Thursday, May 31, 2012


The river got a haircut today.  The men in the blue trucks, with their matching overalls trimmed the banks of its winter coat. A family of Capybara rustle in the stubble.  (Dr. Dave assures me that they're Nutria, which sounds to me more like an artificial sweetener.) Their incongruous presence draws a handful of onlookers, including one old timer who shakes his head, as if disgusted by what he's seen his country become.  May's usual lack of rain means that the river is low.  Certain features are unfamiliar, like catching a woman without her make-up.  At the base of the waterfalls, the bed is decorated with Maori tattoos.  Further downriver, a group of school girls chase each other on a gravel island that usually isn't there.

Other sights, other figures are in their usual places.  There's the Man Facing Northeast, who stands perfectly still, looking out at Mt. Hiei.  Occasionally, he'll do some funky karate tai chi mojo with his hands.  Further up is that long-haired, bare-chested guy who works magic with a clear glossy orb, spinning it over his hands and arms and chest, as if it is operating by physics all its own.  And the talented middle-aged soprano sax player, blowing through his usual repertoire under Kuramaguchi Bridge.

And all the other supporting cast:  the college musicians, and the student athletes.  The moms in hats and toddlers in strollers.  The riverside book club.  The overdressed joggers.  Riders of expensive bicycles wearing pointy eyewear.  Middle aged men in tank tops, feeding off the sun.   Pensioners doing hurky jerky marionette exercises that look like murder on the joints.

And me.  Pushing the stroller beside the water, auditioning my daughter for the cast.

On the turntable:  The Stranglers, "Peaches"

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sky watches sky

Strange weather yesterday.  Most bizarrely, an unseasonable squall rolled in.  And again.  And yet again.  Sunny skies in between. 

During the height of the morning show, I sat with my ten month-old daughter in the engawa, screen open to the wet, and to the pyrotechnics.  We sat looking out, picking up on what nature had to teach.  At the subtle gradients of pressure.  At the calibration of distance.  At the variables in size, the raindrops leading Sora toward an understanding of big-Bigger-BIGGEST.  

And most important of all was the lesson in impermanence, as the sun rolled back on through, lightening a face radiant with her new knowledge.  

On the turntable:  Peter Murphy, "Dust"

Monday, May 28, 2012


Even another cup of coffee
Cannot steel me against
This morning's ugly sky.

On the turntable:  Traffic, "On the Road"

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Papers: Yoshida Kenko

"To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and to hold intimate converse with unseen generations - such a pleasure beyond compare."

On the turntable:  Stevie Ray Vaughan, "Bluebird Lounge"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Peel Slowly and See

In Karuizawa, there is a rock transcribed with a haiku by Basho:


Rendered most unpoetically in English as:

"In the morning the snow lies thick on the ground.
Not only people, but horses seem to be elegant."

So I took a stab:

"In the fresh snow of morning
Even the horses 
Have a certain elegance."

On the turntable:  Lynyrd Skynyd, "One More From the Road" 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Papers: Akutagawa Ryonosuke

Life is an Olympic Games sponsored by a group of lunatics.

 On the turntable:  The Stranglers, "The Very Best of..." 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Nakasendo Waypoint #28

Swallows circling, circling,
Spinning halos  
Over Narai's twin rows.

On the turntable:  Dinosaur Jr., "Dinosaur"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Nakasendo Waypoint #27

Rat snakes seek warmth
At the stone feet
Of Ontake's protective deities.

On the turntable:  Green Day, "Dookie"

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Nakasendo Waypoint #26

Snow melt and spring rain
Broaden the shoulders
Of Karasawa Falls.

On the turntable:  Ry Cooder, "Music by Ry Cooder"

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nakasendo Waypoint #25

In the darkened corners 
Of the inn at Shinchaya, 
Live the remnants of winter's chill.

On the turntable:  Dead Can Dance, "A Passage in Time"

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Papers: George Orwell

"Journalism is printing what someone else doesn't want printed: everything else is PR.”

On the turntable:  Bruce Springsteen, "The Rising"

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Nakasendo Waypoint #24

Even Ena's paper factory
Refuses to soil 
This perfect May sky.

On the turntable:   Santana, "Lotus"


Friday, May 11, 2012

Nakasendo Waypoint #23

"Reflections of Ozu"

In their clean white uniforms,
A group of schoolgirls
Comes singing past Hikone castle.

On the turntable:  Les Claypool, "Live Frogs, Set 1" 

Monday, May 07, 2012

Escape is so Simple

I'm sitting in the bath, pretty fagged out.  It had been a good but long day.  Some business took me up to Obama, along a pleasant drive over the hills and to the sea.  Beside her, I ate bento, thinking long about how I love the Sea of Japan, and how much I miss living those calm and quiet days in San-in.  I baptized my toes in her cold waters.  Then home, the Golden Week traffic thickening the closer I came to Kyoto, under clouds building into eventual squall.

But I'm still in the bath, still fagged out.  Before me, a single spigot extends from the wall.  The heat and steam from the bath have caused the metal to sweat, the condensation glistening in the dim light.  My eyes are fixed on that spigot.  And as I watch, I think how wonderful it would be if, were I to twist the handle, it would begin to flow with icy beer.  Flow into a frozen mug, capping what, with the sea lapping my toes, and the squall bursting open, is undoubtedly the first day of summer.

Or so I thought, until the next day, when the hail began to fall...

On the turntable:  "Shanti Project Collection" (Various)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sunday Papers: Guttersnipe Das

"I struggle to explain, when people ask, “Is it difficult to be a foreigner in Japan?”

Yes, it is difficult.  But it is nowhere near as difficult as it is to be Japanese in Japan."  
On the turntable:  Pink Floyd, "Live 1971"
On the nighttable:  Kayano Shigeru, "Our Land was a Forest"

Saturday, May 05, 2012


Chiropractors must love cell phones, they way people talk on them, necked cricked to one side.

 On the turntable:  Quantic Soul Orchestra, "Stampede" 

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Doing good during Golden Week

From our mates at Deep Kyoto:
Event: Massive Bargain Sale / Gathering / Sing-a-long / Cookie Fest
Purpose: To raise lots of cash/awareness for IDRO Japan’s great work in the disaster-struck Tohoku region!
Dates & Times: Saturday May 5th – 11:00 – 21:00 /Sunday May 6th – 10:00 – 15:00
Location: Very close to Demachiyanagi Station at the 左京西部いきいき市民活動センター (Sakyou Nishibu Iki-iki Shimin Katsudou Center). Please note – it’s not the same location as last year!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Silver and Gold

Suburbs thicken the landscape toward Tokyo.  The Sky Tower beckons for the final leg into Tokyo. 

 The city in its usual Golden Week post-Apocalyptic mode -- the Yamanote with ample seating, the streets near empty.  Nothing moving at 6 am Sunday morning.  

Mindful of the undead, I cross the street and board the Shink, a silver bullet pointed towards home...

On the turntable:  George Winston, "All the Seasons of George Winston"