Saturday, December 31, 2005

Haunted, as the Minutes Drag

The year is waning, as is my enthusiasm.
These last six months have involved a lot of geographic rushing around, coupled with the rebuilding of a social life. As that structure went up, it began to grow top heavy with the weight of new friends, acquaintances, and students. I faced a New Years bustling with activity. Instead I pulled a move straight out of Jenga and brought it all down. This week, I will stay indoors alone, with my books and films. As the snow builds up silently outside, I will sit by the glow of the kerosene stove, filling my soul with Coltrane and Bach.
The later is reminiscent of a scene a few years back. I went to visit Roland, an artist friend who lived high up a mountain road where he grew indigo in converted rice fields. One afternoon we sat in his workshop, all senses plugged in. Falling snow for the eyes. Composting indigo for the nose. Bach for the ears. Sake for the tongue. Warmth from a iron stove for the skin. The memory pierces.
And memory lasts far longer than an arbitrary number given to an random period of time in my life, the structure of which is governed by chaos.
The year is waning, as are my words. Not that I put full faith in twelve sheets of paper. Gregory, I thumb my nose at thee.

On the turntable: CocoRosie, "Noah's Ark"
On the nighttable: Julian Barnes, "Something to Declare"

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Do Your Own Music Video

Sitting on a train listening to The Clash's "The Card Cheat." It's a pretty upbeat tune. An old man walks briskly up the platform, talking to himself. It looks like he's singing along.

On the turntable: Dwight Yoakum, "Live From Austin, TX 2005"
On the nighttable, "Julian Barnes, "Something to Declare"

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Make It Stop!

Snowy ride thru the mountains toward Okayama. It's been snowing heavily since last night. As the train gets later and later, I watch the other riders' tensions increase by factors of ten. How amazing perspective is. I have nowhere to be, so am delighted by the beauty of the scenery. The suits are all clenched faced as they make further excuses on their cell phones. At one particularly long delay, I get off the train to take photos. I'm happy to see a couple other guys show childlike glee at the situation. It feels like a school snow day, really.
The countryside is gorgeous. At one point, the snowfall is so heavy that all features are lost, and I'm facing a wall of white on which to paint my thoughts. As usual, I use music to alter the mood. Elliot Smith's boyish voice is pure Winter Wonderland. This gives way to Godspeed, You Black Emperor!, who's steady driving percussive pulse is ominous, a hint at how deadly these storms really are.
And the train slowly rolls on. Snow is piled high on rooves to look like white kayabuki. A thermometer reads -5C. Rivers boulders wear white cowboy hats. Water beads down the window, but freezes before it reaches the bottom of the pane. The snow continues to fall, but I'm happy and warm on this train, an extra in Dr. Zhivago.

On the turntable: Elliot Smith, "X.O."
Godspeed, You Black Emperor! "Yanqui U.X.O."
On the nighttable: Taslima Nasrin, "Lajja"

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

How not to take an aikido test

Don't travel to Tokyo two days before, arriving five hours late due to heavy snow. Following this, don't stay up til three drinking wine with friends.

Don't wander Tokyo in an exhausted haze, nearly falling asleep during a Kodo show(!), and then be too tired to have much to say during the party following the show.

Don't begin to hate Nagoya as your train once again sits in the station because of snow. Do giggle in disbelief as it stops again for an earthquake. Don't ride a train which will become over two hours late.

Don't arrive back in town thirty minutes before said test, giving you no time to prepare mentally.

Failing the above steps, be sure to drink heavily at the New Years party following the test. Your drunk sensei will hint that you passed, but is sure to mention how lousy you performed. Alternate drinking sake with the group and drinking Guinness by yourself in a private show of mourning for your Irish Nana. Run into a couple friends out on the street after the party. Agree to "a drink," culminating in mimosas and karaoke at three am.

Following these steps, you're certain to awaken the next morning still drunk. Best of luck!

On the turntable: "Latin Playground"
On the nighttable: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, "The Mistress of Spices"

Monday, December 26, 2005

Holiday for one

Had myself a traditional little Xmas , eating tacos and watching the DVD Siddhartha. Hey, tradition's gotta start somewhere.

SAFETY TIP! If faced with an seemly unending series of days of snow and freezing rain, play some bossa nova and dance around the house. It'll help you forget how cold it is.

Also, the homepage for the yoga studio is finally up! Click if you care...

On the turntable: Stan Getz & Juao Gilberto, "Getz/Gilberto"
On the nightable: Kiyohiro Miura, "He's Leaving Home; My Young Son Becomes a Zen Monk"

Sunday, December 25, 2005

All I want for Xmas... for Pete to get off my lap.

On the turntable: Bach "Cantatas"
On the nightable: Joachim-Ernst Berendt, "The World is Sound"

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Margaret Barry Sjostedt

Last night, my grandmother passed away in Connecticut. She would've been 94 next week. A bit of sweetness is lost in the world, and this morning is darker for it. Pleasant journey Nana...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dreaming of a Green Xmas

Fought the incessant snow and wind to play two impromptu gigs last weekend. Music broke out at the English School Xmas party, in the form of a couple guitars strumming carols to a djembe beat. An R2D2 karaoke machine was also in attendance, and much fawned over.

Sunday saw Nami-san's thing at GuruGuru in Kurayoshi. Due to the roads, there were maybe a dozen people there. It was very chilled out affair. Nami's first set was all sung in Spanish, a nod to DeNada, his backing band. I sat on the floor and beat out the Latin rhythms I learnt in Tokyo last month. The price of admittance also included a plate of curry and a delicious cookie. Since I only had large money, I was given a second cookie in lieu of 50 yen. A little bit later, I realized that the cookies came with a secret toy surprise inside. Oops! Generally, I don't partake, but... I wouldn't have gotten so fucked up if only I'd had the right change! Visiting the striped shirted inmates of Lawson much later, I laughed at how oblivious they were to late night munchie culture. On the way out, I saw the first snowplow I've ever seen in this country, plowing a parking lot. Meanwhile the roads were death. That's so Japan, man!

On the turntable: Juan MacClean, "Less than Human"
On the nightable: Patrick Bernard, "Music as Yoga"

Friday, December 16, 2005

A one and a two and a...

Reading a music score while playing drums is like wearing a watch to your job in a clock shop.

On the turntable: Wilco, "Kicking Television"

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Two weekends ago, I went to Tokyo to take part in a yoga workshop featuring Lance Schuler, founder of Inspya Yoga in Byron Bay, Australia. It was pretty hard but good fun. Lance is a long time judo practitioner and his yoga is, well, a bit martial. His approach is light and jovial, but he's definitely driven. The main goal for the weekend was to push us past our usual comfort levels and beyond fear. As a result, I think all of us were able to do poses we'd never done before. I've never done yoga that was so yang.
During one of his talks he mentioned how people who've been through trauma tend to become quite flexible mentally and emotionally. I had this in mind yesterday when I found out that the teacher training I'd planned to attend next month had been pushed back to April. My non-refundable plane ticket sits in my desk. So yet again I'm US-bound, though now without any real goal except to down pints with friends. (I'm beginning to worry that if you searched this blog, you'd find more references to booze than yoga.) This really doesn't bother me. What does bother me is that when I paid for my ticket, I was expected to give a contact address for my first night. I've experienced this during travels to Asia, but never when going to the country of my birth. Are you fucking kidding me?

On the turntable: Tom Waits, "Blood Money"

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Monday morning, Kurashiki

Late Sunday, on just three hours sleep, drove down to Kurashiki for no real reason at all. I came here on my first morning in Japan and 11-plus years later I still love the place. Just spent six months bemoaning the fact that I miss Western "culture," then escaping to Tokyo two or three times a month to try to drown in it. Yet on a quiet Monday morning I was reminded why I love being in this country, surrounded by the weathered. (Though the weathered opinions and mindset I can often do without.)

Walking Hondori as it awakes. Light snow falls on storehouses whose beams were purposely blacked by flame. Pass a small temple, apparently empty. Yet just inside the doors, someone has left tea and mikan and rice crackers for those who may come by to pray. Stop for coffee in a jazz club at 10a.m. Itself a former storehouse, thick beams bisect white plaster walls. In the morning, jazz clubs have a completely different atmosphere. Sunbeams hang instead of smoke. It feels open and airy, rather than the usual dark, jazz-hovel feel of night. A cloud passes and the light coming thru the window is suddenly cut as if the slatted shutters were closed. When the sun returns, the stained glass throws blue and red shadows on a fern. And the recorded sound of jazz is pure, without the additional nighttime treble of tinkling glass and bass of laughter.

On the turntable: Merle Haggard and the Strangers, "Honky Tonkin'"

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mama said there'd be days like this

As if my schedule hasn't been insane enough with weekend trips to Tokyo. Here's what I did in the 'Nog on Saturday:

Tea lesson in the morning, complete with four sake lunch.

Helped prep food at the Xmas dinner thing.

Off to the studio for a couple hours to try to create something entertaining for that night's party. Came up with a ska Xmas carol medley thing. Simultaneously sang and drummed for the first time ever. Whaled through a ripping jazz piece that will have to wait 'til next time. Tim, Mi-chan, and I very much on the same page, jammatically speaking.

Back to the Xmas dinner to eat and play percussion on pot-bottoms. (Great band name, that.)

Rushed over to the Xmas party. Besides our own set, played or sang songs with three other bands. Also, Ushi, Takao, and I led the room in a Monkees song to mellow things out after some yakuza fisticuffs. Xmas spirit.

After hours at Missile. Shocked by a good friend's hijinks with candlewax in the toilet! Danced until 4:30.

Up at 7:30. Noooooooooooooooooooooooo! Why?

On the turntable: Radiohead, "Hail to the Thief"
On the nightable: Brendan Behan, "Borstal Boy"

Friday, December 09, 2005

Thursdays in the Kyo

Arrived in Kyoto yesterday to find yet another city in the midst of seasonal confusion. Bright colors above outstretched arms, patches of white underfoot. Jumped a cab north. SAFETY TIP! Don't take the really posh looking taxis unless you are either well employed or are a trustafarian. The sticker says 680 yen, but the fine print clocks 80 yen per 250 meters. Ouch. Arrived at Kinkakuji with a light wallet.

I was meeting with a woman about renting out a room in a beautiful, well-lit house next to the temple. I hadn't done the roomie interview thing in almost fifteen years. Weird. A couple hours later I returned to meet the other roommate. To a soundtrack of Brazilian acoustic tunes, and with a clink of red wine we toasted the beginning of something. I'm thrilled. After fifteen years, I finally did it. I moved to Kyoto.

Met up with Amanda later. She'd just come from Mandala's great gig at Tofukuji. It was one of those magic evenings where the audience grabs stuff and begins to bring da noise. A few familiar faces were in the house, including one down from Tokyo. Man! I hate missing great gigs. Amanda also regaled me with tales of the bomb scare at Kyoto Station. Apparently, someone had left behind a large trunk which had been cordoned off by the cops. Yet the trains were running, and passengers were walking past to get to the platforms, as police in bomb-gear tiptoed up to the mystery objet. I wonder if the cops bow before defusing.

Made my Friday a.m. turn back to the 'Nog, playing commuter with coffee in hand. Gingerbread Latte tastes just as amazing as it did last year. 'Tis the season...

On the turntable: "Tokyo: The Sex, The City, The Music"
On the nightable: Donald Riche, "A View from the Chuo Line"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Beat up, Gettin the Beat Down

Had a bizarre experience yesterday. For a couple hours in the afternoon, my masseuse worked the last bits of three Tokyo weekends out of fatigued muscles. A few hours later, I went to do aikido. I was a literal marionette on the mat, joints loose, spinning and whirling. These same joints felt like they would give every time I was thrown, pieces of me flying like shrapnel to the far corners of the dojo. Lots of rolling, my pressure points buzzing from the earlier bodywork. I finished the workout feeling spacy and euphoric.

Home, I watched the collision of three recent purchases, djembe, DVD of "Festival Express," and a bottle of red slightly pricier than usual. As the wine worked warmth from inside out, I jammed along to the bands on the TV, battering away at the cold winter night.

On the turntable: Elliot Smith, "Elliot Smith"

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Kind old-timey

What a delight today to get a Xmas card, with real ink and paper and everything. I had a hard time opening it at first , finding no place to double-click. Then the dust on my brain began to stir a bit, and I remembered that I had the ability to use my fingers in ways other than attempted emulation of old typewriter keys. (Remember them, man?) Severe paper shredding soon followed.
Penned by Cath, during down time from drinking in London pubs and howling at the moon. Cheers dude!

On the turntable: "Darker than Blue, Soul from Jamdown, 1973-1980"
On the nightable: Frances Mayes, "Bella Tuscany"

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Raaaaaaag aaaaaaaarm.....

Being gaijin on a train is like being the last kid picked for a sports team.

On the turntable: Crooklyn soundtrack

Monday, December 05, 2005

Snowy San-in Satori

Left sunny autumn Tokyo to return to the 'Nog and into the open arms of a snowstorm. As it embraced me, I stiffened. It's too early for this much snow. The gingko trees are still at their peak and haven't yet let go of their bright yellow brilliance. I'm not ready, especially this year, with a summer which wouldn't end. Yet I was able to delight in gliding on a sarangi through snowy mountainscapes. There's a certain dignity in snow. And a melancholy in its beauty.
I was also able to come up with this:

How pleasant to walk
Thru snow covered streets,
My belly full of rice

Tonite I'll settle myself in with a Krishna Das DVD and some warm sake, fending off the cold...

On the turntable: Sultan Khan/Krishna Das, "a drop of the ocean"
On the nightable: Hanif Kureishi, "Intimacy"

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Ecumenical Linguistic Gymnastics

One of the first lines in the Tao Te Ching is that the Tao that can be named us not the true Tao. Genesis however begins by saying that in the beginning was the word and the word was God. It's ironic that for the Christians, faith alone isn't enough. God must be defined in human terms. It's like God's word is greater than God's glory, or reality. Which comes closer to what I believe the Tao, or God, to be. Although it is beyond human concepts, I can recognize elements of it everywhere around me.
I remember a few years ago when a devout Baptist friend asked me if I believed in God. In a move more Zen than Taoist, I pointed at the snow-covered countryside beyond the train window. How could a person take in so much beauty and not believe?

On the turntable: John Coltrane, "Coltrane for Lovers"
On the nightable: Nicholson Baker, "The Everlasting Story of Nory"

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Don't read too much into this...

Could male masterbation be considered genocide? With the apparent dearth of great minds in the world today, I shudder to think of the potential which may have been squandered in a pile of tissues.

On the turntable: Ray LaMontagne, "Trouble"

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On the Rails Again

I remember when I first got to Japan, the new Kyoto station was in the midst of becoming the monstrocity it is today. Wandering through it was to traverse long featureless corridors enshrouded in white Christo-wrapping. (In fact it looks like Shinjuku station at this current moment of typing. Two weeks back, had much fun, drunkenly trying to find my locker with minutes to go until the last train. But at midnight in Shinjuku everyone else is drunk, so...)
I digress. The present Kyoto station building looks like a big Boom Box circa 1982. Pure Radio Shack architecture. Everytime I pass the place, I expect to hear Run-DMC blaring loud.

With each trip to Tokyo I also pass through Nagoya and therefore get to see the ongoing destruction of the Expo grounds. The now bare plots have been heavily pressed by Caterpillar treads. From above it looks like one of Mondrian's minor works.

On the turntable: Putumayo Cover the World
On the nightable: Hanif Kureishi, Midnight All Day"

Thursday, November 24, 2005

At a Bus Stop in Santa Barbara

A young, somewhat effeminate punk guy had just told his friend that he'd been accepted to law school.

"I just don't see you in a suit, Kyle," the girl said laughing. "You'll have to let me go shopping with you, we'll get some really outlandish stuff. Silk shirts with ruffled fronts and sleeves that are slitted, like the swashbucklers wore. Oh! And those mid-seventies suits with the flaired trousers and 1958 Buick fins. The jury'll take one look at you and they'll know that a man dressed as un-selfconsciously as you has to have his shit together. Wait! Or even better, a dress. Ha, ha, ha! Yes! Have you ever worn a dress, Kyle?"

The guy just looked at her and smiled.

She continued, "You really should. It's amazing what it'll do for a guy's psyche. No really, every man should have a dress and pair of pumps in his closet that he can put on at certain times, like when he has a fight with his girlfriend or if she won't ball him because she's menstruating or something. Just so he can relate a bit and open up to his femine side. I dated this guy and he did it. It was wild, he was this big jock type, all hung up on his attitudes and macho role playing. But he wore it. We went out to dinner and laughed and laughed, just like old girlfriends."

The guy was really grinning now. "Why'd he do it?" he asked.

"He had to! I made him! See, for my birthday, his present to me was that he'd be my slave for a day, do anything I said. So, I had him put on a dress. Nothing too obnoxious. He even bought it himself. I helped him pick it out, which was hilarious! Later on he did this little strip-tease for me. It was really fun" She hesitated a moment, smiling, either for effect, or in reminiscense. "Yeah, Kyle, you should try it. Let's shop when we hit the city. It'd be good for you. It really loosened him up."

"Did he ever wear it again?"

"No. Well, I doubt it. We broke up pretty soon after that. He screwed around on me a bit. The way I found out was that he got eyebrow crabs.

"On the turntable: Bloc Party, "Silent Alarm"

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

When we was gaijin

During my first few months in Japan, before I began to settle into my life in the 'Nog, I used to make bimonthly trips into the Kansai area. It wasn't such a long ride, about three hours by bus, and the lure of quiet afternoons spent strolling Kyoto's Higashiyama area followed by a few beers in the expat bars of Shinsaibashi allowed me to forget for awhile how far away from home I was.

About three months into my stay here, I was coming back from one such weekend. After leaving Kobe, the bus would follow the Chugoku expressway, a long concrete path through high sheet-metal-lined walls which barely hid the uninspiring landscape of pachinko parlors, golf driving ranges, and identical, non-descript department stores. On this particular day, the bus driver was going faster than usual, probably to make up some time before taking the route through the mountains, usually snow-covered this time of year. Time seemed to be marked by the rhythmic hum of our engine reflected off each car we passed.

At some point in my trip, I happened to look up from my book and out the window to the express bus running alongside ours. Inside was the usual scene of middle-aged Japanese on a day trip, the majority of heads bowing in slumber, jostling with the motion of the bus. Yet what made this group unusual was that each bobbing head was shaped into a samurai topknot. They were wearing wigs of course, but every man on that bus was dressed in a style most familiar to me from noisy afternoon TV. I'm still not quite sure how these men could fit into their seats, sitting side by side while wearing those kimono with long pointed shoulders. The women too were straight out of the Edo-period, their eyebrows a mere pair of dots high up on their heavily made-up foreheads.

As we came alongside the next vehicle, I saw the same thing, and on the bus in front of that one was still another scene of slumbering samurai. My usually uneventful ride home had placed me at the center of a Fellini/Kurosawa co-production.

On this front bus, one man was awake, looking out the window in obvious boredom. As our eyes locked, he did a visible double-take, noticing that the face staring back at him was not Japanese. To a foreigner living in the countryside, this sudden change of expression can be seen a dozen times a day. Being still somewhat new to Japan, I was just beginning to flinch at the sound of the word "gaijin." Not long before, I think that I had probably found the attention flattering, but by now I wanted to be considered just another unrecognizable human being in the midst of a daily existance.

So, not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, I recognized the familiar double-take and the ensuing stare. But then I noticed something new. A look of sadness passed across this man's face just before he looked down into his lap. It was if he had realized that due to his attire and make-up, he was the one who looked different, the one on display. It was if he had realized that I had had more reason to stare than he. And with this realization, this sudden enlightenment on his part, we seemed to share a brief, mutual understanding of what it is like to stand out in a country which prides itself on conformity. And for a moment, I didn't feel so far from home after all.

On the turntable: David Bowie, "Heroes"
On the nightable: Bill Bryson, "Notes From a Small Island"

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New Lint in Old Navels

Memories are silly. An event rehashed verbally becomes little more than anecdote eventually, the story, molded again and again, pieces added bit by bit like globs of clay, replaces the experience, creating it's own form of art. The experience itself, in the larger scheme of things, becomes minimalized. Each event is an acid test; it either helps support a beforeheld opinion reassuringly, or it does the complete opposite and reverses our taste about something. From here we progress, making future decisions which are tied to that particular event linearally. In its most basic form, each random causal event creates a scenario which is as simple as, yet simultaneously as incredibly significant as, the minor decision as to whether to take the right or left fork in the road. Our perception of reality based on said event will determine our live's outcome. So obviously, our present is invariably decided by interpretation of past events which individually have come to play a part in our future (as it becomes present). Yet, paradoxically, the memory of past events (which created this present moment of reflection), can in turn hinder the progression toward the future. The longing for something lost long ago muddles the decision-making process. When is it that we learn something? It's when an event enters our realm which deviates somewhat from the existing program. But what about the little details? Why is it that we remember certain things in our lives and forget about others? And why is it easy for our friends to remember those events that ourselves cannot? Conscious memory is a funny thing; it acts as the rudder to the ship of our active decision-making, yet it is the subconscious memory which is the tide and the wind. Memory exists where we changed course...

On the turntable: Putumayo Calypso
On the nightable: Michael Cunningham, "Speciman Days"

Monday, November 21, 2005

Long Forgotten Stream of Consciousness Post From Way Back In June

...Fishnet stockings. Fishermen net fish. Clerks stock fish. Sharks stalk clerks. And a few celery stalks, attached to bulemic twigs gingerly moving over Shibuya crossing, each step ready to bring down the whole house of carbs, balanced over chubby high heels, clip-clopping like pigs' trotters. And the Frankenstein high heels shuffling behind Tottori Station, legs angled like tweezers, sheer daylight at crotch-level. And another high-heeled slave, shoe caught in the train crossing near Hopetown. And Shell's right foot, tracing the circles of distant moons as her thoughts pass through their phases...

On the turntable: Milt Jackson and John Coltrane, "Bags and Trane"
On the nightable: Yagyu Munenori, "The Way of the Living Sword"

Sunday, November 20, 2005

I saw god today...

I saw god in the snow covered peak mimicking a scallop shell on a blue platter of autumn sky.
I saw god in the fog gently caressing the long slender fingers of valleys.
I saw god in the tree-lined stubble silhouette on the hilltops.
I saw god in the red and yellow leaves anointing my truck as it exited a tunnel.
I saw god as I traced a high, grey ribbon, playing connect the dots with mountains...

On the turntable: Traffic, "Mr. Fantasy"

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I passed a week...

...or the week passed me, slung along by the autumn winds bringing snow to nearby peaks and rain to my rooftop. My limited free time was spent making sense of the 1's and 0's taking their respective places to form moving pictures which dazzle us again and again and help me temporarily forget the dreary weather which affects me as much inside as out.
"Carnivale" was a reoccuring theme, its creepy, surreal pacing a perfect dirge to this dying year.
Blown away by "Open Water, " especially after reading that the sharks swimming below and around the actors are not CG. Teeth with tails.
Two J-films round out our list. "Hana and Alice," showing us why Shunji Iwai is one of the best directors out there. Extreme close-up of the face of a jilted lover is held to the point where our agony begins to match hers. And then there was one... Fifteen years in the making, "Nobody Knows," goes beyond words. Could I possibly cry harder? Or more? The rain had stiff competition that night. Though it always does, as I once again begin my annual slide into seasonal melancholy...

On the turntable: Pink Floyd, "Atom Heart Mother"
On the nightable: David Sedaris, "Me Talk Pretty One Day".

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Haiku season words

Is smoke a "kigo" for autumn? 'Tis everywhere...

On the turntable: Son Volt, "Okemah and the Melody of Riot"
On the nightable: Sun Shuyun, "Ten Thousand Miles without a Cloud"

Monday, November 14, 2005

Okinawa Getaway, Getaway

As I do every November 3rd, I set off to Tokyo to see the koryu demos at Meiji Jingu. It's a day of flying bodies, swirling staffs, and flashing steel (and worn out martial arts cliches). It culminates in the firing of ancient matchlock weapons, their surprisingly loud retorts filling the sky with crows startled from their treetop aerie. It's also a good chance for me to temporarily plug back into the Tokyo budo scene.

The next morning I headed out to Haneda to catch my Okinawa bound flight. The traffic was horrendous, making it look entirely possible that I'd miss the plane. So I sat there formulating a plan B: more yoga, more live music, more hang time with friends under blemish-free autumn skies. Plan B won. Though I made it to the airport on time, I cashed in my ticket and headed back to town, spoon-feeding my spirit a week of hedonism.

A major factor in my decision to stay is what occurred the night before. My jazz-singer friend Yumiko took me to see Toku at Body and Soul in Aoyama. He is amazing, alternating between flugelhorn and vocals ala Chet Baker. His jams were loose, his backing band incredibly tight. It's no wonder he's a major player on the J-jazz scene. Yumiko and I had a table dead center in front of the stage, the perfect position from which to watch the magic.
Near the end of the second set, Toku's attention was drawn to something going on in the corner of the club. It turns out Cyndi Lauper was there, with some famous kimono-clad enka singer. They came on stage to engage Toku in the usual babble best left on Japanese TV. Then Cyndi joined Toku in singing "Time After Time." The crowd sat with jaws on the floor. When Cyndi came off stage, she had to pass my table, so I held out my hand, which she took. I said, "Cyndi, thank you so much," to which she said, "That was a trip!" Toku took an encore, calling another celeb out of the crowd. Ogura Maki is a R'n'B singer, hot about a decade ago. She and Toku sang a couple songs together, then two more apparently famous jazz singers joined the fun singing backup to Cyndi Lauper doing Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" Crazy. By the time they'd finished, the trains had stopped running. I was forced to take a cab home. Just another $200 night in Tokyo. God bless that city.

--------------------------(Cyndi, Toku and Ogura Maki on piano)------->

On the turntable: Gorillaz, "Demon Days"
On the nightable, Thad Carhart, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank"
Jumpa Lahiri, "The Interpreter of Maladies"

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Gettin' the Willies on Halloween

I'd been putting off seeing the new "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" movie for months, due in part to the creepy-Michael Jackson vibe I got from Johnny Depp in the preview. But being that it was Halloween, and this is rapidly shaping up to be Johnny Deep Theme Week, I gave in and hit the late show. Rather than grossing me out, Depp's Wonka had me rolling at his absurd, pseudo-hipster lingo. He had quite the flair for comedic timing, like Jim Carrey with a leash. It was weird seeing the film in Japan, considering the OompaLoompa subtext. I won't be so uncharitable as to make height comparisons, but I found similarities in terms of fondness for uniforms, group exercise and para-para dance moves. Plus the strong work ethic. Yet, notice how only the boss got to break through the glass ceiling.

Best of all, the film is interactive.
Quoth Muffin:
"For each mention of the word "chocolate," in a movie
about a goddamned chocolate factory, we ate a
bite-sized chocolate bar. it's a like a drinking game
except the puke is a different color and you won't be
able to fall asleep for 3 days, as opposed to passing
out on the spot.

so now i ask of you, my sweet-toothed friends, my
super competitive arch nemesises to bring this
generation-defining challenge upon yourselves.

the entice you even further to join in on this slighly
dangerous jolt to your central nervous system, the
added benefits were a late night creative period where
i did some of my best work with wonka's river of
chocolate coursing through my veins. first, a haiku:

twitch. look, an oompa loompa.
maybe you should drive."

Now Steve:
"So yes, as Katherine already told you, I have come up with the idea
for the Charlie and the Choco Challenge. All you have to do is go
see the movie, and everytime someone says the word chocolate, you
eat a piece of chocolate. Simple, right?

Some bits of advice:

1) Don't jump the gun! It takes surprisingly long for this movie to
say the word chocolate, but when it does, oh man... Remember, this
isn't a sprint, it's a marathon!
2) Have some bite size choco ready. Sometimes the word chocolate
comes up about 10 times in a minute. You've gotta be on that!
won't hit you until about 2:30pm the next day.

For the record, I was not able to complete this crazy challenge
myself. I gave up with only about 15 minutes to go, but it was
probably for the best. We had Snickers, Nestle Crunch, Kit Kat,
Choco Almonds, and Peanut M&Ms. When I close my eyes, all I see is a
big chocolate waterfall...

For those of you who don't care for chocolate, here are some other
versions of this challenge that you can try:

1) Whenever people say the word candy, eat some candy.
2) Whenever the fat German boy says or does anything, laugh.
3) Whenever Willy Wonka says "let's move on", consume an
entire "Fuji Combo" in less than 30 seconds.
4) Whenever the Umpa Loompas dance, do your best to imitate them in
the aisle."

On the turntable: Sonic Youth, "Goo"
On the nightable: Douglas C. Haring, "Okinawan Customs, Yesterday and Today" (Guess where I'm going...)

Monday, October 31, 2005

It's Halloween and You Feel Like Dancin'

How I spent my Saturday night:

Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"
---Rascals/Grateful Dead, "Good Lovin'"
---Stones, "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'?"
---Bob Marley, "Exodus"
Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?"
ZZ Top, "Jesus Just Left Chicago"
Dead Kennedys, "Holiday in Cambodia"

The last three had me on vocals.

I was dressed as Johnny Depp in Pirates. This led to the following quote:
"With this getup, if I don't get laid tonite, I don't deserve a penis."

I didn't and I don't.

On the turntable: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, "Howl"

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Bring us Mingus

I can't get enough of Mingus lately. His stuff is just manic. Bass lines like the footfalls of someone running through a Rashomon forest freckled with light. Growling horns the encroaching beasts. "The Shoes of the Fisherman's Wife Are Some Jive-Ass Slippers," besides having a fantastic title, is one of the most perfect jazz records ever recorded.

On the turntable: (Don't make me say it. MINGUS! Aw yeah!)

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Stranger than...

Over coffee with E-Ma Eric, he told me that I remind him of Ben Sachs from Paul Auster's "Leviathan." I was flattered of course, being a big fan of Auster, who can floor you when he's on, and break your heart when he's not. I was also a bit confused, never having really blown up anything of consequence. Besides, all my life I've been living like Larry Darrell. While aspiring to be Japhy Ryder.

It wasn't the first time I've been compared to a work of imagination. (Though aren't we all really, imagined into life by our parents?) Years back, in a Kobe bar long since flattened in the quake, my friend Mark said I reminded him of a cartoon character. I suppose he meant my vast range of facial expressions and exuberant way of communication. But Mark was cartoon-like in his actions. After all, this was on the night we were about to play William Tell with a dart, Mark's cigarette and far too much booze. The bartender leapt over and grabbed my arm just as I drew it back. I wouldn't have actually thrown it. I just wanted to see how far Mark would go. But I don't doubt the crazy fucker wouldn't have flinched, all the way up to the moment where the dart pierced his cheek.

On the turntable: Widespread Panic, "Uber Cobra"
On the nightable: Toni Morrison, "The Bluest Eye"

Friday, October 28, 2005

Whole Lotte Love

Took my weekly trip to Kansai, a region now awash with misery at its homegrown Tigers miserable performance in the Japan Series, which harkens comparisons with a Little League squad. Not everyone is unhappy with the team's misfortune apparently. Middle-aged women are thrilled that the victorious Lotte team is owned by a Korean company, therefore guaranteeing a handful of K-bot boy eye-candy making their way to commercials nationwide.

Safety Tip! On the train, take care not to sit beside any salaryman type who has an obvious cold. With a nose closed with congestion, he'll be forced to mouth-breathe, sending forth an odious collection of aromas which defy the staunchiest of nostrils.

On the turntable: Woody Guthrie, "Ballads of Sacco and Vanzetti"

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tales from the 'hood

Checking my bank balance recently, I noticed a couple zeros that hadn't been there before. So I did what any red-blooded American would do: squander it. Time for some antique bling-bling. Came home with a couple 19th Century iron weapons and spears. As I carried them to my door, some neighbors gave me funny looks. It can't be a good thing when the gaijin begin to arm.

I live in an old house in the old part of town. Pre-westernization, this area would have been a lesser samurai quarter, not far from the castle, Buddhist temples, and red-light district. I know a trolley used to run by here, past a large ironworks which once covered this sector. The fact that my house was built just after the war leads me to assume that this area may have been bombed. Today, most of the homes surrounding ours are of a more recent vintage, the average life span of a house in Japan being a mere 24 years. One of the newest additions is a featureless blue box. One of these days, I'm going to knock on the door and pretending I mistake it for a dental clinic, make an appointment.

A month ago, in the Nog's bar district, somebody, apparently in an alcohol-fueled rage at an uninspired life, decided to take it out on my bicycle. The shape of the front wheel now resembles a flattened pumpkin. I took it to the nearby bicycle guy. He must've vibed my musical "talent", for in the five minutes we spent talking, he knocked over just about everything in his shop, causing such a wonderful symphony of mechanical clamor that I don't doubt he was channeling John Cage. As I applauded, he told me I'd be better off just stealing a wheel from someone else's bike. I eyed his stock suspiciously.

A block or so away is a soup line for cats. Everyday at noon, a dozen or so stand below a window which I assume is the kitchen. Next door is an overgrown yard which nearly hides what I call the fairy-tale house. It is a wonderfully ancient structure of angles which I'd call gothic, if the home weren't Japanese. The overhanging trees create arches leading to magical realms beyond. In the front is a large circular stone which would be considered small currency in the Yap Islands. It's probably leftover change from a recent trip.

One of my elderly neighbors is dressed up today. He's wearing a suit with a cut thirty years old. The tie is simply massive. Must be Koizumi's new "Cool Breeze" campaign.

A low concrete wall runs along perpendicular to the houses. It separates the sidewalk from a large vegetable garden. At the base of the wall are a line of colorful weeds and flowers which grow right from the concrete, looking like they're climbing under the wall in an attempt at truency. The unpredictability of nature.

On the turntable: Eleventh Dream Day, "El Moodio"
On the nightable: Jay Rubin, "Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words"

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Unspeakable Visions of the Individual

Watched "The Source" again last night, a documentary about the Beat Generation, which reminded me of the time Zach and I got tight on Guinness at some open-mic thing in Ebisu, beer and words fueling the city-hiking muse, Zach having been stuck in the office all day, the whole while longing to wander the megapolis' s narrow streets, stepping through their shadows, past shoji-papered windows that hint at shapes beyond yet refusing detail, in the paper-picture perfect way of the hidden depths of the Japanese soul, many filled with dreams of time in foreign climes, just like we two perambulating buddhas, our footfall scrapes the sound of gutter-blown leaves, shrivelled and curled like a old man's fist, shaped by long toil with the masses, beasts of burden for Moloch, who herds them onto trains, fast trains high above the streets, like Trunk Road nagas moving the branches ready to swallow Ole' Zach and I as we lumber drunkenly in their direction, which is every direction, surrounding us in this jungle, the alleys and lanes we wander sans map, making turns by whim and instinct rather than landmark, though after one sudden unexpected turn the familiar is revealed in the form of an English couple whose apartment we suddenly found, the door before us opening to reveal their surprised faces red with whisky, brows furrowed in deep-thought at the viewing of said "Source," the final thirty minutes spinning in the machine, below TV screen revealing scenes of a 1994 Boulder and a Beat event, with Zach and I both in attendance, yet our foggy minds refusing to recall any previous discourse before that time we crossed paths in beer-sodden Chiba circa 2000, building a friendship which led to this serendipitous moment, watching a beat documentary revealing random audience shots, causing Zach to suddenly yawp, "There I Am!", bringing much laughter, until seconds later, it's my turn to yell the same, finding my own face there in the dark hall a decade gone, though the face has gone all red by now with the laughter and the whisky and the friendship, in this warm apartment safe against the cold Tokyo night in an autumn coming slowly to a close.

("That's not writing, that's typing.")

On the turntable: Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall"

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Great Gig on the Fly

A month ago, Ushi asked me to play at a gig he organized at Jazz Inn. Tim and I called a couple friends and created a short set. It was smoking, probably the best we've played. We played two Marley covers in deference to a bass playing friend who is unbelievably rigid and tight, despite coming from a funk/reggae background. On the surface, reggae seems pretty simple --I mean even potheads can play the shit. But the drumming is ridiculously complex. Tim chose to stretch "Exodus" to about ten minutes, and by the end, sweat was pouring from me, starting with my burning shoulders and forearms. I got my reprieve behind the mike. I'm really starting to get a feel for singing, though I am still not ready to look at the audience when I do. Ushi's funk band went first, and midway through their set, he called me up to take the vocals on "Superstition." I also sang again during the session that followed once the bands were done. We blazed through a fifteen minute version of "Born Under A Bad Sign," every one taking a solo, including Tim playing ragtime like piano runs with his elbows. I didn't even know he could play. Fronting the combination of Motoi on guitar and Aa-chan on bass was magic. Add Alama to the mix and satori is sure to be mine.

Monday night we went to Hi High on the pretext of a short meeting with the owner about this week's upcoming gig. Somehow, we all ended up on stage, Tim, Zach, and Cian on guitars, me on congas. A quick twenty minute set for a single salaryman flanked by three hostesses. As we played, a couple other guys came in, one of whom bought us beers. Feeling I should sit and talk with him awhile, I turned obligation on it's head by pretending I was a hostess like the two on either side of him. I copied their actions the best I could, clapping when he sang, complimenting him profusely, signing karaoke he suggested. I didn't go as far as wiping his glass or touching his knee. Maybe next time. I was having a hilarious time, and the two Filipinas got it, but he seemed clueless. I hope he doesn't read this, these memoirs of a gai-sha...

On the turntable: The Heart of Bluegrass"

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Weekend In Autumn

Saturday night I went to the local Budokan for Aikido practice. At the front of the large hall was a banner announcing the "Moto-ha Yoshin-ryu Jujutsu Taikai." Beneath it were the flags of a dozen countries, most of them Scandanavian or former Soviet States. After playing guess that flag awhile, I pondered why an international event like this was being held in the 'Nog, of all places. Sunday, I went to watch and soon had my answer. It turns out this group is an offshoot of the Nishinomiya-based Hontai Yoshin-ryu, whose current head is originally from the 'Nog. It was strange to see a group of foreigners in my small city, in MY martial arts hall (and it is mine, since I'm the only foreign budoka to train with any consistancy). Their numbers were far greater than this city's non-Asian gaijin population of around thirty. Stranger still was to hear languages other than the current lingua franca of Eigo.

Beside the fights in the dojo, I also saw two out on the streets. In front of Tsutaya, a young guy was aggressively standing inches away from some teenager, in the face-to-face way that Japanese guys get, which always builds tension in me as I wonder whether they'll kiss or kill. Later, at Buchschule, a blue kei car weaved erratically through the parking lot. I thought he was cutting off others in an attempt for the "rock star parking" space I'd just pulled out from, but instead he passed it and purposely stopped in front of another kei car. The maniac then leapt out and began hollering at the driver of the other car, madly gesturing like a marionette and pointing up the street. I wanted to see how it would play out, but the signal changed and I had to go. Strange things are afoot in the 'Nog, especially outside places which sell overpriced books.

Maybe it was the full moon. To better bathe in its perfect light, I drove up to Daisen. Coming down through a quiet stretch of forest, I startled a group of wild boars, which began to run in different directions, bumping into one another in a textbook definition of the expression, "utter confusion." Their erratic stupidity, and the obvious pig-police reference brought to mind the Keystone Cops, or maybe the more local variety. The boars ran down the hill awhile but never darted into the obvious safety of the trees. Like the jackrabbits of New Mexico, they ran out ahead of my truck, but were more frightened of running into the uncertain darkness outside the headlights. So, I slowly pulled alongside the boars and watched them awhile. My only prior experience with inoshishi had been to fish pieces out of a stew with my chopsticks. Alive, they were much more exciting. They run a little and stop, run a little and stop. The biggest one actually walked up to my door, then ran back. Then another car pulled up, coming from the other direction. Imagine the confusion! It was an agonizing few minutes. Then, as if getting some silent cue, they all ran past my car and up the hill. The other car followed, which caused them to stop again. This stalemate quickly became, well, stale, so I headed home.

The whole thing reminded me of yet another fight I saw a few years ago. While driving the mountainous roads which weave back and forth across the Tottori-Okayama line, I saw strange goings on up ahead. In the middle of the road was a huge coiled viper, under full attack from a weasel which kept running from the brush, coming at the snake in large leaps. The snake would strike, but the weasel kept jumping back to a safe range. Here too, I was able to roll up on the scene, to where the viper was just under my window. After taking a few more hits, the snake quickly moved off the road into the brush, the weasel hot on its flank. Rikki Tikki Tavi lives!

(By the way, this is my hundredth post! Fighto!)

On the turntable: Serge Gainsbourg, "Gainsbourg... Forever"
On the nightable: "The O'Henry Awards: Prize Stories 2000"

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Tragedy in Four Parts

Last weekend, Zach and I set off toward Aoyama. We were both wearing light, summery clothes, with sandals. But everyone else had on jackets and sweaters and scarves. Granted, it was a rainy day in Tokyo, but it wasn't THAT cold. Said Zach, "Tokyo has apparently decided that it's fall." Two days later in the 'Nog, the temperature took a steep dive and summer was instantly gone. I've never seen a season die so dramatically.

Lately in these "Notes," the mention of death abounds. As stated before, the 14th was the three-year anniversary of the death of my son. Ironically, on or around that day, 2 friends also blogged about death. Another friend sent a consolatory text from abroad, at the exact time that Ken died. It leads to believe that there is such a thing as the "Collective Conscious," where we are all plugged into something far greater than ourselves. Perhaps my friends "read" my thoughts and feelings that day. Or perhaps it is simply the nature of autumn, with the obvious decay of things well within sight.

On the turntable: Iron and Wine, "The Sea and the Rhythm"

Friday, October 21, 2005

On the express from Osaka to Kyoto

A blind man boards. His cap reads in English, "If it looks good, you'll see it."

At a suburban railway crossing: two cars, five bicycles, and a dripping, muddy tractor.

In a hilltop cemetary, an old man cleans a grave he'll soon occupy.

On the turntable: "Spongle, "Tales of the Inexpressive"
On the nightable: William Scott Wilson, "The Lone Samurai"

Thursday, October 20, 2005


If you find yourself in Tokyo on a weekend afternoon, one fun game you can play is "Guess My Hobby." To play, you simply ride around on the train and look at the various objects people are carrying. Those players with wild imaginations will go far. No binoculars or guide book required. Tell your friends!

On the turntable: Trance Mission, "Meanwhile"
On the nightable: Michiko Yamamoto, "Betty-san"

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Clouds and Rain

Zach said that the gods hate Tokyo. The rain seemed to fall only in the city, while the rest of the country had fair skies. The Shink ride in had been a testiment to this. A beautiful crisp autumn blue, offering the clearest view of Fuji that I've ever seen. Tokyo's streets on the other hand were slick, distorting the colors of neon. I dropped my bags at Casa Daza, having a quick beer and "arribas" with Zach, then backtracked toward Shinjuku for the workshop with David Swenson, one of the world's primary Ashtanga teachers. I arrived fairly exhausted and grumpy after trying to find the right room among the dozens that make up Studio Shinjuku. I looked forward to a mellow night of pranayama, but found that I'd misread the schedule and was instead faced with two and a half hours of 'jump-throughs" which require a fair amount of upper body strength. It wasn't long before adrenaline caught up with me, and by the time I closed out the night with a glass of red with Dana, I was pretty amped.

The next morning came too early and I quickly found myself back at the Studio. So commenced what was probably the hardest single day of yoga I've ever done. Five hours of waning strength and increasing sweat. The mat got so soaked that I decided I'd need to buy a rug before I ever did Ashtanga again. Despite these mild traumas, the day was incredible, and I got a lot of new ammunition for teaching. After practice, a group of us went to a cafe for tea. It was closed, but the manager said he'd do drinks for us. Our numbers soon increased to twenty, and we eventually occupied every table. The staff looked less than pleased. I had a nice talk with Chama, who impressed us with his new camera. Many of the others were teachers from various studios about town. (The funny thing about "booms" in Japan is that rather than scattering things, they tend to draw people together.) Besides myself, a couple other teachers had commuted in: Andrew from Kyoto, and Natalia, one of the top Ashtangi in Spain, who was winding up a few months in town on her way to Mysore. She had a few groupies in tow, taking the form of some young cookie-cutter Japanese girls quietly talking at the next table. At six, the cafe officially opened, and everyone went their separate ways. Some of us went to a cheap, local Indian place with Japanese cooks but did good chai and huge nan. Plus the beers were cold. (I'm starting to find that Japanese beers taste better after martial arts than they do after yoga. Post-yoga imbibition requires something fuller-bodied, liked red wine or Guinness.) Over dinner, Andrew kept us quite entertained, no surprise if you know him and his devilish grin.
Back at the Casa, I found Zach and Dana both up. We watched the latest episode of "Extras," then high-browed it awhile, talking yogic philosophy. At my mention of the word "Genesis, " Zach said something about "Abacab," which is of course the chord progression that best approximates the sound that the universe made at the time of the Big Bang. Whether this chord structure was progressive or was composed is currently the focus of much debate in music schools across Nebraska.

Two year old Eli joined us on Sunday morning. I always enjoy playing with him, and he seems delighted when I come to town. The look of happiness crossing his face is often tinged with a brief look of fear, due to my frequent outbursts of spastic and dramatic motion. (Not unlike my yoga, actually.) Get used to it kid, such is the unpredictible nature of fun.
Zach and I headed up to Furla on Aoyama-dori. The sidewalks were packed with umbrella-toting dawdlers. There was some bizarre procession going on, with a marching band and costumed groups of folks dancing and weaving and clacking their clackers. At the head of a group of middle-aged women was one foreign guy who had outstanding choreography. This Furla visit kicked off a day which emphasized the business of yoga. I found myself at two other studios within the next 90 minutes. Crossing a bridge into a park in Shibuya, Zach told me that here he'd once walked into the middle of a yakuza turf war. (Sumimasen with a downward karate-chopping hand motion just doesn't cover it.)
I bought my yoga rug at Chama's studio, where I met Kengo who I remembered from the workshop, then set out for tea with Leza and Cameron. Waiting for my train at the station, I ran into a woman I met at EC. (She'd pursued me but I wasn't interested. The next morning I saw her leaving another guy's tent. Today, she was hand in hand with a multi-perforated J-punk. Ah, the fickle energy of youth.) I boarded my train, and as the doors closed, it began to move. Not forward. Back and forth. As I removed my headphones I heard people whispering "Jisshin. Jisshin." I'm no strangers to earthquakes, but standing on a sealed train three stories above the street in Tokyo is enough to soil the shorts.
Met Leza and when asked what I've been up to, the poor woman, who I hadn't seen in nine months, was forced to endure one of my patented babble-logues. Later, at Sun and Moon, she proved that she was a good sport by signing a copy of her new book for me. Dashed up the street to Integration Matsuri, held at the Claska Hotel where candle-light was throwing some wicked shadows on the fashion show and demos that followed: capoeria, belly dancing, yoga. One of the main reasons I'd gone was to try to meet Gio, who was spinning that night. (I love the CDs he puts out, under the name, "Makyo," and I highly recommend them. You can stream a few tracks at the Dakini Records page. In fact, do.) I wanted to ask him if he was the film reviewer for the Japan Times. He bashfully he admitted he was, and I praised him to great heights. I've been following his reviews for a decade now, and they're perfect. In fact, back in 1997, I'd almost met him in Hong Kong, when I'd been doing minor acting gigs, and had scammed a press pass to the HK Film Festival in order to meet directors and producers. Gio told me he had been busy hanging out with Christopher Doyle. Dude!!!
The party was, as they say, craic-ing. I saw a lot of familiar faces and made lots of new friends. Integration indeed. The words, "Yoga Boom" resonate still.

Next day, headed back to the 'Nog in order to share with my students the flying lessons I'd recieved from David Swenson. Left under heavy Tokyo skies, which cleared by Izu. The usual scenes followed. Shizuoka's tea plantations. Unbelievable Nagoya ugliness, today highlighted by the ongoing destruction of the Expo grounds. (In this city, someone has apparently decided that colorful tiles add cheer to a drab cityscape. Gray river birds scream "Bullocks!", wings spread wide like a flasher's raincoat.) Chubu plains a quilt of rice buds and cosmos, stretching toward the always magical Kumano mountains. Kyoto ringed with scarred hills. Tunnels of Kobe. Sanyo's industrial seashore. Pachinko lit Okayama. Then over the mountains to the 'Nog.

That night, Monday, I'd hoped to answer emails, but got sidetracked by the lunar eclipse. Laying in bed with a glass of red, watching the sun's slow shadow creep across the moon's face, I suddenly flashed on the word "hatha."

On the turntable, "Poi Dog Pondering"
On the nightable: Lawrence Rogers, "Tokyo Stories"

Friday, October 14, 2005

October 14th elegy

Ken-chan, today three years gone. I miss you more with every breath.

I awoke this day in Kyoto. I wasn't the least bit sad, the day being far too gorgeous for that. I sat on the banks of the Kamo-gawa, eating breakfast and playing lizard.

Ken died around one in the afternoon. I'd hoped to find a temple where I could light incense, but here in Kyoto of all places, the routes I chose didn't take me by a single one. As one o'clock neared, I chose an inauspicious approach, getting into a couple minor disagreeances with a JR worker and some part-timer at Subway. Typical crap about inflexibility of rules superceding a hyper-flexive reality. And on this day, with weather that was too perfect, and the calender date a reminder that life is too fleeting and unpredictable. Why get bogged down with rules? I took my own advice and blew off the temple idea, then found a quiet planter near Kyoto Station to sit quietly.

A week before, I'd made coffee plans for one o'clock, momentarily overlooking the time and date. I have mixed feelings about this. While Ken is with me constantly, my occasional forgetting is a sign I'm moving on. Yet I'll never get so far that I lose sight of this day, the horrible 14th of October.

On the turntable: UNKLE, "Never, Never, Land"

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Confessions of an armchair budoka

All this talk of Kyoto reminds me that I neglected to mention a trip a couple weeks back. My main purpose was to attend a martial arts event held at the Butokuden. After a forced march cross-town with Anna, I entered the building, a huge, gorgeous structure slightly reminiscent of where Morpheus fought Neo in the first Matrix film. Two summers ago, I'd had the pleasure of doing a lot of iai here when I trained for my sandan test. Today there were a couple dozen groups demonstrating some of the varied arts of the area, a real mishmash of styles and eras, koryu and modern and hybrid. They all marched into the arena to that song that served as the theme to the 'Bad News Bears," the spectators clapping along. Ironically, the Takeuchi members, whose group had the longest history and richest tradition, were the only ones keeping it real by wearing street clothes. This procession was succeeded by the singing of the always controversial national anthem. In a militaristically charged place like this, it was hardly a surprise. The young adults in the crowd were sitting quietly while the old timers were standing and singing proudly. I imagine the song must have entirely different connotations for them, the only of these assembled warriors to have been touched by war. Next up, cheerleaders! It's the last thing I'd expect at a martial arts demo. They were the most lethargic group of cheerleaders I've ever seen, nary a smile among them. In Japanese, the word, "genki" has no real equivalent in English, but often I've seen it in dictionaries as "pep." And who are more the Popes of pep than cheerleaders? Sadly, this group seemed to lack any. "(Sigh) We've, um, got spirit, yes we do, we've got spi--aw forget it."
Tameshigiri (test cutting) was the first event, and they had spirit, yes they did. Those swords went through bamboo like butter, and though I was most definitely impressed, for some reason, in my head, I kept paraphrasing one of my favorite lines from the film "Arthur:" "You must've hated that tree." Chambara was next. With their Nerf swords, the gang looked like they were having a pillow fight. "You're it, hee hee hee." Change the uniforms of the women and you have yourselves a new fetish. This thought was a nice transition to some strange judo/karate hybrid. As they rolled on the mats, I kept thinking, "Get a room." Then little by little, each subsequent group helped me remember how much I love these arts and their techniques, and my brain eventually shut up and I gave the place and the event the respect they were due.

On the turntable: Ryans Adams, "Jacksonville City Nights"
On the nightable: Ambrose Bierce, "Short Stories"

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

1000 words

Finally figured out how to post photos. Here are some pics from my recent trip Stateside.

Ben and some giant trees in Big Basin. Keep in mind the dude is 7 foot 6. Beer break at the German Explorer's Club on Mount Tam.
Thai iced tea in Noe Valley.
B and me.
Gino walks the red dust near Acoma.
House band in front of Yoga Source, Santa Fe.

Kurt and Mason during Mason's last hours. Fear and Loathing across Nebraska.
Rocky Mountain Bluegrass Festival as seen and heard from Ethan's patio.
Buddha nature times three. With Hot Tub.
Hiking the Flatirons.
Running Man Eric and Brown County State Park, IN.
Derek on the beach, Chicago.
Braver at his restaurant.
Post-yoga Guinness with Ben and Emiko.
Anna playing "Kate Hepburn" on Sado.
Okuri-daiko. After the deluge.
Kodo beats us off.
On the turntable: Stanton Moore, "Flyin' the Koop"

Monday, October 10, 2005

Kyoto: Slight Return

Drove to Kyoto for the first time. Dense clouds had settled on the 'Nog, and whipping along the fog-shrouded treetops of the Yonago Expressway, I felt like I was moving through Borneo. At 105 kph, the dashboard began to "ping!" and with those pings and the claustrophobic whiteness, I suddenly became a submarine commander. Irritation created by the incessant pinging can be overcome by turning the stereo up to 11 and caterwauling along to Paul Weller.

It takes 4 hours to make it to Kyoto by bus. I did the trip in 2 1/2. It wasn't that I was speeding so much as the music drove me forward. Once in the city, I was amazed at how different things look by car. On the bus, you're looking sideways essentially, and the eye deals with smaller details like sidewalk pedestrian traffic and the temples, shops, or homes beyond. Looking straight through the windshield of a car, you get a larger overview, and taken on this scale, you realize that Kyoto is in many ways, a pretty ugly place. The beauty of the trees hides the ugliness of the forest.

In the afternoon, on the east side, I met Eric (of E-Ma and Kyoto Journal) at Buttercups for taco rice and much needed caffeine. We had an interesting chat about upcoming issues now brewing at KJ. He's just back from a trip to the US, accompanying one of his Hanazono profs for a tour of private collections of Japanese art. I envy the fact that he has experienced beauty that the rest of us will never see.
Later, on the west side, Anna S. and I went to her local for beer, sake, and the wonder that is chijimi. Upon learning of my profession, the mama-san did yoga poses in between refilling our glasses. We talked about the Japanese national team's soccer match, held earlier that night. The mama-san said it had been against Uraguay, a bar patron said Ukraine, and the newspaper later said Latvia. The fog had moved inward...

Speaking of soccer, I'm reading a terrific book called, "How Soccer Explains the World." It tries to define globalization in terms of the game and its supporters. I highly recommend it to fans of the sport, or to those with a passing interest. If you can understand why the Japanese call the game "soccer", yet have formed the JFA, or Japanese "Football" Association, you know more about the game than anyone and have no need for this book.

On the turntable: Jim White, "Drill a Hole in that Substrate and Tell Me What You See."
On the nightable: Franklin Foer, "How Soccer Explains the World"

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Cheat sheet

Here are my own answers to the questions posed Wednesday.

Philosopher: Chuang Tzu, the world's first beatnik

Date: Cleopatra, not very attractive supposedly, but had the sex appeal to turn two generals' togas into tents

Explorer: with Reinhold Messner, a walk around the English countryside

Artist: Akira Kurosawa

Writer: Kurt Gutjahr, my brother and sometime alter-ego

Battle: Ichinotani for the amazing cavalry descent on Suma beach

Discovery: when noise became music

Ruler: Shotoku-taishi

Event: Woodstock

One Day Visit: return to Yonago on Oct. 14th, 2002 and prevent my son's fatal accident

On the turntable: Jerry Garcia Band gig, July 29th& 30th, 1977

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Wake up! It's 50 AD

Spent a good part of this grey day watching "Waking Life" again. I am a big fan of Linklater films, "Slacker" being one of my all time faves, due to its capturing a particular time in my youth. "Waking Life" is like it's heavier cousin. The DVD has this cool feature where we can read as subtitles the ideas and concepts which gave birth to the screenplay. I'd also recommend watching the film itself with its dialogue subtitled, so as to further imprint those ideas on your brain. As I did when I saw it the first time, I only watched in twenty minute increments, to allow myself time to digest. (Years ago I saw a similar film, "Mind Walk" in the theater, and remember wishing I was watching the video so I could do precisely this.) This film feeds your head, which in turn nourishes journals...

On a sadder note, Sarara closed last Friday. This Asian cafe went fully microbiotic 18 months ago, the first restaurant in Yonago to do so. The world needs more places like this, offering cheap healthy food, Vietnamese coffee, and free internet service. Frustratingly, many of this city's better places have closed over the years, due to a fickle public who prefer trends over quality. Sarara was a star on the expat scene and will be sorely missed.
Last night was a special farewell party for special customers. Many of the 'Nog's fun and funky people were in attendance, many of whom I hadn't seen in a while, including Tani-chan, Shogen-san, Simona, Pamela, and Manjinder. The night was an international splash of creative vegan delights, imported wines, and good talk. It was sad to walk out the doors for the final time, but I anticipate that Shiho, Miho, and the gang will move on to do wonderful things with their lives.

On the turntable: Stereolab, "Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night"
On the nightable: Sachio Ito, "The Tomb of the Wild Chysanthemum"

Friday, October 07, 2005

Red red wine (?)

The other day I wrote about coincidence. They often have far-reaching consequences. Wednesday and Thursday, I found myself working at LuonLuon for the first time. Strangely, all four of Miki's employees were simultaneously unavailable. Miki had just come back from the 'Nam, and had loads of new merchandise to prepare. I worked the front, greeting customers with varied renditions of "Irassyaimase!" I had planned a quick trip to Kyoto, but decided to push it back to the weekend. The consequences of that decision will soon play out...
While at the shop Thursday, I recieved a text message from Jenn, saying she was having a birthday get-together at Missile. Ironically, in a conversation I had had an hour before, I found out that Jenn had gone back to Canada for the summer due to health problems. If I hadn't met that other person, I would never have known that Jenn had left, and would've gone to the bar assuming she'd been here all along. The party was small, but I was surprised to see a few JETs from Tottori city who were in town to take advantage of the 'Nog's plethora of escape opportunities, all bound for far reaching places like Hiroshima, Fukuoka, and Seoul. I too, made a quick escape, my attendance brief due to the fact that I showed up already pretty buzzed.
I'd earlier had dinner with Local Legends Tim and Zack. We'd gotten together to watch a DVD copy of "Alice's Restaurant" which I'd bought while in the States. I love 60's movies, with their hip dialog and herky-jerky camera work. The story and music were good, the acting less so. No doubt many of the "actors" seemed to be Arlo Guthrie's friends. (Cronyism exists at all levels.) As I watched the film, I thought how bizarre it must be for Arlo, or Ziggy Marley, or others whose parents were giants and had died while their children were relatively young. Arlo, never really having had the chance to get to know his father, no doubt defines him in legendary terms like the rest of us do.
My thoughts were everywhere that evening, due in part to the "Dago Red" wine we were drinking. It was an Australian Shiraz of unknown vintage. Left for years to age in the kitchen, the 'Nog's extremes of hot and cold had metamorphisized the stuff into something so powerful it caused in me strange hallucinatory thought patterns. This rotgut seemed to affect us all differently, Tim bursting into sudden and frequent Tony Clifton imitations; Zack laughing hysterically on the floor. Every sip (and a sip was about all you could stand) was accompanied by contorted facial expressions and foul language. Yet despite a taste that can only be descibed as white-blind terror, we kept going back for more.

On the turntable: Jimi Hendrix, "BBC Sessions"

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hot and spicy

Reading about Tapas in the Sanskrit sense (meaning "heat") led me to think of tapas in the culinary sense. Having tried tapas a few times, I can't say I really see the appeal. I mean, I can see it, but it doesn't really work for me. Maybe the appeal for Americans is the neat compartmentalization of the foreign, cut into easy to digest portions. Tapas are rarely eaten alone, usually being an experience shared with friends, the safety and security of facing the unfamiliar with our peers, followed by a group-think appraisal or dismissal. This is the package tour of cuisine.

On the turntable: John Coltrane, "A John Coltrane Retrospective. The Impulse Years"
On the nightable: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, "The Perfection of Yoga"

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Quiz Night!

Below is a list of time machine questions I used to ask my English students. Sometimes I'll throw them out on a long road trip with friends. Please send your answers via email (if you know my address) or in the comments section (though no doubt most comments will say something like, "Love your blog, dude! Will bookmark you. Come by and check out my page, dealing with the more pleasant features of muffler belts!").
I'll post my own answers in a few days.

You can talk with one philosopher.
You can date anyone in history.
You can take a trip with an explorer. (With whom and where?)
You can watch any artist at work.
You can have a conversation with any writer.
You can witness a battle.
You can be present at any scientific discovery.
You can meet a famous ruler or head of state.
You can take part in one historical event.
You can visit any place in the world for one day.

I look forward to hearing your answers...

On the turntable: Ween, "The Pod"
On the nighttable: Christopher Yohmei Blasdel, "The Single Tone"

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Among the elements

The rods and cones in my eyes haven't worked properly since birth, and as a result, I am unable to see numbers in those multi-colored circles which I sometimes come across in anatomy textbooks. I wonder if the colors I see in my world are the same that you see in yours. If I were hit on the head and this "problem" suddenly miraculously corrected, would I go insane in seeing that the sun is now your blue, the sky your yellow? I wonder too if the colors I saw at the beach on Sunday night were more amazing in being viewed with my imperfect eyes. The combination of overcast sky, reflective sea, and fading daylight created the most perfect shade of blue I've ever seen. Was the world wearing this hue to mourn the death of a season?

Monday morning I found myself beside a completely different body of water. I finally had my hangover-delayed djembe lesson with Alama. He wanted to be outside on this near-perfect fall day, so we played in the park beside Lake Togo. It was bizarre to be an American in Japan, conversing in French with a man from Guinea, within sight of a large Chinese garden and pavillion. (All in a day's work for this internationalizationer.) As we played, an old man fishing nearby reeled in something big, and Alama without a pause began to sing out in his powerful griot voice: "A fish ya, a fish ya, give me some of that fish, man, if you please." In Japanese. I wonder how he'd handle a Marley tune.

After the lesson, I headed into the hills nearby. I had heard that there was a small castle around here, atop a steep mountain path. Midway up, I passed hundreds of wasps swarming a dead tree beside the path. As usual, I had my head down, carefully looking for vipers on the overgrown trail. I had heard the wasps, but hadn't seen them until I was standing amidst them. A tense moment. If you hike a lot in Japan, you'll often come across old-timers who'll warn you about wasps, but this was the first time I'd actually seen any. Apparently they hadn't worried the old-timer I met at the mountain top, beside the castle. He was a spry 84, and had climbed up from a nearby village. Surprisingly, he seemed unfazed at my skin-tone, smiling and asking where I live rather than where I'm from. After a quick chat he descended and I was left alone with the history and the view. Hiking down via a different path, I came across some bizarre rock formations and an explanatory sign. I love how in countries with a long history, local place names are often taken from legend. It gives the feeling that I'm tied into something far bigger, far older, than myself. Much nicer than calling a place "Taylorville" simply because some guy named Edward Joseph Taylor decided to build himself a bank and railroad stop.

At the bottom, I got into my car and drove toward the sea, singing along loudly with Taj Mahal, as the windmills spun slowly, their blades pointing me toward home.

On the turntable: "Avalon Blues: Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt"

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Yesterday, I jokingly called for the end of summer, though in reality I could do with an endless summer. (America, keep driving those SUV's!) Today, the air is cool and a light autumn rain is falling. Coincidence? Hardly, since it is typhoon season, and these storms are usually preceeded by a few days of muggy heat. At the moment, typhoon 19 is out west, heading toward China. The official name, is "Longwang," which is fitting, since this weather is totally screwing all those people nationwide who had planned to have Sports Day today. THAT part is the coincidence.

I am a big fan of coincidence, which is why I am extremely fond of the work of Paul Auster. Yesterday, Local Legend Tim told me that he attended a game at Yankee Stadium on August 15th. I had planned on going to the same game, but choose not to, in order to spend time with my injured Nana. I am certain that if I had gone, the gods of coincidence would've arranged it for Tim and I to run into each other.

The other day I mentioned my friend Colleen. Back in January, when preparing for my trip to Ireland, I had emailed my Irish mate Eunice asking for advice. She sent a lengthy response, closing with, "as I write, an IM has just come in from miz colleen sheils, resident of tokyo, to say she'll phone me in a few minutes, so I will wrap up kind sir." The next day, I go to Tokyo to play percussion at a kirtan for tsunami relief, with Reema Datta and Danny Paradise, in town for an Ashtanga workshop. I'm a bit early, so after dropping my stuff at Sun and Moon Yoga, I go across the street to the Starbucks in Meguro Station. As I await my caramel machiatto, I hear someone say, "Ted?" Sure enough, it's Colleen, though I'm baffled as to how she recognizes me after 6 years. Stranger still, we've both ordered the same drinks, plus she's on her way to the kirtan I'm about to play.

The Japanese call this kind of phenomena, "en." It's a vague term, almost meaning fate, but not quite. I think of "en" as the dental floss that binds us to the mystery of the universe. "Dental floss" may sound trite, but really, this "en" is something that everyone is familiar with, yet seems to be overlooked as insignificant by most people.

On the turntable: Wilco, "A Ghost is Born"

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The summer that wouldn't die

This is ridiculous! It was 30 C today! Perfect beach day. I need summer to officially end so that I can begin taking my life seriously again.

Couldn't make it to the beach due to work (pardon the 4-letter word), but had a little time to hang with Local Legends Tim and Zach. I entered their house in a suit and left in borrowed attire, allowing me to hit (Dis-)Gusto as a surfer. Later we went to the Minatoyama monkey cage and talked up simian anarchy.

Last night went late again. Had a pseudo-surprise party at English School. I brought the congas over, playing solo to a techno CD in an empty room for awhile, til the others caught on. Dancing and other bedlam broke out. Pete in the rarest form. When Michael was on the drums, I searched the kitchen for exotic noise making implements. Chopstick and coffee press cowbell. Thumbtack box maracas. Who knew that yoga blocks would create such a marvellous rhythmical CLAP! Show me a stationery store and I'll show you an orchestra. (Go to today's post at Shell's Journal for forensic evidence. You know the drill by now. To the left my friend!)

Besides the heat, another recent theme has been films. Been reading Ethan Coen's book of short stories, so decided to watch his remake of "The Ladykillers." I loved it as much as the original, Alec Guinness sheer magic. Saw Bertolucci's "The Dreamers" again, this time on DVD with all the extra stuff on the '68 barricades. Absolutely, absolutely floored by "Buena Vista Social Club." (Like a riddle: "How many musical greats can you fit on one stage?") I wanna go to Cuba so badly, to wander below shuttered European flats, dodging ancient cars piloted by drivers drunk on rum. And dance in a land where everyone's a percussionist. I know why the US State Department's so afraid. That little island stole the soul.

Years ago Miki told me that if you drink sports drink (Aquarius, Pocari, Gatorade) before drinking alcohol , you'll get extra buzzed. Tonight I'll test that theory over a new red wine discovery. Papio Cabernet Sauvignon. Bought solely for the beatnik monkeys playing bongos on the label. A steal at 882 yen, ya dig?

On the turntable: Grateful Dead, "Dick's Picks Vol. 23"

Friday, September 30, 2005

I know what I did last summer

Here are some bits of travel detritus which sifted thru the cracks of memory.

My English (1967-94) is a dead language. I come across a multitude of things I can't understand. The "double fine zone" roadworks signs inspire a pickup line. "Baby, this must be a construction zone 'cause you double fine!"

In Santa Fe, taking notes on zen, I miswrite, "Carrying wood and chopping water." It almost sounds like a Chinese euphemism for sex.

A hawk sits on the sign saying we are now leaving Iowa.

Across Nebraska, I see a place called Ox Yoke. Throughout the day, I am amazed at how many of the towns and rivers have names familiar from Native America history.

The "Trust Jesus" signs everywhere across the Midwest. (Thanks, but I'll keep my hands on the wheel just the same. I'm no Jedi.)

How my Jersey accent comes back when I'm on the East Coast. It also happened last fall, when I watched all five seasons of The Sopranos in a single month. At the time, any question my English students asked was no doubt answered with something like, "What am I, an asshole?"

Those wonderfully unapologetically non-PC New Englanders. It truly is the last bastion of white culture.

At EC, watching Chieko of Kodo drift across the stage, her parasol hat and long, wind-blown sleeves making her look like a jellyfish moving in slow motion.

Laying in the heat of an August day. Saying to Ben of KJ, "Sleeping in the sun is a spiritual experience."

Floating thru the insanity of Tokyo Station at rush hour with Faith No More's cover of "Easy" on the iPod.

On the ferry, throwing raisins to seagulls, which they'd drop, only to be picked out of the air by lower flying gulls.

Sharing an onsen with a half-dozen men with red and white striped arms. Fishermen at rest.

Two zelkova trees planted the same day at Kodo Village. The one that has been talked under is twice as high as the other, "watered" by syllables.

On the turntable: Natalie Merchant, "Live in Concert"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tokyo KASA Report 2: Get your Shibuya-ya's out

Returned from Sado the following weekend, into the arms of typhoon driven rain. After a quiet, week in isolation, Mon Frere Eric and I sought out the place that would offer the greatest contrast: Shibuya. We wandered in the neon rain, he being a good sport by purposely avoiding mentioning Blade Runner cliches. It was the usual Sunday dusk madness of hipsters and freaks and fashion slaves. Without fail, every single attractive girl was with a guy. I saw a group of young men in identical purple shirts and due to recent Sadist conditioning, I thought for a second that they were Kodo apprentices, often similarly attired. An African man seemed to purposely avoid giving us a flyer, but gave it to someone else immediately behind us. I turned to find out why, and saw two B-boys reading the flyer over. Eric and I circled back to Starbucks, where we were herded in by the staff. I hadn't minded the abrupt transition back to mega-city space until that moment. It took us awhile, but we finally got our coffees and a window seat overlooking the crossing. Umbrellas filled the intersection gradually from every direction, looking like waves as they'd crash in the middle, then recede to the opposite side.

We made it back to Aoyama for a farewell dinner, French surprisingly. The next morning was filled with the usual drawn out farewells, though I was able to meet a young photographer from Mie who after a long time in the US, had recently been deported for no apparent reason. I bought a postcard in commiseration. Then set off to Shibuya again to have lunch with Colleen, dragging Gavino and Will along. We ate at a faux-Mexican place down some random side-street. After my own farewell to the US-bound boys, Colleen and I met Chika at the Loft. She was back in town for a mere four days, to close up her old life in Japan before taking a hotel job in Chicago. We doubled back, past the young women wearing orange dresses and white caps who Chika called "toothpaste girls", to the hip little cafe which was above the Mexican place we'd recently left. It was great to see Chika, an old friend from the 'Nog who I hadn't seen in over 6 years. We talked of her recent half year wandering Asia and about old times and friends. It's funny but I had hardly know Chika or Colleen when they lived up here, but have grown to count them as good friends. Life as ellipsis.
That night I had planned to do yoga with Dana at Shizen, but we blew it off to go to Inokashira park. (A growing theme, the blowing off of yoga while in town.) It was a mellow comfortable night, with young men in suits strolling with their girls, and their more colorfully-dressed counterparts banging drums or selling jewelry on blankets. Dana did yoga poses using playground equipment as props. Eli's Bounding Toddler footwork was no match for my Praying Mantis style. Zach and I drank a beer at the lake's edge pondering those things we usually ponder. (Tonite it was whether that light in the sky was Mars.) Most likely, musical references did occur. (The dude's unstumpable.) Later we grabbed some Indian takeaway, washed down with micro-beer I'd bought on Sado.

Tuesday was pretty chilled out. Hanging in the park again with Dana and Eli. Did some yoga at YogaJaya in Shibuya. Afterward, met Ron Beaubien for pizza at Tony's in Kichijoji. Ron too, I'd know for years, but only recently did I feel confident in calling him friend. A longtime martial artist and Japan resident, his stories always educate and fascinate.
Later, Cherine, who lives nearby, called and wanted to meet me for a drink. Five minutes later I showed up at Sun Road, to find her passionately playing her beautiful Egyptian drum. We set off for the Milk Bar, which had been highly recommended by Josh at Bondi Books. Out front, we saw some sort of commotion in the street. Cherine: "Is it a fight?" Me, joking: "Probably some art thing." Upon approach we saw a purse on the ground, a young woman gathering the contents strewn across the street. A young guy (boyfriend?) stood over her, not helping. Cherine knelt beside the girl and asked if she was OK. I lifted my head at the others standing around, and for the first time saw the cameras, the boom mike. I gently took Cherine by the shoulders and pulled her out of the shot. The whole film crew burst out laughing. Safely inside the bar, we seemed to enter a completely different film. It was patterned after the Milk Bar in A Clockwork Orange, and the whole place was a shrine to the film, now playing on the TV above the bar. (And no doubt playing again as you read this post.) Cherine and I shifted gears to discuss creative political projects and movements we knew. We pondered whether art can save the world. I feel we're up to the challenge...Is the world?

Wednesday, I went down to Enoshima to meet a couple EC staff for lunch. I arrived about an hour early, so wandered about. Few things define loneliness better than beach towns at the end of the season. Shops like the bleached bones of fish in the sun, barer than usual, picked clean in earlier days. There were a few import shops with sarongs of bland patterns hanging at discount. Gaudy wooden carvings catch dust. Sadder still were the few men walking around in shirts and ties, sharp contrast to the bare-chested surfers riding their bicycles, boards like an outrigger. Glad to see I'm not the only one who still goes in the water in mid-September. I eventually wound up at a small cafe specializing in Chinese teas. As I was the only customer, I talked with the owner, an elderly woman whose son-in-law is Taiwanese. The woman's enthusiasm impressed me. Even at her advanced age, she is actively studying Qigong and the Chinese language. Over my oolong, we talked about chi awhile, before I had to go meet my friends.
Back in Shibuya, I met Chika and Colleen and friends for dinner at DaiButsu KoroKoro which may be one of the hippest bars in the world. It is a veritable habitrail in black, punters boozing it up in small boxes stacked upon one another. It's not a place I'd want to be caught in during a large earthquake. Though the fun of trying to find the toilet after a few Yuzu beers more than makes up for it. The art and statuary is incredible. I found out later that this was created by the same guy who did Cafe Christo in Umeda, where I'd recently been with Keith. They even had free-range chicken from our local and beloved mountain, Daisen. Check it out. Better yet, take me.

On the turntable: Gov't Mule, "The Deepest End"
On the nighttable: Ethan Coen, "Gates of Eden"