There simply was not enough space in my suitcase or money in the world to buy all of the things that I wanted to buy when I was in Tokyo last September. That's the long and short of it.
One thing that I purchased was a tiny plastic box of what appeared to be mints. I bought them purely for one reason: There was a picture of a pink monkey baby in yellow pajamas with a heart on the front, waving and smiling at me. His mom - I assume it's his monkey mom, is behind him. She is also pink and much bigger than he is, so her face is partially obscured, as if she is peeking out into my world from inside their world of yellow polka dots.
This is the best part about not reading kanji, as far as I'm concerned. Everything is a mystery to be solved, and within that mystery, there is room for my own imagination and storylines. I don't need kanji to know that monkeys are great. And have moms. And wear pajamas.
I popped the little package into my purse when I returned to the states, and have been carrying it around with me ever since. Once in a while, I take it out to show people as evidence of The Many Things That Make Tokyo Awesome - and Dan, my writing partner was the first person who had the wherewithal to ask, "Are you going to open them and see what they are, or what?!?"
I just kind of stared at him. I know people who buy new clothes and put them on immediately. As for me, sometimes when I buy new clothes, I hang them in the closet and don't touch them for a while. I have to fight the urge to do this because if I don't force myself to wear them immediately, they take on some weird aura of SPECIAL and it gets harder and harder to get myself to wear them. I kind of felt like this was happening with the monkey mints.
Oh yes, by the way, I have dubbed them monkey mints.
Last week, I was at an audition, and had been waiting there for ages. It was closing in on lunchtime, and I was getting hungry. I had no more gum left in my purse, which was not such a bad thing since I didn't want to be masticating when they called my name.
Hehheh, I said masticating.
So I did a "crazy" thing. I opened the monkey mints. I figured it was as good a time as any - no fanfare or loved ones around me. I even offered one to the girl sitting next to me, with the disclaimer that "I got them in Japan and have no idea what they are."
They are sweet smelling - something familiar... is it burnt caramel? They are sweet to the taste - almost... is that... egg? Not a trace of mint, just sweet candy... but so familiar...
...and then I look at the little pink monkey on the package, and I see something that I didn't notice before. The reason for his little monkey smile. Maybe I didn't notice it until that moment because my Western brain doesn't expect this on a small package of what appear to be mints, or maybe my Western eye grouped it in with the cartoonish kanji that I can't read, but after tasting the candies, it popped into focus and was clear as day.
A tiny flan.
Yes. The monkey mints are actually flan flavored candy. Custard!
Hey, look - I'll make you a deal - if you - yes you! are a meanlarious reader, and happen to be attending ARGFest-O-Con in San Francisco where I am a guest next weekend - please introduce yourself to me and ask me for a monkey mint. It will be our secret custard code that you read this blog, and I WILL SHARE ONE WITH YOU*. We all KNOW I am not a *strong* share-er - but I am willing to do this, so that you too can experience the flan.
*while supplies last