Proofs, Paper Mario, and Surimi

I’ve been very, very busy the past few weeks.

Big news: my wife and I are moving to Japan!

Since 2020, Regan’s been studying Japanese. Earlier this year, she applied to the JET program so that she can teach English in Japan for a year. And she got in! This summer we’ll be moving to Japan (we don’t know where in Japan just yet) where my wife will teach the world’s most lucrative language to Japan’s most impressionable young minds. I’ll either find part-time work as an English tutor or else become a house husband.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on finalizing proofs for stories I have coming out in journals and anthologies and putting the final touches on proofs for my first novel. During this time, I’ve also finished the rewrite of another novel I started working on about a year ago, titled lolcow, which is about an aspiring entomologist who drops out of grad school and helps his childhood friends make a YouTube channel about a forty-year-old lolcow with autism who lives in the small town of Rattler, Virginia. The entirety of the main cast is neurodiverse also.

When I haven’t been writing, I’ve been playing a ton of Paper Mario, specifically the one for N64 and the sequel for GameCube, The Thousand-Year Door. I was six or seven when the first one came out in the U.S. toward the end of the N64’s lifespan, and I remember being very fascinated by the game’s mechanics and visual style when I played it at a Toys’R’Us in Sioux City, Iowa.

I love how so many classic Mario enemies (Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Bob-ombs, Boos, etc.) are recast as races with their own communities and cultures, similar to races in the Zelda series, and not just baddies you stomp on and forget about. The partners you team up with along the way are also fun to master in combat, and while their personalities are often a bit flat (pun intended), they’re nevertheless charming. (Also, don’t look up “Goombella” or “Vivian the shadow siren” on Google images unless you want to see some…very confusing artwork. How someone could look at a sentient mushroom wearing a pith helmet or a piece of grape Laffy Taffy in a witch’s hat and say to themselves, “Wowzers! What a babe!” is beyond me, but I guess people on the Internet will develop lustful feelings for anything. Well, there are worse fictional crushes than Goombella or Vivian. Years ago, when I was a manager at Chipotle, one of my coworkers made fun of me because I admitted that my first childhood crush was the mom from the PBS show Between the Lions. This same coworker later confessed that he had a massive crush on the blue lady car from the Pixar film Cars, and when I pointed out that that was a way more embarrassing crush than a husky-voiced anthropomorphic lioness who teaches kids to read, he called me a filthy furry. This same coworker was also disconcertingly obsessed with the upkeep of his Honda Civic, which leads me to wonder what he was doing to that Civic other than rotating its tires and changing its oil. He was also obsessed with Batman and insisted everyone call him “The Dark Knight.”)

I also started eating a lot more surimi lately (colloquially known as “imitation crab” in the U.S.). I never realized how cheap and versatile this stuff was! I really love roasting it and tossing in oyster sauce and chili crisp. And crab salad on rye can’t be beat on a hot day. Fun fact about surimi: it’s existed in Japan since roughly the 12th century as a way of using up leftover fish bits (similar to how sausages were invented in Germany as a way to keep unappealing pork bits from going to waste). It wasn’t until the 1960s, however, that the surimi we all know and love came into being, when a chemist added sugar to raw surimi slurry in order to extend the product’s shelf life. This additional sweetness also gave it a slightly crab-like flavor.

One of my favorite things to do with surimi is make mac ‘n’ cheese with it. I hate cheese, so I don’t use cheese; instead, I mash up a salted duck egg or two and add it to a sauce consisting of butter, garlic, caramelized onions, and surimi. My wife and my mom think it’s disgusting and smells weird, but I love it.