(the yearning for going) Back to basics

This once-a-week blogging isn’t suiting me, especially since it seems to happen only when someone’s in the shower. Is that truly the only 45 minutes of reflection I’m getting every 168 hours? Anyway, I have no plans tonight other than calling Mom (as usual), so I guess how much I write depends on what time I get away from work. I’m batting a 23:08 average for the week, so I don’t know if that portends good or bad for tonight. Anyway, it’ll all get turned on its head soon as I currently have next Friday through the following Monday slated for birthday vacation. I’m sure I’ll talk about that, I’m going to be 24 (the color bit-depth of most non- alpha-enabled graphics cards). Wow, that sounds lame. I gotta stop dreaming about people from work and technology. Sleeping at the other end of the bed certainly causes one to hit their head.

Aha, that rhymes. I should pen that for my new band, Whitespace.

Halloween is coming…can’t you just smell the gourds?

Cold, quiet, gray that says a lot

I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about Kawasaki that feels right and makes me a little uneasy at the same time. Most of the metropolitan area doesn’t have enough trees in my opinion, but still I feel an odd hazy peace while sitting by the sliding glass door to the capsule-like balcony. The same city that just a few weeks ago soothed my heart with the organic bustle of families and laughing children, is now a drizzly shadow of that tableau.

It’s been misting, raining, off and on all afternoon. The sky is the sort of muddy grey that reminds me of so many watercolor paintings I destroyed as a child, the levels of back- and foreground running together from too much moisture and not enough waiting…the top of the scene washed out and pulpy, the bottom studded with pockets of dye that would later dry into ugly blots.

There is hardly a sound outside, save for the distant echoes of planes at Haneda, or an exceptionally large truck on some expressway shielded by drab buildings. A handful of scraggly evergreens rock weakly in the breeze from time to time, the only feeble sign of life. Quite a barren and depressing picture to be sure.

Still, it feels right. It’s a day that precedes a similar night, only with more rain, and that kind of time falls quite easily into one of the vast flagstones of memory in my heart, the wide steppes of so many autumn and winter nights spent as a child going out with my mother and her best friend’s family. Those dark, soaked parking lots outside the mall, the fog condensing on the inside of the car window, a strand of my friend’s long hair getting stuck on the glass just near the door lock, and how dirty I thought it was, spoiling the perfect pristine sterility that my mother kept for every belonging she had. I wanted to reach out and remove it, but I knew if I did it would just get pushed around, sticking to the wet glass, and then my clammy fingerprints would further ruin the clean window, not only now but in a few days after it dried and there was only an unwanted smudge left behind.

Don’t get me wrong, those nights were a lot more than just worrying about breaking the perfect, ordered menagerie of my mother’s Accord. They were about me wearing goose down filled cotton coats, and my friend in a pale blue and cream nylon vest, one of thousands so popular circa 1988. The sound of the windshield wipers moaning against the windshield, the forbidden excitement of being inside the mall just before closing. The oh-so-early Christmas decorations, mountains of pulled cotton, styrofoam, and spray snow.

Now several shades darker than twenty minutes ago, Belle and Sebastian are falling near the end of yet another amazing forty-eight minute backdrop to quiet, slightly heartbroken life, and I feel the gentle tug to go out and visit the local equivalent to those long-lost nights in commercial suburbia. Maybe we’ll go see a movie. Maybe we’ll have dinner at a table with candles and too much atmosphere. Maybe fifteen years from now I’ll be writing of someplace else on a cold October evening, and how it reminds me of Kawasaki.

In a city of light and dark places

It’s strange how your life can change if you’re not looking directly at it. Everyone who survives has a strategy, a series of tactics worn into the folds of the mind. Each may begin as a joke, an imitated mannerism not taken seriously at the moment. But in the unintentional feeding of a scared and lonely heart, these little things soon become big things: tucking an errant piece of hair behind the ear, always walking Z to A in the video store. Things that are familiar are safe, and not wanting to wander too far from the warm places that we thrive, we carry a shoeboxfull of memories, catch phrases, and expressions wherever we go. The more places we go and the more frequently we encounter conflict, the faster this rubber-band ball grows. Some pieces fall off along the way, but some are as unforgettable as the scent at your mother’s neck.

Being out of school is strange. Some say that you have more freedom, while others claim you’re allowed less. My mentor at work said that time always moves faster as you get older. I figured this would be due to the fact that each year becomes a smaller percentage of your life to the present, but he thinks it’s because you do less. It always seemed to me that when I was doing tons of things, time flew by. It was when I spent a summer without a job that I felt the days really stretched out. What is a lot? People tell me that now at 23 I’ve done more than they’d done by 35. Is that a good thing? I have a lot of memories but recently I seem to not have my health. Am I burning too fast?

I want to keep learning, keep falling in love, keep discovering things I never imagined to exist. The directors of my graduate program enjoy boasting that in two years at the center, you get more than five years of knowledge for the industry. I used to joke that it’s because we worked 2.5 times as many hours per week as a normal person. I enjoy this time now in solitude to reflect, but I think that I don’t know how to handle it as well. I almost miss the light sweat of just barely squeezing everything in to a week.

I guess one thing that doesn’t change regardless of who I’m with or what they think of me is that I’ve alive. And that’s incredible and fulfilling enough a challenge by itself, even without all my mental jewelry.

We Form in Crystals (really starting to lose control)

Have you played Star Ocean 2? Aside from the ever-annoying “.. … ….” bubbles (further reinforcing how Japanese derive satisfaction through enduring mindless repetition), it’s a pretty good game. I think. I’ve been told. I got maybe 40 minutes in, but haven’t played it in many months as I made the oh-so-common zealous gamer/romantic mistake of naming the heroine after my then-girlfriend.

I want to write. A lot. Everyday. I want to write so much the frustration of not writing joins the frothing river of anguish I carry from my work and deteriorating health. More precisely, I am unable to write because my nights are as much pain as the laborious days. I can’t recall a day when I didn’t wake up feeling nauseated and about to throw up from fatigue. My memory is failing me, and I can’t concentrate on anything for more than ten minutes at a time. I’m going to a clinic next week to beg mercy and help with my rapidly dissolving grip on sanity. The amount of things I want (and know I can with normal health) to do is increasing asymptotically to my careening grip on basic life maintenance. If you know me, pray for me. I need it.

Graveyard cats

Before taking a shower today I absentmindedly wore my glasses down to the bathroom and took advantage of the fact to weigh myself. Contrary to what I thought was happening, I’m actually down to 63 kilograms; which means I’ve lost about five pounds since coming to Japan this year and have reached a gully that even I don’t remember experiencing before. All through high school and college I seemed to weigh as much as 150 (when living the “fat” life in Seattle) and as little as 143 (during my crazy work months at Carnegie Mellon). I guess this new record is due in part to the stress and poor sleeping habits I’ve acquired in the last four-six weeks. I take some solace that what I do consume is a fairly good balance of vegetables, bread and low-fat meats and tea. My only vice is the once-or twice weekly drinking excursion with a choice partner in crime. It’s probably pretty stupid that I check the shape of my abs at least every other day. Anyway…

So today I decided I needed to take advantage of the good weather and my spirit and go outside. And go outside I did. Got a shower, got some Subway, watched a couple episodes of TNG, and hit the road on two Hawkins at 2:00. That was six hours and a considerable distance ago. Quantitatively, I walked for a little over four hours with perhaps four or five two-minute breaks. Judging by my stride and that the average person walks roughly four miles an hour, I’d say I must of covered 16-20 miles (+54 photographs and one video of a rooster in a pet shop window). I was just wandering mostly with the occasional checking of the sun to make sure I was heading in a net south-by-southeast direction. I caught glimpses of places I’d been before, but for the most part navigated entirely new territory.

I started at my home in Sendagaya and took the pictures of the rebel vine I mentioned yesterday, and then worked my way SSE to One’s Diner, an American-style burger establishment that is amazingly open until at least 1:00a on a Sunday night despite being in pretty much the middle of nowhere. From here I struck due east under an ivy-dripping overpass that has always fascinated me. On the other side was a quite artfully done series of graffiti that I think I’ll enjoy working with in Photoshop quite a bit. But for now, here is a small sample of the original.

My MP3 player and Tiesto died shortly after while photographing a particularly decrepit-looking apartment building. I thought for sure the battery meter was nearly full when I left the house, but this was the same charge that got me through over two hours of train rides to Chiba and Kawasaki the weekend before.

From there I continued east through Jingu-gaien and caught the southeast corner of snazzy Aoyama. About three quarters of the way to Akasaka I turned a sharp due south and headed through the rather large Aoyama Cemetery. I’m not sure if it’s irreverant to view and photograph the burial places of a culture not my own, but I was feeling exceptionally curious and taking a line from Star Trek II thought “the way in which one faces death is at least as important as the way in which one faces life.” I was amazed and sobered by the varied condition the graves were kept in. Some were meticulously manicured with all of the organic elements fresh and vibrant, while others were littered with overgrown weeds, decayed flowers and loose rocks. I suppose those that remember the dead, even they themselves pass away after time, and there comes a point where no one is left to care for their memorial.

It smelled heavily of incense and sweet flowers, and seemed appropriately quiet even though a maze of small roads cut through the canopy of trees. At first I felt sorry to see a lonely cat sitting by a grave, but after a few minutes I discovered that the place was in fact crawling with them…black cats, white cats, calico cats…cats alone, cats in pairs. The two things common between all of them were the unkempt fur and a look of distrust behind tired eyes. They weren’t defensively hostile when I beckoned to them, but they all had their comfort zones that eventually I would transgress to send them trotting behind a bush or vase. On my way out I passed an old man and woman with a small shopping cart opening pungent cans of tuna for a small audience of starved guests.

Somehow I came out of south end of the cemetery and got turned around, completely missing Roppongi (where I thought I was heading) and cut through Nishi-azabu back west into Hiroo, just north of Tengenji. Along the way I passed a large number of bars, pizza parlors and Chinese restaurants (all of which were closed since it was hardly four). I wish I could visit all these charming establishments. The droves of chain restaurants akin to Applebee’s, Red Robin and TGIFriday’s have _not_ yet set in here, so virtually every watering hole is bubbling with effervescant personality [and bad spelling. If I had 1000 yen for every time I’ve had Itarian food in the last month…]. One dark store in particular drew my attention as the setting sun was caught off the glistening, decapitated bodies of two dozen roast (what I assume were) ducks. As is my nature, I also stopped in a used furniture shop and coveted the rows of impeccably well-kept chairs, couches and coffee tables. I dream so often of having a spacious ultra-hip condominium filled with late 70s and 80s western furniture, lovingly maintained for my lanky frame. But, unfortunately most of the pieces in these kind of stores carry price tags of a month’s rent or more, so building the perfect swellegent digs will just have to wait until I win the lottery (after I start playing it of course).

Continually avoiding the signs for Shibuya I made my way west-by-southwest into the eastern side of Ebisu, at which point I got it into my head I was going to walk to Shinagawa (partly because it seemed like a far way south to be proud of reaching, and partly because I figured that was almost halfway to Mikiko’s place in Kawasaki, so I could give her a call when I got there and tell her I was in the area). With a firm destination in sight, I picked up the pace slightly and did my best to keep due south. However, the snaking train lines and narrow side streets led me into more switchbacks, greatly slowing down my progress. Always the apartment window-shopper, after reading several featured advertisements, I started thinking 150,000 yen (1300 USD) a month isn’t so bad for two little rooms in the foreigner-friendly Ebisu.

Eventually at dusk I came to Meguro (which had some nasty hills that reminded me of the northwest corner of Seattle). The houses here were oddly large for being inside the Yamanote line and had a warm, friendly, yuppie feeling that reminded me of my ‘hometown’ Kizu in Nara. Mothers walked chatting, while their young children struggled to keep up on colorful bicycles with training wheels.

From there I left the inviting residential areas with the fading sunlight and followed the Yamanote line more or less past Gotanda to Osaki. Not an overly impressive section of town, but still, I was satisfied to find several more bouquets of shopping centers and amusement areas. It seems you never have to go far in Tokyo to find something interesting to do. After reaching Osaki eki, I got seriously wound up due to a vast jungle of crumbling warehouses, factories and train tracks. I’m not sure if I felt lonely or slightly scared in the gloomy morass of rust that slowly crept up on me. Suddenly buildings were low and wide, and every venue that seemed the best path to walk looked moderately dangerous. Even the previously blue and cloudless sky had somehow become brooding and overcast without my notice. There was one point where I went through a series of small tunnels with no shoulder, though the signs outside indicated walking through was not an unheard of possibility.

I crossed the dark green Meguro-gawa several times before discovering at roughly 5:40 that I had gone too far south and was nearing the bay. The Yamanote line actually does a hairpin between Osaki and Shinagawa, and I had to cut sharply NNE a few more kilometers following the Keikyu line (quite the opposite direction I wanted to go had I been actually travelling to Kawasaki) until I got to JR Shinagawa. It was now quite dark and the only light that met my eyes was a strangely unsecure-looking import car showroom that had about half a dozen highly polished late 80s Ferraris for sale.

I called Mikiko a couple times but her phone was off so I left a message and after a quick (and easy) debate about whether to go to Shinjuku or Shibuya and get in trouble, I got on the Yamanote line and fell half-asleep until arriving back home at Yoyogi (15 minutes by train to bee-line the previous four hours’ wanderings). Despite being numb and a little worn out I felt quite satisfied having seen the a wide swawth of Tokyo’s boroughs…posh department stores, quaint restaurants, cozy homes, barren train yards, and exhausted industrial monoliths; all with my own two feet.

After that, a beer (in a bottle!) an another episode of TNG to catch my breath brought me back to the taxing (but necessary) task of recording this. If only my thoughts could be directly converted to text! Maybe I should get an audio blog like Wil Wheaton. Then I can just talk to myself (which I usually start doing anyway after walking or driving for more than three hours).

[It has taken two hours to write, link, and edit this post!!]

Living in black, white, and imbalanced chemicals (pt 2)

It’s cool outside…62 and there’s a certain elasticity in my knees I’m unfamiliar with, like a young boxer entering the ring for the first time. The buildings near my apartment are tall, dark slate monoliths each with a crown of blue light and a logo. My head feels like twenty-five pounds, but I can’t sleep. There is a strange sort of ionization in my blood, like vigor and expectation diffused into toxic lethargy. Again I can sense the flux of stasis wash over me…the real me striated patches of abnormal DNA in muscle tissue. I am unsure of what threshold I’m skirting, but I feel as if one of the forces will soon succumb to the other, and I’ll either be in coma-like hibernation or something quite opposite yet undiscovered.

The fatigue deep in my organs is dulling my outward reaction…I can feel vitality and excitement that normally would augment and extend my every movement, but instead is motion wrapped in gauze. With a mind full of feathered spores the coarsing stream of my thought is silent. There is a small, pitiful vine that grows from around a blunt stump at the end of a parking lot through the chain-link fence outside my building. During the day, long, trumpetlike purple flowers unwind to inhale the sun, but lately the cool nights have seen the plant’s extremities shrink and wither to dry husks. I wonder how many more days it will be before this defiant lifeform finds its end and becomes little more than a decaying carbon film on the unyielding synthetic barrier, a memory kept by none. I want to photograph it tomorrow so I can revere its life and how it embraced the sprawling earth before evaporating.

Yano-san said that after extended periods of time without R.E.M. sleep the brain’s thought patterns begin to change. I wonder if my manic malaise of euphoria comes from years of an unsatiated need for rest.

Again, I must entreat you to listen to DJ Tiesto – Nyana disc two.

Living in black, white, and imbalanced chemicals

I didn’t go to work today. I was tired. Not the kind of tired like after running a race, or staying up a little too late, but the kind of tired that comes from living every moment awake and unconscious too intently. Maybe that’s why I have trouble getting rest, because even in my sleep I’m trying to take the weight of a world too beautiful and broken into my heart….the drama’s not soluble and it gets stuck someplace just past my aorta.

I spent today with the intent of resting, but feeling guilt from not doing something great. Something like carving another vision from a low-quality snapshot, or running past strings of trees and well manicured bushes to fall down in blissful pain on sunbleached asphalt. I’m not supposed to be using the computer, but I’m alone with my thoughts and they ache through my knotted muscles causing my stomach to turn.

Stories are made of words– bits and pieces of things we’ve experienced or imagine put together in a way that appeals to us, subliminally, like a film of ecstasy in an old glass of water. C11H15NO2. It’s made of passion, fear and belief in things that live just outside of what we’re supposed to accept every day for twenty-four hours. There’s something wound into my brain that makes me think every minute has to be like that, even the quiet, motionless ones. Those especially of all because in nothing can I assign the most meaning.

Living outside of one’s body is incredibly taxing on the flesh.

I recommend Memento.

You can just feel the details…the bits and pieces you never bothered to put into words. And you can feel these extreme moments, even if you don’t want to. You put these toegether and you get the feel of a person… and have to know how much you miss them.

Stop crying your heart out

I’m twenty-three years old. Every day, one of thousands, is a string of successes and failures, things learned and forgotten. And behind it all there is a faded photograph, a boy sitting in the backyard with a look of wonder and innocence on his face. Time has left paint spills, chips, wood shavings, wrinkles and water rings over the once glossy kodacolor paper– a tableau of precision, fidelity, weakness and pain. But unchanging are two grey-blue eyes.

Who will I be when I grow up?

I was pissed off at work today after being there until midnight, but lying in my room waiting for the inescapable sleep, I listen to oasis and my heart sobs just a little… then a hint of a wry smile folds across my tired face.