Happy New Years! 2019!

Happy New Years! 2019!

Happy New Years to each and everyone.  2019!  Such a futuristic sounding date.  In 1976, I imagined a much more futurey future — space stations, teleportation, laser guns, cancer cures, world peace. Aside from the smart phone, the internet and the fact that you can now purchase perhaps 10,000 varieties of potato chips, that future ideal seems to have crashed and burned.  In fact, we seem to be going in reverse.  The badly sutured wounds of World War 1 have always engendered a pustulant rot.  Again and again, those wounds open and the poison that drips forth covers the world in blood.  History is a lesson that is now being ignored and the dangerous sickness of Nationalism and so many other “isms” are once again rearing their heads.  Fuck.  Even the whaling industry is coming back!

But, all is not gloom.  I, like so many others, have so much to be thankful for.  On New Years Eve, I gathered up my children and headed to the slightly seedy “Happy Road” of Oyama for some New Years shopping.  Happy Road is an enclosed shotengai built sometime in the 1970s.  About 1km in length, a tad seedy, it comprises pachinko parlors, cheap clothing stores, traditional sweets shops, butchers, restaurants and much more.  We bought mochi balls for my wife covered in sticky sweet bean paste; we purchased traditional kadomatsu (New Years decorations to being happiness and harmony to one’s home) from an old florist; in an impeccable sweets shop, we got another type of mochi, topped with strawberry, the package beautifully wrapped.  We ate lunch in a ramen shop oddly called “Morris” (apparently named so for the Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Morris) which was delicious.  And we found a Bahn Mi shop to bring home a treat for my wife, who had spent the entire day cooking the traditional New Years food called Osechi.   As the clock ticked away to midnight, we dined on the traditional soba and my wife’s glorious tempura: Lotus root, green pepper, string beans, mushrooms and shrimp.  We gathered in front of the television switching back and forth from a sort of Las Vegas variety show featuring singers old and new, giant dance routines, bodybuilders, Japanese female speed skaters and a New Year’s special that has been running for 20 years (or so) featuring a group of Japanese comedians — I had a hard time following the plot as they ran around, were buried in truckloads of leaves, were spanked by men in black rubber suits, were stuck in a room with a collapsing ceiling and much more.  My wife, my in-laws, my children were in hysterics — and for a moment (some odd thing with a giant baby-like man with blackened teeth and explosions), I crossed some sort of cultural humor barrier, and laughed aloud as well.  We toasted midnight with beer and grape soda and the televised ringing of a temple bell in Gifu prefecture.

Today we will laze about, eat the Osechi my wife labored on for two days and generally just be happy that we are all together.  The world my friends, is in gloom…a dark night getting ever darker. But, for the New Year, for 2019, be nice to each other, be kind to yourselves, make your kids laugh, call your friends, cherish the memories of the dead and hunker down with your family be they chosen or biological, because the wolves are at the door and cliched as it may be, only love can save the day.

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