It’s raining. I’m going to wear the tie I got for Valentine’s, but no one is going to notice.
It’s raining. I’m going to wear the tie I got for Valentine’s, but no one is going to notice.
The people have spoken, and who am I to deny them?
Apparently all of the devout petitioning my loyal readers have been making to the nyuukokukanrikyoku (immigration office) has finally paid off. Be you native or overseas, the benevolent and equal opportunity-minded folks with the Japanese department of visa extensions has heard your fervent pleas and granted me an extension for another three-year stay in the exotic island country of Nippon. Of course since I have deep thespian roots, you know I can’t possibility let my adoring fans down and march off without an encore. So I guess the “Must Read DV” is going to be coming at you two-three times a week for the next twelve seasons or so. Who knows, we may even get a tiny budget upgrade and score some enhanced visual effects with dancing puppets for the summer sweeps.
In any case, this is a day for celebrating, if only I felt up to it. Instead I feel lethargic, run over, and in general pancake-ish. Still no motivation to tackle Sin, still no motivation to overhaul the dusty wallpaper here. I’m just… so… bleah. And I get to work this weekend, because I can’t port a graphics engine fast enough. Huzzah! What a dinger.
Well… you’re normal, you have time on your hands (you have time to check up on me), go out tonight and do something to celebrate for me. Have a beer. See a baseball game. Buy some oven mitts. Meet your soul mate. Conceive a child. Name it after me.
Three years abroad
Today I took the day off because I have a fever; it hurts to swallow. Usually when I have a free day, I want to really get a whole bunch of stuff done and have a time. However, today I’m so lethargic that I don’t even feel like playing games. I’ve just been cat napping from the bed and the sofa, in between my irrepressible ambient cleaning. At this point now things are fairly clean at all stations, though I still have the great clothing purge to do. But for now, that can wait.
I have been in Japan for three years. The exact date was two Saturdays ago, a day where it was raining and I didn’t do much of anything then either. But in any case, my three years are up. I’m awaiting visa extension now, but I don’t expect any problems.
When I started here, three years ago, I was a week out of graduate school, and full of fire and expectations. I had a weekly rental at Takaido, and bought Chinese tea from a liquor store vendor on the way home from work. I found my green Ralph Lauren shirt for five dollars, and everything I had was dust free. I didn’t speak very much Japanese at all, and meetings at the time made me so exhausted. Just listening to everyone talk made my mind run wild, trying to grok what it I was hearing. I was a child, my haircut was short and clean, my smile was fresh, and the corners of my eyes were markedly devoid of crow’s feet. I couldn’t eat a lot of Japanese food, and I didn’t have a bicycle. Things were tumultuous, noisy, and full of conflict.
Now, I’m twenty-six, the age when my parents were starting to prepare for a family. I have a small, but suitable apartment next to a park. Right now two boys are playing by the runoff stream, in the same way middle school boys around the world play; the same way I played make believe with Chris Bando, and went catching crayfish in the creek behind our housing development.
I still take photographs, although the level of quality of my tools has improved dramatically. Like all of my art though, the pictures I take today carry only a passing resemblance of the ones I collected when I first arrived here with that little Casio. I do less post-production, and more simple looking. Maybe you think they have less passion than the ones I used to take. Maybe they look more generic, or don’t strike you as much, I don’t know. All I know is that they’ve changed along with me.
I read more on average, but seem to go through intense periods of reading after I get my hands on a group of new books about history or Asian religion. One constant though is that I can never just eat during my lunch. I’m always planning something, writing, or studying at the same time. I’m not so sure if this is a good thing, because it devalues the ritual of eating, of being conscious and aware of all the effort that has gone into the meal.
I still love bicycles, more and more in fact. I recently upgraded my basket-bearing commuter with a cyclometer and successfully changed my first tube. By my estimates, I’ve ridden over 5000 miles on that simple little one hundred dollar bike, with less than fifty dollars total for part replacement. If that’s not value, I don’t know what is. It may even exceed the glory of my Rip Curl t-shirt that I got from Aunt Grace at Christmas in 1992 and still wear to this day. I’m on the cusp of buying another bike, one more suited for touring, because there’s something romantic and pure about living on a pauper’s resources, travelling about, seeing the fat of the land and the beat, rural temples scattered along the way. But I don’t want to jinx it, so I’ll leave it at that.
I have a window garden, and grow a number of things, including mini-radishes, mini-carrots, mini-tomatoes, and mint. The last of these is my pride and joy; three seasons on the same seeds, although much more of a testament to the mild winters of Tokyo than any botanical skill I could assume to possess. But to my credit I’ll say one thing, my success in gardening is for the same reason that I have success with bicycle maintenance, home planning, budget balancing, and cooking: it takes an analytical mind. I thrive on thinking about all manners of things as systems, a spanning ball-joint pipe network of cause and effect. Everything happens for a reason, and if you have the appreciation to understand those reasons, you can tune and shape anything to your will. Sunlight, water absorption, pH, tensile strength, boiling points, perspective foreshortening, contrast, and the limits of digital and print media. It’s all there, just waiting to be learned. Look at anything from a glance, then break it down into the simplest of variables for one to manage. But don’t forget to look at it in a wider sense as well. You focus on all the details all the time, and your world shrinks and passes you by. This zooming from the micro- to macroscopic, along with the catalyst of experience, has made me a much quieter man, I believe– that and the fact that I still live alone. Solitude is a double-edged sword, but like all the details of my balanced systems, probably not something worth worrying too much about.
Three years abroad, three years alone, three years away, drifting in another current, having left the comfortable world of youth behind. Now a new youth, a new innocence, but one with tempered respect. Thank you everyone involved, for these three years. They have been magnificent. They have been remarkable. And here’s to many, many, more.
Crazy lazy the rave was mine; again new faces again new talkings, again dancing and shadows and smiles from unknown souls. For each pair of eyes I met and shared fraternity, a little bit of the poison leached in my soul bled away, bled away in sweat and washed off at the basin in water that hit the stone, neutralized and mixing with the earth, it was trod upon and stomped, ground into the dirt by the adulation of two hundred feet dancing.
Than you Eromichi, you made me feel at home and mellowed me out. Thank you Oni for your disarming, childlike grin. Thank you Aibon for letting me feel needed in that nostalgic, collegiate way. On the other side of pain I was Roz, and I knew the sting of self-serving kindness. Thank you Take for your endless generosity and support, far out of your way you came for me, and so patient were you to learn my idiosyncracies. Ah the sweat and the odor, the tiny white tablets in water. I sat around a squat table littered with Kentucky whiskey and spoke to cameramen, in a circle with Leica and Pentax and TMax 3200. Envious there were, for me to be at this point in my artistic career, at the cusp of a maturation, the dusk before my first show.
And I slept, again more than I thought I would, first cold, then hard, then freezing, and by morning terrible heat and moisture condensed on everything. Forgive me, A-1, for such shoddy treatment, my mind was not with you.
I need to do these thing when I’m young. I’m 26 and at my peak physically. Now is the time to start training. Now is the time to extend myself. Now is the time to change.
If not you, zen who? If not now, zen when?
There are no more self-conscious days, embarrassed situations. Now I have to live for me, and be a colossal pillar of motivation and drive. Not to impress anyone, not to gain glory or recognition, but for me, because I can, because it is a sin to waste that possibility. I do this myself. I will build a house of learning, a monument to life. And I will do it without relying on anyone else. I will build this city with two hands, two legs, and a verve-pumping heart. There are no limitations, no boundaries, and no impossibilities. I will construct a shining tower of knowledge, a library to the stars, and a museum of experiences that extends from one sea to another. The details matter, but do not. I will not judge myself by how close things play out to my initial plans, but only by the volume and quality of the experiences I accumulate.
Much like you, Adrian, today I am making a decision, but this time, not to end being stupid. No, this time I decide to stop being so many other people, and start finding fulfillment in being the one man who matters most: me.
ears pop horn whines
old man across the aisle shouts into his phone
ramble, clack, and sway
on the central line slowly winding
through the heart of Kanto.
I have Miles Davis on over-sized Pioneers
and grit and salt in the creases by my wanderlust eyes.
this is my song: padded seats and old government trains
twelve stations through the mountains, Enzan to Takao.
conductor stops by, smiling, and checks my ticket
I am at peace in this steel carriage.
hello rice fields, goodbye fishermen
hello bamboo camphored skylines
hey Otsuki, hey yellow house, when will I have
a wife and a roof and a small car that goes vreem
along snaking country roads?
where will I be a father and still a poet,
my little girl asleep on the carpet with my head
on arm so gazing, adoring you…
And now, back to home, back to a floor and bathroom to scrub, back to a fried egg sandwich just waiting to be the end of my spirited travel and toil, a bath with tingling salts; laughing fool. It’s as my comrade the cameraman asked last night, has my life been strict or sweet? Oh yes, no mistaking this life is certainly sweet. That most precious of lessons was taught to me by you, Melia.
From the far reaches of terror
Falling asleep on the couch (for the second night in a row) left me waking up too early six thanks to some extremely vocal birds and unattended window shades. However, it seems I should have gotten up instead of rolling over.
I had a nightmare about a certain someone, a nightmare so twisted, macabre, and insane in its unimaginable violence, that I was close to vomiting when I finally managed to rip myself awake.
In the nightmare I found myself needing, no, possessed to kill this person. Only the sane, normal me was coherent enough to see the madman erupting from inside of the self, and that caged remnant of me had the horrible pleasure of watching the entire sequence unfold, almost powerless. Almost. The almost is the worst part, because instead of just swiftly and efficiently murdering my victim, I failed at every attempt, leaving said person in a state to sustain life, but with enough maddening aplomb to unthinkably mutilate and deform the once beautiful and smiling face I knew so well.
I hacked at the neck, but couldn’t cut through, I sliced off skin like a kiwi, occasionally catching on fatty flesh. I stabbed and stamped and stuffed rags in a mouth that once I tenderly kissed, and for each step of my inhuman butchering, I retained the lucent, searing pain of knowing full well what I was doing, writhing in useless struggle against myself. This prolonging kept the soul alive for an unimaginable length of time, and in the end when the killer within was certain the soul had been extinguished, I went to sleep, on the sofa, much like I did last night… asleep with fatigue and demons, and things close by left undone.
When I awoke a spectral third person, imagined or real, grinned at me sardonically, with such exquisite sickening pleasure, to show me that in fact my love was still alive, and in the morning daylight I could witness and absorb fully the unspeakable effects of my actions the night before. Now there were no longer pleas of “Stop” or “But I love you.” The shambling mass of bleeding flesh was panicked and trying to escape, and driven to new heights of rage and desperation I fumbled for more sharp objects and redoubled the effort my insurrection, but this time not as one fighting the other, but two… two both driven mad with fear, and rage, and powerlessness.
I’m really bad at finding the accurate words to describe the gravity of these actions. They are the kind of things that most humans (hopefully) never think of. It scares me how I could ever conceive of such a thing. Is this a sign of how bad things have gotten, or just a fluke?
[After consulting with Robert at work later that day, he asked how I felt after waking up. Of course I said I was terrified beyond belief, and he said that was normal, (since I didn’t feel any conscious inclination to actually follow up on my visions), so that made me a feel a little better.]
[As if to instinctively atone for conjuring up such a horrible thing, somehow I didn’t stay awake the second time after the nightmare and fell back asleep for another hour, and proceeded to have a very unspeakable dream of another sort, although this time of a different nature and a much more positive experience for both parties involved.]