Saturday, August 16, 2008

Moving-in Day, Finally, Unpacking -- Journey's End

August 16

Did I really spend the night in my car Thursday? It seems so... in the parking area for Shell Beach, near Bodega Bay (well known from Hitchcock's Birds.) Although prepared to stretch out, with my sleeping bag (but no tent) I forgot to account for summertime Northern California coastal weather -- of course, it became very foggy, so quite damp (although for a time during the long night, the heavens cleared, the full moon illuminating the landscape). Choosing dryness, I figured since I can sit in such small quarters and get some rest on the airplane, why not in my little car on this murky, deserted coast? Kind of unerving though, waking up at 5AM to see not one but two cars freshly parked nearby, their passengers outside in huddled conversation. Fortunately the party kept their flashlights to themselves, and disappeared down the beach trail.

Eventually returned to Sunnyvale (pausing on Clement St in San Francisco for dim sum) to spend one last night at the Pacific Inn -- did a lease-signing (6 mos) late afternoon and then this morning, finally begen moving my stuff from the storage unit to my new apartment. Its location: near the intersection of a pair of broad boulevards, between my schools, and it has a swimming pool. But no communications yet, so I'm posting from the Peet's on el Camino at Mathilda, and across the street I can see the faded sign for the Wittle Motel, where I stayed just after returning.

Driving around today, for the first time I listened to the cassette tape I bought in India, and was immediately transported back to sunset along the Haridwar ghats. Was that really just last month? Reviewing the trip's finances, my numbers average out to around $100/day, including airfare. That total was $3500, the tickets purchased last November; I bet it would be lots more this year.

Completely unpacked my backpack at last, and stowed it in a new closet. Opening up the many boxes I packed in June, putting familiar objects onto new shelves. Always wanted to do a big trip this way, but it's a lot of work. Time to end this travel-blog. Now, it's your turn -- plan a journey, then GO and write about what you do, in cyber-cafés -- and send me the link!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


August 14

Tuesday, joined a new gym (24-Hr Fitness, a chain here), cheaper than expected, and being a teacher got me a deal. So for the first time, ran on their treadmills yesterday. My branch is across the street from the apartment I'll be occupying soon.

Found a tin of Kaya in a small Asian food store -- rejoice! Singapore coconut toast will be a staple in my new kitchen. Also, Trader Joes has freeze-dried mangosteen, now. Bought a bag, but haven't opened it yet.

Worked last night for the first time in two months, interviewing new students. Classes start next Monday, and here's hoping I'm allowed into the new apartment before then.

But meanwhile, I've escaped north, driving over the Golden Gate bridge a little while ago. Now I'm in Petaluma, a town I'd visit at least once a year while Tony lived here. But that was long ago. Now, all Peet's coffeeshops have a new WiFi system, which works for me, so that's my current location. Tonight I'll endeavor to be economical, "sleeping rough" somewhere near the coast, possibly in a campground.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Santa Cruz

August 11

Been accepted by an apartment, but can't move in for a week, maybe less, stay tuned. Last day of swallowing the turquoise anti-malaria capsule, a daily ritual since arriving in India.

Hoping for cheaper accomodation, drove away over the hill, wound up in Santa Cruz last night, beautiful beaches and gnarly pines, rocks in the surf at Pescadero. Now back in Sunnyvale at the marginal Pacific Inn, which has WiFi, but I can't connect -- seems like anyplace requiring WEP won't work with my aged laptop -- and some that don't, like this place, won't work either. Time to upgrade, I suppose.

Ayako sent this photo from our night in Yokohama. The date it goes with would be August 1.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


August 9

Found a great place Thursday, probably too expensive; and an adequate place today, which I'll probably take, dependent on impressions made during this evening's night-time reconoiter.

At the cheapest lodging in town since last night -- that Pacific Inn place, down near the railroad tracks in Sunnyvale, with the tiny rooms and Murphy beds (they made Cheryl stay there on business during the Internet boom because all the 'real' hotels were full). Interesting comparing it with those teeny 3-mat places I had in Japan, which were even smaller, their only amenties being a TV set and air-conditioner. Plus both have a telephone, and toilet and shower down the hallway. The TV set in this place is twice as big, plus there's a sink and, tucked into a closet, a small fridge and microwave. But noisy at night, squeaky floors, and weird neighbors -- it's kind of a flop-house.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Down and Up

August 7

Dinner last night was at In'n'Out -- love their burgers, and it's been a long time. Had another today, they're actually one of the most economical otpions for a meal around here, and I may be eating out for some time yet. Talked with a couple apartment managers today, nothing viable located yet, the search continues. Earlier, an endless ride on VTA light rail to Elizabeth's house to get my car. Its battery was totally dead, although brand new. And we couldn't jump it with her car and my cables, so she called AAA and the tow-truck guy cranked it right away. After a much-needed visit to the car wash, I'm mobile again! Another stop at Karen's, she's been visiting my PO box. So grateful for these friends, really pulled my mood around, because last night was one of deep gloom. Only slept a couple hours, then wide awake for the wee hours because of jet lag. Read almost an entire Maigret in an unsuccesful attempt to move my thoughts away from neurotic review of past errors, due not only to post-trip let-down but also the motel's close proximity to my first Silicon Valley apartment. Often so difficult to remember a great lesson: how the wheel of life will cycle you up, when you're at your lowest. Anyway, tonight I'll sleep much better at a different place, called the Wittle Motel, in Sunnyvale. (Yes, it's small -- and $7 cheaper.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Asakusa, and back in the USA

August 6

Packed up and left the Hotel Juyoh after a final session with its free internet; walked one last time through the Iroha arcade, stopping to chat with the friendly layabouts; and then headed south to visit the big Senso-ji shrine area in the traditional Asakusa entertainment district. Other trips, a stop here has been one of the first things, but this time, one of the last. Bright sunny weather after yesterday's rain, but after only a little while, the short subway ride back to the big Ueno station, then boarding the train to Narita, location of the airport. This journey can take an hour and a half on the regular express (although non-savvy tourists are funneled into the Skyliner, which saves a few minutes' time, but at twice the fare). Like my last visit, I got off in the the actual town of Narita, rather than riding to the end of the line. That trip, I was a little side-tracked as I ran into a French girl en route to Australia, who only had a couple hours in Japan, and we walked to the huge Narita temple, in the rain, and then had lunch before heading to the airport; but I want to explore that temple more. Unfortunately, 'twas not to be, I only had time for lunch myself (another bowl of chilled hiyashi-chuka noodles, even better than the first). Turns out I shouldn't have felt so rushed -- arriving three hours before departure is unecessary if you're not checking any bags and flying United, because at Narita that airline has automated check-in, and the security check is naturally very efficent and quick (although they warn you it can take much longer). Actually, I arrived about 2.5 hours early, but even so, there was some downtime.

The flight was routine and on time, arriving just before noon, and now I'm home -- but wait, I have no home! Just a storage unit, my destination via trains south from SFO. After stashing my souvenir booty I strapped my laptop and some fresh clothes to my bicycle (I'll be retrieving my car tomorrow) and rode up to the Budget Motel on el Camino. Couldn't get their WiFi to work, so now I'm at the library checking apartments on Craigslist. Once I get settled, I'll write a concluding post here, and at some point I'll be extracting the photos from my cell phone and adding some images.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

San'ya and Yanasen

August 5

An objective for this trip was to explore a relatively poor region of Tokyo. I've got a book by Edward Fowler called San'Ya Blues which is all about that area; I knew my hotel was close, but didn't realize until checking my maps last night that it was right in the middle. He paints a bleaker picture than the reality, in my opinion, but some of the guys he writes about, day laborers, were gathering on the corners this morning, having their breakfast of one-cup sake. A block away is the Iroha arcade, again, not as crummy as I was expecting, and when I walked through it and turned left, I discovered a well-recommended tempura restaurant I've tried to visit twice before, on other trips. Once, it was already closed for the night; another, just closing, and they chased me away. But this time, Iseya was open, it was lunch-time and I had a great meal. It's pictured in every photo except the first in this flickr set.

Thunder and intermittent rain all day today, but I deployed my new umbrella and went out anyway, this being my last full day in Japan. Returned to another favorite neighborhood, Yanesen, which I first read about in Rick Kennedy's Little Adventures in Tokyo. The adventure in question is available online, A Walk Through Old Tokyo. (He doesn't use the term "Yanesen" -- it's an acronym of Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi.) Unfortunately, the little tai-yaki shop was closed, again, but this time, I finally visited the Imojin ice cream parlor for an Azuki-Cream which was mostly very fine shaved ice, but quite delicious -- red beans underneath and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. (Another flickr set has views of this place.) My return walk took me through Ueno Park, then Ueno Station, one of the biggest, and I'll be back there tomorrow to catch my train to the airport.