Archive for category Marshall

April 20, 2004 – 420 and Koala tennis

Marshall and one or two of the other Hello House residents managed to get their hands on some weed and celebrated 4/20. This was a terrible idea because:

  1. Japanese drug laws are incredibly strict. Marijuana possession can get you penalties ranging from up to 5 years in jail to being deported for life.
  2. Stoned Marshall was not exactly good at being stealthy about being stoned. “Hey guys! It’s 420 in my room! Don’t tell anyone!”
  3. Apparently the weed was not very good.

The rest of us ended up hanging out in the common room watching 30 Seconds to Fame. Contestants get to show off some sort of talent, usually useless or ridiculous, for up to 30 seconds. If the audience hates it, they can vote the person off stage before the 30 seconds are up. Tonight’s performers included a contortionist, salsa dancers, singers, a human beat box, and an old lady playing songs with coke bottles.

At about 12:30am, 4 of us invented a new game that can best be described as Koala Tennis. Basically we had teams batting around a small koala toy with oven mitts and cutting boards in a common hallway. We had a lot of fun, but the game was not very well received by people trying to sleep.

(2014 Update) The entire 4/20 part of this blog entry was omitted in the original 2004 post.

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February 12, 2004 – The night I fell on the train tracks

Train safety sign found in a JR station

Train safety sign found in a JR station

This will be a substantial rewrite of my original post, as I left out a lot of detail the first time. (For reasons that will become obvious)

Today was a day off thanks to a shift swap so another teacher could see the Super Bowl. Since Marshall and I enjoyed our last night out in Tokyo, so we decided to plan for a night out in Roppongi. We had a beer or two before leaving Hello House, then took the Odakyu line to Shinjuku and switched to the Oedo subway line to Roppongi.

By day Roppongi is an upscale part of Tokyo, home to foreign embassies and company headquarters. At night Roppongi changes into a busy night life area, with most of the establishments catering to foreigners.  There is a good mix of classy upscale pubs, dance bars, meat market hookup bars, and expensive hostess and strip clubs. One of the most remarkable features is the touts. Walking down the street you will encounter a row of large African men who get paid to bring people into their bar. The pitch usually starts with a handshake and “my good friends”, and then you get a hard sell on why this particular bar or restaurant is the best in the neighbourhood. Saying no will usually result in a promise of a special price “just for you”. Some of the touts will give up easily, others will continue talking and negotiating until you agree to go in, or keep walking. If you have a particular destination in mind, just say no thanks and keep walking.

Our first stop was Hobgoblin, a pub style bar. After a few drinks we went to GasPanic, which is bigger and better than the Shibuya location. Thursday night is Gaspanic night, featuring 300 yen beers. There is a sign up on the wall informing everyone that “everybody must be drinking to stay in GasPanic”. On this particular night I took the advice too literally, and proceeded to get very, very drunk.

When you are going out for all night drinking, it is important to treat the evening as a marathon, not a sprint. Pacing yourself is the key to staying upright until morning. Also, if you happen to be stressed out or in a bad mood, going out for an all nighter is probably not a good idea. At the time we went out, I was homesick, stressed about work, trying to get my visa switched, and aware that February 12 would have been a 6 year anniversary with the ex. All of the ingredients were ready in the recipe for disaster.

My memories of GasPanic got a little fuzzy as the evening went on. Marshall and I were hanging out with another group of people and pounding beer. At one point I asked the bartender (who was blond) what night of the week would be good to bring a group of Canadian University students for a good time. He told me in broken English that he didn’t know because he had only been working there for 3 weeks, and that he was from Russia.

Eventually Marshall and I realized that I was in no shape for an all nighter and we decided to call it a night before last train. We walked to the Oedo line subway station and went to the platform. Like a good train passenger in Japan, I lined up at the front of the platform behind the yellow line. The subway station was spinning around me, and at some point I lost my balance, spun around, and fell backwards off the platform onto the train tracks. Through luck or some instinct I managed to fall on my back instead of on my head. I instantly jumped up to my feet and there were several people reaching down to pull me back up on the platform. Marshall was not one of them – he looked on shocked at my sudden fall.

After falling, Marshall and I decided to wait for the train sitting on the benches safely away from the tracks. A few minutes later the train came and we started the 10 minute ride to Shinjuku. Near the end of the ride I got sick in the subway car, causing everyone around to quickly move away. Marshall snapped pictures with his cell phone.

At Shinjuku we stopped in the men’s washroom so I could clean myself up. Assuring Marshall that I was okay to continue, we waited for the Odakyu line express towards Noborito. The train ride from Shinjuku to Noborito is about 20 minutes long. I made it until the second last stop before I started to feel sick again. My drunk brain decided that barfing on the train once was enough for the evening, so without any warning I bolted off the train as the doors were closing. Marshall didn’t have enough time to react so he couldn’t get off the train in time to stay with me.

I believe I got sick in a garbage can on the platform, and a friendly train line employee showed me to a nearby sink to clean up. My brain, in survival mode, managed to send enough Japanese to my mouth so that I could ask if I had missed the last train to Noborito. He assured me that there was another train, and made sure that I got on it. I don’t remember anything from that point until I was in the toilet stall in Hello House. Somehow I manged to get off the train at the correct station, used the ticket gate, and then navigated the zigzagging path back to Hello House.

Marshall found me in the stall and expressed relief that I was okay. I thanked him for trying, and apologized for being a mess. After drinking as much water as I could handle, I went to sleep in my slowly rotating room. As you are reading this, please be aware that I am not proud of this story. Getting drunk and falling on train tracks should not be a badge of honour for anybody. Getting that drunk is NOT cool, it is NOT a good time, and if you feel differently you should probably stay away from alcohol. It still scares me to this day to think of how things could have ended up much worse, and I am thankful that I am here writing the story now.

Usually when someone drinks too much and acts stupid, they make the empty promise “I will never drink again”. My resolution to myself as I drifted off to sleep in my spinning room was “I am taking a break from drinking, and I will never drink that much again”. Since February 12, 2004 I have been drunk many times, but never blackout falling down drunk, and I never will be again.

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February 2, 2004 – Yay blond hair!

Today I worked a shift so another teacher could go watch the Super Bowl and drink heavily. He found a bar that was showing the game (early in the morning) and had Happy Hour until the first touchdown.

Trading a shift with another teacher usually involves simply switching one day for another. However, since I am a part time teacher (5 lessons per day), trading with a full time teacher (8 lessons per day), I ended up with 5000 yen as compensation for working the extra 3 lessons. My day off in return for working today will be February 12. Marshall and I are planning a night out in Tokyo.

Work was interesting. Most of my students were women and I got flirted with in nearly every class. Yay blond hair!!

(2014 update)

It is entirely possible that I get flirted with more often than just on this day, but I am generally pretty clueless.

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February 1, 2004 – Cheap movie day

Today was a day off, and man, did I ever sleep a lot. Today is the first day of the month, so it is cheap movie day. On cheap day the price is 1000 yen instead of the typical 1800 yen. Marshall and I took advantage of cheap day to see Mystic River in Shinjuku.

Interesting notes from our movie night:
a) You can buy and drink beer at movies in Japan
b) Marshall and I found the movie theatre in Shinjuku WITHOUT getting lost. This is truly unprecedented.

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December 24, 2003 – Christmas Eve

My first Christmas Eve away from home was a bit depressing. I went to work earlier than usual and had plans to go to an English language church for a Christmas service in the evening. However, by the time I got home and ate it was too late to get to the church service.

I ended up going with Marshall to a yakiniku restaurant in Shimokitazawa, not too far away from my famous solo double date. The restaurant featured all you can eat and drink for 2 hours. The restaurant was smart and only had two waiters working, which greatly slowed down the delivery of food and drink to each table. I was surprised at how loud drunk Japanese people can be when they want the waiter to come. Shouts of “summisen” got louder and more obnoxious as the time went on. The gaijins in the restaurant had to work hard to keep up.

I ate cow tongue for the first time. It was thinly sliced and delicious.

After drinking many beers and stuffing myself with grilled meat I returned home to open my Christmas presents alone. Afterwards I fell asleep in front of the TV. I miss family Christmas.

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November 26, 2003 – The universal language of beer

avenue1

(rewrite of original post)

Marshall and I went out to a small local izakaya called Avenue. It was about a 5 minute walk from Hello House where the smelly alley meets the main street. Anyone who has ever lived in the area will know exactly what this means.

When I left Winnipeg there was a big push to cut down on over-serving. For those who don’t know, over-serving is continuing to sell alcohol to customers who are already (seriously) intoxicated. Coming from that environment, it was a bit of a shock for me to have to step over a customer who was passed out on the floor. He was on his side clinging on to a plastic bag to puke into. At that point we also realized that we had just walked into a place with character.

Marshall and I ended up having several beers at our own table, which was separated from a large group table by wooden slats that you could easily see through. We caught the attention of the large group of Japanese guys at the next table who were celebrating a birthday. They started talking to us, and thanks to the universal language of beer (and some basic Japanese), we were invited to join them at their table. We ended up having a little too much fun with our new friends. I snapped the attached picture of one of them as he was encouraging us to drink something out of a mysterious green bottle. The 120 x 120 pixel picture was the most my 2003 phone camera could handle, and it adequately represents what my vision was like at the end of the evening.

I love this country!

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November 13, 2003 – First all nighter in Tokyo

(partial rewrite of original post)

Had my first taste of Tokyo nightlife on Thursday (and Friday) with Marshall. The plan was to go to Shibuya, meet up with Mississippi Mike and his friends, and catch the last train home. Naturally we had a few drinks before we left, and got a “traveler” for the train. For the record, drinking beer on the train is legal, but generally frowned upon by other passengers.

We arrived in Shibuya with no idea of where to go and way too many options, so we decided to wander around the major streets and see what looked interesting.

1st stop – The Oil Bar – We went in entirely because of the name. Oil Bar was is a small pub that played hair metal. We were pleasantly surprised that the staff spoke English very well. It was a good to get a beer and make a plan for the evening. No communication yet from Mississippi Mike.

2nd stop – GasPanic – Depending on who you talk to, GasPanic is either famous or infamous. It is most well known as a popular place where foreign guys go to meet Japanese girls. There is no cover charge, and all drinks are 400 yen. There is a large sign on the wall informing customers that you must have a drink in your hand at all times to remain in GasPanic.

When we arrived it was very crowded, but welcoming and fun. Many beers were consumed, tequila shots were downed and chased with more beer. We met a group of Canadians and managed to have a conversation (as well as you can in a noisy bar) about hockey and Japanese women. Marshall and I left just after midnight feeling very good, and started heading for the station in order to catch the last train home. As we had the station in sight I finally got a text from Mississippi Mike to let us know that he and his group has just arrived in Shibuya.

Depending on your destination, the last train to leave most stations in Tokyo is around 12:30am. The first train starts around 5:00am. If you miss the last train you can either get an expensive taxi ride home, or decide to stay out all night. The beer and tequila in our system helped convince us to turn the evening into an all nighter.

3rd stop – WombApparently one of the best dance music clubs in the world, not just Japan. The whole place was huge, but since it was Thursday night (technically Friday morning), the main dance floor was not open. It would have been cool to see all four floors open and busy. Cover was 1500 yen and drink prices were obscene, especially after coming from the economic GasPanic. Our group danced to live DJ music until the they closed down at 4:30am.

The trip home – This part was not very fun. Shibuya is a confusing place when you are sober and not exhausted. Nobody remembered the way back to the station, and for some reason everyone broke up into small groups going in different directions. All of the groups kept walking in circles and running into each other. After about half an hour, Marshall and I finally found Shibuya station, but due to our diminished capacities we could not find the Keio line. We finally gave up and took the Yamanote line to Shinjuku, switched to Odakyu line, fell asleep on the platform, then woke up to catch a train back to Noborito. There is nothing worse than seeing the sunrise after too much partying. I got home at 6:30, about 9 and a half hours before I needed to leave for work.

Despite the trouble getting home, good times were had by all.

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