Tag Archives: heartbreaking l’amour de la vie


Inside the balance of the lines between fealty and friendship, a warm region of trust and dedication lies.  Aside from the sabre rattling of corporate states and the unbridled impulsiveness of youth I seek to stake my claim.  The spirit of building something bold and pure beckons to the heart of every dreamer given his own freedom to reign, and I seek to plant ambition at the heart of it. 

At what point will these dreams fall empty on the ears of man I grow?  If I balance idealism with prudence can the ideal take wing like the eagle on high?  The young man of his thirties still wants to believe so.


Sweet brown tender, wrapped up in a cloak of my senses like a gently fading blanket, the smell of sweat and liquor crushed into cotton sheets. Perched on a collapsable stool, I comb my fingers through matted hair, savoring the reverberation in every pore on my scalp. This kind of mystique is the mortar in my foundation, running through every fibre of my identity like Italian marble. I can still taste each delicate pluck of your tongue, a slowly evaporating lozenge that oozes amphetamines to my throbbing blood vessels.

The terminal nature of our torrid affair threw gasoline on the flames of our passion, and the heat left burns in my memory I pray never heal.

Pangs of setsunai

There are things that are bluntly Japanese that upon seeing them send a pang of something I cannot describe other than setsunai: a plastic-sandled boy crossing the street (presumedly near his house and making a run to the convenience store for his mother), a grisly middle-aged man standing in sagging, gray, sweats outside a run down apartment complex, slouched and smoking, or the tightly postured beret on a bus tour guide’s head, and the austere’ methodical bow after every one in a row of pleasantries. 

These reflections on society, from the personal to the honorific, are taken for granted by everyone else on the bus as we ride down Mejiro street to the highway interchange, but I receive each one with quiet appreciation.  Knowing there will be a day soon where I can no longer enjoy the mise en scene firsthand with such frequency can only be coined as something beyond wistful, setsunai.

The transportation

Yesterday I hitchhiked from the seat of Yamanashi prefecture to Nagoya, so I didn’t have much time to write.  By the time I finally made it to my capsule hotel I was too tired to do much of anything other than idle synchronization.

I travelled 285 kilometers via five cars in seven hours, though about half of it was waiting to get rides.  The campsite owner dropped me on the state route 139 in front of the Yamanashi Wind Cave.  Lots of trucks drive by on that route but I have yet to have any luck with semis. 

After about fifteen minutes an American who was working as a farmhand picked me up in a utility van.  His hair was sandy blonde, and his gray marked teeth hung out from his mouth with the same curve as his rounded large shoulders.  He hunched over the wheel and talked amicably about the the drafty farmhouse he lived in, and his limitations in tolerating Japanese cuisine.  He seemed kind-hearted and simple, trying his best to make a living and save up money to fly back home at Christmas and visit his mother.  I only had a chance to ride with him for fifteen minutes or so before he had to turn off the byway.  He was cheerful, but he laced normal conversation with self-directed mutterings from time to time that showed his social frustrations in relating with people.  He reminded me of a co-worker I used to know, and I thought about all the different kinds of people that make up the tapestry of society.

My next ride took over thirty minutes to get, such that I started changing tactics and bought a magic marker and wrote a sign on the back of some cardboard from behind the convenience store.  No sooner had I done this, however, that an Englishman and his wife approached me from behind and offered a lift to the highway interchange in Fuji City.  Like a lot of hitches, they passed me, proceeded for about a kilometer and then looped back to come pick me up.  The decision to take a hitchhiker is not a light one these days.  To be honest I wouldn’t pick up one myself unless it was a girl or an incredibly benign looking guy.  So of course I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to give me a lift.

The husband had been an English teacher but quit and now was looking, unsuccessfully, for better work.  He strongly recommended against teaching as my next profession due to the lack of advancement potential.  They were a nice couple and I didn’t feel like I had to talk to earn my ride, which is something you have to sense.  Personally unless I really hit it off with someone I dislike chitchat and prefer to just take in the scenery.  However I’ve learned from experience that antisocial hitchhikers rarely get far.  The couple was kind enough to drive me up to the highway tollbooths, but hitching from that point is near impossible since the cars are coming directly up the ramp and only the highway, besides the fact it is illegal and all of the security cameras would surely have the police after me in short order.

So I walked down the highway bus access tunnel and a kilometer back to the entry point of the highway on the state road.  After about fifteen minutes an elderly woman in a small car pulled over and offered to give me a lift.  She had no plans to get on the highway, in fact she lived about five minutes from where I was standing, but she offered to drive me to Shizuoka.  I was a little hesitant at first, but since getting actually on to the expressway is quite hard, I accepted.  She had to run an errand first and return home with her shopping.  I was leery not for my safety, but of wasting a day keeping a lonely old woman company. 

After we went to her house she tried to offer me in for tea, but I politely declined and waited outside while she carried in her groceries.  A small dachshund on her porch playfully rolled on its back begging for a rub.  After we started out driving she took the state route west away from the highway, either she planned on driving to Shizuoka via local roads or thought she could lengthen her time with me by taking a roundabout route.  Though it chilled the atmosphere a little, I restated that I needed to get on the highway as soon as possible and after that we got to Nihondaira in short order.  Along the way she told me of all the foreigners she had helped and set up homestays for, naming each in turn with nationality and remarked how they all came to visit her on the holidays.  At the Nihondaira service area she bought me a container of dried fish and awkwardly said goodbye.  I then had my lunch and talked with some drivers before finding a light trucker who would take me close to Hamamatsu.

He had delivered supplies to Nijima in the night, and was on his way home from work.  To keep from falling asleep he tore through a pack of foul-smelling cigarettes but I wasn’t one to complain.  He was gruff, oily, and as disheveled as his cab but kind and seemed empathetic to the difficulties of hitchhiking.  When he let me off at Enshutoyoda he gave me a wet wipe as a farewell present, half-laughing as he did.

Up until this point, things had gone rather well, but at Enshutoyoda it seemed to run out.  I spent almost two hours trying to get a ride, smiling so much my face muscles started to get sore.  It is illegal to walk out of the highway, so until I could get a ride I was stranded.  Fortunately just as dusk began to set in a young businessman my age took pity on me and gave me a lift into Nagoya.  He was easy to talk to, it felt like we had been friends for a long time.  We joked about girls, baseball, and traveling around.  I got some really lovely pictures of the sun setting over Nagoya as we rolled into town.  At first he was going to drop me near Nagoya station, but on a whim I asked him to take me to Osu Kannon which we were passing by.  I had only been to Nagoya once and didn’t know the area very well. 

We said our goodbyes and he drove off.  As I shouldered my bag I turned to my left and glanced at a restaurant.  The name of the place was Smashhead, and across the building was spray-painted, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” I had just started re-reading Pirsig only two days ago.  The coincidence of a somewhat minor western novel being plastered across a random shop in Nagoya, let alone one I just happened to be dropped off in front of, was staggering.  I thought about Yabe-san’s remark about nothing being coincidence again and grinned.  Maybe there were such things as signs.

Precipitating change

Change comes whether you wish it or not. You can try to hold back change, but ultimately it will always best your efforts. You can try to precipitate change, and in a tangible sense this is quite possible for many worldly elements.

I didn’t really plan on things changing this fast, but they are. It’s a big change, so naturally I’m nervous. I’d probably be a fool if I wasn’t. Well, I’m a fool anyway but that’s beside the point.

Tomorrow I’m going to take my driving test. America doesn’t have an agreement with Japan like most industrialized nations that permits the simple conversion of a license. I’ve been talking about making this change for years, but it all came together in the last three weeks. Now I just have to pass the test, which is fabled among expatriates for its difficulty.

Bigger than this is that today it was also decided that I’m leaving Shibuya, my beloved home of eight years. Eight years of living in the shadow of the greatest metropolitan center in the world. Eight years of living alone, returning home each day after a long battle at work to spend a few humble hours in quiet. Eight years of making selfish decisions solely for my own comfort. Eight years of bachelorhood.

A new chapter begins June 14th, a new chapter of no longer running around with the freedom to do solely as I please with no one to answer to. A new chapter where I discover myself from learning about someone else. A new chapter where my worth is more than just what I can accomplish with my own two hands.

For a person who has spent so much of his life planning, waiting, and drawing up diagrams to explain it all, in the end the biggest changes are made not with the mind, but with the heart.

So I sit on the sofa, alone, in my quiet. With a microbrew in my hand and Music for Airports on the Hi-Fi, I start the goodbyes to the decade of my mind, before I start the welcomes to a decade of my heart.

The rose

I bought a potted rose because I had heard they were among the hardest plants to keep, a flower that required daily care and attention to reach its fullest potential. Falling prey to a variety of diseases and parasites, if I didn’t have the rose on my mind every day, and act accordingly, it would die. I’d kept dozens of varieties of other plants before. Some I purchased at full bloom, others only tiny specks of seeds. Some withered in the summer heat and perished quickly, others hung around year after year, contributing little but requiring virtually no maintenance whatsoever. Some started out nice enough but I let them grow wild, and they choked each other out, fighting for nourishment in the soil. I bought a rose because I was so bad at appreciating what I had, because I went through so many lesser flowers halfheartedly. I bought a rose because I needed to practice love.

Love is not a seasonal custom, or a pleasure to enjoy when one’s in the mood for it. Love is everlasting labor, and reward. It’s appreciating something special for what it is, and what it brings to you every day: in the pleasure of seeing something thrive, and the grace from having a chance to make something better of yourself, to make something other than yourself better. I’ll probably live to be eighty-four and still not fully understand this.

I bought a rose with the hope that we could grow together, and I’d gain a strength inside that I’d always lacked. I bought a rose as training for something more precious than the life of several thorny stems in earth. I bought a rose and watered it, put in the sun, talked to and fawned over it. After some time had passed, it gathered white spots after a week or so I skimmed some articles on-line which led me to buy a fungicide at the department store. I sprayed it on and walked away, later bothered with how long the milky chemicals glazed the once vibrant leaves. Branches grew brittle and snapped off, petals fell to the ground and every new blossom that formed was smaller and more anemic. From time to time when I had a minute and it would catch my attention I would prune away a little of the worst areas; laundry caught on a thorned twig quietly pleading for help.

Winter came and I was left with three meager sticks and dozen sickly leaves. It looked like I had lost again, and I was fated to never learn from my self-absorbed egotism. For the first time since high school I spent a cold winter alone, truly lost in an empty house.

Eventually the spring came and the warmth of the sun returned to my balcony. The same old uninvited vines clung to my railing planters and I began to think of how I’d eventually have to lay down some new marigolds and turnips to cool the summer afternoons. But one day when I wasn’t expecting it something changed. As I was sweeping the cruft from the last five months down towards the drain spout I bumped into that simple brown pot in the corner of ground. The long barren and unforking stalks of my rose were different– over two dozen chartreuse buds had appeared, and in those tiny, meager shoots I found more joy and surprise than all of the last year put together. The rose had taught me a lesson, though it wasn’t the one I thought I was looking for… love was undying, and had given even ungrateful me another chance. If love can keep hope for me, then there must be a way for me to keep hope for it.

Technology watering down existence

At the beginning of my first serious foray into online presence, I had three things: a portfolio to get a job, a blog, and a Friendster account. The first became largely irrelevant after I was hired and moved out to Tokyo two weeks from graduation, and the latter was fraught with a lack of relevance and style, which quickly led it to obscurity. However, the blog, is something that I’ve more or less kept at faithfully for the better part of eight years. I began writing of my explorations in this fantastic land, and quickly supplemented that with the angst of trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be. If it was one thing you could count on it was my endless stream of diatribes yearning for import.

Over time I began to find my place, through the kindness of others and the occasional burst of learning from my own stubborn demands that the world fit my narrow-minded vision of right and wrong. I moved from writing about stray cats and working on weekends to endless, repeated praise for trance music and what I quaintly cherished as community. Then at some point I decided to start doing something public with my photography, whether people recognized me for it or not, and thus we arrived at end of the decade. In the time since ubiquitous computing (to use a word that was en vogue with SIGCHI when I was in college), the fragmentation of platforms, portals, and people has made it harder and harder to be noticed, with each microtransaction of communication becoming far and far less meaningful, any rare original thought swallowed in a sea of chaff.

Sheepishly I now realize that I’ve probably driven away the three or four actual people I had reading this public journal with the advent of my adoption of that watered-down sinkhole of information exchange Facebook. I say so much more often so much less, that it leads me to wonder in twenty years’ time will my children find interest in reading my journal or my tweets? The answer is probably neither, but just the same I’m glad I took the time to sit down and actually think about what I was doing before six months went by and I was scratching my head why 2011 felt so much more empty than any of the other years in recent past.

It’s most likely not a coincidence that the speed and density of my current background music, The Plateaux of Mirror, is likely nearly half that of the floor-rattling trance I usually have on at this time of night. Thank you Mr. Eno for helping me collect my thoughts and appreciate the last forty minutes a little more.

Now the real irony is I started this entry meaning to write about love… but there we have it, the attention span of mankind pared to a millisecond.

24 Hours

There are forces buried inside of me that I cannot comprehend; laying dormant, inactive. I could live a lifetime never knowing they exist were it not for a chance combustion. Music as a concept as a pure rod of unscored metal, a blank key with limitless possibilities. From the moment we are born until the day we die, we could listen to every composition ever conceived and not find the exact match for the signature of our soul.

But there is a flash, a moment, when that discovery is made, and all of the tumblers fall into place. The combination is complete– a maelstrom of fervor and ectasy is unlocked. The discovery of a lifetime, the infinite sequencing of the mind dissolved. My eternal key is Mat Zo’s 24 Hours. [Right around the three-minute mark my restraint unwinds….]

Again in Sendagi

Today I am like the weather.

This morning it was sunny, but the forecast was for it to grow overcast, with a late chance of rain. I knew it would be poor shooting, but I had to go. There were some things that I had to do. The last time I came to Sendagi, the weather was much like this, but colder. Haruka wanted to attend meditation at a temple, and Zenshoan was one of the few inside the Yamanote line that had service. That Sunday was much like today, time spent alone at the beat 50-yen arcade, and in the park, with some empty beer cans and a full mind. My adventures around Tokyo have changed somewhat. The problem with experience is you expect everything, and you’re jaded on discovery. I could wander for six to eight hours just riding and taking pictures of every fascinating thing I came across. Now I have a hard time making a continuous drive, it’s just pockets of concentration forty-five minutes apart. Using my film camera makes it even worse.

I filter out the mundane and excess on the rare. I’m thinking again too much. When it’s new I’m left to nothing bt reaction. And I think that’s where the best of me surfaces.

I could go to the zoo. It’s only 3:15, I could be there by 3:30, it closes at like five. I could look at the animals and think of their life, thinking and find some of mine.

I want to go to the zoo. I want to go to a baseball game. I want to live, live and soak up every riveting real experience I can find. I am too stagnant a human. I waste too much on things I’ve done and felt before. Familiarity is nothing but torture. Miyagawa-san says I do more in Tokyo than anyone he knows. I feel I do nothing. The more I breathe, the more sunny, empty days I spend on the tatami by the window, the more I feel every bit of it is rushing away from me like the tide. I thought about going to see the ocean. Maybe the sea has some sort of solace for me. Yano-san says those that take their own lives are the ones looking for answers within, but find nothing. The answer is not within, but [all] about, he says. It’s serving others. Is that what we’re for? Is that really the stuff to make one healthy and alive? And so my wandering is nothing more than repetitive mental depressants? Am I so addicted to the poison of my own fantasy? I sang at a karaoke bar in Ohshima. Christ.

I should call my grandmother.

I see colors, the colors as no machine can. As no other human can. I see them for all of their indescribible beauty and die slowly alive, on a bench, in a park, in a city, on this star earth.

This park is my temple, these arching branches my ceiling, this bench my altar. And I am prostrate, a breathing sacrifice to life.

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.

Am I on Pause with Robert Miles’ Children

Live at Sydney, awash in sun falling memories, Charlottesville, then Pittsburgh. My room, the smell of late seventies carpet, nylon pile, polyester comforters…dust…

Round and round the loop bends, up an octave and down again. Shake and burn the journey haunts me, my face resting deep in those old, trampled fibres.

Time is an infinite place
But it may pause
The tide still falls
My time is an infinite space
Am I on pause
Or will I fall
In love again

Things and possessions and boxes and photos and water rings and towering Cerwin Vegas on either side of the dark walnut shelf I’d known for twenty years.

Why am I fighting a collapsing paper bag with glassy insides, forced to remember every crack in the parking lot at Grady? It’s as if I’m slowly moving downhill, slipping, grasping at bits and pieces of lovers’ keepsakes, statuettes’ arms breaking and plastic bead gravel sliding out from under my feet.

Who is romantic, what is this ideal? How can I not be a lost and weary dreamer? I’m hungry for all of the crumbs and drops that fell between the seat cushions, but what is this constantly pushing forward in smaller circles and only eating bread?

Where trance meets reality.

Stop crying your heart out

I’m twenty-three years old. Every day, one of thousands, is a string of successes and failures, things learned and forgotten. And behind it all there is a faded photograph, a boy sitting in the backyard with a look of wonder and innocence on his face. Time has left paint spills, chips, wood shavings, wrinkles and water rings over the once glossy kodacolor paper– a tableau of precision, fidelity, weakness and pain. But unchanging are two grey-blue eyes.

Who will I be when I grow up?

I was pissed off at work today after being there until midnight, but lying in my room waiting for the inescapable sleep, I listen to oasis and my heart sobs just a little… then a hint of a wry smile folds across my tired face.