as an excuse!  

I'll eventually finish blogging about the Japan experience, but it's after 9pm, way past my new bedtime.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sadaharu Oh's Farewell Tour

Here's a link to another story that I wrote for  We have one more game to see - the Chunichi Dragons vs the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome on Saturday.

More Baseball in Japan

As if the JapanBall tour weren't enough, Marc and I decided to see three more games before our month in Japan ended.  The YES Network website has once again agreed to post my reports.  Read my story about the game in Chiba between the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Creatures of the Day - Shinagawa Aquarium

Tunnel tank

Rockhopper Penguin

Magellanic Penguin

Two dolphins hanging out before their performance

I love the giant black eyes!

Sea lion 

Showing off his strength and agility

Marc marvels at a giant turtle

Massive stingray in the tunnel tank

Giant octopus

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Living Large in Tokyo

I'm a medium.  I'm not large (most of me isn't, anyway), and I'm not small. I'm medium.  I wear a size 8, which is medium clothing.  At least in the States. Here in Tokyo, my size is a different story.  The clothing I've tried on and purchased while vacationing here is L.  L means Large.  And in some instances, L was too small.  Pants. Couldn't even button them.

I'm so traumatized by my suddenly L frame that I can barely write in complete sentences.  

By Japanese standards, I'm huge.  Yes, I'm technically half Japanese, but my Japanese half is from Okinawa, where the women actually have hips.  The women on mainland Japan are stick figures. And they like knowing they're small, so the stores here are stocked with XS, S, M and maybe one or two L.  

At one of the games on our baseball tour, I bought an L-sized T-shirt at the Hanshin Tigers gift shop.  It barely fits; it's almost too tight.  So when I decided to go shopping for cute Japanese outfits, I made sure the tops were L, which was heartbreaking and demoralizing, yet necessary.  I managed to squeeze into an M-sized skirt, but then I made the mistake of deciding I could buy a pair of cute pants at the Japanese clothing store Comme Ça Ism.  That's when I had the unable-to-button incident.  I was blue the rest of the day.  

To cheer me up, Marc googled "Westerners finding clothes that fit in Tokyo" and found other women in my situation.  Here's one from a woman my size. Here's a forum on that tries to answer clothing questions from women who are several sizes larger than I am.  (Of course, I felt much better when I read that one.)