An American in Japan Part I | Cover Me

A foreigner visits a hotel pool in Japan and learns a lesson in modesty and skin care.

 

The sun beats down on my head as I scan the pool area of the Nagahama Royal Hotel seeking shade. It costs 1,000 yen to enter the premises even though I am a hotel guest. Perhaps this is an even trade for the customary no-tipping practice in Japan.

I choose a white plastic chair under a tree and sit down before surreptitiously ducking under my towel. I remove the package that I purchased at the Can Do store by the train station from my beach bag and open it, pulling out an article of clothing that looks like a pair of nylon stockings. I slide these nylons that are actually UV-protective arm bands all the way up past my bicep, one arm, then the other.

Remaining under the towel like a writhing terry cloth ghost, I shimmy out of my jeans, revealing my black-striped bikini and slide identical bands over my legs, up to my knees.

Now that I am decent, I remove the towel and glance around, sure that everyone is staring at my weirdness. They are not. In fact, many of my fellow swimmers have also donned hoodies, shorts, or arm bands rather than Western-style bathing suits to enjoy the pool, free of the damaging rays of the sun.

I am the only one with them on my legs, however. The resulting look is that of a dolphin trainer getting ready to do a Jazzercise workout.

Why am I wrapped in black nylon? Because I have tattoos on my arms and legs and apparently tattoos are so hideous in Japan that you cannot be seen with them. From what I understand, tattoos are viewed as a sign of a person’s anti-social intent. Tattooed folks are not seen as contributing members of society. They are possible gang members. They are definite pariahs.

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I currently feel the full extent of my pariahhood. Not only because I speak exactly five words of Japanese, but because I am the only one here with arm bands on my legs. I could definitely have skipped the pool entirely, but it is almost 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity and I need to cool off.

Also on the hotel’s premises is an onsen. This is a type of public bath fed by geothermal hot springs that I would really like to check out. But I can’t because…tattoos. And because everyone goes in there naked, there is no way to hide my shame.

I paddle around the pool in my black UV-resistant sleevery. It feels kind of nice. The water is cool. The people politely ignore me. My temperature needs are met.

And if I still require cooling off, just inside the hotel from the pool area are two vending machines. One sells beer, the other sells ice cream. I love Japan.

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One Night with Blanche

 

On May 18, 2007 I finally met Rue McClanahan who played my idol, Blanche Devereaux, on “The Golden Girls.”

On the show, Blanche is a man-crazy sexagenarian looking for love in all the wrong places. Anyone who knows me will understand the disconnect/similarity there.

However, the person who portrayed Blanche was, in my experience, a nice, occasionally witty, woman who was patient with the hordes of autograph seekers that had gathered in a bookstore that evening at a tour in Chicago promoting My First Five Husbands and the Ones Who Got Away.

Comparing the woman to her character, Blanche Devereaux is pretty unfair. By the time it was my turn, Rue McClanahan seemed tired.  Bored, maybe.  Definitely ready to be done.  I mean she was seventy-three years old.

I read her book cover to cover and I hope I do half as many things as she has done.

We can all be dynamic at some points, and it would be nice if we were remembered for those moments, rather than brushing our teeth, drinking our coffee, and our feeble attempts at being amusing.

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At the time that I met her, McClanahan acted as a timeless classic.  Even today, if I’m in a bad mood, I can just put in any one of the seven seasons of “The Golden Girls” and within ten minutes, my mood has lifted and I am lost in the brilliant writing and acting of a great team of showbiz veterans.

When I met her, I told her this. Not as eloquently as I have stated above, but in my own rushed and socially awkward way.

“Ah, the power of laughter,” she said, politely.

Those were Blanche’s five words to me.

I will live by this.

Forever.

 

 

 

 

New Songs for Old People: “Voices of a Traveler” by Souvenir Driver

Portland shoegazers take a page from eighties anthems for new release.

I hear a lot of older people say they don’t have time to discover new music anymore. Allow me to remedy this issue. I will pull up something brand new and liken it to something older that people will remember from when they used to discover music on their own.

If you like The Cure or any track on the Pretty in Pink movie soundtrack, you may enjoy the new song called “Voices of a Traveler” from a band called Souvenir Driver.

With “New Songs for Old People,” individuals can get into a new song that sounds similar to something old that they liked. It won’t be scary or weird or unlikeable to listen to new music, because it will just feel like a sequel to music they already know and enjoy.

For instance, if you like the sadness of The Cure as well as the hopeful teenage sound of the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, including the infectious “If You Leave” by the unpronounceable Orchestral Manoevres in the Dark, you may enjoy “Voices of a Traveler” by Souvenir Driver.

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Eighties babes like Andrew McCarthy grace the cover of the Pretty in Pink soundtrack in vinyl along with The Cars Greatest Hits, also in vinyl, and a guitar for no reason at all.

There also seems to be a nod to David Robinson, drummer for The Cars, not to be confused with the David Robinson of “Mr. Robinson” fame, formerly of the San Antonio Spurs.

On top, for flavor, is a sprinkling of Midnight Oil and early REM.

Put ‘em all in a blender circa the late eighties, mix until smooth, and freeze until 2017. Voila, friends.

Listen to “Voices of a Traveler” from Souvenir Driver on SoundCloud Now

This small connection to an ever-changing cultural landscape will be especially helpful when people go on Tinder dates. They will want to seem hip and know about current music, but in reality, they have no idea where to start.

Sample Dating Interaction

You can have the song playing in your car and they’ll be like, “Great song, where did you hear about it?”

And you can shrug and be like, “Some music blog.”

You can read even more about the band Souvenir Driver in this Atwood Magazine article. However, don’t appear to know too much about the band or the song, or really anything though. It is important to make life look effortless so your Tinder date doesn’t think you have too much baggage.

3 Basic Things to Know About Souvenir Driver:

  • They are from Portland, Oregon.
  • They don’t like that guy USA chose for President that terrible day in 11/16
  • “Voices of a Traveler” is their first single off the new record

PRO TIP: Going to a show is a great date idea. You don’t have to talk very much and you can react to a shared experience. Have dinner first so you don’t get hangry, though.

You Can See Souvenir Driver LIVE at:

Uhhhh, I’m not sure since they don’t have any tour dates listed on their website. Maybe you can ask them: souvenirdriver@gmail.com

Tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-Pdlxd_rro

New Songs for Old People is a music blog episode series specifically designed to ease older Millenials and Gen Xers into new music in a way that is simple and non-threatening. Building from familiar cultural references, New Songs for Old People helps restore relevancy to aging populations with fun and rewarding content.

P.S. – I ain’t pickin on ya, Souvenir Driver. Just trying to get people out of their bubbles and listening to new music.

 

Tequila Tuesdays: TSA Stands for What?

It was the shortest airport security line I had ever seen. That should have been my clue that something was amiss.

There have been a few airline incidents lately where passengers, or in some case, potential passengers, have been treated less-than-stellar. With that in mind, I will share a fun anecdote from a recent flight of mine.

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I was going through security, minding my own business when something truly unexpected happened. After setting off the nuclear-radiation, full-body molecular scan sensor, I was herded over to a giant man who growled something indistinguishable.

Suddenly a lady appeared and groped my crotchal area noting that my pants were “saggy.”

“Well, you took my belt,” I offered helpfully.

She asked if I wanted to go someplace private. I figured the genital exam would go much faster, with fewer liberties taken, if I allowed them to perform it in the middle of the concourse. It reminded me of my last trip to Vegas – minus the cocktails.

By the time my clothing and personal effects were returned to me in plastic bins, I wandered unsatisfied to a bar for two shots of Patron (not enough). I also ate nachos and my wife and I posed with matching sweatshirts in front of a Minnesota Twins sign for an impromptu selfie. A girl striding by this red carpet experience took pity on our contortionist routine as we struggled for the perfect shot and offered to snap our picture.

Some time after that we boarded a plane.

Oh, and TSA stands for Tequila Somewhere Ahead. Just remember that.

Tequila Tuesdays: I’ll tell you a story, often involving tequila. You can drink.

 

P.P.S – I usually post stuff European time because they get up earlier. Go figure! LOL 🙂

New Songs for Old People: “Bed” by Cende

I hear a lot of older people (not teens or twenty-somethings) say that they don’t have time to discover new music anymore. That is often evident by their aging classic rock playlists.

Allow me to remedy this issue. I will pull up something brand new and liken it to something older that people will remember from when they used to discover music on their own.

If you like Bryan Adams “Cuts Like a Knife” and Flock of Seagulls “I Ran (So Far Away),” you may enjoy the new song called “Bed” from a band called Cende.

With “New Songs for Old People,” individuals can get into a new song that sounds similar to something old that they liked. It won’t be scary or weird or unlikeable to listen to new music, because it will just feel like a sequel to music they already know and enjoy.

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Cusp-born Millenial (me) thoroughly enjoys “original vinyl copy” of  Bryan Adams record.

For instance, if you like Bryan Adams’ 1983 hit “Cuts Like a Knife,” and Flock of Seagulls, “I Ran (So Far Away),” that many will remember from the Playstation 2 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – you may enjoy “Bed” from a band called Cende.

Listen to “Bed” from Cende on SoundCloud Now

This small connection to an ever-changing cultural landscape will be especially helpful when people go on Tinder dates. They will want to seem hip and know about current music, but in reality, they have no idea where to start.

Sample Dating Interaction

You can have the song playing in your car and they’ll be like, “Great song, where did you hear about it?”

And you can shrug and be like, “Some music blog.”

You can read even more about the band Cende in this SPIN article. However, don’t appear to know too much about the band or the song, or really anything though. It is important to make life look effortless so your Tinder date doesn’t think you have too much baggage.

3 Basic Things to Know About Cende:

  • “Bed” is the first single off their upcoming first album, #1 Hit Single
  • It’s coming out May 26, but you can pre-order it now
  • The band is made up of four guys from Brooklyn

PRO TIP: Going to a show is a great date idea. You don’t have to talk very much and you can react to a shared experience. Have dinner first so you don’t get hangry.

You Can See Cende LIVE at:

  • Jun 13

The Rebel Lounge

Phoenix, AZ

  • Jun 15

Echoplex

Los Angeles, CA

  • Jun 16

Irenic

San Diego, CA

  • Jun 18

The Chapel

San Francisco, CA

  • Jun 20

The Crocodile

Seattle, WA

  • Jun 22

Holocene

Portland, OR

  • Jun 24

Kilby Court

Salt Lake City, UT

  • Jun 25

Larimer Lounge

Denver, CO

  • Jun 29

Double Happiness

Columbus, OH

  • Jun 30

Mahall’s Locker Room

Lakewood, OH

  • Jul 01

El Club

Detroit, MI

  • Jul 02

Velvet Underground

Toronto, ON

  • Jul 08

Union Transfer

Philadelphia, PA

New Songs for Old People is a music blog episode series specifically designed to ease older Millenials and Gen Xers into new music in a way that is simple and non-threatening. Building from familiar cultural references, New Songs for Old People helps restore relevancy to aging populations with fun and rewarding content.

P.S. – I ain’t pickin on ya, Cende. Just trying a little satire to get people out of their bubbles and listening to new music. I love this track and can’t wait to hear the rest of the record.

3 Bands to Watch from SXSW

Midland, Temples, and Ocean Park Standoff draw crowds at Texas fest.

Most Likely to Succeed: Midland

If the crowd at the South by Southwest (SXSW) TuneIn Studios Big Machine Label Group Showcase on March 17 was any indication, Midland is going to do great things.

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Midland appears as part of the SXSW Big Machine Label Group Showcase at Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden.

Singer Mark Wystrach hit all the right notes as the audience actively appreciated the band’s first single “Drinkin’ Problem.” Fans of outlaw country, take note (and a shot of whiskey). Midland joins the Soul2Soul tour with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill this summer.

Top Import: Temples

Temples

Temples performs “Shelter Song” from their first record, Sun Structures at the Radio Day Stage at the Austin Convention Center.

UK band Temples is making its debut across the pond and should be a shoe-in for summer playlists with their latest effort, Volcano. Busy industry folks floated into the Radio Day Stage at the Austin Convention Center on March 15, wooed by the voice of lead singer, James Bagshaw. Though they’re playing all over Europe, only a handful of (mostly southern) dates stateside will have to suffice – for now.

Best Earworm: “Good News” by Ocean Park Standoff

“Good News” wins the fest on catchiness alone. Amidst a turbulent political climate and a long winter, this sunny track is just what the doctor ordered.

OceanParkStandoff1

Ethan Thompson, Pete Nappi, and Samantha Ronson of Ocean Park Standoff soundcheck at the Steampunk Saloon, Austin, TX as a part of the Mix 94.7 West of the Fest event.

“I need some good news baby, feels like the world’s gone crazy,” singer Ethan Thompson implores, while Samantha Ronson and Pete Nappi provide a healthy helping of keys and beats. Their EP is out now and you can catch them on tour with Third Eye Blind and Silversun Pickups.

All photos and content copyright © 2017 Melany Joy Beck, all rights reserved.

On the Road with Hunter Valentine

MELANY JOY BECK & JANELLE BECK

Hunter Valentine are touring and will play 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis on March 16, 2016.

“It’s about a girl who comes back to kill her rapist,” explains Hunter Valentine frontwoman Kiyomi McCloskey about the controversial track, “Revenge” from their album Lessons from the Late Night.

“Unfortunately I have a friend who was taken advantage of, and it kind of messed with my head for a very long time. Writing this song was the best way I could get it all out and process it,” McCloskey shrugs and leans forward on the stone ledge in front of the 400 Bar in Minneapolis. “I guess a girl took things into her own hands.”

Hunter Valentine has also done a fair job of taking matters into their own hands. In their seven years as a band, they have weathered the ups and downs of the music industry.

Releasing The Impatient Romantic in 2007, an eponymous EP in 2009, and their most recent effort Lessons from the Late Night, with the support of Tommy Boy Entertainment (released in May, 2010), the ladies of Hunter Valentine have logged the miles and paid their dues.

Currently traveling the country with Sick of Sarah and Vanity Theft on the Lady Killer Tour, Hunter Valentine shows no sign of slowing down.

“It’s going to be crazy,” drummer Laura Petracca says. “All three bands are extremely professional, but we all like to undo our top buttons as well, so to speak, so we have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Petracca glances up at her tourmates sharing cigarettes and loading gear into the club. “We’re all very different,” she says. “Vanity Theft is poppy. They are one of the better choices to get the party started. You want to rip your clothes off and get naked and start dancing. Sick of Sarah falls in between us. Pop-punky. Emotional.”

Touring almost non-stop for the majority of their careers, it’s clear they love what they do. Even the most rigorous aspects of the job become routine.

“Getting to a new city every single day is an amazing thing to do when you’re doing it with your best friends [who are also] in your band. And then with these other two groups,” McCloskey says. “I’ve started to not really feel normal when I go home now. So I prefer to be on the road.”

For these girls, the road is their home; and close quarters definitely lead to really getting to know your band mates.

“Vanity Theft is poppy. They are one of the better choices to get the party started if you want to rip your clothes off and get naked and start dancing.” – Laura Petracca of Hunter Valentine

“I’m actually an accidental cupper. I’ll cup in my sleep,” laughs Petracca of her nocturnal tendency to crotch-grab. “I’ve shared a bed with a woman, with women, and it’s just automatic. Sometimes I’ll go for the boob, but most of the time I’ll go for the gold,” she admits. “I’m a cupper.”

Playing as a three piece is another thing that separates Hunter Valentine from the pack.

“For a while we had the idea that we had to be the perfect four,” McKloskey says, “As we continued as a three piece, it sort of evolved and became really strong and tight. It became clear that adding someone else to the mix was going to be really difficult.”

Having perfect musical chemistry is important when spending every waking (and sleeping) moment together, and is critical to the live performance.

“I think it’s a really honest rock show. I don’t think we plan things out. We write things and our emotions are on our sleeves. It’s a great show because it’s at a time when we’re at our most creative and vulnerable points,” McKloskey says.

Finishing up touring for Lessons from the Late Night in September, the girls are set to head home and start writing for their next effort.

That is, if they can manage to stay home long enough.

EDITOR’S NOTE: PORTIONS OF THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED AS PART OF THE CURVE MAGAZINE BLOG, SHE’S ELECTRIC IN OCTOBER OF 2011.

About the Authors:

Melany Joy Beck and Janelle Beck are writers and filmmakers. Their short documentary Bring It 2 Peter was awarded Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival, and Official Selection honors at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival. They can also be heard in vocal harmony on the Delavan song, Pistols Blazing.

ALL CONTENT AND IMAGES COPYRIGHT MELANY JOY BECK, JANELLE BECK 2016©

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