This being another of those cold, rainy days in Tokyo, it’s easy to be dragged down by wet feet, damp clothes and overheated trains. I find it helps me to put a better shine on the day with the thought of some favorite things I’ve enjoyed over the past week or two. Come home out of the rain, trade the damp go-to-work clothes for soft, crumpled old jeans and sweater with a hole in the elbow, put on a favorite CD, and make myself something to drink. Flip through recent pages scribbled in a journal, stop and admire again that ink, the one that seems to have made the thoughts come out better. Pull a book from the messy jumble on the desk and think again of words and images that knocked me for a loop last week. Discover between pages 116 and 117 the piece of paper with a poem copied from The Writer’s Almanac. The cold and damp recede and I’m home.
I’ve made a list of ten favorite things from the past couple of weeks, things that were important in opening my eyes, raising my spirits, satisfying an appetite, or just somehow making the days better. It’s not meant to imply that the ten things listed will be forever and immovable from the list. Ask me again next month and I’d probably rattle off ten new favorites. But for now…
Tokyo Fiancée by Amélie Nothomb, published in 2009 by Europa Editions
Books about the experiences of young foreigners discovering Japan can be predictable and boring, too often lacking a fresh perspective and particular insight. This book (originally in French) takes us far beyond the banal and naive impressions of many ‘my time in Japan’ books. Nothomb has a good eye for Japanese society, and gives us two characters with depth.
“Twenty Question” by Maura Stanton, from Immortal Sofa, published in 2008
Who wrote Heart of Darkness? And what’s the name
Of Dale Evan’s horse? Why did thieves steal
Charlie Chaplin’s corpse? Can you explain
Hieroglyphs in shells? How do you feel?
How many grains of (popcorn, rice, sand) fill
This container? Why did they auction off
Maria Callas’s underwear? Would you like a pill?
Do you feel tired, perhaps? Is that bed soft?
Can you remember your parents’ wedding date?
Your own? Like a glass of milk? Some champagne?
How many rhymes in a sonnet? Something you ate?
Who invented Bacos? Think it will rain?
Lie back now. Shall I bring you some chips?
What’s the answer? It’s rising to your lips.
For some reason I put off seeing this movie until it came out on DVD, and even then held off for another couple of weeks. What was I thinking? Great movie!
Soundtrack from the 2000 movie, What Women Want
I pulled this one out of a dusty stack last week and played it every day for about a week. In my opinion an almost perfect compilation of great old love songs — Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, The Temptations, Bobby Darin, Christina Aguilera, Peggy Lee…
“Welding with Children” by Tim Gautreaux, from a 1999 collection of the same name
No one, but no one writes characters and settings like Gautreaux. Treat yourself to some down home Louisiana gumbo.
Vintage Pelikan 100N with a gray tortoiseshell barrel and a medium nib
This pen makes a sound that I like very much as it moves across the paper. Other Pelikan pens have nibs that flow across the page without a murmur, but for some reason (related to age?), the 100N whispers to the paper in a soft susurrus as the words unfold. Ears as well as eyes bear witness to the pen’s writing.
‘Blood Orange’ a custom mix by Osamu Ishimaru at Sailor Jentle Ink
Very inexpensive light gray Muji paper, 55% recycled paper, in a wire bound notebook.
Curry udon — This is a type of thick wheat flour noodle usually served in a brown soy sauce based broth. My preference is to put the noodles in a thick Japanese curry soup with vegetables and chicken.
Best Looking Blogs
Though the content is also commendable, two of the blogs I have most enjoyed looking at recently are Glass Petal Smoke and Noterati. These blogs both have a beautiful layout and choice of colors, fonts and design.
These are things that cheer me up on a cold and rainy day.
Better get busy cooking that curry udon.