Venue #1 of “The Debauchery Tour 2019” Paris

Warning: Explicit material – I mean art- follows.


“The Debauchery Tour 2019” started as two moms visiting a college aged kid doing a semester abroad. It was one of those rare times in life when everyone on the family trip was thrilled to be included. Not a pouter among us. My friend and I were ecstatic to exchange the cold of Philadelphia for a visit in the cold and freezing rain of London and Paris. “3,” as this child is called since she’s basically my third kid, was just as enthusiastic  to enjoy the sites on the Mom Budget and not the College Kid Budget.

I left Spouse in Philadelphia well fortified. A case of canned WalMart beanless chili, Costco bag of oatmeal, half and half, and three jars of peanut butter were all the sustenance he required in my absence. My estimate was I could be gone for up to four weeks with those provisions. My friend’s husband was lucky she left the heat on before she pealed out of the driveway.

My friend and I were elated to be on a trip where the only two people we had to make happy were ourselves. 3 wanted to see every single highlight in London and Paris because at that age you think you’ll never have the opportunity to see any of it again. Which is not a bad attitude.

And that, friends, is the set up for how our trip to see 3 turned in to a reality show narrated by Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty.

Fittingly, the first venue on “The Tour” (for short) was Paris. Like any respectable band going on tour, you start with a set list, practice some, and hopefully you’re not too drunk or high to play the songs in front of a live audience when the time comes.  Having lived in both New Orleans and Montreal, I felt I was well trained.  I had prepared in the most French of atmospheres outside of France.

Claiming Quebec and France are similar often leads to the type of fights uncharacteristic to smiling Canadians – the ones usually reserved for the American family Thanksgiving table.  However Montrealers and Parisiennes do share a love of meat. In particular, organ meat. I’ve eaten sperm sacks (read about that delicacy here) and have drunk a glass filled with live fish, but seeing a grey cross section of kidney or liver on top of a steak still elicits the same reaction as a whiff of tequila.

If you’re not convinced, there’s also a replica of Notre Dame in downtown Montreal. The Notre Dame Basilica.

There’s nothing more French than Notre Dame.

Flat Stanley is immortalized below.


Flat Stanley’s a little fuzzy due to a few drinks on St Catherine. Living in Montreal exposed me to some of the cultural remnants left by the French and provided me with a Quebecois French Accent that elicited rolled eyes and an immediate conversion to English whenever I tried to talk. My “oui” sounds more like the duck on the Aflac commercial.

In the case of New Orleans, many of my Clampitt clan think that a trip there doubles as a trip to Paris. Why bother flying to France if you can simply roadtrip to New Orleans? And the only French you need to speak is “beignet.” The French Quarter looks trés French in a 1700’s peasant style sort of way.  “Le Bon Temps Roule” (let the good times roll) is a commonly slurred phrase probably brought in by Jean Lafitte and his merry band of pirates as they boozed their way through the French Quarter. My visiting friends were immensely entertained by the wiggling rubber penises decorating the windows of neon lit porn shops lining Bourbon Street. Mixed in with the Lucky Dog carts and Hurricane Bars, the French Quarter is unique among the cities in the US. (Also the source of the fart spray one sister sprayed on the other leading to the sprayee sleeping by the toilet that night.) In a sense, it’s a micro Moulin Rouge district.

At our first dinner in Paris I realized both Montreal and New Orleans were watered down versions of the mother ship. Now both several generations removed from the original influx of French to North America, they’ve both lost that Je Ne Sais Quois (That undefinable thing) that makes something French. Sort of an unexpected cross between a gasp inducing shock and an adrenaline shot of fun.

We found ourselves at an Indian restaurant highly recommended by a tour guide. She had said, “The food is great and the decòr is very avant garde.” Since she’d just given us a crash course through the Louvre, we thought we understood the meaning of avant garde and happily made our way over.

“Looks sort of un-avant garde to me,” I remarked as we sat down. It was a usual looking place. White table cloths, waiters in black suits, dim lighting. Yawn.

“Really? Look behind you,” said 3.

Where I found myself eye to, well, with something else.



I guess it was avant garde in the sense that nudity in art doesn’t require an X rating. Luckily for my friend and I, 3 is 21 years old -any necessary explanations she would have to give to us.

Outside the bathroom.


An orgy above the cappuccino machine.


Literal Food Porn.


And the food was awesome.

We enjoyed watching the first timers to the restaurant disocver they were surrounded by stone carvings of the Kama Sutra. (ancient Indian Sanscrit text on sexuality)

We loved it so much we ate there three times. Yep, in a food city, we opted to eat as much of it as we could.

The next several posts will be dedicated to this tour and I’ll share some of the more entertaining things I learned. No directions, tips, or to-do lists- just my usual schtick. You’ve been warned.

Louvre and Versailles Tour – Hidden Gems

Le Khojuraho Indian restaurant








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Ginkgo Trees- the Chitlins of Japan


This doesn’t smell as nice as it looks

If you’ve ever smelled a Ginkgo tree, or chitlins, my guess is you could all give me the same one word description without thinking too hard. Poo. Both have stenches so offensive you could also tell me where you were, who you were with, and how old you were even if it was before being able to speak in complete sentences. I really wish the iPhone 10 had a Scratch and Sniff feature so I could share with you. For some reason, our ancestors thought it was a good idea to eat stuff that smelled like poo, because both are eaten with gusto. By some anyway.

Chitlins, the intestines of the pig, are routinely eaten in my neck of the woods, Alabama. A whiff of raw Chitlins is bad enough. Cooking them releases an odor that’s an olfactory slap across the face every time you breathe. The bible says that Hell smells like burning sulfur (my translation for brimstone), but I suspect Satan’s minions are scorching a few pounds of chitlins for ambiance.

I’ve only seen chitlins cooked outside in the vats that witches use for stewing frogs. Chitlins are cooked in the back yard because doing so inside would render the house inhabitable for the next six months while the odor cleared. Cooking them outside  requires a warning to all the neighbors that chitlins are on the menu so they have time to close all vents, windows, and doors leading in to their houses. It’s like readying the house  for a hurricane. Served on top of grits and doused in Tabasco sauce, my family guzzles them down like raw oysters. I have eaten them once; my first and last time. The only time I’ve ever seen the TSA staff run is the time they asked my mother to open a plastic container of chitlins she was bringing on the airplane to my aunt. She opened the container, TSA security dogs started howling en masse, and everyone in line bolted for the nearest exit.


This Wikipedia image is the most appetizing picture I could find. Shudder. I could have called my Mom to cook some and take pics but that’d also get her the silent treatment from all the neighbors.


The first time I encountered a Ginkgo tree was at the University of Alabama’s Biology building. Situated right outside the door beside the big auditorium was a giant, old Ginkgo. During  the late fall, the tree would drop berries, which housed a nut. We’d all crush the yellow, fleshy stink bombs when we walked in to the building. We then dragged those bits and pieces in to the auditorium on our shoes. Every year, when the biology building smelled like a dairy farm, the tree would be threatened with removal. Inevitably, the Botany department would intervene and the tree would be safe until the following fall. I can guarantee that none of us, including professors, said,

“I think we should we roast these!”

What I didn’t know then is that the nut covered inside that noxious pulpy berry, is drop dead delicious. One of my most favorite dishes in Japan is Ginkgo nut tempura. Served on a toothpick like olives in a martini, they have the taste of a nut but a consistency somewhere between gum and a banana. Don’t interfere with the Japanese ladies when the nuts are falling. They’ll stampede you flat with a smile and a polite half bow.

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Tempura Matsui New York’s menu version

Tempura Matsui

I saw this, which made me nostalgic for Japan, and was the inspiration for this post.


The stuffed bear on the front of the truck is something I’m used to seeing in Japan. But I would never see these crushed Ginkgo nuts on a sidewalk. In Tokyo, they don’t have a chance to hit the ground. The tallest obasan (older woman, grandmother, auntie) under the tree catches them over the heads of the others.

My current street is lined with Ginkgo trees- which may have been one of the things that attracted me to this neighborhood when we moved last year from California. I told my neighbor I was going to get an old pair of shoes, rubber gloves, and plastic bags to collect the nuts, then I was going to roast them. He pulled a Sam I am and threatened not to eat them here or there, or anywhere.

Luckily for him, and the rest of the city, I won’t be cooking chitlins in the back.


All these nuts waiting to drop are the terror of the neighborhood, and I’ll be standing right underneath, waiting……


So, who among you has eaten something that out smells these two candidates? I can think of two others….


Tokyo Gingko Trees



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I Found Drogon….And Flowers…. In The Desert

For the Big Money:

Q: Why is California called the Golden State?

Not the gold rush

Nothing to do with golden tans (or bronzer)

Gold Finger is just a bad guess

A: Golden hills.

That’s right. The hills of California are usually gold. But when it rains, odd things happen. Usually in the desert. Things turn green and chaos – well you know the rest.

Offspring #2 and I had heard of a mysterious flower bloom in the desert of California due to the unusual amount of rain. We found it easily as the news had been posted at all the “Good Sam’s” camper parks throughout the US. We just followed the five to seven million RVs and Motor Homes converging on a windy, two lane country road headed in that direction. These were not the pop up camper vans many of us suffered  partied  camped in as kids but the super fabulous rock star type four bedroom motor coaches. They don’t corner very well so the curvy road wasn’t dangerous as we were behind them all doing about 20 mph at top speed. We got to enjoy ALL the scenery.

Including the Julian Pie Company.

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This bloom happened to be at Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

Offspring #2 and I had something more tropical in mind. We were picturing something akin to a Bird of Paradise, the desert version. We weren’t sure we were actually in the park however we had seen several cars parked along the side of the road- we had passed the sign announcing the entrance. Usually a lot of cars parked alongside the road means a good spot to fish, just like a long line to a restaurant indicates a good place to eat, so we stopped to find out the source of the draw. We found many bucket capped folks wearing those hiking pants that one can zip off and make in to shorts, lying on the ground. Taking pictures. Of very small flowers.


We were kind of underwhelmed. But we copied everyone else and took more pics.




This might actually be a tree farm.

We also noticed that some people just drove along a loop and stopped at various spots. It’s here where things got weird.


We did not expect to find a T-Rex.

Or St. Francis post bar brawl.


We debated if this was St. Francis or Shrek. Hard to tell. Fiona?

But then, we found the answer to everyone’s GOT question. Where did Drogon go? Does he have a summer locale? The answer is yes. He’s snow-birding at Anza-Borrego.

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There were other sculptures but we decided to head back toward the Julian Pie Company for second round.

When the flowers aren’t in “full bloom” I guess walking the sculptures is like doing the stations of the cross.

Go early. It gets crowded! And hot. Notice there are no people climbing on the back of Drogon. He can burn you from the inside or the outside.

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April Showers Brings May….. Gogatsu-byou?

Show of hands- who gets crabby in May?

I’m 54 years old and just found out that condition I have suffered from each and every May that I can remember has a name. I’ve heard a nasty rumor that Offsprings 1 and 2 refer to it as “May Madness.” It’s the time of year I grow horns, a pitch forked tail, and a penchant for reacting to everything with four letter words in unusual yet creative combinations. This seems to be the go to look on my face during this time frame.


One of the OS was getting an ass chewing and the other thought it would be funny to take a picture.

When I first started practicing yoga, the instructor, instead of giving me helpful tips, told me,

“Your body will tell you what you need to work on.”

Since this occurred during May, my initial instinct was to punch her in the third eye. However, being familiar with just how mean I am during the month of May, I just smiled without showing my teeth. The Japanese call it a “Blue Smile.” (Topic for another post) I left the yoga class, backed in to the car parked behind me, and promptly forgot to pick up Offspring #1 at baseball practice in order to take him to track practice somewhere else. Because in May, all the schedules change.


Schedules apparently change for people all over this planet in May. In Japan, the schedules change in April and the effect is felt in May. What I felt, and what so many others do as well, has a name in Japanese. Gogatsu-byou, or May Sickness. I’m relieved to know that not only do other people share my May Malaise, it has a name. It’s, therefore, real, and not something I conjured during a night sweat.

In Japan, several events converge in the May time frame. For kids in school, the new school year starts in April. All parents know that kids are usually fine for the first month, back with friends, work is pretty low key. By May, the realization hits that it is, in fact, a new year. There’s a national holiday during May called “Golden Week.” New college graduates all start new jobs in April, take a break for Golden Week, go back to their new job in May, and realize they are now part of the working world. And depending on how old school you are in Japan, that means with that same company … for life.

And they get depressed. Think about eating in the same cafeteria, every day of your life, for the next fifty years. I’d get sick of a few things on the menu. What if you’re not fond of your colleagues? They’re also there- for life. Yours and theirs.

And so, for good reason, the term Gogatsu-byou was born to put a name on the funk that May brings.

The route to Gogatsu-byou for me is a little different, but even though I’m not Japanese I’m still claiming it. Unlike the Japanese, I get pissy in May just because my routine changes. Kids are home from school, doing their activities which require adjustments of dinner times, bed times, whatever. My body told me in yoga, when my mind wasn’t willing the clock to fast forward time by an hour, that I was inflexible. Both in mind and body. There- I’ve said it. I don’t like May because I have to adjust.

Knife to the heart.

And this May is a momentous one for the Clampitts. Offspring #1, of whom many of you know through this blog, is graduating from college, and has a job.

And is moving.

And potentially never coming home again.

So this May, I’m not just a fire spewing monster, I’m being more dramatic about it.

This year the gogatsu-byou is shared by hordes of my friends, many of whom are in the same position. We’ve become equal parts of crazy eyed witch and teary starry eyed parent.

In a way, it feels good. I’m thrilled OS#1 is off and running. I’m equally thrilled that I’m upset that he won’t be able to come home as much. What if I needed to nail the door shut after he left to keep him from coming back? All the times I heard,

“You’re the meanest ma every!” were worth it. He turned out pretty good.

For me, for this year, gogatsu-byou, has a nice counter balance.

More on it:

A Japanese Word for May – Coto Japanese Academy

The Sickness That Strikes Japan Each and Every May 

 Gogatsubyo or May Sickness by Efrott Weiss






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When Your New Job Changes Time…



I’ve had some good jobs in my time. Some that were pretty high on the Bureacratic food chain. I’ve had career positions so important I tried to use them for my personal benefit. Like the time I spent a significant portion of my work day trying to start a new buzz word. One that would be used through out the company at meetings, in hallways, and whenever the CEO met with investors. A buzz word so memorable, all would remember when I first uttered it. I came close with “Gestalt” but then everyone used it incorrectly and I just looked like an ingrate when I had to explain its proper usage. But I never had a job that caused the date to be written differently. When you get a job that changes time, that’s a big deal.

The year in Japan is now “1” with the crowning of Emperor Naruhito.

The former Emperor of Japan, Akihito, is now the “Emperor emeritus” of Japan. He was crowned (can you say that? I’m American and we aren’t up on terms associated with a monarchy) in 1989. The years since are referred to as the Heisei era. The number of the year of his reign was on all of my power bills. So, if it was 9/13/2008 (Written as in the USA) the Japanese would be 20/9/13. “20” being how many years the emperor had been ruling. Very confusing to an Expat trying to figure out when the power bill was due.

The Japanese usually don’t get to celebrate the ushering in of a new era because it means the previous one had died. This time, Emperor Akihito (Now the Emperor emeritus) abdicated his throne. Supposed to rule for life, he became the first in 200 years to abdicate. At 85, he felt that he was no longer able to function effectively.



Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko


Some of you may not have been paying much attention. I get it. It didn’t really grab our attention like when Justin Trudeau became the Prime Minister of Canada.

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Now that I have your attention, there’s a book to be written here.

Like you, I’ve seen pictures of the ceremony where there were a couple of wrapped boxes being carried ever so carefully. There are two boxes, each carrying one of the Imperial Treasures. There’s a third but it doesn’t make it in to the actual ceremony. This is the story of what’s in the boxes being used in the Shinto Ceremony establishing Crown Prince Naruhito as Emperor Naruhito.


The working title is:

                           “The Mirror, the Sword, and the Gem” By Ouisar-san

Once upon a time there was an important Shinto goddess by the name of Amaterasu. She and her brother were typical siblings, and they fought all the time. One fight in particular caused much rancor between them and Amaterasu retreated in a snit.

(Author’s note: insert epic battle scene in the manner of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings)

“Susanoo, you’re a mean brother. I’m moving in to this cave and I’m taking all the light in the world with me. Bye Felicia” Hmph.

She slammed closed the door to the cave like Ouisar-san’s teen-aged daughter used to.

Susanoo said, like all brothers, “I was just kidding, why do you have to be so dramatic all the time?” He was now in trouble with his friends who couldn’t see to play poker. One of his buddies, a minor Shinto deity, made an eight sided mirror, which he shown in to the cave.

Amaterasu was apparently a true beauty and came running out when she saw her face in the mirror along with the green jade jewel her brother held aloft. (I personally would’ve held out for a big diamond but that’s just me)

But, the mirror actually showed the truth of all situations, including that her brother wasn’t unique and that he was just like every other brother in the world, and it was given a name. The mirror ultimately made it to the first Japanese Emperor, Jimmu, in 660 BC. (That one is in Jesus years)

Yata no Kagumi– the Sacred Mirror. And it was passed on to the other emperors as a symbol of wisdom.

Yasaki no Magatama- the Sacred Jewel. And it was passed on to the other emperors as a symbol of benevolence.

The peace could only last so long before Susanoo and his sister Amaterasu went after each other again.

(Author’s note: flashback description of Susanoo and Amaterasu’s mother threatening to send them to bed early if they didn’t stop pickering. The mother’s Imperial drinking goblet was lost in a bar fight)

Susanoo had pushed his sister too far this time. It called for a big gesture. He cut off the tail of an eight headed serpent that was eating the daughters of one his friends. The tip of the tail, which was really a sword, he used to, again, buy his way back in to his histrionic sister’s good graces. (Histrionic is such a charged word. Suffice it to say he was probably driving her crazy thus leading to this poorly used adjective attributed to such behavior)

Kusanagi no Tsuruigi- the Sacred Sword. And it was passed on to other emperors as a symbol of bravery.

The book ends there because the editor saw an opportunity for a second book and thus this one ended with the big question, “What does Amaterasu do with the sword the next time she and her brother fight?”

Even today, the Sacred Mirror, Sword, and Jewel were used in the Shinto ceremony where Crown Prince Naruhito became the 125th Emperor of Japan. Or in this situation, a replica was hidden inside a box. No one has seen the actual Imperial Treasures. The real ones reside in various shrines around Japan. And none of them have been seen either. For all we know, some Expat somewhere bought all three of them at the Kawagoe Shrine Sale.

The picture of the Imperial Jewels in Wikipedia is labeled as “Conjecture.”

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Image: Wikipedia

I would definitely would have held out for a diamond.

The new era is called “Reiwa” or beautiful harmony.

I hope so. And a big Kanpai to the new Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako.


More reading for all of you Japanophiles.

Akihito and Japan’s Imperial Treasures that make a man an emperor

Five Things to Know About the Modern Japanese Monarchy










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Girls’ Trip… Menopause Style

A long time ago, (my twenties) in a galaxy far away (New Orleans), I went on a girls’ trip. We spent a week in the Big Easy like a troupe of vampires carousing at night, and sleeping through the day. Because, of course, we’d been out all night.  I’ve thought a lot about that trip from thirty odd years ago because I recently returned from a similar one. Similar only in that it was comprised of my female friends, now, all in our fifties.

The fun  of the trip circa early 90’s started with the first outing in the French Quarter. We took pictures of each other being handcuffed by the policeman patrolling the Quarter on his horse.

We walked the streets with open beer cans hidden inside a pink rubber koozie disguised as a treasured piece of the male anatomy. When our favorite bar opened promptly at midnight, we were in the front of a line that snaked downstairs in to a dungeon, with cells, and bloodied mannequins. Women in S & M outfits served us more beer so we’d be drunk enough to dance to AC/DC; disco had made dancing extremely uncool then. It was an inexpensive trip because we lived off Coors lite and cigarettes. One of the ubiquitous novelty shops provided the “eau de fart” perfume that I sprayed in my sister’s hair resulting in her clingy affair with the toilet all night. Still funny. Don’t feel sorry for her, she wasn’t the innocent…it was payback.

My first day back at work I had to take a nap in my car on my lunch break. Any trip that didn’t conclude with scratches down the side of the rental car would have been deemed lackluster.

Details of what happened on that girls’ trip to New Orleans are fuzzy for several reasons, none of which are due to the passing of time. The pictures were destroyed so there was no chance of them destroying a job opportunity or a run for political office. Those pictures, as staged as they were, would be hard to explain to teenaged children who would invariably use them as ammunition. “Well, at least I wasn’t arrested in New Orleans,” blah blah blah.

This is the most controversial picture from our recent girls’ trip to Vancouver.



We ate during the day and slept at night. By now either married, divorced, or widowed, our restaurant reservations drove our decision-making.  The highlight of the trip was a rafting tour to spot eagles. The Squamish Rafting Company did all the heavy lifting. Squamish, British Columbia is the “Eagle Capital of the World.” Eagles from Alaska fly down and winter along the river. There were hundreds.

Interesting side note, eagles mate for life. The male and female go to different locations over the winter in order to increase the odds that at least one of them survives the winter and can make the trip back in the spring.

I’ve got several bad pictures to share with ya’ll.


A guide about twelve years old did all the work. We looked like a bunch of two-year olds decked out in so much gear we couldn’t bend our arms or legs. Falling out of the boat would have meant sure death as the weight of all the stuff designed to keep us warm and dry would have anchored us at the bottom. Good thing the river was only about two feet deep.



The eagles watched as we went by. We were their only entertainment on the river that day.


The eagles were literally everywhere.


There’s an eagle on a limb.  Or at least it’s a bird with a white head.

I returned home from this trip plumped and fluffed as we had eaten our way through the city. Now more like locusts than vampires. When we weren’t eating, we were planning our next meal. We slept at night, and worked out in the morning before the day started.

This trip made me drop to my knees, sing praises, and thank Sweet Jesus that I have hit the timeframe I feared the most when I was younger.

The dreaded and often maligned menopausal era.

Menopause is the natural way to be sidelined. No more hormones wasted on tight skin and a smooth, undimpled butt. I knew I’d hit it when my back fat needed a bra. But here’s the thing. I’m thrilled. Mother Nature’s way of easing the transition maybe.

Mother Nature has developed a way to determine if the eagles are still vital enough to mate. The eagles, when they reunite with their mates, fly high in the sky, and lock their talons in what’s called a “Death Spiral.” Unable to fly, they plummet toward the ground, their talons hooked together. If they are able to let each other loose without crashing in to the ground first, she deems them “healthy” and able to mate. Survival of the fittest in every sense of it.

Mother Nature has dictated that my friends and I are no longer necessary in the propagation of our species so she lets us decline. We no longer have the energy to stay out all night for a week straight, and more to the point, that doesn’t sound like fun anymore. Those among us who are eligible bachelorettes have reached the “take it or leave it” stage of life.  Unlike our twenties, we are unwilling to change for anyone who won’t take us in our current form, whatever that is, and we are happy to reciprocate.

My twenty-five-year-old self would have rolled her eyes in disgust at our Instagram picture showing us bundled up beneath the rowing sign, not a beer in sight. Not a “finstagram” picture among us. (The “Fake instagram” account all of our kids have, where they post what’s really going on in their lives. You don’t know about it because they use an alias. Offspring #2 has one and her nickname is horrifying. Offspring #1 hasn’t fessed up to having one)

Here’s what the trip to Vancouver made me realize. The hard part of climbing the corporate ladder, raising kids, and losing parents is now behind me, tucked in between those trips. All the insecurities of my twenties and thirties are now in the rear view mirror. Now I can relax in the knowledge that the only people I care to please are my grandchildren.








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Panic and the KonMari Method

Have any of you read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo?

I haven’t either.

The title is enough to induce an immediate panic of the type usually requiring medication.

For those of you who don’t know, Marie Kondo is the Japanese guru encouraging all of us Americans with hoarding tendencies to loosen our grip on all of our tchotchkes via her KonMari method. She has a reality show where she goes in to someone’s home, teaches them how to tidy up, and in the process both their house and their lives benefit. Her website proclaims, “Tidy Your Space and Transform Your Life.” She has two best-selling books, and a business training others to share the glad tidings of paring it all down. (

I think if Kondo-san were to come to my house, she’d do what all my other Japanese friends do when they arrive. Scratch their heads and wonder why I’d bought all the junk they’d thrown out. Japanese people have a very unique way of getting rid of the things they no longer need or want. It all goes to a shrine sale.

And then we ExPats fight over it.

Most neighborhoods in Japan have a shrine. Many of them have a sort of garage sale or flea market every so often where vendors sell everything from toys, to furniture, to kimono. The monthly Kawagoe shrine sale just outside Tokyo was the mecca to which we all bowed. (YokotaTravel does a great job describing many of the sales and giving directions in the blog here: )

I can tell you what you won’t see in the home of a Japanese person. A bunch of glass fish floats, old sake jugs, cake molds, or old obi (kimono belts) made in to table runners. Visit the house of an ExPat who’s lived in Japan? We’ve got every surface covered with them.

One thing is guaranteed at a shrine sale: a feeding frenzy of ExPats looking for glass fish floats. I clearly have sharp elbows based on my stash of fishing items.eei16yjcqkafulgqhwmeyq

I’ve got more. And when Spouse finally retires all we’ll need is a boat to start our commercial fishing venture.

We also liked the kokeshi dolls— a lot. These were children’s dolls 150 years ago. We ExPats have recycled them beyond recognition. I’ve seen a Christmas tree with nothing decorating it but Kokeshi dolls and lights. One friend had them displayed in a giant glass bowl, piled high one on top of the other, as the entry way decor, or as I have them, staring at us while we watch tv.


If any of my Japanese friends had seen my bedroom decorated with blue and white sake bottles, they’d think I’d lost my mind. I would think the same of them if they used empty Kentucky Bourbon bottles as the major player in a design scheme.

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If someone was getting rid of a sign I was standing there by the garbage when they brought it down. (It’s currently behind too many boxes of old pictures for me to take a photo)

In my case it certainly is true that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

When you have the opportunity to visit the home of a Japanese person, one thing is  clear. The decorations are usually carefully chosen and presented in a manner which highlights that particular object. For instance, an ikebana type display of flowers. It stands alone, not competing for attention with ten other nick nacks around it. The lack of clutter makes the display pop. Some find it serene while others find it stark.

People in Japan are interested in Kondo-san because she’s made such an impact doing things they’ve been taught from birth. First, keep it all clean. School children clean their classrooms every day. Complete with mops, dusters,and the like. Secondly, their houses and apartments are much smaller than ours making every purchase carefully considered because it has to go somewhere. Before living in Japan, I thought if we could fit our cars in to the garage I had whittled our junk down to the absolute necessities. After living in Japan, I know how much storage capacity is under the bed.

Don’t get me wrong. Anything that helps people better manage their lives in a healthy manner I’m all behind. My impression is that Kondo-san is accepting of what brings another person joy without passing judgement. (Her bench mark for what gets tossed- Doesn’t bring you joy? It’s gone)

Even though many don’t understand the love an ExPat has for decorating with their cast off kitchen clutter, it all brings me great joy.

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 4.01.27 pm

Ok gang, I know many of you are overseas and doing the exact same thing. Please share with the rest of us what brings you joy from your adopted home!


Articles about Marie Kondo

New York Times

Martha Stewart’s Web site




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“Mono no aware”

Japan changed me. In a bad way. If you had told college-aged Ouisar-san that she would skip her daily afternoon nap in order to take pictures of a flower field, I would have instructed you to put down the crack pipe. But it happened. Twice.

The first time I drug along a bribed participant, my step-sister, called Lil’ Yale. She’s about fifteen years younger than I am and whether or not it’s a good idea, tends to be game for just about anything. I’ve been dragging her around for several decades, but thus far she hasn’t realized “no” is an option. Only a big sister’s muscle would get a little sister to pay $20 for a hillbilly ride behind a tractor, driven by a faux farmer, to look at flowers.

I was caught in the spirit of “Mono no aware,” the Japanese concept that translates as “the pathos of things.” Enjoying and appreciating something that won’t last forever. In the US, we are most familiar with this term when it’s pumpkin season at Starbucks. Pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin frappucinos, and cream cheese stuffed pumpkin muffins turn Americans orange, the hue of our current president.


When I coerced Lil’ Yale in to visiting the Carlsbad Flower Fields in California, it was a cloudy and cold day but the flowers were in full bloom and they were stunning. Lil’ Yale won’t let me post any of the pictures of her with arms upraised to the sky, her back to the camera, in full on Instagram pose mode.

She’s somewhere in the sweet pea maze below. It took her a full 60 seconds to find her way out. I’m convinced she cheated. I think she actually saw the awning of the strawberry tent in the distance and hurdled the “walls” of sweet pea plants to be first in line for strawberry shortcake. (Strawberries are grown in an adjacent field)


The Pacific is a gasp-inspiring backdrop to the ranunculus flowers. The Carlsbad flower fields were started in the early 1900’s with just two colors. Now after generations of mutations, there are at least fifty different shades.





A few delphinium for diversity.


April and May are the prettiest months for flowers in California and the weather is perfect. Don’t tell. IMG_6778

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It’s That Time of Year Again- Cherry Blossom Season

My annual emergence from MIA status usually coincides with Cherry Blossom Season, also known more commonly as Easter Season. Inspired by the fleeting nature of the cherry blossoms, sakura, and the boisterous celebrations of hanami – cherry blossom viewing- in Japan, I have to add my pics to the pile. The sakura season gives everyone an excuse to send the low man on the totem pole from the office to the park with a blue tarp in order to save a spot for everyone else. Eventually the rest of the gang will show up with food and drinks for a picnic under the blooms.

The Japanese have a phrase for these short-lived bursts of something like the two to three-week cherry blossom season- mono no aware, or “the pathos of things.” An awareness and appreciation for something’s impermanence along with the vaguely sad feeling of knowing won’t be around for long. For those of you who don’t get a kick out of flowers and trees, you may feel the same thing when your grown kids come home- it’s great to see them come, and, it’s sad to see them leave. Well, at least until  the grocery bill drops back to affordable and you’re not having to gas up the car every day. (Offspring #1 and 2— are you reading? If so, JK, I cry my eyes out every day that you’re gone- and your Dad cries harder)

So, for those of us who aren’t surrounded by a Dayger opportunity (i.e. daytime rager, big party during the day) following are a few pics and a link to a newspaper article with amazing shots. I thought the Indiana Times had a nice round up of pics we’re not used to seeing. (My friend Emil has made more aware of taking the “usual touristy pictures,”  and these from Indiana Times are a more unique view.) Emiel’s blog and pics are at

I’m feeling a little “mono no aware” that I’m not sitting on a blue tarp, underneath a cherry tree in Yoyogi Park, fighting the pterodactyl sized- crows for my sembei crackers, dried squid, and sparkling sake!

Have a great weekend no matter what you’re celebrating!

The Ubiquitous picture from Meguro


Any Cheap Trick Fans out there? This is “Budokan” from the so named album. Some of you may recognize this as the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace in Tokyo….


Hanami in Yoyogi Park






Some of the best Cherry Blossoms- sakura- are in the Aoyama Cemetery in central Tokyo


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Politics as Usual- Always Stange and Getting Stanger

I voted. But this time, I voted on things I never thought I`d consider thirty years ago. And it just continues to be as strange as it always has been.

My own experience with politics has become progressively more absurd.

Growing up in a small town, we did things that most kids don`t do. We thought it was normal to swim in the pool at the governor`s mansion during the summer. I wasn`t special and my family wasn`t politically connected. We all knew that family. Later, we all went to college together. In those days, there were two choices; The college close to town or the one North of town a couple of hours. Two of the Jewish kids and one really smart guy went to Vanderbilt but no one understood why they did that.

My best friend and room-mate during our freshman year was political royalty.  I got a call from the front desk of the dorm asking for my room-mate. She wasn`t there, so I went down to pick up her package.

Her package consisted of a Piggly Wiggly  grocery sack filled with text books she had left at home over the weekend- hand delivered by two state troopers who had relayed them across three county lines. They handed me the books and I took them as if it happened every day. Some days you relay prisoners, some days school books. Whatever.

She was dropped from sorority rush because of her families politics.

I graduated, got a job, and moved to Texas. On my maiden voyage venturing beyond familiar state lines, I found a new hero in the Texas race for governor in 1990. Ann Richards, an outspoken white-haired housewife turned fireball was up against a good ole boy in Clayton Williams.

“Claytie vs the Lady.”

Williams handed Richards the keys to the mansion when he likened bad weather to rape.

“If it`s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it,” he said in an interview.

Texas women got revenge and a new shero.


Big Hair, Big Attitude


Not too long after, I was transferred to another Never Never Land of politics. Louisiana. This time it was Edwin Edwards, a long time suspect of corruption, versus David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK. The Klan drove up and down I-10 waving guns at Mexicans and African-Americans giving rise to a campaign slogan I feared would be used again in 2016:


The Crook won but I knew his days were numbered. One of my employees` husbands was an agent for the department of wildlife and fisheries. After confiscating a large haul of illegally caught shrimp, he was instructed to deliver it to the governor`s mansion 100 miles away. Upon arrival, he was handed a waiter`s uniform and told to get to work. He quit the next day and they moved to Florida.

When we moved to Japan, Shinzō Abe had just been elected. He was the fifth prime minister elected in a five year period. It was somewhat unsettling.

Quebec was in turmoil when we arrived there. in 2013. A proposition on the ballot banned all forms of religious identification on employees who dealt with the public. Obviously contentious. But other provinces took it as a recruiting opportunity of divine proportions.


While the rest of the country was head scratching on our presidential candidates, we in California had several additional choices of interest.

Prop 62- Repeal of the Death Penalty (Did not pass)

Prop 63- background checks for purchasing ammunition and prohibits possession of large capacity magazines (Passed)

Prop 64- Legalizes marijuana for ages 21 and up (Passed)


Prop 65- Plastic bags no longer free (Passed)

Prop 60- Requires adult film performers to use condoms when filming (Didn`t pass)

What`s next?

I know many of you have seen some pretty interesting election issues- please share for the benefit of everyone!








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