Sunday, March 19, 2006


The other day, Nico asked me to expound a bit more about my going to check out the warehouse. I aim to please. Here's the extended director's cut.

I had to go to immigration in Sakai to deal with my visa. Miki had some business at Customs next door, so I went along. We were met by a guy in a suit and hardhat, perhaps one of my favorite fashion combinations. I wasn't as fancily dressed, though I did have my white gloves and a crowbar, with which I began to crack open the slats of this cheap wooden crate. (In the Golan-Globus version, I'm a Columbian cocaine dealer, looking to poison the minds of young Americans. In the modern Bruckheimer version, I'm a Muslim fundammentalist looking to poison the water supply. The beards remain the constant.) A couple other officers started their Keystone Kustom Kops act, arbitrairily taking out bags and making sure that the merchandise matched what was on the invoice. After watching for a few minutes, it dawned on me that Customs officers are the lowest rung on bureaucracy's ladder. The older, sterner of the two (let's call him Hardy) held the bags open with his left hand while he wielded a metal detector held in his right. It beeped. With a puzzled look on his face, he ran the detector over the bags again, with the same result. Beep. Again. Beep. Finally, his younger, greener partner (who we'll call Laurel) brought an important point to his attention. As he waved the wand, he was swinging it over his wristwatch. This is where my private S&M act kicked in, biting my check in order to stiffle the giggles. And with each subsequent action on their part, my inner mirth increased, nearly bubbling over into guffaws when Hardy held up a pair of shoes he'd been examining and said with all seriousness, "You know, these would go well with that dress you brought in last month." This day was no doubt the best time I've ever had at Customs.

My worst was when I came back from Sri Lanka. I'd decided to celebrate my last evening in country by sitting on the patio of Colombo's Galle Face Hotel, dining on lobster thermidor and watching the sun slide into the Arabian Sea. The menu carefully listed the spices used in the preparation, but it neglected to mention a certain micro-organism. My flight left at 2 am (all flights departing Colombo leave after dark, in order to avoid surface-to-air missle attacks), the first of 4 two-hour flights, from Colombo to Bangkok to Hong Kong to Taipei to Osaka. I was running a low fever by the time I hit Thailand, vomited in Hong Kong airport. This was at the time of SARS, so I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to get back into Japan. However, I cleared quarantine and immigration without problem. Then I hit Customs. Let me interject here that my appearance isn't the usual "token language walla" look found on most NOVA posters. I've had my bags looked through on many occasions, but this was the first time I'd actually been pulled into my own special room of simply a table and four white walls, one for each of the agents, I guess. The senior rambled off his questions while the others looked through my gear. On this trip, I'd picked up some pretty unusual stuff, the kinds of things that are probably used as props in Smuggler's 101: hollow Buddhas, bamboo flute, coconut hollowed out to contain rice, and a novelty mystery box which I'd forgotten how to open. It was almost a cliche on places to stash dope. The senior guy kept things light, and we actually talked yoga for a good portion of the twenty minutes I was kept. Luckily, my body cavities were left unliberated. But as I stood, one young officious punk suddenly slapped my front pockets. "What the Fuck!" I was pissed but was right in thinking I'd get home sooner by keeping my mouth-- like all my other orifices-- shut.
By that point, I didn't have the energy for the four-hour bus ride back to the 'Nog. I made it as far as Namba, where I crawled into a capsule and slept like the dead for fourteen hours.

On the turntable: The Cluster Pluckers, "Just Pluck It!"

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