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.
And you thought American airports were messed up
- August, 2000
Riding the train the other day across Japan, I sat down and took the chance to read the newspaper, and see what was happening in my world.  Interestingly, in this incredibly safe nation of Japan, just last week terrorists tried to blow up a car owned by the head of the Ministry of Transportation, though it was a pretty weak bomb and nothing really happened.

Seems there are people still mad at the ministry for building the national airport on confiscated agricultural land.  In 1972.  Certainly it’s none of my business, but these people need to get over it.  On the upside, all of those terrorists must be getting old by now.  Perhaps this explains their rather weak bomb in their latest attack; they’re getting too feeble to actually lift suitable explosives.

I took particular interest in this story as I was heading for Japan’s newest airport, Kansei International in Osaka. On a man-made island in the sea, it’s irritated most every Japanese alive save its managers and three World War II soldiers still hiding somewhere in the Philippines.  I think, though, that I understand the thought process that went into this airport:

Reasons NOT to Build Kansei Airport:

  1. Man-made island will need to have dirt and rock brought in from as far away as Taiwan at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars before the airport’s even started.
  2. Airport will basically be on possibly unstable landfill in a country that is regularly struck by earthquakes and tidal waves.
  3. Airport is a 45-minute drive from the city, and even longer when there is actually traffic.
  4. Airport will likely start sinking into the sea within five years.

 

Reasons to Build Kansei Airport:

   1. Geriatric terrorists will not still be trying to blow up Ministry of Transportation officials 30 years from

       now.


Makes sense to me.  And you thought America’s airports were screwed up.

As I said, I was doing this pondering on Japan’s most popular means of travel: trains.  Basically, there are two types of trains here, the fastest one being the Shinkansen. Americans call this the “Bullet Train.”

When I caught the Shinkansen a few weeks back, it was the nicest thing I’d ever ridden on in my life.  The seats are spacious, the windows huge, the ride smooth, and the train rips along at over 180 miles per hour. It’s like watching “Murder on the Orient Express” with the “PLAY” button on fast forward.  On the turns the whole train tilts up and into the turn so you stay on the tracks. But, since the train is moving doing somewhere near Warp 3, even though you see yourself tipping, you don’t actually feel it. 

  The Shinkansen is pretty expensive, however, and this was a personal trip, so I took the cheaper JR (Japan Railway) trains.  They stop more often and go slower, but at $42 for a 120 mile trip, they are about half what the Shinkansen costs.  Even at the cheap rate, though, you do get a reserved seat, and I settled into mine for the two-hour ride.  About 45 minutes from my destination, though, I discovered I was in the wrong seat, and that my seat was actually forward in Car No. 1.

In Japan there are about 140 million people.  Some 72 million of them smoke.  All but two of them were in Car No. 1.  No kidding, I opened the door into the car, and smoke came billowing out.  You could not even see the other end of the car.

In just that brief moment of exposure, I’m pretty sure I shortened my life by 45 minutes. Which means I’m now destined to die 30 minutes before the end of the “Star Wars” saga.

In any case, I went back to my car and stood the last 45 minutes before pulling into Osaka, counting the minutes.  Kansei Airport sank over a foot last year into the sea bed; I figured I’d better hurry.