Thursday, June 15, 2023

Dr. Louis Olsen (MOCA 1 of 2)

Louis comes to visit me in my office

I am very saddened by the recent passing of my friend, colleague and fellow anthropologist, Dr. Louis Olsen. My deepest sympathies to his family and all who knew him.

I met Louis in graduate school at Washington State University in 1996. I was in my second year of my Masters studies and Louis was starting his PhD program. Despite having different geographical and theoretical interests, our common love of anthropology gave us plenty to discuss. Those years were difficult, but we had a very supportive group of grad students; we went out to the bar together, had barbecues, went on camping trips, shared Thanksgiving dinners... It was an almost perfect balance of work/life that I have never been able to replicate. Of course, Louis with his kindness and incredible energy was usually the center of the group. I couldn't even imagine grad school without him.

When I heard of Louis' passing, several strong memories came flooding along with the tears. Two in particular I will share here. It also made me want to find photos from those days. I have several boxes containing thousands of photos from the past 30 years in a closet that I have been afraid of opening. But I did to find Louis photos. Unfortunately I couldn't find the photo I wanted to share the most. Being so important I must have stashed away in some important place that I can't recall now. I will continue to look and post it when I find it.

That photo was taken around the time when some of us were planning a long bike ride. When I was brushing my teeth that morning, I unintentionally twisted my body and felt something snap on my right side. I fell to the ground in pain. Louis drove me to the emergency room where I eventually learned I cracked a rib in this freak accident. We were waiting in an examination room for the doctor to come. Being a medical anthropologist, Louis started rummaging through the drawers until he found a stethoscope. Someone took a picture of Louis "examining" me. It eased the pain a little bit anyway...

Memories don't always return to us as complete or in chronological order. But I believe the important parts remain. The second memory is when Louis and I shared a flight to an academic conference. I think it was the AAA conference in Philadelphia in 1998. But I might be wrong. Anyway, we flew out of Pullman, WA to Seattle and then had to catch another flight to our destination. I remember that Louis and I drank a lot of alcohol on the first leg of our journey. I remember having a lot of fun with discussions of life and anthropology. We were probably very loud and obnoxious by the end. When we arrived in Seattle there was an announcement on the plane, something along the lines of, "We have two passengers that have to catch their connecting flight very quickly. Please allow them to deplane first." As it turned out, it was us! I'm not sure if it was because the flight attendants liked us or thought we were too drunk to make it on our own. We got off the plane and one of those golf-cart-like vehicles was waiting for us. I remember the two of us happily and again loudly zooming through the airport. Somehow we made it to Philadelphia and had a great conference (and a few more adventures after hours).

After our respective graduations, we drifted apart, Louis eventually to Oregon, me back to Japan. Unfortunately we lost track of one another except for a few sporadic e-mails and posts on Facebook. We seemed to have gone through a lot in the last several years, both joyful and difficult.

I miss Louis, now more than ever. And from the posts I have seen online, Louis had many, many friends. So many people are mourning. Below are scans of the some of the photos I was able to find.
Louis chillin'
Louis tends to the bbq grill
Louis on dress-up bar night
With Louis at the AAA in Philly
Louis brings me to the airport as I depart for fieldwork in Japan

Rest in Peace, MOCA 1 of 2. Signed, your friend and colleague, MOCA 2 of 2.

NOTE: MOCA refers to the "Men of Cultural Anthropology" and is a nod to the grad student experience in Washington state in the 1990s, drinking mochas frequently to keep us going, and a certain popular TV show at the time (you can figure out what is was on your own...).

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Where did all the gyoza go?

The frozen gyoza vending machine that appeared in my neighborhood last year is now empty. No gyoza, no product descriptions. I inquired at the small, narrow izakaya to the right of the machine and they didn't know what was going on. Perhaps this place was not the best location to sell gyoza? (Perish the thought!) I will continue to investigate...

UPDATE 6/8/23: The machine is gone...
But not to worry. There's another gyoza vending machine a mere 10-minute walk away that is still working, located between a canal and a hair stylist shop right across from the small Shinto shrine under the Kayashima train station.

UPDATE 7/1/23: This machine is now gone as well...

And if that doesn't satisfy me, at the station closest to my work, I can buy some frozen meat and a bottle of dashi (a soup stock and ingredient that is said to add umami flavor) and then take a picture of myself with my new purchases in the photo booth.

This is all too convenient...

And a product of COVID-19 and meshi tero?

Thursday, June 1, 2023

For Mark

A few of us held a Japanese version of an Irish/Klingon wake in honor of our friend and colleague Dr. Mark Hollstein who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on January 31, 2023. Although we haven't been able to do it for several years, we often had a yaki niku gathering at the end of the semester. This setting seemed appropriate for the occasion.