Tag Archives: holiday

Sea

What is the sea but a myriad of deep significance that brings life to the creatures of the earth.  The sea is a place blissful in its simplicity, one that remains an escape for tortured souls yearning for the emptiness that is fullness, so different from the fullness of society which is increasingly empty. In my youth the sea was a place for recreation, celebrating, and gathering.  Alcohol, music, sand castles and football.  I would take several days each year to escape the churning torment of my work life, running to Enoshima on weekdays with a six-pack of beer, my iPod and a chip on my shoulder of unresolved dreams.

As I grew older the sense of delusion became readily apparent; in time with increased responsibility and I made fewer such trips.  My love of the ocean became distanced and nostalgic, so much that I built my first solo exhibition on the faded terminus of the Odakyu line. 

Travelling through Shikoku on my pilgrimage my affair with the sea was rekindled and exceedingly more private, this time an empty expanse of peace in a sparsely populated backwater.  A place for meditation, exercise of the heart, and answers, the sea gave me ample opportunity to purge all of the mental tethers I lashed upon myself in the city.  Here is the kind of refuge I can forge a stronger core from.  If only I can heed the wisdom I know to be true.

The birthday

I have a habit of spending birthdays alone.  I used to receive a day off from the company, and it falls in close proximity with the Japanese national holiday Culture Day.  Games that ship at Christmas are long done at the end of October, or there is a major problem, so the confluence of these events leads to time off which I almost always prefer to spend out of town, so the solitary birthday comes into being.  This time it is a whole month, and aside from a few days where friends overlapped my path, it has been a solo expedition.  To be honest I think I have handled it rather well.  No homesickness, hardly any lonely except when I have stopped moving for example due to weather.  I have my thoughts, my books, and the scenery to keep me more than occupied.   Nature itself is an endless realm of learning and challenge.

There is a certain detail-oriented allure to backpacking.  All your possessions are on your person, and as such easily cataloged and maintained.  All of the years raised to put everything in its place:  laundry washed in restroom sinks and hung on the tent rigging, a collapsible set of chopsticks that fit in a titanium lightweight mess kit, toiletries in sealable bags, each trial size and the bare minimum for survival with comfort.  With every tightly rolled sleeping bag the day begins with fulfillment and promise.

So for my birthday when everyone wishes me something special, a drink and a celebratory evening, I thank them for the sentiment but will likely spending it as I am most content:  in a distant country or a remote forest, tidying my campsite in between extended sessions of book reading, stretching, and meditation.  In bed soon after dark and dreaming of how compact my pack will be on the trail tomorrow.

The roughing it

After a week of easing into it, I suppose you could say that finally I have approached the bare necessities for traveling.   I spent the night behind a bush in Banpaku Park in northern Osaka, fighting off mosquitoes and then the substantial temperature drop after midnight.  At first when I was in the sleeping bag I was nearly sweating, but around three or four I was shivering so much it was hard to get back to sleep.  I will have to take more samples to see if the air temperature follows a similar curve in Tokushima. 

After finally falling asleep around five I awoke to full daylight at seven.  There was an old man practicing his short game about ten meters off, but I think I scared him away once he realized my presence.  I proceeded to assemble my belongings and then wash my alternate set of laundry in a fountain next to the playground equipment.  Now I am readying up on the first leg of the pilgrimage while my underwear dries unabashedly hanging from a bench canopy.  More or less this is how the next three weeks will be I suppose, though I wonder if my back can take the stress.

Today after lunch I will try to get the rest of the way to Tokushima, starting with a hitch from Senri to Kobe.

The Kyoto

Kyoto.  The simple, five letter word is laden with so much history, fantasy and tantalization, just thinking of it changes my mood as instantly as a sudden squall.  Such a delicate blend of tradition and progress, the veneer of a thousand years of imperial dynasty only barely thins around the edges, revealing a glimmer of neon 21st century finance that courses within.  The new style Cool Japan tendrils of Tokyo wrap themselves lithely down the bullet train electric cables, and the vast marketing power of the Nikkei makes good use of the elegance woven into every kimono thread.  In many Japanese cities I am either a visitor or an inhabitant, but even having dwelled in Kyoto, I know that I could live fifty years and still never be received with genuine affection.  The silken masks Japanese show to each other every day can never fully be removed for me.

The quiet of the forest

By noon I had climbed to Gokodai, where Mt. Fuji and its lakes were all visible.  Being a Tuesday there were few other hikers, mostly retirees.  The mountaintop was empty, so after reading some passages from The Diamond Sutra in the shade I sat atop one of the stone picnic tables and meditated on charity and compassion. 

Carelessly I declined to bring sunscreen for the added weight, but feeling the midday sun hot on my face I turned my back to the godly mountain and directed myself northwest.  I thought staring at the mountain would be focusing, but a chuckled to myself when I realized seeing the mountain could be done with more than just a line of sight.  So I turned my inner eye to the summit and visualized it in the wild grass in front of me.

One of the first things The Diamond Sutra teaches is the need for purging ego.  This is a concept I have never been comfortable with, not even in principle.  So I spent the first part of my meditation looking to the root of my need for identity and individuality.  The fact is the greater part of my motivation for creating art lies within the ego, with affirmation of the self and my actions.  So to cast away ego would mean to inviolate my existence as an artist, and perhaps all art itself, unless there is a deeper purpose to drive such activities.  What form does completely selfless art take?  Can it exist in our world?

Secondly, compassion and charity must be performed without motivation of feature or quality.  This is something much easier to comprehend, palatable, I can easily think of many instances where such action of mine were largely directed to those I identified with on a certain level, those who fulfilled needs in my own heart.  Such charity is inherently selfish, and fuels again my restraining ego.

After meditation I made my way back down the mountain, but halfway along took a faintly marked shortcut down the south face.  On the map the path was marked a lighter color, presumably as it was less maintained.  This was a drastic understatement.  The path was barely visible, and the ground largely silt and topsoil, making footing unsure.  It took me thirty minutes of careful navigation, but after sliding more than hiking down the 300 vertical meters, I ended up at a series of three meter high concrete drainage gates that further impeded my progress.  Eventually I picked my way to a tiny path lined with electric fences outside a temple.  On the other side of the street was a discarded, mostly full miniature bottle of sunscreen.  I recalled Yabe-san’s prophetic words of fate and grinned.

The climb

This morning I awoke from the chill of predawn and rose at seven.  I washed my face and my laundry in the bathroom sink and by eight breakfasted with my foster parents while watching the morning news.  After straightening my effects I meditated by the lake and leisurely read Kerouac.

By ten I was on the trail, and listened to Red Dead Redemption while making my annual assault on the north side of Sankodai.  This is the fifth climb I have made of the mountain in consecutive Octobers by this time a new sign greeted me about a quarter of the way up the mountain.

emJinsei ni nayandara yama wo noborou./em
When life is in doubt, climb.

These words struck me and I muttered “prophetic” out loud, remembering the words of my ride yesterday.  Nothing is by chance, everything has meaning if you are wise to see it.

The cliche’ is that I climb a mountain because it is indeed, there.  But there is a deeper meaning that reminded me of some advice I received long ago.  When unsure of what you want, undertake many things and in doing so, you will at the very least find what you do not want.

But perhaps I want everything.  Perhaps the road for me needs not to be chosen but simply trod.  That is a practice of doing I shall follow this month.

Cold bocce

I am in the 20th arrondissement of Paris on the first blustery autumn day of my trip. A group of old men are playing bocche on a trangular strip of sand between the boulevards. The area around Port de vanves is much cleaner and reformed than much of the city center. The automatic bicycle rentals are an interesting idea. I hope programs like this succeed and flourish.

The cool of summer

Storm front is moving in now, the outskirts of a typhoon in Kyushu.  The rapid temperature drop is appreciated, but the wind let’s me know we won’t be dry for long.  I’m on my way to a baseball game anyway, I haven’t hardly had a chance to go all season.  Baseball is dharma, like running or raves.  There is a balance in it you strive for, and a simplicity that loosens your heart. 

My team is the Yakult Swallows, because I lived in Shibuya for eight years, their simple, open air stadium a five minute bike ride from my apartment.  In the States this would be a AAA minor league stadium, but it doesn’t matter.  I’d rather have it that way because it keeps the focus on the game, on the fans.  With their traditional band-led cheers, to the ritualistic raising of umbrellas for every run, it’s honest and open, something rare in the deferring Japanese society.

Baseball isn’t religion, but it can be some kind of salvation.

Back to basics

Today I finally made back to the beach.  Sunday is my day off, but the weather has been difficult to make it work.  This mornig I slept in, but as soon as I woke up, just one word filled my mind: hot. And it was sunny, so I threw together all the beach essentials and barely made in time for the limited express to Fujisawa.  I haven’t been down in Enoshima since last summer, when I was gathering photographs for my exhibition.  There are so many words for this place, so many memories.  Like an old lover you only have the chance to meet once in a long while, Ennoshima has surpassed the realm of precious memories and obtained a humanlike quality.  To me Enoshima isn’t a place, it’s a living person.

More on that later, first beer and some low tech relaxing.

The year with/without Christmas

Some things seem over the years to lose meaning in a sense, things like Christmas. As a beloved childhood memory, Christmas was a glorious five weeks starting with Thanksgiving and ending with the trip to my grandmother’s house on Christmas Day. The songs, the lights, the decorations in town. The magic of everyone being kind and considerate to each other, the different crackle in the air. But as I grew older and focused on increasingly daunting pursuits, that magic seemed to fade, like a dream after waking. Christmas changed from a season to a couple of weeks to detox from the stress and bustle my 180bpm lifestyle, punctuated with a couple customs to share with a significant other. As much as I didn’t want to lose the magic of Christmas, I stopped seeing it and wondering what that meant of my soul.

Rooted in religion, commercialized by the 20th century America, adopted by the world’s shopping malls, Christmas means so many things that it’s become fettered in my mind with cynicism. But beyond language or divinity. But beyond language or divinity, the message still rings true with me, like a lone candle left burning after a storm. Peace on earth. Goodwill towards men.

A poor Buddhist

So it’s come to my last day in Thailand. There has been so much packed into the first three days, routinely stating early in the morning, that I really can’t keep track of what’s happened I was thinking of going to Ko Kret today, but I’m so exhausted that I think I may just wander around Bangkok, taking the odd snapshot and looking for some groovy threads.

I wanted to have a mellow time and find some peace in visitn Ayutthaya, but the pressure I put upon myself to take pictures along with my health and the environment did just the opposite. By the end of the day I was so sick of photographing ruins that I couldn’t even finish the last four shots of Ektachrome on the roll. I was so aggravated that I was cursing everything under the sun for the bus ride home. The irony of this pitiful egotism was not lost on me, and I felt more than a little guilty for missing the point entirely. How pompous and superficial my thinking becomes at times. I need to reflect on this.

Buddhism isn’t about statues or temples, castles or amulets, it’s like most religions, a way of believing and acting, and one I haven’t been too good at. Just need to stop and think, without falling asleep for once.

Times change

Sometimes you come back to things and they aren’t just what you expect them to be. Times change. People change. That’s the way the cards fall, and you have to be ready to adapt to it.

Being back in southeast Asia is envigorating. The streetside chaos and crumbling disarray of public infrastructure is a nice change to the polished avenues I walk back home.

Boats, paint, trucks,
pastel, odd distribution of space
I’m stronger now, but more somber growing up, growing deeper into something.
Something here but not clear yet.
Something missing.
First breakfast.

Heading south

There’s always something dramatic about international travel, I’ve been in and out of the coutnry four times in the alst year and it still doesn’t get old. Maybe it’s because any reason worth spending over fifteen hundred dollars and a week for is a big deal; it better be for those kind of resources. The first time I flew on a plane as an adult was for my Microsoft job in 2000, ten years ago. I was such a rookie back then, wet behind the ears and fumbling through airports…

This time I’m heading to Thailand, my first visit to southeast Asia in six years. I’m travelling as usual with the prime motivation to shoot some new locations. I have my trustworthy A-1 and about 15 rolls of film with me, backed up by the Konica MG/D. I’m going to visit the ruins of old Thailand, a place I envision as quiet and mysterious, like something from Ico or Illusion of Gaia. There are about twelve temples for me to visit on my list, so I definitely have my work cut out for me.

assigning value to things
artificial life on print, in film
learning more about silver halides
the simple joy of pure science

Across the Sea

I can’t remember the last time I was at the ocean at night. Actually, it was probably at a company retreat about four years ago, but that doesn’t count. It wasn’t with friends, or vacation. So the real last time I was at the ocean at night was… San Francisco. When I was at GDC in 2004. That was also for work, but that time I had Amy show me around I think.

The times that stand out in my mind are the ones on dates. Shirahama in 2002 with Nobue my first summer in Japan, or any number of beach weeks at Myrtle with my fraternity.

The humidity is doused with the wind rolling off of the ocean. Today it rained like crazy but tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day; the moon is fulling and peeping out from behind the clouds. There are a few pairs of lovers here and there sitting close in the darkness, lighting sparkles and whispering softly. I almost felt like walking up to them and saying hi, working the rarely seen foreigner angle to help kill the loneliness, but then I remembered when I was eighteen, I would given anything in the world to have a few uninterrupted hours with a girl I was crazy about. So I think I’ll do my past self the same courtesy I received time and time again when I was eighteen, and just make my way back to Hotel Pierre alone to retire for the night.

The road to Amsterdam lies in rumination

Long story short, train came late, didn’t die, but almost did dive to subzero temperatures in the compartment; not dwelling on it. Right now I’m in Blumenmarkt, which I wandered on to by accident but am enjoying. A row of little shops on the canal selling not just tulip bulbs but all manner of strange plants that you may “grow from a can”, including Venus Flytraps and “Buddha palms”. Alongside are of course your standard fare trinkets/branded goods. Clogs with the flag, clogs with tulips; clogs with hemp leaves. Hash tin with hash leaves, has tins with tulips, has tines with a silhouette and “red light district” written across them. Oh and a cheese shop! I may go insane buying souvenirs here (mostly for myself). I wondered about the import regulations in Japan for plants and worried about my lonesome roses back in Tokyo.

When I got here this morning I was panicking, having not eaten for over thirteen hours. So I had a frozen hamburger at a sketch middle-eastern bistro in the red light district. But now I can eat famous, natsukashii Dutch food, split pea soup! You have to respect a country where mustard and black bread come standard as a side.

Anyway, the real reason I was inspired to write now was a China dress and paper umbrella I saw outside an oriental porcelain shop. It reminded me of the fabled “white fur china dress” I’d seen in a crane game. I tried and I tried and I tried but no matter what, I couldn’t get it. I never had any trouble with boxed figures like Sakura Taisen or Evangelion, but the dress always eluded me. Arka commented that perhaps the white fur dress was symbolic, an ideal I had in my head that could never really exist. In a world where I win the dress and get some submissive girl to actually wear it for me, I wouldn’t really be happy I wonder…

Unfortunately finding a trance party continues to elude me. Maybe it’s just not meant to be, and I need to coordinate my visit with a particular party. I got excited to find a Trance Nation flyer until I realized it was for next month. Every venue sees geared up for tomorrow, but I worry if I’ll even be able to get in to one of these countdown house events. I get the impression every place is going to be packed and right now I’d give 4:1 odds that when the clock strikes 2010 I’ll be at some random street corner and just crack open a beer after kissing my cellphone. Let’s do a quick Japan-era reacp of New Year’s Eves’ past:

2009: had the flu at home, went to bed before midnight
2008: went to Iwate New Year’s Day
2007: homeless, went to midnight hatsumode with Ai during a Rocky marathon, spent New Year’s Day in Kyoto
2006: Seoul, countdown in town square with other hostel people
2005: New Year’s party in the states with Mike and co.
2004: went to Akita with Miki
2003: Akihabara and weekly mansion with Nobue while job-hunting

Wow, that was a dumb idea. I went from giddy to depressed as hell in about twenty minutes.

There are some parts of me that don’t like people watching, because it feels like a waste of time, that value equation thing again, with production of something being up on the value side. Anyway, people watching is good somethings because it’s just engaging enough to let your mind sort out things without becoming nervous.

I think that ultimately I have to make things, and I have to break them apart and master them on my own, but I still need an audience, I need someone to share them with. Fundamentally I buy off on that, and I recognize that belonging is a basic human need. I guess I just need to work on deepening my connections with others. If I could really convince myself of the value of deep relationships, fruitful, balanced relationships, I think I would be more leaning towards respecting them. Things of value require care, I know that in my head. but I don’t know it in my heart. That’s what I need, knowing in the heart. Is there any way other to figure that out then breaking all my things? Is that even a route that leads to success? No. And I’ll tell you why. because as soon as I break something I can easily replace it with something shiny and new. that’s what my charisma/looks/confidence/exoticism (the Dave appeal equation) gets me. Blessing and a curse, I don’t have to work hard for koi, it comes for the free and it’s expected. In other words–

I take it for granted.

So, because of this I don:t think the breaking things is going to lead to that valuing deeper relationships… so what is??