Tag Archives: 2011

Big Hammer

Three days deep into the first workweek back and I’ve yet to teach any actual “classes,” owing to Monday being a holiday, yesterday being my school’s opening ceremony day, and today being the annual “mochitsuki,” a ceremony slash event where we beat cooked rice with Big Hammer into a stretchy goo and form it into balls and eat it, which is totally a normal thing to do. I’m not sure what tomorrow at the blind school will bring, but Friday is most definitely a class day, during which I will have to explain about my trip to America without the help of the pictures and videos that I took, all lost to a random and cruel hard drive failure three hours before my flight back to Japan (along with all other pictures and videos we’ve shot since April 15th, my last backup). Are you reading this, Brandon of the future? Have you signed up for one of those handy persistent online backup things yet? To make a long story short, I can’t replace the hard drive or reinstall an operating system until I get a couple spare parts from the States, and that probably won’t happen for a few weeks or so (I’ve still got Jessy’s to check e-mail and Internet when I need to).

So, because of the lifestyle shakeup, I’m finding myself unconsciously acknowledging that I don’t have my friendly computer to sit comfortably in front of and sink time into, and am instead sinking time into other, valid pursuits: waking up and preparing breakfast, diddling around with some of the Playstation games I brought back, and endlessly tormenting my cat with the best $2.49 I’ve ever spent: a compact laser pointer that projects a single, emotionless red dot whereever there a surface be, unchanging like the bright eye of Lucifer, made manifest via three watch batteries and the souls of the Torment’d. Fixated upon it, the cat will spin circles on the ground as though a malfunctioning, indecisive Roomba vaccuum cleaner, ready to obliterate the particle of dust, if only he could catch it. And when he does, where does it go? Onto the back of his head, invisible to him, destroyed but perpetually revived, an eternal plaything and nemesis. I use it as mind control: just trace the path you want the cat to follow and watch him bend to your every whim, even leaping diagonally at the walls in an effort to strike the dot from its perilous arc up and off the floor.

Perhaps the biggest trouble I’ve had with re-integration to the society of Kobe is sticker shock, especially in the realm of fresh foods and produce. To go from paying 49 cents for a pound of apples to potentially 500 yen for a single, though surely tasty apple, is bizarre. The stores, devoid of any sales or discounts, are massively less exciting for bred consumers such as myself than the ones in the States; upon check-out from our local supermarket the other day I received an automatically generated coupon from the machine next to the register. It was for ten cents off my next single can of Suntory beer and lo there was rejoicing, and by rejoicing I mean I urinated due to pure glee so divine I lost my bladder control at the very sight of those two numbers one and zero right next to each other dear god ten cents off.

This is to speak nothing of course of the annoyance that comes at again being incapable of confidently conducting casual, reasoned conversations with shopkeeps, coworkers, and ne’er-do-wells in my vicinity. Right now I find myself in the somewhat annoying position of having about twenty pounds of coins that I’d like to deposit into my bank account, which I can apparently only do from the hours of 9 to 3 on weekdays, hours when all normal people are working. The one possible day I could do this is Wednesday morning, because I go into work late for night school. The idea of bringing two huge bags of coins into the bank and slapping them down on the counter by myself without actually being able to express any sort of thought related to “put the money in my account please,” assuming no possible denials of service or “count it yourself”s, is a bit unsettling, especially since I’ll have twenty pounds of coins in my possession and carrying them out of there once I’ve brought them in is not something I care to do. In the U.S. the process would be simple: call the bank and ask “can you put twenty pounds of coins in my account if I bring them in?” and then do it. In Japan, asking such direct questions is impossible, you are meant to divine the answers to questions through the careful reading of blood types, tea leaves, and phases of the moon. I think the etiquette for depositing twenty pounds of coins is to bring them to the bank, take a number like at the DMV, and then place them on the counter with your passbook while bowing and apologizing profusely for all this damned money you have. Then they will take it to the back room, make you wait for ten minutes, and return to the counter, saying only “we have intercepted your honorable money, is that okay?” Then they will wait for you to leave. Anyway I’m going to have these coins forever is the point. Hey future Brandon who now does the online backups of his data, do you still have the coins? Oh that’s terrible.

BULLET POINTS OF CONSEQUENCE
– I have now seen Tron Legacy in theaters three times, which is probably the most I have seen a movie in the theater since Mortal Kombat
– We made salads the other day from a whole head of lettuce, an apple, some carrot, chicken, and raspberry dressing, and they were way more awesome than you generally figure a salad to be
– We also watched that Baz Lurhmann movie Australia, and it was pretty alright despite needing some editing in the first third awful bad
– I’ve made breakfast burritos the last few days with some tortillas I brought back from the States and they are slammin’
– The sole literally fell off my shitty worn-out black shoes yesterday, and I sat in taffy in my newly dry-cleaned suit pants
– Somehow, the taffy came off the pants
WHOA GRIPPING

The best thing about being back in Japan is ironically that things are now “back to normal,” here in the land of good convenience store food, hyperactive nonsense television, tissue-packet distributors, ramen shops, and all-girl 48-member idol bands. It is thanks to Jessica that I find an anchor, as occasionally worrysome an anchor as it is, though not as worrysome as Big Hammer, which I have to be careful of tonight when the mochi beatings happen “because the splatter.”

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Gecko and Fox

With five hours left to go on my 4,923 mile trip across the Atlantic and other occasionally rocky-looking landmasses, the dryness of the air scratches at my prefrontal cortex like fine-grit sandpaper, with every breath: I am reamer, rout, roto-rooter, it says, and your body, the minefield, is this week’s episode of New Yankee Workshop. I have already watched three movies, gotten three hours of sleep, eaten my meal, done some reading, and drank two beers. There is nothing left for me on this aircraft, absolutely fucking not. In the agony of dryness I cover my face with a blanket, try to create humid air. I consider wetting my fingers with water and stuffing them up my nose, then refrain for unknown reasons. I look out at the wing, and am so tired that I watch it wobble in the air, unusually convinced that by looking at it, I am causing it to bear a greater load, which will cause it to break, plunging us into the icy depths.

Stomach increasingly fucked from the headache’s pain, I convince myself I am about to die, and adopt a new philosophy of life for the year 2011: Impermanence, love, and melodrama in reverse order, while I’m still in my 20s and everything’s beautiful. I write it down and it reads true to itself if not a little stupid, so I change it to “choose life” and realize that sounds like an anti-abortion ad and also the tagline from Trainspotting. I further revise my revised philosophy: just love and impermanence, but not impermanent love, and not necessarily the love of impermanence. I guess what I’m trying to say is that most innovatively I find myself in conflict with the desire for permanence and impermanence in material ways, which perhaps brings about the true mantra: only love! But John Lennon already kinda said that. Underarching really seriously true mantra: Know thyself.

(Complication: making thyself a person worth knowing, myself)

New year’s resolution, 2011: achieve utter and total harmony, through love and knowing thyself

In noise-cancellers courtesy of lucky random upgrade to Economy Premium I feel behind glass, a Hermes object looked at but never disturbed, then flick the noise-canceller switch on and off to hear the difference. During a scene in Wall Street, one of the featured on-demand in-flight movies, in which characters at one point converse aboard a plane, I switch the cancelling off only to discover that the actual ambient noise of the aircraft I am on is quieter than the airplane noise coming from the movie, and I commit ritual seppuku.

The second in-flight meal is a treat, a real joy: a warm, soft, foil-wrapped foccacia sandwich with roasted tomatoes, pesto, and stringy, stretchy mozzarella cheese, which for my dollar they can put on fucking anything and I’ll eat it. Side dishes: fruit cup, yogurt cup, cup of coffee.

Walking into my apartment is like walking into a room carpeted, wallpapered, and filled entirely with JELL-O brand pudding snack, a rich, lush, velvety wave of relief and comfort washing over me as completely as spray tan. My cat indifferently greets me at the door, then resumes being totally insane, while the delightful Kaori, who has been using our apartment as a palace of twisted immorality for the last two weeks, informs me that she has already run the bath for me, because she saw that I said I wanted one on my Facebook. This is further evidence that we truly lived in a connected world, but also that Kaori is obviously too good a person to be staying in our apartment. That night I cooked a box of Deluxe Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese that I brought home in a box with a ton of other unhealthy American delights, then slept the best five hours of my life before waking up fully rested at four A.M. thanks to the jet lag. Remedy? Eating all the leftover mac and chee and playing video game pinball until it was time to go to work. Downside: I’m sitting at my desk with seven hours to go and I’ve already been awake for six hours. Upside: it’s Friday, and Monday’s a national holiday.

But what about America? I will remember it as two things. The first is as a blitzkrieg of wild, excessive consumption the likes of which are unfathomable in Japan, eating more food items than exist meals in the day, spending meager amounts of money for hulking, unfinishable plates of food, and drinking to excess at a rate such that the number of beers total is a variable Bt and the number of showers total is a variable St and the variable Bt fits in the equation Bt > (St * 2) and is a valid expression.

The second thing I will remember it as is a re-centering trip, an inspiring, internally touchy-feeling reconnection with the things I never realized I loved about the place I’m from and a wake-up call regarding the Japan I call home. What makes me American is that I’m from America. Japan doesn’t want me to be Japanese, because I can’t be and I’ll never be. The shame of being myself had started to creep up on me so slowly in Japan I had barely noticed, and today I stood up straight and walked to work with a different awareness. Before, I had found myself acutely obsessed with the duality of my presence here: believing I was both an exotic object of desire or a reviled, repeatedly sounding klaxon I mentally positioned myself as an object that all persons had an opinion of. Lost in the sea of anonymity that besets those citizens of the United States I was able to experience what someone might interpret as “a lack of self-consciousness,” and, having returned to Japan, I find it a thrill to apply it in a society where I can still feel unique without even needing to dress myself in freakish black eye makeup.

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