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Happy New Year! 

The Observer is a dud when it comes to being creative, but we sure appreciate it in others. So we try never to miss the Japanese New Year's party thrown at a certain house on Dennison Street.

The Observer is a dud when it comes to being creative, but we sure appreciate it in others. So we try never to miss the Japanese New Year's party thrown at a certain house on Dennison Street.

This year, both the Japanese flag and the Scots flag flew outside the hostesses' house, as a nod to her partner's heritage, and she herself was dressed in a kilt, complete with sporran and flask. The Observer has never seen her in knee socks, much less a kilt, and she looked quite Scottish for a woman who has her Japanese mother's almond eyes. Partner wore a tam o' shanter and a kimono. The table was laden with boiled eggs pressed into shapes (skulls, kitties), horseradish-covered peas, edamame and, of course, Japanese New Year's soup, traditionally prepared with mochi rice cakes, which also traditionally choke a few folks to death every year. Our friend hasn't lost anyone yet, however, despite the fact that her house is full of friends and their children, many dressed in costume this year for a contest. The winner was Irish-born, just to make things even more United Nations-y.

One of the Japanese New Year festivities is wishing our friend's mother Happy New Year in Japanese. "Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu!" we say and bow to our friend's sparkly-eyed mama, who we also call ohbaahchan and who'll whip you in dominoes every time should you take her on. The person who gets closest to saying Happy New Year correctly gets a prize. The Observer got the first two words right, and sloshed through a third word meaning nothing (we hope), and for our effort got a bottle of Hello Kitty soy sauce, which we treasure.

This year, we observed a new game, in which the participants were blindfolded and handed certain Japanese items to identify. Hostess placed Japanese rice (short, not long like ours), fishcake and chopsticks in the contestants' hands and they did pretty well, the fishcake the exception. Then she handed them foot-long octopus arms, complete with suckers, and when one of them announced cuttlefish, our friend dashed into the kitchen and brought forth pieces of squid for the blindfolded to use to better distinguish the raw creature bits they were caressing. One guest, thankfully not participating, turned white, but did not faint, and was restored by salty rice crackers.

Thank goodness there is a house on Dennison Street with such carrying-ons. Wouldn't life be a bore otherwise?

***

Speaking of life being interesting: There's a leak somewhere under The Observatory, showing itself periodically by a shining puddle of soap-smelling water that creeps into the driveway every time we run a load of clothes through the automatic mangler in the back room. We figure we may have jiggled something loose recently when we brought in the new washing machine, a replacement for the Kenmore scratch-and-dent special that had been sloshing the funk out of our britches and knickers since before Junior was hatched.

Whatever the case, as much as we hate it, we're going to have to open the little plywood door to the netherworld set into the foundation of The Observatory, worm under the house, and find where the water is coming from. Pray for us. It's spooky and claustrophobic under there, and always makes us think of the stories we've heard of wayward pet pythons found living happily in the gloom under warm houses, grown to enormous size on a diet of raccoons.

Yes, we could call a plumber, but if The Observer called in a professional without at least getting some mud on our jeans in an effort to fix the problem our damn self, whoever we called would be legally entitled to drive us off with a sharpened stick, take Spouse and Junior as household servants, and claim all our worldly possessions. You can look it up. They've got bound volumes of the Annotated Domestic Potentate Code at any corner bar.

And so, soon, we will don That T-Shirt She Hates, grab a light, and go spelunking in the bowels of the Observatory. Hopefully, while we're down there, we'll find a chest full of gold doubloons, and not a houseguest whose name was "Severus Snake" before his Slayer-loving owner nodded off without putting the lid back on the aquarium about the time Bill Clinton left office.

And when we emerge, covered in mud and dirt, unswallowed by the great serpent that guards the underworld, Spouse will be standing there in the driveway like Penelope welcoming home Odysseus, beaming with love, so proud of her man, right up until the moment when we tell her the inevitable: not a damn thing I can do about it, honey. We're gonna have to call in a professional.

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