Sounds of summer

With time in a place, then time away, you form memories and generalizations of that time. Summer means festivals, humidity, the sweat collecting on your brow and the happy cool of a game parlor or a mint towel. Here the trains run by parks, the cicada sing near constantly and a bothersome crow breaks the serenity in a tree over my head. Small blue lizards crawl the ground, and two middle aged men on the bench next to me chat emphatically over happoshu. (minamiochiai kouen)

I exit in the shade, soft shadows of fluttering maple over my storkish legs. The breeze blows cool saying, “Summer, enjoy it now for I’ll rain tomorrow.” Today would be a day for summer. Sun tea and puting out my futon, but I’ll put the navy beans in water and make a luscious soup tonight. Old may lays on his back, chewing while absentmindedly scratching his arm. All this green and grit and I can’t help but think of Paris, and how incomplete today will be not meeting you at a cafe’ or a church. It’s growing cloudy and weakening my colours. I best finish the Velvia and be on my way home.

I’m going to the Sumidagawa fireworks festival...

花火 (Hanabi)


I’m going to the Sumidagawa fireworks festival this weekend, alone.  I’ll be wearing my dark blue jinbei, and looking up at the dark blue sky.  I wish you were coming with me.

Last night my goal was to start building a candidates...


Last night my goal was to start building a candidates list for the postcard section of my show. This left me with the realization of a mixed blessing. The first “problem” is that 95% of my photo archive does not confirm to the filing system I indoctrinated after returning from France. Of course this is natural since I didn’t decide upon it until recently, but judging by the amount of files I have, it appears to require at least ten hours of manual labor. At first glance even Siren looks like it may not be much help. This brings me to the second part of my problem.

I have catalogued nearly six thousand images on the PowerShot in the last two and a half years. Over half of it is in raw format, which means I have over 2800 pictures to choose from for the show. I was planning on only including eight for postcards, but the volume of source material is staggering. Just reviewing all that material will take days. I’ll be the last to acknowledge that I take photographs of quality, but even I won’t have trouble finding eight that I like from a set of nearly three thousand. I may need to rethink my strategy somewhat, because I’m still seriously lacking in analog material for the big prints. And since those are the items that are going to be catching people’s eyes, pulling them away from the next booth and into mine, they’re a lot more important than the postcards. The problem is quality because the maximum resolution the PowerShot provides is images at 96 dpi, well below the 300 needed for printing. So I can downsample and get a maximum document size of about 8.5 x 6 inches. If I’m to use any of them for marquee material, I have to decide how much quality I’ll sacrifice for size. Or I suppose I could tile a bunch of postcard-sized shots together into a collage. That may be a separate interesting piece in itself. One poster-size montage with blurring and interweaving of the photographs… ::sigh:: I may be missing something fairly fundamental here, but you’ll have to go easy on me, I’m new to the whole taking photography beyond the blog level. If you have some suggestions, as always please feel free to let me know.

Sorry, this is mainly to myself, but it has helped. The way to most effectively use the material I have is to fully realize the limitations and strengths inherent in my work. Know yourself, and you can defeat anyone.




ところで、先週僕の大切なノートパソコンのキーボードが壊れた。「~,5,6,0,+,DEL」のキーは全部動かなくなった。これは超面倒くさい。ファイル名とか、パスワードとか、Photoshopのショートカット、どれでも入力することは駄目だ。保証期限が切れたから、どうしても無い。WinBookと言うの会社は日本には無いから、もっとむずい。とにかく、新しいキーボードが必要だった。Linuxボックスの動作の為も必要だった。それで、素敵な「HAPPY HACKING」と言うのキーボードを買った。かなり小さい。押し音も良いし、嬉しいです。実は、色んなパワーフル道具とか買った。でもお金がないからさ、今週貧乏に食べてる。今夜の夕食はシーチキンと麦パン。mmm、美味しい。バターの味期限は三月でしたけど、まだ別におかしい感じがしない。何でかと言うと?


Noticing the everything

I feel…alive. I am so alive that being alive is more than alive and I can’t stand it. And it’s not even high, it’s like a me and being here and seeing and feeling, touching, listening, tasting it all and I can’t stand it. It’s like that movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, if you’ve ever seen it. There’s the scene where Jimmy Stewart is young, and he’s walking around Bedford Falls and feeling restless. He meets Violet on Main Street and asks her if she wants to go out. His eyes go crazy, rolling like a maddened horse, and he speaks with passion, with passion and verve, talking about walking way out up to the mountains, up to the hills, barefoot through the fields of dew and climbing the waterfalls, watching the sun rise and being alive. That is how it is, sort of. I knew I was going out; it was eight o’clock on a Saturday, I’m alone of course and not doing anything. Recently, the hot thing for me is not doing anything at all… because I’m always doing something so nothing is an incredible big deal, it’s like playing canasta your whole life and discovering checkers, where there are no cards.

But like I said I was doing nothing, and I was all worried, worried about worrying like, “I should leave my watch at home because time doesn’t matter“, or “I’ll take my film canister of change, because my wallet means I may buy something significant (over ten dollars), but to have no money, I’m sure I’d regret it,” like I regretted not having my pencil and paper with me. Okay, so I made a conscious decision to not have my camera, but I should always at least have my pencil and paper, or my voice recorder, because I was so into things when I got there.

But there was a curb, actually a curb on like Rokugodori, in Minamidai, on a curb freshly made so crisp and white concrete, next to Tokyo University’s feeder high school, and with a steiny, that’s a bottled 334 ml Asahi, and yes! Yes yes yes yes yes! No, because it’s not like alcohol is the thing, but it’s like a thing that you do, I mean, I said I’d stop drinking alone, but getting drunk alone and just having one beer on a Saturday night in summer are like two entirely different things. There are still mom and pop liquor stores like every now and then in the middle of all the houses, areas not close to stations where convenience stores have still not taken root. So I passed one, and I thought about the bottle cap that I gave Rob, the Tsingtao from that day at Waseda, that golden day of sun and riding bicycles, so I hoped that they would have it here too. But no, it’s too small, but at least they had the steiny, because chilled liquids out of glass are worlds apart from cans or plastic. Of course we don’t drink beer from plastic, but it’s summer for chrissakes and so I got the steiny and I connected with the old guy running the store. Because there aren’t many customers, because the stores are always just the front of a house in which the owners actually live in the back, and they’re watching TV back there and all, and won’t even come up to the front unless you make some noise scuffing your tennis shoes on the linoleum floor or something. But he was all so into saying, “arigatou gozaimasu” and I was all about saying it back, and doumo and my trademark ookini on the way out the door. Because I get that. Yeah it costs an extra twenty or thirty yen per item, but it’s some guy with a wife and a dog and running his store and not some corporation with rich CEOs whose children are the target of kidnappings for ransom. So of course I pay the extra and help him out, and feel good about the blue collar bond we share, it’s called ninjyou.

But that was just the start, just the catalyst, because I was on the curb of Rokugo and looking through the athletic field at the high school and seeing those Hatsudai and Touchou skyscrapers all ten minutes’ ride off, towering in the Tokyo sky which never gets dark. The best it does is turn halftone blue-grey, because of all the electricity running through the place. But at that point I was in it, I fell into it like I didn’t have any choice, I fell into the everything that was there for me and only me to notice: the construction cone next to my leg that didn’t light up like the others, the way the warning signal silently blinked all the way down the road at the intersection, how much I wanted it to at least glimmer a little on the fender of my beat bicycle; how the seatpost is at a stupid angle, tilting to the back because it’s so far damn out, because I’m so tall, it’s like almost half the length of the seat tube itself. The little bugs walking on the crisp crisp pavement, how their little wings caught the light of the new sallow streetlight, the tiny little nut to some piece of machinery in the gutter with the dead leaves, and the black electric tape strip and the sweet, sweet bulge in the heel of my right beat Thailand green suede Converse which pooched out from my darling outstretched legs. A group of homemakers rode behind me on the sidewalk, talking about how cool it was today (and it was cool), and I understood every single word, every inflection, and rolled around in all of that nothing on the curb in the summer with the crickets chirping.

The sounds overpowered me, I could pick out every one, I heard with perfect clarity the motorcyclist stoking the throttle as the light turned green on Honanchou dori, I could hear the surge of water in the storm drain nex to me, from someone’s laundry machine two blocks away emptying. I heard the playful screams of a child in a bathtub in a house on the street behind the house behind me, and so into all of it every tiny fibre in my sagging shoulders just being there, I realized, “There is a hell of a lot going on the world, an incalculable amount of things to notice. To not notice all of it would be the most incredible of tragedies, but for me to notice it now is the most wonderful gift anyone has ever been given in the world.

Yes, I noticed it all, and it doused and saturated my heart. It carried and threw my soul into a current, and I knew that today was again something, something so fantastic I just had to come home right now to tell you about it.










Where are those happy days, they seem so hard to find
I tried to reach for you, but you have lost your mind
Whatever happened to our love
I wish I understood
It used to be so nice, it used to be so good

So when you’re near me, darling can’t you hear me, SOS
The love you gave me, nothing else can save me, SOS
When you’re gone
How can I even try to go on
When you’re gone
Though I try how can I carry on











The running/bicycle combination has again caused...

Wither, Blister, Burn & Peel

The running/bicycle combination has again caused trouble, although this time with far more negative side effects. Last night I went back to Kawasaki to see my good friend Sei, and we met up at the timeless izakaya Yamakashi. The customers were many, the staff cheery, and the food was as usual, excellent. However, after having more than our share of drinks, we proceeded to phase two of the night– the requisite karaoke highlighted by the Righteous Brothers.

Kawasaki station is a good twenty minutes or more walk from Kawasaki, so my plan was to run to Hacchounawate station and take the Keikyu line to Kawasaki. But, Sei in his eternal wisdom stated that if one is going to run to Hacchou, one should run all the way to Kawasaki. So, that’s what we did, giddy as schoolboys, ambling along and belting out 80s radio hits all the way. He rode his bicycle, I ran. The only problem is that when I left the house for work that day, I didn’t anticipate running, and matched my shoes to my shirt and wore my geta (heavy, platformed wooden sandals). Since running in geta is a sure fire way to break a strap or an ankle, I thought it best to remove them and run barefoot.

Hey, I used to run all over Amber Meadows barefoot when I was a kid. Our forefathers ran barefoot all over the wild, how bad could fifteen minutes uneven asphalt be?


Since I was a little tipsy I ran on just the balls of my feet, to minimize impact to my knees (I guess). But what this did is build up a ton of huge blisters hella fast, blisters which hurt so much I could hardly walk after twenty minutes. I thought I could pussyfoot around and it would be okay, but they just ended up hurting more and more. I broke one scrambling to get onto the last Toyoko line headed for Shibuya, and the protective fluid in the blister got all over my sandals and the floor.

The worst was yet to come, however, because after I tried riding my bicycle home, I realized that just peddling on the heels and arches of my feet wasn’t feasible for those nasty hills between Nakameguro and Shibuya. In fact, having to stop at traffic lights on them pushed me over the edge. My balance was already tenuous because I was going slow, and I didn’t want to make the blisters to make contact with the ground. But I had to support my weight and slid off the bike and right onto the largest sore on the ball of my right foot. It broke and blood started pouring everywhere, on my sole, on my sandal, on the bike. So I had no choice but to take a taxi. I very painfully tethered my bicycle to the nearest railing, right at the intersection, and waved a car down. Because of the construction on Yamate-dori, it took about twice as long as it should, and ended up costing twenty-five dollars to get to my home. I’m really wishing I had crutches now.

Anyway, I took a bath, some aspirin, and went to bed. Today the bleeding has stopped, but it still looks like there is a lot of blood pooled up under the skin. I thought about taking pictures to document, like the way my shoulder gets all chewed up after omikoshi, but I figure that wouldn’t really benefit anyone. You don’t need to see it and I won’t soon forget this pain. So much for getting around today. I have no idea how I’m going to get to work tomorrow. My left foot is a lot better, so I guess I’ll favor that and limp on it for a couple days. ::sigh::

As my dad would say, “Well I hope you’ve learned your lesson.” Yeah, I’ve learned my lesson: “Don’t be a fuggin’ idiot, Prefontaine!

Though I’m in the middle of a long and boring...

Waiting to exhale

Though I’m in the middle of a long and boring post about my storied love affair with bicycles, I’m at work now so I can’t do the whole post justice. However, I can’t contain my excitement anymore so I have to make it public.

I finally bought another bicycle. If you follow my “big plans” soliloquies that I make from time to time, you’ll recall that I’ve wanted one for about two years. But, two large obstacles have always blocked my path: 1) most bicycles in Japan are inherently too small for me, and 2) modern bicycles pretty much suck, as the popular thing seems to be aluminum compact frames and mountain bikes. Touring and amateur racing is dead. The market is not mine.

So, I overcame my inhibitions towards eBay, and bought a bike. It’s not a Miyata 1000, as I’ve often mentioned lusting for here, but that’s probably for the best. I lost an auction on one, but after realizing how hard it would be to get parts, and how much of a pain intercontinental shipping of large objects is, I think things may work out ok.

I bought a 1982 Trek 728 touring bicycle (page 8), maintained for 24 years by the original owner, in very tidy form and new wheels/tires. I actually won the auction almost two months ago, but it has taken me this long to figure out how to get the bicycle here and not pay more on shipping than I did for the bike. In the end, the shipping is still ridiculously expensive, but it’s a compromise. The only hurdles I have left to clear are customs, and hopefully not a very large duty. Delivery is scheduled for Tuesday at six o’clock at my office. I am employing the aid of a co-worker to assemble my new darling, whom I will lavish with only the finest in protective accessories. This must be like what having a baby is like. I’m almost tempted to put up a big banner at my house that says, “Welcome home!”

But for now, I’ll pass around pictures from the seller, and you can light my cigar.

Yes, I am seventy-two hours away from finally getting a touring bike. Yes, we are going to ride cross-country.

I don’t like killing things, anything. If...

Life and death in the house of Ventura

I don’t like killing things, anything. If I can avoid it, I’ll usually do what it takes to place the living thing out of harm’s way (or at least out of my way). For instance, there are a significant number of spiders that share my domicile. While I do not collect rent from them, we do seem to have a sort of mutual understanding that if I don’t make their lives difficult, they don’t bite me, despite the fact that enjoy scaling the east wall right around the area where my head rests in the loft. I suppose if they were larger than a nickel, I might be bothered. But despite jumping prowess, their diminutive size makes it easy for me to classify them as not worth really thinking about. Slightly farther along the scale of tolerance, I found a slug oozing along my hardwood floor next to my bed a couple weeks ago. While normally associated with gardens, I can only assume the sizeable monopod wandered into my home at just the right time when I had a window open to prune my mint. Slugs are very difficult to move; since they are invertebrates any attempt to slide something like paper underneath them frequently causes some sort of physical anguish, resulting in a compacted and emotionally distressed slug. However, I did my best and then took the panicking slimy fellow outside to place him under the railing by the front door. It’s very trying to coax a slug from one surface to another, and you don’t have the liberty of just shaking or brushing him off. Still, I consider my patience in the matter commendable.

On the other side of the coin, there are some creatures which I simply will not tolerate in my home, the most common of which is our garbage-devouring friend the cockroach. These little lovelies have the misfortune of being stupid enough to crawl up my bathroom drain pipe and into my house about three or four times a year, despite the abundance of poison traps I have scattered around the kitchen and bathroom. However, if one manages to navigate the gauntlet of insect land mines into my actual home, they are summarily extinguished with all the might of a rolled magazine, fueled by the personal offense I take that such a filthy creature would dare defile the sanctity of my home. It’s insulting because of how fastidiously I keep my dwelling free of crumbs, spills, open containers, and vagrant odors.

The most morally trying of dilemmas in my home is of course the dead center of the issue, and in the end the real crux of all life. I must kill to live. Whether plants having feelings or not and being a vegetarian is spiritually sound is a lesser detail, but the point is that organic creatures must eat organic matter, which since it is organic was at one point in time alive. Many people eat out. Some people cook at home. But most people who eat do so when the thing they are eating has been killed or processed before they received it (animals). However, occasionally we kill the things we eat in our own home. And if the things we kill show signs of life while we are preparing them, it is all too clear exactly what is going on.

I occasionally put shijimi (tiny shellfish) in my bean paste soup. I buy them at the store, fresh, and they are refrigerated until I cook. When I intend to use them, I take them out of the cellophane and place them into a bowl of water for about two hours, during which they instinctively assume they are safe, back in the ocean again, and open their tightly sealed shells to expel sand and take in nutrition. So, I have a bowl full of tiny little shellfish clapping, blubbing contentedly in tap water, expelling sand and stretching their soon to be consumed meaty feet. After they have sufficiently purged, I dump out the water and wash the debris from the shells, shocking them into closing up tight again. Then it’s just a boiling pot of water and in they go. Within seconds the searing temperature kills them popping their shells open, their tender flesh which moments ago was living an undisturbed existence, now only boiled meat. I can’t tell you how this bothers me in tautly macabre sense.

No, I do not have to eat animals to survive. However, a variety of cheap and readily available ingredients in my diet does give me a stronger body, and a more contented existence. Still, there are a lot of things to consider, one of which is if I don’t buy those shellfish and eat them, they may pass the expiration date and be thrown out, and then their death would still occur but be meaningless. This is not an argument for eating animals though. I’m just saying that bringing death to things in general bothers me. But, as Robert clearly pointed out, just because I have to kill things, that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And perhaps that is the most important part. For being the sentient and highly intelligent creatures that we are, we have a responsibility to be cognizant of the consequences and motivations of our actions.

As the great Dalai Lama said (paraphrased), “Even I have sinned against a few mosquitoes.”

Last Friday night things got a little out of hand...

Fame (I’m gonna live forever)

Last Friday night things got a little out of hand, as usual something (primarily) innocent ended up growing in to a large, seething, resource-absorbing, sweaty-toothed beast that placed me in the debt of two stalwart supporters. Fortunately, this time it involved no women, no regrettable words, and no collision of solid objects. Lucky, yes. Boilermakers, no.

In any case, a couple of my co-workers and I went to Ootaru, a cheap suds house favored by Nakameguro’s young and not-so-affluent. Though not my original design, we ended up staying there until closing, taking full advantage of the discount bottles of Sapporo beer. After this, it was obviously too late to catch a train, and one of our colleagues was without a bicycle. So I did what I always do when going someplace with less bicycles than people: lowered the seat on my noble steed and lent her to my comrade. Thus I lead the way from Nakameguro to Udagawachou on foot, pressing a full, fevered run the several miles uphill to our next watering hole.

The catch in the story is not me running down the street ahead full with basketed bicycles following, it is that at this point I was thoroughly soused, feeling good, and very hot, so I thought it necessary to strip off my shirt to better ventilate my finely tuned machine. In America, while uncommon, it’s not unheard of to see some burly dude running down a suburban street in Nikes with no shirt on. However, in Japan, down the strip of one of the most active entertainment districts in Tokyo at 2:00am, this is a slightly different story. I wasn’t stopped by any cops or anything, but halfway down Dogenzaka hill I realized I was turning a fair number of heads. For here was a sinewy, furry-chested Italian-American streaking down the sidewalk, glistening in the neon of karaoke halls, massage parlors, and noodle stalls. As I waited to take the elevator up to my perennial darkened whiskey bar of choice, The S, Rob caught up with me and said, “Why don’t we put our shirt on now, big fella?” Sure. That’s cool.

Show’s over for the night, folks. Thanks, I’ll be here all week.

In a particular episode of TNG, the crew of the...

I hear you everywhere

In a particular episode of TNG, the crew of the Enterprise begins to slowly go insane for lack of REM sleep, i.e. no one can dream. The idea always terrified me, because I dream so frequently and with such clarity that it’s hard to imagine living otherwise.

The time that I dream is almost certainly the space between the first alarm and when I actually get up each morning. Sometimes it’s ten minutes, sometimes two hours. Most frequently I dream about Brandon. This has been the case for the last six years. I suppose much of my “issues” or current mental jewelry may be bound up in him somewhat. Aside from that, I dream of my parents, especially of late since they are careening closer to what they’ve been orbiting for the last ten years… divorce. Regardless, I have found recently that my dreams are genuinely multilingual, and I take this as a positive sign that I am about to reach a new level of Japanese assimilation.

This morning I had a dream that I was in a nearly vacant shopping mall, with many of the stores under construction and boarded up, blocking clear view of the main arcades. At the far end (I believe this was based on Francis Scott Key Mall), I found a little girl, maybe six or eight, and she was wandering about. It’s already been twenty minutes since I woke up and I watered my plants before a shower, so there’s not much left to my mind, unfortunately. However, essentially it seems that I was quite taken with her; a bond in an unspoken kind of way. I had to show her the way back to the train station at the other end, because she was idly talking about going home. I bought her something from the Candy Clown, brightly colored chewables, maybe Skittles. It kind of made me sad, how incredibly vacant and detached she seemed, but there was something between us that made me feel responsible. Maybe she’ll be my daughter one day.

As the years go by and I soften more with all the bumps and scrapes of life, an acceptance grows like a still lake in my heart. I know that I am going to be a wonderful father, and love my child with an unfathomable depth.

When I am not here, it is almost always because...

An investment of titanic proportions

When I am not here, it is almost always because I am buckling under some sort of burden that drives me from technology/consciousness when not at the office. Of course, there are scribbled notes here and there, but only a few of them are tangible enough for me to endure a re-envisioning after the fact. But, it’s past my bedtime, so that’s not today.

I am here because today is the beginning of two months in which I will attempt to average at least one hour every day, for the next sixty-five days, to work on my current great challenge. This time it is not a foreign language for an overseas trip. It is something much more difficult, something that is the pilot test of my first foray out of idle fiddling, and into sustained effort with an anticipated flash of professionalism, no, artistry.

I don’t think I’ve written it here, because I really didn’t want to make a deal about it, but it’s not that much of a deal, and I won’t tell you that much about it, in fact you’ll probably forget by the time it happens, but I have paid entry to an art exhibition. The incendiary action of having given up a considerable amount of money just to receive 2.25 square meters for a day, I will from this point spend very easily over several hundred hours and probably over seven hundred more dollars just to justify the initial investment. In the end, though, I only of course plan on judging my success or failure by my own satisfaction of meeting my goals, and do not anticipate any third parties other than biased acquaintances (God bless them) to take any notice of it.

But this is a crucible, and the next two months are going to be incredibly taxing not only because by nature they must be for this exposition, but because I am imposing a strict mental, physical, and financial diet, a near fasting, for the duration. Once several years ago, I may have felt hesitant about doing such a thing when I have such a great (elevated) responsibility at work for the same time period, but I have learned such folly is only that, and not to ever presume that there will be a comfortable time in my industrial life. So, as much as I’ll be abused by daylight from external forces, mornings, nights, and the rare weekend I’m not at the office are my domain, and this punishing of compressed beauty will be exactly that… a diamond through stress to glimmer with the unserviceable light of life, if only for a second.

May fortune favor the foolish.