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how to travel with a smile

the [perfectly calm] adventures of david-andrew

honored dog & fish feet (日本 2)

May 13th, 2013

**My intention was to publish updates every night in Tokyo. However, I met some challenges. One was the struggle to find consistent internet with my gaijin iPad. The other challenge was exhaustion after running around Tokyo from 8A to 12A everyday. Sleep won that battle. I offer a thousand apologies for any inconvenience or anxiety this may have caused. Also, I can avoid the mess of a rush job like my last post. Further apologies offered.**

On our second day in Tokyo, we met up with our friend Hiccup and his Sister who lives in Japan. It’s amusing being so far from home and see people you know. Something is familiar, but in the wrong setting. It added to the jumble that is Tokyo, throwing me off a little more. Sister showed us around to some crazy fun sights.

We headed out to Yokohama to go to the ramen museum. First we made a stop at the famous Shibuya Station statue of the faithful dog Hachikō. This Akita Inu met his human, a professor, at the station daily as he came home from work. The professor unexpectedly passed away one day and never returned to meet Hachikō. Still, Hachikō waited everyday at Shibuya Station for nine years feed only by kind commuters. This loyal dog still shows up in popular culture almost 80 years later. ShibuyuStation

We got back on the train and continued to the Yokohama Raumen Museum.

raumenmuseum The museum doesn’t look very unusual from the outside. Inside, however, we transported to 1958 Tokyo. There are several ramen dealers around a courtyard. In the middle area there is a shoot-the-duck style game. The proprietor of the shooting game also doubles as a performer who put on a comedic show. I mean, I assume it was comedic because everyone laughed.

foreshadowing the transition to 1958

foreshadowing the transition to 1958

We found our way into the “Ikemen Hollywood” ramen joint. The dishes were puns based on US movie culture. There was “Jurassic Pork,” “Johnny Dip,” and a crazy spicy one called “The Backdraft.”
We weren’t allowed to take pictures here, so not much to show you guys, but ramen lovers would be in heaven here. They have “mini” sizes so you don’t get too full to try them all.

Yokohama also has a “Chinatown” area with some hidden adventures waiting for us.

ct_gate  ct_pandastore
 ct_jumble ct_pandabread

Near the entrance to Chinatown, we headed up a flight of stairs covered in neon exclamations into an arcade. The arcade was full of physically interactive games. We played a four-player game throwing balls at a video screen to knock bugs off as they try to climb the wall.

ct_arcade_kawaiiprizes ct_arcade_drum
We had fun with the drum game. I want one for my home.

Better yet, if the people who stock the arcade would put a few machines in my house and switch them out periodically, that would be rad.

We were wandering around the game floor when we were suddenly pulled into the wildest photo booth I’ve ever seen. Bright noises, loud colors, and 日本語 instructions lit quickly on the screen. There were cute poses demonstrated on the screen before each picture. We did our best to fall into form before each flash. Background options ranged from cutsie pink to pink graffiti to graffiti cutsie. After all the picture shooting, you could draw, stamp, and theme your photos.


the sophisticated & serious results

I now know firsthand why there are jokes about Tokyo being unsafe for the seizure prone.

ct_kissfish_sign One of the weirdest things we’ve come across in Tokyo so far is Dr Kiss Fish. Before I knew what was happening our friend was getting us tickets to have our feet cleaned by fish. It was almost intolerable at first. After getting used to it, it was just very ticklish and probably what putting your feet in a huge pool of Alka-Seltzer would feel like. It’s bizarre to watch living beings eat off your dead skin. They love to get the most sensitive areas of your arches and between your toes. The Dr Kiss Fish clerk encouraged us to put our hands in the swarm too. Hiccup was first, then I tried it for a bit.
ct_kissfish_feet   ct_kissfish_side ct_kissfish_hand

In the same building we went to an exhibit of “trick art.” Signs with each painting demonstrated how to photograph each illusion.

ct_trick_swing ct_trick_shark


don’t I look angelic?


We ended the night with an embarrassing, but hilarious dinner at a bar called Arabian Rock, but I think I’ll save that story for later.

ct_wires More tales from Tokyo coming soon!

Next: complicated drink instructions & golden eggs in Shinjuku – “Arabian Rock”

permanent ink

November 11th, 2011
love this typography art by Deph (ToDieFor Clothing)
Last month I mentioned an art event to my brother, Uncle$am. I’ve been toying with attending this art show ever since I heard about it. Nicole East (The Baroness) and Hope Gallery Tattoo in New Haven, Connecticut, organized a rare event to get artwork by your favorite artists permanently inked on your body by super talented and influential artists. The event is aptly named Quick and Painful. Giclée prints in tattoo flash style showed the choices available. At the Chicago leg of this tour, Joe Capobianco from Hope Gallery Tattoo and Sean Adams, Patrick Cornolo, Jennifer Trok, and Heath Rave from Speakeasy Custom Tattoo were bringing their mad inking skills for a one night only experience.
There are tons of badly drawn tattoos imitating these artist’s work all over the internet. This event provides and opportunity to get the official artwork done by extremely talented tattoo artists the right way.
I poured over the tattoo choices for over a month before we went. All of them were made by artists I love. Some of them had complicated meanings that I appreciate and understand, but wasn’t sure I wanted that story on my body for life. Also, I didn’t want to diminish my respect and love for an artist by getting tired of their work on my body. Still I wanted something meaningful to me. I began to narrow it down as the day approached.
I also called friends that have tattoos and asked them about their experiences, regrets, and opinions. Each time I talked to someone else, I became more convinced that I was definitely getting a tattoo. It didn’t matter what they said. I knew what I wanted to do. It was helpful to talk about it aloud though.

Uncle$am, ThePilot, and I all arrived at O’Hare airport at nearly the same time. It had been way too long since I returned to Chicago. I immediately felt the rush of familiarity in the terminal. I miss the city. We rode the van to the Aloft hotel. I’ve never stayed in one before. It was interesting and definitely not your average hotel. As the name implies, it has the feeling of a loft apartment. They make an effort to seem modern and artful. You can even get a 5oz bag of chips for the artful price of $4.75.

The next day we sleep in to an hour my brother felt was late. In reality, it was 8am on the west coast. That’s where my internal wake up clock was set.

After lunch it was time to head over to Rotofugi. I was surprised by their new shop. I used to go down to their shop and gallery on West Chicago Avenue all the time when we lived here. It was my 1st toy addiction. I had not seen the new place since they moved to Lincoln Park. It is a huge store and they have everything! It also has a really nice gallery space.
roto-a-matic & kaiju wall
4ft KAWS figure

When we arrived, the gallery was roped-off and a line was already forming. 1st in line was a guy that came all the way from Ohio. We had him beat by a few miles. I wide-eyed all the toys in the shop, salivating.

guess which one I chose
Uncle$am and I found the book of tattoo choices on the counter and began looking through them again. That’s when one of the three choices I had looked at from home jumped out at me.

“I’m the one!”

I looked at my brother and said. “I think this is the one.” He said he thought so too and I was convinced. That hoped-for feeling if clarity came over me.

I grinned.

Uncle$am chose artwork by Greg “Craola” Simkins

Now I just had to decide where it was going.

We talked to the owner, Kirby Kerr, for a bit. Then I noticed a nervous look on Uncle$am’s face. I ask if he wants to get out of here for a bit. We found ThePilot and got some air down the block.

“Is your heart not pounding out of your chest?” Uncle$am says.

Not yet.

After an Intelligentsia pit stop and a bite, we returned to see the line had grown a little. We counted the spaces. Damn. Looks like we were going to be 13 & 14 out of 25 available spots. Guess we’re getting tattooed. In my head there was a chance that we may not be able to get ours done as space was very limited.

  We sat down in line for the 2 hour wait until the start of the event.
The Baroness came by and handed us our waiver forms.
That’s when I knew things were about to get real.
It was cool to see Nicole “The Baroness” East in person. Her name was always present when something amazing was happening at Kidrobot. I learned early that The Baroness knows everyone and everything that is going down. We also got to meet one half of The Beast Brothers, Carlos East.
She also has some great tattoos. One of her tattoos by Joe Capobianco was even made into a vinyl figure by Kidrobot.
The Bride

The flash folder was passed down the line and I realized again that I was struggling with the placement on mine. It seems like it might be the hardest tattoo decision. The Baroness announced that none of the tattoos for the show could be in bikini areas because of the lack of privacy at the gallery. So, that narrowed my placement options.

As the show started, we were told who would be doing our tattoos and what number we were in line for each artist. I was 3rd for Sean Adams and Uncle$am was 3rd for Joe Capobianco. Sean was finishing up his 2nd tattoo and I realized that I was next. That’s when the nervous action started. “I have to pee. brb.”

Jennifer Trok on her 1st tattoo Sean Adams starts the tattoo marathon eye-patched Cat by Devilrobots


Uncle$am was called next to sit for Mr. Capobianco.

Uncle$am was finished before mine was started. He looked at me with an apologetic grimace and said “I’m so sorry. SO sorry.”
“I forgot how much it hurts.”
“Awesome.” I thought as Sean turns to me with needle in hand. “Ready?”


Oh. There’s that heart pounding-out-of-chest action.

The following experience was one of the most surreal of my life. The needle causes the strangest sensation. It is a pain sensation for sure, but not as sharp as you would think. My brother has always described it as mostly annoying. I had to agree. The worst part of it was that Sean would stop every 30 seconds or so to get more ink. Those moment were full of relief that I wasn’t being poked with needles anymore. Then another second later it would return. If those things weren’t weird enough, there was also fair amount of folks watching and some pictures being taken. During all this I was trying to casually smile answer all the questions from those around. Ever try smiling for a picture while some one is poking you with needles? I recommend it highly.

Sean started with pressed-on temporary ink to confirm the placement and serve as a guide for the process.

I say this is my 1st tattoo because I’m sure there will be more. I can completely understand the addiction. I don’t think it’s too far reaching to say that the experience left me feeling a bit high.

I chose this tough little diamond by Simone Legno (Tokidoki) as a symbol of beauty and resilience. Diamond is my birthstone and since I don’t wear jewelry often and can’t get married, it may be the last diamond I own. Every time I see it, I will remember to value strength of will while also remembering to enjoy the beauty and adventure of life.

Sometimes you have to go through a little pain to experience life fully. The result is unforgettable memories.

post-tattoo w/ the Easts
  *see more pix from the Chicago stop on the Quick&Painful blog


island adventure

February 21st, 2011
If you had the priviledge in your childhood to leave US soil, you must be very grateful. My parents preferred to take us places like Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen near Nashville, Tennessee and week-long stays at the New Tower Inn in Omaha, Nebraska (sadly no longer in existance – will miss the all-night swimming). Those places are very fascinating for their own reasons. However, there is a whole world of adventures out there as well. Between family vacations and school trips, I have had the wonderful opportunities to see nearly every corner of these united states. Now it was time to see the rest.

I know I’m reaching way back for this one, but it was a big trip for me. In February of 2009, The Pilot and I took a trip to London. It was the first time I have been outside the US. I haven’t even been to Mexico or Canada. It was not the eye-opening experience I expected, but it was definitely interesting and fun. In London, there was definitely a higher concentration of a certain accent, but really it was all familiar also. The mix of people really reminded me of all the different folks from all over the world I used to know and work beside in Chicago. I miss that. I now live in a “city” (really just a sprawling development) where, if you are darker than slightly tanned and have a funny accent, you are to be feared. I know I have to get out and into a more interesting life. That’s a big part of the purpose of all this traveling and writing. I want to pursue life, to really chase it down and participate. For now, I am based here in this cultural desert, but I go looking for water as often as possible.

Having only seen the much younger United States, I was immediately captivated by the wonderful mix of both the very old and new buildings in London. We rode the quite modern London Eye to see an aerial view of the old-world Parliament and Big Ben. We walked around Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abby. All of these historical buildings are surrounded by the latest in world architecture. We happened to be in London right when their schools were on a break. Most of the tourist type places were packed, but if you can manage to get to the London Eye when the lines are not crazy, it provides a fantastic view of the city. It’s a quick ride on a piece of engineering magic.

An important surprise stop was at the Selfridge & Co. on Oxford Street which was a short walk from our hotel, the Hilton Metropole. To get to the bustling Oxford Street, we walked through an area populated by Lebanese restaurants. Most of the signage in this area is in Arabic including the foreign currency exchange on the corner we used everyday. As with most major cities in the US, in London you cannot smoke indoors. I was amused by the gentlemen smoking their hookahs on the sidewalks under the cafe awnings. I never thought about smoking bans affecting hookahs. That seems wrong somehow. Hookahs should be smoked while lounging on cushions like the inside of Jeannie’s bottle, right?

Anyway, we reached the packed Oxford Street and we were starving. I told The Pilot I had to eat right now or there would be passing-out or blind fits ahead. There on the sidewalk he stopped and asked where I’d like to eat. I saw a sign above his head that I knew was destiny. “There!” I said pointing to a sign that said “Café Fred – Hot Food.” It was an odd little place. We climbed winding stairs to the top floor. We seemed to be doing a lot of winding in London. Nearly every restroom we visited was down some dodgy stairs through a dimly lit dungeon hallway.

Sitting by the window, we watched pedestrians on the street below.

What was I saying though? Oh yeah. After eating we decided to walk on Oxford for awhile. That’s when the important surprise happened. We ran into a Kidrobot pop-up shop inside Selfridge & Co.! I promise this is not the reason I went to London, but it was fun to run into their pop-up shop and Dunny exhibition.

I am very glad to have the experience of being a foreigner. I don’t think that you can fully understand what being an American means until you are identified solely that way. One

interesting experience we had was a dinner on our last night. We had several suggestions of foods we should try in London. None of the recomendations included English food, by the way. We headed to Soho for some Indian food at Masala Zone. It was nice and I think the food was tasty. I honestly don’t remember, which, to me, is likely a good thing. I certainly don’t remember any complaints about it. As we finished dinner, the server came to speak to us one last time. He asked where we live. We told him. “Yes! I win!’ he said. We looked at each other with quizzical grins. He then explained that the staff had taken bets on our nation of origin. So I finally got to feel like a foreigner, but not in the way that my Midwest accent is out of place when visiting New York City. It was felt in a new way. We were part of a collective. In that moment, we were not from the north or south, urban or rural, artists or salespersons. We were Americans.

Since we were already in Soho, we went out to an actual gay pub nearby. I defy you to find that experience in The States. I know in the Boystown neighborhood in Chicago there is a pub-style bar, but it surprisingly caters to a straighter clientele. Compton’s was just how I imagine a pub would be. Upstairs there were leather, high-back chairs with brassy buttons around the window tables that look out over Old Compton St. The walls were decorated with the heads of various animals. After querying through a list of drinks the bartender did not understand, we settled on a Guinness and a gin & tonic. So we finally had that uniquely British experience. Now we could return home.

London was an amazing 1st world-travel experience. I cannot wait to see the rest! I can’t wait to get back London as well. If anyone wants to move there with me, I’m sure I could be talked into that easily.



to see more pictures of our trip to London check out the London sets on flickr.

tara mcpherson X hello kitty X kidrobot

November 26th, 2010

When I was still an art student nerd in Chicago, I stumbled on a website that was promoting artists’ works as “art for your phone.” They had a bunch of little bite-sized wallpapers that you could download to your phone. I don’t remember what brought me to this site, but I was hooked to it for several hours. There were tons of names that I am very familiar with now, but was hearing them then for the first time. Looking back, it seems like a bizarre place to be introduced to the worlds of Luke Cheuh, Thomas Han, Gary Baseman, Takashi Murakami, Tim Biskup, Shepard Fairey, and all the names that usually appear near them. This silly place to download mobile art opened up a world of designer toys, urban vinyl, and accessible art that still has it’s hooks deep in me. It will be the addiction that undoes me.

From this same website, I became an instant follower of Tara McPherson. Since that day I have been an admirer of her work. I linked to her site and immersed myself in McPherson 101. Her rock posters are incomparable to any you’ve ever seen anywhere. I promise. Her characters touch on so many that seem to say just the right thing to me.

From Tara’s site, I found out she had done something called a “Dunny.” It was part of an designer toy series, this series focusing on artists from LA. It looked kinda cool and it was currently available at hip stores around Chicago. So I went out to the MCA gift shop and bought my very 1st Kidrobot toy. If you have seen my house, then you know the end of that story. I will soon need a bigger house for my collection. Soon I will just start replacing the furniture with items large enough to accommodate mealtime and lounging.

Through all of my collecting, I’ve had short obsessions, but Tara is one of two or three artist that I have loved from day one. So when I read that she was going to be in LA signing her Magic Love Hello Kitty on the same day we were going to be there for the Sanrio 50th Anniversay events, I knew it was destined.

The Pilot waiting very patiently with me. We had wait time to discuss the lovely furniture store next door.

I’ve got to say, I’ve never been one to ask for autographs. In fact, just hours before Tara’s signing we had run into Stephen Baldwin at a wine cafe a couple blocks away. We didn’t ask for his scribble. I would much rather chat with a person I admire than be all “would you sign this.” I’m also not in it to make a buck on eBay. So I don’t usually ask for signatures, but I felt that since this event was set up for that purpose it would be ok.

We arrived at the KidrobotLA storefront about an hour before the signing event. We were about halfway down the line. While we waited, we chatted with the other toy geeks. The girl behind me had a Tara McPherson Dunny (LA series) tattoo. It was a fun wait.

At just around 6p, a couple came up the sidewalk together. Just as they were about to pass, my Pilot took a step backwards suddenly. I pulled his arm to try to prevent a collision. The couple had to step off the curb to avoid and as they headed down the walk I suddenly recognized the woman. Then I really got excited! She’s here!

I am a total spaz when it comes to meeting people I admire. I once blinded Tori Amos with a camera flash (true story). I had already been rehearsing what to say for a few days so Tara McPherson would know how big of a fan I am. I considered asking about her time with N** Y*** T**** (as they were calling the band after resistance from THE New York Times – a super lame move on their part) and that I was friends with them back when I had a myspace account. I also considered the chill approach – asking if she’d like to hang when she was done here, but thought it could be construed as too stalker-ish? I even thought it might be clever to tell her that she is two days older than me.

my first autograph

In the end I went with, “We came from Phoenix.”
To which she replied graciously, “Oh did you drive?”
“No, we flew.”
Even though about 42 million things rushed in my head, it was over that quickly.
“Well, enjoy your weekend here,” she said as I shyly thanked her and ducked out the door.

See? I’m so awkward.
Still, I smiled all the way back to the hotel.

The Pilot and I and our new kitty.

The Cat planning his attack

Check out all of Tara McPherson’s work at
We made it into the Kidrobot KRonikle! >]Click[< to check out the event pictures.

“small gift, big smile!”

November 22nd, 2010

My Melody Stamp Set 1976

One of my clearest memories of the early 80s is the “My Melody” stamp set my older sister had. I wanted it so badly. I used to sit and stare at the characters on the clear treasure box they were kept in forever. I doubt my sister appreciated it as much as I did. I loved all of My Melody’s friends too. The fox and the little mouse were so cute! I recently found a picture of that stamp set online. It’s was apparently made in 1976 and it’s exactly as it was burnt on my brain.

big smile

I have been in love with Sanrio since those days in the 80s when I first bacame aware. So when I found out that the “Small Gift” Sanrio 50th Anniversary event was going to be in Santa Monica, I knew we had to go! I asked ThePilot tentatively if it was possible to go. “Of course, we HAVE to go,” he said. Well ok! So I started looking at calendars and making plans and getting so excited.

Friday morning we got out of bed very early to catch a flight to LA. By 10a we were on our way down the road to the Santa Monica Airport. The event was held in the Barker Hangar there. We were greeted at the outside door by a giant balloon rainbow with Hello Kitty on it letting us know we were in the right place and that things were about to get a whole lot cuter.

Inside was an explosion of kawaii! Everything was embellished with Hello Kitty, Bad Badtz-Maru, Chococat, Keromi, and all the gang.
To kick things off with a big start was a Smart Car with a Hello Kitty paint job just inside the entrance.

Smart Kitty: no keys = can't drive off with it.

The rest of the hanger was a Sanrio play-heaven! There was a Ferris Wheel, a mini-golf course, face painting, DIY sand art tables, and skill games.

Dokidoki Yummychums and the Sanrio Ferris Wheel

mini-golf has never been more adorable!

I think I would be tempted to keep the bean bags as my prize.

From the ceiling hung giant cute mascot balloons.

Hello Kitty & Hangyodon

On one side there was even a stage with Hello Kitty and friends ready to dj.

Hello Kitty with Deery-Lou + Batdz Maru


DJ Hello Kitty

This was the line to get into the store (not the event – this was just for the Sanrio Pop-Up shop).

no wait is too long to get a "small gift, big smile"

Seems like everyone wanted to be involved in the Sanrio craze. Sanrio has a long history of collaboration with popular retailers and brands. Their 50th birthday is no exception.
The amazing folks at re-ment in Japan have made a series of Sanrio miniatures. They are extremely detailed and so tiny. The mini bakery goods look good enough to eat!

Hello Kitty X Sephora

Sanrio X re-ment

Sanrio X Bape

This line is a punky collaboration with Yoshiki one of the founders of the metal band X Japan.
Hello Kitty + Yoshiki = Yoshikitty. ^.^


All of my pictures of the event can be found in my Sanrio 50th Anniversary “small gift” Event set at flickr.

One of the biggest reason I really wanted to see the 50th Anniversary event was all the involvement of artists that I have been following for years. For me, it was the perfect combination of so many things I really enjoy. It is really interesting to see artists with a recognizable style try their hand at an interpretation of another’s work, especially one as well-know as Hello Kitty. Here are some of my favorites!
[photosmash id=14]
To see all of the pictures I took of the artwork at the event, check out my Sanrio 50th Anniversary Art album on flickr.