I woke up in a strange place

By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
See also: a novel about a monkey.

December 24, 2003 Although a full recounting of recent events will have to wait for a few days more, I would like to provide you with a story and a nice picture to send you into the holiday season on a positive note. You may remember the Hero vs Villain trials I was running a couple months ago. To recap, students are asked to select a hero and a villain, and then they must tell the story of their encounter using no more than five lines. The following story comes from Akiko, Kae and Rie. (To be honest, it was an Akiko-dominated affair. The strong areas of her vocabulary really show up in the final product, especially that first sentence. Rie had some input, particularly where exclamation points are concerned, but Kae took the Ringo role and mostly just gaped at the other two. Still, I will credit all three of them.) I believe it is a powerful piece of work and I would like to share it with you and with the armed forces everywhere.


1. Saddam Hussein is so selfish and mean to people and one day he hit his friend.
2. His friend told Superman what he did.
3. Superman wanted to help him.
4. So Superman fight with Saddam Hussein.
5. Finally Superman win, and Saddam Hussein run away!

RESULT: Superman d. Saddam Hussein, TKO.

Let those who hit their friends be warned that that shit will not be tolerated in the new year or any year to come. And now, continuing the theme of friendship, it will come as no surprise that the picture is of monkeys.

I am off to Hiroshima on an overnight bus. Happy holidays!

December 20, 2003 It's 3AM! It's snowing in Kyoto! And I saw a monkey on a motorbike!

I love everyone!!!

December 4, 2003 I've been in-country for more than six months now, and I'm still making terrible purchasing decisions based on amusing packages. This has got to stop. Last week, I bought a new cheese product called Cheese & Cheese because I thought it might, in theory, kick ass if Cheese had a wise-cracking partner, also named Cheese, who would provide a humorous contrast to Cheese's gruff yet lovable exterior -- and together, Cheese & Cheese would join forces to solve the 'crime' of my hunger. That was my reasoning. As it turns out, however, Cheese & Cheese joined forces to create two hideous shades of orange and several atrocities against innocent taste buds. Which is unfortunate, given that I blew 400 yen on it.

Inspired by our retarded company newsletter, here is the first installment of a powerful new segment called ELT 2 The Rescue:

(column) (New Chicago Bulls coach Scott) Skiles is no Bill Cartwright, the man he is replacing, and we know this because Skiles said one of his hobbies is reading and then refused to reveal what book is on his nightstand. Short of top-secret Pentagon reports or naughty romance novels, I'm not sure why this is classified information.

Thanks for asking, (Chicago Tribune columnist) Rick (Morrissey). Introductions are often difficult for new language students. When he began to learn English, (new Chicago Bulls coach Scott) Skiles may have memorized a series of rote phrases such as "I live in..." and "There are (x) people in my family", and while he may be able to produce those phrases with a reasonable degree of confidence, he may not yet be ready to expand on them. In this case, we can assume Skiles announced that "My hobby is reading a book", but we should not take that as indicating a command of the present progressive verb tense on his part -- rather, we should use that phrase as a launching point for teaching him new sentence structures that will allow Skiles to describe himself in greater detail, and ultimately have him making appropriate tense selections between the simple present and the aforementioned present progressive. So allay your frustrations, Rick! (New Chicago Bulls coach Scott) Skiles is not holding out on you -- he's actually giving you your next teaching assignment! Thanks for writing.

In order to add more exciting 'user-interactivity' to this web-page and hopefully score some 'web millions', I have prepared the following brain-teaser. You can test your wits, record your answer and check it against the solution at the end of this entry. Please study the following photograph, taken near my school two days ago. What is wrong with this picture?

Here is a box in which you can type your answer, for those of you who find that sort of thing satisfying:

If you click 'Send', your answer will be sent to the news bureau of the Chinese Space Program. Unfortunately, as they have not been advised of the question, I expect they will find your answer very confusing, so you're probably best off just leaving it here.

Christmas cheer is in full-swing here in good old Iwataki-cho. Some of the yakuza have their Christmas lights up, which are really quite pleasant, and one of the whore-houses gave us a fresh-baked loaf of bread for reasons that are entirely unclear to us. (It's still sitting on the kitchen table.) With the cold weather and lack of heat in our house becoming increasingly notable at night, I have been spending a lot of time at the public bath house down the block. It's pretty laid-back in there. The yakuza guys generally won't shower directly next to me, but they don't mind sharing the whirl-pools or the awesome steam-room, and one of them offered me some shampoo the other day, which was very nice of him. There was a big guy in there the other day who had a full-back tattoo of a warrior slaying a dragon. I was mighty impressed, and glad not to be a dragon.

Unfortunately, there came some tough news recently:

This city is still reeling from the last pink lady typhoon, and I don't know if it can withstand another one. We must batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst. What kind of cruel God would so callously subject these people to a pink lady typhoon again? Like earthquakes and their aftershocks, the second pink lady typhoon is often more intense than the first. Say a prayer for all of us here in Kyoto. We are going to have to face this pink lady typhoon head on.

SOLUTION TO THE BRAIN-TEASER: Look at the dishes at the bottom of the poster. They have Cookie Monster endorsing cheese danishes and pigs-in-a-blanket. Cookie Monster, by definition, does not give a shit about anything other than cookies. (Believe me, I have studied that gentleman.) I need to learn the idiomatic equivalent of "Focus up, Mr. Donut."

I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.

Often discussed:

Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.


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Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.