Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thru the Ages...

I step out onto the street and head in the direction of Miki, who's waiting with her chai at Starbucks. Iggy's on the ipod, and the music triggers a lengthening in my groins muscles, the usual preparation to strut. However this day on Karasuma, I'm blocked by a wall of uniformed adolescents, dilly-dallying, だらだら-ing in my way. Doin' the schoolkid shuffle. Miki believes this is due to weak abs. You can see it on the trains in the slouch and the curved backs, as if their bodies were designed by Dali. (Dilly-Dali?)

Miki and I had thought about taking a train down to Kyoto Station, but it doesn't look too far. In today's post-rain light, it looks to be hovering over the end of the boulevard like the Mothership . Once there, we find the building's subterranean arcades packed with the next demographic, marriage-able girls bucking the system with their other unmarried friends, looking for a lunchtime table under which to let down their heavy shopping bags.

South of the station, we jump a generation, finding the old-timers watching the world pass-by, through the dual fogs of memory and a liquid-humid afternoon. They're in the parks around the ruins of Rajomon and Saiji, their rigid figures sitting near rigid stele which mark time in their own ways. A large cluster of the elderly can be found at a gateball tourney just north of the tracks where Bullet Trains fly past with no time for ruminations.

A generation down, the middle-agers are at the other end of Umekoji Park, gathered for a Bike Rally. They drink beer from plastic cups while walking around the hundreds of bikes proudly lined up for inspection by these enthusiasts. These aren't Harleys, or even bemirrored Vespas (which would allow my own participation). No, these men are Honda SuperCub enthusiasts, eyeballing the svelte bodies of these mini machines and taking notes on little pads. Each Cub has a numbered tag like a bizarre sort of beauty contest. I wonder how many of these guys are postmen in the real world.

We move north, following a map from the Heian period, seeking out more stele that demark where the ancient regal chosen few slept and had their cups, with little apparent concern beyond the current phase of moon and turn of phrase best used to capture it. On any given day, we probably pass a dozen of these markers, but today we stop and fill up on history. At the northern apex of our route, we find the Heian Period Museum. Its presence seems to be a conciliatory gesture to angered locals, since the office building which houses it is built on palace ruins. Inside is an impressively massive model of the city, around whose perimeter we walk, looking for familiar spots. And, as I'm sure everyone else does, we look for where our house now stands. I'm especially impressed by the display of earthen strata from a nearby dig. Working our way down from our modern detritus, we pass through historical periods marked by soil of different shades, coming finally to a point before man's footprints began to leave impressions, and such measures of time didn't exist anyway. On the wall nearby are a few scroll paintings, showing time not marked but time wiled away. While I've often seen paintings of the cushy Floating World, today I find my first representation of the lives of the people outside Heian's walls, whose taxes made it all possible. Back on the streets, we continue our meander amongst their descendants...

On the turntable: Count Basie, "Atomic Swing"

On the nighttable: David Geraghty, "A Snake in the Shrine"

On the reel table: "Uwasa no Onna" (Mizoguchi, 1954)


Pam said...

Love this.
But to me, Kyoto Station will never resemble the Mothership. It's always the Death Star.

Chris ( said...

Ah, beautifully written, back and forth through time and generations.

The Heian Period Museum sounds interesting, I'll look out for that next time I'm back in the Kyo..