Paper tapestries printed with the oily ink and complicated characters of Japanese calligraphy flutter in a soft breeze. A warm wind crosses the sushi restaurant and delivers to me the subtle scent of ginger, tuna, and soy. Gentle smells, flute music, and low light all lend to a still atmosphere. Smiling waitresses round the tables delivering hospitality and water with soothing voices.
"HYEAH!" the kitchen erupts with cheer. One of the waitresses, smiling broader to mask her annoyance, rushes to the curtain at the far end of the room and vanishes through it. On the other side rises the waitress's voice in a bright tone with a chiding pace. She then reappears into the dining area, smiling again. She floats from table to table and when she gets to mine she asks, "Is there anything I can bring you?"
"Yes, I spilled my tea when the cooks yelled. Can I get another?"
"Of course, sir. We apologize," and I feel bad when she says it because she lowers her eyes in shame. The voices of a half-dozen men in loud celebration, "HYEAH!" breaks the serenity of the restaurant, and the server snaps her head rigid and looks toward the ornate drape separating us from the kitchen.
She runs through the tapestry. I'm familiar with the print on the kitchen curtain. It's a painting of a tall celestial woman with her black hair pulled into a tight queue. Her florid robes are covered in complex patterns and adorned with mysterious symbols. On tall wooden sandals a group of children, in robes that match the woman's, huddle against the matriarch figure and together they step through thick snow. She's a symbol of Japanese strength and perseverance of culture. On the other side of the ornamental drapery the waitress is chittering at the noisy cooks.
She pops through once more with a green ceramic pot of aromatic tea. The scene repeats itself, with the kitchen blowing up in loud voices and the woman rushing back to quiet them.
With my curiosity impelling me up and out of my seat I peek past the printed curtain. In the center of a pile of dirty steel pots sit four Asian men in white coats and paper hats, huddled around a 13" black Panasonic television set. On the screen is the score of a baseball game: Japan 6, Cuba 0, bottom of the 6th. And to one side stands an exasperated woman waiting to "Shhhhh!" the cooks on their next outburst.
WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK
Thursday, April 6
Animal Planet Report
ANIMAL 11:00 a.m. It's been found that the head male baboon, the baboon in charge, is always the baboon with the highest levels of serotonin -- a chemical in the brains of apes, monkeys, and humans. I've found an over-the-counter medication that artificially raises serotonin levels. I've been popping the pills for months now and I expect soon to reign the baboon world as their king. Come to me! Come, my furry little subjects, and do my bidding!
TOON 10:30 p.m. My left asscheek has become hypersensitive. That pocket is where I store my phone and the slightest vibration, even from other sources, sends me off in fits of technological epilepsy. I see a future where this has altered our DNA. Pleasure and alarm centers in our brains will light up at the shaking of our butts and we'll pay money to go to fancy clubs and sit in pulsating chairs to get drunk.
Friday, April 7
The Invisible Boy (1957)
TCM 9:00 p.m. When I was an invisible boy, I saw the girl I love kiss someone else. That day I watched as he walked away with her, and I sat beneath a tree and smelled the grass. I wasn't really invisible, but to her I was. The one you love always loves another. That's how it is.
Saturday, April 8
Good Morning San Diego, Weekend
KUSI 7:00 a.m. My neighbors kick off every Saturday morning with an early morning round of mariachi music. By 7 a.m. I'm up and sipping coffee and pretending I know how to Mexican Hat Dance in my kitchen and singing along to the songs I know and making new words up for the lyrics I don't. I yell, "AY! AY! AY! AY!" and I jump on my couch. Being a morning person has its advantages. One benefit is that no one stays over at my house on Friday nights.
The Lawrence Welk Show
KPBS 6:00 p.m. Sure, you start watching The Lawrence Welk Show for the irony. You tell yourself you like how weird it is, the accordions and bubbles and sentimental attitude. Pretty soon you're clearing your schedule so you can watch the show while you eat a TV dinner and talk to your cats. Next thing you know you're old and don't really like the music that "those kids" listen to.
Sunday, April 9
The King of Queens
FOX 4:30 p.m. Can you believe that hot chick is a Scientologist? I think that makes her sexier. You can tell her anything and she'll believe it. "I'm from the planet of Guargum, and the only way I can survive in your atmosphere is if I make out with you on the couch for an hour. And you make me a sandwich. Then you leave me a six pack of beer on my porch and go back to your apartment."
Monday, April 10
The People's Court
UPN 4:00 p.m. Doug Llewelyn's hair once saved a tiny child in a village in Guatemala. Doug's hair was on vacation at the time of a great earthquake and served as a helmet to protect the babe from falling debris. Doug Llewelyn's hair is a hero, and you never hear any good press about it and that's fine. It didn't help that infant for the fame.
Tuesday, April 11
USA 3:00 p.m. In the final days before the coming revolution I will stand on my balcony, swaddled in great robes, and I will call to my people for peace. All the while I'll be pitting the Senate against our newly appointed "Chancellor," and my troops will be repositioning to the south.
Wednesday, April 12
John Grisham's The Rainmaker
USA 3:00 p.m. Sure I enjoy a good bon mot or the dry wit of highbrow humor, but you can't tell me your mind doesn't go right to pee when you see that title.
Thursday, April 13
FOX 12:00 p.m. The theme song for M*A*S*H is called "Suicide is Painless." In the version they play on the movie there are words and, yes, the lyrics say, "suicide is painless / it brings on many changes / and I can take or leave it if I please." And you people think my generation was dark and weird.