Countdown 365: #359 – Wasabi Rush

wasabi-ft1OK, I know what you’re thinking… Gratitude and Wasabi? Well, yes.

In 1975 I had my first taste of wasabi while living in Japan.  I grew up a lover of hot spicy chilis and so the zing of wasabi was not bad.  But, unlike chilis, it left no “afterburn.”  What it did do was send a rush through my brain and my nose.  Not being one who ever took drugs, I only imagined that this was what it was like being high.

Benefits of Wasabi

Benefits of Wasabi

Wasabi5I was never one to look into the benefits of wasabi. I have just enjoyed, with fascination and wonder, the amazing flavor and the sensory rush it gives me. Although wasabi does have a strong, spicy taste, it is different than the taste of capsaicin (which I also love and will cover in another future gratitude piece), the chemical found in chili peppers that gives them their hot or spicy flavor. Whereas capsaicin gives the sensation of “burning” on the tongue, wasabi affects the olfactory sense, releasing chemical vapors that affect the nasal passage. And that is what I love about it.  Indeed, The potent taste of wasabi is similar to hot mustard (which I also like), and it is most commonly used as a condiment. Since wasabi’s unique flavor is not oil-based as it is with chili peppers, the strong or uncomfortable sensation of eating wasabi does not last very long, and some people actually find it pleasant and invigorating, which is most certainly my case!

Real Wasabi

Real Wasabi

When we moved to Oita, Japan in the late 1980s I learned that this area of Japan was a major grower of wasabi.  I had numerous opportunities to eat sushi with FRESH wasabi right out of the ground. Man oh man!! What a rush!

Of course, it is really a condiment, like mustard or ketchup, but chiefly used with sushi and sometimes with buckwheat noodles (also known as soba).

Have some sushi on that wasabi...

Have some sushi on that wasabi…

SushiI have always loved sushi (sushi has rice and vegetables and sometimes raw or cooked fish and a dab of wasabi, in most cases).  Sashimi, which is just cut raw fish, is also typically eaten with soy sauce and wasabi.

I have to admit that it is one of my favorite things in the world to eat!  I am grateful that God created wasabi for our taste buds as well as for our health benefit.

In recent years there have been a few other products with wasabi, only available in Japan and not yet tasted by my tongue.  But I thought it would be fun to share — no explanation is necessary.  You’ll get the picture.

WasabiKettleChips

Wasabi KitKats?

Yum?

WasabiDoritos

And finally, how can I not write a gratitude piece on Wasabi without including this classic TV Commercial from 2000.  Yes, I know its a beer commercial.  But who cares? Wasaaaabi…..

Halloween: Sumoflam in Costume

Sumoflam on the blazin' bench in Hell (Michigan that is)

Sumoflam on the blazin’ bench in Hell (Michigan that is)

Everyone knows that Halloween time is a time for young and old alike to get all dressed up in costumes.  I have never been one to shy away from this, even when it is not Halloween.  Here are a few Sumoflam spookies and Sumoflam spoofies from over the years….

SumoBull

I always try to take the bull by the horns…or be the bull with the horns….

Another Horn Shot...this guy is really bullish

Another Horn Shot…this guy is really bullish

Besides the antics, I have been “in costume” many times.  How about a few….

I was the terrible giant in a Jack and the Beanstalk play back in the early 1980s in Flagstaff....Fee Fi Fo Sumoflam

I was the terrible giant in a Jack and the Beanstalk play back in the early 1980s in Flagstaff….Fee Fi Fo Sumoflam

In Japan I did a number f TV shows…this one I was dressed as an evil Onoguri demon (or something…)  You can see a video of the creepy dancing HERE

Sumoflam the Onoguri

Sumoflam the Onoguri

A few Halloweens back I threw on some fun outfits for a Trunk or Treat….

Sumo-Elton

Sumo-Elton

Sponge Bob Sumoflam

Sponge Bob Sumoflam

Then there was the time I put on my “pink shades” and really Flamingo-eyesed myself in Louisville…

Flamingoe-Eyes...

Flamingo-Eyes…

I always like interesting shades…in fact, my future is so bright I gotta wear shades

Sumoflam in shades

Sumoflam in shades

Sumoshades

Sumoshades

There is the Japanese costumer in me.  I had many opportunities for dress up in Japan…

Sumoflam the Samurai - for a TV show in Japan

Sumoflam the Samurai – for a TV show in Japan

The dignified look in a nice kimono for a Japanese New Year's TV show that I was a co-host on

The dignified look in a nice kimono for a Japanese New Year’s TV show that I was a co-host on

Well...not quite in Japan and not quite the right size...but I tried to be a samurai....

Well…not quite in Japan and not quite the right size…but I tried to be a samurai….

Dressed down for Tanabata festival in Oita, Japan.

Dressed down for Tanabata festival in Oita, Japan as part of the Asahi Solar Contingent

Speaking of Asahi Solar, back in 1990 when I lived in Japan, I worked for them. They sold Solar Water Heaters, a big business in Japan. I was asked to be in a commercial where I would sit in the bath tub and sing an old traditional Japanese song while playing with this little doll, named Solar Bo, that would shed his clothes when put into hot water. It was a hit commercial all over Japan for about 6 months. Still funny after all these years. Anyway, the advertising agency Dentsu guys decided to make a “Making Of…” video and had me flying over Arizona in a bathtub to the tune of Ghostbusters…hey…its Halloween music.

Then there is me hiding behind a Ghostbuster donut….

Bustin' makes me feel good

Bustin’ makes me feel good

Donuts aren’t the only place you’ll find me hiding….

Hiding in the sand in a sandbath in Japan

Hiding in the sand in a sandbath in Japan

Hiding in the leaves

Hiding in the leaves

Hiding behind balloons

Hiding behind balloons

I visited this place called Screaming Heads in Ontario.  Really cooly ghouly spooky place.  See my travel post about it HERE.

Hiding behind Screaming Heads

Hiding behind Screaming Heads

Hiding behind a thing...something

Hiding behind a thing…something in San Francisco

Incognito in Council Bluffs...blended right in...

Incognito in Council Bluffs…blended right in…

Then there was the day in Provo, UT in 1978 where some friends dressed me up….’nuff said…

Costume Party in Provo, Utah, 1978

Costume Party in Provo, Utah, 1978

Indeed, I am unabashed.  I’ll even stick my head out (or in) to have a gag shot…

Krav in the Hat

Krav in the Hat

Dressing up is fun, but sometimes, just making faces or even just having a bad hair day is fun (and maybe even scary)

Bad Hair Day

Bad Hair Day

Big Mustache

Big Mustache

Who knows? (Taken in 1977 while a missionary in Japan)

Who knows? (Taken in 1977 while a missionary in Japan)

Twins..

Twins..

Then, there is that other holiday…and I have dressed up for it  on many an occasion over the years.  The one below is from Japan in 1977.

SumoClaus

SumoClaus in 1977

Not to be too witchy, but I found myself a good witchy woman for Halloween…Happy Halloween!!

Witchy Woman

Witchy Woman

40 Years Ago this year: I Didn’t See This Coming

A little over 40 years ago this year I completed my last semester of high school in 1974 at Murray High School in Murray, Utah. In many respects, it seems like just yesterday, but then there are other pieces that make it seem like it was ages ago. I am amazed at how quickly 40 years has passed!

David 40 years after graduating high school in 1974

David 40 years after graduating high school in 1974

The year 1974 marked a new direction for me and my life as I took many avenues towards the location where I am now, 40 years later. I had no idea in 1974 what the next five years of my life would bring me and how that five years of my life would have a profound impact on the direction and course that the rest of my life has taken me.

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David Kravetz 1974 shortly before graduation

Graduation from Murray High School in Utah in 1974

Graduation from Murray High School in Utah in 1974

Within a year of my graduation I had gotten a new full-time job and I was traveling quite a bit for Alta Distributing, which was a record and tape rack jobber. This began to fulfill my wanderlust of being able to travel on the road while at the same time fulfilling my joy in music.

One year after high school while working for Alta Distributing

One year after high school while working for Alta Distributing

During my senior year of high school I had begun learning about the Mormon church. Most of my friends during my senior year were LDS members and all lived in my general neighborhood. They were amazing examples to me and treated me like a brother which was a defining note in terms of my eventually joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in January 1975.

Hanging with a couple of my friends from high school

Hanging with a couple of my friends from high school (Brett Davies & Scott Brown)

My graduation in May 1974 marked an unusual event for me as it was the only time in all of my school years that both my stepmother Marjorie and my stepfather Joe attended a school event of mine together. One or the other had, on occasion, been to one of my band concerts or other events, but never had both of them shown up together at any of my events until my graduation. The fact that they attended my graduation is absolutely a fond memory for me. I can even remember the steakhouse that they took me out to after graduation that night for my graduation dinner.

A rare photo of my step father Joe Kravetz and my step mother Marge - ca. 1978

A rare photo of my step father Joe Kravetz and my step mother Marge – ca. 1978

Within a year of my graduation I was kicked out of the house for my following the teachings of the Mormon church. Over the years my relationship with my step parents had bounced up and down.  Though never terrible, there was never that real close feeling of being part of a truly connected family. I can’t blame either Marjorie or Joe, as they had many troubles in their lives. They had troubles between each other and then they had the challenges of trying to raise a pretty much dysfunctional family.

Another rare photo - the only known complete family photo of all of the Kravetz Clan - ca. 1978

Another rare photo – the only known complete family photo of all of the Kravetz Clan – ca. 1978

The year 1974 also created memories in relationship to the music that was popular back then as well as some of the movies during that period. There was a great hit by Bachman Turner Overdrive called “Taking Care of Business” which had become popular in 1974 and has remained one of my theme songs throughout my life. Disco began making its moves in 1974 as well and I was (and continue to be) fond of that music genre to this day.

The Hobbit - I was addicted to Tolkien by the end of 1974

The Hobbit – I was addicted to Tolkien by the end of 1974

It was during the spring of 1974 that I had my first dabbling into J.R.R. Tolkien works. I had to read “The Hobbit” in my English class that spring and I don’t believe that I had ever become so engrossed in a book as I did with “The Hobbit” in 1974. Soon thereafter, and also during that semester in school, I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Needless to say, I was enthralled by the Lord of the Rings and by J.R.R. Tolkien’s other writings. Even back then, despite the great advances in movie technology, I had to wait over 30 years for the first real Lord of the Rings movie to appear. Interestingly enough, at that time the musical group Chicago had released their sixth album and one of the songs on the album was “Wishing You Were Here“. I listened to that album many many times in 1974 and many of them were down in my deep dark bedroom that had no windows as I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Even today when I hear that song, as I did back then, it makes me think of Bilbo Baggins wishing Gandalf were there in the lonely cave as he was being chased by Gollum.

Rock Concert shot from 1975 in Salt Lake City

Rock Concert shot from 1975 in Salt Lake City – Neil Diamond

I had my first ventures into arena rock concerts in 1974, attending shows such as Loggins and Messina, the Doobie Brothers, America and Billy Joel. That year Elton John released his album Yellow Brick Road and had a tour associated with it, including one stop at the University of Utah’s arena. I was able to attend that show, and it turned out to be one of my most memorable concerts of all time. It was also in 1974 that I saw a group called Steppenwolf perform in Salt Lake City. At that time the lead guitarist was named Bobby Cochran. Little did I know back then that 35 years later I would be friends with that same Bobby Cochran and would be traveling with him as he performed with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. I am grateful to be friends with Bobby, who is a guy and an amazing guitarist.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the time that I have spent with him in our travels.

John Kaye of Steppenwolf in Salt Lake City, 1975

John Kaye of Steppenwolf in Salt Lake City, 1975

Bobby Cochran, then with Steppenwolf in 1975

Bobby Cochran, then with Steppenwolf in 1975

Here I am with Bobby Cochran in 2011

Here I am with Bobby Cochran in 2011

As my schooling in 1974 came to an end, I had become a fairly accomplished saxophone player on both the tenor and baritone saxophones. I was taking lessons from a  well-known jazz musician at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. I actually had dreams of joining a band very similar to Chicago or Blood, Sweat and Tears, and practiced my heart out to do so.

I played the Baritone Sax all through high school

I played the Baritone Sax all through high school

Here I am in 1973 with the Bozeman High School Jazz Band

Here I am in 1973 with the Bozeman High School Jazz Band

But, at that time, little did I know, that my life would change dramatically upon being baptized into the LDS (Mormon) Church. My dreams of becoming a professional rock musician faded away. Within a year from my baptism in January 1975, I was called on a mission and went to serve the church in Nagoya, Japan.

Serving as a missionary in Fuji, Japan 1978

Serving as a missionary in Fuji, Japan 1978

Even on my mission I loved to write and have fun

Even on my mission I loved to write and have fun

That two years of my life in Japan ultimately changed the entire direction of my life. After serving from 1976 to 1978, and upon my return to the states, I have spent a good part of the last 35 years involved in full-time work with Japanese-related businesses and even returned to Japan for four years with my family in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Thanks to my time as a missionary I worked in Japan.  Here I am with then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe and Oita Prefecture Mayor Morihiko Hiramatsu

Thanks to my time as a missionary I worked in Japan. Here I am with then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe and Oita Prefecture Mayor Morihiko Hiramatsu

I spent three days with Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comaneci during her visit to Kyushu in 1990

I spent three days with Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comaneci during her visit to Kyushu in 1990

Indeed, Japan is an integral part of my life now and something that did not even occur to me as a senior in high school 40 years ago.

Indeed, Japanese culture is a deep part of my life.  I have the Samurai spirit!

Indeed, Japanese culture is a deep part of my life. I have the Samurai spirit!

Upon my return from Japan, I initially attended Brigham Young University and it was there that my met my eternal sweetheart Julianne Bateman. Just a little over five years after my graduation from high school I was married to her and my life once again took a whole new wonderful direction for me as I began a family of my own. In about one month (as I write this) I will celebrate my 35th anniversary with this wonderful woman!

An early photo of Julianne and me shortly after our engagement in 1979.  Notice...no moustache!

An early photo of Julianne and me shortly after our engagement in 1979. Notice…no mustache!

Our Wedding Photo 1979 - we celebrate 35 years in July 2014

Our Wedding Photo 1979 – we celebrate 35 years in July 2014

I Married Up!!

I Married Up!!

Julianne and David in 2011 in Lexington, KY.  I love this photo

Julianne and David in 2011 in Lexington, KY. I love this photo

As a senior in high school I had not even had a girlfriend. In fact, I didn’t even have my first kiss until I was already graduated in the summer of 1974. There is no doubt that I had hidden crushes on a couple of cute girls in high school, but between my insecurity in dealing with girls and the fact that I was not a member the Mormon church, I had a few hurdles in front of me that kept me from getting anywhere with any of them. I certainly was not a shy person. I never have been. But I was really scared to death to ask any girls out on a date because I was afraid of rejection. Ironically, in my later years, probably about five years ago, I had occasion to visit Salt Lake City.  During that visit I was able to drop by and see one of the girls that I had a crush on and had become friends with through church. She has had a difficult life as she has struggled through a couple of marriages, but is still the sweet girl that I knew back in the mid-1970s. I told her at the time of my visit that I had a crush on her in high school. She told me that she knew that, and wondered why I had never asked her out on a date. She told me that she would have most certainly gone out with me on a date back then. Oh well, we both went our directions and I am very happily married to my wonderful sweetheart and she too seems to be happy in her current situation.

The first photo I ever saw of my natural father Joe Laurienzo.  I did not even know of him until 1974.  I saw this in 1975

The first photo I ever saw of my natural father Joe Laurienzo. I did not even know of him until 1974. I saw this in 1975

Another major discovery from 1974 was my finding out who my birth father was. That too was a life-changing experience for me. I had been disenfranchised from my natural mother for many years, and as an 18-year-old I had decided that it was time for me to reach out to her. Fortunately for me, in 1975 I was able to contact my real father and speak to him on the phone, which I did a couple of times. I am grateful for that experience as I never got to meet him. When we moved to Kentucky in 1992, I was finally close enough to Cleveland to try, but by the time I had an opportunity, he had already passed away…in fact, it had only been two weeks prior to my plans to go up there. Nonetheless, over the last few years I have grown very close to my Laurienzo sisters and brother in Cleveland as a result. I have also visited my father’s grave.

David with most of his Laurienzo siblings

David with most of his Laurienzo siblings

Visiting my natural father's grave in Cleveland, OH

Visiting my natural father’s grave in Cleveland, OH

Seeing my natural mother Orene (aka Jennierose Lavendar) in 1976

Seeing my natural mother Orene (aka Jennierose Lavendar) in 1976

Finally, as I think back on this 40 years since 1974,  I must openly say that I have been very, very blessed. I still have friendships from 40 years ago that mean a great deal to me. During that 40 years I have ventured overseas numerous times, I have had wonderful experiences with jobs, I have met people from all over the world, I have been married and had five wonderful children and now nine grandchildren.

My wife and children in 2009

My wife and children in 2009

Hanging with my grandchildren in 2012

Hanging with my grandchildren in 2012

I have been blessed to be able to develop a number of skills that I never imagined I would have back then (indeed, some of them, such as internet work and web design were completely unimaginable since they didn’t yet exist!!).  Some of the skills I have acquired over the years include the ability to write, photography, travel, singing and music, the ability to make friends wherever I go. And yes, I have become friends with rock stars and have actually toured with a band (Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours).  I still am associated with that band, so even my high school dream of being in a band partially came true.

Singing on stage with Antsy McClain in 2007

Singing on stage with Antsy McClain in 2007

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco around 2005

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco around 2005

On a boat Island Hopping in the Philippines

On a boat Island Hopping in the Philippines 2006

Visiting Kyoto, Japan in 1987

Visiting Kyoto, Japan in 1987

It is amazing how one’s life can take so many turns and go in a direction that one could never dream of as an 18-year-old graduate of high school.

Visiting the Tulum ruins in Mexico

Visiting the Tulum ruins in Mexico

Visiting NYC in 1990

Visiting NYC in 1990

Life is truly awesome! But it’s only getting better!

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school