Monday, March 24, 2008

The Infamous Japanese Driving Test (part 1.) and Alpha Station Tournament

When you are an American and you are living in Japan, you can get an international driving permit which lasts for one year and you can legally drive in Japan as long as you have your valid US license and passport. Since I already decided I would recontract and live here for another year, I must get a regular Japanese drivers license by August. The Japanese driving test is notorious for being extremely strict and difficult for foreigners. It is not uncommon for people to sometimes take the test 4 or 5 times before passing. Infact, passing on the first try is extremely rare. I researched the hell out of what to expect and studied the course map that I found online. Instead of going to work as usual to teach classes on Friday, my supervisor from the town office drove me down to Maebashi (the capital of my prefecture) to take this dreaded test. We arrived in Maebashi around 10 am and first had to get my US license translated into Japanese which costed about 4,000 yen. We had a little time to kill around lunch time before we were to go to the testing facility, so we got lunch and went to Tower Records where I bought Seikima II greatest hits CD haha. Then after that we had to go to the testing facility and fill out a shit ton of paperwork and wait for several hours. Finally it was time to take the written test. This was probably the easiest shit ever. They gave us 15 minutes to answer 10 true or false questions about traffic rules, I finished in like a minute and a half and got them all right. This one dude failed because he didnt understand any language that they offered the test in so he tried in English but obviously didnt understand. Everyone else who passed then were taken to the driving test course. There were 20 foreigners there to take the test, most of them had tried before and failed. I was the last person to go so I had to wait for a while. Every single person seemed pretty disapointed but not very surprised as they left the car and already knew that they most likely didnt pass. If you make the smallest mistake you will fail the test. Someone failed the test for not looking underneath the car before getting inside to check for small animals and other hazards. They expect you to make over exadurated movements when checking the mirrors or else they wont notice. You have to drive a certain set distance from the side of the lane and you have to stop exactly at the line when you stop for a light or stop sign. In really doesnt test your ability to drive at all, it simply tests your ability to do exactly what they want under preassure. If everyone drove like they expect you to in the test it would probably CAUSE accidents. The test was going ok at first for me but towards the end I was checking my mirrors and around my shoulder so often that the instructor said I wasnt looking forward enough and it was dangerous. Everyone who took the test stressed how much you should constantly look around, I suppose I over did it. The course itself isnt even hard, its just how increadibly strict they are. Ive even heard of people who did it perfect but were failed anyway just cuz the instructor didnt feel like passing them. After everyone took the test, we sat around a while and waited for the results. Out of 20 people, only 5 passed. No one who took the test for the first time that day passed. One dude who failed the test told me that it was his 17th try... talk about fucking rediculous! I scheduled to take the test again next month. I think I know exactly what I did wrong so hopefully I can pass next time. Every time I want to take the test it costs me like an additional 3,000-4,000 yen or something. One of the worst things about all of this is most other major countries can just legally drive for as long as they want in Japan without a Japanese license INCLUDING CANADA and really... lets be honest, driving in the US and Canada is the same fuckin shit. bummer...

After that we drove back to my town and didnt get back until around 7:30. One of my schools (Fujiwara) was having an Enkai that night and I was already an hour late. When I finally got there it was all good though. It turns out about half the teachers will teach at new schools next semester so I will have to get to know a lot of new teachers, which sucks because I actually like everyone at Fujiwara. I stuck to beer the whole night and while I got nice and drunk, fortunately the next day my head felt fine.

I woke up Saturday morning and took the train to Akihabara where I spent the entire day playing casuals. There was were no tournaments so there were a lot of people there playing casuals. They only had 7 cabinets now since they got some Arcana Heart 2 cabs in which are taking up the space. I dont know if its temporary or not but hopefully they will put back some of the AC cabs soon (while still keeping the AH2 cabs). Not very many people were playing Arcana though, I didnt try it out since I have no idea how to play the game, still have never even touched the first one yet. FAB and Ogawa were playing on 2 cabs next to eachother for a while and both of them racked up a win streak of about 3o wins each or so. I played against both of them a couple times, and while I constantly came close I couldnt get that last round in. However, I eventually did beat FAB and ended his win streak. Ogawa just got tired of playing and got off the machine undefeated. Afterwords he came up to me and was trying to give me some advice because I came very close. Throughout the day I kept getting smaller streaks of around 10 or 11 wins with some losses here and there but I played well for the most part. I played from about 2 pm to around 11:30 pm non stop except for a 20 minute break to get some curry. When it started to get dead I headed for Shinjuku to go to Current.

Current was pretty awsome, lots of regulars there. There were also some dudes from Finland on vacation that I talked to for a bit. I also got to visit with an old friend who I havnt had the chance to see in a while who I wasnt expecting to see anytime soon. It was nice to spend a little time with my old friend again. I was having a good night and didnt feel like going to sleep right away after Current closed so I went to PSY till 6 am and then finally went to sleep.

The next day was the Alpha Station tournament in Shin Okubo which is right next to Shinjuku. I stopped by Club Sega to talk to MIU for a little bit first. I told him about the unofficial tourny we will throw and how its gonna be really big so I told him to tell lots of people to come, though I have no idea who will come. I also told him how I have no SBO team now and asked if he knew anyone who needs a partner but he said no. His team is only going to be able to play at one qualifier since MIU has to work so often as it is. After I was done talking with MIU I took a nice walk over to Alpha Station. The weather was fantastic. It had been a while since ive been to Alpha Station, the last time I went was the first night I discovered Current. When I got there, they had 5 AC cabs going and lots of people were plaing pre tournament casuals. I thought it was gonna be a singles tournament but it turned out to be a 3 on 3. Luckely Gin was there and he was teaming up with a Robo Ky player who said he went by the handle China. I have no idea why he calls himself China (seeing as how hes not Chinese) but I think its short for something else. They needed a 3rd so he offered to let me be on their team. I was down with it so I joined. There were about 30 people who entered the tournament so there were 10 teams divided into 3 round robin pools. Our pool was the biggest pool with 4 teams and was also the hardest pool. They put all the best teams in our pool. One of the teams was the all ladies team consisting of the hot Zappa player, the really strong pink Slayer player who I see often, and the female Dizzy player who won the all girls tournament before and was at the Vegas tournament a few weeks ago, I think shes probably the best female player in Tokyo. One of the other teams had Inoue (HOS) on it and this really beastly Potemkin player and some other Dizzy. There was also a 2 man team of Slayer and Faust. I dont know most of the players names since they didnt have the invividual names posted on the brackets, just the team names. Our first match was against the 2 man team of Slayer and Faust. I decided I would try first. They put their Slayer player first. This guy was pretty much just in the zone because he defeated me and then proceeded to OCV my whole team. Up next we had to fight the ladies team. This time China went first with his Robo-Ky. Up first was pink Slayer. China beat her. Then he fought against hot Zappa and won. Finally he went up against the Dizzy player but he got beat down kinda hard. I said I would go next. I played pretty solid and won both rounds, my team mates were pleased. Finally we had to face Inoue's team. This time Gin went first against Inoue and lost. I decided to go next. The first round I was losing but then I made this really awsome comeback and threw him out of a gunblaze. However, the 2nd round he spammed a bunch of high level gunblazes like 50939 times in a row and while I am ussually good about blocking those, I eventually got hit and lost the round. 3rd round was decent but I ended up losing. Finally China went but he also fell to Inoue resulting in us getting OCVd. So we ended up not winning our pool. Inoue's team went on to win the whole tournament. This tournament was a fucking Slayer and Potemking fest, there were like 4 of each in the tournament. I stayed and played casuals for several hours after the tournament and got a 17 win streak. I eventually lost to a solid Sol player in a close match, I rematched him right away and beat him. Then I stayed on the machine for a few more games and it was eventually time to leave so I just got up and left.

I still have no idea who I will team up with for SBO. Theres a slight chance I may team up with Gin but I really dont know yet. Hopefully I will figure something out. This will be my last blog update for a few weeks. Next weekend I will go to Tokyo first and go to the X-Japan show followed by a tournament at Club Sega Shinjuku the next day. I will then spend the next whole week in Osaka/Kyoto and finally play in the first SBO qualifier in Tokyo that next Sunday. Expect an epic and long blog update in a few weeks!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Victory at Game Chariot!

This week I was able to leave work at the usual time so I headed for Akihabara for casuals. Nemo came up to me and said hi and then played me for a few matches, I lost. His Testament is seriously getting way better, pretty soon hes gonna be rivaling Shounen. Ogawa was there too, I played him once and lost. In general though I did well against most other people, had a few smaller win streaks like 11 wins or something. After it started to die down I headed for Shinjuku.

I arrived at Current fairly late, maybe around 1 am. The place was pretty dead, only a few people from Cirque de Soleil were there. I had 2 beers and then decided that I wanted to try somewhere else so after talking with Mogi and Sushi for a bit I headed over to GODZ. Unfortunetly GODZ was even worse with a grand total of 2 people besides me in the whole bar, one of them being the owner haha. As soon as I walked in they threw on a bunch of Symphony X cuz they know its my favorite so I stayed for one beer and talked with them briefly. After that I figured I would give PSY a try. Fortunately PSY was much better off and was fairly packed (about as packed as it can get seeing as how its very small). Heidi (Masami's friend from Norway) was there. I sat next to her and we talked for a few hours about various things. I lost track of time and it was already 5:30 so I said bye and went to sleep at the usual spot. I didnt wanna stay up later because I would be going to a tournament in Chiba at Game Chariot the next day.

As soon as I woke up I headed straight for the train station. It took about an hour and a half due to the train schedule sucking once you get far into Chiba but eventually I made it to Game Chariot. I didnt write the start time for the tournament down in my planner book so I wasnt sure if I was gonna make it on time but luckely I got there 45 mins before the tournament started. It was a 3 on 3 team tournament so I just signed up alone and they later paired me with2 other people. I began to play some casuals and had about 8 wins and then I eventually lost in a close match to an ABA player that I had beaten before who rematched me. Then I got on another machine and played against another Faust player and beat him. He then came up to me and shook my hand saying my Faust was good and that we are on the same team. Turns out they allowed same characters on the same team. Our other team mate turned out to be the ABA player. The Faust was named Ojima and the ABA was named Reo. The tournament had 18 people enter so there were 6 teams. Everyone in the tournament seemed to be local Chiba players, I guess not a lot of Tokyo players felt like traveling so far since this wasnt a major or anything. They divided the tournament into 2 round robin pools and the finals would be the winner of each pool. We were in pool B. I watched all the matches in pool A and the winning team was DI, ED, and KY. Then it was our turn to start our pool. We went first against a team of KY SL and MA. I went first for my team. The Ky player won the first round. The 2nd round I was losing but I told myself to not lose cuz I knew I could totally beat this guy so I just played super patient and after a long time of full screen fireball dodging and item throwing I eventually closed my way in and came back to take the 2nd round. I then proceeded to win the 3rd round. Up next was SL. This guy had a pretty good Slayer but not good enough so I beat him too. Finally I was to play MA and since I hate fighting May I was a bit weary but I just played the matchup as best I could and actually won both rounds, resulting in an OCV. Up next we were to fight a team of AX SO and KY. This time Ojima wanted to go first, they told me to go last cuz they wanted a chance to play haha. Ojima actually ended up OCVing this team resulting in our teams 2nd OCV. Then it was the other 2 teams turn to fight eachother and the KY player from the first team we fought OCVed the 2nd team. The finals were now to be our team vs DI, ED, KY. We won RPS so they selected DI first. I told them I could handle Dizzy so they said it was ok to go first. I beat Dizzy 2-0. Up next was Eddie. I was winning the 1st round and then he came back with a pixel and I lost. I then proceeded to win the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Final match was me vs KY. I beat him 2-0 and the tournament came to and end resulting in our teams 3rd OCV. So our team OCVed our way through the tournament with a perfect showing and our poor ABA player didnt even get to play at all. After the tournament I stayed for a bit and played a lot of casuals, winning about 95% of my matches. Ojima was talking with me about Faust strats and asked to exchange email so we could talk again sometime. Eventually Ojima and Ryokun left. Shortly after I left as well since it was getting dead.

I waited for the train for a while but it eventually showed up. Then I arrived at Chiba station and when I was transfering trains I randomly ran into my team again. I took the opportunity to take a victory photo of us together that I will upload later. I said goodbye and then proceeded to head back to Tokyo. I arrived in Akhabara and stayed for more casuals. Ogawa was there again with a few other various good players and the place was packed. I later recieved an email from my friend Liz. She went to another concert in Tokyo again so she wanted to know if I wanted to go drinking with her for a bit. This time she had a hotel room though so she needed to take the last train back. I told her id meet her at 10:30 at Shinjuku station. I left Akihabara around 10 and was on time to meet Liz. This time she didnt get lost which was great.

We walked to Current and drank for about an hour and a half and then she had to go. This time the bar was pretty full. Eventually this older woman came up to me and was totally hitting on me. She asked how old I was and I told her and then she said she was 40. Then she like asked me the same question again like 10 mins later, it became pretty appearant that this chick was already drunk and probly had a lot of drinks before coming here. This was later confirmed when she proceeded to ask my age a 3rd time... Then she like went back to talk with one of the people she came with and then I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she was dancing by herself behind me and sorta seemed like she was trying to get my attention. I just ignored her cuz I wasnt realy interseted in dancing with some wasted 40 year old chick. Eventually she left with her group, I cant say I was saddened by it. Eventually after a while Chip showed up with Sawa. We hung out and talked for the rest of the night. They were asking why Liz wasnt here and I told them she already had to leave. They were dissapointed. At one point a huge group of like 13 people come rolling in and sit in the tables at the back. Eventually I guess one of the guys was wasted or getting roudy because they turned the music off and turned the lights on and pretty much kicked the guy out of the bar and made all his friends leave with him. I realy honestly have no idea what happened but I guess he was harassing someone else in a different group of people. The other group of people left too cuz I guess it sorta ruined their night. In any case I didnt really noticed what happened cuz I was at the bar but after they left they turned the music back on. This was the first time ive seen this happen. I onced asked Sushi and he told me that out of the 7 or so years that Current has been around, there has never been a fight inside the bar which is nice to know. Eventually it was closing time so I said goodbye to everyone and stumbled back to the Manga cafe. I was pretty wasted since I was drinking since like 10:30 and had more beer than I usually do.

The next morning I woke up with a slight hangover, the head was hurting kinda bad. After taking a few headache pills I felt better. I decided to head over to Club Sega Shinjuku to visit MIU and see how he was doing. He was surprised to see me there since there was no events going on. I talked with him about various things. I asked him who his SBO team was and he said some testament and baiken players but I forgot their names. I asked him if he knew where to find the tournament schedule for the qualifiers and he told me it was in this months Arcadia. He showed me what page it was on, I didnt notice it when I briefly skimmed the magazine when I first got it. I also asked him what his opinions on BlazBlue and SFIV were. He thinks BlazBlue is gonna be a good game and he says right now SFIV just seems sorta average. I also asked him if he heard the news about GGAC not being a main event at evo. He says he still plans to go and he said that some other Japanese players will still go like MINT and Yosaan. This may be a good reason to still throw a good side tournament. After a while I said bye and headed for Akihabara to spend the rest of the day playing casuals.

Various top players were there. I beat Zero and Osaka B. I played Ogawa a few times and I played 012 but I lost. Basara was there too. He said that now due to the fact that hes not sure about his schedule after 4/20 he is not sure what is going to happen with SBO quals so he decided to break up the team. I honestly have no idea if this is the real reason or not but the bottom line is were not teaming up anymore it seems. Since HH hasnt responded to my email yet I am currently without a team. After a while it was getting late and I was tired as hell and didnt feel like playing anymore so I had no problem going home. I dont know what I am gonna do for my SBO team now, I guess ill just have to see what happens. Next weekend theres a tournament at Alpha Station near Shin Okubo. Ill be sure to go to that one as well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

No One Came

This one starts out as usual. I took the train after work to Akihabara and played casuals like I always do. I saw Basara there among some other top players like Ogawa. I asked Basara when the first qualifier for SBO will be. He says it will be in Tokyo in Nakano at TRF game center on 4/6. However, he said that he and Domi will not be able to enter that qualifier due to Domi having other business to attend to. As far as I can tell they still plan to team up with me for future tournaments but im not sure. I played for a bit and got a few small streaks. Didnt get around to playing Ogawa or anything. Eventually it started to die so I went to Shinjuku. The night at Current was pretty typical with nothing really noteworthy to mention.

The next day there was a tournament schedule at Las Vegas in Shinjuku which is conveniently located across the street from where I sleep. I woke up, got some food, and started playing casuals. There was a good Zappa player sitting at the cab next to me. I had played him before at Akihabara last weekend and went back and forth with him. He had a nice win streak so I asked him if he wanted to team up with me. At first he said he wasnt sure yet. Eventually I guess he must have been watching me play and saw me beat some good people so he said he would team up with me after all. His handle is Mitsurugi. This was a 2 on 2 tournament so all that was left now was to wait till it started. We signed up under the name the Dr/patient team since its Faust and Zappa. After signups it ended up as being a round robin tourny with 2 pools of 5 teams with the top 2 teams playing in the finals. Our first match was against a team of 2 Sol players (they allowed same character teams). These Sols were both extremely unorthadox and just played very off the wall and non conventional. You can tell they were friends and played together often because they pretty much used a lot of the same tricks. Lots of stuff dealing with momentum from FRCd special moves involving mobility tactics and extended dust loop type stuff. I went first and my match was very close but I lost. I had beat both of the Sols in casuals before the tourny but then I lost to one of them right before the tourny started. Mitsurugi went next and managed to beat both Sols. Up next we had to fight a team of 2 girls. One was the Dizzy player who won the all girls tournament that I accidently went to about a month ago. The other was this really hot Zappa player who I often see around. I went first against Dizzy and lost in a close game. Mitsurugi proceeded to beat both of them. Up next was a team of Pochio (Slayer) and Abagen (Po). I went first vs Slayer. I won the first round but lost the 2nd round. The 3rd round started with Slayer doing a gold burst which hit me and he got full meter. I wasnt expecting this at all and no one really ever uses this strategy but it worked well since Slayer with a full bar has so much potential to just rape you in the ass. I ended up losing. Unfortunately Mitsurugi also lost to Slayer but im not surprised given how bad a mathup that is for Zappa. The last match of our pool was vs a duel Dizzy team. One was a girl and I think she was the girlfriend of the other guy on the team. I went first against the girl and beat her pretty easily. Then I lost in a very close match to the other guy. Mitsurugi also lost to he male Dizzy. With our record at 2 and 2, we didnt advance out of our pool. In the end the Abagen/Pochio team won the whole tournament. I didnt feel like I played exceptional in the tournament matches and was doing much better in casuals after the tourny. I stayed and played for several hours and managed to beat everyone I lost to in the tournament but it was too little too late. I was determined to do better at the Game Newton singles tournament that was schedule for the next day. Gin was there and had also played in the tournament with a Potemkin player but was in the other pool. I played against him in casuals and was beating him pretty hard. He went out of his way tot tell me that ive gotten a lot better since last time we played. He still has no team for SBO so I could team with him most likely if it comes down to it but I dunno. After the tournament a lot more top players just randomly showed up like Zero and H.H. among others. I asked H.H. who his SBO team was out of curiosity and he said he didnt have one yet. I told him that Basara and Domi is most likely going to be my team but that theres a chance they may not be able to make it to a lot of tournaments. I asked H.H. if he would like to team up with me if they cant play. He said he would be willing to do it so we exchanged email. I played him about 3 times and beat him one, the other 2 games were extremely close. One of the unorthadox Sol players managed to beat H.H. too. I ended the night with playing a shit ton of games vs one of the Sols and went back and forth with him. Then I got a message from my friend Liz.

Liz was around since she had gone to a concert in Saitama. She had to return back to her home fairly early on Sunday morning so she wouldnt be able to get a hotel room and sleep late so she decided she wanted to go drinking with me all night and just take the first train home. She emailed me when she arrived at Shinjuku station and I went to go find her. She got lost a hell and after lots of email tag and wondering around I told her to just stay put and eventually found her. Once I found her though everything was cool. We stopped at First Kitchen and got some food. I had a fish sandwich and a beer.

We then walked to Current. We stayed and drank there for a few hours. Eventually Chip showed up with a friend of his named Sawa. She is a friend of his from back in Osaka. She spoke perfect English and had a British accent since she studied in the UK. The 4 of us eventually went to Gravity. The dudes who work there were excited to see me since it had been a while. Right away they were asking me to sing songs on the mic while they played them on guitar. I figured why not. They asked me to sing a song by some and ive never heard before and I didnt know how it went so it wasnt so great. The next 2 songs I sang were Bark at the Moon by Ozzy and Rock and Roll by Zeppelin. I did good on both of those and Sawa complimented me on my singing (even though I think its pretty mediocre at best). After that we went back to Current for one more beer and then they closed. The first train back to Gunma didnt leave until after 6 so Liz had time to kill. I took her to PSY for some more drinking since they are open till 6. Nothing to eventfull happened there, we just had more drinks and talked about various things. Eventually they closed so I walked her near the station so she wouldnt get lost and went back to the Manga kissa for sleep.

The next day I woke up with some time to kill since the Tournament at Game Newton wasnt scheduled to start till 5. I went to Shinjuku station and stood in line to buy some overnight bus tickets for my spring break trip to Kansai. I was able to get roundtrip tickets for just under 10,000 yen, which is like 1/4 the price of a roundtrip shinkansen ticket. I will leave from Shinjuku and arrive in Osaka. Since the first SBO qual is the last weekend of spring break on Sunday I will leave Osaka Saturday night and return on Sunday morning. After buying the tickets I headed over to Oyama for the Game Newton tournament. I wanted to get there early so I could get lots of casuals in to warm up. Much to my dismay, when I arrived there were only 3 people in the whole arcade. One was the guy who worked there who seemed to be doing repair work on the main cab that would be used for the tourny. There was also some random guy just playing some Gundam game alone. The last guy was playing 3S. I had time to kill so I decided to play 3S for like the first time in forever. I was never good at the game to begin with because I never put any real effort into learning it but I almost beat the guy. He was using Q. Then I played him like 2 more times and got owned so I just said fuck it and went for a walk. After a while I returned to the arcade it and was still dead with no one playing GG. I went for another walk and came back. This time there was one guy playing AC against the computer. I got on the cab and played against his Sol, beat him without losing a round. Then he picked Johnny on me 2 times and I beat him both times without losing a round again. Then he gave up and left the arcade. At this point it was 5 minutes after 5:00 and I asked the guy who worked at the arcade what was going on. There was infact a tournament scheduled for today but no one showed up at all. It was kinda depressing and I really have no idea why. Game Newton isnt the biggest arcade and its not in the most convenient location, but I had been there twice before and they had good turnouts. I didnt feel like wasting any more of my day for the slight chance that maybe I could play in a 3 man tournament that would start an hour late so I just left and went back to Shinjuku.

During the time when I was walking around Oyama to kill time, I thought to email the girl who I am buying my X-Japan concert ticket from and ask her what time the show starts and ends, since it occured to me that my overnight bus trip that leaves after the show might be too early. She said it would be cutting it close but said I could get another ticket for Friday instead. I told her to check it out for me. Then I thought about it and if I did that id have to take an extra vacation day so I decided to change my bus ticket to a later time. I changed it to about an hour later and it costed about 3000 yen more but its worth it since the Friday ticket was more expensive anyway. I then told her I changed it and she seemed kinda upset that I didnt wait to tell her first but after a string of emails it seems its going to be fine and I can still go to the Sunday show. I then pretty much just played casuals for like the last 2 hours at Vegas. The hot Zappa chick was there and a few other people but nothing too noteworthy was going on.

On the way home on the train, I got an email from Basara. I had mailed him the day before telling him that if they couldnt team with me I would team with H.H. They said that since they couldnt make the 4/6 tournament to go ahead and team with him. They mentioned nothing about further tournaments but as far as I can tell its still fine to be on their team. I emailed H.H. to tell him about the 4/6 tourny but he still hasnt responded to my email. In addition to that I dont really know who else we will have on our team but I guess it wont be too hard to figure out.

Next week theres a 3 on 3 at Game Chariot in Goi that I will most likely go to. At least people will actually show up to this one. Lets just hope its not some all girls bullshit or posted as the wrong date :P

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

alcohol > snow

Im gonna take this one back a little bit and start in the middle of the week. On Wednesday night I was driving my girlfriend home and we ended up driving through a fucking blizzard. I could hardly see at all because the snow was so heavy and thick and I constantly had to stop the car and get out to clean off my headlights because the snow I was driving through kept completely covering them and I could hardly see. After driving for a long time like some kinda senile old man I finally managed to drive her home. On the way back it was just as bad, but to make matters worse I realized that my gas tank was well past the E mark. This instantly brought back horrid memories of the last time I went to Nebraska with team Chicago and we ran out of gas in the middle of no where. The last thing I wanted to do was run out of gas in a blizzard, but I didnt really have much choice but to keep driving since there were no gas stations open at this hour in my tiny fucking town. Eventually I finally actually made it home somehow and I just sorta parked my car sorta halfass in front of my apartment.

The next morning (Thursday) I woke up to find my car completely burried in snow up to the windshield and considering I had no gas at all basically, I didnt even think about driving to work. I put on my snow pants and walked to work through the thick snow. When I arrived, all of the teachers and many of the students were out front shoveling out the front lot so people could park their cars. I grabbed a shovel and helped dig for a while and we ended up digging well into 1st period. Eventually it was enough and everyone could get their cars in. I walked home and when I returned home I was happy to see that the town did a nice job of clearing out the parking lot in front of my apartment and unburied my car. I had made plans to go skiing with Ryoko (my girlfriend) that evening so after work I changed my clothes and headed out. I was pretty nervous on the way to the gas station that I would break down but luckely I made it there... and I really have no idea how I did considering how long my car was well past Empty.

I picked her up and she told me that she realized that she had lost her cellphone at some point between last night and now. I called her phone to see if it was somewhere in my car but there was no ring. I told her we could check my place later. We enjoyed skiing for 4 hours at a place like only 10 mins drive from my apartment. Afterwords our bodies were both pretty tired and we were both pretty hungry. It was already about 10:30 at night at this point but we went back to my place to have some dinner. When we arrived at my apartment Ryoko suggested that I tried calling her phone again in front of my apartment building in the parking lot. Much to my surprise, this time we heard the phone ring in the distance. We headed towards the sound and it lead us to the general area of a pile of snow along side a fence that was about almost as tall as me that went out about 7 feet from the fence and stretched along side it for maybe 3o feet. The phone must have fallen out of her purse when we were getting in my car to go home Wednesday night during the blizzard and got plowed into the big snow pile when they cleaned out the parking lot. We were happy to hear the phone ring but then were suddenly filled with a sense of despair as we then heard the sound of her phones battery dying. As a result I couldnt keep calling her phone to confirm the location so we had a rough idea as to where it was but certainly not very exact. I turned on my car again so that we could use the headlights to see and I grabbed a shovel and started digging. I gave her another shovel that I had in my car but was unfortunately pretty weak so it didnt do much good. I probably dug in the snow for around 45 minutes. My body was already aching from the skiing all day and all the digging earlier but I kept trying. Eventually after 45 mins she told me to just give up. I had already dug up a section of the giant snow pile all the way to the fence and theres no way of telling if I had simply completely missed the phone or if I had already dug it out and re buried it without being able to see it. I didnt want to give up because I felt bad knowing that the phone was somewhere there and all of her contact information for people she knows was stored in her phone and she didnt have most of the info anywhere else. It seriously felt like looking for a needle in a haystack (at the risk of sounding cliche) or digging for some buried treasure when you dont know where the fucking X is... except pirates got to dig for treasure on a tropical island while drunk on fine rum... I was sober and freezing. I told her sorry and that I felt bad for not finding it but she was happy that I at least tried (though I still feel bad). I made us some spaghetti and then drove her home since it was already really late and we both had work in the morning.

The next day (Friday) I went to school and it was more or less a regular day... until 6th period. Many of the student's parents came to watch their classes and we had several of them come watch our 6th period English class. It was no big deal to me and I didnt mind. However.... the parents stayed after 6th period and had a meeting with some of the teachers. When 4:15 rolled around I got ready to leave the school and head home to get my stuff and drive to the train station just to catch the 5 pm train as I always do. Unfortunately, when I went outside to go to my car I found that doing so was impossable. Due to the fact that our school isnt very big and to all the snow, the parents had to just pile their cars in anywhere that they could find room. This meant that my car was now blocked by about 10 or so parents cars and I had no way to go home until their meetings were over. I sat around and waited, hoping that they would leave soon. After much time eventually I got out of there a little after 6 pm. I knew that by the time I got to Tokyo it was going to be almost 10 pm so I figured going to Akihabara to play casuals was more or less pointless since sometimes people start to clear out of there as early as 10:30 or 11. Knowing this I figured I would make the most of the situation so I decided I would get nice a drunk. Before getting on the train I bought a bottle of Suntory whiskey from 7-11. I slept for an hour on the train and then after I transfered trains at Takasaki I spent the next 2 hours on the train, drinking whiskey and chasing it with cola, and playing Final Fantasy V on my DS. I had to get off at Akabane to transfer again since I was heading straight to Shinjuku this time. I used the opportunity to buy the latest Arcadia from the bookstore at the station since I didnt know the tournament schedule for the weekend yet. Much to my dissapointment, there were no tournaments scheduled anywhere in Tokyo, Chiba, or Saitama for the entire weekend. I recieved an email from my friend Liz while I was on the train. Liz is also an ALT and lives in the city of Numata which is next to where I live. She said that there was a concert of this Japanese band that she likes called Quaff and they were playing in Tokyo at Takadanobaba on Saturday evening. She asked if I would go with her. Finding out that there were no tournaments afterall I told her I would go with her and to reserve me a ticket.

By the time I finally arrived in Shinjuku I had finished the entire bottle of whiskey and was feeling pretty good. It was about 10 pm and even though I was pretty buzzed, the desire to play some Guilty was still strong in me, so I headed to Vegas. There were a few people playing there and I got some nice games of casuals in. It felt like old times playing drunk back in Chicago at Blacksnake's place since I never play intoxicated anymore these days. After about an hour it started to get dead in there so I figured I should just head to Current and get further drunk. It was more or less a typical night at Current. There were some regulars there but the place wasnt rediculously packed. Chip made his return after a 3 week trip to San Fransisco for a business meeting. We talked a lot about various things and about Street Fighter IV and he was telling me stories about Ono since he knew him back when he used to work for Capcom. He still is skepticle of how this game is going to turn out. I told him about my impressions of the game from playing it at AOU. There of course were some posative things and some negative things but IMO the game still needs a lot more work and Chip doesnt think that Ono is going to pull through on this one unfortunately. The bar ended up staying open till 6 am which is an hour more than ussual. There were enough people there till late to justify keeping it open longer. As a result I was drinking from about 8pm to 6am, yet I still felt fine. Granted I was wasted but I wasnt feeling sick or anything like that. I left and headed to the ussual spot for sleep.

Saturday I woke up and my head didnt hurt at all thanks to the fact that I drank the whisky BEFORE all that beer. I got an email from Masami (one of the bar tenders of Current) saying that he was playing a concert somewhere in Tokyo with his friends from Norway (the 2 guys that I met the weekend of the Iron Maiden and AOU show). I wanted to go see his show but I already had made plans with Liz so I told him I would just see him later that night at Current. Liz told me to meet her at Takadanobaba at around 6:30 pm for the show. That meant I had about 5 or 6 hours of time to play some Guilty so I headed for Akihabara casuals. I enjoyed a nice long session of Gear and played well for the most part. At one point I had a 17 win streak until I eventually lost in a close match to a Millia player (::shakes fist at Millia::). Eventually it was about time to go so I headed for Takadanobaba.

I met Liz in front of the Takadanobaba train station and we took a short walk over to the small club where the concert was going to take place. By the time we got our tickets and I shoved my large backpack into a tiny 100 yen pay locker (somehow), I cashed in my free drink voucher that came with the ticket at the bar and got myself a Kirin on tap. We headed into the tiny room where the concert was going to take place. There was hardly anyone there at all. This concert was mostly just smaller underground bands and there were 7 different ones playing that night. I think we might have missed the 1st or 2nd band that went on but I didnt really care nor did Liz since the only one she ever heard of was Quaff and I never heard of any of em at all. The first band that we saw play I think was called Core9th or something, they had a guitarist who sang, a bassist, and a drummer (who was a hot Japanese chick and was really the only talented one in the band). They had a bunch of sample techno type stuff going on and it sorta just didnt sound that great. After their short set ended I got another beer, I figured I already had one so I might as well just keep drinking until the night was over. The next band to go on was uhh... I honestly dont remember the name and I dont have the ticket stub with me, but it doesnt matter cuz they pretty much sucked. They had 2 singers and 2 guitarists and a bassist and a drummer. All guys, they sounded pretty generic. The coolest thing about them was the lead singer had a nice AC/DC shirt on. After their set I got another beer. The next band to go on was Quaff. These guys had the same linup as the previous band having 2 singers, 2 guitarists, a bassist and a drummer. Unlike the previous band, however, Quaff was actually good. They were the only band that actually played a single fucking guitar solo in any of their songs. The song writing was nice and I actually enjoyed their set. They were sorta like borderline visual kei band but they didnt look overly extreme. One of the dudes had a mask on and most of them had spikey dyed hair, but none of them were wearing drag or anything like that. Liz, of course, thought they were hot. Unfortunately they only played like 7 songs. After their set I grabbed another beer. It was still not too late so we decided to stay and see who the next band was. They were a band called Bermuda Vagabond. To put it quite bluntly they sucked. They had 7 band members. 2 singers, 2 guitarists, 2 drummers, and a bassist. They reminded me of a cross between Slipknot and System of a Down but less tallented than both. Given that I hate Slipknot and think System of a Down is alright on occasion at best, I didnt exactly enjoy their set. The main singer was just this big fat guy who was screaming a lot and the songs all sounded the same. After their set we decided we would just see how the next band was and if they sucked we would leave. They were called the Garlic Boys and I didnt really enjoy them either. Liz described it as "screamo" but whatever you wanna call it... crap is crap. She wasnt digging them either so we left during their 2nd song. As we were leaving, the guys from Quaff were in the lobby/bar area talking to people. I urged Liz to talk to them but she chickened out since she isnt confident in her Japanese and I guess they were sorta intimidating. We got our stuff and stopped at a convenient store to get some quick food.

Liz decided she would go with my to Shinjuku because I wanted to show her Current. She had a hotel already reserved somewhere else in Tokyo though so she could only stay about an hour until the last train left Shinjuku. When we got to Current they had another one of their metal events with guest DJs and as usual the place was packed as hell. Liz isnt much of a metal head but she enjoyed the bar and thought that Mogi (the bartender) was hot but didnt get a chance to talk to him. Eventually Liz had to go so I walked her out and she left. I stayed till closing again and drank the whole time, talking to various people I see there often. The guys from Norway said they were going back to Norway later in the week so I wished em a safe trip back and stuff. Nothing too crazy went on but it was good times and I got good and drunk again. After closing I headed back for more sleep as always.

Since I had no plans at all for Sunday, I dedicated the entire day to playing some Guilty since I didnt get too much time to play this weekend so far (6 or so hours may seem like a lot to some people but for me lately thats not that much for 2 days). I went to Akihabara Club Sega again. It was good and packed and lots of various top players were there. I managed to beat Zero and Osaka B once. I had several small win streaks and was winning more than I was losing in general. Ogawa eventually showed up to and said hi. At one point I left the arcade to get some food. On my way back I passed by another arcade a few doors down from Club Sega and noticed they were having a location test for SFIV so I went in to check it out. They had a bout 6 cabs going and the first thing I noticed was someone was fighting Sagat. I stayed for about 15 mins and watched and I saw both Balrog (boxer) and Sagat in the game. Both characters were CPU only and werent yet on the character select screen. I sorta wanted to play but the line was long and id rather play Gear. I then headed back to Club Sega. When I got back I asked around to various people if they wanted to team up for SBO since I still had no team. I even asked Ogawa if he was going to be able to play in SBO this year and he said maybe but he still isnt sure. After having a bunch of people tell me they already had teams, Basara (the Slayer player I teamed up with a few weeks ago, also the same guy who I hung out with in Tachikawa months ago when they all let me crash at one of their apartments during SB2 quals) showed up. I asked him if he had a team and he said that he was teaming up with Domi, but much to my surprise he said that I could probably be the 3rd member on the team. I was pretty happy to hear this since both Domi and Basara are very solid players. Basara said something about Domi having to work a lot lately though so he wasnt sure how well it will work out. I exchanged contact info with Basara. After that it was about time to leave. I played Ogawa's Eddie 3 times and lost but the last time was extremely close. After that I said goodbye to everyone and left to go home.

On the way home on the train I got an email from Domi. The rundown of the email was basically him thanking me for joining the team. Then he proceeded to explain that he hasnt had the chance to play the game much yet this year and might be a bit rusty and said that he may not be able to go to a lot of qualifiers. He suggested that because of this maybe I should look for another team. I told him that hes a strong player and that I still wanted to team with him. I know that sometimes the Japanese can be very indirect and at first I wasnt sure if he was being honest or if he was saying this in order to sorta indirectly say he didnt want to team with me. I showed the email to my girlfriend later and she told me that it didnt sound like that at all and that he was being sincere. I havnt heard back from either of them yet so I dont really know if this is gonna go down or not, but Domi (AN) / Basara (SL) / ElvenShadow (FA) would be a pretty solid SBO team I think. I guess I will just roll with it for now and see how things go when quals start next month. Ill keep my options open but for now its at least nice to know that I have something to fall back on and am not completely without any options.

I still feel bad about not finding my girlfriends phone btw...