Thursday, June 25, 2009

Give a Hoot, Don't Commute

I just got home from Osaka, after a quick dinner at Cafe Absinthe, beneath the photos of some of the 100 famous Japanese peaks that Wes climbed during over a period of years. I was tired from teaching two physically challenging classes earlier in the day, the fatigue allying itself with the humidity to get me buzzed on a single pint of Guinness. I smiled as I walked to the front door, coming to a complete stop at the sight of Paris Hilton dining in front of the large open window. Her Russian was absolutely perfect.

With a nice light floaty head, I bounced along through Ame-mura, my first visit in many years to the place that was once a familiar haunt, back in those days when I first came to Japan and needed the occasional dose of Western Civ. I found Midosuji Dōri, and moved in the direction of Yodoyabashi and the train home. I walked the light of the day away, Tom Waits on myPod, admittedly better suited to the grubbier downtown areas that make up the bulk of my city hiking these days. Midosuji is all glass and glitter, boasting of an opulence that seems ridiculous considering the current state of the economy. This is not a street you walk if you're looking for perspective.

You'll see instead a church that is fronted by the pillars like some Wall Street place of worship, throwing shadows across a VW bug garlanded for faux weddings. Or another bank that brings to mind the lobby of NY's World Trade Center, so long as you excise the Excelsior Coffee shop next door.. Or Namba Temple done up in the finest of Soviet architecture, like some double-zentendre ironic protest. Or high-heeled fashionistas who resemble the store front models far less than I do (Though we were all trumped by that middle-aged woman done up like a frilly southern belle.) Or the short-sleeved Cool Biz commuter troglobtyes moving toward their trains. Most intriguing was the guy who awoke after the train doors closed, stood when the seats automatically shifted to the reverse side for the return journey, then sat again to ride back the way he'd come. I speculate on his passing an entire day this way, riding the train the hour it takes to go end to end, nine times a day, hiding from his family the fact that his job is long gone.

On the turntable: Tom Waits, "Spare Parts"
On the nighttable: Ian Littlewood, "The Idea of Japan"
On the reel table: "Porco Rosso," (Miyazaki, 1992)

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