Monday, June 4, 2007

Is My Face Red?

Of course it is! I'm badly sunburned! And that's what happens to your face when it's badly sunburned!

Sunday, I went to the big picnic at Hamamatsu Castle Park. The picnic for some friends' school. I got there at 11:30am to help set up, but everything was set up so I did nothing. Not long after I arrived, the guests-of-honor arrived- the students and their parents. Pretty soon we had a large group of family units sprawling on various plastic tarps or sitting in camp chairs.

We spent the afternoon tossing footballs (a few of these kids showed nascent gridiron skills... maybe the University of Georgia should start recruiting in this area), playing soccer and dodgeball.

After lunch, we made shaved ice treats for the kids then played more games. Many of these games involved extremely tiny children tossing waterballoons at other extremely tiny children. Rolling them across the grass, actually. Or throwing frisbees several inches, then picking them up and throwing them several inches farther. Then waterballoon chases, and random drive-by waterballoon assassinations.

Kids and dogs got soaked.

Afterwards, Mike and I went to the art museum where tons of Disney production art is on display, part of a travelling exhibition designed by Walt Disney himself. It came to Japan in 1960 and promptly vanished for over forty years, finally being rediscovered at Chiba University and sent on its way again after thorough archiving and researching.

It's an extensive collection, and all of Disney's Nine Old Men are represented lavishly, along with Mary Blair and another artist whose name escapes me. It starts with some yellowed drawings by Ub Iwerks for "Steamboat Willie" and concludes with actual background paintings for Sleeping Beauty.

I bought the guide book (a massive and heavy tome fully illustrated and including quite a bit of useful English text along with the Japanese) and a book on Mary Blair. Some of this stuff I'll go more into detail about on my comics blog.

Later, I went downtown and ate dinner at Pepper Lunch. This is becoming one of my favorite treats. It's almost as good as having a real steak.

The best part of the day was when, inspired by the Disney art and the Mary Blair book, I got out some of my old sketchbooks and found the nearly-illegible final letter my father wrote to me the year he died.

I thought it was lost. As I left Japan in December, 2005, I found myself struggling with suitcases that were way too heavy. I managed to drag them from my apartment in Hirosawa-cho to the Takamachi 7-11 convenience store, but once there I realized there was no way in hell I'd ever make it to the train station.

Luckily, I was able to communicate to the store employees I needed a taxi and while they called for me, I went outside and discarded pounds and pounds of paper ephemera. But weeks later, when the urge to hold in my hands something my father created came over me, I couldn't find his letter.

I searched for it on and off for the next year but finally gave up. At least I have his cornbread recipe, I thought. That was comforting. It was written by him in a stronger hand years ago and if there's anything that links everyone in my family to Dad, it's food. Especially the Sunday night snacks of cornbread and buttermilk in front of the TV.

Then, suddenly, there it was, his letter, in my hands again. His last words of fatherly advice and love, written in a faltering hand that's almost unrecognizable from things he wrote when he could hold a pen or pencil comfortably, tumbled from between the pages of the sketchbook. Surprising, and that much better being a surprise because it was almost like having the phone ring and hearing his voice speaking to me again.

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