I’m afraid I must report that the Christmas tidings at 2-91-8 Nittazuka are not all happy. My camera is in critical condition, a casualty, it would seem, of shrimp and grits. Whether this is a permanent status or one that medical science and the patient application of time and moistened Q-Tips can reverse remains to be seen. But the hard fact is that, at the moment, my camera is kaput. This is a direct result of it briefly sharing the interior space of a plastic shopping bag with the contents of a not entirely airtight Tupperware container of shrimp sauce, made less airtight by a bumpy five-minute ride in a bicycle basket atop a large bowl of grits*. The question of what my camera was doing inside a plastic bag with a Tupperware container of shrimp sauce in a bicycle basket is, while perhaps worth considering in a future examination of the events leading to the incident, otherwise immaterial to the issue at hand. Suffice to say that this American Southerner wished to treat the attendees of a Japanese Christmas potluck to a taste of his homeland and culinary heritage. This, I successfully did, to considerable acclaim, in fact. That the dish was flavored with essence of camera seemed to diminish its popularity not at all. Unfortunately, I was unable to document said acclaim for reasons which must be all too obvious. Despite this, the evening was not a total wash. Christmas cheer was generously indulged in, turkey (!) was eaten, naughty Japanese words were learned, e-mail addresses were exchanged, and Japan-related travel advice flowed like mulled wine, of which there was lots. There was also an impressive demonstration of a self-heating, self-contained, disposable saké cup purchased at a convenience store and an interesting solution to the ubiquitous absence of central heating in Japan: the electric heated carpet. I’d have taken a picture, but see above. And to be honest, it wouldn’t have been that exciting a picture anyway.

* My sister Angie is to be held blameless in these events, despite having provided me with the grits in question.