The zone

There’s a zone one enters when travel of a sort becomes familiar to the point of being able to comfortably plan and execute the patterns with a minimal amount of waste and uncertainty. Somewhere around the fifth time out of Narita international immigration was little more than a trip to the dentist; a positive outcome from an extended period of immobility during which I could alphabetize all of the manila folders of my mind. All the spare trash and receipts of my backpack and wallets, the comfort from advance knowledge of how to time my beverage consumption to the cheapest vending machine along the route. Today I made about the fourth or fifth trip to the Suwa interchange Oginaya and I could see myself sprinting across the byway to Game St., the next time around. iPod with playlists, notepad, roll of coins and a ticket holder. I derive a great deal of pleasure from skiing simply because it is an activity that I can ratchet up my skill level simply through scientific method. A leads to B leads to C.

Nearly everything outside of mental decompression is based purely on distilling an action down to the most simple and refined of processes, the essence of cognitive life. It is perhaps my greatest strength and weakness, application of ordered analysis. So many conquerable fields, tangible and not, so little time in this continuous consciousness to separate them all.

Me and You

summer of what to do
fell right back into you
and i still lie to you
awkward and in your room
but i’ve got something to prove
and i still lie to you
but what else could i do

we could be friends or family
it’s not on me yeah
we could be
everything you ever wanted now

i’ve got you
you’ve got me
there’s still something missing
we still dance around it
but why

summer of what to do
but summer is ending soon
and i still lie to you
lying there next to you
but we still play by your rules
and i still lie to you
but what else could i do

summer is ending
and with it i’m sending
you anything i think you’d like to you
i’m wrought with potential
and lost in this cycle
but there’s no escaping
what i’ve got to do

we’re making our best days
but you can’t stop thinking
no none of this will mean a thing to you
we’re perfect together
it’s not enough for her
there’s no shame admitting
the right thing to do

and we laugh everyday
but we throw it away
and i smile just the same
while you deny everything

i’ve got you
you’ve got me
you think something’s missing
we still dance
everybody knows it
it’s my way to tell you
everything is for you
i’ve got you
you’ve got me
and that’s all

The Great Escape Rocks

Out of the bat cave

This was a good weekend. I got to do what I enjoy best: exploring, learning, and taking pictures. I also was able to talk to some new people. If you talk to almost anyone the first time, there’s always a sense of freshness, hope, and innocence. I want to believe the more I talk to people the better I’ll get at it, and maybe somewhere along the way I’ll find a little peace. But for now at least I know I need to be the center of attention, whether because I’m spoiled or just lonely. I love two-way conversation. I want so much to believe that if I just be myself, people will like me for it. it’s so hard holding back all of the tempestuous fire in my heart that swells with the tides. Oh to be a dreamer and alone.

Jukai travels

When I was in elementary school, the annual book fair was always a time of great anticipation. How many yarn-tasseled Garfield bookmarks could I con mom into buying me this year? One time I bought a book, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. At the time I thought that it was related to Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective, in which the main character was named Basil. However, this was not the case as my mother informed me before buying it, but stubborn and not wanting to believe such depressing news, I insisted I knew this and wanted the book nonetheless. So, she bought it and it did indeed end up about being nothing about detectives or mice named Basil, but it was a very interesting read about two children who run away and live in a museum for a number of months. The image of all those toilets to oneself; the kind of comfort that comes only from the absolute pristine silence of dozens of toilets all to oneself, was strangely appealing. There is a similar line in the film With Honors; Joe Pesci makes such a comment about the bliss of living in a Harvard library.

I have a similar situation presented to me now, the only patron in a camping area with dozens of empty, tidily swept lodges. I enjoyed heavenly twenty minute trips to the ice cold toilets, slowly savoring my third read of The Dharma Bums.

Today was indeed a day spun in stories. Like a lot of times my assumptions and plans were all nonsense, but i was lucky to have people showing me the way. I climbed a 1200 meter mountain, I rode a horse, I picked my way through suicide woods at desk, I went spelunking in a bat cave, I bathed in hot water springs and ate one of the most perfect meals of my entire life. Twelve miles, thirteen hours, and a sense of deep satisfaction. I have half a bottle of the most delicious win but Japhy was right, in the mountains the air is thin and you don’t crave it. Kerouac was telling the truth, and I know how he felt…

Too physically active to drink, and something of completeness, and the hope to start a new direction in one’s life. The silence is almost maddening. [It was at least until a deer scream from the forest behind sent me quaking deeper into my Carinthia.]

ばらの花

You know the feeling you had as a kid right before something big happened? A special moment of clarity when you woke up from your own world and read the tension in all the grownups’ faces. That weighty realization, like the morning of a major operation or waiting on the front steps for your lost dog to come home.

It’s like I’ve had that feeling for so long that I’d stopped paying attention to it, and kind of forgot that it was even there. But life changes in ways you can never imagine. There are moments when you’re near friends and no one says a thing, but you can feel that it’s going to be all right, really, because it is all right.

Looking out of a minivan window full of dusty, exhausted travellers, the only sound trickling piano raindrops from the radio. Muddy rice fields and mountains flew by with the beat of my heart, all of us part of some great giant dreaming beyond the horizon.

ほこりっぽくて疲れた旅行者でいっぱいのミニバン窓の外を見ながら、唯一の音はラジオのパラパラなピアノだった。心臓の鼓動と一緒に濁った田圃と山を走り回って、僕らは地平線の彼方にいる巨漢の見てる夢の一部。

ばらの花 – くるり

雨降りの朝で今日も会えないや
何となく でも少しほっとして
飲み干したジンジャーエール 気が抜けて

安心な僕らは旅に出ようぜ
思い切り泣いたり笑ったりしようぜ

愛のばら掲げて遠回りしてまた転んで
相づち打つよ君の弱さを探す為に

安心な僕らは旅に出ようぜ
思い切り泣いたり笑ったりしようぜ
僕らお互い弱虫すぎて
踏み込めないまま朝を迎える

暗がりを走る 君が見てるから
でもいない君も僕も

最終バス乗り過ごしてもう君に会えない
あんなに近づいたのに遠くなってゆく
だけどこんなに胸が痛むのは
何の花に例えられましょう
ジンジャーエール買って飲んだ
こんな味だったっけな
ジンジャーエール買って飲んだ
こんな味だったっけな
安心な僕らは旅に出ようぜ
思い切り泣いたり笑ったりしようぜ

n.w.w.

A moment, for me, but not. When was I here before? Maybe I’ve been here all my life and it just slows down to now for an instant, for me to realize it. This has been, and will be, my life. Am I outside, or in? Can I avoid it? Should I make a pretense? Maybe we’re all wearing masks, from the second we dream until the day we die and our time is up.

Happiness is…

Unexpectedly receiving single serving size soy milk boxes from first time acquaintances at bars.

Elementary school children waving to you from bus windows while on the way to work.

Talking with your co-worker about how his newborn still cannot provide much help in Halo 3 co-op.

But most of all, happiness is

a refrigerator full of Kirin Autumn Lager and discontinued Konica-Minolta Centuria.

Inside the light, into the blue

There are a number of train stations scattered on the outskirts of central Tokyo, at one time probably unique but now more or less all convenient, well-lit clones of one another. Kawasaki. Omiya. Tachikawa. To the south, to the north, to the west.

This weekend I went to my third Gentenkaiki at Tamagawa Camp Village just inside of Yamanashi near Sagamiko. Recently I was talking about the evolution of raving from a challenge to a pasttime. These days I don’t fend off overly amorous advances from fellow man so much share handshakes and nods on the way in and out. Dancing is less of a tense, grinding shudder and more a coarsing river stalled on the occasional break of rocks when I stop to think about the now I foolishly believe in.

I look for something unique and burn through the cliche’, devouring the unfamiliar in short order, separating custom while at the same time absorbing it. The beats, pauses, breaks, and glides assemble themselves fifteen feet ahead of my soul, an organic glass driveway crystallizing through space. The smiles come easier, I wean myself from the supplements, and fabricate karma just inside my left breast. The highs are longer and sustained, not a personal side effect but an on-ramp springboard into the stream. We manifest the fever in different ways, but unmistakably it boils through every crevice between our teeth.


A few more testaments to the fidelity of Portra and Super Presto are up in Gallery (the feedback loop is shrinking, mhmm, yes…).

This is the road I was born off of and migrated onto with manhood. Never alone, I’m always moving forward, slip like fish in a school on into the blue.

Backlog

This week I will be cleaning house as far as posting goes. I’m a couple raves behind and looking at the drafts folder in WordPress I have two from summer and one very important reflection from April to get through. After this I will be able to resume with the normal flow of comments, which I have a good deal of considering the rounds I’ve been making the past few weeks.

There’s just something about autumn that breaks me out of the do-nothing weak doldrums of summer… I thrive in cold weather. Let me flourish. Make sure you read the backlog. 😉

Tiny Dancer

[originally recorded September 24th, 2007]

And I think about what it must have been like in 1981. The sky grey, a slight blue tint to the buildings and people’s skin. Cars made less of plastic and more of metal. Cigarettes, numbers, The Wall Street Journal. My grandparents brought me a BOSCH-labelled racing car from Denmark.

and a camera that has seen the world

The smooth, black metal. The serial number engraved into the back of the body, painted white letters bright as the day they were pressed.

I breathe on the stock 50mm f/1.8, and the fog recedes slowly across the iridescent glass. I think about late model automobiles and the leather seats in “The Grey Ghost”, my grandparents’ digitally-augmented Chrysler New Yorker. Donuts from Paul’s Bakery under the train tracks and the weathered Ralston-Purina check on top a red smokestack.

I go to the iPod with a burning thrust of nostalgia to listen to “Tiny Dancer”, but not finding it settle for “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and jump forward a couple years, falling into a drowning tide of medical complexes, dental offices and dry, latex gloves. Mom, Tony, and I at Chuck E. Cheese where I witnessed the horror of seeing The Beagles in a storeroom closet, wires hanging in silent death. The clown ball game we made a mockery of and eventually buying the motorized Tryptacon I pined over for so long.

Somewhere, twenty years ago, this moment was born in wool.

Fat of the Land

[originally recorded September 23rd, 2007]

It’s an inescapable fact that as one gets older, one mellows. I remember parties when I first started raving, how nervous and high strung I was.

What happens, next? What should I do now? What are they thinking of me?

Now it’s been seven years of parties, most of which have been in Japan. A community is closing in on me, and I move through time as a slow escape. The adventurer spirit is dampened when travelling with friends, this is a given. But now instead of wild uncharted experiences, I look inwards for answers and enlightenment.

Last night I had a three stage progression of multi-faceted enlightenment. I saw Asura and fled from her crazed, in a cold sweat. I was cast out of the temple in the midst of an unraveling, and then spent a harsh exile sleeping in the road.

Realization #1

[originally recorded September 22nd, 2007]

In something, I am alone. The fire; the wood; the sound of crackling; the whistles in the music. Alive, dormant. Waiting in a dream for an awakening. Sleeping in a life rocking on my heels, anticipating the sun.

No, not yet morning. No, not a time to open my eyes. Still, a vision, still a phantom, still only one small part of the future that maybe will become.

Burning, beating, shaking in the flames. We all see things that mean something significant in our lives. How odd, to mean nothing, but see something in the most natural and unrelated of events…

Tenrinsai entrance

[originally recorded September 22, 2007]

In Kawasaki, or in Virginia, everything is the same. Love is love. People are people. My grandmother, or my friend. We are a community. We live together. We work together. We are one.

Ice cream is delicious. Ninjyou is ninjyou. I am all that I am because of the kindness of my friends. Thank you, everyone. You have made me.

Dentou, giri, osewa, and old times

When I first came to Japan, I spent the better part of my first year answering questions like, “Why do you like Japan so much?” or, “How come you have to live so far away?” And I did my best to convey my nascent feelings of destiny and dreams, and awe; but I routinely fell short of conveying a fraction of the unregulated emotion I had streaming from my heart every second I spent here.

Now it’s 3:36, I’m dead tired and my strength to do anything but collapse is quickly waning, but I am in a position right now to explain it more sufficiently than normally I have the impetus for, so I will fight exhaustion for another thirty [seventy] minutes and write. Today was Saturday, and in many ways not so different from any other, but nearly everything I did was an accent to my motivation to live in Japan.

Last night after getting off of the phone with my mother I prepared for bed and acquiesced that I could watch part of a movie before falling asleep on the sofa and thusly did so. I set an alarm for something like 6:30, but in between torn dreams of unrequited passion that became 8:30. I rose to the shrill crescendo of my old monochrome Toshiba keitai, and spent the first two hours of the day (unintentionally) getting roped into futzing with scans and photo sets more intensive than my computer can handle at the moment. I had plans to go to Horiuchi to get a score of prints for friends and myself, but in doing the math I realized what I wanted to print would cost over three hundred dollars, and so started thinking seriously about buying my own printer and consequently a new computer (briefly a Macintosh until I calculated it would end up costing twice as much as the 5D).

Around 1:00 I went to lunch in Yoyogi, and then headed to Shinjuku Nishiguchi to pick up some film before my trip tomorrow. I locked my bike up in front of pachinko parlor Gaia and in a dazed sort of mood made my way slower than usual through the crowd to look at electronics and the like.

You’ve probably been to any number of Circuit Citys or Best Buys in your life, but at any given time there was never more than a few patrons per aisle in the store. In Tokyo there are commonly more than eight customers per square meter in any centrally-located spot of commerce. This is something that after first arriving exhausts you. But as time goes on it’s not other people all around to avoid but just so much denser an atmosphere– rustling tree boughs and bushes along the winding path to one’s destination. Most of the time I’m incredibly goal driven and take note of this phenomena only half-consciously. But every once in a while I completely give up on time and efficiency and shuffle along idly with only a vague sense of some task to accomplish. It’s at these times that I prickle with the cool shock of from realizing all the everyday differences between this land and the one I grew up in. Here there are so many human beings, buzzing about with a torrent of agenda like so many determined bees. An ocean of wealth and capitalism, and a swarm of tautly smiling, suited staff to guide and direct.

While at Yodobashi I gazed with focused contemplation at a sample photograph borne from the Pixus 9500 inkjet printer until a beaming girl wearing a black Canon windbreaker and matching mini-skirt interrupted my study to ask if there were any questions I had about the product. Half-considering how completely she could really allay my concerns about reflectance range, I politely replied no and said I was just looking. She then nodded and warmly added that if there was anything I needed to just ask, before scurrying away and being absorbed into the writhing mass of commerce I was stationed within. I looked at the oversized sample prints and thought to myself that if my beloved Canon really intends to sell this product line to “professionals”, they wouldn’t distribute questionable testimonies of this quality, smiling to myself before moving on.

After buying my standard ration of high speed film from the gangly, brush-headed clerk in the print department, I had a brief conversation with a crooked-toothed girl at Map Camera about release cables for the A-1. Despite the fact I was interested in a two dollar piece of used wire, she was extremely attentive and sure to give me every chance to examine the device before my purchase. It’s probably the greater part of being lonely before my time, but I always end up trying to extend such interactions as long as possible, to share in some spirited common interest for a few brief moments before I’m out of the store and left again to my own fragmented thoughts.

On the way home I was moved by how clear the autumn sky was and remembered Sister Charles remarking that the October heavens were always the purest blue. When I got home I had a long list of things I intended to do but instead felt quite drowsy and after playing with my release cable for a few minutes fell asleep on the sofa again with the Pixus 9500 product guide spread across my chest.

When I awoke just before five o’clock the sun was desperately clinging to the tops of the Nakano skyline and I rushed to get a few unsatisfactory pictures from the 5D before the day vanished all together. Afterwards I flipped through a couple channels and ultimately settled on the kindergarten television show Pitagora Switch on the Japanese equivalent of PBS. Scooping up the last of some thawed salmon pasta gratin I gathered my bags and set out for Honmachi.

My former neighbor Kimura-san is a big fan of the Swallows’ manager, Furuta, and this weekend is his last series of games as he’s retiring. So I bought a pair of tickets in advance and invited her to the special event against the Dragons where a memorial video reel was due to be played between innings. It was standing room only and we ended up in the last few rows of the upper section behind the home bullpen, but the stadium is small so we still had a fairly good view of the action. Indicative to how things went this season, Chunichi kicked the snot out of Yakult, despite my best efforts of cheering along with the inflatable thundersticks we received upon entering the stadium. In the bottom of the seventh Furuta activated himself as a pinch hitter. With that well-scripted move the already emotional crowd exploded into a frenzy. On the wrong side of a 8-0 shutout he scored a hit early on in the count and the stupid cynical part of me that’s festered with age wondered how much respect and honor for one’s seniors were put into the pitches thrown to the Swallows’ aged catcher. In the bottom of the ninth he got on base again and then a well-placed hit from center fielder Aoki scored Furuta, the only run in an otherwise dismal game. But everyone in the park loved it, my honored guest tearing up at the sight.

After the game we went for Kimura-san’s favorite kind of food, ramen, and had a repast far beyond what I was capable of consuming. It was a nice, warm finish to what should have been the end to my day, but I’m a sucker for old friends and duty. So after bidding Kimura-san good night I went to an izakaya (bar) near where I used to live to give my respects to the owner. A number of old acquaintances I hadn’t seen in a nearly a year were there, my arrival stirring up a fair amount of conversation. Japanese are markedly more sensitive to foreign nationals than Americans, probably as the island country has remained isolated for thousands of years with a near perfect homogeneous population. I chose my compliments carefully, ate my “sa-bisu” dishes with a broad grin, and did my best to encourage the owner’s college-age daughter to overcome her discouragement and believe in herself.

Around midnight all of the other customers had gone home and though I was still in the mood to chat, I knew it was time to leave so I bid the owner good night and got back on my bicycle. Again, I was exceedingly aware that I really should have gone home given the next two days ahead of me, but there was still one establishment I was indebted to and really needed to make an appearance at, considering the fortune of being close by.

So I went to the Lounge Maki once again, a small, old “sunakku” situated above the grocery store where I used to shop. The pub is one of many expiring drink-and-conversation bars where a generation of salaried middle-aged men stop to find a little solace after the war zone of work and before the battlefield of home. The grandmotherly owner, Jun-san has always cared for me; she stayed up with me until 5:30 on my birthday, in an awkward time when I had nowhere else to go or anyone to share turning 25 with. Again, though it wasn’t my birthday, I received two pair of Burberry socks, withdrawn from a locked chest reserved for only the best customers. I accepted the present in chagrin and listened to her talk about her family and modern day child rearing in Japan until well past three.

On the short trip home between Honmachi and Sangubashi I came across a policeman headed the other way. Of course he waved me down because the headlight on my bicycle is broken, and I’m sure he didn’t run across many other potential inquiries in that part of town so late at night. However, as always, the officer was kind, courteous, and warm, conducting his business while affably carrying on a conversation. We talked about baseball and Furuta’s retirement, in addition to the standard fare of how long I’ve been here, how good my Japanese is, etc. After checking the bicycle’s registration number he apologized again for detaining me and with a smile bid me good night. I am blessed to live in a country so tranquil.

When I first moved abroad, I wanted to show everyone how special I was, I wanted people to notice what I did and get validation for it; much more so than when I was in America. For in coming to Japan, I was a child once again, and needed the approval of someone, anyone, for anything so I could feel like I was good and belonged. But as the years have passed I have learned something a little more complicated, and perhaps not so much uniquely Japanese as human. In living here I’ve acquired what an honest person can pick up almost anywere, but something markedly invaluable — compassion. When I do things for myself, I do them alone, but when I am around others I increasingly try to choose my actions based on what I guess I can do to serve those close by, those who’ve been so unflaggingly kind to me.

A song, or a drink; a smile, or an inquiry… I use the knowledge I have gained and the instincts in my heart to find doors to those around me. Living in Japan is perhaps not more about tradition, or obligation, or empathy than any other country, but being here has helped me learn to appreciate and embrace them.

music. photography. art.

expression.

through a lattice of shade
from an autumn sun,
the joyful youth of Tokyo
assembled.

blades of tall grass and smiling faces
sunglasses, blue jeans, and cigarettes
the air is damp with vapor rub incense.
bass ricochets through trees and
rattles in concert with sub-way below.

staring at my thumbnail I realized
the primary difference between
photography and music: time.
I’m sweaty sunk in that celebration–
the weekend a 48 hour drag
on a glorious 4-D joint.