Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

A Trip after The Storm hr611

Although I had received “the last letter to me” quoted as written from my mother a few months before in which she wrote she wouldn’t like to see me or hear from me or receive any gifts from me or stay in contact with me any more for the rest of her life, I ignored it completely and made an annual visit to my parents as usual. She had sent me that offensive letter behind my father’s back and he doesn’t know about a broken relationship between me and my mother.
My father also used to be bad-tempered and attack me when I returned home once a year or two. But since he sold our family’s house, he has welcomed me in a good mood at his small apartment in an unfamiliar town and hasn’t criticized me. He seems simply happy to see me each time I visit their apartment. And I know that is exactly what annoys my mother to the limit.
To her, her new life is degradation. She was always unhappy when she lived in a big house with her husband to whom she married for his money. And now she has become even unhappier living in the small apartment without our family’s fortune. It’s easy to imagine how disgusted she is by my father’s upbeat attitude toward his new life. She must have sought revenge to make him equally unhappy and come up with that letter. She thought I would stop visiting them as she asked to. That would take away one of his pleasures and get him one step closer to unhappiness. She loves any kind of plot all her life but none of them is ever clever. This one is no exception that is too apparent for me to be fallen into. My decision to carry out a visit despite her letter implicated harassment to her because it would show her that her wicked plot failed yet again.
A week before the trip, a big typhoon hit the western part of Japan where my parents live. Much damage resulted from it including to Kansai Airport on which my flight was going to arrive. As the airport is a man-made island in the sea, its runways and facilities were flooded by a storm surge. On top of that, a tanker crushed into the only bridge that connects the airport to the shore and broke it. The airport has been shut down.
I hesitated about the trip. I couldn’t decide whether I should cancel my reservations for the flight and the hotel. Above all things, I wondered if this was a sign telling me not to visit my parents.
But I had to go at all cost because it was my mother who had told me not to come. I’ve discovered and followed the unshaken rule since I was a teenager -do the opposite of what my mother says and I’ll be happy and everything will go well. This rule has worked 100 percent and has never failed in my life.
Meanwhile, the airport partially reopened unexpectedly sooner than reported. Among most suspended flights, mine was one of the few that partially started re-operating. The damaged bridge to the shore returned passable by the limited lanes. I visited my parents as I had planned.
I knew it would be so awkward to see my mother but I had determined not to get angry at her or blame her on her letter. If I did so, it would be her achievement. Her purpose is always to make me unhappy with any blow she could think of. I should behave unbreakable, which would be my blow against her.
My mother met me at the entrance of their apartment as if nothing had happened between us. She desperately acted joyfully, uttering shallow flattery like I looked young or my outfit was pretty. Not only when my father was around, but also when there were only two of us, we never mentioned about the letter. She just kept on flattering and wearing fake smile. She even told me what she had never told before -tons of complains about her favorite, my younger sister. What surprised me more than that was the fact my mother had aged so suddenly. Her countenance had changed too. She had a face like a devil. With her aged shape and evil countenance, she looked exactly like a witch in “Snow White”. Looking at her sudden change, I realized that she regretted the letter. The moment she dropped the letter into the mail box, she became aware that she was old and helpless. Numerous unusual disasters that hit her region after the letter, such as crazy heat, a big earthquake and the typhoon, made her more insecure and anxious. She regretted that she had cut me off from her life because she threw away a thin rope by herself that she could have relied on in the future. It’s too late now.
On the train back to the hotel, I felt good as everything went well on my side. At the same time, I felt an enormous relief and found how nervous I was during the visit. As it turned out, it was a showdown rather than a visit…

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An Earthly Paradise hr596

When I lived in California, the apartment I rented had an outside Jacuzzi. I liked taking it at night, seeing the sky above. Under the palm trees, I watched an airplane’s small dot of light blinking and moving through the stars. It was the moment that I felt like a winner who obtained a life in paradise by getting out of not only Japan but also my family to which I had been a bound successor. Prices in the U.S. were extremely low compared to Japan back then because of the strong yen. It seemed to me that everything was on sale and I literally lived in a bargain country. Sadly, my life in paradise didn’t last long, though. The Japanese economy crashed and yen turned weak. Inflation had edged up in the States as well. Price hikes assaulted me in all directions. I became unable to pay the rent even if I had moved into a cheap motel. I was practically kicked out of the States and the plane brought bitterly-discouraged myself back to Japan where I returned to a life of reality in a teeny-tiny apartment. Time went by, and I had benefited from technological advances like the Internet and computers, and also from the fall of housing value in Japan. Those benefits let me live in a condominium that has a communal spa. I take a Jacuzzi there watching a beautiful view of the mountains with lingering snow out of big windows. One day, I felt so euphoric that I thought this wasn’t real. I thought I may have already died from that northern Japan’s severe earthquake or from the subsequent meltdown of the nuclear plant, and must be in heaven now. That reminded me of the sensation I had felt in a Jacuzzi in California. I had never expected that I would experience an equally enraptured life here in Japan when I parted with it there. If I traveled back in time with a time machine, I could talk to my other self who was in despair on the flight to Japan from the States. I would say to her, “Years from now, you will get another chance to live in paradise!” I would tell her that she wouldn’t give up music and would have completed two songs back in Japan that had quality she had been craved for and entirely satisfied with. How easier the flight would’ve been if I had heard those words there. I was too hopeless to imagine so much as a speck of the possibility. I always find myself foolish in hindsight whenever I look back later. There are tons of things I have to say to my past self beforehand. The question is, what would my future self tell me now if she looked at me taking the Jacuzzi here. Would she say, “Embrace the moment. It’s the pinnacle of your life”? Or would she say, “Prepare yourself. It’s just the beginning”? I desperately hope for the latter…

 

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.551

When I left Anaheim on my latest trip, I got up 6 a.m., took ‘Uber’ again and then caught a bus to LAX. I know so well that the bus to the airport seldom comes on schedule here, which made me too nervous to have room in my mind that should feel sad to leave California. I took the bus because I had purchased the ticket by a round-trip discount, but I thought I would most likely use ‘Uber’ for my next trip. That thought told me I was determined to come back here. Actually, I was searching for a way to move in and live here somehow throughout the whole bus ride. After I arrived at the airport, I joined a long line for check-in. I heard a conversation between a customer in line and an airline employee. “Excuse me, I need to show this passport of mine for the flight, right?” “Let me see, well, no, yours has expired.” “Whaaaat?” I was envious of those easygoing people who hadn’t cared to see an expiration date on their passport up until they got to the check-in counter for an overseas travel. I started to prepare for this trip well over eight months ago. A couple with a baby was checking in before me. The counter person said to a woman, “You can’t check in as your name on the reservation is different from the one on your passport.” She replied, “That’s OK. I made a reservation by my maiden name, that’s all.” “That’s not OK, you can’t take the flight.” “Whaaaat?” The couple and the airline employee began to make numerous phone calls. At one point, they were required a marriage certificate. At another, the woman resorted to pity for an exception, saying, “We have a baby.” Every try didn’t seem to work though. I was envious of those people who casually made a flight reservation. When I made it online, I checked the spelling of my own name on the screen at least ten times. As too many careless passengers occupied the counter, it took so long to have my turn to check in. I intended to show people how smoothly things could go by careful preparation I had carried out. Then I was told, “Both your flight and the next one on the schedule have been cancelled.” “Whaaaat?” It was a clear fine day without a speck of cloud. I wondered when this airline’s planes flew if they didn’t in such nice weather like this. The good thing was, the flight was to Vancouver and I had purposely moved an international flight to Japan to the next day so that I took it with any delays since I didn’t trust this airline. Two flights were cancelled altogether and the next one to Vancouver was five hours later. The counter person told me that the larger airplane would be used because of the two cancellations and my seat would be in the business class. I was also allowed to use the executive lounge. To me, five-hour waiting would be nothing considering the business class and the lounge. I was even grateful for the cancellations. I was headed for the security gate cheerfully with my head full of the coming goodies, and never prepared for the biggest ordeal of my trip that had awaited me next…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.547

When I lived in California and flew from Japan to LAX regularly a long time ago, its immigration was like procedure for getting in a prison. Going through it had been tense confrontations with an arrogant authority at a dark place. The immigration at Vancouver Airport is distinctively different from that, which is the main reason I purposely stop over there on the way to LAX. It’s a bright, cheerful space with a waterfall, streams and greenery. It looks like a shopping mall rather than the immigration. Another reason for me to stop over and stay the night in Vancouver is the flight time. It takes ten hours from Japan to Vancouver, which is one hour shorter than to Los Angeles. In my experience, this one hour is decisive for the amount of fatigue. After I got off the plane in Vancouver on my latest trip, I bought food at Tim Hortons in the airport. There was a line at the counter and I joined it watching the menu board above. Because I’m short and my eyesight was blurred from a long flight, I had a difficulty to see the menu. A woman ahead of me in the line noticed and kindly suggested stepping off the line for a moment and getting closer to the menu. As I hesitated, she insisted saying, “That’s okay! Go ahead!” I thought she implied that she would save the position in the line for me. By the time I was getting back to where I had been, more people had joined the line. I was standing in front of the kind woman expecting she would let me cut into the line. She said nothing and ignored me. I looked into her face and she avoided an eye contact by looking around and staring at the ceiling in an awkward way. People in the line behind her looked at me dubiously to see if I would cut in. I felt deceived and went back to the tail of the line. When I was finally handed what I had ordered, two muffins were missing. I told the salesperson and he stared at the register that I had no idea told him what. He grabbed a muffin and gave it to me. Still, one more was missing. The same process was repeated and I got the right order. Kind, but unreliable. That’s Canada I know, all right. As a result of my choice for a cheap hotel, my sleep was disturbed by a loud noise of the air conditioner. I turned it off, and then there were noises of cars running on the street right down the window. I woke up every time a big truck passed by. I got up 3 a.m. next morning, packed and checked out. The hotel boasted its free hot breakfast but my departure was too early for the serving time. Thankfully, there were bags of to-go-breakfast at the front desk and my partner and I grabbed one for each of us. Back at the airport, we checked in and I checked my suitcase. Then I realized we were having the security check right after that. In front of a ‘No liquid, No produce’ sign, I opened the bag of breakfast. It had an apple and a bottled water. I just couldn’t stand to throw them away, but wasn’t allowed to go back to the concourse to have them either. My partner offered our bottled drinks to the airport staff who walked by. They thought about it for a while but declined politely due to the rule. My greed for free breakfast made us gobble them in a hurry in front of the security check. I had never had one apple and 500 ml of water that fast. I got on the plane to Los Angeles and was taking breath in my seat when a flight attendant spilled orange juice all over my partner’s brand-new pants. They were his favorite pants that he would wear all the way to the end of this trip. His face looked both crying and laughing. The plane approached Los Angeles and the familiar sight of brownish, scorched-looking land came into my view. Good and bad memories flooded into my mind. Right before the touchdown, I saw the signature structure of two arches and the control tower of LAX. Totally unexpectedly and suddenly, a surprising feeling seized me. I felt I was home. I felt as if I had returned from a long trip of ten years to my hometown that I had given up coming back again. It was a warm feeling that I had never had before. My eyes were filled with tears. I had never understood those who talked about how wonderful homecoming was. I didn’t know what they were talking about though I was born in Kyoto and have lived away from it. I have never felt anything special every time I go back to Kyoto. I just feel indifferent or rather disgusting. Coming back to Los Angeles, I understood what homecoming is all about for the first time in my life. If I had been traveling alone, I would have cried out loud. I was stunned at the discovery of my hometown. The plane landed and a tear of joy was on my face as I finally came home…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.546

The flight to Vancouver where I stopped over on the way to Los Angeles was unexpectedly comfortable. The plane wasn’t crowded and the flight attendants were all nice and attentive. In my old days that I had traveled between Japan and U.S. back and forth every three months, I used to fly an awful airline that I chose for its cheap fare. That airline’s flight attendants were generally terrible. They were chewing gums and walking with stepping on the back of their pumps. They threw a bag of peanuts at a passenger and a requested drink was often off. I once witnessed they crammed a large number of cans and bottles of drinks that they hadn’t given out the passengers into their own bags right before landing. They must have had a spree with them in a hotel room that night. When I asked for a small bottle of brandy once, I was told it had been all out. A man sitting behind me asked for it right after that, and the same attendant pleasantly handed it to him. I asked my partner if it was racism. He told me that it wasn’t a grave thing like that but the attendant simply couldn’t lie twice in a row and had to give it unwillingly. That airline no longer exists after it went bankrupt several years later and was taken over by a rival airline. The flight I took this time was completely different. Adding to the good service, it wasn’t a bumpy flight and I didn’t feel sick as I had worried before. The only glitch I had was when dinner was served. Although I had requested beef beforehand, an attendant said to me, “We have extra chicken, too. Would you like it?” I reckoned that I could have chicken added to my beef and said yes. And I ended up having just chicken, not beef. Beside that small thing, I had enjoyed the flight all the way, which was quite rare to me. It almost blotted out all the unpleasant happenings before departure and I even got to like this low-cost carrier. But as always, nothing goes so well without an incident when it comes to me. It happened when the plane landed on Vancouver. The seat belt signs were turned off and the attendants were preparing for the doors. The passengers were standing on the aisles with relieved expression on their faces and their bags in their hands, waiting for the door to open. As the door opened, instead of the ground staff, half a dozen men and women dressed in black rushed inside the plane. They were wearing bulletproof vests on which the letters POLICE were written and carrying weapons that seemed firearms and others. The air inside the plane instantly froze. The flight attendants looked surprised too. One of the police shouted “Everyone, go back to your seat and stay there!” We all sat in our seats again, with a straight back for some reason. No one was talking and they were just looking ahead with shifty eyes. The plane was filled with extreme tension in a complete silence. I remembered a news sequence I watched on ABC World News a couple of weeks ago. It eerily looked just like this situation. The police rushed inside the plane aiming guns and it also occurred in Canada. I began to feel panicky, imagining that a shootout would start in any moment or a plane would explode. I thought I knew something bad would eventually happen. I would have never set my feet on North America with this trip after all as troublesome preparation had hinted. As I was being swallowed by fears, a young woman appeared from the back of the plane. She was walking with both her arms held by two policemen, accompanied by another policeman who was carrying her bag. After they left the plane, the rest of the police asked some questions to the flight attendants and got out. Then all the passengers were allowed to get off the plane. My partner and I finally reached North America and took in air of Vancouver. I wasn’t sure what happened to the woman, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t easy for me to get here…

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