Friday, May 20, 2005

West Virginia flow

Lately, Local Legend Tim has been reminding me how to loosen my tight grasp on free time. It's ironic, but on days when I don't have much to do (the weekly average being around seven), I tend to fill my time with arbitrary tasks, like which book needs finishing, which 4.5 people need emails, which trees need pruning, and how many grams of navel lint need harvesting. But, with the recent spate of warm weather, Tim and I have been hanging out more, spending the day flowing from activity to activity with no regard for the clock.

On Sunday, he, Zack, and I had an Indian lunch of chocolate samosas, drove up to Daisen to see Yanagihara san's woodwork exhibit in the middle of a pear grove, had a second lunch of pizza and G beer, waded up a mountain stream, played with old weapons and instuments in an antique shop, popped into Aloe Cafe. (With all the commas and no conjunction (junction), can you feel the flow, man?)

Tuesday was even crazier. Zack had to do his part for the man, so Tim and I hit Kurayoshi. Isako, one of the aforementioned Aya's main componants, was exhibiting her indigo-dyed work in her beautiful old studio, GuruGuru. We sat around drinking coffee, planning gigs, and listening to Nami-san's (Minami Masato) first album, circa '73. From there lunch with Arama, at a crappy little joint with average food. Tim and Arama had aum rice with shrimp the size of bananas. Tim punned on how in Japan, everything is small but the shrimp. It was fun but challenging to talk to Arama since his Japanese is remedial, his English non-existant, and my French is a decade out of use. Plus I was distracted by the couple at the next table. A woman, reed thin, was watching her husband work his way through a gargantuan bowl of something, noodles perhaps. I mean the thing's rim had the diameter of a hubcap, and is most likely what Sumotori eat Chanko nabe from. (The size of both Sumotori and the bowl in fact ruins Tim's theorem. Sorry guy.) Anyway, this waif, who'd been refused a straw since she didn't have proper floatation equipment, just sat and watched him, not eating a thing. And this couple didn't exchange a single word. She had a mouth, but was it a functioning model? I'll never know...

...because we then proceeded to hit some of the local recycle shops around town. Tim and Arama looked at guitars while I tried to find a cheap T-shirt with Engrish on it. Ironically, I bought one with strange Japanese instead. (For 680 yen, I'm officially a subjugater of bootlegs.) We were all surprised to see Erika working in one shop. She is the primary dancer for Aya. It's always bizarre to see a familiar hipster or alternachick doing their thing in the straight world. Major paradigm shift.

After shoppingu, I stubbornly insisted that I needed some coconut juice, so we went over to Encho-en in Togo, where the omiyage shop sold said item. I love this stuff. When I travelled China, this was the only drink I'd trust, outside safely boiled tea and canned beer. It used to come in a narrow black can, but now it has the picture of some guy and Tzu Chi, the former Taiwan AV model lately making straight films with Jackie Chan, et al.

Mii-chan joined us after his carpentry job, and we headed for the hills. My friend Shogen-san is a Zen Priest who has built a tea shop in his temple. He used to have a shop in town but when his father passed away at an early age, he, being eldest son yet a mere 21, had to take over the Buddha biz. His temple location has been going a few years and he whips up a mean clotted cream. Tea, western style, is his dharma, and he commutes monthly to Yokohama to train with his sensei. Once a year, the whole group goes to Sri Lanka for a refresher, and the photos are always excellent. Shogen's teas (served with doily and pope's hat) have those wonderful Sri Lankan names such as Uva. (I forget the other names, they're all like 17 syllables long.) From him, I also learned that James Taylor (no relation) is more than the guy who crooned thousands of women into bed back in the day. This knowledge helped me on my own trip to Sri Lanka last year. I digress.

Anyway, Shogen wasn't there. At the moment, he was in the 'Nog, a mere block from my house. So we headed further into the mountains to Ojikakei, a narrow valley with fast-moving water and prehistoric boulders. I kicked off the sandals and climbed and jumped down river like a monkey, looking for good swimming holes for late summer when the sea is full of jellies and unswimmable. On my return, Arama was singing at the top of his voice in his Susu dialect. Mii-chan, Tim, and I picked up large sticks and began beating rocks and logs, kicking off a massive jam. Arama was incredible. No lie, the guy is in fact a griot, the position handed down the male line of his family. The passion in his voice dwarfed the roar of the rushing river below. The insects showed their appreciation by lining our legs and arms with welts.

It was growing dark, so we headed back to town. On the way, we taught Arama to say "Aight," ala Ali G. It was hilarious the way he repeated it about 79 times over the next 2 minutes. But thinking more about it, as a griot, that's probably how he memorizes things, repeating it until it's ingrained. By contrast, he taught us both French and Susu, all of it already forgotten within the hour.

Tim and I headed back to the 'Nog. On the outskirts of town, near Walmart, er Jusco, there is a new Asian recycle shop. Tim knew the owner, who let us poke around a day before official opening. As we drove off, we watched an old woman taking swipes at a bat with her broom. We had dinner at Hao Chi, a beautiful cafe of multiple teak levels. To cap off the day, we sat out on the back deck, talking Joyce, Maugham, and Murakami, while drunk salarymen, hearing disembodied English floating down from above, nearly fell over from all the neck craning.

(Sorry for how this post seems to go on and on, but that best exemplifies the way my days are going lately...)

On the turntable: Willie and Lobo, "Music of Puerto Vallarta Squeeze"

1 comment:

-c said...

Lovin' the on-and-on! Heading to the wheat market?.. (er..-typo-... I mean, Beat)? Ototoi's 'baa-chan image also got me good! Cheers!