Sunday, February 18, 2018

Modern Connecticut

Vernon, Connecticut

It's almost 10 years to the day since closing on a house on a piece of heaven in Hebron, Connecticut.

The house hunting begins anew.

There is no shortage of houses to avoid. The suburban sprawl east of Hartford offers a wide selection of '60s raised ranches that haven't been updated much since the 70s and 80s.  Recently in open houses, I have noticed the dark wood paneling of antiquity to be looking as gloomy as new. The realtors force a smile. "Perfect for your fondue party, and will look great with your whitewall tires!"  is not something the realtor is probably not allowed to say.

This house hunt involves faith that a house rivalling the specialness of Hebron is out there.

One such house is a contemporary:

The above is from the back yard.  The angular lines and huge deck has entertaining written all over it.

The next picture is looking up the driveway.

From the back yard, you can see for miles.  In the summer, the back becomes enclosed with greenery.

Double-sided fireplace in great room. That''s the realtor.

Great Room lets in some light

The other side of double-sided fireplace

The house was built by people from California. It has a Califormia brightness kind of feel, with in some areas, light stone floor tiles, and smooth-textured stucc. It's early in the search, but this contemporary passes the test for uniqueness.

To Be Continued!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

le Japon

"arigato gozaimaaasssss" Japanese for thank you very much, heard at the counter, getting off the bus, asking for directions.  Sometimes I just hear, gozaimas.  You give a slight bow and eye contact.  Normally I would walk away from making a purchase at the store and mutter "thanks" while half walking away and fumbling with the change and receipt.  In Japan, when you say thanks, things stop just momentarily when you exchange thank you.  Even the hurried hotel housekeeping, stopped in her tracks for a slight bow, I forget even why I had to ask her something. So I do the same and suddenly gratitude becomes an important part of the exchange.

Tokyo Station, the central Japan Railways station, has an area of shops called Station City.  It's kind of a cross between a mall, except not nearly as cavernous, and a medieval marketplace, except no plague. It's extremely modern, three levels, full of people and life and constant purchases made at every store or restaurant or foot stall.  Station City is on two or three levels and you can't see from one end to the other it's so long. There are a labyrinth of corridors with different themes: a dark Edo-era Japanese wood theme corridor with restaurants, a bright Marche with to-go Japanese style food, fresh meat and confectionaries, clothes stores, Hello Kitty store and sixteen similar stores (the Japanese love the cute little toys), fashions, tons of restaurants...mostly Japanese and one with fish tanks containing squid and other fish to eat, others with super fresh oysters on display, bamboo themed area, white glass and white floor and white light area like Macys jewelry store except with food.

I enjoy losing myself in the place because there is so much life.  The Japanese seem to have a sense of making space inviting.. such as bamboo and bonsai gardens. I couldn't find sushi that I wasn't afraid to eat (eel! squid!)  so stopped in to an inviting French themed restaurant.  Fantastic vintage French music, and the best steak I ever had!  I had the cheese opener.  Yesterday I had fried oysters at a Japanese restaurant there. I was surprised and learned very fast that I wouldn't be able to get by very well with English. It's not like Europe where you can get by pretty easily. So the restaurants at the tran station make it easy... they have these picture-menus where you can point to what you want.

the entrance to Gabu Gabu

the fantastic steak.  Due to the language barrier, I would not be able to find out what went into it.

Another area of fine food. Many Japanese where breathing filter masks. I am guessing because of pollution. Tokyo seems smoggy from when I went up Tokyo Tower, you couldn't see Mt. Fuji because of smog. I had no trouble breathing. I've often been served wet-cloths wrapped in plastic (not the chemical wet-naps) and the hotel bathrooms and even many public bathrooms have bidets with front and rear squirters. That is how it is here.

The Shinkansen superexpress is sometimes known as the bullet train. Japan has buses, subway lines, local trains, then Shinkansen for intercity.  Shinkansen platforms are at the upper most level of Tokyo Station. There are many levels and you can lose yourself in them.  Most levels are bustling with commuters and shoppers but once you go up to Shinkansen things quiet down because you are entering an ultramodern world with different melodies playing for train arrivals, strange beeping sounds and echoing announcements. It is a futuristic world. The bullet, I took to Kyoto for a night to see the shrines and temples it is famous for.

Mt Fuji from the train on way from Tokyo to Kyoto

Hishimi Inari shrine in Kyoto.  I didn't see many churches in Japan. Buddhism seems to be practiced in shrines and temples common everywhere. Hishimi Inari is particularly large, but some are not much larger than a market stall. From my observation there is a purifying ritual (Fushimi Inari gives you directions how, using a fountain and bamboo ladle).  Then there is breif chanting and usually two claps of the hand. Infrequently a small gong. You pay money to the shrine for candles, prayer sticks, and other numerous small symbolic items.

Hishimi Inari was captivating, with its orange-painted wooden arches. You walk through them, and they go quite a distance, up a hill, sometimes with small shrines off to the side.

Main temple

Off to one side, on a steep hillside, a bamboo tree stand

Lively alley way of food vendors at base of the shrine

Kyoto Botanical Garden included a Japanese garden pond. Even in drab January I can see how Monet would be inspired!

Which reminds me of this picture I took in Saipan.  Women in dresses and parasols, people dispersed, only for a moment that seemed very Matisse so I shot this of that short lived scene. However, that area of the beach was always pretty quiet and peaceful when I was there.

Matisse above, Monet below.

More of Fushimi Inari

Kyoto central food market, another bustling area of exotic (to me) food, and great for gift shopping.

Amid the food stalls, clothing stalls, and dollar-store type stalls was a shrine:

Most of the Kyoto food market is under an arcade, which runs at least a few blocks.


My first night after arriving from Saipan, the bust took me from the airport to one of several nearby hotels, the Crowne Plaza Narita. I took the hotel shuttle to the nearest city, where you could take the train into Tokyo. The hotel night staff, who didn't speak English well, said you could go into Tokyo that way.  I needed to learn because I was to meet a friend in Tokyo the next day, and was hoping to do a dry run, or at least get used to venturing out! The bus dropped me off at Narita train station. It was rush hour, at and around Narita train station, with people walking fast everywhere with purpose.  It was dark and no one seemed to speak English.  I walked very warily, wishing most of all not to get lost!  I walked maybe two blocks away. Take it easy.  It sank in that I will probably spend most of my time in Japan trying to figure my way around.  Here are a few shots from around the station

The next day, the hotel staff was better at english, and explained it's easier to take the bus straight into Tokyo. For Y1000, a shuttle coach took me to Ginza Station.

Japan is right hand drive.

I got out and slowly walked around, always afraid of losing my bearings. Gradually circled outward, like going on an untethered space walk, right?

To get by at all, you should learn the subway system. Little by little during my time here, I was able to figure out the map scheme and how the subways work. Very slow going at first. There are people in ticket booths who were helpful despite a very big language barrier!  Arigato gazaimas!

Area around Ginza Statoin

After walking around some, I stopped for Sake then headed to Tokyo Tower to view the city. Tokyo

After the Tower and meeting a high school friend, I went to Shibuya which is famous for being in movies and have incredible amounts of people crossing the street once the signal turns.

I have to quit blogging for today! It is almost bed time, and I fly home tomorrow.