Travelogue - Home

Date: 21 November, 2003
Time: 01:06
edited: Fri, Nov 8, 00:07
Subject:  Damn it feels good to be a gangsta' [note: names have been removed to protect the innocent]

...But real gangsta-ass niggahs don't flex nuts,
cause real gangsta-ass niggahs know they got em'. 

-The Ghetto Boys

Fall in Japan.  The leaves are finally changing.  The first tree changed  more than a month ago; now we're finally approaching Peak Leaf Season.  All month I've been waiting on the edge of my seat.  I just got four roles of film developed, but instead of scanning them, I've been writing to you fine people all night.

Kyoto abounds in fine-ass temples.  Although the city was ransacked, burned, razed to the ground in the 1500's, it has seen little conflict since.  During WWII, the U.S. spared Kyoto, while we levelled most of the rest of urban Japan.  A few Gardens were laid out in time immemorial, and there are a few trees that are beyond ancient.  The very mountainsides that surround Kyoto are planned forests.  So when autumn falls, its spectacular around here. 

Among the hundreds of temples, there are several that are particularly special.  I went to Tofukuji with a friend last monday.  It was pouring rain, and the temple was still crowded with people, undaunted by the weather.  Now that's dedication.  I wish I'd had the presence of mind to photograph the crowd of people queuing up beneith their umbrellas to wander through the maple grove.  It was crazy.

Wednesday was perfect weather.  Bright sunshine, a little chilly, but warm in the sun.  I went to Kinkakuji.  This is a pavilion built on the edge of a reflecting pond, whose upper two floors are coated in gold-leaf.  Its a spectacular sight.  I have a couple spectacular photos of the temple.  Gimme a minute and I'll scan 'em.  An interesting note on garden design:  Ponds are essential in Garden composition, but Kinkakuji has a special effect I haven't seen anywhere else.  on tiny islands in the pond, toward the south end, are planted single pine trees (3).  These are seen against a backdrop of tall trees.  The pines are meticulously groomed so that the branches are thin, and every needle catches the sun.  Accordingly, the trees appear to glow in the sunlight.  My photos are marginally effective, but again, I'll have what I can scavenge up soon.   Kinkakuji's meticulous planning is over the head of the casual observer.  But through my Architect's eyes,,, damn. 

Also I've been to Nanzenji several times, since its near my house.  Super fabulous.  But at Heian Jingu I had another special treat.  Not the fall foliage, but a bevy of children.  All here for the Festival of 3, 5, and 7 year olds.  ?  Maybe.  any rate, they were all made up in Kimono.  It was adorable.  Even a cold heart such as mine was warmed at the site.  Again, photos coming soon.

The fall foliage is indeed spectacular.  The maples in particular, but the yellow Ginko trees are welcome as well.  A proper japanese garden has Maples for fall, and Cherry trees for spring.  These are the two times of the year a garden is allowed to shine.   The rest of the year, austerity reigns. 

... ... ...

Last weekend I went to an Office Space party at my old apartment.   Ever since, the Ghetto Boys have been in my head.  Work has been the structuring element my life lately, with my freetime dedicated to the changing leaves.  Nevertheless, work, and my subversion thereof/in, has been primary.  Whether I'm subverting the job or it me remains to be seen.  Perhaps subsumed/ation.  In any case I'm immersed.  My ex-roomate, after six months of bitching, is finally bailing on Japan.  This was sorta a pre-going away party.

Work has taken a turn for the weird cause my ex-roomate and co-worker, who has been the bane of my existence, was suddenly trumped.  We were presented with a new teacher who is more than simply intolerable and obnoxious.  Now we have a teacher who's straight-up offensive and vile.  I didn't even imagine this was possible.  The aforementioned, who tested my patience to and beyond the breaking point, whom is in a close race for first as being the true reason for my coming to Japan, The Single Most Offensive Human Alive (and therefore the most appropriate grindstone for the axe I'm honing), has suddenly been outdone.   We have one teacher, who is one of the sweeter people I've ever met.  Her name is Ronoel.  She sympathizes and empathizes with "my coworker".  She sticks up for him when everyone else unleashes their vitriol.  She, too, hates this new teacher.  He's racist and sexist, he's an avid sports freak (doesn't mind working on his birthday or christmas, but god forbid he have to work on the superbowl!), he's a frat boy, 22, has bad acne, ugly, and acts like the spoiled rich Californian Jewish kid he is.  He's insult added to the injury the tattered shreds of my national pride suffer under daily vis-a-vis George Bush and his pedantic demagoguery. 

Let's just leave it at that.  Suffice it to say, "My new coworker"'s a dick.  By comparison, the most obnoxious person I've ever met suddenly became tolerable.  It was a miracle.  Nothing short of it.  I never would have imagined it possible that there was whitewash white enough to mask his blemishes.  Yet here we are.  Its poetry.  I'm enthralled by the sheer capacity of the human spirit to offend.  And I'm nearly 30 and have been around the world a time and a half, so I have at least a little room to say such things.  Truly, its a blessing as none could conceive.

We become complacent in our judgment.  We begin to trust it.  We begin to rely on it.  And eventually we begin to believe that we have a clue about what's going on.  We start to associate our judgment with "truth."   Now, the best among us (whom we all are), are inclined to constantly question our own judgment, and we reach some level of balanced understanding.  We feel unbiased, and thereby that much closer to truth.  Then, situations such as this arise, and we have to wonder whether we've made any progress at all.

Ah work.  I'd forgotten how much fun it can be.  How much being bound to a less-than-pleasant routine is sometimes really cause for personal growth.  All of my past jobs have expanded and changed me.  This one's no exception.  But the peculiar interculturality, Aussie, Kiwi, Brit, Scot, Yanky, and Canadian from Canadia on one side of the table, and Nihonjin on the other... Wow.

... ... ...

This was not what I set out to write about.  On wednesday, I went to Universal Studios, Japan (USJ) with "My Friend".  "My Friend"'s a girl I've been spending time with for a month or so.  Its casual, and sorta highschool.  We make out behind umbrellas, n' stuff like that.  But we've not gone any farther...  I guess in a public forum I shouldn't go into too much detail.   Nevertheless, I'll say a little bit more.  "My Friend" dresses semi-punk, semi-goth, semi-lolita.  (They use the term Goth-Loli for the crossover of the two latter fashions, incidentally).  She's as close to a freak as Japan seems to produce.  I think enough has been said of Japanese Homogeneity already.  As such, I feel a natural affinity with her.

We went to USJ last wednesday.  Now that was another super-surreal day. goddamn.  The image that sticks in my mind, for its "past-life" relevance (I can't seem to make this passage valenced enough...), is the Sesame Street in 4D.  Movie.  Okay.  So, if you are my age, you probably grew up on Sesame Street.  I stopped watching it when I was five or six (correct me if I'm wrong, mom).  Seven?  Whatever.  Its a discrete past. And until Wednesday, Sesame Street has stayed in the past.  So much so that I was completely shocked--  Almost to a Sartresque Nausea state when they sang Oscar the Grouch's "I love Trash" song in Japanese.  I am as familiar with Sesame street as one should only be with things of a religious nature.  My bowels react to Big Bird and his Yellow with orange tights.  Orange Tights?  I was raised on orange tights and the Cookie monster?  What have you people done to me!!!

I could slowly sink into my past life, my childhood, in this completely foreign environment, with my Japanese girl-friend, my 3D glasses, and a ceiling that rained mist and bubbles.  Acid was never so succinct, nor as discreet.  As "The Count" counted, in Japanese, a whole new layer of meaning exploded.  In japanese, they have distinct "counters" depending on what kind of thing you are counting.  There are about 17 different systems in common use.  Like, I-picki Ni-hicki, San-bicki, or something.  Its far from my intent to learn these systems.  But they're phonetic.  Anyway, "The Count" was counting bats with "Ichi-to, Ni-to, San-to..."  and in a burst of revelation that did not subside, I saw the True Way of learning language.  I could almost touch that point in my memory where number, "One bat, Two bats, Three bats, hahah..." was a mystery I was exploring, with a Gothic Count with fangs.  Without any knowledge of the reference of Count or Bat or Dracula or fangs; absent of the semiotics of the Gothic Romance novel, any of the signifiers, they were imprinted out of any context, but associated with the most primordial act of counting.  Next the we know, we have Marylin Manson, and nobody can quite explain why.   Now, here I am, 30 years old, learning to count, yet again, from The Count, but this time, as Ed Norton says in Fight Club, "My eyes are open."  The Count was teaching me yet again.

Sometimes I wish they were closed.  I wish I'd taken the blue pill instead back in Boone, in the fall of 1994.  But, here I am, and once you exit the Matrix, you can never go back.  There I was, at the other end of a very long and bizarre road, which for a moment terminated on the Jurassic Park ride.  As the Velociraptor emerged from the mist, and one is inclined to say, "Oh my, look, its a Tyrannosaurus Rex! How frightful!"  At that moment, the ride plummets, and what was a mock up of fear, is suddenly accompanied by the real sinking feeling of a sudden drop.  We talk of signs and the signified.   Now here was the sign of fear, and the disjointed fear signified.  A sudden drop with a monster bearing down on one's face.  Very effective.  In the picture at the end of the ride, I had an ear to ear grin.  Death, the ultimate mystery, I grin at thee!!!

And another past life recollection.  Back to the Future.  We chase "Beef?" in a "Delorian."  Kinda weak, but for some reason people like it.  I can't imagine understanding the language would help.  I think I caught most everything.  Nevertheless, it touched on a kinda numb recess of my past.  Likewise with Jaws.  The only rich recollection there was that Erik wouldn't go sailing with me at first, because he was afraid of Sharks in Sarasota Bay, because of "Jaws."  After much jeering he relented joined the Sea Explorers and sailed.  I assume he enjoyed himself.  But at the least, he was not eaten by sharks. 

Ah, Proust walketh with me.  The most disturbing aspect of the whole scene would have to be the Christmas music.  That's right, its Christmas in Japan.  Now, if Christmas is commercialized in Christian imagine just how extreme it is to confront the same exported as a commodity to an atheistic people such as the Japanese.  Completely meaningless, nothing more than the trappings of the season, 100% artificial, and completely at home in a Theme Park.  Just as I thought "my coworker" couldn't be sunken lower than, I also thought Christmas couldn't get any worse than it is in its deplorable state in America.  And as with "my coworker", when a low is undercut, I found myself full circle, back to a macabre appreciation. "I wanted to know the exact dimentions of hell.  Does this sound simple? Fuck you!  Are you for sale? Does fuck you sound simple enough?  This was the only part that turned me on; that he was candy all over." (Sonic Youth, The Sprawl)  What does that have to do with anything?  Its what I'm listening to as I write this.  Another past life, from yet another time, revisited...

And the street scapes... San Francisco,  New York, Beverly Hills, Jurrasic Park/Florida?, Waterworld??? Another reference to Cypress garden's water show... now defunct...  I have visited most of the above in the last year.  Now I found myself in the Theme Parked imitation -- the Signs removed from the Signified -- like Kanji, removed from their Chinese root, and implanted in Japanese soil.  The Kanji for San Francisco; a heavily quoted, but more a mockery than an adequate sign.  Likewise, how do you "Sign" New York on two acres.  What succeeded for me was seeing a gang of Japanese youth playing in a faux back alley, climbing faux fire escapes, and signing "hoodlum."   And "Beverly Hills," distinctly low-brow now, is nothing but a name overlaid on a joke of a cityscape.  It is so far from the mark that it was endearing and nostalgic, as if in a dream, as if in a dream where Sesame Street characters speak Japanese and fly about in 4D to an oogling adult croud. 

dude...  Wild west show.  again a parody within a parody within a parody.  Its impossible in this day and age to take "Wild, Wild, Wild West" with either nostalgia or romance.   It was entertaining to see a full-sized American make a mockery of American yokelism with a Nihonjin, Jacky Chan style stunt sidekick.   It was a cute show.  Complete with not-nearly buxom enough, but yet cute enough bad gal.  Lots of special effects, but I couldn't help but to think the references were all lost on the crowd.   They did teach everyone "Howdy" though, so it was a humanitarian effort. The animal show was weak, and one show where the language barrier was in fact no barrier at all. Terminator 2.  This was an interesting effort to interact with a 3D movie via a live show.  In the beginning there was a woman in red.  She was the host for a "tour" of Cyberdyne.  They played a movie, which in Japanese was rich enough in imagery to transcend the language barrier; such as where robot arms emerge from a robotic bed, and at the touch of a "tuck in" button on a keyboard, the arms tuck the little girl into bed for the working mom.  The mom's virtual presence felt?  Creapy beyond all creap.  A really profound commentary on modern life.  What was stranger still was witnessing american firepower in a foreign country's perspective and language (Cyberdyne produces weapons and household products).   America is scarier than we really give it credit for.  Especially when we elect monkeys for president...  Anyway, the woman in red utilizes thoroughly formulaic humor.   Even without translation I could tell she was asking, "so where are you from." and when the mark answers with "Nigata" or whatnot, she gives stock humorous mocking commentary on said province.  Everyone loves her.  Is it good or bad when you can understand the joke without understanding the language?

... ... ...

Last Thursdays was special in its own way.  In a previous posting I mentioned JJ Club 100.  This place is a model of what the world needs for Entertainment.  Interestingly, nearly every activity therein is foreign, yet in bringing them all together,  they have created yet another Truly Unique Japanese phenomenon. 

JJ Club 100 is a pay-by-the-hour entertainment facility.  Its stunning.  ¥100 for 15 minutes, ($4/hr) and you have access to all the facilities.  Only bowling shoes cost extra.  That's right, bowling for 4 dollars an hour.  Billiards on 9 foot tables.  All the video games you can play.  Pingpong, Internet access, DVD rentals and private booths to watch them in.  There's even a Sauna and Hottub (mini Japanese sento (bathhouse)).   But wait there's more.  Batting Cages.  Soccer cages.  Heavy bags.  I remembered after the fact there's even a climbing wall.  Karaoke Booths, Basketball hoops, a dance floor.  And darts.   All this can be yours for 4 dollars an hour.  And from 11pm to 5am, its a flat rate of 1200 yen!!!  That's six hours for 2 dollars an hour!!!  I will not hear of any more complaints about Japan after discovering this place.  A true vision of the future.  In my last visit I discovered a real-life fishing game in the basement.  A small pond, and you can borrow cane poles and fish for small fish (FUBAR).

The most intriguing thing for me was the three stories of video games, all set on free play.  It reminded me of the days when we were running a Putt-Putt token/Subway Club card/Movie Pass racket.   Hmmm.  Guess I shouldn't talk about that either...  Oh well, I was young, and it all came to a head when I was banished from all Subways in the Charlotte/Mathews area; so I did my time...  Anyway, it translated to unlimited video game play for a time.  In fact my first roadtrip was on Turbo Outrun, still my favorite video game, cruising across the country in a Ferarri convertable, from New York to L.A. across the great plains, pedal to the floor the whole way.  I actually would come to reenacted sections of this in my far-less sporty Subaru Hatchback, Gypc.  Now, 11 years later, I once again have unlimited (and legitimate) access to unlimited play.  I found the next generation of Outrun.  As I played, I took a left at one point that landed me in Japan.  I can't explain my reaction to that turn of events.  To be in the familiar old, suddenly to have my present transposed on my past.  More and more I feel like I'm living in several parallel dimensions simultaneously; they're all equal possibilities, nothing particularly shocking in any of them except their juxtaposition.  What's great about JJClub is that money never is inserted into the machine.  No tokens to fumble with.  You walk up to a machine and simply press the flashing white "Start" button.  (Interesting aside: half the driving games have the gear shift on the right, the other half have them on the left...)

The Japanese have simulator video games for EVERYTHING.  Of course they have you standards:  Formula One racing,  Rally car, Stock Car, Road Racing.  They also have a Semi-truck simulator, a motor cycle simulator... Okay, fine.  A Jet airplane simulator, a river rafting simulator, a Jetski simulator.  Snowboard simulator.   Now, how about a "Horse racing simulator"?  You bounce up and down in the stirrups pulling back on the reigns, rocking the horse.  This game in particular is extremely distracting when a cute girl climbs on, while one is trying to Bowl.  I got a 75 that game.  The digital Jockey who's rump is in the face of the mock-jockey, slaps the ass of the horse all they way through the race.  Its a pretty erotic thing to watch.  Okay. Still.  Nothing particularly shocking.  Okay, so how about a Sword fight simulator.  A Taiko drum AND Kit drum simulator.  Guitar, Keyboard, and DJ simulators.  Boxing, heavybag, and tank Simulators.   And of course, a fishing simulator, a bowling simulator (right beside the real bowling lane, which can be played for the same price).  A DOG WALKING simulator?  Okay, that's where I draw the line.   But wait.  My favorite of all. 

"THE OFFICE WORKER SIMULATOR."

In five months in Japan, this one has to win some sort of award.  It took me a couple minutes to figure out what it was, but it starts with the character waking up.  Oh I should mention that its a 3-player game.  You "race" against your friends...  First your characters wake up.  Then they eat a huge mound of curry rice as fast as possible.  Then they run up to the roof to get their briefcase... It goes on like this... nothing strange yet.  But then they JUMP OFF THE CLIFF of success.  My semiotic sensibilities are now piqued.  One jumps off a cliff, very early on in the game.  One jumps down from terrace to terrace, while hot air balloons and jumbo jets fly by with "SUCCESS" written upon them in Romanji.  It is not possible to board the planes or balloons.  But, if you are adroit, you may make it to the bottom of the cliff faster than your coworkers.  Now.  The next stage is giving a speach at a banquet.  You choose your lines, then give the speach.  I was playing against two computer opponents, and had been third of three almost every round.  In this round, the speaking competition, all three competitors failed.  Likewise in the next round, where we were pursued by a Miss Piggy looking woman whom Reubenesque does not even begin to describe (unless you add "Amazonian").  She is blowing kisses which we must dodge.  The perspective is interesting.  She is looming in the background, we are running toward the screen.  As she blows kisses at us from behind we must dodge left and right.  If she lands too many kisses, we are reduced, bound and gagged, to matrimony? This was not followed by a diaper-changing round.  Anyway, the game goes on like this.  We are now buxom blond office ladies in that peculiar pose with busom outthrust like dual bowsprits, and the forward shoulder arched back, the back shoulder rotating forward, giving the maximum emphasis to the breasts, as in porn from the fifties and sixties.    The office ladies whom we now are, are answering telephones.  We have three buttons to choose between.  Needless to say my random selection was far from sufficient, but likewise were my computer opponents' responses.  In short, everyone fails the speaking and dating rounds...  I stopped shortly after this, but when I can drag a Japanese friend along, I wll pursue the higher levels.

But what I enjoy most is hourly play at bowling.  I have invented a new sport; Ashtanga bowling.  Power Bowling.  I bowl as fast as possible, ball after ball after ball, the games tick by.  My scores, horrible.  I'm once again learning to bowl yet again.  These lanes are dryer than... err... skip that allusion.  Dryer than the sahara.  This means bowling with spin results invariably in a gutterball.  Really frustrating.  But my perspective on Bowling is like Golf.  The course is the metric.  One doesn't complain about the conditions of the lane.  Nor the condition of the balls or the incipient distractions.  One merely bowls as best one can under the given circumstances.  When I did a meditation retreat in Bodhgaya, the meditation hall was unbearably noisy, as I've written about elseware.  At the time I was furious.  I couldn't tollerate the insane amount of noise in an all-concrete building as dozens of pilgrims noisily came and went... Not that it was possible for them to be considerate...  In meditation, a pin-drop is distracting.  The teacher instucted us not to try and ignore the noise, but to meditate on it thus:  "hearing noise, hearing noise... Feeling distracted, feeling distracted..."  He said, its not possible to change the circumstance of the world, and one should not wish for it.  I revisit this lesson with all the barking dogs in my neighborhood when I do my twice daily "meditation."  So, bowling at JJ Club is a study in the same.  Have I mentioned how unbearably sexy Japanese girls are?  Its impossible to concentrate in this country.   Nevertheless, Bowl I must.  And on a dry lane (completely dry... I don't think they ever oil them) I have to relearn bowling... again.  Some history:  I relearned bowling in January of 2002.  I learned the curve, I learned a new way to hold the ball, and my score plummeted.  Eventually I refined my new technique, which culminated in a 234, courtesy of Cara.  "So I'm caught up in the game" (Tupac, Picture me Rollin'").  I realized if I were to ever to top that score I'd need to own my own gear.  So I went out and bought it.  I bought an asymetrically weighted ball.  Once again, I had to relearn bowling.  My score never recovered.  But I'd advanced to a 15 pound ball.  Now, on dry lanes, I am still bowling with a 15 pound ball, but now I've come full circle to once again learning to bowl straight. Fuck.  I love bowling, but in prolly 15 games, only once did I see 130.   But I discovered my hips, I learned a better way to balance.  A new stance.  I learned a new way to interact with my body.  Bowling has become a dance.

... ... ...

And finally... My new Bike

There are times in a Man's life, when he has to make a choice.  One moment for me was today.  I've spent months agonizing over the decision of whether to buy a bike or not.  The decision matrix runs thus:  I will not buy a cruiser with basket.  That would be cheap and practical-ish.  But thoroughly unacceptable.  And nothing pisses me off more than Cheap-ass mountain bikes.  They are sloppy to ride, and I swore to never own another.  My full-suspension Pro-Flex was a dream.  But when it was stolen, I opted for a hybrid of my own creation, that still lives at Beth's house in Seattle.  A time-trial/touring hybrid.  One-of-a-kind I would have to think.  But now, I decided not to bring it with me to Japan. 

This left the inevitable quandry: what's next.  Scary to say, I thought back to a time in Boulder in 1997ish.  We were reunited with Vesper.  He had just rolled into town in his devilish way.  Truly one of the most over-the-top "cool" people I've ever met.  He was a Playa' with a capital P.  In my life, I'd have to say, he's the only TRUE "PLAYER" I've ever met.  He was sorta like "my coworker", but in a more evil way, and uncannily sucessful with the ladies.  Forceful and shameless.  He was a lesson for me in my younger days.  God.  I can't even properly connect with those memories and it was only five or seven years ago...  Nevertheless.  At the time, Tommy and I were peicing together Mountain Bikes.  (Josh would get one of them stolen on nearly its first outing!)   But at the time, Vesper was leaching off our household.  As an acquaintance from Boone, found in Boulder, we were somewhat obliged to put him up.  Since two members of the household sported his tatoo work, we were doubly so.  And myself, I am morally obliged to house travellers wherever I may be, but especially when I find myself in a householder role... Anyway, Vesper had this BMX trick bike, missing one of its rear pegs.  He was convinced that it was the only acceptable bike to ride.  I demured for practical reasons.  In the end I was left with a single speed racing bike.  Foreshadowing the trend among Bike Messengers I was to discover later in San Francisco.  Nevertheless.  Jake (Vesper) "rode" (not that I ever saw him ride it mind you) a BMX bike.  And clearly, there could be nothing cooler than riding a BMX bike.  This was back in the day when I was still on the lean side of cool; I'd travelled, but not left the country.  I'd done drugs, but nothing really to excess.  I drank, but within moderation.  In short, I was still on the periphery of cool, but standing at a vista from which I could see it.  That christmas I was to be given a skateboard.  That would have to mark the turning point in my life when I was to become cool.  Very little remains of the original skateboard, but its latest incarnation, the third deck, new hardware, new wheels, even new washers, but still the original trucks... essentially the same skateboard, is still with me here in Japan... I can skate about as stablely as I can walk.  Which is more a critique of my walk than of my skateboarding...  Now, skateboard still in tow, so many miles later down the road, I have finally crossed another threshold of cool.  I bought a BMX style Trick bike.

She's Tarheel blue; a Specialized "Fat Boy."  And I love her.  I went cruising through Kyoto tonight, and yah, I am definitely 100% cooler than I was when I woke up this morning. 

But, on the second day (now we're into new material, 1:15am, 28th, Thanksgiving in America), the tires disintegrated.  I love the word dis-integrated.  It reminds me of my nemesis, Calculus.  Anyway, the bike was old, and judging from the dust in the gears, I'd say she'd sat without being ridden for a long long time.   So tires disintegrate.  Today, in order to replace the tires I skateboarded to several different bike shops.  Finally found one that I'd consider a proper bikeshop.  But it only had one acceptably wide BMX tire.  The first shop I went to had the same tire, but, also, only one.  So I bought the one, rode back to the other store bought the other.  By sunset I was back in business. Now I'm trying to figure out why the front brakes don't really work.  I rode to my favorite hardware store and bought replacement brake pads.  No luck.  Tomorrow, I'll try replacing the break cable.  Next I'll replace the whole goddamn brake!  Whatever.  Who needs brakes.  I do just fine on my skateboard without them...

Also, I'm starting to learn tricks.  This bike is very similar to the very first bike I ever owned; in fact, its the same size.  The difference is the first bike had a passenger who weighed less than 75 pounds.  Now it has a passenger that weighs 75 kilos.  Also, my first bike had brakes that engaged via the bottom bracket?  How did that work.  When you pedalled backward, it engaged the brakes.  This one has hand brakes.    And has the fancy mechanism that allows the handlebars to spin 360 degrees.  And foot pegs.  Its a lot of equipment I only partially understand. So now, I have a new toy to play with.  I did bunny hop a low curb today sideways to avoid an oncoming car.  So, yah, I feel cool.

... ... ...

The old Tokaido Highway

Living in an Ancient City is a powerful experience if you have an inquisitive eye.  I've been studying the urban texture since I've arrived.  But my friend Miyuki broke open my insight Monday.  We were walking into town and she noticed a marker, and mentioned we were on the Tokaido Highway.  I froze.  I'd noticed that there was something peculiar about the street I live on.  It seems to cut a straight line where every other road in the area of Misasagi meanders.  These days, the the street is a nondescript backroad, and its particular linearity is hard to notice except on a map.  Suddenly, it all came together.

The Tokaido (do means road) connects Kyoto and Tokyo (old Edo).  The etymology of To-Kyo and Kyo-to is no accident.  Miako is the old name of Kyoto, and Kyoto itself means nothing more than "Capital City"  So the old and the new capital essentially share the same name.  The Tokaido highway runs between the two, and the entire route is demarked by ancient cities and towns which were stations on the road.  In the 1600's with the dawn of a market economy in Japan, this road was the main economic artery of Japan.  Shiga Prefecture, where I work, had the old name of "Omi."  The Kanji contains the element for road, and many of the cities in the area are famous points of transit for merchandise.  About half a mile from where I work is the famous Seta Bridge, and a half a mile from where I live is the very famous Sanjo bridge.  The Tokaido Highway started at Sanjo and continued across Shiga's Seta-ohashi on to Tokyo.  Fair enough.  However what is profound is that the one-way, backstreet I live on, a thousand years ago, was the very Tokaido Highway.  Hundreds of years of road improvement, regrading, slope stabilization and so forth has bypassed my street, which ran around Hi-no-oka and down the hill, straight through Yamashina, and through the mountain pass to Omi.  On a map, this is obvious.  But in walking around, the old road is bypassed, and overall, narrow, and residential.  What this means is that, back in the day, Daimyo and Shogun walked by my front door.  Pretty intense.  What is now Sanjo would have been a steep ravine, and my road is the graded trail that winds around the mountain instead of dropping off through the ravine (roads in ravines wash out, as you might know).  Another way of looking at it is that I live on the old deer trail for deer migrating from the Kyoto watershed to Lake Biwa in Shiga via Yamashina.  The deer usually walk sensibly and are the true pioneering trail-blazers that humans in time follow.  I know this from following so many deer trails in my time bushwacking through the mountains on three continents.

The history of Japan is written around, about, and on the Tokaido highway.  The fill-in-the-blanks that led me to discover that I live on the very same road has been the biggest revelation of the month.  That, and the fact that I can't bowl anymore.

... ... ...

Also on the old Tokaido highway is Taco Tora.  (Taco means octopus).  This is a somewhat renouned Tacoyaki restaurant that always has a line of cars outside waiting for takeout.  I've become a regular, and the proprietress always struggles to communicate with me in Japanese, and I her.  Tonight I had an octopus salad along with my usual tacoyaki fair.  Octopus salad is chinese cabbage, octopus sashimi, and a red spicy dressing which at first sight appears appallingly enough to be catsup.  Which is not the case.  Anyway, I spent an hour over my meal, drank a couple of beers and relaxed in the atmosphere.  The Japanese insistence on quality is starting to rub off on me.  Having found a place that serves the best Tacoyaki, I can't be bothered with anything less. 

Taco Yaki, I may have written about elseware.  It has a black miso-based sause, but the dish itself is a doughball with a piece of octopus inside.  Its a Kansai (western japanese) Dish.  Nine balls, flower, water, cabage, and crusty tempura batter? and the bit of octopus, a surprise inside.  A very simple, but oh-so-delightful dish.  My life would be less whole without it.

... ... ...

This has been a very very long saga.  Thanks for your patience if you've made it this far.  If you have any questions, please drop me a line, and I'll be happy to fill in the details!

... ... ...

The Ombudsman:
At Harm to None?

28th of November, 2003

This website ostensibly exists for the enlightenment of the masses, but instead seems more intent upon the ego gratification of its author.  Often, in this site, hurtful, inciteful, and angry remarks are uttered.  Hudson obviously means ill to many.  Therefore, I must call into question his lack of compassion or better judgement in many of these articles. 

It has often been said in contemporary society, "At harm to none, do what thou whilt; and it shall be the whole of the law."  Self-proclaimed satanist Crowley in fact authored those words.  Hence, even he, if he can be held to his own ethic, is more compassionate than the professed Buddhist, Mr. Cress.  In the early stages of this over-long, wordy tirade, we see two fellow coworkers, whose names have been replaced by "my coworker" and and "my new coworker" (as if those miserably pathetic nom de plumes are sufficient cover, arogant as he is), debased and demeaned in a public forum.   One of these coworkers, happened upon this webpage the first day it was posted and confronted Mr. Cress about how he found it interesting to know that he found him "obnoxious."  Now this prompted Mr. Cress to hide the names, but not before the damage was done.  At harm to none indeed.   Mr Cress, a professed Buddhist, can't even follow the moral advice of a Satanist. 

And at harm to none.  These pages are littered with Hudson's profanity, womanizing, and often sexist commentaries.  He openly condones drug use.  He openly professes his love of drinking and smoking.  Indeed, he considers it a shame that he is not smoking pot right now.  In short, we see how shallow his morals really are.  This website is not a tool for public inquest into the insights of a seeker of truth, it is one man's shallow attempts to titilate and amuse the trivial masses who are drawn to such tripe.   What conclusion can we possibly draw other than this when we see the title of this page.  What does it mean to "flex nuts," anyway?

 


 

Thanks to Daniel for the Clarification....

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