Take me to Tokyo

Sakura Blossom Ueno Park

The cherry blossoms are just coming out and everywhere I turn I start thinking about Tokyo.

The first time Zilla took me to Sri Lanka, which was-wow- already seven years ago, our flight connected through Narita, which is to Tokyo what Seatac is to Seattle. We were in Sri Lanka almost three weeks and in Tokyo for only three days, but it is Japan that I really remember.

Part of it, I’m sure, was the unexpected good luck of it all. Sri Lanka, in those days, was still at war and while we were there the airport was bombed. Zilla and I were newly together, and being home with him, meeting his parents, being white, wondering if what we had would work and if we were even physically safe was, well, a lot. But when we landed in Japan all of that was over. We were just two people again, with two days together.

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We took the train in to Tokyo and walked up the stairs to Ueno Park. Petals blew in the wind and fell on my face. Without even realizing it, without even considering it might happen, even thinking it was remotely possible, we’d come to Tokyo —and had two whole days—right in the middle of the Cherry Blossom Festival.

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The park was pink, petals lined the paths. People were out of their offices, celebrating. Men in suits and women in skirts–knees neatly folded—sat on blue tarps and drank sake. Their shoes lined the blue plastic. Petals fell in their black hair. Petals fell on their umbrellas.  The air smelled like fresh linen. Everyone was talking and taking photos. Food carts were parked everywhere.

Japanese Fans

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Tokyo Strawberry Lollipops

Japanese Woman

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Zilla spent the first grade in Kyoto—because his parents were on sabbatical there— and he still remembers how to pronounce some Japanese. Please and thank you, bathrooms, money, takoyaki, which the food carts sold, but mostly just the basics now, since it has been thirty years. But his pronunciation is perfect and he has the right body language, a sense of when to nod and bow. So I followed his lead, and we just carried on with a few words and lots of sake, covered in petals and eating fresh tofu soup, making new friends, as it grew dark.Photographing Cherry Blossoms

That night we stayed in a traditional Japanese ryokan—or guest house–on  folded mats. I bathed nude in the traditional baths with three old ladies—more on that, I promise—and we had a thirty course meal, one of which was a single perfect strawberry, that reminds me that perfect falls short as a word. A geisha—or at least that is what she looked like to me– in full kimono brought each dish, kneeled at our low table, backed away as if I were a queen, and then bowed. I hadn’t seen anything like it, except on Reading Rainbow! We still have the menu framed on our wall.

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Fortunes Tokyo Ueno Park

Ueno Park Tokyo Sakura Cherry Blossoms

I think about that trip sometimes, when life gets busy and time seems to stop. Graham Greene says in Travels with my Aunt that travel makes stretches time, makes it longer. Two days, and they held enough wonder for years. Just two days.

Where would you go?

Update 1: I finished my first Computer Science problem set. BAAM! As Emeril would say. The second one was harder: baam? (not a roar, but a meow)

Update 2: Several says ago I woke up to this email: “Your friend has send you an article from WebMD.” I opened it. “How to Get Pregnant Quick: Fertility, Ovulation and Conception.” The friend who sent it? Zilla’s mom! AHHHHHHH! At least I know she’s reading my blog.

Thirty and Coding

Code.org, learning to code

Damn, if some days I don’t feel like I’m still three years old—and of all days, today, the day I turn thirty.

Everyone always asks what you are going to do for your birthday—especially when it is a big one. Honestly, I’ve been so tired lately, I didn’t want to do anything at all.  Last week, during a meeting, my dear editor and friend suggested that I take a pregnancy test and a nap.

The advice was positive but the results were not.

There are things I expected to have by now, and I think a baby is one of them. Not that that means I am ready. Most of the time I feel like a child myself.

So I woke up this morning and talked to my family, and to the friends who know I messed up my real birthday—and have kept forgetting to correct it—on facebook. I thought about going out and buying some youthful make-up for the new purplish color under my eyes, but decided against it. Instead I carried my coffee cup to my office and sat down at my desk. I would celebrate my birthday by just enjoying a regular day of my real life.

One of the things I wanted to do today was to write to you all, here on the blog. So I went into wordpress and began pressing around. I’ve been feeling a little smug lately because I used to struggle so much when I tried to do anything but type on the computer. I’d sit down and then click around and get totally lost, exhaust all my curse words and then nearly black out with rage.  Everything computer just made me feel embarrassed, and old. In college I’d talked about taking computer science. I really should have but I was scared. My boyfriend at the time warned me against it. He said he thought it would be too hard.  I don’t know what’s worse: that that I believed him, or that he said it.

So I updated my blog page—which is hardly computer science, I know, because Zilla is a computer scientist– and then went over to check my email.  My friend Alice—also a computer scientist– had sent a link to code.org. I followed it. It’s all about the importance of teaching coding and computer science in schools and how useful it was in all careers and walks of life. And I thought: ah ha! That’s what I will do to celebrate being thirty. I will get over this hump. I will finally learn to code! Nothing fancy, just the basics. Then at least when (if?) I do get pregnant I won’t have to face a fetus with more computer literacy than I!

Well, I went back to my website with a new confidence and then totally, completely, mucked it up. I was going to map one domain to the other and then add a site redirect. I thought I had done everything right, but apparently not.  When I was done, I couldn’t even access my site at all. I could not figure out what I messed up. I clicked the same buttons three hundred times. Then I clicked them again. And then one or two or three hundred more times.

This was not how I planned to spend my birthday. I tried to breathe. I then wrote urgent supplications for help to wordpress. Then I picked up my phone and then put it down–determined not to call Zilla. I allowed myself two minutes to jump up and down and then curse and then sit on the floor and cry. Really cry. My little dog Zoe was so distressed she pulled one of my files out of the file cabinet and brought it to me to try and help. I took a deep breath, put the file in the file cabinet and checked my email. And there it was: The yearly two word birthday note from the boyfriend who said I probably shouldn’t try to code.

It is possible he didn’t even say that—that it’s just my fears I’m remembering.  It was a long time ago. He was and still is a pretty good guy.  But gosh, sometimes you just have to let the past go. Years pass, and things change, and we end up with an idea of ourselves that’s way out of date.

I typed in my domain name hoping for some cyper-magic. No: my blog was lost and everything was still all messed up. So I decided to do something else for a while. I went back to code.org and followed the links for learners. I did the first exercise: using code to draw a rectangle, a circle, a square. I did it—just like I used to with crayons.

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Update: I fixed my webpage after all. Though then I sent that funky blank post–sorry. For obvious reasons this post is appearing a few days after my birthday. AND: This morning I watched the first lecture of Intro to Computer Science which is free and available to all on MIT’s Open courseware.  I kinda got it. Plus, I liked the advice the professor gave to the class:“…do not feel inadequate when you are simply inexperienced.”