Toilet Backpack

*sigh* Sorry I’m so remiss in updating (why do all my updates seem to start like that lately?). As soon as I get less busy, I’ll start updating more often, blah blah, you know the drill. To all of you still in the university, madly updating your blogs 4, 5 times a week – this is what “real life” is like. Work, work, work, non-work related work and then come home to collapse exhaustedly in bed for a few hours of sleep before waking up and doing it all over again.
*sigh* R.I.P. Victoria’s cafe… We’ll miss you…
The kicker is, I’m only on JET – I can only imagine what the “REAL” “real world” is like. *groans*
Well anyway, let’s jump right into it, shall we?
So there’s Tennis. Tennis is lovely and wonderful and smart and all that other good stuff, plus for reasons that I still can’t manage to figure out, she listens to me ramble on aimlessly about nothing at all for hours at a time, unlike everyone else who either a) falls asleep or b) starts munching potato chips, accentuating every >CRUNCH< with a particularly loud grinding and gnashing of teeth designed to drown out my self-amusing droning in the background. I'm not sure if it's because she's had a terribly polite upbringing or if it's just because she enjoys pain and torment, but whatever the reason, it makes me happy and that's a good thing as far as pandas are concerned.
Sexy panda looking off into the distance while carrying...somthing... on his back.
Since Tennis not only listens to me, but also doesn't (usually) throw things at me whenever I start babbling on at length, I spend a lot of time over at her house.
Now as some of you may recall, Pandas has previously expounded on the lovely (in this case lovely = "mind numbingly torturous inquisition-like agony) Japanese realty system, which in conjunction with lazy S.O.B.'s at some of our contracting organizations have conspired to place some of our unlucky number in places where the living condition approaches that of Afghan orphans, only with the added bonus of having to pay and arm and a leg for the privilage of not having hot water, and occasionally, doors or windows.
My lovely Tennis, while not quite as unfortunate as some have been in the past, nonetheless got the proverbial short end of the stick when she was placed in a Leo Palace property. "Leo Palace" as those of you who have lived here in Japan for a while know, is the name of a realty chain which seems to specialize in a) uniquely shoddy construction designed to shake shudder and collapse in a mildly strong breeze, b) a particular brand of post modern deconstructionist architecture wherein the traditional Western conceptualization of "apartment" as a "place to live" has been re-envisioned to leave out unneccessary traditionalist baggage such as "kitchens", "closets", "showers" and occasionally the idea of having "more than one room", and c) exorbirant monthly rents roughly comparable to a week at the Tokyo Park Hilton, only much more conveniently located 30 km and a 780 yen train ride outside of town in a concrete wasteland of danchi public housing.
An action shot of our peddling panda's parcel.
Anyway, so Tennis's employers saw fit (despite the desperate pleadings of her predeccessor) to stick her in a sub-standard Leo Palace "apartment" which quickly earned the nickname "the tree house" for the tiny lofted area which was the only distinct feature of an otherwise single tiny room abode for which she had to shell out nearly 10 man (~$950 (us)) a month for. Needless to say, this didn't go over, and Tennis eventually moved out into a new apartment, a rather nice traditional-style Japanese apartment aproximately 7 times the size and 1/2 the rent of her previous "Leo Palace" experience. The new apartment is splendid - it has not only a huge kitchen, bath and shower room, but also separate rooms with doors between them! Amazing. Also rounding out the appeal of the new place is a wonderful tatami room where pandas can roll around to their hearts content on floors that aren't made of pale sickly green-gray linoleum that look like the 1970's barfed all over a rotting avacado.
Nonetheless, as the saying goes, "nothing's perfect", and the new apartment had two shortcomings.
1. It didn't have an air conditioner
2. It had a Japanese style "squat toilet".
Kirstin giggles as I recount the toilet story.
Now the first problem was solved by our running over to the local electronics store and purchasing an in-window air conditioner, which was installed in a rather manly fashion by favorite handy-man panda hero (handypanda? sounds sort of effeminate..hmmm...).
The second problem proved to be a little more difficult. Since it lacked the certain life-or-death sense of urgency accompanying the first situation (summers here can be dreadfully hot and humid) we sort of just grinned and bore the whole "squatting while you poo and try not to fall down in the toilet" situation for a while, under news of Tennis's mother's imminent visit took us all by surprise and spurred us into action.
Casting our home-upgrade dragnet far and wide, we came across a home-center store wherein they sold devices designed to retrofit an old japanese-style toilet and turn it into a reasonable facsimile of a western toilet. So off we went on our bikes to purchase said throne of toilety deliverance (which cost nearly $100 US) and grinning triumphantly, we stepped outside with our new purchase -
to confront a new problem. While our previous air conditioner purchase had been sufficiently heavy and expensive enough to warrant having it delivered, this particular home store did not deliver. Rather, they were kind enough to strap on some twine / carrying handles to aid us in our endeavor, but after that, we were on our own.
Now granted, we could have walked home, carrying the toilet with us, but it would have been a significantly long walk (especially with a toilet), plus we still had to deal with the issue of the bikes. We attempted to carry the toilet between us as we biked, but quickly concluded that this would lead to our rapid mutual demise on the hood of some menacing white van barelling down the street.
Then inspiration came to The House of Panda and in a split second of brilliance, the solution was laid clear:
The Toilet Backpack.
Panda showing off his best "San Francisco Bike Messenger" look - with a toilet.
Originally I was going to go on at length about the unique feelings and problems confronting an individual who has to cycle for several kilometers at night with a large toilet strapped to his back, but now that I'm looking this post over, I think that the experience seems to speak for itself. A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. We managed to strap said toilet to mistar panda's back, and then carefully (very carefully), picked out way through careening, weaving traffic Frogger-style at night (all the while trying to ensure our newly expensive purchase didn't slip and meet an unfortunate end somewhere in the murky streets) until finally we arrived home and installed our lovely porcelain (it's actually plastic) bathroom accessory.
Sweet, sweet poo-ing comfort with a western style toilet.
Riding through the streets at night on a bike with a toilet strapped to my back.
I have the strangest experiences in this country!
As an aside, my one of my favoritestestest coffee shops closed down the other day for good. *sigh* R.I.P., Victoria's Cafe, with your lovely scones and proper pot of earl grey tea. How we will miss you!
The lovely owner waves good-bye to us for the last time...
I went down there last Saturday for a last, sad brunch with Iris and Kirstin. *sigh* Now what's a panda to do?
The girls look pensive as they try to decide where they'll hang out from now on.
Anyway, that's about it for now. If you're so inclined, feel free to check out the new website which I have been laboring on for a while. It's actually still currently quite pants, so bear with me while I try and get everything all sorted out and make it look pretty.
Now reading: "Milan Kundera - The Unbearable Lightness of Being"
(He lived a scant two years with his wife, and they had a son. At the divorce proceedings, the udge awarded the infant to its mother and ordered Tom to pay a third of his salary for its support. He also granted him the right to visit the boy every other week.
But each time Tomas was supposed to see him, the boy’s mother found an excuse to keep him away. He soon realized that bringing them expensive gifts would make things a good deal easier, that he was expected to bribe the mother for the son’s love. He saw a future of quixotic attempts to inculcate his views in the boy, views opposed in every way to the mother’s. The very thought of it exhausted him. When, one Sunday, the boy’s mother again cancelled a scheduled visit, Tomas decided on the spur of the moment never to see him again.
Why should he feel more for that child, to whom he was bound by nothing but a single improvident night, than for any other? He would be scrupulous about paying support; he just didn’t want anybody making him fight for his son in the name of paternal sentiments!
Needless to say, he found no sympathizers. His own parents condemned him roundly: if Tomas refused to take an interest in his son, they they, Tomas’s parents, would no longer take an interest in theirs. They made a great show of maintaining good relations with their daughter-in-law and trumpeted their exemplary stance and sense of justice.
Thus in practically no time he managed to ride himself of wife, son, mother and father…

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