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Hidemi Woods 

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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Blog : Hidemi's Rambling

A Call from Hell hr620

I’ve got voice mail from my mother. Her dismal voice made me creep all over. Since her calls almost always aim to hurt me, I’m used to receiving bad messages. But her tone was new low this time and I had to brace myself.
   I guessed it was either she conceived a new bitter idea to strike a blow at me or she turned the brunt of her daily anger toward me. Nevertheless, there was a slight possibility that the call was about some emergency, such as my father was taken to the hospital or something. I didn’t want to spend any more nervous minutes worrying what was that all about as much as I didn’t want to return a call. I decided to face the fear and called her back with sweaty palms.
   She started with trivial social chattering and suddenly burst into wailing. I couldn’t believe my ear that was hearing my mother crying hard on the other side of the line. I had seen her crying only twice before. The first time was when I was too little to understand the matter. A relative of ours was driving us home from my mother’s parents’ home. While she was talking to him in the car, she burst into tears and he consoled her. The second time was when I failed the entrance examination of a renowned junior high school. She suggested that we took a bath together and started crying in a bath tub, saying, “I’m so disappointed!” again and again. Even as a 12-years-old, I realized how hugely I blew it and I was terrified at my failure. And this was the third time. I was astonished as much.
   I asked her what happened, and she confessed that my younger sister had begun to live with my parents. I have no idea why, but she had concealed it from me for about a year. My sister had been my mother’s favorite. Unlike me, she did everything as my mother told her to do. She was the pride of my mother who always bragged about her to me as if it had been a proof that doing as she told was the key to success. That pride of hers had worked abroad in a managing position at one of major hotel chains. But she quit the job and returned to Japan a year ago. Soon after she started living with my parents, the relationship between them  got atrocious. My sister blamed my mother harshly for having parted with the land and the house that had been inherited for generations, and for messing up her life by telling her to do the wrong way. That wasn’t surprised me because those things are the norm for a person like my mother whose lifework is to make people around her unhappy by telling a lie on an every possible occasion she gets. I was rather surprised that my sister had gotten along well with her for such a long time until now without noticing her malice. Then, new surprises easily topped it.
   My sister’s constant rebukes to my mother didn’t stop just there. According to her, my sister had made her cook, wash, clean, shop, do all chores with authoritative commands. She also had piled up the trash inside my parents’ condo, making it eat up almost all the rooms so that my parents barely had space to sleep. They hadn’t have enough time to sleep either because she demanded that they be up and wait until she came home in the middle of the night. When my sister found anything that wasn’t as she liked, she would throw things or abusive words at my parents. My mother admitted on the phone, crying, “I’m in hell.”
   Her countless evil tactics have only led herself to a horrible life so far. Although she married for my father’s money, she failed the family business and lost everything. She sold the family’s big house and moved into a small condo that she had despised all her life. When I met her two years ago, she said, “This is what means ‘as a man sows, so shall he reap.’” in an unusually regrettable tone. I had never imagined her life would have any room left to get even worse than that like this. I wonder when she is ever forgiven. I know she has done too much evil and has been burned by unquenchable fire, but I feel compassion for her for the first time in my life. It’s so pitiful for her if the day she is forgiven will really never come.
   But wait. It’s my mother with whom I’ve been dealing here. Don’t forget she’s a world-class liar. No one can tell which part of her story is true and which part is an act. It’s even possible that everything is bogus and simply her new scheme to bog me down in some way. It took me some time after I hung up the phone to come to myself and remind myself of the facts above. I might have fallen for it at least for a while...

 

A Fear of Aging hr619

Before pains from my fall at the communal spa have gone completely, I accidentally got my foot caught in the heavy sauna door the other day. I felt an electric shock in my foot that was swelling in an instant. The pain was so severe that I could hardly breathe. I dreaded to think that I had a broken bone. While thankfully it didn’t seem broken, I bruised again, the arch and both sides of my right foot this time. I have been living in pain so far, putting poultices on my foot and walking in large shoes with a loosened shoelace. What shocked me more than injuries was my recent careless behavior. I have seen myself become a blunderer and lose my edge. Simply, I felt old.
   Between the two injuries, there was another happening. I got a pin that commemorated Disneyland’s 60th anniversary when I visited there a few years ago. The limited-edition pin was sparkling and super cool. I loved it so much that I hadn’t worn it because I couldn’t imagine how devastated it might be if I dropped and lost it. I had displayed it on the shelf for years but one day, I summoned courage and put it on my sweater when I went out.
   As I had thought, my courage had worn out by the time I headed home. I just couldn’t bear the fear of dropping it any longer. I took it off and put it in my bag. A couple of days later, I noticed it was missing. I knew I had been a little drunk when I put it in my bag, but I couldn’t remember exactly where I put it. I rummaged the entire bag through pockets and pouches but it disappeared. I haven’t seen it since.
   It has lingered on my chest and I’ve launched a closet-wide search once in a while with no luck. Similar to the two accidents in the spa, my behavior shocked me more than a loss of the pin. I was upset over my mess incurred by a woeful lack of attention and my wretched state of concentration. I feared that my brain activity has begun to deteriorate.
   I confided my fear to my partner. While I conceded that I had become old, he dismissed it easily. According to him, I had been like this since he first met me in my teens. Because he has seen my blunders so many, such as slipping on the wet sidewalk and opening the KFC’s automatic doors by doing ‘Home Alone’ which startled the salesperson, or, tripping on one of the stairs and rolling all the way down to the platform of a train station, he thinks my mess is better than in my twenties. He said that I was much more careless, messier and older in my youth than now.
   His comment reminded me of a box of my scarves that I lost about six years ago. It was a cardboard box in which I stowed all my scarves that I had gotten through sales and outlets. The treasure box for me was kept in my closet. But one day, I found it missing. I had searched for years all around my apartment but couldn’t find it. The box was too big to be obscured by other stuff or to just disappear. I had developed numerous theories about the mystery during those years, for example, a thief exclusively for scarves took it, or my partner hid it out of spite, or it was sucked into a black hole of my apartment and gone to the galaxy far, far away. And then, it came out very unexpectedly, very casually. When I straightened up the closet, I put a label to each box. I mislabeled one box that was for scarves. All the while of my vigorous search, it had sit right in front of my eyes with a false label on it.
   Like my scarves, I hope that my pin also appears out of somewhere, someday. It might as well though, I would have really grown dim by then and forgotten about that I had it and lost it to begin with...

 

Mona Lisa hr618

It was about when I was eight years old and visited my grandparents’ for the first time since their house was rebuilt where their old one in which my mother was born and grew up had stood. I stepped into the living room of their brand-new house and my uncle welcomed me.
   The house belonged to my grandparents on my mother’s side. As an old custom of Japan, the first-born child used to live with his or her parents after marriage. That’s why I had lived with my grandparents on my father’s side all the way until I left home. Accordingly, my mother’s elder sister took a husband into the family and had lived with her parents. Her husband was this uncle of mine. He was married to my aunt as an heir-to-be and related to me by marriage not by blood.
   He has gotten the best seat in the new living room. It was placed at the top of the table and the closest to the TV. What caught my eyes was the painting hung on the wall behind him. It was a large copy of Mona Lisa.
   I don’t think I recognized it as Mona Lisa back then, but I knew it was a Western painting and felt a decisively unsuitable, out-of-place sense. The house was located in a rural area in Kyoto, in typical countryside where Western paintings were hardly spotted. Though it was new, the house was Japanese-style. The living room had no chairs as they sat on the floor around the low table. Yet, above my uncle was a gorgeously framed, dignified Mona Lisa. I’m still not sure if someone gave it as a housewarming gift or he got it himself, but it was certainly the furthest thing from my uncle who was a lean, uncultured, gamble-inclined man. While I gaped at the painting thinking how opposite it was to my uncle, he said to me smiling, cheerfully and proudly, “Isn’t this painting nice? I like this. It’s nice, isn’t it? Nice, hah?”
   Until mid-teen, I had often visited the house. Mona Lisa was always there as my uncle’s favorite. In every New Year’s holiday, my uncle acted as a dealer for our annual family gambling card game at the living room. It may sound peaceful, but it was a serious high-stakes battle between my uncle, my cousin, my mother and me. Although my uncle loved gambling and was buried into every bet, he would lose big every year. From above, Mona Lisa watched him losing to his son with tears in his eyes, with her archaic smile.
   I went abroad for the first time when I finished high school. I visited France and saw the real Mona Lisa at the Louvre. I wasn’t interested in art so much then, and walked through rather than appreciated. But once I entered the big hall where Mona Lisa was displayed, I noticed something fundamentally different. Although there were quite a few visitors, the hall was almost completely silent. The air was strained and tense. It was as if everybody had been holding their breath. At first, I didn’t know what was happening. I walked forward and found Mona Lisa at the back of the hall. Since it was beyond security guards, tasseled ropes and the reinforced glass, there was still some distance from me when I stood in front. Nevertheless, the real one was surprisingly powerful and captivating. I clearly remember I felt like being gravitated to it and couldn’t help fix my eyes on it.
   As for my uncle’s favorite copy of Mona Lisa, when my grandparents’ house was burned to the ground in after years by my grandmother’s carelessness in which she lit a candle too close to a sheet of Buddhism talisman paper on the alter one morning, Mona Lisa was burned away with the house. When the fire broke out, my uncle, who had been even thinner because of terminal cancer, carried in his arms my aunt, who had been fat and suffered from dementia and was asleep in the upstairs bedroom, ran down the stairs holding her, and saved her life. I thought I found out who his favorite lady really was, and who he really was...

 

A Rich World Requiring No Wealth hr617

The most luxurious hotel in my small, rustic town is not far from my apartment. I visited there again the other day, not to stay the night but to use the club lounge.
   The club lounge is exclusive to a member of the hotel’s loyalty program. The members can use it free of charge. The hotel has a regular lounge for its guests which menu has heart-stopping prices. Nonetheless, it was alive with customers who came to ski on the skiing slopes adjacent to the hotel. At the entrance, just by telling the server that I am a club member and flickering my membership card, she ushered me to the back of the regular lounge. Behind the glass door is the club lounge.
   Once I stepped inside, I was in a heavenly place. Despite the hurly-burly of the regular lounge, I had this secluded section to myself. A cartridge coffee machine brewed freshly each cup. Bottles of sparkling wine and club soda stood in the ice-filled silver cooler. Kiss chocolates in silver wrappers, Hershey’s almond chocolates in gold wrappers and packs of a specialty cookie were arrayed. The place used up two-story-high vertical space and the wall-wide window reached to the second floor ceiling. Out of it was a side of the snow-covered mountain. I enjoyed sparkling wine in a flute glass as much as I want, sitting in a cozy sofa. The thing is, I didn’t pay a dime for this service since the membership fee is free. Other occasions I use my membership card except for this lounge are when I travel to the city a couple of times a year and stay at one of the same hotel chain to get its lowest rate.
   Happiness seems to be enlarged 10 times when a gorgeous experience costs none. I don’t think that the wealthy feel happy when they pay a lot of money to use a luxurious hotel lounge because it’s how things usually go. I’ve seen many rich people who don’t have a good time with a frown no matter how expensive the place they are at is. My parents used to be rich, but they were always unhappy and pulled a long face. The schools I went to were exclusive Catholic schools, but the students and their parents alike didn’t seem happy at all from any angles I could have ever taken to observe them.
   It’s an illusion that money brings happiness. I have just finished my second book that I wrote disregarding big sales. Since I didn’t bother about how many copies would sell, I had fun in all the processes such as writing, an enormous amount of editing work and publishing. My happiness is 100 times as much as the one that I felt when I was desperate to be famous and rich.
   A long time ago, I got in a facility of a soft drink company when I visited Walt Disney World. The visitors there were allowed to drink a various kinds of soft drink from the dispensers as much as they wanted for free. The minute I entered the place, I noticed a strange atmosphere. It was crowded, but people were all smiling. Each of them was laughing, talking, jesting, and having fun with a small paper cup in their hand. While I lived in U.S., it was the only place that I saw people look joyful and relaxed without influences of alcohol or drugs.
   Does wealth really make people happy? We can be happy without it if we overcome fear and create the world where money doesn’t work on us. I know, though, the way to happiness is of course long and hard...

 

A Breakthrough hr616

The day arrived unexpectedly that the spell under which I had been for a long time was finally broken.

   Because my mother had nurtured excessive self-consciousness in me since my childhood, I had cared about how I look, how I behave, and what others think of me more than enough. I would be drenched in sweat from chatting casually with others as a thought I should look my best tenses me up abnormally. I’m now aware that this nature of mine was the culprit that cornered me with pursuit of fame and wealth although I became a singer-songwriter purely from love for music in the beginning.
   On that particular day, I got in the communal spa of my apartment building as usual.It was an evening bath time for the regular residents and quite a few people were taking a bath there. Among them was this woman who had moved in about two years ago. My bath time coincides with hers every day and hostility toward her had gradually grown inside me. She is thin and beautiful, a little younger than I am. She is always posturing and self-assured. For some reason, she imitates almost everything I do in the spa, from the way of taking a bath to bath tools she brings in. Whatever she does gets on my nerves, such as her way of walking, washing, and talking. She practices beauty exercises in the Jacuzzi, and does the facial treatment in the hot tub. Those routines of hers irritate me immensely when they happen to come into my sight. Since I don’t figure out why I dislike her so much, I asked my partner one day. According to his analysis, it’s because she is the one I want to become but I know I can’t become. It sums up all envy. That explains it indeed.
   It’s common that people don’t wear a swimsuit at a spa in Japan. This communal spa also adopts the Japanese practice, and the hot tubs, the Jacuzzi and the sauna must be taken all naked. I’m not thin nor beautiful, and I know it’s no competition between that woman and me. Nevertheless, I hold my breath and squeeze in my chubby belly as much as possible spontaneously whenever I pass her by. It’s so silly of me to try to look better, even in vain, but I can’t help it.
   And the thing happened. I was taking the Jacuzzi when she stepped in and joined me. I stepped out right away because avoiding her was my usual habit not to let her see my unshapely body. I was squeezing my belly and walking beside her on the stone floor toward my shower booth hurriedly because I was inside her sight. Then, right in front of her eyes, my foot slipped and I saw in slow motion my body flying in the air like in ‘Home Alone’. I landed on the stone surface with my buttocks and my left hand.
   Before a scare or pain, it was embarrassment that came first. I stood up immediately as if the fall had been part of some sequence of motion. Although other users were all washing their body in the shower booth, the only one that was in the tub and witnessed what I did was, of all people, the woman whom I didn’t want to let see most. She jumped out of the tub worrying, and kindly asked me, “Are you all right?”. Oddly enough, my instant reply was, “I’m OK. I do this all the time!” although I had never fallen there before. Even in the case like this, I still tried to make face by fabricating an accident into my custom. I laughed and shrugged off, and walked back to my shower booth.
   I noticed pain. But it was nothing compared to the massive amount of embarrassment that overwhelmed me. I couldn’t believe it really happened, nor could I imagine myself being any clumsier. I Home-Aloned naked before the cool woman whom I had regarded as a rival by flattering myself but in reality who had been way out of my league. I was literally stunned with an extremity of embarrassment. I sincerely wished to make time rewind. I sat in a hot tub dazed in shock and the woman joined in again. My mouth uttered weird words one more time, “I’m sorry my fall disturbed you. It’s a usual thing to me, but surprises others.” I was persistent to keep up appearances. She replied, “Oh, it’s all right, only if you didn’t get hurt.”
   Back in my apartment, pain assaulted earnestly in my hand and buttocks. The palm of my left hand already turned purple and swelled. I dreaded to think about broken bones. But the embarrassment appalled me even more. I felt sick to my stomach with my outrageous self-consciousness. I wondered why I couldn’t admit I did the folly.
   I’ve been clumsy all my life. I’ve been a comic who makes a blunder all the time. No matter how hard I pretend to be cool, it has never worked. I should have stopped denying that long before. The fall ordered me to accept it already. I felt as if I had looked at myself in the mirror for the first time in my life. The reflection of myself disappointed me but somehow relieved my burden. I came out of the illusion that pretending can change who I am. I’ve felt easy on my shoulders since the fall, walking around as my true self...

 

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Had a #yogurt #frappuccino at #Starbucks in the city. #Japan Had a #yogurt #frappuccino at #Starbucks in the city. #Japan
#Fettuccine #pasta with cheese sauce from a convenience store at half price. #Japan #Fettuccine #pasta with cheese sauce from a convenience store at half price. #Japan
Having a daily #lunch special at a family #restaurant. Today's special is broiled #fish with miso and #karaage - fried #chicken in a Chinese style. $8 including rice, miso soup, pickles. #Japan Having a daily #lunch special at a family #restaurant. Today's special is broiled #fish with miso and #karaage - fried #chicken in a Chinese style. $8 including rice, miso soup, pickles. #Japan
Posted my new #blog. It's about an unexpected phone call from my #mother. #family #Japan http://www.hidemiwoods.com Posted my new #blog. It's about an unexpected phone call from my #mother. #family #Japan http://www.hidemiwoods.com
Got a broiled #fish and sauteed #pork #bento at the grocery store, $3.50. #Japan Got a broiled #fish and sauteed #pork #bento at the grocery store, $3.50. #Japan
#Beef and tomato #pasta at an #Italian #restaurant inside the train station. $9. #Japan #Beef and tomato #pasta at an #Italian #restaurant inside the train station. $9. #Japan
The herons built their home and settled in across my apartment. I see them hanging around like this everyday out of my window. #heron #bird #trees #Japan The herons built their home and settled in across my apartment. I see them hanging around like this everyday out of my window. #heron #bird #trees #Japan

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