Monday, June 20, 2011

Restaurants A Go Go


Anderson, Indiana

This is THE Greasy Spoon if there ever was one. The Lemon Drop is an Anderson institution that has been around since the 1950's from what I understand. The outside is electric yellow and full of neon lights that welcome the hungry traveller. The inside doesn't look like it has changed much since the 1950's. Inside the milkshake machine, flat top grill, prep station, etc... ALL vintage. Also, on the inside they have this really cool toy train & track that goes around the entire restaurant as you eat. My son loves that aspect of the joint. They have a counter that sits right up on where all of the action happens. It can seat about 10 people. You can watch the owner and the waitresses work their magic on your food as you wait. You can even listen to the jukebox while you watch the folks move around like busy bees getting your food ready. The rest of the place has a few booths in the nooks and crannies. It is NOT big at all maybe it can hold about 30 people if that. Usually you have to wait to sit down which is a testament to how good the food is here. Talking about the food they have hamburgers, cheese burgers, breaded tenderloin, chicken strips/breast, onion rings, French fries, etc....However, they are most famous for their "Onion Burgers"!!! To wash all of that down you have the choice of Vanilla & Cherry Coke. For dessert they have handmade milk shakes!!! When you get ready to pay you are encouraged to take a lemon drop from the basket that is waiting for you at the register. How clever I must say. I don't know much about The Lemon Drop's history, but I have talked to people who have said they have been going to this restaurant since they were kids and they are now in their 50's & 60's. The owner now I know is also the cook. He is always happy and very personable. The waitresses remember every aspect of your order without writing it down and yells it to the cook verbatim as you told them. I have no idea if it was/is a family business or if the menu has changed over time. What I do know is if you are from the Indianapolis area or if you are driving through you MUST stop in at The Lemon Drop. You will be glad that you did.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sayonara Summer

Well this is my last day before going back to work. Usually I find myself bored and wanting to get back to work by summers end. However, being able to spend every waking moment with my wonderful son has made me going back hard. I now know what it feels like when parents must leave their kids in the care of someone else as they go off to work. It sucks! However, we feel that we have found a great daycare for him. With the help of RonAnna and that makes it a little easier. So please be praying for Luka as well as for us in the coming weeks to get on a routine that can serve us all well. The good thing about Luka is he is friends with everyone and he just jumps right in and starts playing and running around and making friends asap. Just like his old man.

This is also a very big week for me since I am taking on a new job, school, student(s), location, etc... It will be tough at first, but I am just asking God for the guidance and the wisdom to put everything into perspective and to be able to tackle anything head on. Not to stress out and worry about stuff. It does NOT do anything for you and really just brings you down. So if you could also pray for my new job that would be swell.

So this past week. I was able to spend a lot of quality time with, Luka this past week before starting school. This was great and only continues to build our relationship as father and son. Shoko and I have been doing a lot house searching and have narrowed down the city and price range for what we think will be best for our family. So, now it will be a waiting game for getting the down payment together and getting out from under our apartment contract which is not finished until Dec. so we have some time. We also have found a new church it seems and we really LOVE it there. Luka, has been doing great with the 2 year old class and the people already remembered his name (that is because he is such a great kid not a problem child btw...). They have two different services that go on simultaneously one that is more traditional with hymns and such and one that is more modern and upbeat. Shoko and I have been going to the early modern service and think it is just great. The pastor is a great speaker and really engages his audience and makes the time fly and you are having fun as you learn. We will keep going here and even look to get plugged into the church more and try to meet people and maybe make it our new home. So please be praying for us as we make the new and exciting choice in picking this church to be our new home.
Editor's note-
Last week Luka had gotten really sick (103 F) so I was unable to finish this blog until now. So, I'm sorry it has taken me an extra few days to get this out. He is much better now, but we were scared for about 48 hours. Also, I missed my first day of work because I was nursing him back to health. So if it seems a little short or scattered that is because of me and just trying to get back in the saddle again.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weekend of Horrors

So on Friday the Payne family headed south for a fun filled weekend with our friends and family. The main reason I went back home was to attend a horror convention in Louisville, KY. I had fun catching up with old friends, meeting new friends and visiting with the guests that they had there, but the con was kind of lame. So now that it out of the way let us talk a little bit about the fun weekend that was had by all.

Once we got into town we went straight ahead to visit our beloved friends the Stackhouses. They have three children that are all around Luka's age so it is great fun for them to all play together while us adults talk. Now, I have been friends with Kyle & Erin aka Kyrin since we were all in high school together. They are like my brother and sister and they took to Shoko right away when I introduced her to them over 10 years ago now as my fiance'. So we have grown together for a while now. We miss them a ton, but it is like a family reunion every time we get together. God has really placed this family in our lives and for that we are so grateful. We talked about So. Indiana, church, extended family issues, kids, etc...It was fun and the kids played great together and that is always nice. After the nice visit we piled into the Cube and drove to our home away from home.....

The Mucklows aka JonaBeth are what the hands and feet of God is all about. They had a hot date with some friends so we let ourselves in because we have an all access pass into their home so VIP I know and got ready for the evening to wind down. Once we were settled in they came home and we talked for a few hours just catching up with our dear friends. The next day we had Williams Bakery donuts and it still tasted as it did back in the 80's. I love how some things never change. I then headed off to the HORROR Convention and Shoko took Luka for shopping while Jonabeth did their thang! Later in the day we all met up and went to Tubby's for pizza and pizza like food! Once finished there we were all very full, but we parted ways once again for us we went to surprise my family and they had another hot date, but this time it was just dessert!

Dad was not there when we first got there and Becky and her kids were upstairs and mom was in the back room. Now, you have to know my family because every TV is always on in the house and it is SUPER LOUD at all times so not a single person heard us knocking. Even though I was knocking like I was the police it did not matter. So I opened the door and went around to my parents room and opened the door very gently since I know that they are pacing heat and I did not want to be blown back out the door. So with Shoko behind me and Luka in my arms we went into the lions den and scared the crap out of mom. She quickly realized it was us and was very happy to see us. Once the alarm bell was made silent we all went out to the living room to talk and I went and made it be known that we were there to my nephew and niece. We love seeing them as they do us, but they really like hanging and playing with Luka now. I was able to talk with sister Becky and she was telling me she is doing so much better now after her operation and feels like a different person. This is a true answer to prayer. Dad then came home and we all talked and gave each other a hard time as families do or at least my family. The kids played very well with each other the entire time. Luka really looks up to his big cousin Keelan and imitates him all the time. He even does things here at our home days and weeks later that Keelan did or that he showed him. It is so wonderful!!!! Some examples are Taekwondo punches and kicks, ninja walking, funny faces & jumping ninja style. Once we were finished we packed up and headed back to JonaBeth's crib for sleep.

Luka and Shoko were already in bed when JonaBeth made it home. The three of us talked for a while then we also hit the hay. The next morning Mary Beth fixed us all a AWESOME breakfast. Eggs, sausages & pancakes were on the menu and every bit of it was excellent. Once we all finished we took off back to our adopted home in Central Indiana. We had a great time this weekend so thank you all for making it a grand time. I don't know what we would do without you guys in our lives. So Thank you.

p.s. Shoko would not let me stop at the Antique & Flea Market building on the way back in Austin. :(

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm Back!

First, let me just say I know it has been way to long since my last update. In my defense I moved back from Japan, worked on getting a job, then worked on getting a new and better job, bring my family back from Japan, get Shoko back to work, and now playing Mr. Mom like my boy Michael Keaton. So that is my story and I am sticking to it.

If I try to go back and update all of you fine folks on what has been happening in these last few months it will not be a blog, but a flippin novel so I will just start anew. So please follow along as I give you the Magical Mystery Tour.

Starting this week Shoko and I have decided not to give Luka a morning nap since he is sleeping into the late afternoon for his afternoon because his morning nap puts him later at falling asleep for the afternoon one. You following me? Good! So now this way Shoko can put Luka down at around 8:00 p.m. and he will fall asleep pretty fast instead of playing and goofing around for an hour and it gives Shoko more time to herself and for us to spend time together....

Which brings me to our new obsession CANASTA! That is right we are a couple of 70 year olds playing this card game like we are living in a nursing home. We started playing a week or so ago and having a blast doing so. We have our great new friends who happen to live next door to us here in the apartment RonAnna (Ron & Breanna) also playing with us Euchre when they can. They are a couple of twenty somethings, but as they freely admit they act like old folks as well so this is perfect for us. It also is great for another reason and that is Luka is obsessed with Breanna or as he calls her "Banana". He has just latched onto her and is always wanting to go and see her and Ron or aka "Don". At EVERY morning after breakfast, nap time, or random part of the day he looks at me and gestures knocking on a door for me to let him out of the house and walk about five feet to see if they are home. I have to keep this in check or they will never have a Luka free moment!!! They are so great with him and even in a short time of knowing these fine people Shoko and I are really blessed that God gave us some really cool people to spend time with.

I have been watching a lot of movies recently trying to get through a bunch before I go back to work in a few weeks. I have seen The Crazies (remake), The Wolfman (remake) & Empire of the Ants (B-Movie from 1972 about killer ants) this past week. If you are looking for some good gory fun check out The Wolfman. It is awesome! Great atmosphere, cinematography, music, special effects & costumes.

It has been so hot these past few weeks Luka and I have not been able to do jack squat and that sucks because we both get cabin fever. However, now that he is not taking a morning nap I have more time to do something with him if possible. So today we went to Baker Park here in the Castle and he was the only kid there playing. Which was fine because he had total access. However, he did have fun and played with the swingsets and slides he was more into the dirt, sand & mulch!!! Boys you gotta love them. So as we were finishing up Shoko and I made plans to have a picnic at her place of employment for lunch and she asked me to hit up Subway for her. Now, there is nothing to my knowledge at Subway or little kids like Luka so I had to pick a different place for me/us to eat. Me being the good husband that I am I didn't mind going to two different places. So once at Subway I ordered the food and the lady saw that I was a tad frazzled because I trying to get Shoko's order right. So she was giving me a hard time about its okay for the husband to do the running around sometimes too. I was more worried about the hot sweaty kid behind and I was telling her that and she wanted to see him. The first thing she said was "Oh, he is half Asian." I was like "yes, he is." She then follows that by saying "He is either half Japanese or Korean." I say "He is indeed half Japanese." Lastly, she says "Well he needs a choc. chip cookie because us Asians have to stick together. I'm half Japanese myself" So Luka hit pay dirt and got himself a free cookie. Lucky kid!!!!

Tomorrow, I have my benefits meeting in Greenfield for my new job and so I'm looking forward to that. It nice to be treated like a human with rights and protection again. Unlike here in New Castle where they give you NO sick time, vacation, personal time that is paid. If you don't come in you don't get paid. They do not pay you in the summer it is not even a choice and they give you no insurance or benefits package because they keep your hours to the state minimum so they don't have to pay for that. So thank you God for a company that cares.

This weekend we have a lot going on, but that will be for another post.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Corey Haim Dead At 38

I could go on forever about what people and websites are saying about this 80's icon. I was born in 1978 and so I was a HUGE fan of Corey Haim. I remember watching many of his movies throughout the 1980's. Some of my favorites were The Lost Boys, Silver Bullet & License to Drive. He had done many films over his short career. Most of his best work came from his younger years during the 80's. However, once he started to experiment with drinking and drugs it was all over for him. He never fully recovered. He basically said he didn't want to get back to a clean life and in many interviews and even on Larry King Live said he will be a "relapser forever". He did a handful of forgettable films in the 1990's and 2000's, but most of it if not all of them were pretty terrible. Last year before moving to Japan I would have had the chance to met him at a Horror Convention in Indianapolis. I regret now that I missed my chance.

We see this every year in Hollywood and all over really. That rich and famous people are hurting and all the money and fame they can handle can not bring them happiness. They are searching for something greater and something deeper. Regular people look up to these stars for answers and wishing to be like these stars. They forget to realize these same stars don't have the answers and are miserable and seeking refuge in pills, bottles, needles, etc.... Of course I am not saying this about all rich or famous people, but we as a society put a lot on celebrity thinking this will be what saves us. Look at how many reality shows are popular now..._?!?!?!? There is only one TRUE answer and savior from all of these addictions and pitfalls. If regular people started to look to Jesus for the answers and not famous, rich & powerful people then what a world it would be. If these same famous folks did not seek help at the bottom of a syringe, bottle or any random drug and look to the ONE that can take away all of the pain and loneliness they had would it not be a better way of life for them. They could practice and hone their skills as artists and not get lost in the oblivion of drugs.

Most of you guys know that I am a HUGE movie buff and film fanatic. I collect DVDs, autographs and go to movie conventions. I even help out with a podcast and message board dedicated to film, but at the end of the day this is nothing at all to the saving power of Jesus Christ. I never let the fact that I can now rub elbows with some of my childhood heroes and many of these celebrities I have looked up to growing up or even today look up to as great artist cloud my views of Christ and know that he alone is the one that saves and not mere mortal men and women. I respect their craft and enjoy my time with them, but I do not look to them as some kind of mini gods or for them to replace my relationship with Jesus. They are just people like us. They put their pants on the same way we do. They have feelings and needs like we do. They want to be accepted and liked like we do. They are the SAME as us, but their vocation is what sometimes make them larger than life. The only life that we all should want to obtain is the one that relies on God through Jesus Christ.

Corey- you have given me many great memories through your films. I have laughed with you a lot in the films you help create. I am sorry that you never found peace while on earth. I hope if anything your fans will look to your death as a wake up call in their own lives and see that drugs are NOT the answer and being famous is NOT what it is all cracked up to be. R.I.P.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Month And Counting....

So here we are at the end of February and I have less than a month to go before my journey home. I have mixed feelings about leaving Japan to be honest. I know it is the right decision to make for not only myself, but more importantly my family. However, we are leaving behind some good people and wonderful memories.

The issue that is at the forefront of my mind right now is leaving Shoko & Luka behind for a month while I am trying to get things on track before their arrival. I know it is something I need to do and it has to be done, but the thought of not seeing them is heart wrenching. I think about it daily and sometimes I get overwhelmed with feelings of sadness. I know it is only a short time, but I feel like I will be missing out on a lot with Luka. A lot can/will happen in a month with a child that is only 1 1/2 years old. Also, I want to be there for Shoko to give her a break and support her. Her mom has been great, but they count on me to do a lot so when I am not there it will make things more difficult. So if you could be praying for all of us that would be great. I just need to have the peace and comfort knowing all will be fine and that I will see them soon enough. I think maybe once I am on the plane it will get easier since from that point on it will be a count down to see them again. That is at least what I'm telling myself to get through this

I have met some wonderful teachers this past year that now I consider friends. They have been great in helping me learn the ropes of the job and getting me to where I am at today. I had NO idea what I was doing in April and probably still don't, but at least now I can fake it. ;) I can write for days about teaching here so let me just say that it has been a wonderful and life changing experience for sure. My students have been so amazing and such true delights. The Japanese don't know how good they have it as far as behavior and respect go in the classroom. There are problems as well, but there are problems with American students. There is no perfect way to get all kids to do the right thing. However, here the kids in general have a real sweetness and childlike quality that our kids of the same age back in America are lacking.

The family Payne has met one really great couple here. They have a son the same age as Luka and they have been pretty much growing up together since we got here. Kids this age don't really play with one another yet, but they do interact and that has been such fun to watch. Not only have our kids been good pals we have grown to be great friends with this couple. I have spent numerous days over the last year hanging out with him. We are really totally two different people, but share a common bond of both being Americans, having sons the same age, married to Japanese women and living in Japan as a Gaijin. So a lot of our talks come from these common issues. It has been a real blast getting to know him and his wife and their son. Shoko and his wife get a long smashing as well so that has been great. We all do a lot together or sometimes he and I just have guy guys night out. ;) These times I will miss for sure.

I have two ALT brothers in arms here as well. Though family commitments usually kept us from getting together more than I would have liked they have been a big part of my life this year. One is a great guy from New York and he is a very honest and upfront fella. He was a little hesitant to meet me. He has told me this based on my overtly Christan views and lifestyle. However, we have become friends have talked a lot. Mostly about the two topics you should NEVER talk about with anyone. Kitakyushu with him was one of my favorite times here. Thank you for that! He is not one to mince words and is a straight shooter and has always shown me respect even if he and I disagree with one another. The other cool cat is a man from Fiji. I had never met a Fijian before and when I saw his name the first time on my list of fellow ALTs in this area I thought he was a woman. LOL Once I saw this bloke a woman he is NOT. This guy is one of the most genuine people I have ever met. He has been an amazing ambassador for his people and his country. Our families went to church a few times and they are Methodists so that automatically makes them super groovy in my book. Out of all the people I have met here I feel a close kinship with him and I think a lot of that is due to the fact that he and his wife are Christians and we look at things in a way different as folks that are not. It is a common bond that is shared no matter what your race or nationality. You have a common thread in each others life and that is our Saviour. He and I have talked a lot. I wish I would have had more time with both guys and their families, but this is the life of married man who is an ALT in Japan. Work a lot with not much money and spend what time you have left in the day with your loved ones.

I think one can not talk about Japan and not mention the food. So many people are scared of food which they cant recognize or tell what it is that they are looking at. You just have to throw caution into the wind and dive right in. This is the only way that you can really experience anything food related. The most common thing people think is that Japanese food is the same as Chinese. This is 100% FALSE. There is no real similarities other than white rice. here is a link so you can see what I am talking about. I LOVE Japanese food there are very few things that I don't like. It seems the stuff that I don't like as a whole is in step with many Japanese people as well. and are the biggest offenders to my pallet. I CAN eat it, but would rather not if given the opportunity to decline it. I would if anything strongly encourage all people give authentic Japanese cuisine a real chance. You will I think be really surprised by the great food you will find here or in America. I have been coming to Japan since 1998 and it took me a little time to jump in head first, but once I made the choice to do so it was one the best decisions food wise I have ever made.

This is long enough I suppose. I will be probably do a part two in the coming days/week. I have a few more things to talk about. However, I think this is a good stopping point and I will give your eyes and brain a rest. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think of this post and my other posts. Thanks to everyone who takes a gander at this blog.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Amakusa, Kumamoto Finding Hidden Christians

This past Sunday I went on an AMAZING adventure with Shoko's uncle (Hamamura-san). He has the exact same interest in Japanese history as I do and especially the time when Christianity was first introduced to Japan and then the corresponding years that it was driven underground by the Tokugawa regime. I will post links to the places I visited and the people I am talking about if you want to learn more about it.

So we drove from Ogori, Fukuoka to Amakusa, Kumamoto. It is a beautiful drive along the sea. People think that since I'm on an island that I see the ocean and sea everyday. This is not at all the case as I rarely see either to be honest. It was suppose to rain with a 90% chance and most of the stuff we wanted to do was going to be outside aside from going to museums along the way. Hamamura-san is not a Christian though he is very interested in it and so I was excited to have this chance to be used by God possibly to share my faith with him and not just that, but build a solid friendship over a common interest. So I prayed to God for it to not rain and that we could enjoy the trip and sightseeing together rain free so we never had to have the feeling of being rushed or hurried. Guess what it NEVER rained the entire time until the end of the trip just a little as we begin to look for a place for dinner.

We first arrive at Amakusa Christian Museum. We watched two different films one of them was presented in 3D. I kid you not. They have Christians running around dying and screaming in 3D for your viewing pleasure..... After these two videos you can go on your way and learn about the life of Japanese Christians in Amakusa starting in the 1500's through the 1600's. You learn about the many different people that brought Christianity to Amakusa both non-Japanese and Japanese. About how many of the Daimyo converted to Christianity and in the process their familes and their samurai also converted.

After this we headed for Amakusa Collgio Museum. There they have a replica of the Gutenberg Printing Press and they showed us how it was used to print many Christian books and literature in general. It was kind of a let down to be honest everything they had there was fake and the tour was mostly a guy just talking about the press and a few musical interments that were also The guide did talk a lot about the "Black Ships" the sailed in to the Japanese water carrying the first foreigners and they had replicas of those ships as well. It was a good history lesson. Supposedly Amakusa was the only place outside of Europe that had the Gutenberg Printing Press because it was brought by the missionaries. So that was a cool tidbit of history.

We then went to this little city hall type of place that was not on any tourist info that I had that Hamamura-san knew about. It was not really a popular site, but they had some of the most interesting artifacts from this time period. The had paintings and battle flags. Maps of the time, books, pottery, weapons and even a samurai outfit. It had a little of everything in this oversized room. It was really breathtaking to see all of these real items that were used in secret so that these people could carry on their faith without exposing themselves or loved ones. It was one of the highlights of the trip and it was FREE to look around.

This is around lunch time so we decided get some grub at "Honey" which is like a Japanese version of Denny's. We talk about our trip thus far and then break it down on what we have enjoyed and learned. Then we talked about our next plan of action.

We decided to hit up Amakusa Rosario Hall. Now this place is really cool, but they had ZERO English info. So I had to rely on Hamamura-san for all of the information. They had a TON of artifacts that were used by the Christians in hiding during this time period. They had an exhibit where you could see a hidden room in a Christian's house where they would hide to pray and worship God. It was like something out of Anne Frank. Expect it happen 400 years earlier. They had these Buddhist status that looked like Buddha, but in fact were Mary holding baby Jesus. Also, incense holders for Buddhist/Shinto practices, but had crosses carved in them on their backsides so no one would know that they were offering up their prayers to Jesus. Just a lot of handmade crosses and Christian images that have been found or kept through the years. It was the most interesting place we visited by far.

To close out our wonderful trip we decided to go visit two old churches that reside almost side by side on two different small islands. They both have a lot of history dating back to the start of the early 1900's. The first one we headed to was Sakitsu Cathedral a gothic church that was built by Father Harb in 1934 and looks the same as it did when they first built it. After that we visited Oe Cathedral. This church has a deeper history. The church was first built after the ban on Christianity was lifted. The church that stands there today was built by a French priest named Father Garnier in 1933 with his OWN money. His entire life was doing missionary work and he died here during this work for our Lord. He is buried right next to the church that he served for all those years. The really cool thing about both of these houses of worship is that they have Japanese versions of graveyards. You usually see huge plots of land with these stone markers that are used for Buddhist/Shinto believers when they die and their loved ones put their ashes in these large stone tombs. However, I have never seen a Christian one before let alone spread out all over, but both of these churches had them and not just some little building where they stored the Christian folks that died ashes, but full on graves. It was really a sight to behold. If you come to Japan sometime you will understand my awe and amazement in seeing this with my own eyes. It is SUPER rare. I was greatly moved. The last thought here I wanted to say that these two churches are still being used today. They are still places where people can come and dwell and learn about our shared faith. It is good to see this in a country that has long hated, feared, and despised Christians. There is so much work to be done, but it is good that it can now be done in a safe and powerful way.

After this we headed home, but we had to stop for some famous Kumamoto food. So we went to a local restaurant that specialized in this region of Japan's food. Octopus, sweet paste, lotus root, salted fish, & raw horse.

It was a really remarkable day for me. It is something I will not forget and I will always cherish. I can't thank Hamamura-san enough for taking me on this journey and I hope that God used me in some small way to show him the truth, life, & love of Jesus Christ.