Everytime I run, I run against a ghost. It paces...

New Year

Everytime I run, I run against a ghost. It paces me, matches my every move, and the second I falter, it flashes an icy glance before passing me. I fall to one knee, gasping for breath, and as I look up to stare after the clouds of dust, he’s there sitting next to me, cross-legged, face thin and stretched with patient endurance. A woman once said, “The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.” It’s always with myself. Each time I draw a breath in struggle, it’s not against a foreign advesary, but only the mirrored barriers around my own soul. However they got there, it would do me much more good thinking how to disassemble them, rather than who to blame for their construction. It’s probably the most valuble and difficult thing attainable in life, but I know that it will be mine someday.

People can do so many things. Man is a pile of organic matter, shaped and formed in some base image, from which we have great liberty to refine. But as much as we can temper or let atrophy, it is only a vessel. A breathing tank that gives home to something far greater than any we could hope to synthesize. Rare individuals devote their lives to improving it: the body, or the mind, or a trade. At the root of all these endeavours is simply a mastering of the self. That is the great challenge, and how far one takes it is the only variant.

As Yoritomo observes of Captain Algren during training, he has “too many mind.” I often realize in retrospect that I share the same hindrance. Since I am well-acquainted with the problem, I have but to solve it. I think everyone has the same challenges and opportunities, we need only first find the correct perspective to handle each in turn. I hope in the next year to make great refinments on my own, though I know luck with have nothing to do with it– it will be entirely of my own labor.

A man does what he can until his destiny is revealed.

I’m writing because I’m tired. Tired...

Not your ordinary Christmas

I’m writing because I’m tired. Tired and limping to a vacation that begins in three hours, eleven minutes. The company “bounenkai” (forget year party) starts at 7:30. I’ve filed my last change with the ANA project, I’m half-heartedly tweaking enemy AI in our game, and I’m yawning maybe every four minutes.

Today was the first time I overslept for work in as long as I can remember…it’s gotta go back to the Microsoft days, though I may have intentionally woken up around eleven and snuck in to ATR a couple times last summer. I somehow managaed to navigate the menuing system on my cell phone and turn off the alarm after it first went off. Next thing I know it’s 10:11 and I’m trying to verify in my mind that work has indeed already started. Damn. It was the last day of the month to be in the “never late bonus” pool. Oh well.

Yesterday was so _not_ Christmas.

In an attempt to leave work at a decent hour so...

Net cafe code and seasonal mirth

In an attempt to leave work at a decent hour so Mikiko and I can go to Millenario tonight, I went to bed at 2 (damn Donkey Konga) and after half and hour of coding in my sleep left the house for work around 7. However, I neglected to ensure that my office keys were among my possessions so I got about two hours of non-productivity to blow before someone else comes to the office.

Not to be discouraged, I put down 500 yen for some time at a net cafe and starting coding notepad style, so I can test my memory of the game’s class structure and mail myself the efforts before opening. We’ll see how many “Replace in files” commands I have to issue when I get in. For the meantime I’m working hard to break even on the terminal’s hourly rate via free cups of milk tea. Unfortunately this means a lot of trips to the can.

Even though my chair is too short and carpel-tunnel is whispering in my ear, I get some cheap Victor headphones and Christmas music net radio. A lot of Tchaikovsky mixed in with the R&B and Bing. Nice. Reminds me of the Robinsons…my Mom’s #1 homemaker connection family when I was in grade school.

The girls did the ballet thing, and we always saw them in the Frederick Regional troupe’s annual showing of the Nutcracker. Man I loved going to that. It happened every year at the Weinberg Center, Frederick’s venerable performing arts center (which I later would frequent on the other side of the stage). The old velour seats, the tarnished molding along the vaulted ceiling, the stale candy on sale in the lobby at intermission (the quality of Lance brand)… the sleepy warmth of a dark theatre and stage lit by 1970s pan pots. How each piece of music segued into another, leaving me torn between enjoying the current dance and longing for the next. The mystique of “coffee”, the fanfare of “marzipan”, the sheer beauty and grace of “snowflakes”. It’s funny how something I used to loathe as an impatient child grew up with me in penny-loafers, blossoming into an experience I would go to all lengths to attend with deep reverence.

Ack, I want to write so much more…but need to code…

Good King Wenceslas…first chair trumpet…all the MSS christmas shows…

Oh come Emmanuel…loved going to school Mass for Christmas songs during Advent. Gauging what sorts of holiday things are coming up by pink and purple candles…

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been...

The holiday season

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been in Japan for 6 1/2 months now, the longest continuous period I’ve ever done anything five days a week. I’ve been out of my country for for some odd 200 days, and two weeks from now I’ll be back there, probably be cozying up to a Sutler-stoplight, or something equally foul concocted for the bonding of brethren. But for now, despite working 70-hour weeks, I’m doing my damnedest to keep the Christmas spirit alive, and I think I’m storming my checklist of major events.

1) Got a tree. He’s a live(ly) one, he’s 16 inches (plus root) of Cupressus “Gold Crest”, evergreen, and his name is Koji. He sits in front of my window with lights, gold beads, and some lovely red ribbon. He rocks. Go little dude, grow…

2) Christmas joy via post. I sent Christmas cards to a bunch of folks dear to me some 10,000 miles away. Actually, they’re Japanese akemashite [happy new year] cards, but they’ll arrive with the correct intentions and time frame.

3) Plan to go Christmas carolling, Japanese style. I’ll hit up karaoke and some spirits with my buddies from F-Zero production and one of my CMU senseis next week.

4) Christmas shopping. Well, I’ve been doing this off and on for months, but I’m sure I’ll assail a hyaku yen shop for eastern goodies shortly before departing the country.

5) Going to see the lighting of the big tree. There’s apparently a several kilometer long trail of gorgeous lights that takes hours to wait in line for between Tokyo and Shimbashi eki, near the Emperor’s place. Rad.

6) Seasonal movies and specials, lots of them. So far I’ve seen Rudolph, Charlie Brown, Garfield, and Christmas Vacation. [aah, remember the “Rusty” rule of the drinking game version?] Next week comes Frosty, da Grinch [hooville], and of course, It’s a Wonderful Life.

7) I’m sure I’ll cook something.

But I’m having a blast and not thinking about my shrinking checking account. The food is good, I’ve had Spumante, Moet and listened to live jazz and Christmas tunes, and this is all in the last forty-eight hours. I ventured on another odyssey yesterday [we’re now up to 240+ photos to pick from for the Autumn version of Sun Flare], got a colorful little colored glass lamp and an engrish-branded cup, visited the lovely Shinjuku gyoen today for a brisk stroll, AND I found two great maps I’ve been searching after for quite some time. Now I can highlight at 1:15,000 scale all the meanderings I take inside the Yamanote line. You have no idea how happy this makes me.

Don’t let it pass you by…IT’S CHRISTMAS IN ONLY 12 days!!! Peace and good will to you…

I had another Friday night scuttled thanks to my...

A little R&R

I had another Friday night scuttled thanks to my rite-of-passage project at work, but defiant to let leaving the office at midnight kill my hana-kin [Flower Friday, term used in Japan meaning on Friday everyone generally leaves work early and goes out to celebrate], I met Mikiko at Yoyogi eki at about 12:30 for some fun. We proceeded to karaoke and cheap whiskey for about ninety minutes of necking and Frank Sinatra. Crazy and wanting more punishment, I got up at 9:30 after about six and a half hours of quasi-sleep and met the father of my last summer’s host family, who was in Tokyo on a business trip.

We walked around Shimbashi (I thought there would be more there) for about forty minutes looking for some food and ended up back in front of the eki at an unagi-ya [eel restaurant] for a long lunch. I gave him my usual round of questioning for Japanese: opinions on politics, corruption, voter apathy, the Emperor’s relationship with God [popular belief used to be that he was], etc. I had eel steak for the first time and walked away with a small bone (still) lodged in the flesh at the back of my throat, in addition to an up close demonstration of how the food goes in minutes from a vainly writhing mass to the topping on my rice. The hearts still beat minutes after they’ve been removed.

I came home about 2:30 and caught Miki just waking up, messed around for a bit and then promptly passed out for about two and a half hours of not-sleep. After some failed attempts at level 8 super hard on Panel de Pon, I discovered I had inadvertently downloaded another hentai episode of sex demon queen while looking for FLCL. Out went the garbage and here I am yet again at One’s. I’m not trying to draw any inaccurate generalizations but why is it one large, silent man works stoically preparing the main course while the smaller, attractive waitresses slice vegetables and serve drinks? If you think about it, that’s the way it usually is. I guess it’s because women are just more settling and pleasing to interact with, by nature. At least for me.

As usual, an array of liqueurs and Virgin Radio, London are my companions as I reflect on how I can’t accurately describe how happy this city makes me. I’m usually met with surprise when I tell natives how much I love it here or how beautiful I think it is. Even in English I have difficulty emphasizing how the ambient energy and endless variance makes my heart swell with sick love.

[after some necessary coasting around Harajuku on my bicycle and the procurement of a cheese-like substance…]

I’ve said it many times before, but I love this city. It fills me with a tingling excitement that comes from feeling my heart stirred in so many ways at once. I want to live in East Harajuku above a pop clothing shop, one of dozens. I want to see the soot stains along concrete walls greet me as I climb the stairs to a unique flat with a view of rusting awnings and crystal clear store windows. I want my art to blossom like a rising fountain, an outpouring that effervesces from my soul and twists tendrils of arching electricity that’s made of the stuff in every heart from the farthest mountain campsite to the nexus of a morning commuter train packed with perspiring, glassy-eyed hopefuls carving a living in a quietly pulsing organism of culture, money, lust and tradition. I want to draw all of this in deep inside with one breath like a joint and have it simmer up through the pores on my neck. To dream and write and drink and cry and hurt a thousand tragedies at the cusp of joy, that is the trash novel I want to live inside.