10.31.2000

Japan

Now I'm a world traveler! I simply had to go to Japan since I could travel with Barron and Mariko and stay with Matt. Nine jam-packed days took me to Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto and Himaji, experiencing shrines, temples, culture and nightlife (which means beer and sake!). Enjoy the Japan Journal, and be sure to claim your prize if you actually view all 600 photos.

Japan Journal 2000

From October 27th to November 5th, 2000, I made my first truly exotic trip by traveling to Japan. I had two compelling reasons for going - to visit my pal Matt, who had recently moved to Osaka, and to travel with my friends Barron and Mariko, who were visiting Mariko's family. All nine days were packed with fun experiences and exciting culture shock, so I kept a daily journal during the trip. Here on WEBmikey, you can read each day's detailed exploits with selected photos, or click the camera icons to sort through almost 600 other photos!

Japanese Girls: Very fashionable clothes are the norm (lots of leather jackets). Schoolgirls wear uniforms and hold their mouth to giggle at gaijin (foreigners) like me.
Cuteness: Doraemon (robot cat) and Anpanman (bread-head superhero) are popular characters found everywhere. Even businessmen have cute characters on cell phone straps and antennas. Everyone reads manga (comic books).
Oddities: Bathrooms don't have paper towels - people carry washcloths. Street crossing signs play music or bird sounds when crossing. Everything is available from vending machines, even sake or bottles of whiskey. Because trains stop soon after midnight, most nightlife ends early.

Day One: Traveling, Osaka

After careful packing, I leave my passport at home! My only excuse is that Barron has my ticket, so I don't think about anything except clothes. Thankfully, Barron's first question to me at his house is "Do you have your passport?" So after freaking out, we swing by my place on the way to the airport and still have lots of time to spare. Now Barron is keeping my passport and tickets for the trip. Mariko tells me to call him otosan (father), so that's what I call him. In Dallas we have cookies at the Admirals Club, and we score on a business class upgrade, thanks to Barron's wiley mom. Now I'm having my second glass of champagne in my plush seat. Mariko is reading a Japanese newspaper, Barron is playing with his camera, and I am writing. Osaka is 6688 miles away - here we go! Barron tells me to say "you're welcome" as "don't touch my mustache" (do itashe mashte). Everything is funnier after champagne, and we're wearing slippers now, too. Six more hours - I try to convince myself that it's 9:30 am and that my two hour nap was my night's sleep. Barron and I keep getting up for a Snack Attack, as they list it in our menu.
Two hours to go. This is when I go crazy - I've watched all the TV, read a whole book, and there is nothing to do but snack. I'm playing with a deck of cards and drinking coffee. My ears hurt from the headphones. First evening in Japan - we arrive, take a sleepy bus ride to Osaka from Kansai Airport, then a cab ride (complete with bow-tied driver) to Mariko's mother's apartment. It has been raining lightly, and I leave my kasa (umbrella) in the cab, of course. I remember at the last minute and snatch it before the cab gets too far. Mariko's mother meets us at the doorway with a konban wa (good evening). I meet her and Mariko's sister and have tea seated on cushions on the floor of the small but beautiful apartment. Barron and I watch baseball and laugh at okashii (funny) commercials. I use my entire Japanese vocabulary in minutes and wish I knew more.

Japan 2000 Day 1

All of us venture out for a quick train ride to Osaka Station to meet Matt at Big Man, a jumbotron TV in the station. Matt seems perfectly integrated, wearing his MD player and looking spiffy in suit and tie. All of us walk together to an okonomiyaki restaurant - a kind of pancake with lots of great ingredients, made on a griddle right in the middle of the table. We drink some nama biiru (draft beer) and enjoy the food. Barron and Mariko and family head home, but Matt and I meet with Glen, a fellow teacher from Australia, and head to a bar. After some terrible ordering, we talk and drink a few highballs. At Matt's apartment, we have more whisky and watch TV, taking some time to catch up. Tomorrow is shopping day. Tonight I will sleep on the floor and rest well after being awake for so long. Good night, Japan.

View photos: Japan 2000 Day 1

Day Two: Osaka

I watch Pokemon in Japanese while Matt runs to the convenience store to buy a towel for me to use. It has been a cold night, and I'm looking forward to coffee and shopping. Matt returns with excellent coffee in cartons that gets me going, and we head off in the misting rain, passing a park being cleaned by a group of young boys. We ride the train to Osaka Station and meet Barron and Mariko, who are already shopping for shoes. By now I need more coffee, so we have some along with ham-stuffed pastry. Next we all go to a camera store so Matt and Barron can shop - all of this still in Osaka Station, which is a huge maze full of multiple levels of underground shops and restaurants.
Matt leaves for work, and Barron and Mariko and I continue to shop. I am amazed at the number of hentai magazines available - the Japanese cartoon porn industry - as well as the number of respectable men who read it. Mariko's mother and sister meet us for lunch, still in the labyrinth of the station, and we go to an incredible restaurant serving breaded fried pork. The meal is traditional with rice, miso soup, green tea, and the main course. We stuff ourselves.

Japan 2000 Day 2

After lunch Barron and I head out on our own to Osaka's electronics district - store after store of computers, cell phones, DVDs, MD players, and arcades. I buy some trinkets for myself and friends, and marvel at the salesmen wearing headsets, literally running to their next customer. Barron tries all day to convince me to buy an MD player, but I never do. (However, as I write, I wish I had - maybe tomorrow!) He buys his second MD player, and is pleased. We rest after shopping with two oki (large) beers as it starts to get dark. We leave and head back to Osaka Station to meet Matt and Glen. We go to a nice bar/snack place to meet their boss, an Australian woman who is leaving for another school. Barron orders wonderful new drinks for me - Calpi Sours, spiked Oolong tea and a drink with a plum sitting on the bottom of the glass. We munch on various snacks - fried pumpkin with cheese, ikayaki (grilled squid), and even pizza. At another table we see a formal "farewell from a job" party with tears and gifts and lots of bowing. Afterwards we spend some time at an arcade and eventually split up and walk home. After a quick white grape soft drink from a vending machine, I am asleep instantly.

View photos: Japan 2000 Day 2

Day Three: Osaka

My clothes smell like smoke, but I wear them since the mornings are so cold. Matt and I sleep in a little today, but finally head out in what is the first sunny day here - no need for my coat. We have breakfast coffee and pasty at Hansel, supposedly in Nishinomyia since 1917. Most of the customers seem to have been coming since then. On to the station, where we have more coffee (canned, from a vending machine) and talk to Ernesto, who calls Matt. Then suddenly we are back in Nippon Bashi (or as Matt tells me, Den Den Town), where I finally join the MD revolution and purchase the player I couldn't convince myself of yesterday. Back to the train, where we locker our things and ride to the coast to visit Osaka Aquarium. Next door to the aquarium is the world's largest Ferris Wheel, which is slow and enclosed and fantastic - excellent views of the Port of Osaka. We get so many laughs today from students and young kids - even parents point out us gaijin (foreigners) for their kids to see. Older students in their uniforms giggle when we make eye contact.
Before the aquarium, we buy souvenirs in an adjoining mall and eat wonderful fast food at First Kitchen. I have a pork cutlet sandwich and seasoned fries. Everything is tastier and wrapped so carefully - even fast food workers care about their job. On to the aquarium - spectacular tanks with spiraling pathways so we can view them at many levels. The aquarium is home to the only whale shark in captivity - huge and majestic. Along with dolphins, seals, penguins and sharks, they also have a huge selection of jellyfish and eerie spider crabs.

Japan 2000 Day 3

Time for a beer break back at the station and then we take the train to the neighborhood of Matt's office for dinner at a fast food udon counter. After paying at a vending machine for a ticket, we eat wonderful food and watch a single employee preparing food for an entire counter full of customers as well as doing dishes - running from one end to the other, working with precision and care. Back to Umeda, where a young saxophone quartet has just started playing, doing arrangements of Glenn Miller along with the Carpenters' "Yesterday Once More". After a medley of 50's hits, the crowd applauds and empties their pockets into the open saxophone case. We find out that one of them has done all of the arrangements - what talent. A nice train ride home with stops for convenience store snacks, and I finally meet Matt's Australian roommate Mitch, a very nice fellow, and charge my new MD player. Tonight Matt loans me a heater for my room, and I sleep well.

View photos: Japan 2000 Day 3

Day Four: Himaji, Osaka

I sleep in a little, then get up and watch some Ranma 1/2 (two episodes I haven't seen) in Japanese and eat some Pocky while I write. Last night was chilly, but the space heater in my room made everything comfortable. Matt's roommate Mitch awakes and tells me there was an earthquake last night! I slept though the whole thing. Matt tells me he felt it and wasn't scared. We get dressed and head out to breakfast at Kohekan (Coffee Can) and have a small cheese sandwich and coffee, then travel to Umeda to buy our shinkansen (bullet train) tickets for tomorrow. At first we are worried aboiut the language barrier, but it turns out to be incredibly easy to spend 13,750 yen a piece - one way! Now we are next to broke, but have just enough to today's trip, an hour's ride to Himaji. The ride is relaxing and runs by the shoreline, so there is plenty to look at. Once we arrive in Himaji, we walk up the main street until we are greeted by Himeji Castle - the best in Japan. As we buy our tickets and approach the entrance, we are stopped by Kazuhiro Monguchi - a 70+ year old Japanese man who wants to speak English! He was a high school teacher ten years ago and now it seems he has been hanging around waiting for Americans like us to talk with. He accompanies us the entire time in the castle, providing extra history and reading kanji to us along the way.
The castle is huge and impressive. We carry our shoes with us in bags and wear slippers, which makes it very difficult to climb the six flights of narrow, steep steps! The view is worth it, and the structure of ancient cedar is simply breathtaking. After the castle tour, our new friend says goodbye and Matt and I walk the surrounding area, enjoying a display of bonsai trees. We're trying to find a beer and end up in some unusual neighborhoods, where pedestrian, bicycle and auto traffic is directed at each intersection by four police! Finally we find a nice place labeled "Salaryman's Stand", full of only men enjoying yakitori and beer, and we relax with two Asahi.

Japan 2000 Day 4

Next is the ride back to Osaka, then we travel to Shin Saibashi to use one of the few ATMs that work with American bankcards. Once we are rich again, we walk the crazy streets of Dotomburi, full of people, neon, noise, and excitement. We stop for pork ramen, which we eat sitting on tatami mats, and watch the Japanese equivalent of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" on TV. After a long day, we're ready to head home a little early. Once we are in Matt's neighborhood, we stop at his local Shinto shrine at night for a little exploring. The shrine is peaceful and beautiful in the dark, with plenty of lantern light for atmosphere. Back at the apartment, a little Japanese whisky is all it takes to put me to sleep. Tomorrow is Tokyo.

View photos: Japan 2000 Day 4

Day Five: Tokyo

Matt and I wake up early and get dressed (Matt says it's the earliest he has been up in Japan!) to ride the train to Shin Osaka so we can catch the shinkansen to Tokyo. We arrive almost 45 minutes early, but the time goes quickly as we read a Tokyo book and enjoy some vending machine drinks. We watch other shinkansen pull into the station, filled with men in suits. At last our train arrives and we board to find our assigned seats. The interior is just like an airplane with more leg room, and when we leave the station, I can't believe how smooth the ride is - like we are hovering. The scenery changes quickly to mountains and traditional Japanese housing, all covered in fog. Women 'flight attendants' push carts of coffee, sweets, and beautifully packaged meals down the aisle - I have coffee and almonds while the businessman next to me has fish and rice. Matt and I listen to our MD players and sleep a little, and three hours later we are in Tokyo. Tokyo Station is full of people, of course, and we are a little confused about how to escape. We also need to ride a train to Shinjuku to find our hotel. We find an information desk and all is well. We arrive at Shinjuku and see our first of the streets of Tokyo - huge buildings, huge neon, and seas of umbrellas flowing over crosswalks. We stare at a map deciding which way to walk, and a nice Japanese man who turns out to be a math professor offers to help, and even walks with us several blocks out of his way to our hotel. (Actually, he takes us to the Hyatt, but our Hilton is right behind it.)
Once in the hotel, we check in, marvel at the view, and then prepare to venture out again - today we'll see Shibuya and Ginza. We walk back to the station, easily catch a crowded train to Shibuya, and begin to explore this youthful, trendy area. We are starving, so we eat some Chinese food and have a beer, then spend more time walking the streets. We call Barron in Gifu to find out where the intersection featured in the anime "Lain" is, so I can see it in real life, and it looks very similar.

Japan 2000 Day 5

As we try to discover how to get to Ginza, we are helped twice more by strangers who direct us to the correct subway. Soon we are in Ginza - an upscale shopping area with more huge neon, jumbotron TVs, and classier people. Every intersection in Tokyo looks like Times Square - very different from Osaka. We decide to shop in a seven story department store and I buy many little things just because they have ridiculous English on them. We next find a coffee shop and relax overlooking the street. After that, it's more wandering, maneuvering our umbrellas and being distracted by the sights and sounds of Ginza. But we are tired, so we ride back to Shinjuku and at last find the hotel again, after getting just a little lost. At the hotel, we find hot water and green tea waiting in our room, along with Japanese robes. We go to one of the hotel's seven restaurants for a buffet and completely devour everything in sight, then have coffee and listen to piano. Afterwards, I am asleep (in a bed this time) in minutes - I think Matt has some tea and relaxes a bit before nodding off.

View photos: Japan 2000 Day 5

Day Six: Tokyo

I wake up early and enjoy some tea while looking out the window to Shinjuku, 26 stories below. After Matt wakes, we take advantage of our free Tokyo Hilton breakfast - I choose an American breakfast for old times sake, while Matt eats rice porridge and fish. We gather our bags and check out of the hotel and head to Tokyo Station. After finding lockers for our bags, we attempt to buy return shinkansen tickets for this evening. The latest we can leave is 5:00 PM, and once again, no credit cards are accepted, so we are next to broke. Fortunately, we don't need much money for today's adventure - Sen Shoji Temple and Akihabara.
We ride the Ginza line subway to Asakusa, and almost as soon as we leave the station we are faced with the temple gate. There are hundreds of people here, most of them uniformed students taking group pictures with the huge lantern hanging under the gate. To get to the temple itself, we pass through a long shopping arcade full of some of the silliest trinkets we have yet to see. As we leave the arcade, we 'bathe' ourselves in incense to purify us for the temple, then walk the steps to where people are praying, lighting candles, and buying fortunes. I buy some bells from a man who spends a very long time explaining each charm to me with an English translation chart - everything from "luck with money" to "traffic safety".
Back to the subway to Akihabara - Tokyo's electronics district, much larger then Osaka's Den Den Town and ten times as crowded. We see several amazing things, from five door refrigerators to PDAs with digital video cameras built in. We get very hungry and decide to stop at Mister Donut for a snack of coffee and 'meal donuts' with frankfurter or ham. While we're eating, the gentle rain that has accompanied us turns to an outright downpour, but we must go out to get back to Tokyo Station for the 5:00 PM shinkansen. We make it with no difficulty, other than getting wet, and spend out time waiting in the special comfortable area for shinkansen ticket holders.

Japan 2000 Day 6

The shinkansen ride back to Osaka is quiet and we sleep soundly - if only they would dim the lights! I have some green tea ice cream while Matt chews squid jerky. Soon we're back at Umeda Station and we locker our bags yet again so we can grab a bite for dinner. The streets are crowded, but nothing like Tokyo, which is great with our current energy level. First we stop under a bridge to hear a fine jazz quintet - musicians like this pop up every night. We end up in a little place for soba noodles, the most inexpensive meal in Japan, but filling and sweet with a huge strip of honeyed tofu on top. Our next task is to look for a draft beer, but the whole neighborhood we are in, filled with hostess girls and their 'pimps' (for lack of a better term), doesn't seem to be promising. So, we get our things and ride back to Matt's neighborhood of Kosheinguchi to a familiar bar Matt knows. The bar is small, rustic, and wonderful - the entire staff yells irrashimase (welcome) when we open the doors - they do this in every restaurant, but not with the enthusiasm I hear here. We talk and relax with several beers, leaving when the bar closes. Soon we are home and sleeping on the futons once again.

View photos: Japan 2000 Day 6

Day Seven: Kyoto

This morning I organize my purchases so far - I can't believe how many little trinkets I have bought! At least I have a little something to show for all the money I'm spending, though most of it has been on shinkansen tickets. After Matt wakes we get dressed and have breakfast at Hansel for the second time. The waitress remembers us and tries to speak English. From there we walk to a bank to change my last US dollars and discover it's closed - today is Culture Day, a holiday we weren't aware of. So, we ride the train to Umeda and find a currency exchange in the station, and soon I'm rich enough again to enjoy the rest of my trip. After a short time in the spectacular Miyazaki store (I'll be going back), we take a 45 minute express train to Kyoto, a city full of temples and shrines. Getting off the train, we see that Kyoto Station is magnificent - more beautiful than Umeda or even stations in Tokyo. We find an English bus map and hop on a bus to head to Kinkakuji, the golden pavilion. Our first Kyoto bus ride is indicative of the rest - all seats are taken, everyone stands holding bars and handles as the bus jerks along with no regard for passengers. At every stop, more people squeeze on - there is no such thing as a full bus in Kyoto. By the time we arrive, we are nearly suffocating, but at least the experience was unique. Kyoto is very nice - no tall buildings, open streets, and lots of trees. We take a short walk from the bus stop and find the temple easily. The pavilion itself is spectacular, covered in gold and reflected in a pond. The grounds are full of paths that lead to the typical things found in a temple - incense burning, bells to ring, and of course, a gift shop. Matt and I have some ice cream and rest before heading back to catch another bus.
Another packed bus ride takes us to Ginkakuji, the silver pavilion. The ground of this temple are much more beautiful than the last, with winding stone stairs through trees and moss covered hills, and offering views of Kyoto in the sunset. The pavilion itself is not very pretty, since it was never covered in silver as planned, but the sculpted sand and rock gardens create such an amazing setting and an enjoyable time. There is a shopping street next to the temple, so we stop for some oyakodon (chicken and egg over rice) before beginning our trek to the final temple. At the bus stop, many people are waiting with us - rush hour has hit. When the bus arrives, it's already quite full, but of course, we all pile on. This bus is the tightest squeeze ever - unbelievably uncomfortable. To make matters worse, we are barely moving in traffic! After enduring a half-hour of this, we get off and walk, outpacing the bus easily. It's now night, but the streets are very crowded. We pass through a huge shrine on our way to the temple, and start climbing stone streets with lots of hills, passing many shops and Kyoto nightlife. We pass a giant temple that I'm sure is our destination, but Matt tells me it's not - we keep going.

Japan 2000 Day 7

At the top of the hill, we finally arrive at Kiyomizudera, a massive temple on stilts overlooking a valley with Kyoto city on the other side. The temple grounds are packed - maybe because of the holiday, maybe because people come here at night to experience the lights. We maneuver through the crowds taking pictures and soaking it all in, and finally end up in line at three flowing overhead streams. The streams represent intelligence, health, and romance, and using tin cups on poles, people reach out to the single stream they wish for and drink from it. Matt and I both choose romance, since we are already healthy and intelligent. We finally leave the temple and begin to walk back to Kyoto Station, avoiding the bus, The walk is long and tiring, and when we finally sit down on the train, we both go right to sleep. When we arrive at Koshienguchi, we stop for ramen and I eat many gyoza (dumplings) while a friendly man next to me explains how I should season my soy sauce. At last, we stop at Matt's friendly bar for beer and ikayaki (grilled squid), then head home.

View photos: Japan 2000 Day 7

Day Eight: Osaka

Matt has to return to work today, so we call Barron to plan to meet outside Hep 5, a huge shopping center with a Ferris Wheel on top. Matt and I ride the train into town as usual, then Matt directs me to the meeting place and heads to work. Barron and Mariko soon arrive, and we find a place for coffee. Mariko is meeting her friend Yayoi for lunch, so we met her outside of a hotel. We go to an Italian restaurant with a fantastic buffet, pizza served at the table, and strange fruit drinks that we received when we thought we were ordering wine. After a nice lunch, Mariko and Yayoi lead us around the maze of shops and we buy a few more things. We see huge musical instrument murals on the walls that are playable! Barron and I play the huge drums and then have fun with the giant saxophone.

Japan 2000 Day 8

Mariko and Yayoi say goodbye for the day, and Barron and I are left to do more shopping. We eventually end up at a bar to rest our feet with a couple of beers and then find a vending machine that serves sake in glass containers - amazing! We get some sake and walk up to sit on some outside stairs in the cool night air and drink our sake, talking and relaxing as crowds and trains go by - it feels like a definitive Japan moment. Next we meet Matt after his work and we immediately go to a huge conveyor belt sushi restaurant. We sit on stools while directly in front of us hundreds of little plates with various kinds of sushi, potatoes, and desserts move by - we can eat all we want. All of us have quite a few along with green tea. After dinner, we stop to watch kids play 'Dance Dance Revolution', a video game that displays dance steps with arrows on the screen that that player must match with their feet on arrows on the floor. The kids are incredible - seasoned players of the game and dancers, too. The game yells all kinds of English phrases like "You are too cool" that are so funny. Next we meet Glen and go to Esprit 2, the same bar we visited on my first night here. The four of us have drinks and talk about cartoons (mostly Transformers) and then realize we are about to miss the last train to Koshienguchi! We run full speed to the station and buy our tickets at 12:19 - the train leaves at 12:26. On the way home we meet Mitch in the street with another teacher named Bernard from Montreal. As soon as we arrive at the apartment, I go to sleep while Matt has a nightcap with Mitch and Bernard. Tomorrow I'll be going home.

View photos: Japan 2000 Days 8-9

Day Nine: Osaka, Traveling

I wake up early to pack my clothes and souvenirs. Matt is working an earlier shift and we need to leave sooner than usual. We make our last walk to the station, carrying my heavy bags, and ride to Umeda. Then we locker my bags and say goodbye - it has been good to see Matt reinvent himself in this new life. I wonder around a bit in the station and outside to be sure I can find the place I'm to meet Barron, and then stop at Mister Donut for coffee and pastries. Japan already feels lonely without a friend here, and I sit and sip my coffee alone thinking how wonderful and strange this trip has been. At 10:30 I meet Barron and we spend some time shopping and reading magazines. Eventually we find ourselves in Hep 5 and decide to ride the Ferris Wheel we have seen all week. The ride is very nice - a slow trip around while music plays, and we experience a great view on this final sunny day in Japan. The wheel isn't as large as at the Port of Osaka, of course, but it seems huge since it's already six stories up.

Japan 2000 Day 9

Next we gather my bags to ride to Mariko's mom's apartment, and after the train ride we are faced with a long walk with very heavy bags. When we get there, Mariko is finishing packing and we all enjoy curry beef with rice and macaroni salad - oishii (delicious)! Soon, a cab is ready downstairs and we gather our things. Mariko and her mom and sister have a tearful goodbye and we ride to the bus station, where I sleep all the way to Kansai. At the airport, we spend our final yen and Barron manages our business class upgrade once more, so I write this final entry just as the first entry - in comfort with a glass of champagne.

View photos: Japan 2000 Days 8-9

10.30.2000

My work

I'm thankful that I have had relatively few jobs in my life, which means that I stumbled upon some good ones. I learned some lessons early (never work in a restaurant) and some lessons late (self-employment is fun but taxes are hell), as well as some useful advice (make the most of boondoggles!)

Online Agency

Senior Developer
I never thought I would be leaving Works so soon, but when I got the offer from Online Agency, there was no way I could refuse. Right now we're incredibly small (and plan to stay that way), even though we have over 2,500 customers! Here I'm getting to actually build web sites and write code in a more creative way than ever before, and the environment is so laid back it's incredible. I'm going to be here a very long time (or at least until I'm stinking rich).

Works

Catalog Technical Lead
My first experience with a true internet startup, even though they had been around almost two years when I joined. The number one reason this place was great is the friends I made, and we still hang out a lot. Here I got to do tons of database work and actually had to manage some folks, which was a real switch. Now that I've left, I miss the great parties and hyjinks, but I don't miss the politics.

Hot Job Market, Cool Workplaces

Austin American Statesman, September 2, 2000 (excerpt)
If the new workplace is hiding a corporate titan's insidious plans, you won't hear anyone complain at the People's Revolutionary Design Gulag. That's what Web designers Billy Hylton, Barron Fujimoto and Chris La Cava call their office at Works.com, an Internet purchasing service for businesses in Northwest Austin.

The office is more like a dorm room, with skateboarding posters, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" action figures, a Nerfball hoop and kitschy tropical lights.

After work, hanging out in the company game room on Fridays, having a beer and shooting eight ball, it all feels strangely like being out with friends at a bar, Hylton said. "That's the kind of stuff I look for after work," he said.

Hylton, 25, moved here in September from Kentucky. La Cava, 26, fled New England winters for a cool tech job here a year ago. And 31-year-old Fujimoto came here in early 1999 after a stint in Japan.

They're like many knowledge workers - young, new to town, looking for an instant life. And work is where they find it.

La Cava said that's what he wants. He's dedicated to the company's mission, to help small and medium-size businesses save money on their purchases. This fast-growing business was, for him, one of the country's last "Wild West opportunities."

For now, other parts of life - marriage, family - can wait. "I think I gravitate more towards the job because, at this point, I don't feel like I want a wife or a kid," he said.

Maybe the job is filling a void in the rest of his life, he muses. But work didn't create his desire. "This is my job," La Cava said, "and I'm going to etch it out the way I want."

The Michaels Group

Independent Consultant
Michael Cook was a consultant at CITGO who later asked me to move to Austin to work with him for an amazing salary. The two of us did some cool projects for Apple, Motorola and other companies, and I learned tons about web development. My last contract was with Works, and when it was up, I didn't want to leave the company, so I joined up.

CITGO Petroleum Corporation

Programmer/Analyst
After college, I moved to Tulsa and hit the big time - a nice salary to play with Macs and go on all kinds of boondoggle trips (conferences, training - almost always in California!). I made some great friends here, and really learned more about development than I did in college. The company migrated from Macs to PCs, and then finally to SAP, so good bye!

Eckerd Drugs

Pharmacy/Camera Clerk
Hard work, but a great job with great people (just what they would want me to say). I actually worked here five years, all through college and even the beginnings of my marriage. I had to work two different stores to keep my hours up, so I had two nights off a month - yikes! Highlights include getting robbed for pain killers and crashing a shopping cart during a race (I needed 14 stitches!).

Adventures at Eckerd Drugs

Working at Eckerd Drugs was my first real job, and I kept it all the way through college and the first years of my marriage. Because of my crazy schedule at school, it was tough to get the full 40 hours that I needed on my paycheck - I had to work two stores almost every night (I only had two days off a month!). So, I got to be a pharmacy clerk at one store and a camera clerk at another, which exposed me to some wonderful things, such as an armed robbery for drugs and some massive electronics shoplifting. I enjoyed the job, though - fun people and all the expired candy bars I could eat!

My best Eckerd story involves my habit of racing shopping carts just after close. I had a regular rivalry with some of the girl clerks, and we had a great time plowing down the aisles at full speed.

One night I was racing a clerk named Jill, just as I had a million times before. We would race down two separate aisles, which meant that for most of the race you couldn't see your opponent - there were only three opportunities to take your eyes off the road and look down the space between shelves to see if you were winning.

As we hit the first space, I took a glance and saw I was in the lead. This probably caused me to relax a little, because by the second space I was way behind! So, I poured on the speed, and took a lingering glance at the third space - I had regained the lead, but when I turned my head back to the front, I saw I was going way too fast and the back wall of the store was way too close.

I slammed into the back wall at full speed, sending me flying over the cart and right into the metal shelves full of shaving cream! The front of the cart was completely dented with the force of impact. As I landed on the floor, I think I was in shock - I just started laughing and picking up shaving cream, not realizing that my right cheek was gaping open and exposing bone - yuck!

The pharmacist ran over and took care of me, telling me I had just a bad scratch, but before I knew it I was in the emergency room with Cheri and my mother-in-law. They gave me four shots of anesthetic directly into the wound (ouch) and sewed me up - I think it was 14 stitches.

I had a nice GI Joe look going for a long time with that giant scar. Needless to say, the races stopped after that night. Years later after I moved to Tulsa and came back to Oklahoma City to visit, Eckerd was still using the cart with the huge dent in it - what a slice of history (pun intended!).

Crockett's Smokehouse

Bus/Dish Technologies
My first job - how exciting! I had a friend who shoveled slop here, and he recommended I give it a try. So, for two months of a summer I bussed tables, washed dishes, and on very special occasions I got to stir baked beans. Highlights include breaking a light fixture on my first day and getting to take home the leftover apple pies. After this job, I vowed never to work in a restaurant again.

10.28.2000

Red Planet : 2 of 5

At least they tried. Mars is such a tempting subject, but I think it's cursed - no one can make a really good, intelligent movie about it! Red Planet is a million times better than Mission to Mars, which is so fresh on everyone's mind that the titles get confused, but the film still suffers from sentimental crap and smalltime philosophy thrown in at the wrong times. No problem with the effects, and the story itself is actually pretty cool, but the characters really don't have any depth. Val Kilmer seems like he's playing the grown-up version of the whiz kid of Real Genius, and the gal from The Matrix just isn't as sexy as the studio wants us to believe.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas : 2 of 5

Before I comment on this movie, you first need to know that I revere Dr. Seuss (Mom used Dr. Seuss books to teach me to read, and I still collect them) and that I hate Jim Carrey. That said, this film is just okay. I was most worried that they would destroy the story and that Carrey would Ventura-ize the Grinch. The good news is that the story additions are just fine (and even narrated well by Anthony Hopkins). The bad news is the Grinch is just like every other Jim Carrey character - Jim Carrey is the Kevin Costner of comedy! Sheesh. The same stupid voice, stupid slapstick, stupid exaggerated motions - the only thing missing was a talking asshole. Anyway, Cindy Lou Who is adorable, so the film is at least passable.

10.21.2000

All She Was Worth / Miyuki Miyabe : 3 of 5

I'm not sure why, but it took me months to finish this book! This was loaned to me by Barron, who enjoyed it, and I did find it to be really interesting, but not engaging until the last 50 pages. The plot line is a good one, and this is a well thought-out mystery, but there isn't any urgency to the story, so it's very easy to put down and pick up later without feeling like "I've got to see what happens next!" The references to Japan are great after my visit, since some of it takes place in Osaka and mentions things I've seen. The ending is abrupt, too - obviously intentionally, but come on! Anyway, it was still fun to read, so thanks, Otosan!

10.15.2000

Spice Girls / Forever : 3 of 5

Believe it or not, I even pre-ordered this one. I can't help it, Emma (Baby Spice) is just too cute, and I even think she has a nice voice. Compared to the other two albums (yes, I have them both), this would be my least favorite, but only because the style on this albums is more gritty (I prefer the silly, flirty pop of the former Spice Girls). Still, this is fun to listen to, and thankfully includes the obligatory, totally inane "song about why we are so cool and such good friends" that cracks me up while driving to work.

10.12.2000

Haiku

Whiff of strong perfume
Smells like ripening mango
Get away from me

10.11.2000

Haiku

Pink sweater reading
Elbow touches my table
Plato's Dialogues

10.09.2000

Haiku

Chilly air returns
Harbinger of wintertime
Steam on the dog shit

10.06.2000

First cold day

There is nothing like the first cold day of the fall/winter in Austin, which occurred October 6th, 2000. This is the first day when long sleeves actually feel good - even necessary. The night before I wanted to wear a jacket so badly I even threw it in the car, but it was too hot. Then the morning came bringing that lovely cool air that you can drive in with the windows down and feel chilly - what a great feeling! That evening I opened all the windows of my condominium and even the terrace door and just smoked my pipe in pure bliss.

10.05.2000

Ultimate Scream Machines : 4 of 5

An excellent DVD that I stumbled on - this was what I wanted Thrill Ride: The Science of Fun to be (but it wasn't). Here we have about 15 coasters (including the Coney Island Cyclone!) ready to be experienced - you can use the angle button on your DVD remote to switch between rider's perspective (forwards), rider's faces (backwards), or outside the ride shots of the coaster doing its thing. The music is annoying, but the video quality is very cool, and makes me want to visit many more amusement parks!

10.04.2000

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg : 5 of 5

Thanks to a fine recommendation from Jennifer, I was able to enjoy this film that I may never have heard of otherwise. This is a beautiful French film in which all of the dialogue is sung. There are no songs, per se - just a normal script that has been set to music (so even "merde" is musical). The plot is a simple little love story that seems tragic but ends up very resolved (I actually expected it to get much more depressing). Besides the music, the production is also full of overwhelming color that often offsets the somber mood. A very young Catherine Deneuve stars, sporting the absolute coolest mascara in film history.

10.03.2000

Westworld : 3 of 5

I don't know why I think this movie is so great, but I have always loved it (and the sequel Futureworld, though it isn't available on DVD yet). Maybe I just like the premise - a resort where you get to act out whatever you like along with hundreds of lifelike robots in one of three worlds: Medieval World, Roman World, or Westworld. It's fun to watch the scenes in the control room where all these technicians are drinking coffee and watching the whole resort on monitors, controlling the robots to fight or seduce. I think it's hilarious that Yul Brenner gets top billing when he has about two silly cowboy lines and just walks around methodically killing people. Unfortunately, the ending is incredibly lame - after Yul is killed, it just stops - no explanation at all.

10.02.2000

Peeping Tom : 4 of 5

Being a huge fan of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger (in fact, The Red Shoes is my favorite film), I watched Peeping Tom quite some time ago to see how Powell did on his own. This is a fantastically horrifying film, made even more so by the bizarre psychological aspects and how they relate to Powell himself - you'll find out all of that by watching the excellent documentary included on the disc (another Criterion Collection). This movie is certainly riveting and chilling, concerning a serial killer who films his victim's final expressions of fear as he kills them (without the gore, thankfully). It also features one of the first two-second nude scenes in English cinema as a bonus.

10.01.2000

Perfect Blue : 4 of 5

I saw this film in the theater with Matt, and though we both thought it was beautiful, it left us both confused. But after watching it on DVD with my full attention, I think I've got it figured out. Regardless of what you get out of the story (an interview with the director on the disc reveals that things are confusing on purpose!), this is fantastic for the single fact that this anime is a full-fledged film, which could easily have been made in a live-action format - no talking animals, no outer space battles. This is a pure psychological thriller with excellent voice acting and downright heartbreaking animation, so see it. Sure wish we still had cute pop idols in America - Britney is cool, but come on.

Cold Sassy Tree : 3 of 5

Austin Lyric Opera's latest production is a very new, very American opera based on the best-selling novel Cold Sassy Tree (which turns out to be the name of the Georgia town in which the story takes place). Let me tell you, this was an interesting experience, but ALO managed to pull it off somehow. As soon as the show opens, you immediately hear folks singing in pure operatic style, yet using terrible Southern grammar and heavy Georgia accents! For the first fifteen minutes, this seems like a very bad idea, believe me! Eventually it seems to tone down, or you get used to it. Things pick up when Miss Love Simpson sings, who was by far the best actress and had the most beautiful voice, making even the main character seem lessened. Acts II and III are enjoyable and the story gets interesting - basically, the opera gets better and better from the first moment. No singable tunes here, just dramatic melodies of semi-recitative. I can say that I prefer traditional opera, but Cold Sassy Tree was an entertaining and educational evening.

eTour

eTour is cool if you love to find sites you've never been to, based on the kinds of sites you're interested in. Very simple - go to eTour, click Next Site, and you're face to face with something interesting. I've found lots of things I never would have discovered with random surfing. Guess what - this one has a point system, too! It takes a long time to actually earn anything, but it's a cool idea.

Visit site: eTour

Hyde Park Grill : 4 of 5

I've been to Hyde Park Grill many times, mostly with my friend Jill after the opera, but to start this restaurants page off, I'll review my latest visit with my friend Eliza prior to seeing Cabaret. This is an excellent place, not only because the food is wonderful, but because you get excellent atmosphere and upscale folk combined with inexpensive prices and Hyde Park quirkiness. We both had the eggplant parmesan, which was tasty and hearty without being too heavy. I had a glass of very cheap wine, but a nice touch is they still bring out the bottle (already opened) and let you try it, so you get all the fun of being a big spender even when you just want a cheap buzz.

Pokemon Trading Card Game / GameBoy Color : 3 of 5

I have to thank Shelly for this one - after he purchased this and became addicted, I had to buy one too so we could hook up the link cable and battle like the geeks we are. If you like the Pokemon card game in real life, you'll love this - way easier to keep track of things (though the physical cards are cooler to look at, of course). As I said, you can trade cards and battle using a link cable, so buy one of those, too!