A Thanksgiving Pun? The Sunflower Incident

One of my favorite moments from the YFC in Europe DVD I LOVE YOU ALL is what’s labelled in English as “The sunflower seed incident.”

Basically, a certain someone put a bunch of sunflower seeds on Chirolyn’s pick stand & mike stand at the concert in Barcelona, and Chirolyn, thinking he was supposed to do something with them, decided the thing to do was chew them and spit them out. On stage. Leaving the floor crunchy.

I loved the unhinged-in-a-different-way element that Chirolyn brought to the band. I wonder if he was also the one who wrote Spanish cuss words in katakana on his pick stand.

Anyway, a couple of years later, I was telling my students in Japan about Thanksgiving. The pilgrims, the Mayflower, etc. And one of my students says, 「メイフラワー?メイフラワー事件?」(“Mayflower? The Mayflower Incident?”). I was like, “What? They teach you guys about the Mayflower landing as the Mayflower Incident?” The student replied that yes, that it was in the history textbook. Huh. With all the Japanese history textbook controversies, I found it funny that they’d get holier-than-thou about the start of future Americans’ transgressions against the Indigenous peoples.

Then I remembered the YFC “Sunflower Incident.” Was it a history pun?!

I think I at least Googled “Mayflower jiken” in Japanese to see if the Mayflower landing was indeed commonly referred to as an “incident” in Japan. Though the word 事件 (jiken) can have the neutral meaning “event,” overall the connotation is decidedly negative.

I don’t remember the results of that search back then. But for the past 4 years I’ve been amused by the thought that the YFC bit had this extra joke in it. Finally, in the spirit of the season, I got around to checking it all out again.

The man behind the mayhem was actually Junji, who got the idea to surround Chirolyn with sunflower seeds.

But Junji himself didn’t call this “The Sunflower Seed Incident.” He called it 「ひまわりの種大作戦」(himawari no tane daisakusen), literally meaning “Big Operation Sunflower Seeds.” Or as I would translate it, “Operation Sunflower Seed.”

I suppose it’s possible the person who wrote the subtitles was a history geek being cute. Or passive-aggressive maybe.

If you Google メイフラワー号事件 with quotation marks, you’ll get a bunch of Yahoo! Chiebukuro (=Yahoo! Anwers) pages of high school students asking what the “Mayflower Jiken” was about, or why the Puritans left England. So while this usage doesn’t seem to be too widespread, it certainly is in Japanese high school world history textbooks.

On a bit of a side note, now that I’ve seen Delinquent Hamsters, I can’t help but wonder if Chirolyn inspired their creators a little bit. XD

Is the hamster with the Mohawk Chirolyn?!

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Of Parking and the Two Detroits

By law, most people don’t have any particular claim to the street space in front of their house, unless they’ve gotten a handicap parking space. But sometimes laws don’t deal with human experience very well. If I’m legally bound to clear ice and snow from the city property adjacent to my house, and if I’ve grown up in a neighborhood—no, a city, where most people went by the unspoken rule that you don’t park in front of other people’s houses, especially not if you can easily avoid it, it isn’t hard to predict that I will be more than a little miffed at people choosing to park in front of my house when they are not my guests and had other options available to them. Add to this the fact that the people now doing this are guests of gentrifiers, while I will probably not be able to afford buying a house in my own neighborhood no matter how hard I work or how much longer I go around with a $100/year prepaid flip phone in my 13-year old pre-owned vehicle that I’ve only had for two years, and well…I’m pretty annoyed. I’ve taken to confronting these people and so far most have had the decency to move their cars but I can’t help thinking, “Why are you doing it at all? Did you not see the huge empty lot kitty corner from here? Did it not occur to you that in a city without good mass transit other people might have cars too?

The Status Quo Dressed in Progress’ Clothing

There used to be a fiberglass factory across the street from my house. Maybe when it was first built in the late 1890s it was an apartment building. But by the time my family moved from rented housing elsewhere in Southwest Detroit to our first home in 2001, the building was a fiberglass factory. The lot next to it was vacant, so the workers would park there. There were never any problems. Granted, I didn’t have a car at the time, so if someone parked in front of my mother’s house (which the next-door neighbors’ guests sometimes did) it didn’t bother me much. It always annoyed my mother though. A few years later the factory closed down, and the building sat vacant for several years.

Around 2013 we started seeing people going in and out of the building. Then stuff getting taken out. Eventually a letter came from the city saying the building had been purchased and the buyers wanted to convert it to three housing units, which would require a rezoning, and that there would be a hearing if neighbors wanted to express any concerns. As they were also taking the side lot, we didn’t think there was anything to be concerned about. Assuming 3 cars per unit (2 for the residents and 1 for a guest), that would be 9 cars. One vacant lot was enough for 9 cars. No problem! How nice that the vacant building would soon have tenants and they would have a place to park.

But that’s not what happened, because the owners only used half of the lot for parking. They seemed to have made some sort of garden-ish patio-ish thing in the other half.

Every weekend 10 completely different people show up, park in front of my house and the neighbors’ houses, and walk into that building. I get home from work at 9PM and can’t park in front of where I live. Yes, legally no one ever guaranteed me this convenience. But I don’t park in front of other people’s houses if I have an alternative that wouldn’t inconvenience anybody, such as these people do despite the building owners’ inconsiderate decision not to turn their whole side lot into parking space for their tenants and their guests.

Kitty-corner from my house is a huge vacant lot. The grass is always mowed and there’s a streetlight on the corner. It’s large enough to hold 3 single-family homes with big yards. So the street space in front of this corner lot is enough for 6 or 7 cars to park in without running afoul of parking laws. That’s enough for all the dinner party guests. Do they park there, even after I suggest it? No.

Because you want US to watch your car for you, don’t you!

Anyone would feel more secure leaving their shiny new vehicle in front of a house instead of a completely vacant lot, right?

So wait, lemme get this straight: you inconvenience me and my family by parking in front of my house but you want the convenience of extra security and being close to your destination? While I—the resident who would get in trouble if that same spot were ever full of more than one cubic yard of bulk trash or snow or weeds growing in between the cracks in the concrete—have to go park elsewhere?

Well ain’t that something! Que bonito!

It adds insult to injury to know the unholy rent price of those units. I Googled the address and found that the larger unit went for nearly $3,000 a month and the smaller one for nearly $2,000 a month. For comparison’s sake, my mother’s mortgage payments on her 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house were about $800/month; and most Detroit renters I know who are in about my same age & income brackets are paying $400-$700/month depending on location and how many roommates they have.

When Mike Duggan won reelection and his supporters started chanting “One Detroit!” I had to roll my eyes. I got your two Detroits right here on one street.

Isn’t it enough you’re gentrifying my neighborhood? Can some Old Detroiters at least park by their house in peace?

Detroit isn’t a city where you can assume most people are relying on mass transit. If you see a single-family home you can safely bet the residents there have at least one car. But a quick look up and down the street reveals most people have two.

There’s the family that needs a wheelchair van. So they have multiple vehicles. The families with their little work cars and one big pleasure car. The family with the two work vehicles and the classic car. We—a household of four adults—have three cars between us. So even with one car in the garage and one in the driveway, one needs to be on the street.

One more thing to consider: it is illegal, at least in Detroit, to park within 17 feet of an intersection. The neighbors to the intersection-side of us have gotten parking tickets for having their car too close to the corner. So when two strangers park their cars in front of my house, if one of us parked in front of our neighbor’s house, then we would be leaving them without legal space to park in in front of their house. That’s not fair either.

A while ago the landlady in that building was going around telling neighbors to protest the city’s dealings with the Ambassador Bridge Company. They’re trying to take the neighborhood.

It’s true. And it pisses me off.

But this neighborhood might be lost to me either way. As an educator I will probably never make enough money to buy a house in my increasingly expensive neighborhood like I always dreamed of. I can only hope that between the four of us we will be able to keep paying the utilities and the ever-increasing tax & water bills. At the end of the day, it doesn’t make a difference to someone like me whether it’s Moroun or gentrifiers taking my neighborhood as their pie. I’m up the creek without a paddle either way.

Is this progress for the neighborhood? Yes, when you consider a “neighborhood” nothing but a collection of bricks and mortar and anonymous sources of tax revenue. Is it really progress when all it does is repeat the all too common cycle of displacement?

The Bagley Pedestrian Bridge was supposed to have metaphorically “healed” the neighborhood of the gash the construction of I-75 caused decades ago. Things on this side of the freeway started looking up. Now, here we are again.

Meanwhile the people across the street continue with their blasted dinner parties and don’t have the consideration to tell their guests to freaking carpool like any decent person would.

You know where I park when I go visit friends who live in Midtown? In my university’s paid parking lots. I PAY to park before I go do some assholery by taking a local resident’s space. Or I ride my bike to avoid having to deal with parking altogether. Or I take the bus. I make a conscious decision about what I will do to not be a jerk. Because I know that cars need to be parked somewhere. And I know that someone coming home from work or Life doesn’t give a rat’s ass that they legally don’t have any claim to exclusive use of the street space in front of their house.

A little bit of consideration, folks. That’s all it is.