Tag Archives: vintage rusty

Rocketman

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.

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.

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.

Story of the gum kid

One time, I was walking from Kappabashi to Akihabara taking pictures. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I think maybe 2007 or 2008, in the autumn. On my way through one of the many charming, quiet backstreets of Taito-ku I met the gum kid. He was playing by himself outside just before dusk. We had a small conversation.

Me: こんばんは。 (Good evening.)
Kid: [僕のルックのワッペンをみる]どうしたの?マリオ好きの? ([looking at the patches on my bag] You like Mario?)
Me: そうだよ。僕はゲームを作っている、仕事。 (Yeah, I make games. It’s my work.)
Kid: 何のゲーム?(What games?)
Me:「応援団」知ってる?(Do you know Ouendan?)
Kid:DSを持ってる。聞いたことある。(I have a DS. I’ve heard of it.)
Kid:チップ見せて。 (Show me the cartridge.)
Me:今無い、会社にある。(I don’t have it now, it’s at work.)
[子供はガムを出して渡す] ([Kid takes out a piece of gum and hands it to me.])
Me:これは何?ガム? (What is this, gum?)
Me:ありがとう。(Thanks.)
Kid:じゃあ、またね。(Ok, see ya.)
Me:またね。(See ya.)
Kid:バイバイ。(Bye.)

The gum kid was so nonchalant, so cool. But not in an intentional, prepared way. He was just so natural and quiet, like it was the most obvious thing in the world to talk to me, and that we could understand each other, and that I liked gum.

The gum kid blew my mind. I want to be like him.

Some kind of nostalgia

It’s one of those evenings where the autumn sun is so bright and low in the sky that the clouds hiding it gleam with sunbeams in start contrast to the lavender horizon.

I’ve been looking at these kind of skies and dreaming since high school. Is it that my life could always feel so inspired, or am I moved only in contrast to the leaden cloak I toil inside day in and out?

One thing I am sure of is that I’ll never grow out of this bittersweet heart. I’ve felt moved by life to the point I could go crazy since I was a teenager. I’ve worn mismatching socks every day for the last twelve years and never thought once about stopping. I still clumb up on curbs and low walls to walk an invisible balance beam. I catalogue scents and run my fingers over textured walls on the way home. I do none of these things just to sere as some superficial testament of my dedication to a fairytale god, I just do it because it’s who I am, and who I always will be.

4h 48m

of standard train travel. That’s how long my trip is this morning. Starting at 5:45 am. I could have taken the shinkansen and been there in just over two hours, but somehow it just turned out this is the way I chose.

Inefficient by design.

Originally I planned to stay up in Minami Aizu in my tent last night, but typhoon William sufficently washed out those plans so to speak. So I spent Monday, my first day off in nearly a month, getting acquainted with FFXII, which I quickly became hooked on and spent most all day playing. I did, however, scurry out of my blanket and tatami combination long enough to get a fairly nice bit of closing time shopping done, picking up a Snow Peak mess kit to go with my compact gas stove that I received from Rodney, as well as much needed replacement cargo straps for my Ferrino hiking pack.

Black and white film, foma RC paper, and too much imported beer. Another warm chat with the always bright checkout girl at Yamaya.

Though it’s very nearly gone from my everyday life, there are times when the magic of first coming to Japan returns for a fleeting moment like a faded odor from a childhood jacket. I exit Akihabara station and having fifteen minutes to transfer, scan the area sleepily for a convenience store.

The montage of unfamiliar signs; the nearly empty streets of early morning; the lack of time being relevant… Like a drunken bee at dusk, I stumble down into an Am/Pm for some sandwiches and token omiyage. My groggy gaze lingers on the neatly presed-together legs of a girl reading a magazine.

Royal jelly. Beauty tea. Otsuka pharmaceuticals.

Entering into the subway for a minute I am uncannily lost. The mulitple branching stairwells lead to the same platform and remind me of Silent Hill 3.

There are times when Japan doesn’t feel like Japan, usually times without architecture. The majority of people on subways at six in the morning; it could be almost anywhere. Bums the world around have similiar mannerisms, free from the pall of ethnic strata, more or less. But it rises… oh how the rays fall so corn yellow on the sea of crescent-tiled rooves. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a morning, it’s almost foreign to me. Three hours on a single section express train. The low sun is so reserved and distant.

Power lines, ginkoes, and scaffolding. Wet streets and danchi.

Sister Charles used to say that the skies in October were the bluest all year. This always filled me with a senseless kind of pride, simply because I was born in October, even though this had little to do with me.

Today is October the 27th. In three days I am going to be thirty years old. I wanted to spend a lot of this month celebrating and reflecting on this, but things were busier at work than October usually is and I had no time for much of anything. However, leaving that aside this week will be quiet and mostly reserved. I’ve been thinking of life and how simply you can change it. I could still be with the same someone a number of someones, but that doesn’t suit me now. To be honest, I see others making those kinds of commitments and I wonder are we so much in charge of our happiness? I used to think that finding someone and falling in love was rare and magical, something to desperately dream of. But after twelve years of dating, cheating, and heartbreak, I’m not sure I believe in courtly love anymore. Only the inexperience of relationships can lead one to search and hope for love. Now more than anything, love feels like a choice, the driving forces of which outside of loneliness or security I can’t fathom. I don’t say this because I’m bitter, I say it because I really can’t see it any other way. If that is innate cynicism, then I am sad and forlon that I made an environment to change me this way.

In Japanese, koi and ai (love viewed from the perspective of fancy and devotion, respectively) are separate things. My senpai at work once described koi as a feeling/circumtance, whereas ai was an action. Maybe in experience I’ve lost the ability to feel koi, but I’ve learned in practice what ai takes.

Does anyone over the age of thirty fall in love? Why do people marry? Why do people choose to remain with one person? I think the answer must exist, and if I talk to enough people I’ll find out this is just like any other question of human behaviour. I just need more outside influences to help me find peace in myself. It’s not impossible, just too ill-defined a problem space.

Rain. Fields. Cool autumn wind.

The rain in Fukushima is steady but light. If my mother were here, she’d say it’s a good day for ducks. Even though the weather maes taking pictures difficult, the overwhelming power of the countryside buoys my spirits. Rows of vegetables run into crimson and yellow underbrush. Tractors and very plain utility shed dot the landscape. Terraced fields of cur rice build into hillsides, and carpets of wet leaves reflect the occasionally passing car.

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.

To the fire that burns in me:

Seven years ago I was listing and adrift. Seven years ago I was a confused teenager, with no direction, no motivation, no success, and a whole lot of, “Why?” Things weren’t going well, and it looked like they were only going to get worse. Then one day I had to help coordinate an event for a guest speaker. Vice Chair of the ACM, I got a room reservation and a projector. That late evening in the fall of 1999 I sat in for your talk, second row, two seats right of center. You held up a Furby, and said that this was the future of entertainment technology. You passed out crayons, and told us all to close our eyes and focus on them: the texture of the paper, the smoothness of the wax, the smell that brought back memories of childhood. From that moment on, I’ve never doubted what I wanted to do once.

You inspired me to make something more of myself. Without directly telling me, you gave me a goal to shoot for; something so far and so high, I almost lost it in the sun. But it didn’t matter how many people said it was a long shot, or how much I was told that I should prepare myself for the chance that I wouldn’t make it. There was no chance. I knew what I had to do. I had to take the latent flame in my heart and make it erupt like magma. You were strict, but fair. You spoke unlike anyone I’d ever seen before, boldly and with such disarming confidence. You were everything to me, and everything I wanted to be.

I worked my tail off for a year and a half, inventing parts of myself that I never knew could exist, laying track just seconds before the fury of my momentum came rumbling down the rails leading to the stars. I built cities, castles, networks, and libraries. The roaring cavalcade of the human spirit reverberated through me and leapt onto all manner of media. I poured every drop of life I had in me into my CMU application package, and when I got that call in the hotel room in Seattle, the call that said I made it, I couldn’t believe it.

I was euphoric. I couldn’t believe it. But later, talking to you, you said that when you saw my portfolio, you knew at once that I had to be in the ETC. You knew right away that there was no doubt I belonged there, in that environment, so I could help build the amazing things you spoke of. To receive that kind of praise from you, it meant everything to me.

You have been, and always will be, my hero. Your vision and passion are unmatched, and you’ve changed more lives than you will ever know. You told me the most honest and straightforward things anyone had ever said to me, and you said them when I needed them most. It breaks my heart to hear about what’s happening in your life. I wish beyond words that there was something I could say or do that would make things different. You deserve so much more, more than I could make in a lifetime.

On Tuesday, you’ll be in my thoughts all day. Already, your spirit is in every noble thing I do. Next week, I will pray for you. But for now, I dedicate this, my first art exhibition, to you. You gave me the courage and determination to choose this path, and I will do all I can to honor that by giving every fiber of my life to being the very best I can be.

Thank you, Randy. This weekend is for you.

Forever your student,
Dave

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.

Early

I have a long-seated loathing for waking up early, one that surpasses the joy and anticipation of so many Easter and Christmas mornings spent rollicking around the house in pajamas and slipper-socks. It comes from a string of long-journeys, usually involving some considerable amount of physical discomfort and fitful sleep.

When I was fifteen I had major surgery on my chest to correct a genetically-inherited disorder known as pectus excavatum. My sterum has always grown in a cork-screw inward direction, and my ribs and breastplate are dislocated, placing an unnatural amount of pressure on my internal organs. Aside from the cosmetic effects of an asymmetic and under-developed torso, long term side-effects include increased stress on the heart and lungs. Upshot is I had extensive corrective surgery where my sterum was broken and chest bones repositioned. At fifteen, I wasn’t looking forward to my first hospital visit since birth. We left at roughly four in the morning after a sleepless night for a long morning of pre-op in Baltimore.

I used to hate flying. Loathed it. I think that grew out of getting airsick in flying to the Ozarks for my great-grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary when I was six. How small my world was back then, never being more than a couple hours’ drive away from home. I insisted that somehow I would survive college and my career with my trips to the airports few and far between. Ha. As Counselor Troi says “the best way out is through.” After my rise to computer science department student representative at Virginia, I found myself accelerating into an explosive suite of paid flights for interviews, contests and appearances, the dot-com age of recruiting was still in full-force at the end of the 90s, and I was virtually required to be jet-setting on its coattails. I travelled twelve thousand miles in three months after previously rarely venturing any father than two states. Already I marvel at how boastfully accomplished the traveler I thought I was then, where now routinely crossing the Pacific three times a year. Still, at the dawn of my era of enlightenment, fatigue and a mild sense of dread were the prerequisites for those morning rides to Dulles or BWI in my father’s stoic, smoke-filled sedan.

So many pre-dawn rousings for the fraternity did little to improve my sentiment for my grandfather’s adage of “early to bed, early to rise…“. Everytime I awoke to the cold darkness it was matted hair, track pants and eyes glued shut with sleep while Brandon waited with a sports drink bottle of water in the pitch den. We walked in silence, the only sounds the swishing of nylon against nylon, fingers cupped under arms as the we waited the long, hard minutes for the Neon’s diminutive heater to provide yet another bitter reminder of how blissful the sleep we were sacrificing was. Someone would be late. Someone else would be late. Someone would go to call the first person from Small Hall (cell phones were not yet practical). The first person would arrive in supposed ignorance of the planned meeting time. We’d wait for the person who went to call to come back. Someone would go after them. We’d give up on someone and mutter about how many dozens of pledge tasks would be piled upon the woeful class for such insubordination. The roll would meet with mixed results. Some of us would go back to bed for a late class, some would give up and sleep through it. Some would go to O’Hill and be the first at the omelet bar.

I want to change the seemingly insoluble abhorrence I have for waking up early. In a perfect world I’d display the lunar efficiency of my father and have three hours of work done in blissful solitude before anyone else even showed up at the office. Then I could leave at the end of the “working hours” posted on my contract at 6:30 and share a normal life with the millions of 20-something office workers, teachers, and shopkeepers.

The Dalai Lama says change in five steps: education, conviction, determination, action, effort; the last of which requires consistent application for a substantial period of time. He wakes up at 3:30 to start the day. I guess the least I could shoot for is 7. I wonder not what tomorrow’s attempt will bring, but the average for the next three weeks.

Kickin’ it old style

Aha..aha…uhuh..ha. Amusing doesn’t begin to describe Tuesday’s holiday festivities. So late last week I took another stab at contacting my friend Yusei who went to CMU with me. His parents and sisters live just down the road actually near Rainbow Bridge, so after meeting them at graduation, I was attempting to get in touch with them again. By a stroke of luck it all worked out and through a quick volley of bilingual emails, we set a date and got together yesterday evening for tonkatsu at the much talked about Katsugen. The food was great.

When I first came to Japan last year for the International Workshop on Entertainment Computing in Chiba, I took a day early on and visited Tokyo proper. At the time, this wasn’t the best touristy kind of thing to do as the area around Tokyo station itself is rather upscale and full of huge corporate skyscrapers. Nice but not the first thing you want to do. Anyway, visiting yesterday, I was quite taken aback at how wide and tall everything was, in contrast to the older districts of Harajuku or Koenji. Tokyo station itself was designed by mega-architect Frank Lloyd Wright. [see below] All the financial buildings surrounding it are just massive. Anyway, we visited the area around Tokyo and Shimbashi ekis.

We got to see them filming a tv drama on the street, though I’m not sure which one. It was pretty ghetto actually and everyone looked like they were late 20s. Weird. We had 10 dollar cocktails on the 45th floor of some impressive building in a restaurant called The Oregon Bar & Grill that smacked of any number of overpriced places I was taken to when working for MSFT. It was nice, it’s staggering, you look at the Tokyo skyline and it reaches forever and then you realize you’re just looking at the southern tip to the bay, like 11% of the bulk of the metropolis.

Afterwards, deciding it wasn’t late enough we went karaoke-ing, which I was hesitant about at first, since usually I’m with some girl my age that I’m getting soused with. But Yusei’s mom is really a character. She has boundless energy that I have no idea as to its origin (she replied to my thank you email at 2:00a), and never seems to allow a dull moment in conversation. Anyway, she really liked my rendition of the drunken Pioneers party classic “Sweet Caroline“, so I had to reprise it for her at the end of the night. The most fun I had though was our ending duet (completely impromptu) of “Woman of Osaka”. I had never heard the song, and its got your standard traditional Japanese up-and-down the scale action. But wow! It was a riot, I’ll have to remember that song and improve my knowledge of popular Japanese music and reading the teleprompt.

Yusei’s mother suggested that I hang out with his sisters and company when they go kicking around. Hmm…

The things that make life sweet

I’m tired. Pretty tired. And I haven’t even LEFT for work yet. Well, tomorrow is holiday, so I’ll just try to pound a little caffeine and tough it out until 8:00 today. It was worth it though.

So I had a thing yesterday. A friend of mine and I braved the typhoon and went to the Mandarake in Shibuya (an emporium that deserves its own entry), and afterwards hit up the usual mania that is department store food shopping in the basement of Tokyu. This was in preparation for a hack of a meal, my FIRST attempt at cooking while in Japan this year [note this means I ate out for every meal for four months].

It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t fabulous…but considering I have _a_ bowl, 1.5 plates and three chopsticks, it was tolerable. I can’t say I really want to do the DISH now, but, eh….why invite our exoskeletoned, multi-legged friends in for feast while I’m at work?

We drank an impressive 2.7 bottles of wine of monotonically decreasing quality and ate half a bunch of friggin’ weird “grape-like” fruits, as she put it. At some point I put on the soundtrack to Laputa, prompting her to exclaim after 7 bars “I wish I could see it now!” Subsequently we did just that as I have nearly every Studio Ghibli film tucked away in one digital cranny or another. However, I think we got half way through, paused to do the bathroom rotation, and then fell asleep/passed out on the bed until next I discovered it was 1:40a. Oops. Well, not really. I don’t give a damn, I’m already home. Kinda nice.

So we brushed our teeth, I grinned at myself in the mirror and gave her a hentai nurse t-shirt to wear and we retired for the evening. I probably slept less last night than I have in weeks, _despite_ the lousy work-delerium mess at the beginning of the month. But I don’t care. Some people are just a bouquet of stimuli to assuage the big five. She tastes like autumn and her scent reminds me of the passenger seat from some sedan I sat in on several random cold days from the 80s. I must have roused two dozen times to slide my arm around her fine-boned porcelain frame and sigh.

Hell I didn’t want her to go, and I sure as hell didn’t want to go to work today. But I’ve started the day, and walking to the station with her I had to sing old John Lennon songs, because the matted hair and recently-arrived chill wind were like an afghan nap in a leather chair; so decadent I had to beam. On the way back home I noticed for the ten-thousandth time all the corny campaign posters for local council members and felt a laugh rising in my haggard body — I should gank a bunch of these things and wallpaper my room with them…my pals making Sendagaya a better place to live.