As I bid fond farewell to the Japanese Island City of Fukuoka, I thought I'd share a few photos, including: The city skyline (#1-2); My hotel, the Okura, and surroundings near the Naka River (#3-5); the Suikyo Shrine (#4); the International Congress Center, where my meetings were held (#7); the Hakata Port (#8-9) and last but not least, the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom at Tenjin Park (#10-15).
Friday, March 30, 2007
I discovered a hidden treasure this morning in Fukuoka. By the banks of the Nakagawa River (#2), near the Prism of Wind (#3), just a stone's throw from Seattle's Best Coffee (#4), stands the Step Garden at the Acrosquare (#5-9). The exterior of this building is like a step pyramid, covered in 55 varieties of exotic trees and plants. The interior houses a world class cultural center and the Fukuoka Symphony Hall (#10-11)!
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I finally caught my first glimpse of a "Capsule Hotel" today in Fukuoka. For those who don't know, Capsule Hotels are the latest craze in Japanese Hospitality. For a small fee, much less than a traditional hotel room, you get the privilege of sleeping in a genuine capsule alongside hundreds of other travelers. As this photo suggests, it's basically a human filing cabinet!
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Wonda of Wondas, I finally found something I like better than Starbucks in Japan. It's called "Wonda: My Favorite Coffee" and is served piping hot, directly from the can. Later in the day, however, I ate a Fish Called Wonda at one of Fukuoka's finest restaurants. While I initially thought its head (photo 2) was purely "decorative," I later learned that the waitress plunked it into my soup when I wasn't looking. Will Wondas never cease?
Monday, March 26, 2007
At first I felt somewhat insulted when the woman sitting next to me on my flight to Fukuoka donned a surgical mask after taking just one look at me. Then, I realized she was probably getting ready for the hospital after sampling the latest inflight taste sensation: "Curry de Sky" (Photos 2-3). Maybe next time the pilot can just drop her off at the Mayo clinic!
Evidently, Thomas Wolfe was wrong. Our suspicious Heavy Reader -- last seen at 7th and Montana reading Wolfe's masterpiece You Can't Go Home Again -- has gone home. According to Rita, things weren't working out for him "on the coast," so he moved back to Ohio to be with his family. No doubt he was ready for a new chapter in his life!
Sunday, March 25, 2007
A mysterious stranger -- "Lawn Chaney, Jr." -- made a cameo appearance yesterday in the front yard of his home at 7th and Alta. While inside sources suggest he was finally doing some yard work, initial indications point to something even more shocking: Perhaps he was at long last burying the Clay Pot Figurine that has been adorning his picnic table for years!
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Head for the hills, folks, the Screaming Banshees invaded 7th and Montana this morning, sending locals scurrying for cover. The ringleader, seated to the left, seemed intent on regaling us all repeatedly with the details of her encounter with Tom Cruise's mother at a fundraiser. On a positive note, her ear piercing cackles provided proof positive that Toby the Cocker Spaniel is not completely deaf.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
What would you do if one of your colleagues claimed, in all seriousness, that a witch flew through the rear passenger window of his rental car and lodged herself in the back seat for a while, before again mounting her broom and flying off into the Black Forest? If anyone has any advice, please let me know ...
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
I learned a new Dutch phrase today -- Maartse Buien -- which, roughly translated, means "March Showers." In the space of 45-minutes, we had Sunshine, Rain, Snow, Sunshine and a Rainbow ... all followed by more rain. My colleagues tell me it's just the normal Maartse Buien but I think it makes June Gloom look like a day in the park!
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Other flat screen televisions don't hold a candle to ours. I guess that was the subliminal message as one of my colleagues today gave a presentation showing exactly what happens when -- in safety tests -- you hold a candle up to various television sets. Evidently, our sets are more fire resistant than most. Later, over dinner, I couldn't help noticing that he seemed to be performing the same demonstration using a dinner menu ...!
Monday, March 19, 2007
I arrived safe and sound today at the Groenendael, a corporate castle we use for internal meetings. Built in the 13th Century, the Groenendael is nestled in the Dutch countryside in an area called Hilvarenbeek. For many centuries, it was an actual residence but today it plays host to Philips executives looking for a quiet location for offsite meetings. Personally, I like the moat!
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Chivalry died a slow, painful death in the friendly skies this morning as a woman tried to bump and edge her way to the front of a lengthy line to board United #946. When I politely pointed out that she was cutting off dozens of passengers, she pushed my notebook to the floor by "mistake." In response, I "inadvertently" wheeled my suitcase over her foot. With passengers like this, who needs Snakes on a Plane?
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Spectators were aghast this morning as an unidentified woman arrived at 7th and Montana, intent on destroying all signage in her path. "Yard Sale," "Lost Dog," "Will work for Food" all ended up in shreds at the hands of this Neighborhood Neatnik. Thank God she left our new "No Smoking" sign intact. Ironically, inside sources suggest that the woman's behavior is itself a sign: of an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!
Friday, March 16, 2007
Let's let Pylons be Bygones! That was the motto this morning at 7th and Montana as an unidentified motorist struck one of the new, protective pylons by the entry to Our Favorite Parking Lot. While the Pylon in Question is currently lodged under the Curb from Hell, appearances suggest that it might just pop up when we least expect it. I, for one, hope it re-emerges at a suitably jaunty angle ...!
An incident in the Big Apple yesterday had me wondering whether I was dealing with a typical NY taxi driver or a maniacal Taxidermist. The fun began when the raincoat I was wearing became partially stuck in a cab door. The driver took off at a steady clip down 57th Street with me in tow, forcing me to sprint and scream before a cheering crowd. I've heard of getting stuck in traffic but this is ridiculous!
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
If variety really is the Spice of Life, then United Airlines has done something right on their morning nonstop from L.A. to N.Y.: They're handing out copies of Daily Variety. Not only that, they've expanded the business class section (making it easier to get upgrades) and added electrical outlets to every seat. Best of all, they even gave me a Grande Drip before take off!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Shock waves rippled across 7th and Montana this morning as word spread that the homeless "bookworm" who has taken-up permanent residence at Starbucks has changed his reading material. He seems to have traded-in Crime and Punishment for something sadly apropos: You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe. It remains unclear, however, whether he's actually reading the book or using it to save his table.
Monday, March 12, 2007
The truth emerged this morning regarding the mysterious drought at 7th and Montana yesterday. Nada, still fuming, admitted: "There was plenty of hot water yesterday. I closed because of the staffing situation. If he won't give me the same level of staffing he gives himself, we can't stay open." If I were him, I'd steer clear of Nada for a while. Eventually, this will all be so much water under the bridge ...!
Sunday, March 11, 2007
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at 7th and Montana this morning as a delightful chat with Mike and Linda Golub -- a couple who Howard and Cathy met at another Starbucks -- was cut short when our Starbucks once again ran out of hot water. Try as I might to remain loyal to our Starbucks, I can't help thinking that the Golub's Starbucks probably has hot water, while ours has "Nada" ...!
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Speculation abounded this morning in what locals are calling the Case of the Stone Cold Opossum. Who exactly left a dead opossum at Howard and Cathy's doorstep? Was it Our Pal Zoey, found standing over the corpse, licking her chops? Was it the Notorious "Mr. Parker," known for leaving his unsightly motor home at Goose Egg Park? Or was it someone else? Where's Officer Mike when we need him?
Friday, March 9, 2007
Heads were spinning this morning at Starbucks as the Village Idiot -- known to spontaneously combust at City Council Meetings -- inexplicably stood on his head near the intersection of 7th and Montana. Some say he was channeling Rosie O'Donnell, who this week announced that she hangs herself upside down to send more serotonin to her brain. However, I think he's suffering from Upside Down Syndrome!
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Homehunters across Santa Monica rejoiced as a "for sale" sign finally appeared in front of the attractive new house near 7th and Alta. The Spanish-style property features 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths and loads of charm. Agent Fiora Aston tells me it's priced at only $3.3 million and they've already accepted an offer. What a listing! Coincidentally, it's right next door to Our Favorite Fixer Upper which, in its own way, is also listing ...
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Move over "Little Miss Sunshine." An unsightly "Motor Home" seems to have taken up semi-permanent residence on Palisades Avenue and neighbors in the Goose Egg Park area are anything but Happy Campers. I say we give this "trailer trash" the proverbial boot ... permanently!
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
"Character, Shmaracter ... I don't care what the rest of the neighborhood looks like, build me a monstrosity!" This must have been the discussion between the builder and architect of the new construction project at 7th and San Vicente. As the building continues to take shape (that of a trapezoid), you can almost hear the new homeowner laughing, "When we're done, we'll call it architectural. Bwah-hahahaha ..."
Monday, March 5, 2007
Evidence suggests that we're experiencing a population boom at 7th and Montana (and I don't mean the influx of Deidrichs-ites!). Either I'm getting older, or the latest crop of regulars is getting younger every day. If you don't believe me, just ask Helena (#1) or Alex (#2). Conversely, as if to say "Nuts to You," Santa Monica City Officials announced a plan today to put the squirrels in Palisades Park on birth control!
Sunday, March 4, 2007
Saturday, March 3, 2007
Ever wonder where your tax dollars go? Just ask the two Secret Servicemen who made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning. The agents -- presumably on a break from protecting Governor Schwarzenegger -- ducked into Starbucks for sandwiches, coffee and milk, leaving their vehicle in the bus zone all the while. No doubt the Governor granted them immunity from Our Favorite Parking Lot!
Friday, March 2, 2007
Howard and Cathy were beaming with pride this morning as word spread that Jude has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award for her work on "Black, White." Meanwhile, Nada raked in some kudos of her own today as she shared Tales of her Efficiency with the crowd at Starbucks. The NAACP Image Awards air tonight on Fox. Nada appears daily at Starbucks.
Thursday, March 1, 2007
It was a bright, new day at Sunshine Auto Parks as local officials unveiled three plastic pylons designed to prevent further scrapes and mishaps at Our Favorite Parking Lot. "Oh goodie, another obstacle" said one jubilant bystander. Rumor has it that Richard's upstairs neighbor -- who made headlines last night by crashing his Lamborghini along Ocean Avenue -- will put the pylons to the test as soon as he gets his license back!