I had an “American style” party last...

Differences in perspective

I had an “American style” party last weekend to commemorate my living in Japan for one year. Although I put considerable time and planning into it, as I suspected it didn’t really play out anything like I initially wanted it to. So I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t put any more effort into getting it set up. It was still fun though. Here’s a little compare/contrast as to what I was expecting and what actually transpired:

What I planned:
beer pong (fast and drunk) *
flip cup (faster and drunker) *
a pinata *
drinking game to Animal House *
beer, pretzels and plastic cups *
lots of drunk, noisy people *

What happened:
beer pong (friendly, slow, people-based beer pong) *
people barely paying attention to the movie *
beer, delicious food, sixteen year old port, and usage of virtually every dish I own *
not really anyone drunk and noisy, except maybe me *

I think there is one key difference which caused things to play out as they did, and that is whereas (many) American college-age people drink to get drunk and feel stupid, Japanese drink just because they like the taste of beer and the social interaction. Most everyone actually takes care to make sure they don’t get drunk at all, looking after the dosages of liquor for themselves and others. Maybe this is why alcohol causes so many problems in the US, yet in Japan there are very few intoxicant-related troubles.

Lots of my North American friends here celebrate the fact that there are no open container laws in Japan whatsoever. It’s quite refreshing (and empowering) to sip/chug/slam a half-litre can of beer on the train on the way home from work, or even while walking down the street at eight am. Anyway, I think my point is there is something fundamentally different on how Japanese and Americans view alcohol, and it’s probably worth thinking about seriously. My Japanese friend’s children like beer because they have fun putting their fingers in the foam, or pouring for their parents, not because drinking is something enticing as wrong or rebellious.

So, we played beer pong but it wasn’t about cutthroat antics or really any competition. People just had fun because it was a simple game with mild team interaction in blocking shots. While I instinctively pounded my share of cups as soon as I got a hold of them, others sipped and enjoyed the drinks as merely a detail of the game, not the main focus. The game went on for a long while and afterwards everyone was (rightfully so) interested in the expansive feast Mikiko made instead of diving into flip cup. I kind of dropped the whole drinking game aspect of Animal House completely; I realized it would probably draw some criticism and wonder from my guests, let alone not being any fun at all.

So I guess I had a good time, but I felt kind of guilty afterwards: guilty for my initial intentions, and then guilty for how my blind charging into drinking alienated me socially from everyone else halfway through the night. This doubly hurts because I know I failed as an attentive host, which is my prime motivation for ever having parties in the first place. In college I always used to play by the philosophy “take care of everyone and get them safely drunk if they wish” until about one or two, whereupon my jacket and tie came off and I did some serious catching up, having since handed the reins to one of my housemates.

I know better next time on what people here are more likely to enjoy and appreciate, but I still feel kind of bad for the deep-rooted desire to have one of my old, fabled Dionysian odysseys.

is of course when you go home at ten and it’...

The hallmark [HMV] of summer

is of course when you go home at ten and it’s still twenty eight degrees outside (at least in Shinjuku). I am halfway through my third consecutive rainy season in Japan and finding it anything but. “Rainy” seems to equate to “seldom sun, heavy haze and the occasional gusting wind”, at least in Tokyo. There was a small earthquake today while I was at work, the first I’d felt since November. Like most earthquakes in Japan, one or two people around me exclaimed surprise, things shook for about seven to ten seconds, and then business returned to normal. I wouldn’t mind frequent, small, temblors if they eased the pressure of the aching earth in a preventive care sort of way.

I am constantly discovering more and more new places to shop in Tokyo. I think that one could make a career out of it (and I’m sure some do), for it is no small feat that something like half of Japan’s (second largest in the world) economy is domestic. After griping to myself about never being able to find a CD it occurred to me that HMV has stormed that market en masse, as there are any number of them taking up amazing tracts of land around the western half of the city. I spent about ninety minutes in the hangar of a twelfth floor that is the Takashimaya branch. They have a lot of stuff, and for the first forty five minutes or so I was beginning to think that I’d discovered another means to my social undoing, lost amongst piles upon piles of anime’, two-for-one DVDs, techno, trance, and goa. Of course my salvation came along with disgusted memories of the HMV in Bangkok and the quickly collapsing Wherehouse chain west of the Rockies. With big pizazz most often comes big prices, and HMV is no exception. Actually, the store isn’t that great, the decorating and aplomb with which things are presented is pretty weak. It’s messy, dead hair salon fuschia, and too loud music blasts from cracked speakers. I could deal with this though for the three aisles of DJs and remixes. However, the prices are ridiculous, and in my mind the prime reason why global music sales are off. I was sure I was going to by the Appleseed soundtrack because it was a two CD set, and the marketing songs are unbelievable (Boom Boom Satellites, Basement Jaxx, and Paul Oakenfold). However, everything else (and even some of the BBS) is complete trash, and I couldn’t listen to the second CD on the preview machine, so I have no idea if it was good or not. In the end, it seemed more feasible that I could find the three or four decent pieces of music on the net than actually enjoy the album along with its thirty-two dollar entry fee.

A larger, more significant strike two against the merchandising monolith was the fact that both CDs I came into the store to buy were not in stock, despite being prominently listed with “on sale now” stickers on the website. When I asked the girl how long it would take to get 4 StringsBelieve in, she said two weeks, drawing out the syllable and then more quietly perhaps two months, she didn’t know. Ok! (laughs) The nail in the coffin really though was that I went through the entire goa stock and did not find a single disc below two thousand yen. You can usually always find some questionable psy-trance collection in a newspaper cover for at most eleven bucks, even in Wherehouse. [In retrospect, that’s REALLY the stuff you want to rip, because you know it’s never coming back when the coke head pillages your car’s CD wallet.] Anyway, that’s a very poor showing, and most of the single LPs were twenty-five to twenty-eight bucks a pop.

So, I bought a Godskitchen compilation just because it had so much material in it that the average worked out to be eleven bucks a disc. Unfortunately it seems that it’s not even mixed [listening now], despite small, (perhaps rightfully so) text suggesting John ’00’ Fleming and Fergie spun it together. You get what you pay for, except, in the case of ets-global [two gigs from a week of BitTorrent], in which you get so ridiculously much for nothing I’m sure the universe is folding in on itself someplace (maybe HMV corporate headquarters).

[As a footnote, it really bothered me to see so many of the newer CDs (especially electronica) with labels boasting some sort of copy protection, preventing the creation of MP3s. This also somehow causes them to be unplayable in game machines, which to me is contradictory as most of the discs bearing this technology were involved with Sony, who boasts that the Playstation is an all-in-one media player for the home. I have heard somewhere that this protection doesn’t actually work with a lot of the rippers available, so it could just be a lame joke. I’ll have to look into it more, as it’s even less appealing for me to buy a CD that I know I can’t backup or listen to when I jog with the Rio. So much for fair use.]

...

人間に成る

千代子の「千年女優」を見た?美しい映画ですよ。何時も見る時に僕は泣ける。本当に悲壮。その映画のディレクターは「パーフェクトブルー」の同じ人です。ライフは美しいと思う。愛、決心、夢。。。人道は思って執拗する。その様に成りたい。

This is a short post to let you know that I’...

Thinking and feeling in more languages than one

This is a short post to let you know that I’ve started to feel the strong urge to write my thoughts in Japanese from time to time. Currently my literary skills are pitiful, but I’m not going to get any better by being bashful. In any case, from now on a number of my posts will be in Japanese, so I recommend downloading the Japanese font extension to your web browser if you haven’t already [Mom, I did this for you already on your PC]. Of course, I think that just due to the fact that I have the encoding for this page set to Shift-JIS, you’ve probably already been prompted a number of times to download the font upon visiting, unless you clicked “No” and “Never ask me again”, in which case you’re in trouble because now you’re going to have to add the functionality manually through Tools..Internet Options..Languages..Add. Then you need to get Japanese from the list, and it should commence downloading from MS.

Anyway, sorry for the inconvenience but until there’s an OS that natively has both Asian and western fonts installed (well, a non-Asian version of Windows with that feature), we have to make do. I have my home computer set up to not only display Asian languages, but support input for Chinese and Korean as well. My PC at work is even the complete Japanese version of XP. Fortunately all the menus are almost in the same places, and half of the options are in katakana 😉

Long story short, install the font for your browser if you haven’t already, Japanese is really a beautiful language to look at, if nothing else (as you will soon see).

It’s called “rebuild all”. It...

Yes Virginia, there is a bottleneck…

It’s called “rebuild all”. It’s the reason I’m blogging during the workday. It saps the productive strength of all mankind, moreso even than pop-ups or the “babe of the week”. I’ve had to deal with this grizzly bear three times in the last two hours. Isn’t it nice how when someone tweaks a class all the way up the inheritance tree, runtime memory just isn’t where it’s supposed to be anymore? So not only did you wait the twenty minutes for the binary with the “recommend changes” added in, you get to rebuild the whole project again when it crashes somewhere near the starting line.

Can we _please_ get Incredibuild this month, _please_? I’ll even take a pay cut. ::sigh::

It’s a beautiful day in Tokyo, about eighty...

The Great Journey

It’s a beautiful day in Tokyo, about eighty-eight degrees but a nice breeze is blowing (sign of impending typhoon) so it’s not so bad. I’m eating a light lunch of very juicy plums and an orange at Waseda University. This is the most spread out (and attractive) Japanese college I’ve yet to visit. I heard it was prestigious, maybe the equivalent an ivy league school. It even has a gift shop, albeit much smaller, but quite similar to its American counterparts. I bought a WU shirt at the store (apparently their mascot is a cute teddy bear), and the girl at the register liked my jogging pack. I said thank you and commented on the weather. You have no idea how wonderful it feels when I can actually understand what a stranger says to me and say something appropriate in return.

I don’t know time it is, but judging by how long I’ve been out and the sun, I’d say about 1:15. I’ve adopted my standard meandering form with the general goal of going northeast, and perhaps swinging by One’s for dinner on the way home. I thought about going to a club but that’s something I need to be in the mood for at the moment of actually going. I really want to work on some photography tonight since I’ve been on the phone about twelve hours over the last three days.

After leaving the house I made a rather generous loop to cover only a couple blocks in Nishi-Shinjuku, discovering another shouten dori and a nice Shinjuku office park complex. Eventually I found myself (by pure luck) in Okubo and crawling down the crowded streets where I first wandered around last June when I first moved to Japan, in search of second-hand stores. This time I stopped at the game center “Game Goose” and tried my hand at the first adult themed UFO Catcher I’d seen. Needless to say I did not win the sex DVD collection, as picking up a heavy multi-DVD case on its side with a little crane requires insane precision on finding the fulcrum (if it is indeed possible at all). I played two rounds of fifty yen Super Puzzle Bobble and wished I had a secret little video camera to tape the FMV strip mahjong games so I could show you, but alas, I have yet to procure such a toy. I passed a Big Boy’s when I swung near Waseda-Okubo campus again but didn’t stop, figuring there were more interesting things to take photos of than that.

The plums were pretty bland, I wonder what gives fruit a sweet taste as opposed to no taste? The orange was good, but I really should have brought some “wet ones”, my hands look like I’ve just strangled Garfield.

~3:00
I wonder how Tokyo compares to Manhattan in size. I suppose it’s actually smaller. That, or I bicycle like a madman (which I did for a solid seventy minutes listening to Forbidden Forest). I’m in a ticket food shop in Kanda now. Apparently I was right on the money when I guessed it was 1:15. And having only eaten fruit for lunch, along with biking for almost two hours, I’m of course starving. I’m sure I could be a tracker, or a guide or something. I have this uncanny ability to know where I am at all times, mostly out of instinct. Like three times today I was in a place I’d never seen before and just from my gut I took turns that seemed wrong at first in the “thinking” side of my mind, but after fifteen seconds they turned out to lead exactly where I’d stopped for rest on a previous journey. Like the air, or the ground, or something, it just felt right. Using the sun, my mental image of the map and the occasional sign, I have wound my way through neighborhoods rich and poor, parks and rivers, attractions and alleys.

From Waseda I split north and ran right into Edogawabashi (which is odd because it’s at the Kanda river, not the Edo). This is where I ventured last winter and met a cart-pulling roast sweet potato vendor. There were no fewer pigeons this time around, but more joggers. I darted farther north into Kohinata, a very steep elevated area of pristine roads and expensive looking residences. With my Enjoy in low I trucked it up half a dozen winding, thirty degree hills, at one time coming a hair’s breadth from having my head clipped by the mirror of a speeding truck. Slicing up and down, switchbacking through the residential areas, I cut far north of Kagurazaka and taking a sudden impulse turned under an archway, landing right in the middle of Tokyo Dome City, nearly driving into the water luge ride. It’s a nice little place: a rollercoaster, Ferris wheel, and Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant, right in the heart of the city.

In Japan lovers that ride the Ferris wheel are supposedly destined to break up. Not good for business. Jinja means shrine (in this case Shinto). Temples on the other hand are not red and they honor Buddhism.

I bolted for Ochanomizu and passed just north of sotobori through Hongo, stopping at Kanda Jinja for prayer before pulling up minutes later into the dead center of Akiba. A group of promotional workers in anime’ style schoolgirl costumes were handing out tissues (the most popular form of mass advertising in Japan). I don’t think the guys in drag were really doing anything for the business but there was one cute girl with ridiculously large glasses and a purple skirt that gave away a lot depending on your viewing angle. I sat on the guard rail at the corner sipping sougenbicha. I thought I was out of the way but apparently not enough– I felt pretty lousy when the girl walked into my bike’s rear fender and scuffed up her leg. I almost apologized but I’m sure a sweaty, tall foreigner with crazy hair and CIA sunglasses isn’t the kind of character she really wants hanging around watching her do her job.

Damn, hojicha is good in the summer. It looks like I’ll run out of shots on the Canon long before I get back home, gonna have to do some premature culling out bad shots.

6:15
I just walked into One’s, a pit stop that use to signal the end of a long journey back to Sendagaya. “Clocks” came on the radio about the instant I sat down. I’m taking it not only as a sign, but irrefutable proof that all is right, in a sea of swimming, laughing, growing, so far away from Virginia sort of way.

After leaving Kanda I rode down route 15 (center street) all the way to Hamamatsuchou. In the process I stopped at the Nihonbashi river, glided through glittering Ginza, and nearly got cornered off in the bay around Shinbashi. They closed off a couple blocks of the street near Tokyo station, it was pretty nice. They had cafe tables and foot and stuff set up in the street. For me it was complete driving bliss, though admittedly I was being a little reckless. The wide open street made me want to high ball it through, standing up and pumping the pedals in top gear. However, the abundance of pedestrians and diners made this a little difficult, so I took great joy and bobbing and weaving through the crowd, gunning it and pouring on the breaks as inconspicuously as possible. I think I’ve played too many driving video games, but it was an absolute blast. Fortunately no one was even grazed thanks to my mid-twenties reflexes and countless hours logged doing balance tricks on the bike.

After seeing the fifth or sixth sign advertising that the road was going to Shinagawa and Kawasaki, I realized I was pulling a little too far south for my starting to tire body and hung a sharp turn to follow the fading sun into Roppongi. You can always tell when you’re close to Roppongi simply by the number of non-Japanese people walking around, usually middle-aged white men. I didn’t hang around long since by this time my camera was protesting loudly that the battery was about gone (very disappointing), and I carried my bike down a couple sets of stairs to get through the Roppongi-Gaien tunnel and end up at the southern end of Aoyama Cemetery.

Some of my last shots came as the sun was falling behind the taller headstones in the cat filled, largely neglected graveyard. I stopped to read the barely legible epitaph of a one Dr. Baty who moved to Japan in 1916 from England and served the Department of Foreign Affairs in legal counsel until his death in 1956. The last line said that Japan’s diplomacy owed him a large debt to his skill and contributions. I wonder if stuff on headstones is really true, and who comes up with it. The fact that there’s anything at all is interesting enough, because it gives me something to think about, and he’s remembered in one way or another (I’m sure he never imagined he’d be mentioned in a public digital diary in the twenty-first century.) Good for him though. I think foreigners have a little extra responsibility to do something good for the countries they reside in, at least me for the all the trouble I cause for not understanding a damn thing.

The button just came off my underwear in the bathroom but I don’t care, I realized fully today is that Tokyo is a remarkably beautiful and diverse city. There is so much here, so much that makes my head spin. Every square meter is interesting, every building just a cover to a story and history so amazing. I bet I could give bike tours of central Tokyo. That could be cool. I’m so happy just riding around, taking everything in. Tokyo is my home, and I can’t think of it any other way. Funny how attached I get to stuff. I guess that’s why plants (and to a lesser extent animals) are great. They’re yours, they ask nothing, and you just have to sprinkle them with a little TLC once a day. They’re alive, just like us! Pulp is on the radio now. There’s a band I haven’t heart in forever. I think it all got stolen when my Grand Prix was ransacked by a crackhead. Time to hit Kazaa and do some old school Britpop grooving tonight.

So all in all I was out eight hours, 11:30-7:30. I’ll guess that eating, sitting at stoplights, and taking pictures was two to two-and-a-half hours, and given that the average speed for a bicycle is ten to fifteen miles an hour, we can estimate I travelled a decent amount, if that sort of thing matters. There’s no way I could figure it out from a map because I almost never take a straight path, I make turns based on things that catch my eye for photography, or on a hunch that something interesting follows a certain road. I’m not sore, yet, but I have a light sunburn on my arms and nose. Oh well. Good exercise, right? It was blast but I realize I need to restock my memory and battery cache for the Powershot before I do something like this again (and possibly in the interest of my health get another bike more suited for this sort of thing).

Quantitative summary:
Time: seven hours, fifty-four minutes
Food: two and a half meals (plums, beef curry, One’s cheeseburger with fries)
Photographs: one hundred and four
Videos: two (rollercoaster)
Souvenirs: Waseda university t-shirt and a six pack of beer for the fridge

Just to confirm the timeframe here, this is ‘...

Just to confirm the timeframe here, this is ‘classics week’ at Autumn Tactics, so everything posted is from the last seven months that got put on a napkin, or notepad, or something. I have an entire journal from the summer of 2002 that I may or may not add, but that would take quite a while, so don’t get your hopes up.

So I’m sitting in the Sendagaya equivalent...

11/14/03

A night alone at One’s

So I’m sitting in the Sendagaya equivalent of the Italian Villa, a late night grease joint some ten thousand miles away. We had our company annual meeting today, so instead of toiling away until eleven on hana-kin, I got out of dinner at a Korean restaurant in Okubo at quarter to ten. I was (am) quite tired, but the sharp November air and the lights of Kabukicho jolted me awake, and feeling slightly defiant in my solitude, I decided to spend a little time outside my stuffy, dirty room and have a drink. I really didn’t eat much at dinner since I was fighting a lousy mood from fatigue and seven hours of listening to Japanese. I have a gin rickey and a couple of assorted nuts now, with one of One’s oddly oversized American burgers on the way.

I used to complain of not having anyone to do things with, but now with work I hardly find time to do anything period. I guess something has to give, because I can’t maintain this quality of life for much longer. My current theory is less (but better) sleep. This may be induced by forcing myself to run (in the morning or night, I haven’t decided which is better), and more, western style, balanced, self-made meals.

It used to bother me that none of my friends here ever called or asked me out. I’m too busy to notice much now. Perhaps they’re in the same boat. I need to make an effort though. I really don’t know anyone and Mom says I should meet more people. There really are dozens of opportunities. I just need to lay down the effort to take advantage.

As I said I’m drinking a gin rickey which is strange since I thought I swore off my once precious nectar after my third Sutler Stoplight somewhere off the coast of the Yucatan. However, time heals all wounds and stomach lining so Mr. Tanqueray or in this case, Beefeater, and I have made up over the common ground of time and co-dependency (I depend on the gin to get me drunk, the gin depends on me to drink it).

This place must use digital or net radio or something because I’ve heard local stations as well as San Francisco natives. Tonight we’ve got megamedia Virginia Radio from London (I think it’s about two or three in the afternoon there). I kind of miss the keggers and the hazy hookup parties from Virginia. By fourth year Brandon was almost never around for our sorted nocturnal adventures, so more than a few times I found myself leaving a Theta Tau quasi-party of conservatives and cynics, and around the corner at my inebriated redneck of an acquaintance Ned’s. Amusement there was swimming in cooler chests of everclear punch, beer pong, and spin the bottle (which always led to Ned moaning, half-conscious on his bed as multiple women rubbed his crotch). I picked up my pair of handcuffs at one of those parties and have gleefully carried them through customs many times since.

By this time in college I’d decided I’d had enough of trying to be perfect [this was later repealed], and I spent three or four of my weeknights drunk, scouring Lambeth, Rugby, or first year dorms for some kind of vacuous indulgence. I consider the time from the summer of 2000 to the fall of 2001 my heyday: the journeyman’s blue collared, signet ring, and Seahawks’ hat-wearing celebrity, as I’ve said before.

Buddha teaches the impermanence of everything, and how misery springs from resisting change. To further douse me in confusion as to how I should be living now and old Verve song has come on the radio and I can’t fight the rising torrent of melancholy nostalgia from nights spent with one foot in heaven and the other nestling silk sheets, with a delicate featured, literary fox in my arms. Truly, great joy ultimately brings great pain.

11:12p
Well, there’s a six hundred yen bottle of 7-11 wine aging in my room, but for some reason I felt compelled to go to another bar. Well, One’s isn’t a bar, but a dark place to drink where someone else puts the liquor in your glass (you’re not so guilty this way). I’m having another gin rickey, but this time I’m making up with Mr. Tanqueray directly (it’s been long enough). Cheers.

I find Tanqueray does not a gin rickey make. While it’s smoother and milder than the Beefeater, I think that’s the problem. There are peanuts in my snack bowl this time. I could ask them to replace it with a quarantined bowl, but I don’t feel like causing trouble. I’ll just eat around them. Hopefully contact with the other nuts won’t make me keel over and die. My bike’s outside and only half locked up-

It’s bright and noisier in here than last time (there’s jazz music). What’s guy gotta do to find a dank pit with all wood furnishing? I think the nuts are bad news maybe I’ll eat the almonds, but the rest are my mortal enemies.

11:24
Like most boys[bugs?] I’m growing up and evolving. In this case thirteen minutes have given me a gin tonic and Bombay Sapphire. Tycho talks about it a lot so it’s gotta be good. He drinks a bunch, I know wisdom comes from experience. This is sweeter than the rickey, but it still has lime and comes in the same glass. It’s tasting even less like alcohol, I must be doing something wrong. Or maybe that’s just the last two setting me up.

The almonds taste like peanuts. Better finish the tonic and get out of here before I die in all denim.

11:36
The last tab for two drinks at the not so dark joint was sixteen eighty with tax and cover. Which is pretty normal for one of the largest cities in the world. The price list says five hundred, but it always ends up being more. Whatever. When you work fifteen hours a day there’s little time to spend money. I’m now at Jam, shady and with fewer customers than the last place but noisy. Rounding out the gin spectrum I ordered a gin buck with Gordon’s. This has as much bite as the first Beefeater rickey, but it’s also sweet like the Tanqueray. I’m becoming a connoisseur in a matter of minutes. I ordered the gin buck because it made me think of one of my archetypes, Joe Buck; though there’s very little Midnight Cowboy about this place (it’s actually burning up). The only thing even remotely American is a photo of a man and a woman looking in a mirror at a park with an Andy Warhol quote taped on. “My feeling is that the only way to make things better is by showing how good things can be.

I’m in trouble. I just sighted my death sentence on the top shelf. Though fully familiar with the chemistry of real absinthe, I still abhor/love Pernod. Here goes the night…

I used to have a girlfriend that loved three things: Pernod, Stolichnaya, and the other I’ll keep a secret. As the odor of green death radiates from the glass on my table, I know the rush it will bring in a few seconds. This stuff sets my body on fire even with a stomach full of carbs. And I still have half of my Jon Voight to kill. If licorice were a demon from the nether world, it would strike from a long glass pill box. [Absolutely no idea.]

I don’t envy myself the experience starting in ten-fifteen minutes. I’d better get some bread and go home.

I’m sitting outside the Kawasaki station Tsutaya...

11/2/03

I’m sitting outside the Kawasaki station Tsutaya and taking a minute for my thoughts. People are moving everywhere (something I’m starting to get used to). Hundreds of beat up parked bicycles consume forty percent of the sidewalk, buses and cars manage a unique symbiosis with stop and go scooters, and the smell of roasted chestnuts is heavy from street vendors. I’m perched on a slanted rail at the edge of a wheelchair ramp into the store and the reassuring din of trains overhead is mixed with a increasingly annoying looping ad for The Matrix behind me.

It was my birthday on Thursday, I worked until midnight and came home to a cold dinner and poor Mikiko sleeping on the floor, but since then things have been pretty nice. My 1:30 meal was saved via the magic of the microwave oven and despite my best efforts I fell asleep in my work clothes until 7:30 Friday morning when my cell phone oh so diligently reminded me that it was time to get up for work (which it wasn’t since I had the day off). Like most of the recent sixty-hour plus work weeks I didn’t get out of the house until four or five in the afternoon (a bad habit), but managed some shopping in Akiba (picked up Wind Waker, Chu Chu Rocket, and a Famicom AV) with Mikiko before an evening out at an eight seat pub and watching Nausicaa before calling it a day.

Saturday we repeated the oh-so-easy bed weary sloth until motivated to get to the Yamaha shop in Shibuya before closing, and took the indispensable Yamanote line from Yoyogi once again. We visited a print club to have some wallet photos made as we were having good hair days, and then picked up my much longed for first step to electronic music composition (the Korg) and then had a superb Italian dinner. Returned home with said blessed piece of technology, played a rousing round of strip Atsumare! Made in Wario, and then high on latte’ and chocolate traversed reclothed yet again to Shibuya for a couple hours at Club Asia before bedding at four this morning. [What an indulgent lifestyle.]

Back at Jam

There is a good reason why traditionally I associate Wild Turkey with overall clad porch-nappers. While I enjoyed my first drink immensely (I spent the first hour letting the Canadian Club evaporate on my tongue), my “eh, what the hell?” drink I’m nursing now can not be placed on the same shelf (they actually are polar opposites on the top rack here at Jam).

I’m half-heartedly doing homework and wishing my stool had a back. My neck is stiff, but apparently I look “different” as my friend says. Hair and, younger. People always say that when I shave and trim around my ears. Maybe I should do it more often, no sense in looking older, there’s always time for that. I’ve been told yet again that I should register my blood at a bank since I have B- (apparently rare and a big deal). Great. Another encounter with the health care industry in Japan of which I possess much illegitimate fear and sloth.

Dirty Vegas [what a dumb name] just started playing on the speakers. I am now snowed with images of Mitsubishi commercials and Ashe, and from Ashe comes a thousand memories in a girl or may or may not remember, one who has both fervently praised and denounced me; been the center and the oblivion of my life. Wow, I am flooded now: Koi, cat, high bed, Richmond, 64, carjacking, lost, assault, the river, a pizza parlor that doesn’t card, VCU, a future, no money, Ferry Corsten, a piece of orange quartz, two sparkling nymphish eyes, and more pages half written to fill ten hundred libraries.

…time for more Japanese.

I was in Kansai this weekend to catch up with old...

5/16/04

I was in Kansai this weekend to catch up with old acquaintances (though the secret motive behind the trip was actually a mission to retrieve as much soba boro as I could fit in my bag). It was nice, and I actually enjoyed the steady rain that lasted all Sunday. My only regret is that I didn’t have more time there. Nara always makes me want to slow down and walk with no particular destination in mind, taking pictures of rusty houses, dew-soaked mountains and verdant rice fields. Kicking around in another recently renovated games shop, I wondered what the profit margin was like for a used geek wares dealer [I later read a story that at least in the US it’s incredible, hence the continuing success of GameStop and EB Games]. I warmed at the thought of locking my doors at nine and walking home to have a pint and see friends, speaking Japanese effortlessly. Being a humble shopkeeper and employer of four or five good-natured townfolk…

I played football the other day and watched the sunset behind the ruins of Heijo castle, and then later drove up to the Nara equivalent of Skyline Drive and saw not only the stars but an amazing panorama of light from Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka. I thought southeastern Kansai was really the sticks, but by just glancing at it you might think it was Pittsburgh or Richmond.

On Friday I got to Takanohara at noon and noticed a new mini-store at the station before catching the bus to ATR. It was driven by the same guy in the same suit, looking at the same digital clock, still getting underway at the exact change of digits. I smiled remembering how hard it was getting off the futon and out the door, running like mad half dressed to catch it for work.

The office was more or less the same, with a couple new employee motivation programs sprinkled around the building. The same secretaries were sitting at the same desks, with the same array of toys and mementos from the foreign staff lining the partitioning. I even saw my old boss for a moment as he was heading into a conference, with the ever present several drops of sweat running across his cheek. It was good to be back and see the plain blue and grey, open rooms; good to see the convenience stores where I formed a near lethal addiction to the sparkling treats made by Glico and Morinaga. Even my favorite bartender (with yet another radically different hairstyle) at Y&Y knew exactly which drink to make. Only this time thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about shuden (last train), or getting up for that bus in the morning.

There’s something very calming about moving...

5/14/04

There’s something very calming about moving a hundred and eighty miles per hour in a soft, reclining chair. You have to set you focus a little farther out the window than you normally would, things two to fifteen feet move impossibly fast and you’ll get eye strain trying to keep up. I wonder of those who only know Tokyo or Osaka, for outside the sprawling metropolis are wide seas of green and rice, patched together with bleached plank footbridges and dirt paths. The mountains always loom shrouded by fog in the back of any view, forty or fifty miles behind serenely calm tiled houses and bowed power lines. These are mountains like Rainier, or McKinley; mountains made from long sleeping fire and the angry earth, an array of eroded green brushes spiraling upward.

On the Shinkansen there are moments of black, dimly whistling night for five to twenty seconds, miles of perfectly straight holes “punched through mountains” as Rodney says, then in a flash exploding again to some leafy valley or narrow pass, a shock like The Time Machine, an age of darkness brought to light.

After two months of blogging without a net connection...

Elmo has my CAT-5

After two months of blogging without a net connection at home (and thusly roughing it during the early and late hours at work), I gave up, as is clearly obvious, around May 12th. I have a bunch of entries in notebooks which may or may not make it out of the “concept” phase, we’ll see.

In the meantime it’s worth noting that I yet again have entered the world of the home-connected, and as we speak I am seeding bit torrents from ets, monitoring Chinese pop phenomena, and planning an attempt at another (hopefully more advanced) photography portal. All this while destroying my neck thanks to my laptop on a table and a tall desk. If I weren’t planning on going to China next month, you can bet I’d be purchasing a 19″-21″ LCD screen and stand come this 25th (pay day).

The means to which I am communicating are via the yet unproven DION broadband via KDDI. Ideally I have 40mbps down, but since I am 2.1km from the nearest signal amp, they tell me I can expect 12. I have yet to witness such velocity, but that may be in part to the fact that Windows just can’t rasterize a web page fast enough, even on my monster of a P4-2.4ghz. The branding that comes with this internet service (and a 52.00$ a month service fee) is none other than Sesame Street. So in addition to having furry puppets manning my relay station looking for dropped packets, I got a nylon picnic “blanket” and several “frosty cups” bearing the google-eyed patron saints of telecommunication. Grand.

BTW, I think I’m not the only one, but does anyone else who knows a little about computers basically just set the DNS and jack into the modem, not even opening the CD and box of walkthroughs/software/manuals that come with a new DSL/Cable setup? Apparently I have web space, email, and a login to Seh-saym Street or something [Mr. Hooper’s online portal is SO taking out groceries.com in the next three quarters], but my desire to just have an uplink has pushed all of that aside. I guess if I get bored or have a transitionary period between my still-leeching CMU web space/email and something else, I may look into it. Until then, if you want Cookie Monster’s IP and blog, you’ll have to specifically ask.