These last few days in America, I took care of everything except where I'm going to stay when I get to Japan.
I had lunch with two of my Japanese professors, young American ladies who had been studying Japan since they were teenagers. Now Japanese literature graduate students at Cal Berkeley, they graciously share their curiousities about popular culture, their travel experiences, and their knowledge of the Japanese canon.
In this case, I was wildly opining that I intended to head where the snow was deep, in the northwestern part of the main island of Japan. They were reminded of Yasunari Kawabata's Snow Country, a classic of 20th century Japanese literature where a dilettante from Tokyo travels up near Akita. I thought immediate it was a fish out of water story, and I looked forward to recreating the difficulties encountered by a city-lad venturing into the snowy wilds of northwestern Honshu. Further research in the used bookstores of Telegraph avenue reveals the story of a man engaged with a north-country geisha, and their ill-fated love. A story of longing, lonliness, isolation, sorrow, unfulfilled potential, in the snowiest place on the earth.
That sounds fine with me. Give me an empty farmhouse with a power outlet. I've got long underwear. I'm eager to travel tunnels through the tall snow drifts. There's little public space in a small town roof-deep in snow. But there must be some slow, deep, warm feelings somewhere. I have a nearly Irish picture in my head of a writing retreat, winter and shivering in pure white with no friends.
The only protest as this next plane arcs up past the cloudline is from my tired, irritated stomach and bowels. Eating three eggs with game-minded Chris and Jennifer unpacking and sweetly arguing in their quaint manorial home in Oakland, and then following up immediately with Manpuku restaurant ramen with my Japanese professors and finally near-bedtime Chinese dinner talking with my sister about her children and my plans, some of that food was too much for my stomach. I crave now some yogurt, or perhaps miso soup, because I've been lead to believe that there are bacteria in these foods that live if you serve them right, and these bacteria encourage the bacteria in your stomach to reproduce properly. It's not quite ironed out really, but it's casual science that gives me a prescription for myself based in ordinary foods.
Chris and Jen were recently married in a four-person ceremony by a friend deputized for that occasion.
My computer was too stable, so I upgraded my operating system. Windows XP came out, it seemed to offer a better user experience (or at least blue trim instead of plain gray). A new operating system, as it is used every day, is a perceptual filter. I'm curious to see the latest. I actually bought it, $199 for WinXP Pro upgrade. And spent the few precious days I had in America before the Japanese winter downloading software and trying to figure out how to extract my data off of a cute but unresponsive blue portable firewire hard drive.
I thought to myself, I could have been visiting friends, walking in the park, eating heuvos rancheros, writing fiction in that time.
My neice and I visited the NeoPrint Picture Club sticker machines so widespread in Japan that you can find occasionally in America. Put in three dollars, choose a frame and maybe some goofy graphics, and the machine will print out a sheet of sticker pictures of you and yours. Seems like that would be God's gift to eight year old girls. It was her first time; we'll see what use she makes of this.
My father's first wife Jane and her husband Wil who sings, makes off-color jokes, and cooks tasty fish dishes.
Spending time in the presence of the young and the old is somehow comforting. I'm reminded of inevitable aging, and my life is reflected back at me. It's a time-amplifier, to have access to different life experiences at different points along the life-journey. That's a value of family.
My mother taught me how to travel. Pack light; she carried two black pant suits with her wherever we were going. Each day, she'd wear one and wash the other.
For Christmas and my birthday, Mom offered to buy me something.
Time in Tokyo, shoulder-to-shoulder with the well-dressed made me want some nice clothes. We walked Oak street in Chicago. There were very many nice stores selling men's clothes fashioned of luxurious fabrics. I was looking for something unusual - I already have normal suits; I wanted a suit that had an unusual cut. Prada, perhaps the height of fashionable, conspicuous consumption these days, they had a $1700 suit that felt as though it was made of plastic. Dolce & Gabbana, they had a gold-treaded pin-stripe suit. Whew! Pin-stripes - eech. I wanted understated and different. It seems I wanted a nehru collar. We couldn't find one in Chicago. I found one in San Francisco, at Wilkes-Bashford. By a Japanese designer - Issey Miyake. Quite a bit cheaper than gold-threaded pin stripes. It's a very plain piece of crepe-fabric clothing - no padding and not much internal structure. It folds up small to fit in a suitcase. Thanks Ma!
In the tradition of UnderWord Archives, a message to a mailing list left my laptop. If you were subscribed, you'd have gotten it a week ago. That would have been something else. Either way, here's
an update on my life and links.
"A full belly is not the stomach of a scholar."
from Even Monkeys Fall From Trees.
let's play "Follow the Journalist:" James Drake
Recently, I web-tracked the career of Karl Taro Greenfeld after I read Speed Tribes. Today, researching wireless electricity for TheFeature.com, I read The Greatest Shoe on Earth from an old Wired magazine. The author was
James Drake, based in Prague. It was a good piece written about a British gent. I'm curious these days about journalists who work between several different countries. And I always want to know how old these folks are. Do they cover only technology or other subjects as well?
I found another good piece, about pipes in Prague, a picture of him on a Crickett web site, one brand of portable computer he uses. He has written for Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Business Week, Wired. He's definitely older than me. He has lived in Czechoslovakia for nine years, and he has a Czech wife. He smokes a pipe. He seems like a well-travelled competent journalist.
Happy Holidays, United Airlines.
I hope to be back in Japan in time for any mood surrounding the royal birth.
TV Show director/producer/editor/stylist Ryan Junell wrote a good-looking piece for WebMonkey about online video/film distribution: Web Venues for Filmmakers
Who reads this site anyways? The second in the Links.net interviews series:
"I love games. Card games, board games, computer games, made up games, I don't care - I'll play them all until I puke, and then I'll keep on playing. I think games are a superb instrument to study the human psyche."
Next update is likely to be over email first:
Tokyo diet - I'm now past the last notch on my smallest belt. I must not be eating enough. Eggs and bacon is somewhat hard to come by in this town.
lately i have been grabbing a few hours at the keyboard
only between long moments with Ayako. and after a few days of cadjoling, she finally showed me her house. but only after dark, when the other padded feet have escaped into their rooms. japanese people, it seems, give each other a fair amount of privacy in tight homes. so the fact that i'm an illegal overnight alien doesn't have to come up.
Some Pleasures of a Musical TextFor a week from November 1 to November 8, I asked for donations to read a Tokyo update to this site. So far, 25 people have given $134.99, thank you very much! (I spent that, and a little bit more, on a hard drive to back up my pictures. And some bottled water at Gas Panic).|
in the morning, we wake at 6. i lay disguised as a comforter until near 8am, when Ayako has finished preparing for her job. when her grandmother's tapping is heard to be definitively behind the blue curtain hanging over the short doorway between the foyer and the kitchen, i pad out of the house quickly holding my shoes. i take the oedo line to yamanote line, reverse commuting in last night's clothes.
we can talk only with difficulty. i say and do weird things. she smokes slender menthols nearly-incessantly and drinks a ton of canned cafe lattes. why are we spending nearly every night and weekend together?
I suppose I was an easy target; living alone in a foreign country. A younger friend recently asked me how he could meet more ladies. I told him we prepare ourselves for people to meet us. I hadn't given much thought to "meeting someone to be with all the time" but also, heck, I don't have a schedule and I don't have a lot of friends.
Ayako is a remarkably strong empath. She absorbs, echoes and amplifies feelings. When I get a wicked gleam in my eye and start dancing around her car, her eyes echo that gleam, and she laughs, and wiggles in her own way. We have fun together, and she puts up with my faltering attempts to understand and speak with her. She doesn't let my dictionary come between us.
Yesterday was a low point. We cavorted in the quiet calligraphy museum in Uguisudani. Her car was towed. That didn't seem to bug her much. We went out for Japanese pancakes and ate alone in the restaurant, quite happy. Then we walked about waiting hours for a Japanese friend with a better driving record to bail out her car. Waiting in a cafe, we were joined in the next booth over by four men, two younger men in suits, two older men, one in a suit one in a sweatsuit. The younger men gave her long hard stares, and I caught her looking intimidated and afraid. I turned and saw them staring hard at me too so I waved at them, as I am want to do when people seem to have some sort of reaction. I turned back to our conversation before the wave could develop into much more. They continued to give her bad looks. In hushed tones we conferred, deciding they were Yakuza; talking loud and hard about a lot of numbers, staying quite long, coming and going in various permutations with other men waiting outside, the cafe staff attending to them promptly.
I came to Japan figuring that I would have a chance to be a non-threatening observer on most of life here, including the criminal underworld. I don't represent much money or threat to them, I figured, so I could walk alongside them in parks, or eat with them at restaurants. Maybe chat a bit. Last night Ayako reminded me that they are closely allied with the "Uyoku" party, which I should have remembered from Speed Tribes. Theirs is a riling alliance of patriotism and thuggery it seems. Foreigners are a scapegoat. She looked up the word for "deceive" - she explained that these folks believe that foreigners trick Japanese people. I certainly enjoy dancing about and acting a trickster; I never considered it as any sort of national or cultural threat.
My eyes popped out of my head and into my lap, rolling onto the floor of the small cafe.
Thick cigarette smoke filled the room down past my elbows. Breathing short and shallow, I felt the ambient safety and comfort I'd counted on here leak out of my fingers, as my bones iced over with a fear that I was going to get myself pounded. Again.
Trapped in the small cafe, Yakuza on my left, cigarette smokers all around me, breathing in smoke and feeling stressed out, revisiting all my cavalier contact with the Japanese criminal underworld, I began to feel really alone. And Ayako began to have this deeply pained look in her eyes.
After a while they left; she looked up "‚Ü‚¦‚Þ‚«," positive attitude. We got her car back and passed out at my place.
Foreigner's Phone: The Internet in My Pocket
My first report on the wireless world of Tokyo; how I came to have a camera/computer phone and what it's done for my human relationships.
And I just discovered a web site that I built in 1995? 1994? The Maze. My how things age online. Age and shrink!