Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Day In Japan(town)

Peace PagodaI've been in San Fran over a week now, and I still haven't done a lot of exploring, mostly because I've been busy with work, but partly because I've been a pussy about getting lost or not understanding the city yet. (Which is dumb because you can't understand a city unless you go out into it, right?) So today I decided I'd finally head to Japantown. I gotta say, it felt so safe and warm under the covers this morning that I almost didn't go, but I am very glad I did. Wandering around and shopping in Japantown was some of the most fun I've had in ages, and it kept me smiling the rest of the day.

After snapping some selfies with the Peace Pagoda, I went to the East Mall and headed into Daiso (where everything is $1.50 unless marked otherwise). It was heaven. Everything I've ever purchased online from Japan was already in that store. They had cosmetics, kitchen supplies, cleaning supplies, phone charms, random electronics, toys, food, office supplies, everything. EVERYTHING. Even things to make your boobs bigger. I'm trying my best not to buy a lot of things until I know whether or not I'm staying in San Fran and have a more permanent apartment, but I ended up buying a couple knickknacks and some food.

From there, I went to Ichiban Kan, which was a little pricier, but they had nearly all the Japanese cosmetics and skincare products I use and usually have to order online. I treated myself to a snail face mask, a grape drink, and some Green Tea KitKats. (I'll probably do a video next weekend about the things I bought in Japantown, so I'm not spending a lot of time on it here.)

Candy Candy Candy Candy Yummy
As Kyary would say, "So candy love."
Then, I headed to the West Mall, and this is where things get a little hazy. There were CDs and DVDs and books and magazines and restaurants and tons of small trinket stores and I wanted to go into them all. I spent an excessive amount of time perusing the music section at a bookstore trying to locate my favorite J-pop and K-pop artists. (I should mention they also have some Korean stores and items even though it's called Japantown.)

KPP!!!!
KPP taking over my life.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was just about everywhere I looked (which was awesome), but I also uncovered some Namie Amuro, SNSD, Crystal Kay, Big Bang, and Super Junior. But the whole time I was really keeping an eye out for Perfume merchandise. And that's when I saw it. The limited edition Blu-ray of Perfume's "Perfume Clips" music video collection. I let out a squeal that I assumed only dogs could hear. Except in reality everyone in the store probably heard it and was staring. But I didn't care.

PERFUME CLIPS LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY. I almost cried
I know it's hard not to be distracted by my amazing nails, but JUST LOOK AT IT.

Of course, it was $84, so I didn't get it. (Also I don't have a Blu-ray player, although I honestly would've purchased it just to stare at the box.) But for a moment I got to hold something in my hands I never thought I would. And I swear a light shone down on me from the heavens and the spirit of Nocchi entered my body and my legs felt long and amazing and my life had meaning. (I hope someone understands that.)

YAOI
I was tempted.
What else? There was more manga than I've ever seen in my life, and an exceptionally big yaoi section, which I took a photo of but didn't linger in because I was too embarrassed. The video store had some of my favorite South Korean movies and some anime I like, but I didn't linger in there too long either because it was pretty crowded. The restaurants looked amazing, but I didn't really want to be a party of one, so I just got some frozen yoghurt for the walk back to the bus.

Bridge view
I took this photo while ascending to heaven after my journey was over.
(But really I was just on a bridge.)
I probably would've climbed inside the Peace Pagoda and lived there if I thought I could get away with it. (That probably would've been offensive somehow, too.) But I eventually found myself overstimulated and decided to call it a day. I wish I'd gone into Pika Pika (a purikura shop), however I have a feeling I'll be going back to Japantown soon.

Oh, I took a bunch of photos and if you want to see all of them, I made a Flickr album of them.

-joe

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Google Alerted

I've been in San Francisco for a week now, and I'm about to finish my first week of work. I feel like my routine is down. I understand the buses. I know where to get groceries. I'm comfortable at work. (How many sentences can I start with "I"?)

The two-hour time difference between here and Arkansas doesn't sound like a big deal, but I'm realizing it is. It's even worse between me and friends on the East Coast. By the time I get home from work, my family and friends in Central Time Zone are settling down for the night. And I barely have time to eat dinner and finish up other work before I head to bed, myself, which doesn't leave a lot of time to catch up with the folks back home.

But I'm enjoying work, and it's keeping my mind busy. Maybe I'll write about my job sometime soon. I've just always been a little secretive about these things I guess? I don't know. Do I really want people knowing where I work and what I do? There are some other YouTubers and Internet personalities who work at the company, and they seem to broadcast that information online. But I don't know. I'm sure it will become relevant to a blog post eventually and I'll just say it.

So, really, there's been no time to feel homesick like I was my first few days here. I still try to talk to my parents and sister and BFF on the phone every evening. That helps keep my spirits up.

Tonight, though, as I was settling in, I made the mistake of reading two very lengthy discussions about myself on some random YouTube gossip forum, and that got me feeling down.

I'll be honest, I have a Google Alert set to send me emails when it finds new websites containing the words "Joseph Birdsong." I swear it's not a narcissistic thing. It's mostly just so I can see if anyone has made a video response to me (since YouTube is shit now about those and I always like to watch/comment on them) or see if anyone has mentioned me in a blog post so I can say "hey" to them or something. Doesn't everyone wanna know if people are talking about them? I feel like that's just human nature. Tbh, though, Google Alerts is shit anyway, and I usually only get about one notification every month and it's not even really about me. It's usually some bird watcher's blog and they're talking about birds singing (AKA "birdsong"). And you thought my blog was boring.

Well, tonight I got a Google Alert and it was about me--the aforementioned discussion on the YouTube gossip forum. And, actually, it seemed like everyone on the forum only had nice things to say about me, which was great, but the thread was also full of speculation. There was speculation about my weight and why my head is shaved and analyzing some previous blog entries I've written and that personal video I made.

And I'm not going to defend myself against any of the things written, especially about my weight, because Jesus Christ that subject is old and has been talked into the ground. It even autocompletes on Google now. "Joseph Birdsong weight." Like, really. Who cares enough to search for that? Oh, and I'll also say that my head is shaved simply because I'm lazy. That's it. I don't know why people read so much into something like that. Heaven forbid I make a choice about my own body. Maybe I want to look like that old man on the Six Flags commercial. Maybe he's my inspiration. Did you ever think about that?

Okay, so I guess I defended myself against a couple of things. I couldn't help myself.

The rest of the speculations I don't even want to mention because I don't want to give them any more power. (Even though just writing this blog entry will probably make you immediately search for the posts on those forums and read the speculations for yourself. But props to you if you don't. You're one of the rare ones.) I already hate that those personal things are being talked about in a public forum. And many of the things were said under the guise of caring about me. Like, "I care about Joe, so I hope he doesn't have this and this and this, but it seems like he does, and here is my evidence: [insert video or blog post accompanied by more speculation.]"

News flash: YouTubers see what you write about them! We live on the Internet! Actually, everyone (not just YouTubers) usually sees if you write about them online. Like, this whole Internet thing is actually public! And just because you're free to write whatever you want, that doesn't mean you should or have to. And if you really care about someone, maybe respect whatever they're going through and don't try to sort through the very, very, very, limited info you have about them from the Internet to try and pull something together. You're putting together a puzzle that you don't own all the pieces to.

Ugh, I know I'm walking a fine line here because I'm talking about people who obviously do care about me. These aren't haters. They're lovers. I'm thankful that they care. I'm thankful they've invested time and energy in me. That's more than I could have ever hoped for in this lifetime. Some of their words touched me. I just think they're showing that they care in a very strange (and possibly incorrect) way.

Also, like, I'm a nobody. I'm not even famous or worth gossiping about. It doesn't matter what happens to me. My story is barely a misplaced punctuation mark in the novel of life. I could disappear from the Internet tomorrow and the world would keep on spinning. Maybe devote your energy to talking about all the horrible things going on in this world and try to figure out ways to make them better. Or talk about politics or environmental research or something.

And if you're gonna straight-up gossip, at least gossip about something entertaining, like a TV show, or someone who actually has an interesting life, like Angelina or Britney. But just also be aware that they might have Google Alerts out for their names, too. (*^3^)/~♡

-joe

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I Think I Am Afraid Of Silence

I've spent all day on the bathroom floor. I've watched some Netflix in here, recorded next week's episode of the podcast with Sam in here (via Skype. Sam wasn't in this bathroom with me), made a few phone calls in here, and it's been great. I'm using the toilet lid as a desk for my laptop (not the seat. I'm not that gross), there's a nice cushioned mat on the floor, but, best of all, there's a little noise-making heater on the wall. And I'm afraid of silence.

Left: My laptop setup, with a selection of my Japanese skincare products.
Right: Another angle with the wonderful heater, and bags filled with
even more skincare products.
I'm a quiet person in general, but I become even quieter in a quiet setting. (Damian's voice from Mean Girls: "Say 'quiet' again.") If noise is happening, I don't mind contributing my voice, but when there's nothing but silence, I tend to tiptoe around. I don't even like breathing in complete silence. Now, I'm no doctor, but I assume not breathing isn't good for you.

To combat my fear of silence, I usually keep a noise-making fan running almost 24/7, and I've done this for as long as I can remember. I'm talking about those low-energy (so don't kill me, eco-people) fans that don't really blow much air, but just emit a steady stream of white-ish noise (except it's more encompassing and full, if that makes sense). I have two of those fans back in Arkansas, but neither would fit in my suitcase. So I've got an app on my phone that's supposed to simulate the noise and I'm using it to help me fall asleep. However, while that helps me at night, it doesn't quite do the trick during the day. The noise coming out of the phone speaker sounds more sharp and tinny and empty, and seems to cut through the silence rather than fill it.

I also like to keep my TV on at home, turned down low for background noise. And every night I fall asleep watching Netflix with my TV on a timer set to shut off after an hour. I've pulled a chair over by my bed here and have been falling asleep to Netflix on my laptop, so that's worked out fine.

Everything is just so disconcerting in silence, and I'm having trouble describing my aversion to it. Maybe it's just when other people are around? Maybe I don't want other people to be able to hear me? I'm fine with silence when I'm home alone. Or maybe I'm fine with silence when I'm in a stand-alone house alone (as opposed to a connecting apartment). In an apartment, you're generally surrounded by people. I used to spend a lot of time in the bathroom when I had my own apartment in Philly, as well. It, too, had a nice heater that generated a very soothing hum that made me feel protected from the family living above me.

The floor in my room here is hardwood, and it creaks and groans. In my mind, walking across the room is like setting off little bombs with every step. However, this bathroom is tile, so it doesn't have that problem. And the little heater in here is about as close to the noise-making fan sound as I can probably get right now. I'd run it all night, but I don't want to waste electricity.

Probably in a month or so, when I have a more permanent place (hopefully without creaky floors), I'll go out and buy a little fan. Right now, though, it'd just be one more thing to lug around to wherever I end up. So I guess until then I'll be making this bathroom my home office.

Wow, this entry makes me sound crazy. I just re-read it.

In other news, I start work tomorrow. I'm much more excited than nervous, mostly because I can't wait to do something. Yesterday, I was gonna go see the house that was used for the exterior shots in That's So Raven and maybe go to the Golden Gate Bridge, but I didn't feel like getting on the buses. I should've gone to Japantown, though, because I learned they have a dollar store there that sells pretty much all those kawaii trinkets I buy on eBay, except it's already here! Maybe next weekend.

Still a little homesick, but it's being kept at bay by daily calls from my parents, sister, and BFF, and by chatting with my Internet BFFs. I have a great support system.

-joe

Friday, May 16, 2014

I Got On Some Buses

Today was a day for figuring out buses. I studied the routes probably more than I ever studied for tests in school. Science and math tests at least (as was obvious from my GRE math score).

I walked (hiked) to the bus stop about a block from my house and waited. It's a smaller street and there was a big moving van parked right where the bus was supposed to stop, so I was afraid the bus driver wouldn't see me. Well, he did see me, but he just kept driving. Like, we made eye contact and he just drove away, even though it was clear I was waiting for him. He even honked as he was looking at me, which was like a big, loud middle finger.

Photo unrelated to the story. Just thought it was a pretty view.
But, of course, being a planner means I had a backup plan (two, actually). I walked a few more blocks to a bigger intersection and had no problem getting on that bus or transferring to my second bus. A nice man even offered me some "organic edibles." Or, rather, he whispered to me as he briskly walked past. And he was wearing a hood and dark sunglasses. But it's the thought that counts. Another lady seemed to be singing loudly at the street corner. She was hitting some pretty high notes. Although the song had a lot of cussing and she might have actually been yelling at another guy. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or listener), or some crap like that.

Some observations about the buses: The LED signs that tell you what stops are coming up were confusing and slow and I swear they weren't always correct. To make sure I got off at the right place, I had to follow where I was on Google Maps on my phone. Also, the bus had an interesting smell that took me back to my days riding the subway in Philly. It's a smell that I can only describe as sweat mixed with maybe a little urine mixed with how I imagine Pete Doherty smells. There was also maybe a hint of dead skunk mixed in, but I don't know how that got in there. The dead skunk addition made me a little sad--not because it smelled bad, but because it reminded me of Arkansas. I'm also not used to having to pull that little cord that notifies the driver you want off because the subway just stops everywhere regardless.

At least I have a cute holder for my Clipper card. It came free with one of my cute/cheap Chinese eBay purchases. It even has a cutesy phrase on the back in not-super-great English that says, "To put the other's comforts before me. Because just that is a beginning of love." So kawaii.

Just call me "Cookys girl."
Although I'll also answer to "Super Gay Kid."
After filling out some final forms at the place I'll be working and meeting the people and getting the office tour, I rode the buses back to my residence. I heard someone mention in passing there's a heat wave happening here right now, which surprised me because I thought the weather was pretty awesome. I even wore a hoodie today.

This afternoon, I talked to my BFF on the phone, and then my dad called from St. Louis where he and my mom are right now to visit my sister. I was supposed to go with them before I got this job. Everything was fine until they were all saying "goodbye" and "I love you" and then the homesickness returned.

I wish I had some shows to watch to help take my mind off that feeling, but The Mindy Project and Archer have both concluded their seasons, and I'm all caught up with Bob's Burgers (but even it has its finale this coming Monday). I guess that means it's time to find a new show to binge-watch. Maybe Dating Agency: Cyrano. It's been a bit since I've watched a k-drama and I could use more Sooyoung in my life.

-joe

Day One

It's been a long, long day. But exciting. I woke up at 3 a.m. (after tossing and turning until about 2 a.m.) so I could take care of some last-minute packing before my early flight to San Francisco. Then I said my goodbyes to Mom, Dad took me to the airport and helped me carry in my massive suitcases, and eight hours later I landed in The City by the Bay. (That includes a layover in Dallas. It's not that long of a plane ride.)

I've taken a photo of these mannequins
every time I've been in the Dallas airport.
They are amazing.
I'm renting a room I found on Airbnb for my first month here. It's great. Amazing, actually. It has a private bathroom, fridge, microwave, big comfy recliner, desk, coffee maker, sliding door that leads to a beautiful garden, and my host family even left some drinks and snacks for me. Oh, AND THERE'S A CAT. And the cat is magnificent and I don't know his (or possibly her) name, but he/she sits outside the screen door by the desk and meows at me and I love him/her. I'll have to ask the family his/her name tomorrow.

A room with a view (of a cat).
I'm homesick, though. I think I got really comfortable in Arkansas and with my parents. Life is safe and predictable there, and I've always been close to my mom and dad. I think when you're little, you tend to look at your parents like they're gods. They feed you, bathe you, protect you, and generally keep you alive (hopefully because they love you and not because they're afraid of child services). Then you usually reach a point in your life when you realize your parents have faults, too, and are only human. That point never happened for me, and I can't decide if that's unhealthy or not. My parents are just really fucking awesome and I feel bad leaving them. But my mom always says she and my dad raised me and my sister to follow our own paths instead of trying to make us follow some other plans they'd created for us. And that they'd be supporting us wherever we end up. I also know they're proud of us because, well, they posted it on Facebook today. (Like I mentioned before, my parents are really fucking awesome.)

Back to today. After a couple hours of resting after my flights, I decided it was time to venture out into the neighborhood to keep my mind busy and stave off the homesickness. So I walked to Walgreens. And by "walked," I mean "hiked a bunch of hills that were probably equal in elevation to the cliffs of Everest." I'd heard San Fran was hilly, but it's, like, really fuckin' hilly. And I wouldn't consider myself out of shape, either. I do pilates and all that Wii Fit crap. But today I felt like an ant trying to scale Jay Leno's chin. And somehow I walked uphill to the store AND uphill on the way back to the house?? I am going to have an ass of steel pretty soon.

Turned around and took this after walking up.
Somehow I walked UP these stairs again on the
way back.
Also, there are dogs everywhere. Everyone has a dog. And the dogs even went into the stores, which was weird and made me cringe because I'm a germaphobe and I'm not sure that's super hygienic. I dunno, maybe dogs are clean. I don't know a lot about them. I like my friends' dogs and wouldn't mind them walking around stores, but I don't know where these strange dogs have been. I did see a lot of their poop outside today and I can pretty much guarantee that stuff isn't hygienic at least.

Super cute mouth muffle I wore during my flights
because I'm a germaphobe and also it is kawaii
and I was pretending to be a j-pop or k-pop star.
Tomorrow, I'll be figuring out the public transit system. I got a Clipper card, which sounds like some sort of punch card you'd get at a shitty salon, but I guess it's for public transportation here. Oh, and the first episode of the podcast me and my friend, Sam, are doing came out today! You can listen for free on SoundCloud or iTunes.

More adventures to come, I'm sure!

-joe

Friday, May 9, 2014

Loose Ends

I'm moving to San Francisco next week! At the end of March, a friend recommended me for a job out there. I interviewed with a couple people, did a writing test, and was offered the job about a week ago. Of course, the planner in me immediately started panicking, so I've spent the past week scrambling to wrap up some loose ends in Arkansas and finding a place to stay when I get there. I quickly discovered it's not the easiest thing in the world to find a place to live in a city that you're currently 2,000 miles away from, but I finally found a host on Airbnb for at least my first month there. Also, San Francisco is apparently really fucking expensive. More on that later.

Moving also means today was my last day hosting the radio show. My regular co-host texted me this morning to let me know he couldn't be there, but Frazier (the assistant station manager) got his friend, Traci, to come sit in with me. By the end of the show, Traci and I were chatting like old friends about those attachments for women that allow them to pee while standing up, so it all worked out. I'll miss the station, but I gotta say that the past nine months doing the show have been like a circus. Most weeks I never know what the hell is going on when I get there. I won't be off the audio waves for long, though, because me and one of my besties, Sam, are starting a podcast that's debuting next week. (iTunes link)

Tomorrow, I'm spending the day with my BFF of 10+ years, Elizabeth, but I'm not worried about us losing touch when I move. We've lived in separate states two other times in our lives and talked on the phone or texted nearly every day. I still expect it will be a sad farewell, though. When I moved to Philly at the end of 2008, Elizabeth was the last person I saw before I left. I'd specifically requested she wake up at some ridiculous hour of the morning just to come out and say goodbye before I drove off. You can really judge how good a friend is by how early they'll wake up for you.

Sunday (Mother's Day), I'll probably spend with my parents, and then I'll pack until Thursday when I fly out.

It's been a very short amount of time to process a lot of emotions. I'm sad to leave my parents and my BFF, and anxious about learning how a new city works, but I've done both of those things before and it's worked out. Life either works out or you die. Really only one of those two things can happen, right? I gave that advice to my sister recently and it didn't seem to comfort her like it does me.

Amidst* all the emotions, I'm mostly just excited to be starting the job. It sounds right up my alley, and I'm ready to work. I'm sure I'll write more on it later.

*Is "amidst" not a word? It has a red squiggly under it, but Google says it's a variation of "amid." Google also says people haven't used it much since 1850. I knew I wasn't up-to-date with what the kids are saying these days, but I didn't think I was that out of the loop.