Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I came home yesterday with sand still in my shoe.  I happen to love this, especially when it is Cape Cod sand.  The sand came from the Thanksgiving day walk which Akemi and I took on the beach in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  Akemi snapped this and other photographic momentos of another relaxing, enjoyable holiday at the Cape with the extended Green clan.

She and I returned to Boston to honor some other Thanksgiving weekend traditions we’ve developed beginning with her freshman year.  There’s the 40%-off-everything-in-the-Cambridge-Ann-Taylor-store-sale, Saturday dinner with her friends in Harvard Square, church in her Cambridge University Ward, and a Sunday home-cooked dinner, this year with a lemon cake for her birthday. 

For me, the trip also included my third visit to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  I expected Dr. Treon to be pleased about the results of this past year’s treatment, and he did not disappoint.   What I am getting my head around is that treatment at this stage is not just about beating the Waldenstrom’s back; it’s also about keeping it at bay.  He’s therefore recommending I continue the maintenance Rituxan regime another year, to spring  2014.  Big sigh; I was hoping to be “done” for a while. Until there’s a cure, the best I can hope for is ongoing treatment which forestalls a relapse. 

I came home with another visit’s worth of notes on new drugs coming out of clinical trials and more positive reinforcement in living well the immune-compromised life.  I came home to substantial progress with the bathroom reconstruction.  Like the sand clinging to the bottom of my shoe as a reminder of a cherished good time, I’m focusing on the prospect of more Rituxan and drywall dust not as much as annoyances, but as promises of good things to come.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

As a child, I sometimes accompanied my mother on her weekly Saturday trips into Little Tokyo.  My mom had her routine.  First stop was Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights, where my grandparents and many aunts and uncles rest.  When my mother’s mother was still alive, the next stop was her apartment to deliver food and whatever, along with the report that we already had paid our respects at the cemetery.  At that point, my mom left our car parked there and she and I took the street car across the Fourth Street bridge into J-town for the rest of my mother’s errands.

Back in the day before tofu and shoga – fresh ginger root – became stock items in every Vons, she considered the effort to get to the grocery store on First Street mandatory.  But back in those days when every storefront was owned by people who knew my grandparents and mother, you just couldn’t run, pick up a few things, and split.  Shopping meant stopping into each store to say hello to the proprietors, bowing deeply and constantly while keeping up some chit-chat, usually buying a little something, bowing deeply and constantly while receiving the purchased item with great ceremony, and backing out of the store while expressing great regret for not staying longer.  I learned to stand quietly by my mother’s side, bow when she did, and smile through the Japanese.

I was not bored by this.  Everyone always was so happy to see my mother.  The grocery store owner was some kind of Kamei relative, and the friendships went back to the 1920s and 1930s, certainly pre-war days.  Botan candy with a real toy or a manju at Fugetsu-do usually was my reward for good behavior.  Maybe this explains why my mother still buys me packets of manju.  Mostly I was mystified by the different retail world presented by the First Street stores – not quite a Diagon Alley, but the analogous otherworldy concept.  My absolute favorite was a store then near the end of the street almost to San Pedro Street: Anzen Hardware. 

Anzen Hardware has everything you’d ever need for household maintenance, Japanese-style, a little store jammed to the rafters with what to me were odd wondrous things.  I could only guess at what most of the kitchen and other items were for.  The knife display was almost frightening.  My dad got his nasu plants and seeds here for many years, and I got my gardening scissors here when we first moved into this Howard Street house. 

One afternoon my Paul, Hastings phone rang; it was my mother, back home in Anaheim from her J-town run.   A small cast iron tea pot for tea ceremony use in the shape of a kabocha, a Japanese pumpkin, had caught her eye in Anzen.  She thought it was so cute and took a liking to it, but couldn't bring herself to buy something unnecessary.  The next week, I got the same phone call and report that she stood in Anzen pondering whether to buy it or not, and again decided against it.  Ah-ha! I thought, a Christmas present, and I hustled down to Anzen to buy it myself before she bought it for herself, or before someone else did.

The following week, my mother called again, so disappointed that the little kabocha teapot was no longer there.  “Someone must have bought it,” kicking herself for not buying it.  “Shigata ga nai,” one of her favorite phrases – “it can’t be helped.”  I was sorry she was disappointed, but her regret reinforced me in my hopes that she would be all the more happy with the Christmas surprise.

And she was.  It was fun to watch her to open the box and realize she was reunited with this little teapot.  For years it has been in the cabinet my father had custom-built in their family room, until this past summer when she insisted I take it, along with the painting now by my piano. 

Whenever I walk down First Street, I see in my mind’s-eye that grocery store instead of a video store, and Iseri Men’s Clothing instead of a bail bond establishment.  Anzen, along with Fugetsu-do and Rafu Bussan, are among the few remaining stores from my childhood which have managed to hang on.  I must have done something right in raising Akemi, because she, too, loves shopping at Rafu Bussan.

Tonight I will accompany one of the classes in my Master of Liberal Studies Program on a field trip to Little Tokyo.  In this course “East Asian Humanities,” students are reading classic literary works from China, Japan, and Korea in translation, such as excerpts from Tales of the Genji.  The professor, a blond, blue-eyed specialist in Buddhism who speaks impeccable Japanese, has arranged for us to have an insider’s-look at Zenshuji temple and a tea ceremony.  My dad’s family’s temple is Koyasan, so I actually haven’t ever been inside Zenshuji. 

Although part of me continues to be dismayed at J-Town’s uninteresting commercial iterations, I’m glad to see a whole new community of urban dwellers living there, and I always like to accompany friends as they experience parts of J-Town for themselves.  Maybe some of the class will be willing to catch some dinner at Aoi after our temple visit, and there might be some willing takers for manju at Fugestsu-do.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Believe me, this is a beautiful sight.  

One frosty morning about, oh, five years ago  (but who is counting?), I turned on the shower, going about the get-ready routine, when I heard a "splat" which sounded on the floor nearby me.  I looked down to see what looked -- and smelled -- like a handful of moist disintegrated drywall.  I looked up to see a section of my bathroom ceiling collapsing in a soggy mess.  Hurriedly, I turned off the shower, and less hurriedly, at a more decent hour, called Dave, my trustworthy contractor.  

He fixed the plumbing leak and asked me what I wanted to do about the drywall repair.  "Just leave it," as I recognized this was the leak that broke the camel's back, the sign from heaven, or whatever  you wanted to call it, that tuition bills notwithstanding, I could not put off remodeling the master bath any longer.  I started gathering ideas, but didn't get very far.  Let's just say we were a little busy around here with Akemi's senior year in high school.

That summer after she graduated, though, as soon as I got back from the month at Bryn Mawr for the HERS Institute, I did work on the bathroom remodel plans in earnest.  With input from my home design team reassembled from the successful kitchen remodel -- Donald, Pam, and Janet -- I decided on a plan, actually bought some items, and had other supplies lined up.  I was on Dave's calendar to start construction right after Labor Day, once Akemi had shipped off to college.

My fall not only messed up my leg; it also messed up the bathroom plans.  You'll recall one thing lead to another, and with the WM diagnosis and long-term treatment, everything else was put into suspended animation.

This past summer, I regrouped on the bathroom ideas, rethought the plan, and revisited the "look."  Dave started demolition this past week.  We're discovering the to-be-expected glitches along the way, but! we are most definitely underway.  

Last Sunday Akemi and I were Skyping when Dave called to firm up the start plans, so she heard firsthand the discussion.  That's good, because I don't think she would have believed it otherwise.

So this is evidence that there is no turning back now.    My only hope is that we're wrapped up before she comes home for Christmas.