Mr. Bowie – A New Career in a New Town

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You will be missed, you wonderful Alien, you.

Said you took a big trip/ They said you moved away/ Happened oh, so quietly/ They say

– “Everyone Say’s ‘HI'”- D.Bowie

I was probably about 6 or so when I first saw him. He was costumed in this dark material, sitting rakishly upon a windowsill. Playing with his balls.

It was not until almost 10 years later, when I heard this amazingly haunting voice call out to me over the radio about Major Tom, that I finally pieced together this mystery man and how he would forever effect the rest of my life.

I was 15 years old, and looking for a sound that I could identify with. Something that I could embrace as my own, as a soundtrack to keep me going through the rough years of being a teenager and already knowing EVERYTHING. At this stage of our story, I have already figured out that that half remembered scene of a man sitting in the windowsill was Mr. David Bowie, and I had worn down my VHS copy of The Labyrinth. (Actually I’m watching my Blu-ray copy at this very moment while writing this – because it it awesome, and because it’s a little too soon for me to process watching The Man Who Fell To Earth.) So now I needed more- I needed to reach beyond the Goblin City.

My very first David Bowie album was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Let me just say that this album and I have been through a lot together. First off, middle school is its own level of hell (and an entirely different post topic.) Secondly, my dad was dying from cancer. We knew it was terminal, and we knew it was only a matter of time. And I felt completely helpless.

So I took a lot of walks, with Ziggy as my only companion. From “Five Years” to “ Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” (and back again), I walked while Bowie medicated me. His music provided 15 year-old me the solace and strength to “climb to the top of the mountain” (and considering how hilly my neighborhood was, I occasionally needed the encouragement). Joking aside, though, I needed that album – I needed to cling onto something that I could rely on and know even better than myself at times.

And from then on, my collection grew. The staples were added, along with the rare and the B-sides. Flea markets were scoured for records. Posters went up all over the walls, causing some visitors to remark at their unease of being stared at by so many Bowie Eyes. (Same silly excuse my husband gives me when I suggest hanging the Giant Half Bowie Face poster anywhere that he might come face-to-face with it.)

(As another quick aside- I could not decide how to title this post, so I just hit Shuffle on my massive collection – “A New Career in a New Town” was the first to pop up, and it seemed pretty appropriate.)

I am glad that I face today’s loss having no regrets, as I was able to see not one, but two of his tours (Earthling and Reality.) David Bowie’s presence in my life has been an overwhelmingly positive one, and will continue to be a source of happiness and solace as needed.

My sadness goes out to another 15 year-old girl who has lost her dad to cancer. I hope that she is able to find her own musical solace that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

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Step Eight: Say Sayonara to Japan , and Look Towards Future Randomness

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My final day in Japan was a long one. From the onset, I knew that I would have to catch a flight late that evening. But first there must be food and a considerable amount of walking to still be done!

Today’s “Let’s what the locals eat” experience took us to MOS Burger, where I tackled a Spicy Cheeseburger. Because I am occasionally dumb and forget that Spicy Foods and I do not always agree. But never mind that now.

I look nothing like my advertisement picture. But I am still tasty, in a "I GET EVERYWHERE!" sort of way.

I look nothing like my advertisement picture. But I am still tasty, in a “I GET EVERYWHERE!” sort of way.

Following a fortifying lunch where, once again, customer service was top-notch and beyond what I’ve experienced in many state-side establishments, we hopped the rail back to the Harajuku station. It was time to experience …. Takeshita Street!

This ever-changing entrance decoration greets you as you embark on the mind-warping journey down Takeshita Street.

This ever-changing entrance decoration greets you as you embark on the mind-warping journey down Takeshita Street.

We ventured through the crowds, a sea of people, punctuated by a few glamorous mermaids of original fashion. And while I didn’t manage to capture any good pictures of these individuals, I did manage to find some interesting shots nonetheless.

This is the entrance to Lady Gaga's personal closet. (I failed to notice the "No Pictures" sign until after the fact... Ooops!)

This is the entrance to Lady Gaga’s personal closet. (I failed to notice the “No Pictures” sign until after the fact… Ooops!)

I hate spiders, but for this, I would make an exception.

I hate spiders, but for this, I would make an exception.

When I travel, I always find it interesting to see what graffiti and the like that gets put up by the locals. Because after a while, it all starts to look the same, no matter where you are.

The real melting pot of the world.

The real melting pot of the world.

Venturing off Takashita street, we wandered up to (what I realized after the fact) Tōgō Shrine, located off of Mejii Dori. And while we did not have time to go explore, I have put it on my “Return To” list for the next time. Because I am going back. Yep. Gonna happen!

You eluded me this time... but next time.  (Although, for all I know, that red sign is saying, " closed- no entrance." So, yeah... )

You eluded me this time… but next time.
(Although, for all I know, that red sign is saying, ” closed- no entrance.” So, yeah… )

We continued down the other way on Mejii Dori, towards Shibuya Station.  From everything that I have read since the trip, it is said that what Takashita is for the more crazy fashion, Mejii Dori is for the more trendy fashion. I would have to agree – everyone was quite the fashion plate.

However, being me, I was more interested in the odd architecture and random art displays. Because that is how I roll.

I was designed this way. This crack? All me.

I was designed this way. This crack? All me.

I am attempting to be an optical illusion. You going to take the inside stairs... or the outside ones?

I am attempting to be an optical illusion. You going to take the inside stairs… or the outside ones?

After all that walking, we needed a moment to sit down and have an always convenient hot beverage.

Hi! There's a hot beverage machine right over there.

Hi! There’s a hot beverage machine right over there.

While enjoying said beverage, I heard a child yelling. I have no idea who or what she was yelling at, but I’m pretty sure that all the windows in this building were 1) really high up, and 2) closed.

Sometimes you just have to shout out and hope someone is listening.

Sometimes you just have to shout out and hope someone is listening.

No hair was let down. No keys were thrown. No acknowledgement given. But she still looked pretty proud of herself, so at least she had that going for her. Which is nice.

Finally, after much walking, Nathan announced that we had made it to our final, and pivotal, Tokyo Experience. Which I shall share with you now. It is the crosswalk outside of Shibuya Station.

What is so important or interesting about a crosswalk? Well…

Mesmerizing ... isn't it?

Mesmerizing … isn’t it?

And with that image, dear readers and spambots, we have (finally) reached the end of this epic saga. I hope you have enjoyed trailing along with me on this adventure. And now that it is done, I feel I can start posting more random amusements on this blog. Hope you will stick around!

Step Two: I Finally Make It to My Adventure Destination

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I woke up from my Texan respite, and started on the last leg of my journey to the land of the rising sun. Settling into my exit seat, I was excited about the extra legroom, but completely bummed by my lack of window (odd plane design) and the inconvenience of having to store everything in the overhead bins. I figured that with such a LONG (over 13hours) flight I was planning on doing ALL OF THE THINGS. I would work on my Japanese phrases (as in: Learn some.) I was going to start the rough draft of my first Adventure Blog post. I was going to plan out in detail all of the many things that I wanted to see and accomplish whilst in Tokyo.

Instead I enjoyed reading my books (the Divergent series), sleeping, and watching movies. It is very easy to convince yourself that you really do need to be watching movies all of the movies you’ve been putting off instead of being productive, especially when you are in a near sleep state and all of your words start to blend together. I think they would at least… Actually I wouldn’t know. My laptop hung out in the overhead bin for the whole flight.

Anyway, the nice thing about a long flight is that they give you wine. Not, “Would you like a tiny bottle of wine for the price of your first born?” but rather, it is right up there with a water or orange juice as a free choice to go with your meal. So I got to pretend I was a classy broad with my wine and (processed) cheese as I flew across a big ocean.

 

Keeping it classy while up in the air.

Keeping it classy while up in the air.

As my earlier post indicated, I eventually landed and pulled into the Narita International Terminal in one piece. Making it out of immigrations/customs soon became my travel trial #2.

Apparently my flight AND EVERY SINGLE OTHER INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT in that airport belched out their passengers at one time, causing a frustrating bureaucracy bottleneck. I liken the experience to waiting in line to get your badge for Dragon*Con (or any other conventions, I can bet.) There are some interesting characters waiting along side you. Everyone is a little bit excited, and a little bit nervous that they won’t get approval, and will miss all of the fun things that they had paid a lot of money to get to do. Also, not everyone smells his or her best. And the air conditioning appears to be broken (or possibly non-existent).

I finally make it to a numbered queue, with only 3 or 4 people in front of me. No sooner than I park my suitcase next to me, a smartly uniformed immigrations officer comes up and points to myself and two others. “You, you, you- come with me,” and motions to the ominous corner room labeled “ Waiting Room”.

I think this would be a good time to mention that at this point I am off the grid. I’ve no cell service, and I was not entirely trusting of the one rōmaji WiFi labeled “FREE WIFI!” and I neglected to get an actual phone number for my cousin (I never said I was a girl scout.) So as I make my way to what I can only imagine is going to involve rubber gloves and another 16 hours knocked off my trip, I begin to think of all the different strategies I could use to contact him were I detained for some reason. I am immediately relieved when the situation is finally made clear. The officials were trying to “speed up” the lines by opening up every available station…. And possibly terrorize incoming tourists in the process. (But that part was just a bonus, I am sure.) Admittedly, the officials were quite courteous throughout the whole process, a behavior I continued to notice throughout my whole trip. After about and hour or so of slogging though Immigration/Customs, I finally made it down to baggage claim where I quickly found my cousin (and the much needed coffee he brought with him.) For future travelers: Tall redheads make extremely efficient beacons when searching through Japanese crowds.

My first day in Japan was a drizzly one. By the time we pulled out of the parking deck, it was late afternoon and rush-hour traffic was starting to hit its peak. This meant that I got to experience the fun of Tokyo roads and traffic at their finest.

I don't know about you, but to me this sign makes driving down really fast hills look FUN!

I don’t know about you, but to me this sign makes driving down really fast hills look FUN!

Here I shall start my list of Some of the Things I Observed About Tokyo (Road Addition):

  • That previously mentioned courtesy stops the moment you are behind the wheel.
  • I have never seen a more elaborate setup of blinking LED lights on the road signs. If you are prone to epileptic seizures, you would be best to avoid the roads.
  • It takes a while to get used to driving on the left side of the road- even if you are just the passenger.
  • I saw these bumper stickers on a lot of trucks. They are a form of crime prevention/social shaming, with the sentiment roughly, “I see what you did there.” *

(* OK, so that is my generalized interpretation. A more accurate one can be found Here.)

These glaring stickers are everywhere.

These glaring stickers are everywhere.

  • Pedestrians and cyclists really don’t care, and so you had better be ready to stop the car at a moment’s notice.
  • As long as you have your flashers on, the side of the road is your parking lot.
  • I am not sure how everyone is able to drive around so much because gas can get freaking expensive over there (average about $6 a gallon). Plus tolls average out about $15 one way
  • Despite some of these crazy road antics, there are relatively few accidents

 

We arrived safely into Ōme, my base of operation for the week. But before getting to the house, we go to fulfill my first (so coffee was technically my first) food request of the trip: RAMEN! And while I am sorry to say that I did not get a glorious food pic to make you all jealous over, I was so hungry and it tasted so good, that my regrets are rather small on that slight oversight.

As it was my very first day (half-day) EVER in Japan, I would like to say that after eating of the most delicious ramen, I was ready to go exploring and get in as many experiences in this amazing country as possible. That would be a really great thing for me to have done. Instead, I promptly fell asleep, overwhelmed by the collective exhaustion built up over the past couple of days.  Because that is how I roll.

But that meant I woke up to a beautiful start, rearing to go, for Day 2.

A Lesson in Physics (and totally not having anything to do with an imaginary ghost)

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I never fully appreciated simple act of bipedal locomotion until I made the flawed decision to carry a padded bench down a flight of carpeted stairs while wearing socks. Up until this point in my life, I have been remarkably lucky in avoiding any sort of serious injury. I’d had my fair share of bruises and scrapes, but nothing that caused more than a slight inconvenience in my daily life. (Side note here: Chris has also hurt his foot at about the same point of the stairs, leading us to believe not that there is a physical flaw in the stairs themselves, but rather that an imaginary ghost that haunts the bathroom under the stairs is upset with the length of time it is taking us to complete stripping the wallpaper in there. But seriously, imaginary ghost- cut us a break! The previous owner had papered the whole thing in TWO LAYERS of the SAME PAPER! Geez!)

My ill-fated tumble, resulting in a badly sprained ankle, occurred a few days before the collection of 20-odd family and friends were to descend on me the fiance for our first Thanksgiving in our new home. I went from a highly productive (and not quite frantic) hostess to stuck on the sofa with my foot propped up as I attempted to 1) figure out what still needed to be done, and 2) delegate ALL OF THE THINGS.

As a person who is often better at demonstrating how to accomplish a task while describing what to do; to not see what was taking place in the next room and being left with not only just my words was initially a challenge to my verbal skills. I quickly realized, however, how well I remembered my new house. I became quickly adept at searching my memory and recalling where a potential centerpiece item might be found, or an obscure baking tool could be located. Not being able to get up and just walk over to the pantry when I received a call from those on grocery store run led me to search my memory “ Did we still have any pecans?” (The correct answer was “yes”, but really you can never have too many pecans.)

And while this year’s Thanksgiving was a bit of “Trial by Fire” in its own way, the household as a whole passed relatively unscathed. The difficult part has been the day-to-day that I normally take for granted: taking clean laundry back upstairs, for example. Another is trying to run errands, where there is a lot of walking and standing in line involved. I have new-founded empathy for those with canes and crutches that I’ve seen struggling along side me in the Pre-Christmas shopping rush.

The biggest lesson I am learning through this whole experience is how to now ask for help (and not just vaguely mention that some assistance at some point would be appreciated). This can be difficult to do when it is for something you were only recently able to do for yourself, and it reminded me how so many of the consumers we saw were reluctant to both ask for and accept offered help. But we can all use help, in one way or another, because we are always making choices that put in positions that we just cannot deal with alone. In one small decision, one small choice of action, I found myself at the mercy of both my own body and the assistance of those around me. The experience has been a humbling adjustment. (No thanks to you, imaginary bathroom ghost.)

The story of a stolen cell phone, or “How my fiance and I spent our 2 year anniversary at the ER”

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So last night was a bundle of fun. You know how you set your phone down, ladies, when you go to pee. Right there above the toilet paper, so it won’t fall in? Yeah- don’t do that, or at least remember to grab it when you are done. People are not as honest or good as your might think, and it results in you all winding up at the ER- but we will get to that later. After realizing, to my horror, that my phone was not where it was supposed to be, I went to the bartenders and the other staff to see if they had come across the phone or if someone with morals had turned the phone in. Not so much. I announced to my fiancé, Chris that my phone was not where it needed to be (my pocket) and I needed him to help find it using the various apps and whatnot on the phone, to which he quickly complied and went into Sherlock mode. In a flash, he was out tracing the now moving signal of my phone, no longer at the bar in which it initially was. In other words, my phone was now stolen. It’s amazing the feeling of violation one can feel when they realize that people just aren’t really that good sometimes. A lot of the people who my fiancé and I interacted with on the GREAT PHONE QUEST were exceptionally helpful people who were able to empathize with my plight, but that did not stop the four individuals who apparently thought morals and laws applied to them. I hope their mothers would give them a very strong lecture had they known of what their children have grown up to be.

Eventually in our waiting , the phone appeared to move again, going from the venue where an Eagles cover band was playing (well, I might add) into the parking lot area. There was a lot of distraction going on in that direction, as an ambulance and fire truck descended on the scene. Watching the events unfold, I turned to Chris who was keeping his eyes on a group of rather tipsy early-twenty-somethings hailing a cab in front of us, and joked, “ What if the person who stole my phone was so wracked with guilt that they had a panic attack and is in that ambulance?” We laughed at the humor of the proposed situation, and returned to our vigilance.

As the phone had not moved in quite some time, I thought that perhaps the thief had rethought their actions and had turned in the phone to the music venue’s barkeeps. I made the rounds in record time, with disappointing results. Exiting the building, I was caught up in a run as my fiancé shouted, “ They are on the move, quickly, your keys!”

We sprinted to the car and began our pursuit by vehicle. At this point, I had already contacted the police to report the phone stolen, and provided them with what info we already had.  As we wove down the surface roads, following a little green dot on the find my phone app, we observed that its route was similar to urban transport; a bus perhaps? Abruptly, the dot stopped, and did not continue to move any further. We had them! The location was somewhere within downtown, and as we continued towards the tiny beacon, it became apparent what our final destination would be: CMC- Mercy hospital. My earlier observation about the ambulance had been eerily  spot on. I can now honestly say that there is a correlation with stealing my phone, and going to the hospital in an ambulance.

The app traced my phone to the ER, and after some circling of the car, and some moments of getting lost on the outside campus (seriously, that place is huge and confusing in the middle of the night), we found ourselves at the entrance to the ER. Walking through the automatic doors, I immediately spotted a group of 4 adults further down the hall, who strongly resembled the group who had congregated outside of the ambulance earlier in the evening. As my fiancé spoke to the security officer at the front entrance, the group shifted. There, in one of the woman’s hands, was my phone.  Now a word on my phone for a moment; it is very distinctive. Cased in an Otterbox, the plastic is white and the rubber is black, a culmination of two separate boxes, and pretty easy to spot. I turned to Chris and whispered, “She has it. That’s my phone.” To which he promptly walked over to her and asked, “Where did you get the phone?”  while he deftly snatched it from her claw and walked it back to me.  At this point the security guard was on his feet between us and the two harpies, who were screeching at us in an attempt to place themselves sound like the in position as victims. “How do you know this is YOUR phone?” the short-haired harpy demanded. I grasped the phone, and promptly unlocked it using my passcode. “Because I know how to unlock it.” I stated, a response that unleashed more from the screeching harpies.

The rest of the evening was spent, as many of these types of stories will, with a lot of waiting, and eventual statement to the police officer. Most importantly, to me at least, was having a successful adventure with my future husband, resulting in my phone and I being reunited.  And the look of shock on that woman’s face when she realized we had tracked her thieving self down was pretty priceless too.

Z, Y, X, W, V, U…. T?

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I cannot speak for other counselors, but I had a favorite group topic I liked to do while I was working in inpatient. Did not matter if adults or kids, I enjoyed doing this one. When you are working in an inpatient setting, you realize that it is never a matter of IF someone is going to go into crisis, it is more a WHEN will someone go into crisis. There is something about the environment, especially for those consumers that have really decompensated, or those who have been court ordered for treatment (and sometimes those are two in the same), that is conducive to short tempers with sometimes-dangerous outcomes. Which leads me back to my favorite inpatient group topic. I am talking about the topic of “stress relief and appropriate coping skills”. Yep!

I would start out my session with asking each person to identify some of the issues in their lives that “stress them out.” If I remember correctly the top three were often, “Money”, “Being in here [inpatient facility]”, and “family”. There was very often a combination of two out of three, with the occasional Three-in-a-Row answer written on each worksheet. (I preferred to use worksheets to help those who were less verbal in the group discussions, demonstrate that they were at least paying attention to the topic and hopefully gaining something from the session.) I could tell when the consumers started to make understanding and commiserating responses that they were identifying with other group members and their stresses.

As the session progressed, each person was asked to identify some of the physical and emotion symptoms they experience when they are starting to feel stressed. Finally, they were asked, “What are some ways you can reduce stress, and even prevent future stress?” Some people had many answers; some had few or none.  Often these were the consumers who were very sick- either they were very depressed and had yet to rediscover any hope, or they were the ones living in their own little world and only occupying a physical space in the room.

There were three favorite answers that I would recommend if the group had trouble starting off: writing, laughter, and counting to ten. Often the suggestion to “count to ten slowly” elicited laughter, so two birds- one stone, right? As for writing, perhaps I am taking my own advice here, as I jot down these experiences and stories. Even if the scribbles are not remotely related to what might be the precipitating factor of one’s stress, just letting a flow of thoughts and ideas out, can be helpful. At least I find it is.

Oh, and saying the alphabet backwards (that’s my little stress reliever secret).

For the birds

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When he called, he had already been expressing some thoughts of wanting to harm himself. The night before, he had been involved in a dramatic domestic abuse incident, and those thoughts lingered with him still.

“I am having thoughts of harming myself,” he told my coworker, who, by random luck, was the one to pick up his call.

“OK, sir- where are you right now?” she asked, attempting to gather more information.

“I’m at work,” OK this was good as he was probably not alone. “I’m currently up in a tree lift,” OK, maybe not so good.

The man was making his desperate call for solace from the raised bucket of his tree trimming truck, and he was contemplating how easy it might be for him to just jump out.

As we assisted her in what ways we could, my coworker managed to talk the man into lowering his bucket back down to earth. As she relayed me the details of his current situation (actively suicidal with plans and means, domestic issues, etc.), I arranged everything to provide that man with a smooth admission into our adult hospital for crisis stabilization.

And then he refused to go. 

Not because he did not think he needed help. Not because he did not want to go into an inpatient setting. No, he refused because he believed he needed to finish up his workday: high up in the air, cutting down tree limbs… while actively suicidal.

Often times, I think just the act of calling a help line is enough for some people to realize that they are not alone in whatever they are currently facing.  On the other end of the phone is a stranger that now carries some of that burden for them. And for some, the act of sharing is enough, in their minds, to get them out of their immediate crisis.  What they forget is that while they did go and make the effort to call a crisis line, they still need to follow-through with the recommendation made by the professional on the other end.  If the person knew how to change their situation already, they would not be calling a crisis line in the first place. One call is not going to solve all their problems, but it can help set in motion the next steps that will assist towards that goal.

So back to our guy: It took a lot of reality-based confrontation and multiple calls back and forth before he agreed to get help beyond just a phone call. Sometimes all a person needs is to hear their own words said back to them before they realize how they sound to the rest of the world. In this case, it worked (as did explaining to him how a fall from that height would probably not have the desired effect, and would more likely result in a stay in a medical hospital and extensive physiotherapy for whatever limbs he could still move.)