Last Seaside Running
That’s the name of the final level in Rad Racer. One night in Lambeth I actually made it all the way to that last, near impossible level, but after a couple of tries the continue code failed and I resigned myself to using the level select. I thought this was functionally the same as playing all the way through, but unfortunately upon beating the racing juggernaut, I was not rewarded with the ending. A romantic story nonetheless.
Kawasaki is the eighth designated city area of Japan. For the longest time I thought it was just a motorcycle company that made an appropriately named product, the Ninja. But, it’s actually an industrial town, full of factories, warehouses, and other artificial sprawl that has done a good job of paving over anything green or colorful, in a wide swath between Tokyo and Yokohama. But for me, it’s beautiful and touching, so much the passive quarry of Tokyo’s blue collar dollars and sense. Cracked cement, smoke-stained overpasses, and street upon street of casually hung power lines over streets bristling with errant brown grass.
When I first came to Tokyo, I started living in the heart of the city right away, and so for some time everything I knew was built on neon and ever-flowing yen. To get away and see a place wider than it is taller, without something incredibly interesting every ten meters, was like being swept away to another world or a prologue to a famous story. Across a river and ten minutes by express from Shinagawa, it was black poetry for me.
Kawasaki acquired half its personality from a girl. I may never have gone if her apartment wasn’t there, though it was only a short time from when we first started dating until I’d mapped and rated all possible routes between my house, hers, and the office. It was quiet living, in a different way from Sendagaya. It felt more tangible, more dirt and denim; there were bicycles with training wheels pushed into narrow alleys between beat, slowly rusting clothing stores and bawdy pachinko parlors. Freight trains were just as common as commuters, and the sun was almost always behind the clouds, looking down on sagging rooftops that I awoke to nearly every Saturday and Sunday at two p.m. The dearth of cicadas and greenery made it more human, more modern, a perhaps more poorly-lit reflection of Tokyo, one like an illegitimate child that was frequently passed over in conversation.
So much of my time was spent there doing exactly what I could not manage anywhere else: nothing. Riding bicycles to the river and drinking beers barefoot on the bank, or venturing farther west to the peninsula and farmland, for potatoes or chill beaches. Buying cheap designer spectacles in Yokohama, or sulking in a pitch black Irish pub after naval harbour fireworks. Days after days on that lumpy, broken down sofa bed, listening to the sounds of dinner being prepared in a five square-foot kitchen, a fluffy comforter pulled up to my drowsy eyes hanging delicately off the corner of the laundry line.
We watched old anime’ and you smoked, little hand in big hand stumbling together home from Yamakashi near closing. Over a year’s worth of tired, sweet, watery romance, so beat and worn like my spirits. It’s gone, and so are you, but I won’t see a day where I don’t think of it and smile.
Those are all only memories now, and I have no more chance to relive them. Yes, maybe, next season or the one after that. But it’s like the greatest championship team. After losing in the semifinals, everyone takes the offseason alone to think about what went wrong. The fans will cheer for it, and the media will fantasize, but getting everyone together like that again is going to be a lot tougher than anyone wants to admit.