Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Revenge of the Trillion Samurai

  J   apan crushed me. It took everything I'd worked for for almost a quarter of a year and turned it  upside down and inside out.

Me, who's been ranting and raving about sugar demons and gluten fasts, me, who's been prebioting and probioting and vitamining and fightamining, me, reduced to eating four cakes a day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a night-night treat, but not neglecting a sugared "Kwasson" or a "Fruits Bar" in between. All that punctuated with four or five lattes, six teas and bottomless glasses of fuzzy water, pasta or pizza for dinner and what you have is a very, very angry Biome.

The Trillions were up in tiny arms, waving their ciliae and pilli and filaments and flagella and other maddened microbial mechanisms of movement in vehement protest.

My Trillions decided not to give me the hint by making me nauseous, as they knew I might retaliate by downing a particularly disturbing morsel of sushi, so in order to punish me they conscripted their  Japanese brethren, who gave me honourable gallstones as a housewarming present.

The gall!

Upon returning to Montreal, it was not possible to just resume my previous diet straightaway. In fact, I had become so conditioned to the sweet routine in Japan that I have found it almost impossible to dump the sweet stuff, even trying to imitate the drink they made me at one of my favourite café haunts: Honey-lemon sparkling water.

I've been chowing down on the glutenous junk as well: croissants for breakfast (not whole wheat, because I can't find them!) and even regular durum-wheat pasta, because Brigitte doesn't particularly like the whole wheat version.

And the third gut-biome test I sent in, in July, has not come through yet, so I only have those two first tests to go on. The day I got back from Japan I took a sample and sent it in, and I'll be very interested to see what THAT honourable result will be.

But it's definitely time to be ruthless and return to The Diet, in all its tree-hugging, granola-crunching, Save The Whales glory.

But this time, a little more is at stake. Gather round, my merry band of conspirators, because i have some news for you: this will not all be in vain.

Because now there is disturbing proof of what all those doomsaying dieticians and chart-waving scientists have been telling us for decades now: if we pursue healthy lifestyles, we live longer. 

No, not the couple of years you'd expect.. Not even the ten years you might grudgingly concede.

No, if you pursued a healthy lifestyle—whatever that might be—you could expect to add seventeen-point-nine years to your life.

That means croaking at age 88 instead of kicking the bucket at 70. Seventeen years is your reward for all those cakes uneaten, those glasses of single malt undrunk, all those florets of broccoli and cassoulet de wheatgrass sprouts

That is not an unsignificant number, and if you will excuse the choice of words, it's extremely sobering.

And let's not forget, that's seventeen years not being sick, presumably being in the prime of exuberant health, able to take cruises to Reïytvïkken or Tromsø or get in those extra games of shuffleboard at the Residence when all around you are glued to The Price Is Right. I mean, Shady Pines, here I fucking come, dudes!

So when I finally cast off these sugary shackles and re-enter the world of slow, deliberate, Biome-friendly food, it will be in the knowledge that it is for a good cause, that there will be a tangible reward, and that the Trillions will be able to continue having children, and grandchildren, and great grand-children, and great great grandchildren, and great great great grandchildren, and great great great great grandchildren, and great great great great great grandchildren, and great great great great great grandchildren, and great great great great great great grandchildren, and great great great great great great great grandchildren,

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hell Is a Mosburger

At the bus stop, after saying goodbye to Tai-chan

Yes, Misery is a place. I've done this trip drunk, but that never helped—I lost too many laptops.

One saving grace is the Wifi at Kansai airport—ever since I can remember, going back to even 2005 or so, they always had free, fast and easy-to-log-on Wifi—bearing in mind that back then, 864K Jpegs were actually quite large.

But here I am, in Miseryville.

It would be better except for this persistent abdominal pain—very worrying. It's unnatural. I just can't figure it out, but it's not going away. Right below the sternum, mostly, but sometimes radiating out to the right, right where the upper lobe of the liver would be—or the pancreas, I'm guessing. Oh, and the esophagus. Oh, and the stomach. Fuck!

Well, can't say as how I'm maltreating it, except for the CRAP I AM FORCED TO CONSUME.

In Japan, there is NO SUCH THING as healthy food—unless you're heavily into Japanese food, and that's expensive. If you're forced to eat on the run all the time, in restaurants or from convenience stores, you are royally FUCKED. There is no such thing as whole wheat here, no such thing as a plain croissant. Everything is soaked, spiked, painted, dusted, glazed, SLABBED with sugar. I mean, how can you actually INSERT A CUBE OF BUTTER INTO A PASTRY so it explodes bizarrely into your mouth? Yet they have done that very thing; I am a living witness.

It's just sick—so I'm sick. I'm sick of trying to decipher their katakana—the phonetic way they convert foreign words, so "croissant" becomes "ku-a-sa-n." And it becomes "su-ii-to" (sweet). Then there is the ubiquitous "ku-ri-i-mu ku-a-sa-n" (cream croissant) and hundreds of variations. Whole wheat, unsugared is not one of them.

So fuck knows what this is doing to my biome—if it is indeed my biome.

Last night I was dragged, unhappily to a quite upscale "sushi boat" restaurant, except the fare is not $1 a piece, it's $4 a piece. You are charged by the colour and pattern of the plates you get your food on, and then they count the plates.

I had two maguro sushis and one stick of ebi tempura (shrimp tempura) but the bill for all five of us—three children and two adults—came to around $105. Tai-chan did most of the devouring. I counted 12 plates in front of him . . .

Regrettably, not anticipating this  authentic Nipponese feast, I didn't bring my camera gear, so it is left to your imagination . . . middle-aged men wearing white chefs' hats slicing, patting, assembling dozens of glistening sea creatures, some alive just seconds before, and putting them atop clumps of sticky white flecks of bright white endosperm-wrapped rice, middle-aged women in asceptic white frocks orchestrating the mayhem in a cacophony of fishy, raucous Japaneseness.

It's quite insane.

So as I sit here glumly at a fast food counter at Kansai Intl., my flight a yawning four hours away, some James Taylor Swift songs shrieking on the loudspeakers around me,  I beg you to whisper a sliver of happiness to my quavering, wavering trillions, as they anxiously await the next ugly surprise that is going to plummet down amongst them.

I have to move now—I've been practically squatting here for two hours, charging my Devices. they're going to kick me out pretty soon.

See youse in Vancouver.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tennō Heika, Biome Banzai

Rising Son
  G   reetings from the land of the Rising Son.

I've blogged about my trip extensively here, but I haven't really written anything about where it is that I am dwelling and puttering.

What is this Nara place like, and how is The Biome getting along?

I've shown you movies and pictures, but I haven't described what it is like to step out of my hotel on a typical day in August.

First of all, the temperature hits you. In the hotel, it's a very comfortable 70°F/21°C. When you step into the sun-drenched street, the temperature suddenly jumps to 98.6° / 37°C—coincidentally, human body temperature.

But that is only the temperature of the air. In the full force of the sun's rays the temperature must jump to something approaching 113°F/45°C.
Sunset from hotel window, courtesy Tai-chan

It's stupendously, staggeringly, unbearably hot. All your body wants to do is to get the hell out of there.

I would honestly say that of the hundreds of people streaming down the street at 11 a.m., fully 5% are carrying umbrellas. (All of them are women, strangely.)

Some women even have long black sleeve hoses made of what looks like thick wool; why they insist on black is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. That however, is not wrapped in a conundrum; it's obvious that they took a clue from the Arab burqa.

And the streams: the street my hotel is on leads directly from the Japan Railway (JR) station to the park and all the temples and deer. Along the street are dozens. if not hundreds of shops. Convenience stores (Lawson, 7-11), "drug" stores, which roughly correspond to our super-drug marts, minus most of the drugs (these are usually dispensed directly from the hospital under strict supervision, if I recall my aberrant drug usage correctly), small specialty stores, even gambling dens (ostensibly lottery, but probably more).

And among these are dozens of un-describable places, there are some so old-looking that you expect samurais to jump out with swords drawn. Their doors are always closed, it seems, so indeed, there might be samurais hiding within. Nara is impossibly old; one of those cities that goes way back past the Dark Ages and into the era of Rome and true antiquity.

A typical side street in downtown Nara
And the people: well, fully 10% are foreigners, sometimes travelling in gaggles of 20 or more. They all regrettably look just  your stereotypical image of a Western traveller: sunglasses, baggy shorts, backpacks, scraggly beards (men only, thankfully) and I swear that on the first day I came there were two women in full hijabs (head scarves) but in their defense, they looked like they may have come from the Malayan Peninsula. Still, wearing religious garb in Japan is frowned upon, if not met with outright suspicion.

And streaming they are. Lately Tai-chan and I have noticed that quite a number of the Japanese are wearing traitional kimonos—men wear them too, but in dark, unadorned shades of purple or grey. And some of them wear those uncomfortable traditional wooden platform shoes, the geta.

Mike and Kathy (just kidding)
I asked around and it seems that they;re going up to one of the temples to light candles for good luck—it's the Obon season.

I remember that when I lived in Bentenchō, around this time of year there would always be some kind of matsuri, or street festival, with all the traditional stalls and games and foods of yore.

Perhaps that is going on somewhere deep in the bowels of Nara Park, to which I have not yet ventured (yep, been here fifty times and never gone to that famous park. I'm definitely not a tourist.)

So that's roughly what it's like on a typical day here in Docteur Neeque-land. I'm fairly well known by the denizens in the shops I frequent so we all have our various funs and games as I pervasively shatter the myth of the Western schlub, gawking at everything and carrying 100-yen-shop Rising Sun folding fans—awkwardly. My Japanese friends are grateful for the respite of trying to stammer their few known words of English; they treasure being able to talk to a gaijin on their own terms.

And the Biome? Fuck the Biome! I've been recklessly subsisting mainly on cakes and tea and cafe lattes, with a pasta or pizza chaser.

That regrettable repast, Oden
There are no, repeat no, Japanese-style restaurants around here; at least, none that serve recognisably Japanese food. It's all that strange proto-Western fare; deep-fried chicken (kara-age), noodles of many kinds, odd vegetables (oden) and curry-rice (kare raisu) which resembles more a sticky white mountain topped with curry-powder-and-turmeric-drenched perfect rectangles of mystery meat.

These are not all, mind you; there are coffee shops and dessert shops where the only thing on the menu is various sorbets and sundaes (and coffee, of course) but my only vice is the cake shop, to which I Buddhistly go every morning, as they tend to run out of my varieties by the afternoon.

And my Biome is . . . unhappy. I've had a persistent abdominal pain since I've been in Japan. Sometimes it gets pretty bad, but I can't pin it down to any cause—it isn't "triggered" by things I eat or drink. It just seems to come and go as it pleases. I call it "Nara Stitch", as it resembles that pain you get (used to get!) when you ran far with little conditioning.

Never mind; Japan is what it's always been, and the Biome is indifferent. I brought a testing kit along with me but Tai-chan is reluctant to do the test, probably from the Ick Factor, although there really isn't one.

But I shall take the test and see what this strange diet of cake, tea, coffee and white flours (all delicious!) has done to my microbial trillions.

Helllooooo Prevotella! Goodbye Firmicutes.