Japan 2007
From March 22 to April 10, 2007, I was on vacation. The first few days I spent in San Francisco visiting my friends Karl and Katie. This was followed by a two-day return trip to Chicago and then two weeks in Japan.

Please enjoy the pictures below! I have also supplemented the captions with information from Wikipedia. Click on links to learn more about some of the things we saw than I have room to explain in the captions.

I must thank my hosts - Karl and Katie in San Francisco, my cousin Ben Gonzalez in Japan, and Jeff and Denise in Los Angeles - for their lodging and help. I am especially grateful to my cousin, as I would not have tried to travel to Japan by myself without an insider there to help me. There is no question that the experience of it was infinitely richer for his knowledge and experience. Thanks, man! It was great hanging out with you.

And I should also thank Ben's camera phone. My own camera, the old-fashioned film-roll variety, which had started to show signs of trouble during last year's trip to Lebanon really started to break down in Japan. A great many photographs were lost as they came back from the developers completely black. You'll read about more frustration with the camera below. Luckily, I was able to fill in a lot of otherwise bare patches with shots that Ben took with his camera. He even took three movies with it. Keep in mind that when you click on a movie link, it might take a minute or so before you can watch it, or before you can watch it smoothly.

And away we go! Click on any picture to see a larger version.

Chapter I, San Francisco!

Katie and I hiked up some of San Francisco's steepest streets to enjoy this fog-occluded view over the city. This was supposed to be one half of a panorama, but the other half, I think with Katie in it, didn't come out.
One of many beautiful houses in San Francisco.
On Sunday we hiked into Muir woods. For me this was the highlight of the trip. For those that have been there, I don't need to tell you that a photograph has no chance of capturing the experience of being among the giant redwoods.
Karl examines a fallen tree, shorn through when they cleared this path.
Katie and Karl, in his hiking gear, in Muir woods.
Katie and me.
I was supposed to look impressive as I surveyed nature's glory, but I just look pregnant.
A native California banana slug.
With Karl's finger for scale.
The invetible Bay Area fog rolled in near the end of our hike.
In the end, man must walk the path alone.
Karl vaults a drainage pipe installed in an area where a flash flood had taken out a bridge. A sign told us the path was closed, but we chose instead to obey the call of our own indomitable wills, reveling in our mastery over ourselves and our environment.

Sadly, Karl was savagely mauled by a mountain lion mere seconds after this photograph was taken. Katie and I, not wanting to answer any unpleasant questions about why we had ignored the signs telling us to stay off the path, left him for dead.
Katie and I drove back to the city in silence, remembering our friend.
Imagine our surprise when Karl turned up again the next day! Incredibly, he had suffered only a few minor scratches, but man was he steamed at us!
A trip to Tony's Mexican food soothed his ire, however, and after three or four margaritas, all was forgiven. Katie and I were both glad to have him back.
A shot upwards at one of the many very beautiful houses near Karl's apartment. The only way I would ever be able to afford this house would be if it were completely destroyed in an earthquake.
Katie tried to pass off some unwanted Bartles & James wine coolers on Karl by stashing them in a bag of other stuff he was carrying. He unwittingly carried them almost all the way home before I told him they were in there. Disgusted, he left them on an unsuspecting neighbor's front stairs.
Chapter II, Japan!

After a hellish 13 hour flight from Chicago (I returned there briefly after the San Francisco trip) I had finally made it. Ben had picked me up from the airport the day before, and I slept a long, comfortable night on his futon. Now we were off for our first day of exploring. This is the street right outside his apartment building. It seemed very foreign to me at the time, although over the next week it would become familiar.
"Nippon Telephone & Telegraph". This is a typical manhole cover in the street, but it's also my initials.
Old video games from my youth, like Wizardry. are still available here. This is a shop in Osaka's sprawling electronics district.
Old games are available for free play on the sidewalk. Here's a couple of guys playing "Dig Dug". Notice that the guy on the left is wearing a surgical mask. These are everywhere in Japan. Ben says many wearers are allergy sufferers or might have a cold themselves, which they don't want to spread.
Gambling is illegal in Japan, but somehow parlors full of machines where you pay cash for a shot at prizes are not. In this game, the player has one chance to move a vertical lucite rod from its forward-left position to a position farther back and to the right. Eventually, the rod descends towards the base of the interior of the cabinet. If you have positioned the rod exactly over the hole that corresponds to the prize you want, the rod will enter the hole and you will win the prize. Keep in mind, however, that this NEVER happens.
Here I'm trying to win a giant Totoro for my friend Tammy. I couldn't do it, but I would eventually be able to buy the Totoro outright at the Ghibli museum in Tokyo a couple of weeks later.
In Osaka with my cruddy camera. Lucky for me, Ben took a lot of pictures with his cell phone, like this one for example.
Apparently they sell crab here. I probably wouldn't have taken this picture, except that in real life the giant crab sign moves its legs and pincers around. I knew that the effect wouldn't come through in the photo and yet, I figured you could sort of... imagine?
Shooting into one of the many covered shopping arcades in Namba, Osaka's sprawling entertainment and nightlife district.
Ben and I took a break in a video arcade where he played this drumming video game. The basic idea is to match your drumming as precisely as you can with that of a real pop song. When the game starts, a menu offers you a selection of about a million songs, grouped into various levels of difficulty.

The song starts playing, and on the screen appear a series lines running vertically from top to bottom. There is one line for each drum or percussion instrument in the song, so, for example a song with a bass drum, a snare, two toms, a hi-hat, and a crash cymbal would have six lines. As the song plays, marks appear at the tops of the various lines and move down the screen. When they reach the bottom, you must strike the appropriate drum. The more accurate you are, the higher your score. It's very complicated. I hadn't realized just how much there is to drumming until I saw my cuz's mastry of this game.

ADDENDUM Aug. 2018: I now realize that this is "Guitar Hero" for drums. Only I hadn't heard of Guitar Hero at the time.
Ben and his friend Kumie, who joined us for lunch - my first sushi in Japan.
Everyone knows that learning to read Japanese takes years of dedicated study. I didn't have that kind of time, but I did gradually learn to recognize a few hiragana letters. The two red characters on the right say "su-shi". Learning these was very important to me.
My first Japanese sushi restaurant. This one had the conveyor belts that I had only seen on TV before this trip. The sushi was good, but not better than I had eaten many times before in Chicago. But Ben's friend Kumie said that this was real blue collar sushi - i.e. not very high quality.
Kumie in an impressive profile; she was a great help to both of us during the Osaka parts of the trip.
It may have been low quality by Japanese standards but everything was still very delicious. Well, I wasn't crazy about the natto that Ben & Kumie compelled me to choke down, but like they said, natto is too important not to try it.
A rare smile from Ben, who was probably laughing at the sorry state of my busted-ass camera. Once again, the flash failed to go off, giving this picture its distinctive sepia tint.
Me in Ben's apartment, wearing his home-made Spider-Man mask.
Late nights and early mornings were too much for this Osaka businessman. He probably missed his meeting, as this stop was at the end of the line.
Namba, Osaka's social hub, at night.
Ben and I watch as our dinner of okonomiyaki is prepared. These are a kind of pancakes made of chopped cabbage and other vegetables, glued together with egg, and optionally sprinkled with fish flakes. They're then cooked right in front of you. They weren't my favorite thing that I ate on the trip, but they were good.

Pretty much every single thing I ate in Japan, including dinners in Tokyo at an Italian restaurant and a Spanish restaurant, was fantastically delicious, with the one exception of a weird mayonnaise-drizzled shish-kabob thing I ate (part of) outside Himeji castle.
Me and Ben reflected in a silver column outside the restaurant.
Ben in front of a mural of... well mostly people I didn't recognize. I wanted to photograph it because Richard Feynman is clearly recognizable playing the bongos front and center. Hugh Hefner is behind him. I don't know any of the other figures, what they have in common, or why they're on the side of an Italian restaurant. Any musings on these questions are very welcome.
Osaka at night again. The center of this city, of Tokyo, and presumably of other Japanese cities, are lit from top to bottom with flashing animated advertisements. It's completely mad, but thrilling.
Ben and me in one of the infinity of tiny bars - seating only about ten people - that are found in every major Japanese city. This is either "Rose bar" or "Bamboo" - I can't remember. Ben?
A green cupcake I bought for breakfast the morning of my second full day in Japan. The dark red blobs on top are a kind of fruit paste I can't remember the name of. Although the color scheme is unusual for Westerners, the cupcake was quite yummy, just like everything else I ate.
Our first trip outside Osaka took us to Nara, famous for its giant Buddha and tame free-roaming deer who eat from your hand. I think I'm buying snacks for myself here, though.
A tame Nara deer.
Me with some wafers for the deer. You can see how their antlers are shorn off to avoid any nasty accidents. The deer are very sweet, but they can be a little pushy too.
The Nara deer have been taught to bow in the Japanese manner. In the movie you can watch here, I lose my tourist literature as I try to bribe a deer into bowing with my remaining wafers.
I look like a commercial for Nara deer snacks.

I like the guy munching away in the lower left.
Ben under a blooming sakura (cherry blossom) tree. By complete luck I scheduled my trip at exactly the right time to catch the sakura in full bloom.
The five-storeyed pagoda near the entrance to the grounds of the historical park.
Ben takes a self-portrait (with me) in front of Todai-ji temple, supposedly the largest wooden building in the world. He was trying to recreate a photograph he had taken earlier with his brother David in the background.
I don't know what this gong was for but folks were ringing it and I didn't want to be left out.
The giant Buddha inside the Todai-ji temple.
The Buddha.
A giant all-wooden guard in the Todai-ji temple.
Ben puts on his best gangsta face for a second shot in front of the temple. I'm in the background with my gangsta Olympus 35mm from 1986.
We caught a glimpse of a traditional Japanese wedding taking place on the grounds. Ben told me that weddings like this are no longer as popular and that many Japanese women, enamored of the poofy white dresses and hideous layer cakes of the west, are opting nowadays for American-style weddings. In the cities, phony western churches have been built for no other purpose than to perform such weddings.
A Japanese woman in a "Mount Fuji" hat. Her crummy Portuguese friend (not pictured) was wearing an identical hat and demanded to be taken seriously as she told me very severly that the two of them were extremely busy and did not have time to be photographed.

Rudely, I took her friend's picture anyway.
Back in Osaka, Ben and I continued our busy day of tourism. This is the approach to Osaka castle. Osaka is a very modern city and doesn't have much in the way of historical sites. This castle is the only major one, and it only dates from 1997 (although there were other castles on this site before then).
At this time of year the Japanese party all day under the cherry blossoms. Why wouldn't they? Blue tarps and accompanying revelry are everywhere. According to Ben, celebrants arrive very early in the morning to stake out a good location, and spend the rest of the day chatting, eating and drinking with their friends.
The walls of Osaka castle. This sloping design is typical of Japanese castle construction, according to some a defense against earthquakes.
Me in front of Osaka castle. The path up towards the castle was flanked by booths selling snacks of various kinds. Two girls were selling fresh mangoes that were hacked out of their rinds and crammed between two chopsticks tied together with a rubber band. So delicious! I still think about it sometimes.
The inside of Osaka castle is a thoroughly modern museum and has nothing to do architecturally with ancient Japan. When you go inside, you start by riding an elevator to the top, and then work your way down floor by floor. Each floor is given over to some historical theme. On one floor you will find helmets and armor, another has swords, another has a sort of episodic video history of the castle that is viewed piece by piece as you trace the inner perimeter of the building. Generally you're not allowed to photograph anything.

On the bottom floor, right before the exit, are some recreated helmets and weapons you can try on and get photographed in. Here I am battling a wandering Japanese tourist named Hime.
Hime and I join in combat. Deadly, deadly combat.
More foolishness.
Sometimes one wonders if it's worth writing a caption.
For want of something better to do, I decide to cut my own arm off.
At some point around here I invited Hime to join me in a performance of "The Play". You all know the story by now. In this version, I return to the role of Joseph Thomas, whom I last portrayed in 2006 in Petra, with Hime taking the part of Hymnoo Koo.
Act I: baka yaro! ("your mama!")
Act II: ikari (rage)
Act III: kui (regret)
Act IV: kaiyo (forgiveness)
Act V: owari (the end)
Osaka castle by night.
Me in front of the castle. It was drizzling a bit when we emerged. A couple of locals have umbrellas in the background.
The old comedy routine of East Asian confusion of "L" and "R" rears its hilarious head in Namba!
A tiny fire truck for a tiny people. We saw this in Osaka as we made a morning errand from Ben's house to some local government office where he had to renew his alien status card. Then we caught a train out to Kyoto, just about an hour away.
Kyoto, day 1. The entrance to Kiyomizu-dera, one of the great temples of Japan. Put off by the hordes of tourists mobbing the site, we did not go inside.
That first day in Kyoto turned out to be much more about shopping than sightseeting. I bought some Japanese-style long-sleeved cotton T-shirts for myself, as well as some squishy sweets, called yatsuhashi for friends back home.

We did get to wander around to some historical sites, although I don't remember anymore what this one is. Ben?
One example of what can happen with faulty equipment. This is a photograph of a cherry blossom taken in broad daylight. I lost a handful of photos this way on my Lebanon trip last year, but the problem was much worse on this trip. On one particular roll, only 3 out of 24 pictures came out. The camera was also having trouble focusing and by the end of the trip the flash, which had been tempramental at the start of the journey, had compeltely stopped working.
An ornament from a temple eave in Kyoto.
Ben and I wandered away from the madding crowd along some less-traveled byways. Even though throngs of tourists were jostling for position only a quarter of a mile away, some areas, like the foresty paths where I found these roots, were completely empty.
I pose with two absolutely typical and perfectly modern Japanese women who were undoubtedly on their way to play racquetball or something.

The nordic type in the upper-left seems jealous of me for some reason.
Kyoto, day 2. Under fairer skies, we determined to do some more traditional Japanese sight-seeing, which is what one comes to Kyoto to do. I would learn later in Hiroshima that the city's name briefly appeared on the short list of potential targets for the first atomic bomb. Eventually, the US removed Kyoto from that list, concluding that the city had no military importance and that to destroy a place with such a rich cultural heritage would really stick in the craw of the Japanese people when we tried to make peace with them after the war. For these reasons, the city, among the best-preserved in Japan, is still around as it was for us to enjoy today.
One of a precious few surviving shots from our tour along the Philospher's Walk, a winding foot-path that takes the visitor alongside many old and beautiful temples, in Kyoto.
I think that this shot from Ben's camera is of the Nanzen-ji temple, a vast temple surrounded by an extensive complex of paths and other buildings. There were some monks-in-training practicing chanting as we explored.
Now THIS is pod-racing! A quote from Star Wars "Phantom Menace" that utterly fails to capture the beauty and tranquility of this little grove and shrine inside the Nanzen-ji complex.

For this reason, Ben invoked it here. The night before we had watched the beginning of that idiotic movie to find the exact moment when a first-time viewer, watching the film at its debut in 1999, would have realized that it had all gone horribly, irrecoverably wrong. It turns out to be the first time Jar-Jar Binks waves his arms in the air and screams.

Oh, but back in Japan, the shrine was really lovely.
A shot from Ben of the cherry blossoms along the Philosopher's Walk.
And one from me.
The walk is quite long and the sun was going down as we neared the end. We were looking for something called the golden temple, but we had gotten a little lost and weren't sure exactly where we were. We couldn't find the golden temple but we did find the silver temple, pictured here. Ben, who has seen the golden temple, said this one paled in comparison, but I liked it. Anyway, there's another reason to come back.

When we got back to Tokyo I went out with Ben and Kumie for some more delicious sushi, this time of a higher quality than at the conveyor belt place. I had been dismayed to learn that the Japanese do not dissolve large chunks of wasabi in their soy sauce, and that in general it is considered uncouth to add extra wasabi to the sushi that the chef has taken the trouble of preparing. Kumie did not understand my desire to do this, but I was determined. You can see the results in a movie here. My chopstick technique failed me, but my ability to eat wasabi did not.
We rose (slightly) earlier the next day to make a trip out to Himeji Castle one of the most famous castles in Japan and one that Ben hadn't seen yet.
The castle from below.
A nice shot from Ben, who went to art school.
One of the better signs I've encountered. Interesting that the scribble is on top of the "X" instead of the other way around. It actually looks more like "No red X's".
I can't remember if photos were technically allowed inside the castle, but Ben got one of this corridor, which was only empty because people aren't allowed there.
The rest of the inside of the castle was like this. At first we hesitated to take the plunge but the crowd, though thick, moved pretty fast. Still, the castle is enormous and it takes a long time to ascend to the top. Visitors are channeled in a spiral pattern around the perimeter of each story before climbing a steep narrow staircase to the next level.
From an upper window overlooking the rooftops of Himeji.
with Himeji city in the distance.
Himeji castle is surrounded by a network of gardens and pathways. Here's one of Ben's shots, taken from one of these.
And another.
Ben in contemplation under the cherry blossoms.
A final shot of Himeji castle.
Back in Namba in Osaka, I sampled another traditional Japanese delight, takoyaki, or fried balls of octopus meat. They're cooked in these special trays crafted just for this dish.
Takoyaki chefs at work. Ben said these particular ones were pretty good, actually. I thought they were tasty too, but not especially flavorful. They were also really hot when we first got them and you have to watch out for the takoyaki's molten center.

I thought this would be my last meal with Ben, though that turned out not to be the case.
A rockin Japanese version of Mucca Pazza playing in Namba. I can't remember the name of the group (Ben?) but they were really good! You can hear a sample that Ben took with his cell-phone camera here.
I got up early to take a train south to Hiroshima. I was nervous about navigating Japan on my own but it was time for me to go solo, as Ben wanted to stay behind to get some errands done in Osaka.

This is the Children's Peace Memorial near the site of the blast, built in tribute to Sadako Sasaki, a girl who was one and a half years old at the time of the explosion, and living about a mile away. She lived normally until age 11 when she sickened and died from illness ultimately caused by the radiation from the explosion. During her hospitalization she folded over 1000 origami cranes, and so the paper crane came to symbolize a wish, especially a child's wish, for peace. Many cranes arrive at the memorial every day and are displayed and sheltered beneath this sculpture.
A view of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, also known as the Atomic Bomb Dome, from across the Motoyasu river. The bomb exploded almost directly above this building and so, since the blast came from overhead, it remained standing while everything around it was destroyed. Now it remains as the most recognizable symbol of the memorial site.
The A-bomb dome from behind.
Two j-folk strumming peaceniks in front of the atomic bomb dome. When I first asked to take their picture they were very excited and energetic. I then had to struggle an eternity with my faulty camera, however, and by the time I finally got the shot off their enthusiasm had flagged a little. They were very patient with me, however, and still threw up a good V-sign, which everyone in Japan seems to do when being photographed. A possible explanation for this custom is here.
The museum devoted to the horrors of the Hiroshima bomb is enormous and has a miniscule fee for admission because they want as many people as possible to learn about it. In fact I'm pretty sure you don't even have to pay anything if you aren't able. They also let you take pictures inside, but none of the ones I took came out.

After about two hours I left the museum. There was still a lot more in there, but one can only take so much of any museum, and this one makes for pretty weighty fare. So I caught a taxt to the ferry-departure point for the famous floating torii of Itsukushima island, also called Miyajima. The taxi was wildly expensive, but essential for me since without it I could not have visted the museum and the island in one day.

Here, an employee of the ferry company guides his craft into a safe docking.
On board the ferry.
The adorable and endlessly hungry deer that I saw in Nara can also be found here in great abundance.
My first glimpse of the torii as I walk up the beach. I couldn't spend too long here or I would risk missing the last ferry back to the mainland.
The torii at low tide. The classic image of these torii is the one captured at high tide like this.

On the other hand, low tide means you can walk up to the torii and touch them, so I wasn't too disappointed.
My camera wasn't doing so well with the backlit torii. I've cranked up the brightness on this picture and the ones that follow to put a little more color into them and to give a greater appreciation of "The Play". They're still pretty dark, though.
I've forgotten this guy's name, but amazingly he turned out to be from Tomball, of all places (Tomball is a small city near Houston). He was there on his honeymoon but was game enough to participate in The Play with me.

Act I - wherein Joseph insults Hymnoo's mother.
Act II - wherein Hymnoo retaliates against Joseph for the perceived slight.
Act III - wherein Joseph feels pain, and Hymnoo sorrow.
Act IV - wherein Joseph forgives his friend.
Act V - curtain
Back in Osaka, Kumie, Ben, and I went shopping. Then we all went back to Kumie's place where she made a home cooked meal for us. I had some delicious unagi over rice, fresh wasabi that we grated ourselves, and beer. Kumie gave me a tube of real "hon-wasabi", which is made from the wasabi plant and is not the horseradish-based imitation most often served in American restaurants, as a parting gift.
The next day was really my last with my cousin. But I still wanted to see where he worked, so in the morning we took a train and then had a long hike up to his school. The weather was warm, even though it was still just early April. And I was carrying my suitcase behind me all the way. Good excercise though.
Ben lords over his domain, where his students know him as "Ben sensei". Even though school was out for spring break, some kids were still around to say hello to us. Ben said many of them prefer the relatively greater freedom and livelier social scene at school to that of their home lives.
Eventually I set out on my own and borded the shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo. The ride is so smooth it's hard not to fall asleep.
The kanji on the far left is the symbol for sushi. Back in Tokyo I was determined to try the best sushi the city had to offer, and I figured that would be in the Tsukiji fish market, where fresh fish are taken each morning directly to the sushi restaurants just a few yards away. This place, called "Sushi Bun" (pronounced "boon") was recommended in my guide book. After a lot of working looking and asking (there are no English signs on the place at all) I found it and waited in line for over an hour. I was the only gaijin in the line, I was pleased to notice, since I always figure that a restaurant popular with locals is bound to have good food. I chatted with the people in front of me (who knew some English), made my first and only joke in Japanese, and drank complimentary tea that the lady in the restaurant brought out to those waiting. Inside there are only 10 stools in front of the sushi bar, so the lines tend to build up.

How did it taste? I was not disappointed.
After sushi I rode a bus for an hour and a half hoping to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, but luck was not with me this time. The entire area was blanketed by thick fog. I was, however, able to photograph this sign in the tourist welcoming center.
A picture of where Mt. Fuji would have been.
The next day, my last in Japan, was a good one. In the morning I took the train to Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo, to visit the Studio Ghibli Museum. Studio Ghibli, and especially their most famous director, Hayao Miyazaki, are behind some of my favorite movies. Photos inside the museum are forbidden, natuarally, but the outside is OK. Here I stand at the entrance in front of a giant totoro.
Getting into this musuem takes some planning. Ghibli doesn't want visitors to feel overwhelmed by crowds, so they only let in a limited number of people per day. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are only valid for the prescribed day. It's actually easier to get them in the United States before you leave (which is what I did) so I had been looking forward to this visit for weeks.
A stained-glass window featuring a "kodama" tree sprite from "Princess Mononoke".
A spiral staircase that's fun to climb, and on top, a giant robot from "Castle in the Sky".
I had arrived at the Ghibli museum quite early and then found that although it is a wonderful place, it's just a tad thin on content. Anyway I went back to Tokyo and had time to make a try for Kamakura, home of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, among other things. This is the walk leading up to the shrine. Cherry blossom season was coming to an end, and the trees were much greener than they had been the week before. I felt it was the symbolic end of my journey.
An ancillary building next to the shrine. As I recall the shrine was closed when I arrived and I couldn't get close enough for a good picture of it.

This had turned out to be one of the hardest things about traveling in Japan under any kind of time constraints. Tourist sites tend to close very early, and it takes a good hour at least to get from where you're staying to where you want to go. It's tricky to see more than one major site in a day.
The shrine was closed, but it didn't bother me. What I really wanted to see in Kamakura was the giant Daibutsu, or giant Buddha. Near the shrine I tried to solicit a ride (from a rickshaw puller, no less - I was embarrassed by the idea of this toursity and insanely expensive form of transport, but I was in a hurry) to the Buddha, which was like 2 km away.

But the driver told me the Buddha was closed. All the more determined, and glad to have kept a bit of money, I set off anyway on foot. When I got there, it wasn't closed at all, which was some kind of a miracle, as the hour was growing very late (around 6:00) for tourist sites.
I was surprised at the deep impression the statue made on me, but I found it to be the most emotionally moving thing I had seen on the trip. I was fascinated by the figure, and took many photos, including some with one of the Totoros I had bought that morning at the Ghibli museum, but only these two pictures came out.
I saw a rainbow on the train from Tokyo station to the airport. I hoped this was a good omen because the train took much, much longer than I thought it would and when I finally arrived at the airport I sprinted inside more than a little worried that I would be too late...
But as it turns out, I made my flight. A laughably short 8 1/2 hours later I landed in Los Angeles where Jeff's wife Denise met me at the airport. Later we got some lunch, I took a nap, and we went out for beers. I didn't take any pictures. The next morning I woke up early and said goodbye to Jeff's parents, who were also visiting but who were going to Las Vegas for a few days.
On my second day in L.A. Jeff, Denise, their moppets, and I, went to the California Science Center to see a Star Wars exhibit. Perfect!
It was nice that they let you take pictures, and that my camera was working.
Me in one of my Japanese shirts in front of Han and Chewie.
Jeff, Denise, and moppets. The children alternated between screamy and adorable during my stay, but I like them. They won me over when they started referring to me as "other daddy".