A Mile In the Rain

I’ll get the Ray portion of this post out of the way first.

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Of Cape Cod’s numerous attributes, the best in my book is that regardless of where you are on this peninsula, it’s never more than a ten minute drive to the beach.  Sandy Neck is five minutes from my folk’s house, so that’s usually where I head to catch a sea breeze.  Ironically the beach is covered in rocks that quickly tenderize sensitive feet.

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I was feeling cabin-feverish this afternoon, and slightly guilty for all the food and booze I’ve been indulging in, so I decided a walk was in order.  I chose some nature trails that run behind Sandy Neck and up into its trademark dunes.  It was a crappy day by all means, but I figured I could stand the drizzle, and the fog promised some cool pictures.  This place is most spectacular under clear blue skies, but today it was pretty cool, too.  I neglected to bring a pair of gloves, which was a mistake, and if I would have wandered around a lot more if my alternating umbrella hand wasn’t repeatedly freezing up.

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There were deer footprints everywhere, along with rabbit prints and evidence of the numerous coyotes that call the dunes of Sandy Neck home.  I saw lots of seagull parts strewn about the trail and in the brush to the side.  I hope to get back here with Chieko and Ray before we head back to Japan.

The rest of New England is getting hammered by a nice winter storm this evening, but it’s all wind and rain here.  Aside from my outing this afternoon, I’ve been in my pajamas all day.  No complaints.

Slow and Steady

Having nothing on my plate this afternoon, Chieko and I took a walk down the train tracks and around the cranberry bog across the street.  The woods here are much different than in Japan.  Japanese forests are always so manicured (at least the ones I’ve frequented), whereas Cape Cod woods are a tangled mess of tree, briars, and everything in between.  A lot of the forests in Japan are also made up of cedar, and thus stay green during the winter.  I’d forgotten how stark northeastern forests become once they drop their leaves.

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And of course, one of the boy.

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Safe and Sound

Home, home, home.  Our trip was long but uneventful, and it is nice to be back home.  I don’t miss too much about home when I’m in Japan, but it always feels great to come back here.  It also has a bit more meaning now that we have Ray, and I’m happy to be able to bring him around to my favorite spots.  He’s lucky in the sense that both his parents come from very beautiful places, and hopefully he will establish a connection to both of them.

We flew United Airlines on our way back, and since I had absolutely no expectations about the quality of service, I could only be impressed.  I supposed having an adorable baby in tow softens people up, but all of the airline staff were amazingly friendly and accommodating.  We lucked out and had an empty seat between us, so there was a bit more room for us to pile up all of our gear, and they also gave us a bassinet that went on the floor and allowed us to get Ray off of our laps when he was sleeping.  We also got switched to a bulkhead seat at the last minute, which gave us some much needed leg room.  Ray was great, sleeping for long periods of time and never getting too fussy.  Of course, once we landed in Chicago and checked in for the domestic portion of our flight, it was back to the to crappy service and dilapidated equipment that I expect from United.  There is a marked a difference in the service between their international and domestic flights.  We’re using All Nippon Airways on the way back, which is head and shoulders above any U.S. carrier I’ve used so far, so that will be nice.  For anyone travelling with an infant, I suggest contacting the airline well-ahead of time to secure a seat that can accommodate a bassinet.

Since we got home on Thursday night, we’ve been relaxing, stuffing my face with the foods that I miss in Japan (BLT’s, pizza, cheese) — those things are technically available in Japan, but aren’t as good and/or stupidly expensive.  I’ve also been enjoying my favorite beer (Harpoon I.P.A.), along with some new brews that are delicious (Sam Adams Noble Pils (solid) and Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra I.P.A. (7.2% powerhouse)).

Ray has also been receiving a steady stream of adorers, and he’s also made a trip to the local bank and post office to see some folks who have been waiting in anticipation for his arrival.  The boy’s reputation precedes him.

Our first day back, Chieko and were both pretty hobbled by jet lag, but yesterday things seemed to even out.  The first order of business was to take Ray down to the local beach, Sandy Neck.  It’s a beautiful beach, and I was struck again by how clean it is compared to Japan’s garbage-plagued shores.

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In the afternoon, without Ray, I took a trip to one of my favorite places, a muddy, pothole strewn track through the woods known simply as Navigation.  If you follow the road to its end, it eventually opens up to a spectacular sight, the vast Great Salt Marsh.  In my younger days, Navigation was the site of many an illicit activity.  These days, I go there to admire the views (the stars are particularly nice).

During moon tides and storms, the whole marsh is flooded.  Under normal conditions, a series of canals wind their way through marsh — great kayaking.  In the summer, you can count on getting eaten alive by green-head flies.  I’m planning to get down here for a sunset or two, and perhaps some night photos.

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We’ve got nothing major on our agenda during our time here, aside from a trip to Vermont for a few days and spending lots of time with friends and family.  As always, it’s good to be home.

Contact

Today Ray took the monumental step from jamming his own fists/fingers into his mouth, to actually picking up an external object and jamming it into his mouth. And so the fun begins. Fortunately he’s not mobile yet, so we have time to Ray-proof the immediate vicinity. I can’t help feeling that we’re about to turn the corner from passive baby (eats, sleeps, looks cute, can’t do anything), to active baby (demands constant attention, once and for all goodbye life as I have known it). It seems Ray is getting ready to demand a lot more attention.

Took a good chunk out of the to-do list today. The doctor didn’t offer any real promising information, but prescribed us various creams, including some light steroids. We made an appointment to see him again when we get back from America. Chieko, who has a pretty severe skin allergy (perhaps I mentioned that?), expressed her dismay that there haven’t been any advances in treatment since she first started seeing doctors more than 30 years ago. The doctor, who is most certainly younger than both of us, was empathetic. I’m sort of wondering why we’re seeing a pediatrician about a severe skin problem. I don’t doubt the doctor’s knowledge, but perhaps a skin expert would have a bit more insight.

We also went to a more traditional pharmacy and bought some Chinese natural cream that Chieko found out about. We’re trying that first to see if it does anything. I’m also looking forward to seeing the herbalist on Cape Cod (thanks Beth!) to see if she might have any natural remedies.

But enough of that. Look at the cute baby.

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The Sun Came Out

I was happy to see clear blue skies this morning when I got up.  Not only did it mean our drive home would be smooth, but it also gave me a chance to dash out and take a few pictures of the impressive mountain scenery that Cheiko’s home town has to offer.  When I met here she had a distaste for the place because, in reality, there isn’t much going on there.  I can see how a Japanese girl who grew within the confines of such a rural town and such a hard-working family would want to make for Tokyo ASAP.  But for me, a foreigner, this place conforms to all scenes my mind (and perhaps Hollywood) conjured up about Japan before I actually came here.  I think my awe at the beauty of her hometown has helped Chieko appreciate it a bit more, especially now that we live in Ishikawa prefecture, which is quirky no matter where you come from.

Here are a few pictures.  Of the large mountains in around Chieko’s hometown, Hakkaisan gets the bulk of attention.  It’s the one on the right, its bald head just visible above the trees, and from other angles it deserves the attention it gets.  But from where I spend most of my time in Uonuma City, Komagatake gets all of my attention.

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Among the things we have left to do before we head out on Thursday:

1)Take Ray to the skin doctor tomorrow.  He’s got some skin issues going on, and several doctors have encouraged us to use a steroid cream to settle them down.  We’ve been hesitant to use it so far, but none of the other, non-roid creams are really making much of a difference.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s a bit uncomfortable, so I think we’re gradually moving toward doing whatever will clear up his skin (within reason, of course).  I’m conscious of trying to find alternative therapies and natural ways of healing all varieties of illnesses, but I’m also fully of my own ignorance when it comes to medicine (among many other things).  I admit that the word ‘steroid’ freaks me out when it concerns my two month old son, but at the same time I have no idea what the other creams we are putting on him contain.  I have to keep the faith that a doctor wouldn’t suggest doing something that is inherently bad for our boy.  But Japanese doctors aren’t used to their patients question anything they say or do, so it’s always kind of fun to put them on the spot and ask them to explain why, exactly, they want to do this or that, and what the other options might be.

2) Pack and ship our bags.  One of the major shipping companies in Japan has a beautiful service by which you can send your luggage to the airport ahead of time (or from the airport to you residence) for a worthwhile fee.  We’re finding that our small car will probably not accommodate  our bags, baby and baby equipment, so it seems like an opportune time to take advantage of this convenience.  It also means we need to get our shit together and in a suitcase a day or two before we leave.  Tall order.

3) Clean this house.  It’s not gross, but not far off.  And there’s nothing worse than coming home to a messy place after traveling.

4) Have some friends over for dinner to give them advice regarding planning a wedding.  I should just sequester myself with a bottle of wine and let Chieko handle this one.  I am happy about our wedding, but if I think about the details….bad scene.

5) Lots of other stuff, but this list is bringing me down, so end./

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend, and Happy Valentine’s day to one and all.  Chieko and I are sitting this one out (at least she is).  I bought her some Valentine’s sushi and some Haagen-dazs (definitely looked up the spelling online).  Still waiting for my gift.  Ahem.

Good night.