Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jumping Through Hoops!

The Ultimate Hip Workout

Yes, I'm jumping through hoops these days because I love my new weighted exercise hoop. That's right, you heard me. The hula hoop is back, only now they've made it bigger, heavier - and more expensive - than the lightweight little plastic Wham-O "Shoop-Shoop Hula Hoop®" that hyperactive kids used to twirl around before doctors discovered Ritalin.

What goes around comes around

Will it go round in circles?

I should say so!

I love it because, ever since my new neighbor moved in downstairs, she never goes out (either she works from home or is agoraphobic), so whenever I would do my aerobic workouts, I'd hear her banging on the floor from below, complaining about the noise. But now, with my new exercise hoop - and my auxiliary "travel hoop" that packs up for trips - I can get a rigorous and quiet workout (woosh-woosh-woosh is the only sound it makes!) without causing a domestic disturbance.

The valuable recreational lessons we learned as kids never expire. While today's digital-age dorks go ga-ga over their Wii's, Wham-O founder Richard Knerr's million dollar baby - which he adapted from Australian bamboo exercise hoops, substituting plastic (Marlex) to create his own version of the ring - still reigns supreme as both a fun activity and a healthy workout.

Oh, for your Old School viewing pleasure, I've included this Hula Hoop Retro Commercial:

By the way, did you know that Japan once banned the hula hoop because the rotating hip action seemed indecent? Hmmmm, guess I'll have to keep mum on the subject around my mom, in that case.

My Mom's Japanese Record Collection

Sayonaro Dundalk, Konichiwa Parkville!

A couple of weeks ago when I was down in Dundalk visiting my mother, my mom told me she was getting ready to give away her Japanese record collection to a friend - until I initiated a "Save the Family Record Collection" intervention. How could she not pass on these precious vinyl heirlooms to her own flesh and blood? I snatched them up in order to maintain family listening honor. And this was only a partial rescue operation - there are many more records to salvage, but I couldn't carry them all in one trip!

This one was a real score as it featured the Oscar-winning star of Sayonara (Best Supporting Actress, 1957), the first all-Asian musical Flower Drum Song and TV's The Courtship of Eddie's Father.

This one's an authentic Japanese sound effects record!

I didn't know who the Peanuts were, but Tom told me they were real-life twins Emi and Yumi Ito, most famous here in the West as the miniature singing stars in the Toho sci-fi film classics Mothra (1961), Godzilla Vs. Mothra (1964) and Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). Besides being known as The Peanuts, they were also referred to as The Twins and the Mothra Fairy Twins. In fact, here's a clip of the "Mothra Twins" singing their signature theme song, complete with an English translation.

The Peanuts break out of their shell

Ridin' Out the Recession

When the Going Gets Tough
The Thrifty Shop @ Rugged Wearhouse

Parkville's Retail Mecca: Rugged Wearhouse

Saturday I went shopping for clothes at Rugged Wearhouse and scored an entire season's worth of clothes for work and play, from $2 work tees to a slew of $5 tee shirts and even a Sanrio Keroppi Keroppi pajamas outfit (tank top and bottoms). My boyfriend Tom, who was under the weather and depressed from yet another tennis loss (he's a rather world-weary weekend warrior) was instantly perked up when he saw my nifty black Beatles "HELP!" tee and downright jealous when he saw my t-shirt that had the Japanese poster art for King Kong Escapes (Kingu Kongu no gyakushĂ», aka King Kong Strikes Again) - the 1967 Toho film that featured a robotic mecha-Kong (as shown below)!

Mecha Kong in Toho's "King Kong Escapes" (1967)

(As an added bonus, the Kong shirt had a cartoon on the inside with Kong proclaiming "Machine wash cold with like colors. Do not bleach. Tumble dry low." How cool is that?)

He was so excited by the possibility of scoring a cool shirt like mine that he insisted we both go back for a Rugged Wearhouse shopping spree, arguing that it was "fiscally responsible" to stockpile essentials like clothing during these tough economic times. But, confronted by the preponderance of Phat Farm and Hoodlum Hip-Hop gear on offer on the Men's clothing racks could only whine, "These places are biased towards girls in their cool t-shirts...why don't they make cool stuff for guys?" Apparently he was less than enamoured of shirts with slogans like "Gin and Juice," "Born Playa" and "Playin' the Game 'Till Death Do Us Part." What can I say? He's a Metrosexual.

He had to settle for a handful of $5 tees: a 2-tone Specials shirt, Mad Magazine's 2-tone Spy Vs. Spy, a Japanese McDonald's shirt ("Not as cool as Mecha Kong," he sighed) and the bizarre "Thank You Chuck Norris" t-shirt that had us both scratching our heads. Thank you for what? For guarding our borders a la that quip from Mike Huckabee?

All in all, a very satisfying shopping day. I got eight shirts, a pair of pajama pants and two pajama tops for $52 bucks and Tom scored four tees and a hoody sweatshirt for $26. With the closing of Steve and Barry's, Rugged Wearhouse has filled the void of cheap chic clothing. Wear it and declare it!

Monday, January 12, 2009

I Was a Cover Girl!

And a "Living Doll" To Boot!

When I was 7 years old, I made the cover of the News American's "Maryland Living" magazine (May 22, 1966). That's me standing to the far right in front of the Patterson Park Pagoda. Ola Walters and little Regina Paul flank me on the left.

The accompanying story was called "Hina Matsuri" (Japanese for "Doll Festival," an event traditionally held on March 3 - the third day of the third month) and it described this annual festival as it was celebrated by the Sakura Club - an organization of some 40 Japanese women married to ex-G.I.s living in Baltimore. (Sakura means "Cherry blossom" in Japanese.) My mom Kimi Arima of Kobayashi, Kyushu (the Japanese island most famous for a city called Nagasaki - perhaps you've heard of it?) was one of them, and she "dolled" me up in traditional garb for the occasion. She married my dad, John Davis of Dundalk, when he was stationed in Japan during the Korean War.

The article misspelled my name as "Ami" Davis (do I have to proof-read everything myself???), maybe intentionally to make a 7-year-old half-Japanese Dundalk gal sound more "exotic."

Here's the first page of the article. The picture shows my mom, Kimi Davis (bottom left) - incorrectly described as a "Kabuki dancer." Again, the News American made everything sound extra exotic. And I guess they didn't know that kabuki dancers are almost exclusively male - women having been banned from performing since a Shogunate edict in 1629!

My Mom - the Kabuki Dancer!

Here's the second page of the article:

And the parasol picture? That's me again, looking "inscrutably mysterious" in silhouette.

Here are the other photos accompanying the article, showing off some other Sakura Club kids.

Stephen Sypniewski and Kathy Beck, turning Japanese

Sakura Club kiddies watching an Ohinasan doll festival rehearsal

You can take the Sakura Club folks out of the exotic Far East and transplant them to mundane East Baltimore, but as the article says, we all remain "living dolls"!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Miracle! Ring Owner Found!

Oh Great Tidings of Comfort and Joy!

Years ago, my mom found somebody's school ring at BWI Airport (pre-Thurgood Marshall) and, being a dingbat, it didn't occur to her to turn it in where she found it. About five years ago she told me about it, and stuck me with the task of finding the owner. I had no luck all this time (only the first name and initials were on the ring) until I found the school's alumni group on Facebook.

Wayne Fusco, the guy who runs the alumni group for Dunedin High School (in Dunedin, Florida) sent all the registered users of his two alumni sites an email about me and my efforts to track down "Donna" from the class of 1983. The ring my Mom found in some airport. He sent me a copy of the email he sent out, which went out on the 21st.

Dunedin High School in Florida

By the 22nd there was already a second email thanking everyone who contacted him who knew our mystery girl!

He spoke with her that day and she was in shock that it was found, and that someone would take the time to track down its owner!

He sent out a copy of the second email to me as well. It made me so happy! He thanked me in it, but I would never had found her if not for him putting out the word in the emails.

On Christmas Eve, Donna called me, and I learned that her mother lives in Essex! Her mother also called me, and we arranged to meet at Eastpoint Mall, so that I could hand the ring over to her. On the 26th, I met Donna's very sweet mother (with my own mom in tow, who was excited about the chain of events) and gave her the ring. She gave my mom a little reward (enough for us to enjoy a nice lunch at a favorite local restaurant!)

Now I'm relieved, and Donna is happy. And I have a New Year's resolution not to accept any more rings from my mother.

What a great Christmas present!

Related Links: - a free site for Dunedin High School alumni
Lost Class Rings Link - Duneding High School
Found Rings Link - Dunedin High School
Dunedin High School - Facebook
Dunedin High School Alumni - MySpace
Dunedin High School Alumni Site (

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thrift Scores: My 80s Tape Collection

Reelin' in the Years

The world may be digital, but for this Analog Amy, cassette culture still rules. Though I have to scour yard sales, flea markets and thrift shops for them, I've amassed quite an audiocassette library, especially of '80s bands - my favorite era.

The Alicia D. Cassette Collection
One of my best scores was The Alicia D. Collection I picked up at Govans Presbyterian Church. I call it that because the tapes listed below had "Alicia D." written on them, a permanent brand to let the world know these belonged to her - so hands off, would-be interlopers! Until now, after The Great Alicia D. Tape Disapora has spread her coveted cassette collection over who-knows-how-many flea markets.

Alicia D-lights:

The Housemartins - London 0, Hull 4
This one makes me think of The Rutles' tune "Into the Arms of a Scotsman from Hull". My boyfriend likes it because it's a soccer score - especially relevant this year with recently promoted Hull doing so well in the Barclay's English Premiere League!

Echo and the Bunnymen - Echo and the Bunnymen

The Replacements - Pleased To Meet Me

XTC - Skylarking
My best score! My boyfriend approved, because Todd Rundgren produced it, even though Andy Partridge and Der Toddster didn't get on well.

Other Fave Found Tapes

The Feelies - Only Life

Deee-lite - World Clique

Indigo Girls - Indigo Girls
The debut album with their famous song on it that I always forget. The one everybody knows about "I went to the doctor, I went to the mountain, I drank from the fountain..." Um, "Closer to Fine," that's it

Happy Mondays - Pills n Thrills & Bellyaches
Drug-addled Mancunian ravers. My boyfriend advised me to pick it up since they were the focus-point of 24 Hour Party People.

Crowded House - Crowded House

Gang of Four - A Brief History of the 20th Century

Divinyls - Divinyls

Duran Duran - Decade

Nick Lowe - The Rose of England

Voice of the Beehive - Let It Bee
The one girl used to be in another band in the '80s and the drummer in Madness was married to her, I think.

REM - Eponymous
Got this at a Goodwill.

Yaz - Upstairs at Erics
Another Goodwill score.

Go-Go's - Greatest

Squeeze - Hourglass

Squeeze - Cool for Cats

Squeeze - Play

Depeche Mode - Black celebration

Depeche Mode - Speak and Spell

Depeche Mode - Songs of Faith and Devotion

Talking Heads - Little Creatures

Talking Heads - Naked

Van Morrison - Moondance

Van Morrison - Best of

XTC - Nonesuch

XTC - Oranges and Lemons

Grace Jones - Inside Story

Kate Bush - On Stage

Kate Bush - The Sensual World

The Kinks - Lola Vs. Powerman

The Cure - the Top

Madness - Keep Moving

New Order - Power, Corruption and Lies

Fine Young Cannibals - the Raw and the Cooked

MTV's Amp
a mid -90's collection of electronic type bands

The The - Soul Mining

Public Image Ltd.

World Party - Goodbye Jumbo

The Dream Academy - Remembrance Days

Let's Active - Every Dog Has His Day

The Style Council - My Ever-Changing Moods

Enigma - MCMXC A.D.

The Who - Who's Greatest Hits

Never Mind the Mainstream- Best of 120 Minutes

Annie Lennox - Diva

Dead Can Dance - Spiritchaser

Clannad - Anam

The Slickee Boys - Uh-Oh No Breaks

10 CC - How Dare You

The Grass Roots - Temptation Eyes

Trouble Funk - You Got the Right One Baby
They were poised for great success but never made it. They never broke out of the local scene. Which is why you can find their tapes at flea markets, like me.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Whose Responible, Redux

Spotted on the Charles Street Bridge Midway at Artscape 2008:

And, no, I don't think the hipsters were being ironic. Just dumb.