Dearest Rachel –
Now that I’m looking at it, this title seems unfortunately phrased, or maybe it could be about the real ‘final frontier.’ Would that the word ‘our’ included you as part of it. But with my bringing Daniel with on next spring’s cruise to Japan, I didn’t think twice about using the first person plural until I’d typed it. Anyway, these were just imaginary glimpses, regardless, submitted for your amusement, so I might as well get on with them, rather than constantly beg your pardon for a word that might be interpreted differently than originally intended.
The first brief image had to do with a fairly bizarre in-flight meal. This is the sort of thing that would leave you reminded of having had spaghetti during your own visit there (which I’ll explain for the readers in a moment). We were being served what appeared to be a bowl of salad, with lettuce and other shaved vegetables on top, and a packet of what may have been dressing on the side. However, a single forkful revealed that underneath was a collection of french fries. This left both of us wondering about the point of such a presentation; the lettuce topping would reduce the temperature of the fries to a less-than-ideal tepid sogginess, while the fries would heat up the salad in turn, leaving it warm and wilted. It was a perplexing case of the worst of both worlds.
I recall some of your stories about your trip to Japan, and the fact that it was particularly immersive, given that the three of you were each staying separately with a host family for a particular length of time. After a while, you got to a point where you were craving what you might’ve considered to be “normal” food (kind of like how I was longing for a meat pizza after a week and a half in Israel, dealing with nothing but kosher food). Your hosts took you to a local place that had, among their many plastic displays, something that looked like a bowl of spaghetti, which you requested. As you ate, you had this sensation that something about it didn’t taste right, but plowed through it, both to be polite and because you had missed such a taste as you were currently enjoying. But when you got to the bottom of the bowl, you were dismayed to note that the noodles were resting on a group of ice cubes, in order to keep them cold… and that’s why your spaghetti tasted so strange.
Of course, that was back when you were sixteen, and Japan was still in the middle of its ‘go-go-go’ phase, economically and culturally. At that time, it was still experimenting as to how to blend its own tastes with a more international flavor. I suspect we won’t be dealing with quite the cultural shock ourselves. Even your observation that what your host families considered ‘breakfast’ fare (which is to say, essentially the leftovers from the previous night’s repast) isn’t going to be something that we’ll wind up dealing with, since we’ll be on the ship each morning and evening – the very idea that they might serve us leftovers for breakfast is ridiculous in the extreme.
Last night’s second scene had to do with us bicycling through some Japanese town (which, while it sounds like fun to me – after all, you and I did that through Copenhagen the morning after our visit to the Tivoli Gardens – would be rather inadvisable, as Daniel never quite mastered the bicycle, and wouldn’t enjoy the trip, so I probably shouldn’t consider it for a shore excursion). It seemed to begin at a service station of some sort, complete with the guide taking a poll of her charges as to whether they wanted to stop for lunch beforehand, or if they just wanted to head out. I don’t recall Daniel’s opinion, but mine – where I basically said I could give it an hour or so before eating again – was part of the prevailing consensus, so we mounted our cycles and headed out into the city.
I don’t know that we ever quite stopped anywhere, per se. However, given that we were cycling through a shopping district, not unlike the one in Jerusalem that we wandered through on that one Thursday night, we couldn’t actually stay on our bikes at full (or even a standard, leisurely) speed. In a way, it was like bicycling through a department store; with stalls and displays passing us on either side within less than an arms length from us, it felt decidedly dangerous to be doing what we were doing. But it seemed like the other shoppers were simply milling about as if this was the most normal thing in the world.
Somewhere along the line, I started developing the nagging sensation that I should’ve taken the guide up on stopping for something before heading out. Not that I was necessarily hungry, mind you, but that I was developing a powerful thirst. I think it was a case of the real, waking world infringing upon the dream; I’ve mentioned to you about how the space heater has been running continuously for sometime, for better or worse. The bedroom, as a rule, is quite comfortable – although there are moments when it is… excessively warm – but the warmth means that it is unnaturally dry, in terms of humidity, and as a result, I find myself waking up with a mouth full of cotton some mornings.
I think that was starting to bleed into the dream, leading to my regret for not having gotten a can or bottle of something at a vending machine by the service station. I may have even taken a longing glance at a similar machine or two as we cycled through the shopping district, for all I know. In any event, the bleedthrough, eventually got to be too much, and I found myself awake, realizing that I needed to tell you about all this, if only for your own diversion.
The funny thing is, I’d had a topic to discuss with you that I was contemplating as I tumbled into bed last night (and no, it didn’t have to do with the family gathering, to be honest; although there was a moment having to do with cleanup that might have bothered you had you been there, but let’s not pick at such scars). Given that it’s a seasonal thing as opposed to a recent occurrence, it can wait for a day or two while I write down these more ephemeral things; I guarantee, you’ll hear from me about this before the week is out.
Until then – or whatever comes up next – keep an eye on me, honey, and wish me luck. As always, I’m going to need it.