It started at about 2:40am on Tuesday. We had set the alarm for two, or Athena thought she had, but it didn't go off. We woke up to my phone ringing, with Mom calling to let us know she was on her way to pick us up. I don't know how many times she had to call before we woke up, but she had to call two or three times before I was able to reach my phone. That's what I get for leaving it out in the living room (which I had not intended to do, but...). Eventually Mom did get through and we set out for Beverly Hills!
Our first stop was Mom's office, so she could take care of some things before heading off to meet her client. In the meantime, she put us in an office that no one was using, where we alternately sat there in a half-sleeping, half-awake stupor and played on the computer. We checked our email and found out that Kyoya would be bringing a friend with him to Universal Studios. We decided not to think about that too much.
See, I don't know if I explained this, or, if I did, if I managed to explain it properly, but while Kyoya is a good friend and we always like to see him, the idea of doing so always stresses us out immensely. It's a result of our general social anxiety, which is enhanced when we're planning to see people that we haven't seen in a while, and multiplied again when we're not confident in our ability to communicate properly. This is the first reason the whole idea of this trip was so terrifying, even though we knew on an intellectual level that we were going to have a good time. ...Although now that I put it that way, I realize (again) that part of the stress came from not wanting to mess things up and make it a terrible time for our friend, which is also a result of a lack of confidence in our Japanese speaking abilities. And of course, it was magnified this time by the fact that we didn't know what to expect at Universal Studios. So all that stuff, plus the idea of meeting someone we don't know (who we were convinced would be pretty nice, since he was a friend of a friend)...
Well, we decided not to think about it. Instead, we thought about the stress of having to take the bus to Little Tokyo from Mom's office. We'd actually done it before (I think), but that was many years ago, and the bus routes have changed. And despite having grown up in a suburb of Los Angeles, we really don't know our way around. This is a result of living as recluses, and not being interested in exploring so much for two reasons, the first of which being a fear of being lost. The second is a fear of getting in trouble for hanging around in places we're not supposed to be, which is why, when we go to Little Tokyo, we usually like to go with someone who's more fearless. But we know our way around Kinokuniya, at least, and we really wanted to go shopping there, which is how we convinced ourselves to be bold, as opposed to staying in Mom's office and playing Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days until she got back from working with her client.
So, even though we had printed out several different bus routes (to Kinokuniya, from Kinokuniya to Aurora's place, from Kinokuniya to the hotel, etc.), we checked the website one more time to be certain. Also, we'd gotten a tip from Mom's boss that maybe we wanted to try this route, which wasn't any of the routes we'd already printed. That tip turned out to be extremely helpful, because even though I'm pretty sure we didn't take the route he suggested, we did figure out how to use the site a little better, and were able to get a clearer idea of what everything on our chosen route meant. We had to take one bus to a hospital, then walk past the hospital to get on a different bus that would take us to Little Tokyo.
As we were heading out, some of Mom's coworkers asked how we were going to get back, and, since Mom had suggested it earlier, we said that Mom was going to pick us up from Little Tokyo later. If not, we would use one of the bus routes we had printed out earlier...except that I had left them all in our luggage, which we had put back in the car, which Mom had taken to her client's office. And so for our entire trip, I was worried that Mom didn't actually want to pick us up, and that I would be putting her out immensely because I didn't think to take all those other bus route printouts with us. Those fears turned out to be ungrounded, but they still plagued me during our whole adventure...except when I was nervous about meeting up with people the next day.
Still, we had a pretty good time in Little Tokyo. We weren't sure we'd recognize our stop, but fortunately, there were some people sitting in front of us on the bus, and one of them said he was getting off at the hospital. So when he stood up to leave, that was our cue to think about disembarking as well. A quick look at the street signs told us we were in the right place, and we were very relieved. Then our next bus showed up less than a minute after we got to the stop, and it had a screen that said where we just were and what our next stop is, so we felt much better about life. We even ended up getting off earlier than we'd planned, because we recognized a monument that we often saw on visits to Kinokuniya in the past.
But first, we had to go to the market, because we were starving. Not starving enough to be super adventurous, but starving enough to be a little adventurous. At the market, they were selling Calorie Mate, which we recognized from many a manga artist's ramblings. We were a little wary of them, but we knew they were a good source of energy (which we knew we'd need), and they had maple flavor, and since we translate manga and so many manga artists end up having to live off Calorie Mate for a while, we thought it was important to experience eating Calorie Mate. So we bought some of those, and some Pocky (Peanut Crush!), and some Pretz, and some Apollo chocolates. They also had Panda Pocky, which we didn't buy, but thought was worth noting. It's a chocolate cookie stick with a white cream coating that has cookie bits in it. That's when we decided that if all the cookies & cream stuff here had called itself "panda" instead of boring old "cookies & cream," we may have been more on board with it.
The Calorie Mate was...definitely not something you'd want as the only part of your diet, but not bad, and something that probably would take longer to get thick of than granola bars. It's like a dense piece of shortbread, with grains and mild flavoring. And almond bits.
After we ate, we explored a little more in Japanese Village Plaza. They had a Japanese outlet store, where they had all kinds of cute stuff, the likes of which we'd seen in Japanese department stores. We mainly chose that store, because it was big enough that we could wander around without fear of the person at the counter staring at us the whole time. We always get so nervous in little stores, and we were nervous enough already. We went to the Japanese American Museum, but admission was $9, so we didn't go inside.
And then we decided it was time to go to Kinokuniya. Since no one was with us, we were able to take our time without worrying about boring anyone, or people getting impatient waiting for us in the car, so we meant to take our time and explore everything. But we were also very low on energy, so we weren't as adventurous as we had originally hoped. We did look through the kids' section where they had, as Athena puts it, "Oh, the cutest everything!" They had super cute little fairy tale books all in hiragana with adorable illustrations, and they had manga about historical figures, and manga about science, and books about learning kanji, and novelizations of Disney movies, and Japanese translations of all kinds of kids' books (and some not-so-kids' books, like The Count of Monte Cristo; I'm guessing that one was more of an abridgment). We wanted to buy everything, but we settled on a bilingual collection of Japanese folktales.
We looked at all the books between the kids' section and the manga section, and they had this series called Pattern Magic, which had how to make patterns of all kinds of crazy shapes you want to make with fabric. And they had stationery, and this brand called Fairy Tale World, which was so cute! The paper looked quilted, and there were little "embroidered" fairy tale characters. We should have gotten some, but...we didn't. Aww. We get nervous about buying things, and we were already nervous.
We looked at the manga, of course, and the plan was to look around and buy something that was new and fascinating, but that we knew very little about! ...But we ended up sticking with our tried-and-true Hana to Yume favorites. We got two more volumes of Monochrome Kids, the newest Gakuen Babysitters, the first volume of Present wa Shinju, and the Haruka 5 manga. That last one's going to be dangerous, because it may make us want to play the game even more than we already do. But love sims can be so tedious sometimes, and with all their bazillion endings, they can also take forever. We also got a cute little thing that we haven't opened yet. It's a Disney keychain with a character on a jingle bell, but you don't know which one you get until after you open it.
When we were done shopping, we called Mom, and she didn't answer. That actually didn't make us any more nervous, but it did make us wonder what we were going to do with ourselves until such time as she could turn her phone back on (we found out later she was at a meeting). So we decided to revisit our favorite shaved ice shop, and we each got a pineapple shaved ice. We've had plenty of snow cones since we moved up here, and they all made us forget how amazing shaved ice can be. This was a good reminder.
Soon after we finished our shaved ice, Mom called and said she absolutely did not mind picking us up. Traffic was surprisingly good, and very soon we were on our way to our hotel. After we checked in to our very pretty hotel, we went to pick up Aurora and her husband for dinner at the California Pizza Kitchen. They told us about their trip to Utah and how they had just been to the Universal Studios Halloween event thingie preview night, because Aurora works there. That reminded us that oh yeah, all the theme parks get dressed up for Halloween, and most of them are more gruesome than Disneyland. This had us worried for ourselves as well as Kyoya, who's not so big on ghosts. And since we were worried about people having a good time...yeah. But the way Aurora and her husband talked about it was pretty amusing. They said they were in one of the mazes, and there was this adorable old couple, who would stand around and discuss the decorations with each other, like, "Look, it looks just like that gentleman is chopping up that other gentleman. I wonder how they do that."
I feel like we probably could have been better conversationalists at dinner, but we were already terrified as the time got closer to meeting our friend, and when talking to Aurora and her husband especially, you never know when you will become the target of mockery. They usually mean it good-naturedly, but it can come out very...less than good-naturedly, and we didn't have the will power to put ourselves out there. Fortunately, we were able to chalk it up to exhaustion from waking up before three (which probably was, in fact, a big part of it).
Then it was time for ice cream from Coldstone, and back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.
Today I'm thankful for all the tender mercies that helped this trip run smoothly, not getting lost on the way to Little Tokyo, getting to try Calorie Mate, fun conversation with our sister and brother-in-law, and Mom being kind enough to drive us all over Los Angeles.