Years ago, my former spouse and I went to a marriage counsellor. The counsellor’s name was Andre. Andre was our second of three marriage counsellors, and we’d had to switch from the first one because she was that lovely kind of barmy where she refused to bill our insurance, and refused to talk about anything other than her dead son. Which, while interesting, wasn’t very helpful to our foundering marriage.

So somehow, after extensive internet searching, I’d come upon Andre, and we went to meet him at the appointed time. But when we arrived at his “office,” we discovered that it wasn’t really an office at all — more like his “apartment.” Indeed, there was no waiting room; no guest area. We had to wait out in the hallway of the West Village apartment building before the previous patient exited his flat. And when we went in, we discovered his home was stuffed to bursting with junk, and sofas, and I think even a piano. And cats. Several cats. Though I can’t recall now whether my ex was allergic or not.

The cats were the big, surly kind of cats that you find in big cities — where they’ve been kept indoors too long by fretful owners and so they develop insistent, mewling voices. And as we got down to the messy business of marriage therapy, the beasts roamed the apartment like they were wandering the Savannah, tracking catbox crumbs and furballs behind them.

What I am saying is that these were not the retiring, soothing kind of animals one might expect a therapist to keep. These cats were a menace.

So Andre started talking, waving his arms, at which point I realized his shirt was see-through. And he was telling us about some other clients he’d had who had come in to resolve past relationship trauma. THE PROBLEM IS, YOU HAVE TRAUMA, Andre told us. At some stage in his other clients’ relationship, they’d gotten pregnant and decided not to keep the baby. But they’d gotten married; had other children; couldn’t figure out why their relationship was so mired in conflict.

YOU KNOW WHY THEY HAD SO MUCH CONFLICT, he bellowed, IT’S BECAUSE THEY KILLED THEIR BABY.

My ex and I sat in cowed silence. As if on cue, one of the cats began to hork and gag. Another cat, nonplussed, climbed up on the sofa behind my ex’s head and settled in for the show. And the barfy cat bolted across the room to the kitchen, where he hopped on the counter and unleashed his demon within. Out came a long snake of hair and Meow Mix, unfurling from his throat like a serpent’s tongue.

Without missing a beat, Andre continued on his rant and leapt up to clean the cat vomit. As he turned to wipe up the mess, I could see the tiny beads of his man-nipples twinkling through his shirt at me.

THAT’S WHY YOU NEED TO LEARN TO COMMUNICATE, he shouted over the din of the cat’s retching.

Andre began to talk about Imago Therapy and how it was the foundation of couples’ therapy, but…he’d lost me. He spent the rest of the session chasing the cat around, scooping up puddles of barf.  And all I could hear ringing in my ears for hours afterward was the sound of a cat retching and the word: Imago.

That was our only session with him. Our marriage was over less than a year later.

There’s a lot they don’t prepare you for in marriage counselling, even if your experience is not a vomit-laden horrorshow. They don’t prepare you for the 22 year-olds at the sailing club who your husband will turn up with at home on a rainy night when the parties get cancelled. Or the times he’d show up at home without his wedding band. Or any of that…other stuff.

Those therapists — they don’t tell you to stop feeling like you deserved to be treated like that, long after the marriage failed and your former spouse whispered to everyone that the failure was your fault. Because you were thin and blonde and kind of a jock, and he was kind of a geek, and so whatever happened must’ve been your fault because the optics were a bit conventionally lopsided.

But the weirdest thing about that era had to be Andre. I hadn’t anticipated that I would ever hear about Andre again after I left his office that day. But years later, when I was on my own, I came to learn that one of the girls who slept with Cheating Bill had been a long-time client of Andre’s. It was mentioned to me in passing, like it was nothing; like the specter of the man in the see-through shirt in the funhouse full of cat barf who’d been the canary in the coal mine of my ending first marriage wouldn’t rattle me.

You should read “Getting the Love That You Want,” someone said to me, after the era of Cheating Bill, It’s by Harville Hendrix. It’s about Imago Therapy.

No thanks, I said, Just…no thanks.

#Reverb14 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2014.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Transition | Transition of seasons; from single to couple; from couple to parents; from one to many.  It’s that time of year when the high summer sun starts to sink, and we all start to long for long sleeves.  How is your life changing.  How are YOU changing?

Almost ten years ago, my blogger friend Cara sent me this questionnaire to complete, and I posted it on my (old) blog. At the time, it was A Thing that people were doing. At the time, I was a relative newly-wed; a newcomer to New York City; I was transitioning from being a law student to working full time and going to graduate school. My body was doing weird things, and I was in the process of being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Everything was changing.  In mostly good ways — I was figuring stuff out.

Last weekend, almost immediately after coming back home from a week in London for work, my computer broke.  And I had to clear all the files off so the Geniuses at Apple could repair the logic board.  In doing so, I came across my answers to this quiz from nearly a decade back, and thought that the best way to measure transition would be to take the quiz again.

Where am I now? I’ve spent the last decade continuing to figure stuff out, in vastly different ways than before.  But I am mostly the same.  Though now, I am fundamentally a New Yorker; I am safe in my own skin. I am okay in my identity as a professional; as a woman. I don’t look at myself in reference to others anymore.

What I am saying is that I’ve faced some scary personal and professional stuff in the intervening years, but I was somewhat relieved to find that, at the heart of things, I still leave wet towels on the bed; I’m still heavily focused on making out with James Bond; and, my snacks of choice are still mainly sweets & salty carbohydrates.

I have edited the old answers for space, but otherwise, here are my answers from then and now.

Then:

10 Years Ago: I was in high school.  I think ten years ago was also the last time my hair was this long, and this blonde.  I wore it curly all the time.  I was dating the drum major, who later left me for a dude named Jeff.

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(2014 note: Matt, I love you always, and I still marvel that we thought it was a good idea to go as Juan and Eva Peron to Prom. Not sure our conservative California town was ready for us, then or now.)

Five Years Ago: I was in college; dating my most recent ex-boyfriend.  He was the stereotypical fraternity boy.  At that time in my life, I just wanted to be like everyone else. 

One Year Ago: I was finishing law school; doing a legal clinic. I was spending 60-70 hours a week working on comments to the FCC on female and minority broadcast ownership.  I was insanely depressed about the status of my life and career.

Yesterday: I went to lunch with my father in law.  And it was totally weird.  It really seemed like he wanted to get to know me.  It was really nice.  Then I came home, and built a china cabinet. Which came with terrible instructions.

Five Snacks I Enjoy:  1) Jordan almonds, 2) naan with mango chutney, 3) honey Teddy Grahams, 4) soft pretzels, 5) saltwater taffy

Five Songs I Know All the Words To: 1) Los Angelenos–Billy Joel, 2) Dry Cleaner from Des Moines–Joni Mitchell, 3) Make Your Own Kind of Music–Cass Elliot, 4) Don’t Sleep in the Subway–Petula Clark, 5) Bless the Broken Road–Rascal Flatts

Five Things I Would Do With 100 Million Dollars: 1) pay off my law school loans, 2) buy Andrew a new car and pay to garage it (btw, to garage a car in Manhattan, it would cost more than some of my friends pay in rent in Los Angeles), 3) re-do my parents hideous kitchen which they have been dragging their feet on redoing since the 1994 earthquake, 4) take extensive lessons in the cooking of all different Asian cuisines, 5) create a veterinary school scholarship and establish a fund to provide veterinary care for people who can’t afford it.

Five Places I would Run Away To: 1) Mendocino County, CA, 2) Newport, RI, 3) Nassau, Bahamas…eh, I’m out of places.  Everywhere I go, I find people I know, so I am safest in the comfort of my apartment.

Five Bad Habits: 1) leaving wet towels anywhere they fall, 2) buying too many fancy conditioners, 3) ordering take-out too often, 4) begging for a dog too often, 5) being a hermit

Five Biggest Joys: 1) my loving, wonderful marriage, 2) pedicures, 3) my relationship with my parents, 4) my new iPod, 5) the glimmer of hope I feel about my career prospects and my life from this point on

Five Fictional Characters I would Date: 1) Thomas Crown (of “The Thomas Crown Affair”), 2) Indiana Jones, 3) James Bond (in any incarnation)…that’s about it. 

Today:

Ten Years Ago: I got conned into going to Disneyworld with my then-fiance after a rough summer. We were within an hour’s drive of my grandparents, but didn’t go see them. I knew my grandfather would’ve talked me out of marrying Andrew and Andrew didn’t really want to make the drive anyway. I never saw my grandfather alive again. I have almost no regrets in my life. That I didn’t make that stupid drive is probably my only one.

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Five years ago: I had just signed my separation papers; I was free. I’d left my husband and I was on my way to spend several months with a client on the California coast. It was fitting, because at every transitional point in my life, I’ve fled for the Pacific.

One year ago: I was in Canada, at Bethany’s nuptials. She was the first of the WoW’s to let hope triumph over experience. I was grateful to be even a small part of that day; blessed beyond measure to have officiated the service. Bethany is one of my nearest and dearest, and I admire her and respect her so much.

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Yesterday: I was furious with Paul because he keeps his phone on silent all the time. I know it; I expect it; and 99.999% of the time, I am nonplussed by it. But I needed his input on something important and he was unreachable, and if I could’ve reached through the phone and throttled him, I would’ve.

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(Photo was snapped in Japan last year; I was equally annoyed yesterday)

Five snacks I enjoy: 1) Salty carbs; 2) String Cheese; 3) Spicy Lemonade; 4) Strawberries with cream; 5) Sundry other sweet & savouries beginning with the letter “s,” (I swear, I didn’t do that on purpose).

Five songs I know all the words to: 1) Flicker, Rosi Golan; 2) Hearts & Bones, Paul Simon; 3) Make Your Own Kind of Music, Cass Elliott; 4) World on Fire, Sarah MacLachlan; 5) To Love Somebody, the BeeGees.

 Five Things I would do with 100 Million Dollars: Invest it wisely.  Five times over.

Five places I would run away to: No use. Trouble follows. 

Five bad habits: 1) Leaving wet towels on the bed; 2) buying too many fancy wrinkle creams; 3) ordering take-out too often; 4) buying too many clothes I don’t need; 5) being a hermit. 

Five biggest joys: 1) running; 2) writing letters; 3) solo travel; 4) vanilla milkshakes; 5) long phone calls with friends. (This is a non-exhaustive list, these are just a few that are on my mind today!)

Five fictional characters I would date: Only one. James Bond. It’s always hard for me to choose between the Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan iterations, though.  If you know me, you shouldn’t read too deeply into that.

Sean Connery as James Bond

I discovered, last weekend, that Paul has two forks, two spoons, two knives.

Four plates.

That’s it.

I knew this previously, but it only dawned on me how dire the cutlery situation was on Sunday afternoon.  We had had had Thai food last Friday in front of the TV, watching some Torvill & Dean special before heading out to some spa a few hours outside of Dublin for the weekend.  We had failed to do the dishes on Friday night, and when we returned on Sunday afternoon, I had wanted to cut up an apple and smear peanut butter on the slices.

First, the peanut butter had been a problem.  I love peanut butter.  But if you are an American in Europe, finding peanut butter can be like finding a unicorn.  And when you do find it, none of it has any sugar in it, unless it says AMERICAN-STYLE on the front of the jar, in which case, you can be sure its stuffed full of sugar.

I had found the non-American stuff and when I returned with my bounty, Paul looked at me disapprovingly.

You’re going to eat, like, a spoonful of that and then you know what’s going to happen?

What?

I’m going to eat the rest of the jar.  In one sitting.

That sounds like a personal problem, I said over my shoulder as I fumbled around the kitchen, looking for a knife.

There were no knives.  We had used them both on Friday.

Don’t you have another knife? I asked, bewildered.

No, I only have two.

How do you survive with so little cutlery?  You need to buy more.

I was holding out for getting some as a wedding present, he said, straightfaced.

I chuckled.  I had gotten my own cutlery as a wedding gift.  I am the woman with more forks and knives than I know what to do with.  And sometimes it still doesn’t feel like enough!  I have four sets of silverware — two stainless and two silver — both were wedding gifts.  When I got divorced, we still had two more sets that Andrew kept — purchased with Westlaw points (remember those?!) in a life that I can barely remember now.

As it turned out, Paul did have a chopping knife that I used to cut up my apple.  Then, lacking a butter knife with which to spread my peanut butter, I had to dip the slices into the jar.  And Paul continued to snack away on the package of Jelly Babies he had purchased, glaring at me for having purchased the jar of peanut butter he was certain to eat later in the week.

It’s funny to me, sometimes, the things we hang on to, and the things we wait for.  Because sometimes we hang on too tightly, and other times, we wait forever.

But then, other times, the girl with more sets of silverware than she knows what to do with winds up meeting the man who lacks enough forks and knives to even set a proper table, and things sort-of work out okay.

It has been a wild six weeks.

As you may have noticed, I usually participate in our #Reverb project, however, this year, some unexpected personal and professional matters overtook my December.  A few weeks ago, I got the news that I had some health issues that needed to be dealt with rather urgently.  I had surgery this past Friday, and when this whole situation is a bit clearer, I’ll be more forthcoming.

As this the madness was unfolding in December, Paul and I decided that I would spend Christmas with his family in Dublin, and then we would go somewhere warm for a little holiday before I had to go back to New York and face this surgery.  We booked a last-minute trip to Ile de la Reunion, through Paris, and all was set.

We landed in Saint-Denis just after Christmas, and just in time for a Category 3 cyclone to hit the island straight-on.

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(100+ mph winds)

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(Happy New Year, indeed!)

After a very tense few days, with intermittent water/power, and no mobile phone service, we eventually made it back to the airport and got back to Paris.

It was all…hard.  You know, I wanted it to be easy.  And it wasn’t.

The very fact that we can do stuff like that — decide at the last minute to take a sunny holiday; fly to places near and far — reveals how privileged we are.  I’m not unaware of that.  But in those difficult moments in December — when I had few answers about what was happening to me, and I was physically and emotionally spent from the year — I just wanted it all to be perfect.  I wanted the scrambled eggs to be the way I like them, and I wanted to sink into a fluffy white-linen’d bed every night, and I wanted to take dramatic hikes to volcanoes and waterfalls each day and look out and feel…okay.

Instead, I got a hurricane.  And Paul and I were at each other’s throats the whole time as we coped with changed plans, and changing expectations, and disaster and uncertainty.

But we made it through alive.  And finally made it back to the airport a few days into the new year.

So we were on the flight back from Saint-Denis to Paris, and we hit more storms, and the plane dropped significantly in the air.  Paul’s wine flew off the tray and went all over me; dishes were falling; flight attendants were diving for their seats.

And we had no choice but to look at each other and say, So what happens now?

The answer: NothingWe were powerless to do anythingThe only thing we could do was sit still and wait out the storm.  It wasn’t up to us to guide the plane, or make the decisions…all we could do was sit and let others do their jobs.

That was it, really.  I spend a lot of time trying to control or compensate for or understand things by being and doing, and I often forget that there is so much value in just sitting still; letting someone with more experience or expertise take the wheel.

We made it to Paris alive; made it back to Dublin safely.

And in the midst of travel chaos, and life-madness, I wrote a list of resolutions to guide the rough ride of 2014.

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Right now, I am incredibly grateful for wonderful friends, a good surgical outcome, and a great partner, I am mostly trying to embrace even the suckful moments. 

I am trying to sit still and wait out the storm.

We left Kyoto, and arrived in Hakone, without clear direction.  For instance, there was a rickety little tram-train that went from the bullet train station to the mountain town of Hakone, but the travel agent didn’t communicate the specifics of the rickety tram to us very well.  So we rode the thing back-and-forth up the mountain a few times.

Laughing.

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By then, we had settled into each other; into a rhythm and routine.  We were good together because we were both so fiercely independent and each came carrying our own bit of baggage.  But that was also part of the struggle. Integration was…challenging.

It was as challenging for a ten-day holiday as it was on a macro level.

In Hakone, we were staying at another ryokan — this one hidden in the mountainside.  The hotsprings fed directly into our room, so there was an outdoor shower/tub just for us that stayed filled with the fresh, hot water.  We were also told to that the inn had five separate onsen, which we definitely checked out.

The weather was a little damp, and a little windy, and the hills hissed and perspired and fogged and fizzed in response.  (I nearly pitched myself over the too-short balcony to snap this photo).

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The next day, we took the train and the ropeway up the mountain to see the view.  We were told that we ordinarily would’ve been able to spot Mt Fuji from the summit at Hakone, but the weather was a bit gnarly.  So we were thwarted.

We made our way to the lake, where we boarded a ferry decked out like a pirate ship…

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And after touring the lake, we headed back to the ryokan to catch a train back to Tokyo.

The main attraction really would’ve been seeing Mt Fuji, but again, the weather simply didn’t permit it.

By train, we were less than an hour from Tokyo.  But by the time we arrived back at the train station in the city, the rain was pouring down, and we had multiple bags, so we wound up having to take a taxi for a half-kilometer journey from the station to our hotel.

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We opted for a night at the Palace Hotel, as we both had early flights the next day, and we’d already seen all the Mandarin had to offer.  If it hadn’t been night-time, or the weather had been better, we’d have been able to see the gardens.  But instead, we had a phenomenal lightning show — not just the city lights — the sky was crackling with electricity at one point, too.

And that was it, really.

We were at the end of the trip but at the beginning.

We took the bullet train to Hiroshima from Tokyo.

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It was a five hour trip, and I was still trying to settle into vacation mode, so I was a bit touchy. The train ride gave me a little time to reflect.

What was I doing?!

Up until the moment I found out about Cheating Bill, I had been in serious, multiple year-long, consecutive relationships from the time I was a freshman in high school into my early thirties. I had spent the past two and a half years as a single woman — with a few months of casual dating here and there — but for the most part, totally on my own.

And now, there I was, on a train speeding through Japan with this dude who had just walked into my life a few months prior.

What was I doing?

I had resisted Paul; looked for reasons for things to be wrong.  I tried to hide my burgeoning excitement about possibility beneath a cloak of idiotic reasons for not going the distance.  For instance:

He doesn’t like cheese.

He dresses like a teenager.

He’s a manchild.

(That last one particularly delighted my mother, as she loved to point out: They’re all manchildren.  Look at your father!)

In reality, what could possibly be so scary?

Rejection.  Failure.  Betrayal.  Dishonesty.  All of the things that had led me to this point, and that had kept me on my own for the last two years.  All of the past hurts — real and imagined — that had made me unwilling to fully commit to anyone or anything.

That was what was scary.

We arrived in Hiroshima and went directly to the Peace Museum.  It was pouring down rain — we’d arrived in the middle of a weakening typhoon.  But the weather was appropriate for what we were seeing.

The museum was serene; strange; unsettling.  It was peculiarly awful to be confronted with the evidence of destruction; it felt terrible and complicated to be an American.

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(A diorama of the city after the bomb was dropped.)

We made our way through the museum and out to the park, which we still wanted to see despite the weather.

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The bombed-out dome in the distance was one of the few buildings that were left standing after the blast.

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We made our way around the relics and monuments, making sure to take in the memorial to the thousands paper cranes story.

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If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s called Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.  It is a true story, written about a girl who was healthy after the atomic blast, but one day became afflicted with leukemia.  She tried to fold a thousand cranes, in the hopes that her illness would be cured, according to Japanese legend.

Sadako didn’t make her way through the thousand cranes she intended to fold before she died, but her family and friends pitched in, and now cranes are folded all over the world and sent to the Peace Museum.

(The boxes full of colourful scraps, above, are plexiglass boxes stuffed full of folded cranes).

We made our way out of the park, and were whisked to the ferry to the island of Miyajima.  The island is quiet and rural (and maybe a little touristy).  We were to stay at a ryokan (a Japanese-style inn) that sometimes hosted the Imperial Family, and that also boasted lovely onsen, or hot spring-mineral baths.

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We ate the delicious, freshly prepared, traditional Japanese food, and then we went down to the baths.  The baths were sex-segregated, and required that you scrub yourself within an inch of your life before entering the pool.  The women’s onsen was outside, in the cool rainy night, and as I soaked, I watched the little brook that ran alongside the property swell with runoff from the hills.

It was…perfect.

The next day we were on our own in Miyajima.

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There wasn’t a ton to see, save for the floating gate to the Shinto shrine; some deer; and a five-level pagoda.

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So we had ice cream.

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After stuffing our faces with noodles at lunch, we headed back to the inn to collect our bags.  Then we were off — back to Hiroshima to catch a train to Kyoto.

I am known for saying: Let’s run away to [Insert name of city.]

As I mentioned, about six weeks; two months ago, I said to Paul, Let’s go to Japan.

And Paul said, Okay.

So we planned a 10 day adventure that spanned Japan.

Paul arrived early in the afternoon on the last Saturday of August, and I arrived that night.  And we began our adventure with this view:

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The floor-to-ceiling windows made for a breathtaking experience.  But it was late, so we crashed soon after I arrived from the airport.

The next morning, I went for a run around the Imperial Palace Gardens:

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An important thing to note about our time in Tokyo is that it was hot.  I’m fine with the heat, generally, but for some reason, the heat in Tokyo got under my skin.  Maybe it was just the city that got under my skin.  There were little, irritating things that weren’t going my way, and I was also letting my guard down for a moment after a breathtakingly challenging first nine months to the year.

On our first full day, we walked around in the oppressive heat, and saw many of the sights.  I became increasingly hostile as the day got hotter, and because I was living under the strain of jetlag.

But I became even more hostile as the sights got weirder.

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There were a lot of things we LIKED about Tokyo.  The “doll” and “cute” culture was not one of them.

We did, however, like the shrines and temples.

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The next day, we were up early to see Tsukiji Fish Market and take a sushi-making course.  I think that the whole idea of seeing a fish market may sound repugnant to some, but it’s a fascinating place.  The fish market’s rules were that I couldn’t take photos (not for proprietary reasons, rather, the place is packed with men wielding large knives, and they didn’t want to be distracted by flash!)

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(The hustle and bustle at one of the entrances)

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(A photo I snuck of some of the activity)

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(A dude sawing a hunk of tuna on a bandsaw.)

After seeing the fish market, we dashed to our mid-morning sushi lesson at a local school affiliated with the fish market.

I loved making sushi.  The concentration and precision required really struck my fancy, and the entire experience was lovely.  Also, I was good at it, which helped.  And Paul was a sport about my being good at making sushi and crowing about it.

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(He did, however, have to live with me for eight more days, as I periodically reminded him Remember that time I won at sushi?)

We emerged from sushi school just after lunch, and then we wandered around the city at our leisure.  We got on a ferry — which sounded like a good idea at the time — and took in the sight of Tokyo’s bridges.

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(Not the Whitestone Bridge.)

We hopped off the ferry at the last stop, and decided to follow our line of sight to the Sky Tree.

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We didn’t go up to the top; we just had ice cream at the bottom.  We love ice cream.

All in all, Tokyo was not a highlight of the trip for me.  Each time we tried to have delicious food, our plans were somehow horribly thwarted.  Each time we tried to do something or see something, we managed to badly mangle the idea in the execution.  It was hot, and sticky, and it was just another city — and I’ve seen so many cities.

We did also scream at each other once — on a street corner — about some dinner plans that never came to fruition.  But even then, as awful as it was to wind up in a yelling match on a public street in a city/country where we didn’t speak the language, it was somehow…safe.  Because nobody was going anywhere.  We were in the adventure together.

We left Tokyo in the early morning after three nights at the Mandarin.  I woke up to a sunrise view, and then we were off for Hiroshima.

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