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Between land and sea download free torrent. “Don’t die on me now, legs! ” Sarah Beavers sprinted at full speed toward Firewater Dorm: the largest freshman-only dorm of South Appalachian University. The college was a noisy blip on the quiet outskirts of Asheville, North Carolina. Some claimed the dorm got its name from being built on a Native American burial ground. But it was most likely because whiskey practically poured out of the water fountains and showers. Even Sarah had a fifth of Jack Daniels tucked beneath her futon like a responsible student. But that’s not why she was in a rush today. In the lobby, she flashed the dorm security her student ID. “Where is he? ” she panted. “Huh? ” replied Evelyn, a punk-rock senior who looked up from her H. P. Lovecraft horror novel. Sarah, a disheveled hippie by comparison, tied her long brown dreadlocks into a messy ponytail. “Ah, ” Evelyn mused. “You must be looking for the mailman. ” “Hell. Yes. ” “Well, he’s over there doing his job so-” “Wham, bam, and thank you ma’am! ” “Ugh, get a life, ” Evelyn muttered, burying her nose back in the book. Sarah whisked past the lobby sofas to a huge wall of mailboxes: one for each of the 400 rooms in the dorm. Kneeling with his back to her was Jacky the mailman. His shoulder-length blonde hair and large biceps screamed I’m a California surfer who washed up on the east coast. Sarah admired his work as he stuffed handfuls of student loans into poor freshmans’ mailboxes. And considering the cost of student loans these days, he may as well have been stuffing them up their asses. “Sup, my dude? ” greeted Sarah, leaning against the wall. Jacky looked up with a grin. “Yo! Now let me, right? ” “Sweet! So you did remember. Bring me any good news today? ” “Sure did! I got something good whipped up for you and Winston. ” He combed through his messenger bag while Sarah drooled at the sight of his brown, form-fitting uniform. “And here we go! ” he announced, fishing out two envelopes. “Now I know exactly what these are. Let’s just say they’re not bills. ” “Ah, I think I’m picking up what you’re putting down. See ya tomorrow! ” She headed toward the dorm stairs. “But tomorrow’s Sunday, ” his voice trailed off in the distance. Oh trust me, I know, she thought. But your Facebook profile is open 24/7. She began the seven-story climb in an old, crumbling building with no elevator. Halls 200, 300, and 400 were the male quarters: home to cheap beer and Jägerbombs. Halls 500, 600, and 700 were for the ladies: home to cheap beer and Cranberry Red Bull Jägerbombs. At the top floor, Sarah’s calves cramped and pulsed. Being a recreational smoker took a toll on her cardio. And while she was in great shape, it was because she was known to pass up snacks for weed. Which was fortunate because all of North Carolina, including this campus, was now 4/20-friendly beginning this year. Through the crack of the door her South Korean roommate, Gigi Moon, applied makeup as sweat dripped down her forehead. “Ugh, they still haven’t fixed the fucking AC? ” Sarah scoffed, flinging the door wide open and fanning her face with the mail. Gigi spun around in her swivel chair with a nervous grin. “Nope! Looks like S. A. U. wants everybody to cleanse their pores with delicious sodium chloride. Maybe they’re hazing us! ” “Welcome to college, I suppose. You’ve got mascara dripping down your face, by the way, ” Sarah said. Gigi parted her long, jet-black hair and dabbed her cheek. “So…is your brother awake? ” “Beats me. Hey now, you weren’t dolling yourself up just for him – were you? ” “What?! He and I are not-” Gigi started, but turned to the mirror to finish her lipstick instead. “How the hell do the men in this dorm have it so much better than us anyway? Ever since we moved in it’s been blood, sweat, and stairs. ” “Oh, and don’t forget that they’re testing 5G internet on the 300 Hall! ” Gigi cheered. “Grrreat! And now they’re gonna download a terabyte of porn and ruin it for the rest of us. ” Sarah tore open the envelope like a lion ripping apart a gazelle. “To think we only have one goddamn washer and dryer in a dorm full of, finally! Looks like I got my season tickets. ” “Oh…yeah. Same here, ” Gigi said nonchalantly, zeroing in on her red lipstick. “Ya know, ” Sarah trailed off. “You could make a point to actually attend every game. It’s free alcohol if you’re smart. And not to mention, Winston will be there. ” Gigi dropped her lipstick, leaving a long red streak in the sink. “But he doesn’t even complement my personal convictions, maintain seamless hygiene, or share my penchant for fine cosmetics! ” A blank stare from Sarah. “I mean…he’s not my type? ” “Yeah, you’re right, ” Sarah agreed, massaging Gigi’s shoulders. “He’s too rough around the edges for a kosher gal like yourself. ” Sure enough, Winston Beavers was the poster child of a rural Texas gun show. And Sarah, a left-leaning hipster, always butted heads with his ‘Murican tastes. Winston craved McDonald’s; Sarah leaned Panera Bread. Winston shopped at Walmart; Sarah would get lost in a Whole Foods. Winston drank Folgers out of an old coffee mug; Sarah spent five dollars on an espresso every morning. So maybe that’s why Asheville felt more like a home to Sarah than to Winston. Everything was local, free-range, and much more expensive. “Look, it’s noon already, ” Sarah said. “Let’s wake his ass up. ” Gigi immediately shot to her feet, a little too eagerly. She put on her glasses, smoothed out her yellow sundress, and slipped into a pair of bright matching flats. “Okay, let’s go! ” At the 300 Hall entrance, a strong breeze cooled their skin. And right away, they could see, hear, and smell the difference. Most students’ doors were open, airing out the smell of weed as freshmen roamed around aimlessly in their boxers. Some double-fisted beer and mimosas. And one guy covered his head, slumped in the corner like a tornado drill. And none of them seemed to pay any mind to these two young women who walked past them toward Room 309. “ the hell is this place? ” Sarah mouthed as a random guy offered her a joint. “Did I descend four floors into heaven? Why don’t we have cool shit like this? ” “Beats me! I guess the gents know how to take advantage of a good situation! ” The “situation” was that there were currently no resident assistants in the building. The RA’s - AKA the Campus 5-0 - were currently in orientation. And they were due to begin work any day now. But until then, it was The Purge in Firewater Dorm: any and all crime was legal. In front of Room 309, Gigi straightened her skirt once again. Sarah jabbed her elbow into her ribs. “I think you should be the one to wake him up. His tickle spot is right below his belly button. ” “You’re... unbelievable, ya know! ” Gigi mouthed with a twisted smirk, masking her frustration. Sarah knocked on the ajar door. Winston’s roommate, Tai Maple, stepped out and held a lighter up to the joint in Sarah’s mouth. He was a lean black guy with gold-rimmed glasses, matching earrings, and a dark purple sweater. Sarah closed her eyes, inhaling her first hit of weed for the day. “Looking for Winston? You might not wanna go in there! ” Tai warned. He had the smooth, creamy voice of an R&B singer, but Tai had dreams of appearing on Broadway instead. In fact, he disclosed this to practically everybody he met. And Tai had the image for it. The sensitivity of Frank Ocean on his best days, and the naiveté of Urkel on his worst. And maybe that was a fitting comparison, because he, like at least one of those fellows, was gay. Sarah inhaled, then coughed. “Actually, I think she does, ” she said, pointing at Gigi. Tai crossed his arms and scoffed. “Be my guest. But I’m not responsible for what you see, hear, or taste in there. ” Realizing she was today’s pick, Gigi stepped past him into the darkness. She found the light switch with her hand, but hesitated. She had already seen several pairs of colorful boxer briefs this morning, so she feared what might be waiting for her in that bed. The 300 Hall was a sausage fest, and she and Sarah were mechanically-separated tofu. “Hey, ston? ” she whispered. “Are you awake? ” No response. She took a deep breath and flicked the switch. “It looks like the game starts in a few hours, and your sister and I just want to make sure that - waaah! ” When the lights kicked on, Winston was actually fully clothed. That wasn’t the problem. On either side of him were two topless redheads. Winston’s favorite flavor, and probably twins. One girl shrieked, covering her chest while the other mumbled in a drunken stupor. But eventually she too locked eyes with a blushing Gigi, then froze. The girl wrapped herself in Winston’s sheets, and dashed out of the room behind her sister. Gigi stared at their bodies as they sprinted down the hallway, wondering how she ever missed out on a blessing from the boob fairy. Sarah and Tai filed in, laughing their asses off. They stared down at a snoring Winston, who managed to still sleep through it all. A husky, “country-strong” young man with a full beard. Winston was dressed from neck to toe in one-piece fleece pajamas. Bright red and white (the school colors) and tiny beavers printed on every square inch. Not only was “Beavers” Winston’s last name, but the South App Beavers was also the school’s mascot. As an avid football fan, Winston loved all the attention this got him. Sarah, on the other hand, now hated her last name. Winston’s snoring finally woke him up with a start. He sat up against the wall and ran his fingers through his disheveled medium-length brown hair. “Now either I dreamed that one of those girls was a tranny, or Tai was waving his dick in my face last night. ” Tai laughed like a good sport. “You checked out early with those redheads, ya know! ” Tai said. “You missed Connor’s guy’s mom stripping down and doing the beer Slip-and-Slide. And man! Even I was enjoying it. ” “Ah, shit. I wish I passed up on those of the Rings elves, or whatever they were. Let me put it in simple terms. Gigi: cover your ears. ” Winston lit a Camel cigarette and took a drag. “If you’re gonna have a threesome, make damn sure it’s not with two sisters. Do you know why? ” Now the tomboyish Sarah was usually the first one to chime in on these riddles, while Gigi stood idly by. But Gigi, feeling a little more emboldened after what she saw this morning, took the bait. “Well... I attribute a potential problem to the shared DNA between two kin, resulting in a flat refusal to engage in incestuous behavior, as is taboo in the United States of America and other municipalities around the globe. Blank stares from the other three. “I sters don’t kiss each other in threesomes? ” she laughed. “A-ha, so you were watching everything last night, ” Winston accused, pointing his cigarette at her. Tai and Sarah sighed, while Gigi shrugged with a nervous grin. “Anyway, I gotta get my ticket, ” he announced. “The game starts soon, and we damn well should be tailgating by now. ” Sarah held up an envelope. “Well that’s the thing: the hot mailman gave me mine, but he didn’t have anything for you. You did place the order online…right? ” Winston panned over to Sarah, Tai, and Gigi. Nothing but apprehensive stares, as if it was his turn to roll the dice in the game of life. He took a drag of his cigarette and threw it across the room. “ Fuuuck! ” yelled Winston, waking up every living thing in Firewater Dorm. Minutes later, Winston sprung out the back door, still in his onesie pajamas, while the other three trailed behind. “That mailman! He fucking took ‘em, I know it. ” Sarah grabbed his shoulder as they crossed the parking lot toward the bus stop. “Gee, ya really think? ” “Yeah. It’s so plum-fucking simple. He wants to resell them, ” Winston explained. Tai caught up to Winston. “So what’s your plan, bro? Are we chasing this guy through campus on game day? In all this traffic? We don’t even know his route. ” But Sarah chimed in, pointing at Tai. “You heard him. S. has a thief in its midst. This bastard shouldn’t even be touching mail if he’s stealing shit. Unless he wants my student loan bills, of course. ” She turned to Gigi, whose yellow flats tapped quietly behind them. “What think ye, Gigi? Any hot takes on this debacle? ” Gigi paused, then closed her eyes with an apprehensive grin. “I propose we should bend a knee to Brother Beaver’s prime inhibitions, and acquiesce to satiate his id, ego, and super-ego! ” Blank stares from the other three. “Um... I want Winston to be happy? ” she clarified. Winston grinned, reaching out and ruffling Gigi’s hair as she blushed. “Now that’s what I call logic, volume one. Everybody on that goddamn bus! ” The huge university bus pulled up and they scrambled in to sit up front. And while Winston, Sarah, and Tai looked out the window to spot this mail truck, Gigi was the first to notice that something was very, very wrong. “” she whispered. This was no ordinary campus bus. Behind them: a sea of bright red and white. Shirtless guys with red painted chests and war paint beneath the eyes. Women with bright red crop-tops with no bras. And beavers. Beavers everywhere: on shirts, painted on faces, little stuffed plush beavers wedged tightly in women’s cleavage. Not to mention the smell of whiskey and beer that would normally make Winston feel like he was at a family reunion. But now, his stomach lurched as he leaned forward in his seat, trying to contain the liter of alcohol in his belly. “Look at this cozy-ass motherfucker in Beaver jammies! ” screamed the stocky, black bus driver on the intercom. His voice thundered like a Pentecostal preacher. “Everybody give him a good ole’-fashion Beaver welcome. ” And so, the crowd began clicking their tongues: the Beaver war cry. Of course, they sounded more like gerbils begging for food than anything else. This “chant” was a sight to see in close quarters, but even more of a spectacle in the football stadium. It was strangely surreal, and almost terrifying, to hear a group of 80, 000 fans click their tongues like Silence of the Lambs. “Aight, aight, ” the bus driver said. “Beautiful. Now, we wanna welcome y’all to the hottest motherfuckin’ pre-game on campus: The Tailgate Express. ” Winston gritted his teeth. It was everything he ever wanted. Booze, beavers, and cleavage. He gazed out the window searching for that elusive white truck, clearly more motivated than ever to get into that goddamn stadium. “Now over here on our left, ” announced the driver. “Y’all may recognize the Chadwick Hughes Student Center: named after the first graduate to create an academic scholarship for this here college. And what most of y’all know is that he holds the all-time record for number of teachers slept with. Thass right. Twelve total. I encourage all of you during your stay to try to beat this record, and honor Sir Chadwick’s legacy. ” This student center was easily the largest building on campus, and it would soon become more crowded than the DMV once the semester began. Filled to the brim with students pulling their hair out in Calculus class, downing energy shots like water, and masturbating in the bathroom to relieve stress. rare occasions, there were even students who came here to study on Fridays. Aspiring doctors, lawyers, and even dental hygienists like Gigi. “And on your left, we have one hell of a historical monument on campus. Glumwater Lake. You don’t wanna fuck around here after dark. And you sho’ as hell don’t wanna fuck around here after a handful of shrooms. That’s word to your motha’ truth. ” Glumwater Lake bore a curse, tracing back to the first graduation class of the college. It was Spring 1926: the fishing team paddled out to the center of the lake to practice for the summer’s large-mouth bass competition. But when an unlucky student tried to reel in his line, he slipped out of the boat and never came back up. Some teammates claimed that someone, or some thing, pulled his ass under that lake. During the day students frequented the lake to jog or play disc golf. Perfectly safe. But when crossing around the lake at night, it was customary to pour out a little bit of liquor, in order to quench the thirst of that pour fisherman’s soul. “And now, the holy motherfucking Mecca of campus, straight ahead: Chadwick Stadium. Or as it is known to us Beavers: The Dam. In just a few hours the Beavers will smear shit over those goddamn Land Sharks! And as is tradition, I’m gonna need everybody on this bus to look around and pinch, slap, or smack anybody who ain’t reppin’ our team’s colors! ” Winston looked down at his onesie. He was clearly safe. In this moment, he was one of them. But Sarah, Tai, and Gigi slowly looked at each other as they realized they were royally fucked. “Get ‘em! ” A rush of rabid Beavers from behind. Somebody gave Tai’s neck a deep pinch with their fingernails. A drunk girl, a little more merciful, grabbed Sarah by the shoulders and shook the hell out of her. Gigi, just over five feet tall, crouched beneath the window seat until the bus driver finally said “Aight, at ease. ” When the commotion subsided, she breathed a sigh of relief and stood back up. And then someone slapped Gigi’s ass. A firm, open-handed slap that caused her to shriek. Then the random culprit slipped into the sea of fans who probably looked just like him. Now Winston was the only one in the gang to see that red-painted hand, although he couldn’t pinpoint a face. So Winston gritted his teeth and slipped his hand into the pocket of his pajamas. “Whoever did that, come back up here and man the fuck up! ” Winston withdrew a black Colt Single Action Army revolver and pointed it into the air. The hair on the back of Gigi’s neck stood up: not because of the gun, but because she was now the center of attention. The crowd stopped their tongue-clicking, and quieted down among a flurry of “Oh shits” and a snarky “Is that compensation? ” Sarah and Tai stepped forward and grabbed Winston’s shoulders. “Bruh, what the hell? ” Sarah whispered. “You can’t just wave that thing around like that! You’re gonna get someone killed. ” “Yeah, ” Tai whispered. “Pretty sure this is hi-jacking, my man. ” “I don’t give a damn, ” Winston yelled. “One of these bush-whackers is eating teeth soup tonight. You’ve gotta be a desperate motherfucker to - ” Zaaap! The bus driver pulled the trigger of his police-grade Taser, and Winston screeched like a choir boy. The gun fell from his hands and hit the floor, sending a. 45-caiber round straight through the ceiling. The students screamed, crouching behind their seats, while Winston lay curled up on the floor, his pants damp with his own piss. “Stay there, and don’t fucking move, ” the driver bellowed, picking up his revolver. “I’m about to have yo’ dumb ass thrown in the pen. ” The bus driver must have been six-and-a-half feet tall, with massive biceps that suffocated beneath his Under Armor shirt. He was bald with a neatly-trimmed goatee and a nametag that read “Lionel. ” But in this moment, it may as well have read “Drill Sergeant. ” Gigi tapped the driver’s shoulder. “Please, Mister,! It’s not his fault. See, my boyfriend in the sea of raging fans elected to employ some ever-so-naughty shenanigans by giving my derriere a surprise dose of physical contact. Yet unbeknownst to Sir Winston over here, this mystery assailant had previously met my acquaintance and had even deflowered me at some juncture! ” Blank stares from everybody on the bus. I mean, my boyfriend slapped my butt and Winston thought it was a stranger who did it! ” Lionel’s expression changed from anger to a sly, opportunistic grin. “Well then, looks like we got a jealous simp on our hands, who misses her shrimp-fried wonton Asian piece of ass! ” He walked over to Winston, still lying on his stomach, and stepped on his back with this combat boot. “Looks like your girl over here found a man with a bigger pee-pee than yours. So you best hightail your piss-stained panties off mah fuckin’ bus. ” The back door slid open, and Winston slowly pushed himself to his feet. The Beaver-clad students just stared at the four of them, as if they were rivals from another university. When Winston reached the back door, an anonymous voice muttered “That was a nice handful of ass, I gotta admit. ” Winston whipped around, but Sarah shoved her brother off the bus. “Let it go, man, ” she muttered. And when the four of them left the bus, the front door swung open. “I mighty appreciate the parting gift! ” Lionel said, holding up Winston’s revolver. “Always wanted one myself in the Marines. Consider it mpensation for me not fuckin’ yo shit up. ” He chuckled, shaking his head. “Y’all conservatives are all the same. Never can take a goddamn joke. ” The front door sealed shut, and the Tailgate Express took off. Winston clenched his fists and kicked over a trash can. “Fuckin’ asshole man! ” Sarah put her hands on his shoulder and shook the life out of him. “Dude, be grateful! You just dodged a bullet! ” “Yeah, literally, ” Tai said, clicking his tongue. But the angry tears that welled up in Winston’s eyes suggested that he didn’t care about going to jail. Instead, all he thought about was that gun. It was a parting gift from his and Sarah’s divorced father, Landon, before he moved to Mexico. He had been an official resident for five years now, and they only heard from him once a week at the most. But every time Winston fired that gun, it felt like his father was right there by his side, saying “You couldn’t shoot your own dick if your life depended on it. ” “Now back to business, ” Sarah continued, pointing at Gigi. “I think you owe this young lady a well-deserved thank you. She kinda saved your ass back there. ” Winston composed himself, and now tilted his head at Gigi. “You heard the driver: I’m a conservative. I don’t need help from any of you guys, as a matter of fact. ” He studied Gigi from her yellow hairbow to bright yellow toenails. “And I especially don’t need any foreign aid. ” Something seemed to register in Gigi’s brain. Maybe it was the heat from the dorm room. Or the building stress of an upcoming full course load. But whatever this unknown force was, it stirred within her like a hissing tea kettle in a pressure cooker. “Show me some respect, you obnoxious brute! ” Gigi exploded. Now the gang typically gave Gigi blank stares whenever she spoke, often so that she could “dumb it down” to a third-grade reading level. But the message here was loud clear, striking a sudden fear of God in Sarah and Tai, who exchanged a quiet “dayuuum. ” Winston, starting to sweat a bit under his pajama collar, opened his mouth to speak. Then closed it. Then opened it again. “Alright. I’m sorry, Gigi. Despite all this bullshit, ain’t nobody sexually assaulted me so far. That’s definitely gotta suck. ” Gigi tilted her head, suddenly conflicted. Was Winston Beavers a borderline neanderthal?! she thought. But did he also make her feel important by sticking up for her? Before Gigi could answer herself, the elusive mail truck drove by. “That’s Jacky! ” Sarah piped up. They watched him pull into the parking lot of the “Fash-for-Cash”: a 24/7 clothing store where students sold gently-used clothing for cash on the spot. In turn, this money would almost always be spent on alcohol at the 24/7 “Gently-Used Liquor” store next door. The catch: both stores were owned by two Indian brothers who made a point to cross-promote each other. It was a lucrative business model. The owner of the clothing store was even known to charge women top-dollar to strip off their clothes. And it was rumored that lap dances that happened in the back room. The profit? The liquor store next door was the only 24/7 one on campus, and the premium prices reflected that. Winston, Sarah, Gigi, and Tai rushed to the parking lot and hid behind a sprinter van. Peeking out from the side, Winston saw the token surfer guy walking into the store. “Ain’t delivering no mail, I reckon. ” In fact, that truck was parked smack-dab in the center of the crowded lot. Winston envisioned his season tickets just sitting there in the seat, waiting to be reclaimed… “Here’s the plan! ” Sarah piped up after a few minutes. “Gigi and I will go in and keep tabs on him. You and Tai find a way to break into his truck. If he really did steal them, they gotta be somewhere in there. ” Tai held his hands up, dumbfounded. “Whoa, wait a minute. First of all, the owner of that store is a horndog, and he’ll find a way to get those clothes off you one way or another. And second of all... entering auto is a felony in the state of North Carolina! ” “Sounds like a plan, sis, ” Winston said, ignoring Tai and giving Sarah a wink. Sarah snatched Gigi’s hand and whisked her away. As they headed toward the building, the grin on Gigi’s face implied: Winston, I accept your apology, but you’re still an obnoxious brute. And then there were two. Tai crossed his arms in protest while Winston lay on his back, running his hands beneath the truck to search for a spare key. “You know, at this point, ” Tai began thoughtfully. “Why not just pay somebody else for their tickets? ” “Because them tix is mine, roomie, ” Winston answered, continuing to give the truck a full cavity search. “There are many other tix like them in the world, but thems is mine’s. ” Inside the Fash-for-Cash, Sarah and Gigi panned the clothing racks, looking for the tallest man in the building. No sign of him. Sarah headed toward the men’s section with Gigi trailing close behind. “Good, ” Sarah said, giving her a thumbs up. “He’s either in the bathroom or the changing room. So, Gigi…do you wanna play dress-up? ” A few minutes later, not even Winston and Tai would have recognized this Korean girl anymore. She had wiped off all her makeup, slipped a dark pea coat over her dress, ditched her flats for skate shoes, and crawled into the baggiest pair of jeans in the store. As a finishing touch, she tied her hair into a tight bun and hid it under an AC/DC baseball cap. “Um, I definitely don’t understand men’s waist sizes! ” Gigi laughed nervously, struggling to hold her pants up. “Well, you definitely pulled it off! As a matter of fact, if Tai met you like this, he’d already have a shrine dedicated to you in his closet. Now how about going into the men’s changing room and doing a little recon? ” Gigi took a deep breath, pulling up her collar to hide her face. “Okay, I will, ” she spoke confidently. “Wow. You know, you really have surprised all of us today. You’ve earned my respect, Mister Gigi. My brother on the other hand? He’s a little more of a tough sell, so don’t worry about him. ” Gigi narrowed her eyes. “Hey, Sarah? ” “Yesss? ” “Is ” “Eh, Winston is as Winston does. He’s been frustrated in this new town. It’s funny, he can have all the redhead twins he wants. But he kicks them to the curb soon as he finds out they have absolutely nothing in common. I guess women just kinda jaded him over time. North Carolina ain’t no Alabama, after all. ” Gigi nodded. “So he is set in his ways, I see. ” She turned around, and limped towards the men’s changing room while still holding her jeans up. “Hey, ” Sarah called after her. “Don’t forget to take any pictures if you see something good! ” Back in the parking lot, Winston had found a wire hanger in the dumpster. He was now trying his damnedest to shove it into the window to hit the unlock button. But it was sealed shut. “Dude, this is crazy! ” yelled Tai, swiveling his head around the parking lot for witnesses. “Look, my tickets. I only go to the games to gawk at the players anyway. I don’t know shit about football! ” Tai wasn’t lying. On move-in day, Winston stumbled upon a secret binder containing information on this year’s football starting lineup. Most notable was a “hotness” rating ranging on a scale from “1” (Let’s get Starbucks) to “10” (Let’s adopt an African child together). “Damn, ” Winston muttered, tossing the hanger to the side. “Fuckin’ thing sucks. ” Winston’s and Tai’s phones buzzed. It was a FaceTime group call from Gigi. They looked at each other, then answered their phones. “Hey, ” Gigi whispered, her boyish face taking up the whole screen. “Our guy is definitely in one of these changing rooms. ” “Pics or it didn’t happen! ” Sarah shrieked, jumping for joy. “Whoa, that was the world’s fastest sex change! ” Winston laughed. “Man, if you were a guy, I would already have a shrine dedicated to you, ” Tai cheered. “Guys, ” Gigi whispered sharply. “Be quiet. He’ll hear-” Suddenly, Gigi whipped her head to the side, and her dark brown eyes widened. The call dropped. Back in the changing room hallway, Gigi shoved the phone into her pocket when as heard the lock jiggle on Jacky’s door. She whipped around and sprinted down the hall toward the exit. But as she approached the corner, she lost her footing, slipped, and crashed into a clothing rack. How did I end up here? I should be learning about teeth! Or putting in another maintenance request to fix our AC! Or calling my mom! Not cross-dressing to help a boy I barely know... “Whoa! Hey bud, are you okay? ” Gigi slowly pushed herself up and sat against the wall. The first thing she noticed was a pair of long, tan legs beneath Jacky’s tight brown uniform. And then, a warm smile from a Greek god-like jawline, as he extended his hand down to her. He lifted her up and brushed her shoulders off. But as she stood there frozen, he narrowed his eyes with suspicion. “You the right changing ” Gigi nodded quickly, her black bangs peeking out from her hat. Relieved, Jacky chuckled, parting back his slick blonde hair. “Well, I’m Jacky! What’s your name? Hey, wait a minute! We…we met at Beleavers, right? Yeah, you were in line getting popcorn! Look, I know it was awkward last time but I have to you still single? ” Gigi’s jaw dropped. She forced a grin and nodded once again. Now she didn’t know about this alleged “single guy” Jacky met. But she had heard of Beleavers. It was a Methodist student worship conference that met once a week. Its attendants gathered for fun, fellowship, and - for the more resourceful of fraternity brothers – hitting on Christian girls. Jacky chuckled again, his sun-kissed face turning red. “Well, would you wanna get coffee sometime? I’d love to kinda sit down and continue our conversation. I mean, I stand by what I said last time: you can be gay and still be in God’s love. ” Suddenly, Winston burst in the hallway like a raging bull. To anybody who had ever met him, he was out for blood. But to Gigi, he was clearly faking it. “Bro! ” Winston yelled, throwing his hands in the air. “What the hell man? Mom’s looking all over for you. ” He turned to Jacky and gave him a fist bump. “I hope he didn’t cause any trouble. See, he’s my foreign exchange brother and he’s off his autism meds. ” “Oh! No, not a problem at all. Well, the offer still stands, Tim! ” But Winston had already grabbed her hand and disappeared, weaving in and out of aisles. She ditched her boy clothes, fetched her shoes, and slipped past the security guards out the front door. They rounded the corner to the alleyway, where Winston came to a halt with his hands on his knees. “Whew, that was a close one! Damn. So why’s your name Tim now? And what’s this offer that he was talking about? ” “Oh! Well... I told him that was my name, ” Gigi lied. She laughed nervously, then lowered her voice. “In my most masculine voice of course. ” She sat against the wall and hugged her knees. “And the offer? He wanted to offer …skin care advice! ” “Skin care advice? You? What, I didn’t know they let blind people drive mail trucks? Your skin’s damn near flawless. ” Gigi raised her head, and her earthy brown eyes met his icy blues. The first still, quiet moment all day. And then it was over when Winston cleared his throat. “Of course, if you ever have any pimples or blackheads…just let me know and I’ll pop ‘em for ya! ” Gigi gasped and threw her shoe at him. They laughed their asses off while they heard the distant cheers of fans in the football stadium. “Well, thanks for helping me out back there! ” Gigi said. “That was a clever getaway. ” “Ah, it’s no sweat. We look out for our own around here. ” Winston reached down to help her up. But he seemed to be stronger than Jacky. He pulled her to her feet faster than a frat boy dropping a dumbbell. She stumbled, then fell straight into his arms. Gigi stayed there for a second before backing away slowly. “ did pee yourself, didn’t you? ” she asked. “Hey, that electric gun hurt like a bitch! But look, I wasn’t the bed-wetter growing up. I’ll just put it like this: never share a bed with Sarah after a night of drinking. ” “D-did I hear my fucking naaame, my dude?! ” Winston and Gigi turned toward the Gently-Used Liquor store to see a Sarah stumbling out. She wore a bright red Beaver bikini that left very little to the imagination. And Bright red heels to match her bright red face. In her fist: a fifth of vanilla vodka. “I tried to tell her not to do it, ” Tai groaned, throwing his hands up as he walked over to Winston and Gigi. “Sarah, what the hell did you do now? ” Winston muttered, shaking his head. “I sold all my clothes for booze, bitchesss! ” She took a deep swig. A group of frat boys drove by in a Jeep Rubicon decked out with South App flags. “Hell yeah, girl! ” one of them shouted, dressed head-to-toe in a full-on Beaver mascot costume. They sped off toward the stadium, where there were most likely hundreds of other cars fighting for parking spaces. “Shit, kick-off’s in an hour, ” Winston sighed. “I guess we’ll go back to the dorm and catch it in the lobby or something. ” “Oh, about that, Mister Beavers! ” Sarah slurred. She reached into her bikini top and pulled out not one, but two tickets. “I have been keeping your golden ticket safe with me this entire time! ” Everybody fell silent - even Gigi, who had been silently cursing the gods for not giving her breasts like Sarah’s. “It was my plan all along! ” Sarah continued. “I have sent us on a wild goose chase under the pretense of finding your precious tix. In reality, I wanted to pursue my one true love: Surfer Jacky! ” Gigi stomped up to Sarah, and grabbed her shoulders with a devious grin. “Well I’ve got news for you, Sarah. Jacky likes boys! I know, because my disguise worked so well that he asked me out. Karma’s a bitch! ” Tai, pumped his fist in the air with an elated shout. “Yesss, baby! So you’re saying there’s a chance! ” Gigi placed her hands on her hips with pride, while Winston snatched his tickets. Sarah, on the hand, fell to the ground into a drunken puddle, as she let out a resounding “Nooo! ” that rang across the entire campus. An hour later, the student section of The Dam was flooded with red and white. The four freshmen were now suited up in the home team’s gear: bright red polos for the guys and a bright red sundress for Gigi. Sarah? Well, she opted to don the bikini in order to maintain that Beaver-fan energy in the student section. Everyone passed around a tin of shoe polish, used for war paint beneath the eyes. Vendors came around offering beaver plushes – not to mention beer for all the underage students who could produce fake IDs. And Sarah, after hearing the news about Surfer Jacky, opted to deal with it the only way she knew how: alcohol and a beaver plush on each shoulder. Winston, Tai, and Gigi were drunk as well, so they couldn’t judge. “Ladies and gentlemen, ” the announcer blared through the loudspeakers. “The president of South Appalachian College: Dr. Dale Crenshaw! ” The tall, clean-cut older man stepped out onto the field. By his side was a bubbly blonde student, dressed in a red corset with a white mini skirt. “Now who is that? ” Winston asked, turning to Tai. “Hey, it’s probably his girl. With all that money, he can afford a sugar baby like that. Which reminds me: you didn’t happen to get Jacky’s number, did you? ” “Better catch him on his paper route, partner, ” Winston replied. Dale addressed the crowd with a warm smile. “I’d like to welcome everybody to this year’s home opener: the South App Beavers versus the Virginia Landsharks! ” The Virginians cheered in southern accents, drowning out the tongue-clicks of the awkward hipster Beavers. Winston looked around at the sea of blue southerners from the opposing team, and concluded that he had applied to the wrong university. “And now, ” Dale continued, placing a hand on the blonde girl’s shoulder. “I’d like to introduce you to Miss Claire Danzy: treasurer of the Phi Kappa sorority. ” She took the mic and gave the crowd a polite wave. “Howdy Beavers! Y’all ready for a good ole’ fashioned game of football? ” The entire crowd - including the Land Sharks - clapped, cheered and attempted to cat-call their way into Claire’s heart. Winston’s even set down his light beer for this. He grinned and proceeded to clap like a seal, already ten drinks deep. “And to all my freshman now, ” she continued in a thick southern accent. “As a sophomore, I beg y’all to take advantage of Greek life. Join a frat and sorority and just have fun! There’s more to college life than the classroom, ya know! ” “Fuck yeah! ” Winston yelled. Gigi, a little concerned, turned to Sarah. “Hey, what’s gotten into him? ” Sarah, drunk from a lethal dose of Cranberry Jägerbombs, was now sprawling out on the bleachers with sunglasses on her face. “I meant what I said earlier, ” she slurred. “When Winston sees a country girl in a sea of liberals, his becomes fixated like a deer in headlights. ” She pointed down at Claire. “ That’s his soul mate. You said it perfectly: my brother is set in his ways. ” Gigi analyzed this Claire Danzy: her frilly red ponytail, dirty-blonde hair, golden skin, and bright red toenails visible in her high heels. Sarah was not wrong. This young lady oozed southern charm in a city that had never seen that before. And yet… “It appears I have finally met my equal, ” Gigi whispered with a smile, looking at Claire’s small chest, and then down at her own. “You say something, autistic brother o’mine? ” Winston chuckled, offering her a hard cider from the cooler. “Oh! Thanks! ” she answered cheerfully, cracking it open. “And nope, just thinking out loud. ” The South App Beavers proceeded to take the field, where they were promptly slaughtered by the Virginia Land Sharks: 28-3. Yes, South App was known for its proximity to downtown Asheville, its premier dental program, and as one of the first schools on the east coast to legalize weed. But its football program was only a shadow of its past. Coaches blamed the toxic amounts of vegan food and weed that seemed to find its way into the players’ bloodstreams each season. Not that the score even mattered to Winston, Sarah, Tai or Gigi. They filled up on so much alcohol that they began cheering for the opponents’ touchdowns before long. Their peers cursed them out and threw beer bottles at them, wondering who the hell these four students were. But the gang continued clicking their tongues, all the way back to the dorm in the early hours of the morning. Next week: [WtSA #2] “Campus 5-0”: The new resident assistants storm Firewater Dorm, bringing law and order in full force. The freshmen must now fight for their right to smoke, drink, and set up nude Slip-and-Slides in the hallway.

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Between Land and Sea download free software. We are a married couple in our 30’s and first time visitors to Japan. Our trip consisted of 5 nights Tokyo (with 2 near Tokyo Disney), 1 night Hakone, 3 nights Kyoto with a day trip to Himeji and Osaka. Overall, we absolutely fell in love with Japan and are already planning when we can go back. Hotels: I really fretted over where to stay, so I thought I’d give a thorough summary of each hotel I chose hoping it helps someone else. Sotetsu Fresa Inn Ueno-Okachimachi (Tokyo) This is a newer, extremely clean business hotel near Ueno Park. I really liked staying in this area because it was walkable from the airport Keisei Skyliner, Ueno Park was nice to wander around in the morning, and there was an area of tiny streets and alleys across the street from the hotel (south of the park) with tons of restaurants and izakayas. It’s also within short walking distance of 3 or 4 different subway lines so it was great for getting around town (direct trains to Tokyo Station, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara). We paid extra to get a corner room with a little more space, but the room was still very small than what we’re used to. The double bed was up against the wall which is not super comfortable for 2 people, as I had to crawl over my husband to get out of bed. But if all you’re doing is sleeping and showering there, it was fine for a shorter stay. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay in this area again, but I might choose a room with twin beds or somewhere with larger rooms. 4/5 Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay (Tokyo Disney) This hotel seems to get mixed reviews, but we had a great experience. I booked one of the renovated Ocean Dream rooms which is themed like a cruise ship. Our room was very spacious with extremely comfortable beds, which was a nice change from our other Tokyo hotel. The lobby smelled amazing and they had a large breakfast buffet with both Japanese and western choices (extra charge). It’s directly across the street from the Bayside Disney monorail station, so close that I wondered why they have a shuttle running to it (I guess for people with lots of luggage and strollers). You can check in at the Disney Welcome Center outside Maihama Station and they will deliver your bags directly to your room. There’s also a luggage shipping counter in the lobby, which is where we shipped our bags to Kyoto…very convenient. Loved it. 5/5 Ichinoyu Honkan (Hakone) I chose this ryokan in Hakone because of the price point and its history. This place has been in business for almost 400 years and is also moderately priced. We had a traditional room with private onsen, dinner and breakfast for about 35, 000 yen for 2 people. But they do not serve meals in your room, and dinner was not a kaiseki but rather a shabu shabu style meal with plenty of side plates and appetizer type things. The place is a bit worn around the edges, but for one night I thought it was a great value for a ryokan experience when most others are twice as much. Our private onsen was open air and looked out onto the river, which made a really nice white noise for sleeping as well. 4/5 Kyoto Inn Gion the Second (Kyoto) This little inn is in the middle of Gion, so an amazing location for exploring at night but a little inconvenient for getting to Kyoto Station or around other places. It includes a small breakfast and the service from the staff was amazing. It felt like a mix between a hotel and a ryokan. Our room had little Japanese decorative touches and was really cute. Absolutely loved it. 5/5 General thoughts and tips JR Pass was definitely worth it for us. I think it saved us over $150 US each. Do the calculators and make sure it’s worth it for you and the trips you are planning. Also if you use a rail pass for JR lines around the city, you might consider bringing some type of lanyard to carry it around your neck or attach it to something else since you have to show it twice each ride. It was annoying to keep getting them in and out of the bag so many times, which we kept them in to make sure we didn’t lose them since they’re not replaceable and are too big to fit in a wallet. I am from the American south and thought I knew humidity. The humidity we experienced in Japan in late September was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I can’t imagine what it’s like in the summer. Be prepared and drink lots of water. Luggage forwarding from Tokyo to Kyoto worked flawlessly. Our bags were already in our room in Kyoto when we checked in. I was nervous about doing this since I can’t read or write in Japanese to fill out a shipping form, but the lady at the desk helped us and filled it out for us. It really helped her to have the name and address of our hotel saved in Japanese in a spreadsheet on my phone, and I think our whole interaction went much faster because I had that and she was grateful. Couldn’t get enough of conbinis. Lawson’s egg salad sandwiches for life!!! The Japanese are so friendly and accommodating, many of them bending over backwards to help you. We encountered it everywhere, but I remember 3 specific anecdotes. 1 – a shopkeeper chased after us down the street to hand us back 10 yen change we forgot. 2 – the hotel front desk worker in Kyoto ran after us out the door to see if we needed to borrow an umbrella for the day. 3 – a man who didn’t speak any English helped us in a train station in Osaka when there was not a manned gate to get out of using our JR passes. We were able to get our predicament across by gesturing and he pointed towards the intercom box, stayed there until we got it resolved, and then stood and waved goodbye until we turned the corner and were out of sight. It was so sweet. Pocket wifi was amazing and well worth it, although the battery only lasted about 10 hours. They gave us an extra battery but it never worked for very long. Luckily we brought our own external battery. We rented from Japan Wireless. Pick up from the airport post office was super easy, and we returned it in the post box directly before security at Narita. I was very nervous about communicating without speaking Japanese and getting around on public transportation, but neither were an issue the entire trip. For communicating, almost everyone we interacted with had at least a basic understanding of English, and when not Google Translate or simple gesturing and pointing (for menus or street stalls) can get you by. All shops and stores we encountered either had an electronic screen to show how much to pay, the clerk wrote it down and showed us, or typed it out into a calculator and showed us. For public transportation, every train station we visited had signs in both Japanese and English, or with electronic boards that switch between both languages. Google Maps was also insanely accurate right down to telling you which platform to go to, so you can rely on it! Learning a few phrases goes a very long way. We learned some basics – hello, thank you, check please, delicious, etc. The reactions we got ranged from grateful to impressed to downright flabbergasted. Highly recommend and it’s really the polite thing to do, even if they speak right back to you in English. Research things that are open late and early around your hotel so you have some ideas for things to do if you are up at odd hours with jet lag. If you are awake, I suggest just getting out and doing something rather than laying there. Especially if you’re up early, seeing sites before all the other tourists arrive is really nice. The bus system was a little frustrating in Kyoto, it just seemed overly complex and the bus we were looking for never came at the right time. On a whim, I opened my Uber app and I was surprised to see cars and I could actually call an Uber. It turns out, you’re really just calling a taxi but it works just like Uber – you type in your destination and pay in the app. I was so happy to have this option! Money – take a coin purse or buy one when you get there, you will need it. We also found that many more places than we were expecting took credit cards. I think every restaurant we visited except for an izakaya or two all accepted cards and so did Don Quixote and other stores like that. The Japanese have a hand gesture to signal a waiter for the check – you make an ‘x’ with your 2 index fingers with palms facing out. This seemed to be fairly common and widely used, and I desperately wish this was a thing in the US. Craft beer is really expensive in Japan. Most bars and breweries ran around 1000 yen a piece, whereas liquor drinks were around 5-600 which is the opposite of what I’m used to (liquor is usually more expensive at home in US). Getting the goshuin stamps at the temples and shrines is an inexpensive and unique souvenir. We did find out that not every place does them, and some only have limited hours they will do them so be prepared for that. It was mesmerizing to watch them write! Each place has a book you could buy, but the choices were very limited. If you want a larger selection, I saw a lot at stationary stores. Tokyo Senso-ji and Asakusa We were up very early and got to Senso-ji around 7am before any shops were open on Nakamise and there was hardly anyone at the temple itself. So that made for a really nice visit. There are so many little paths to wander and small shrines dotted everywhere, so really take your time going through here. We ate lunch at a little place called Kamiya, which mostly serves noodle dishes. The chef was extremely welcoming and friendly and we felt very at ease for our first real meal in the city. We got udon and soba bowls and both were super delicious. We stopped at the Asakusa Tourist Information Center which has a free observation deck on the 8th floor that gives you a great view of Senso-ji and the surrounding area. Pit stop at Asahi Beer Hall on the 22nd floor of the Asahi building with some really nice views and the beers were surprisingly inexpensive given the location, if I’m remembering correctly at 600 yen. So not bad with a free view. It was a little unsettling riding the elevator with all the business people who work in the building, I was sure we were in the wrong place haha. Akihabara We visited after accidentally napping until around 10pm, and were surprised to see almost everything closed at that hour on a Friday night. I wrongly assumed it was a big night time area. Still got to see the signs lit up, and a few arcades were still open. We played a few games even though sometimes we were the only ones on the floor, which felt a little creepy. Surprised to see the machines accepted IC cards. Ueno As mentioned in my hotel review, Ueno Park is nice to walk around in the morning. There is a lovely temple in the middle of the pond, and we were surprised to see a long line of people waiting to pray around 6:30am on a Sunday. Across from our hotel, there was an area a few blocks wide full of izakayas, restaurants, and bars. We walked through here at different times at all hours of the day and loved it. In this area, we visited Taka no ha (which does not seem to exist on Google maps for some reason), a sushi place we went to around midnight on our second night and had a magical experience with the chef and some locals; Nagaokaya an izakaya specializing in lamb and tapas which was very good; Hub a British style pub that was open until 3am, but expensive drinks. Meiji Shrine This was such a beautiful place. We went on a Saturday and got to see several wedding parties taking pictures and doing the traditional processional type thing, which I was so happy to see. A Japanese man actually came up and whispered to us “excuse me, wedding” and pointed so we could see where it was. The walk up to the shrine is beautiful with the large trees and tori gates, it felt like we were going on a pilgrimage. Harajuku We were disappointed to see almost no one was dressed up on a Saturday (I guess the big day is Sunday), but interesting to see nonetheless. Takeshita Street was so crowded you almost couldn’t even go down it. Visited Daiso and another shop I can’t remember. The snacks looked so good, especially the cotton candy. We went to Baird Beer Taproom for some beers and snacks and really enjoyed it although it seemed like more of a western style pub but with Japanese food. Tokyo Metro Government Building observation deck Highly worth it and free! We didn’t try this, but we got lucky and got to see both daytime and nighttime. We arrived around 30 minutes before sunset and waited about 10 minutes in line. Once we got up there we got to see daytime, and then once we hung out a bit, also got to see the nighttime city lights. Also a surprise Mt Fuji in the distance! Piss Alley/Memory Lane One of the most memorable parts of our trip. It’s easy to miss, so be on the lookout. We went around 6pm on a Saturday and most places were already full. Many places specialized in yakitori, and we ended up waiting about 5 minutes for a spot that I have not been able to find the name of. If coming from Shinjuku Station, it’s on the left hand side and the yakitori grill faces the alley. It was all bar seats except one table in the very back. The chef asked us if we trusted him and was there anything we wouldn’t eat, and we said no. Then the yakitori just kept coming until we said stop. To pay, he just counted our sticks and said how much we owe. So good, really loved it. Teamlab Planets Also one of the highlights of the trip. I’ve never visited anything like this. I chose Planets over Borderless for the timed entry and because it seems to be the pick for people without kids. When we first arrived, there is a board with the times on it…if there’s a red triangle next to a time, that doesn’t mean it’s sold out which we initially thought. It just means there are only a few tickets left. We loved every room, I’m not even sure if I could pick a favorite. I would recommend not reading about it, just go and be surprised. Be sure to download the app so you can interact with the exhibits. Tokyo Rugby World Cup fanzone This turned out to be a disappointment unfortunately. We went to the Australia v. Wales match at the Fanzone. There were 3 screens in total, but they were all sitting almost directly on the floor. So if you weren’t in the first few rows, you could only see the top half of the screen. The only beer they had was Heineken and a cider. We would have been better off going to a bar and wish we had. Tokyo Station Ramen Street Made a big mistake here. First, it took us forever to find it. Secondly, because it had the shortest line we accidentally went to the healthy/vegetarian/vegan ramen place Soranoiro. I’m sure it’s fine for those that are looking for that, but we wanted the real deal. Thankfully they do have a traditional pork version which was good, but it just wasn’t what we were expecting. Tokyo DisneySea We absolutely adored DisneySea! The theming is top notch, out of this world good. I couldn’t even decide what my favorite “land” was (but it’s probably Mysterious Island). We arrived around 7:45am and there were already hundreds of people in line, but we were able to get into the park around 8:15 because the lines moved really quickly once they opened it up. I didn’t want to fool with the app because you have to have a Japanese iTunes account, so we did paper fast passes and ended up getting 4 or 5 before they ran out. Because we have Soarin and Toy Story Mania at our “home” park WDW, we didn’t bother with those and ended up getting to ride everything else between fast passes, standby, and single rider. Indiana Jones and Tower of Terror were our favorites. Teddy Roosevelt Lounge is incredible and may be one of my favorite bars ever (FYI, the bar is not open seating and you have to wait for that too). Sadly, we actually had reservations for Magellans, but were so tired by dinner time that we didn’t think it was worth spending all that money for a meal we would be too exhausted to enjoy, so we didn’t go. Hakone I read a lot of reviews different places saying Hakone is touristy and you should consider going somewhere else, so I was skeptical. So much that I almost changed our plans about a month out. Let me tell you, I am so glad I didn’t. I didn’t consider it nearly as touristy as other places I’ve visited. Hakone is BEAUTIFUL…the raging river, the mountains, Lake Ashi, all of it. I absolutely loved it. We got the Free Pass and did the loop, and it was a gorgeous day. The mountain air was amazing and refreshing after being in Tokyo. We ate lunch at Gora Brewery and Grill and had some awesome beers and amazing wagyu gyoza. They have a great happy hour from 1-4pm, so check that out. The one part of the ropeway that was open was fun to experience, even though it’s not over the volcano. Kyoto Nishiki Market Came here directly after arriving since it was lunchtime. It was a Wednesday so some shops were closed, but I would say roughly 75% of things were still open. It seemed to go on forever! Most places had something they sold out front usually on a stick that you could buy and eat quickly, and some had an eat in area where you could order something more substantial. We did the buy out front thing everywhere and ate smoked duck, shrimp, squid, shrimp tempura, dumplings, scallops, and green tea ice cream. Most things were 300-500 yen. We also saw some wagyu beef skewers for 800 yen that we didn’t partake in due to our dinner reservation that night. Kyoto Beer Lab Amazing beer brewery northeast of Kyoto Station. 1000 yen for most pints, but they were all top notch brews. It’s on a quiet street right on a canal, so sitting outside by the water was nice. Highly recommended if you’re into beer. Also, right around the corner is the original Nintendo building when it got started as a playing card company. Cool plaque on the outside, but otherwise that’s all there is – you can’t go inside or anything. I would not go out of your way to see it, but if you’re in the area and you grew up playing Nintendo, it’s pretty neat to see. Premium Pound Gion This is where we had our anniversary kobe beef dinner. I chose this place because you can make a reservation online and its excellent reviews on Tripadvisor. We chose the “special” course menu that was 9 courses, with the highlight obviously being a few ounces of kobe beef itself. They did try to upsell us on a little higher quality beef when we got there for around 6000 yen more a person, but figured we were spending so much already that we didn’t go for it. The beef we had was still incredible, so tender, almost melt in your mouth. It was teppanyaki and watching the chef cook was downright delightful. He took such care in everything he did. It was amazing to watch. Really great experience and beautiful meal. Fushimi Inari We arrived here around 8am and I’m glad we got there early. We wandered around a bit before getting a goshuin stamp right when they opened at 8:30, then headed up the mountain. I will echo what I have read here – the further you go up, the less people. I was a little confused up towards the observation point, there seems to be a lot of paths you can take to the top. We just chose one and started walking, and then took another back down. I was surprised to see so many little shops selling trinkets, food, and drinks (even beer). There are many little paths off to the side, definitely wander down some of them. If you have the time, it’s worth it to go all the way to the top. Inari Sake District We took the JR train down to the sake district and first had a great lunch at Toresei. The staff was incredibly friendly, spoke little English but we were able to get by using the English menu. It seemed like they specialize in yakitori, and we both got bento boxes that included some yakitori. Really delicious. They give you a blank coin/token for each person after you order, and we could not figure out what they were for. I was about to put up an urgent post in this subreddit, until my husband followed someone he saw that picked theirs up, and it’s for getting tea or coffee out of a machine. Crisis averted haha. We then stopped by Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum. The entrance fee was 400 yen and that includes a little bottle of sake to take home. The museum is small, but very thorough as to the exhibits explaining the traditional way of making sake. It is an extremely intensive process, which I was not aware of. They also had cool sake barrels and stuff like that on display. Highly recommended. We then headed to the sake bar at Fujioka Shuzo. We got the sake sampler which is offered on weekdays and consists of 3 different sakes for 900 yen, which I thought was a good value and you get to taste 3 different types. We were seated at the traditional table where you sit on the floor, which was cool. Pontocho Alley We were jonesing for sushi and wanted to experience Pontocho, so we headed to Sushitetsu and were seated at the sushi bar. I thought this place was an amazing value for the quality of sushi we got. Each sashimi you order is two pieces and 200 yen. Everything I had was great or outstanding. Including drinks and a small seating charge, we left stuffed for 4500 yen. Right across the alley was a tiny little bar (can’t find the name) where we tried some good Japanese brews, sake, and whiskey. Gion Gion was lovely to stroll around at night, so I’m glad we stayed in that area. The streets seem like old Japan, and with the lanterns lit up at night it’s quite magical. We were walking around about 10-11pm on a Friday night, and saw so many geishas leaving the restaurants that we couldn’t believe it. Every turn we made, there was another one. We didn’t take pictures or bother them, don’t worry. We visited Talisker which is a fancy whiskey bar with a library type feel. There was a cover charge and the bartender misunderstood the whiskey my husband ordered and gave him a very expensive one instead, but it was a cozy place to have a drink. Although we paid dearly for it - 4500 yen for 2 drinks (1 each). Himeji and Osaka day trip Himeji After arriving on the shinkansen, we ate lunch at Koba and More in one of the covered shopping areas off the main drag. Super cozy place with only 6 seats at the bar. Chef Koba made us a killer ramen that we liked more than the ramen we had in Tokyo. We left saying it warmed our souls. He spoke great English and was super friendly. He also had great jazz playing! We then headed to Himeji Castle. It’s so gorgeous and the view only gets better the closer you get. It was super cool to see the inside and climb to the top of the tower, but I wished there were more exhibits or furniture showing what the rooms were used for. It’s completely empty with a few signs here and there. Still worth visiting. Note that you have to take your shoes off at one point and carry them in a plastic bag, and there are also many stairs with some being almost a ladder-like steepness level. The view from the top is worth it! We did not visit the other buildings as we were running short on time. Osaka We arrived in the shinkansen at Shin-Osaka and took a train to Kyobashi station in order to go to Izakaya Toyo from the Netflix series Street Food. I was worried it would feel different, but it was as authentic as the show made it seem. There was a line at around 5pm on a Friday night, and we waited maybe 20 minutes. Toyo’s is standing room only, and we were shown to a table that we shared with a Japanese family of 3. They were super friendly and the wife/mother was very excited to speak to us in English. We got lucky in that Toyo was there and we got to see his signature blowtorch move, and also we miraculously were able to order the very last order of tuna cheek for the day! We also had the eel (unagi) and some fatty tuna sashimi. All extremely good. With 2 big Asahi’s from the cooler (self serve), I think it was only 3000 yen. I’m so glad we went. We then headed to Dotombori. All the signs, the lights, the giant crabs and other things, it was a sight to take in for awhile. Sadly, we didn’t really like takoyaki or okonomiyaki. Maybe we’ll try again next time. I recommend strolling the walk along the river behind the main Dotombori street, as it was not nearly as crowded and there are some bars to get a drink and watch the river boats.

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