June 24, 2015's Weekly Slap:

“Beach Slapped” is what it is because from the moment I first came to the Oregon Coast, most every moment I lived here, and even my last hours here, it was always about the beach. That wasn’t always true of my life, and perhaps that’s been my problem.

Growing up in Colorado, I was a long way from the beach. I don’t care what anyone says, lounging next to a giant lake/ civic water supply is not the beach.

BartonGroverHowe.com:Where to keep up with humor writer Barton Grover Howe. Here, you'll find all of his Beach Slapped columns from The News-Times in Lincoln County, Oregon, excerpts from his latest books and the occasional random musing that would get him fired if he published it in a family newspaper.
I think I know what it is ... perhaps I'll eat it
- July, 2000
Grocery shopping in Japan is in some respects like the U.S.: you go to a store, find what you want, and pay for it.  It’s not like some countries, where you wait in line four hours to buy bread and toilet paper (and then discover the toilet paper tastes better than the bread).

I do most of my shopping at Daiei, one of the biggest supermarket chains in Japan.  Like most Japanese grocery stores, it’s in the basement of a large department store.  I have to tell you, like all grocery stores in Japan this place has a HUGE oriental food section.

OK, that’s pretty funny.  But I really did notice this – for just about one second, and then I realized how unbelievably dumb that was.  Further, as I was having trouble reading labels and finding things, I thought, “Hey, why don’t they have one of those store directories overhead, so I can read where things are?” Then it occurred to me that would be in Japanese, too, which I couldn’t read anyway.  From these two incidents we can discover two things:

  1. Occasionally I really do forget I’m in a different country.
  2. Occasionally I am really stupid.

            Well, anyway, I began my shopping mission with some basic goals in mind: find some Diet Coke, get some eggs, ham and cheese, to make omelets with, some bread for sandwiches, some cereal and milk, and some basic munchies, for snacking between shows.  While I was at it I should have tried to accomplish peace in the Middle East, put a man on Mars, and tried to figure out where Jimmy Hoffa really is.

            Obviously, everything is in Japanese, so you just have to sort of guess what it is you’re buying.  Now certainly, you can tell you’re buying milk; even in Japan a milk carton is a milk carton.  But is it pasteurized?  Is it whole?  Is it 2%?  Needless to say, when you get home and you open it up, you’re just happy if it actually came from a cow.

            In the seafood section, I have no idea what animals the various parts come from.  I presume, however, in Japan’s oceans there are a lot of tentacles, as everything in this store seems to have it.  Purple tentacles, white tentacles, brown tentacles, if it has suckers on it, they’ve got it.  You can always tell the relative newcomers to Japan by the funny looks on their faces when they hit the seafood aisles.

            Now, it should also be noted these newcomers make funny noises as well, at least I think they do; I did. (“What is, uh . . . that’s a . . . eeewwwwwww.”)  But you never actually hear these sounds.  First, decorum prevents this type of display in a buttoned-down nation such as Japan.  Second, there’s so darned much noise in a Japanese grocery store that you can’t hear anything anyway.  In every nook and cranny of the store, there are t.v.s and boom-boxes blaring out one advertisement after another.  The best part is when you’re in between two of them, and you can hear both.  As near as I could make out I was being invited to try a shoe polish made with cheese. And would I like fries with that?

            Escaping from the verbal assault, a box of corn chips caught my eye.  Nothing especially exciting about corn chips, except that on the box was a Colorado Rockies player.  I know the Rockies are not the greatest team in baseball, so this struck me as a little strange. Then I noticed: the player was the Rockies’ Japanese pitcher.  Very cool.  Mystery solved, and I bought the box of corn chips.

            Finally, as you wander though the store – and really anywhere in Japan – you find that a lot of Japanese products have distinctive sounding western names.  I guess it gives them a certain style.  Unfortunately, to someone who speaks English natively, they sound darned strange. Indeed, I am reminded of the fact that many years ago, when Chevrolet imported the Nova into Mexico, sales were very disappointing.  Turns out in the Spanish language, “No va” means, “No go.”  Not the best name for a car, and the business of international market research was born.

            I think of this as I purchase my bottle of Calpis Nude, a fruit-water drink.  Immediately, I am struck that in the U.S. this would be the ultimate drink wherever young people would choose to congregate.  I also think it would probably touch off a boycott of somebody.

            For me, though, I have this image of naked cows frolicking in a field full of kiwis and oranges. (Yes, I know, all cows are nude, but I’m just telling what I imagined.) I find this endlessly amusing, and I buy at least one bottle every few days and it always makes me laugh.  It helps pass the time I spend lost in the Oriental food section.