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January 01, 2007

276. J-Mum

J-Mum is a generous soul, always giving everything she can to the boys (now men) she raised alone. She’ll feed you until you nearly explode, then make sure you have leftovers to take home. What does she keep for herself?

January 02, 2007

277. Auntie

Auntie is J-Mum’s sister. Though generosity runs in the family, Auntie isn’t as centered on home as her sister. She’s childless, elegant, and moneyed so Auntie prefers to treat scrumptious restaurant dinners. She has a perfect hostess’ example-setting, bottomless stomach.

January 03, 2007

278. Chikao

Chikao answered our fan letter. “I am Yamada Reizouko Ou professor of English,” he carefully printed in ballpoint. A youthful 20-something, he was the only band member confident in his English. He played bass but processed credit applications for money.

January 04, 2007

279. Bill

Bill was my dorm roommate’s live-in boyfriend who frequently came on to me, so I spent a lot of nights sleeping in the theatre. Even though he was utterly sleazy, he stopped me from slashing my wrists. Thank you, Bill.

January 05, 2007

280. UltraBob

UltraBob’s assortment of laughs reveals him completely: boisterous naughtiness; uncertain embarrassment; concealment of tender feelings; unalloyed delight of living. “Attack life. When you drink a beer, drink the hell out of it,” he once advised me. Grown-up punk wisdom.

January 06, 2007

281. Zoupi

"Zoupi’s such a good little zou,” says Tod. Zoupi travels the world and has friends in a half dozen countries. He loves peanuts and hats, holds my hand when our plane takes off, and insists that he doesn’t need cleaning.

January 07, 2007

282. Maeda-san

Maeda-san is a one-man restaurant wonder. His practical way in the kitchen focuses on fundamentals rather than complexity. “Simple is difficult. There’s no hiding; your food’s either perfect or terrible,” he explains as he adds more butter to the pan.

January 08, 2007

283. Mike

Mike and I became friends during a school play, but that friendship wasn’t enough to survive a prom date. I was totally peeved but secretly relieved when his ex-girlfriend spent the whole night dancing with him. I sat alone, watching.

January 09, 2007

284. Mike

Mike lived with me in Pittsburgh when Tod lived in Chicago. Nearly every midnight, Mike returned home and plopped next to my bed to recount his day as I fell asleep. I cherish memories of weekends singing in the backyard.

January 10, 2007

285. Jenny

Jenny was Mike’s “best friend slash girlfriend” who visited him mainly when I was out of the house. Now she’s mother to Mike’s two boys and keeps herself sane by blogging. She crafts her stories from poop and snot.

January 11, 2007

286. Monica

Monica left bags of groceries on our doorstep. I was grateful; Sam was royally annoyed that his mother interfered. But it was better than enduring her legendary burnt pork chop Sunday dinners. I loved her warmth but not her cooking.

January 12, 2007

287. Andrew

Andrew asked perceptive questions during a tough time. He was patient when I didn’t have answers and ready with tissues when I did. I ended our association after five months, having learned enough about myself to last another 40 years.

January 13, 2007

288. Cissy

Cissy was the most pitiable teenager. Her eyes floated erratically behind coke bottle lenses. She was often absent or attending special education. Garbled speech made her own surname unpronounceable. No friends at lunchtime, notes passed about but never to her.

January 14, 2007

289. Goldie

Goldie escapes. She graduated from her blue collar hometown for an arts degree in another state. Then she unshackled herself from the ivory tower to seek her fortune around the world. She’s grown into an empathetic, curious and unconventional woman.

January 15, 2007

290. Alice

Alice is delicate cream skin with long shiny black hair. She wears thick glasses and is shaped like a beach ball. Her participation in gym involves waiting in the outfield, but she’s usually picked for the team before I am.

January 16, 2007

291. Joan

Joan (pronounced Jo-ann) knows how to get the satellite connections working, how to smoothly schedule guests on and off Namena, and when to stop for a drink. She never dines with the guests, disappearing into the kitchen after cocktail hour.

January 17, 2007

292. Gwen

Second grade Gwen was slightly psychotic. She occasionally flipped out on the playground, kicking or slapping wildly – probably a result of her brothers. She was the first girl in class with short hair – followed soon by Patty but not me.

January 18, 2007

293. Katie

Katie attended a Japanese school; I tutored her in English. Curious about why English spelling and vowels are so inconsistent, we looked at Middle English. She may be the only 2nd grader ever to understand about the Great Vowel Shift.

January 19, 2007

294. Yuka

I swear Yuka is not Japanese but French. She loves stinky ripe cheese and crusty bread and it’s no surprise she lives in the most Francophile part of town. She knows the secret of wearing scarves and always looking elegant.

January 20, 2007

295. Mark

A brawny football player, Mark had brains, too. Sitting directly behind me in calculus class, he always understood the equations and notes scrawled on the board. I wished he sat in front of me, so I could cheat on tests.

January 21, 2007

296. Josh

Josh was the lead designer on the amazing MDC team. From him I learned video editing and storyboarding. He was often exhausted at work, staying up late to help his artist wife stuff plastic fruit with meat or prepare installations.

January 22, 2007

297. Sukki

Sukki’s surrounded by friends and family, but says she always feels lonely. I think she’s is a manipulator who plays games of emotional blackmail. Unfortunately, I’m alone in this view. Everyone else finds her charming, friendly, upbeat and utterly lovable.

January 23, 2007

298. Jarkko

Jarkko was visiting from Finland and had tacos with us one evening. He was famous to me as the developer of IRC, an early chat program. It’s not often you meet the inventor of a tool you use every day.

January 24, 2007

299. Kelly

Blonde, suburban bimbo fashionable, Kelly kept trying to fix me up with a boyfriend. I suffered through some dreadful blind dates with her redneck boyfriend’s friends. She quit our workplace because she couldn’t stand renting porn videos. I didn’t mind.

January 25, 2007

300. Polly

Aunt Polly rarely saw us nieces in person, but every Christmas she sent just the right gifts. As “tweens” we received costume jewelry and beautiful handbags thoughtfully chosen from Indianapolis’ upscale department store. Those presents expressed Polly’s bigheartedness and generosity.

January 26, 2007

301. Kelly

A barking-sawing-snortling could be heard all the way across the office. That was Kelly’s laugh. The volume of her voice proclaimed her American before the accent hit you. Our constant uproar and fruit sculpting annoyed coworkers but we achieved goals.

January 27, 2007

302. Yutaka

Yutaka has gout but it doesn't stop him from stocking his private office with sake or from eating fatty foods. He takes medicine and enjoys his life. He and Tod discuss language over long, boozy dinners while we wives watch.

January 28, 2007

303. Mrs. Elze

Mrs. Elze, empty nester turned babysitter, crocheted bell-skirted toilet paper covers while watching her soaps. At 5 pm she defrosted chicken pies Mom provided, or served us her leftovers. Her overgrown yard of yellow-blooming mustard was perfect for escaping into.

January 29, 2007

304. Caroline

Caroline is Tokyo’s champion for foreign women residents. She publishes books of all kinds now but started her empire with a magazine about being a broad in Japan. She’s the gracious hostess to a gaggle of us gaijin girls online.

January 30, 2007

305. Matsudate-san

He’s driven us all over town showing properties and explaining the complexities of Japanese real estate. He shares his frank opinions of the places we tour – a truly useful surprise. He will win our business (and a huge commission), eventually.

January 31, 2007

306. Joe

My former brother-in-law is an Artist who requires perfection. He worked for months on a silverpoint drawing of stones. He said it was unfinished. Still later it was more beautiful, but still ongoing. I wonder if he ever completed it?