Like snowmen

The longer it goes, and the more that accumulates on that rolling stone, ironically gathering an incredible amount of moss, the strangely less there is to say, if only because of quantity’s cruel weight.

On Christmas night I stopped for a moment behind some 30 watt bulbs and a music equalizer on TV to casually assess my life in the present.  Situation: lit like pre-tornado weekend afternoon, Suntory Old in hand, top-heavy highball, four new pals cursing The Lord with Wii controllers in hand.  In front, on the floor, makeshift dining with pillow seats, and much ado about something.  Sweet Thai noodles with pork, frosting fortified Christmas Cake, and two varieties of chicken, dry-rub drummies delivered by a friend across the way, and my own fried niblets half cornstarch half flour.  Around the tables a motley crew, one army gal, Canadians, a fellow from Wales(!), my Pennsylvanian lady, ho ho ho Melly Christmas.  On floor seven everything’s weirder than I expect, which is exactly as I have come to expect.

On the subsequent day, break-addled and slightly stir crazy, we visit another teacher’s place for Boxing Day, a holiday I have never celebrated.  Between Costco tortilla chips and tallboy Chu-hi I find myself drunkenly playing a card-based storytelling game about the adventures of the mutant Lobdale, a sailor, and repeatedly forget essential details mentioned only moments before my lapses in memory.  As a writer I fail colossally, as an inebriated buffoon I succeed massively, and these successes are in recent times frequent and executed in totality.  Were I still in grad school, such alcoholian indiscretions would be adjudicated by peers: Listen, brother: you write therefore you drink, and it seems your glass needs topping off.  In this venue I only shame myself, but these idle hands need things to do, and the acts and motions of raising and lowering glasses to my mouth ensure I am both busy doing something important, and that my lips are so preoccupied that I needn’t use them to communicate cause who knows what the fuck I’d be saying without it.

The next day, a forgottenly agreed-upon amble to Osaka to visit a Warhammer 40K miniature gaming shop turns into Jessy and me and our tall 7-years-in-Japan South African buddy strolling through Den Den, then clearing board space in Iconoclast, the name of the cold, tiny sidestreet shop we’re visiting. 16-45 year old otaku moving handpainted pieces across the tables and shooting photon cannons fill my afternoon, with early evening occupied by a trip to Yodobashi Camera, a hulking behemoth of a store so large that the stories people tell about it are meaningless: one floor of thirteen is as large as a great plains Iowan Walmart and devoted only to toys. Two massive aisles are merely cars, which excludes the trains and airplanes, the handful of aisles for just kid toys, and the entire section for hobby figures, statues, and rows of gashapon. Half the floor is video games and I can’t bring myself to even go in, lest I am unable to handle it.

At night, turned on to a ramen shop not so far from where I live here in Kobe, we dine on Tomato ramen and fresh gyoza with chili oil. It is the best I have eaten in this country, and comes with unlimited free kimchi.  In the ramen shop, I meet people.  Everywhere I go I meet people I’ve met, who exist as players in my life almost solely because of and in spite of the process of Meeting.  Some people I routinely meet I’ve met surely over five times by now, and our conversations mainly revolve around this fact.  If we decide to ask each other Sorry I’m really bad with names What’s Your Name Again the entire relationship restarts so that the next time a month and a half passes and then we see each other we can pretend like we know each other even though it’s only a vagary, the hint and notion of kinship: something you had remembered from your childhood that returns in the smell of a department store plushie or out back on an apartment fire escape.  Good to see you again!  I prefer not asking for names anymore, then we can play the game of who forgets the other person’s name the most.  I like recognizing the instances in our conversations where we might need to use the names, then seeing how each of us subverts it.  Anyway, the ramen was really tasty.

On December 31st, I found myself tucked into the pulsing life of Sannomiya like one of forty-thousand toothpicks in a diner dispenser being endlessly rolled around.  By a half-hour before the end of the year there were people in every direction I could angle my head excepting street and sky, and making it out of the confines of humanity to snag street-fried whatever became difficult enough that I remained content with what I’d managed to secure prior.  With no ritzy Times Square ball-drop or TV broadcast to denote the shedding of this husk the actual ringing in of the New Year had largely to do with the accuracy of one’s watch or the cellular telephone provider one had selected.  At or around the minute though the wave of unconcerned shouting reached us and passed over us triumphantly: we’ve made it guys, and the decade of early confusions, the full 200X on Madden video game covers, the two-thousand-and-X pronunciations evaporated in favor of that clean Twenty Ten, the new tens, the Model-T, the sinking of the Titanic, Franz Ferdinand, and ROBOTS IN SPACE. 

At Ikuta Shrine they banged on Taiko, and we tossed five yen into a pit in hopes that our wishes for this year are realized.  Later for two hundred we shook wooden boxes to reveal wooden sticks which revealed our fortune papers which revealed our forecasts for this upcoming year.  The joke was on them, because I couldn’t read the kanji.  Someone told me it at least Wasn’t Great, and so I tied it to the fence below the tree, which I guess is what you’re supposed to do when you can’t tie it to the tree, which is where you’re supposed to tie it if it’s bad.  The bad luck stays there for all of the year.  I feel really sorry for that fence, because now it is totally screwed.

The dragging on of break bringing similar curses as being overworked made me aware of how related lives are when they’re filled with mostly nothing: just existing becomes tiresome, as the endless scrutiny of the events which dictate one’s course or reflect one’s experiences.  Great Minutia, my steady salvation.  May I always be aware of the way the rings on the train rock back and forth like swings, the way I have to turn the key the opposite way to the lock the door as I did in Pittsburgh, the Calorie-mate wrapper that’s been on top of the Kosoku-Nagata station’s vending machine for four months.

Monday in Japan is Coming-of-age day, another holiday from work, which is basically the equivalent of a hot-blooded American’s 21st birthday night, only for every newly-20-year-old-with-drinking-rights in the country.  I think if we had that in the States, Tuesday would be national I’m-calling-in-sick-to-work-and/or-skipping-classes day.

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