Tag Archives: flying

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

That class of problems with which men will never have to cope

Tomorrow I leave, which means that the last couple months have pushed by faster than I had hoped. That’s not to say that I’m not looking forward to being flung through the air three separate times (and once for twelve hours) on my way back to the states, only that I will miss being able to leisurely enjoy my holiday season here at my place.

To be sure, nothing could be more leisurely than the comfortable familiarity which awaits me back in rural Iowa: no work to do and no trains to take and none of my usual household chores to keep done will ensure I have plenty of time by myself and with my family to wander around, confused, feeling like an outsider in the place I belong, with no strangers at all the wiser that I’ve pretty much been in a coma for the last sixteen months. The upshot is that all the commercials will be new, and I will be able to spy on people having conversations.

The Internet has not left me with any confidence about the weather conditions I’m about to experience; the other day as though watching some sort of confusing new addition to the football broadcast I saw a video of snow dumping down through the Metrodome’s dome, and then checked the Iowa road condition map and saw a lot of road shaded the colors that meant “completely covered” and “travel not advised.” Also, though I’ve pretty much obliterated any meaning that “temperatures” ever once had by virtue of trying and failing to internalize the Celcius system, I have come to understand that it is Much Colder in Iowa than it is here, not that I would know by what degree or to what extent.

The sandwich I am eating right now, brand name “Delicious Sandwich Fresh and Juicy Sandwich,” bears a useful phrase on its package: “It is a sandwich made with love by the use of the bread selected carefully. Please take it.” Take it I did. The crusts have been cut off.

I guess the prevailing mental broadcast is just that I’m getting tired of the build-up to this goddamned journey. I’ve been Nomaday bitching about it for what, three weeks now? This is not normal. I know it’s going to be an exhausting pain in the ass and I’m gonna have to drag my bags downtown at 5:30 in the morning and go through all this madness. I’m just ready to get it over with (but not yet, not yet oh god!). In preparation I am buying an extra-size battery for my PSP and hoping to whatever it is that governs my mental faculties that I am able to concentrate on the ones and zeros popping out of enemy heads instead of the fact that I am on an airplane. It sure would be nice if I could get over flying to the extent that my life is not sectioned mentally into countdown portions entitled “Time Since Brandon Has Been On An Airplane” and “Days Until Brandon Absolutely Must Fly Again.”

Even irrational fears must have a basis, I suppose, and I figure the only real good reason to be afraid of something such that it cripples you is that you are afraid the thing will kill you or you’re afraid of your death because of it. I suppose this is likely it, and not even so much because I am personally afraid of dying but because I am afraid of the terror that would accompany the knowledge of inevitable death. I wish I was more like Vasquez in Aliens who knows they’re coming for her and is just like “word” and toasts herself like a real Bro. And airplanes aren’t even extraterrestrial predatory creatures hellbent on human destruction!

I think I read once somewhere that it is the most common fear, that of flying, and mostly cause we never hear a news story about how all the airplanes landed successfully. I think part of the draw for me personally to these incidents is also the incredible series of events that must occur for things to go wrong. Something like the last Concorde crash, where because of some issue on the first plane a piece of metal fell off it and the plane after ran over it and it happened to puncture the tire at full rotation speed and the tire blew up and flew up and damaged this and this and this because of this and so on–these cause and effect stories are too interesting for me to ignore, and yet I am drawn to the tragedy of the human element: how did they react in these moments of duress, as transcribed from the flight recorder? In most cases, my morbid finding is yet oddly reassuring: not much of a reaction whatsoever, because it just happened too fast. And so my inundation in stories about when flights went wrong instead of when they went right lopsides my viewpoint.

This is the flawed, terrible thought process of someone unhealthily fixated on what the experience of a remote possibility would be like! I guess I imagine the thrill of potential excitement that comes when you buy a lottery ticket, and I swing it in reverse. It is ultimately my logic that fails me when I am faced with the odds: even if something is a ten million to one shot, I find myself thinking that any single instance of occurence is still just as possible as an incident of failure (assuming a 50/50 chance instead of a 1/10,000,000 chance, because I will either complete or not complete the flight, binarily, and here is the flaw). What is the mental acceptance I need to internalize? What is the proverb I must chant? Does fixation on repairing this fear necessarily assure it will become so prominent to me that I am unable to forget about it? I will playfully suggest to myself that the only cure is getting on the plane totally exhausted and getting drunk in the air, with full knowledge that I will be incapable of relaxing enough to sleep even when drunk. I shouldn’t even focus on “one in ten million,” I should just say 0% chance, cause that is more accurate when you do out the numbers.


Did you know that in Japan a lot of spaghetti is sold in packages of five or six, where the number refers to the number of servings, and that each serving has a little plastic sticker around it so you just grab one “bundle” out of the package and poof there is your serving of spaghetti? True story. Also spaghetti sauce is not often sold in jars but pouches which you boil in water and then open. They are about a dollar and serve (though I am being slightly generous) two adult humans. What a funny world.

The other day I realized it had stopped being weird to me that when I buy carrots I buy two huge individually wrapped carrots, or when I buy potatoes I get seven potatoes the size of chicken eggs in a little bag. The feeling of holding a twenty pound bag of potatoes again–this is another reason I will enjoy going to America, just as all those before me, who (pretty much) made it there just fine.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Beneath the wool

Today I had the displeasure of paying a man 10,500 yen (the cost of one hundred individual goods at the 100-yen shop, plus tax) to come to my apartment on my morning off with an enormous tool that looked kind of like a machine that you might use to give a robot an enema.

I don’t own any automata but he definitely reamed something other than my wallet: our shower room’s drainpipe, which clogged Monday night and flooded the kit and kaboodle while Jessy tried to do laundry. The only physical good I have been left with as a result of this monetary exchange is a sizable, tightly woven wad of assorted hair which now rests in peace inside a vacated tissue box planted firmly in the garbage can. After removal, the man gestured to it sitting on the shower’s tile as though it was either a cancerous blob or some sort of holy implement; I’m not sure, I don’t know the vocabulary for what he actually referred to it as. I am sure at least that since it was mine it became my “honorable disgusting wad of gross crap,” at least. I cannot recall the specifics. Anyway, though I am missing out on the boatload full of potential 100-yen items, I can now bathe myself and wash clothes, which has to count for something.

Last year’s Nomaday from this very Wednesday in 2009 reads like an eerie parallel of the current situation. To excerpt: I am again waiting to receive this year’s [i]Call of Duty[/i] shooty-game in the mail, I’m attending the Japan Games Festa in Osaka this weekend, I’m really looking forward to payday next Tuesday, and it’s my birthday today. I am not doing anything too special, unless special includes paying a man to dig hair out of my plumbing.

In other news I’m happy to report that the weather is really starting to cool off, and it’s no longer an incredible, shitty pain in the ass to go on trips.

How about the cat? He is as cat-like as ever, routinely lying around, sleeping, headbutting hands and legs, lunging mysteriously at toys that he is suddenly frightened by, attacking every rug in the house, and meowing for no reason. When the bathroom was flooded the other day he hopped in, then freaked out and leapt three feet in the air. Sometimes I pick him up off the ground and hold him like a baby to see how long he can go before he tries to squirm his way out. He lasts longer each time, and before long I’ll be twirling him above my head.

I am happy to report that although I am not participating in this fool’s errand you may have heard of called “national novel writing month,” I have indeed been doing some meaningful work on my novel over the last few weeks, albeit slightly limited in word count. At any rate, I am pleased with its quality. Perhaps it is because I routinely compose 2,000+ word articles over at N-Sider or in this very journal that I am not compelled or content to write simply to produce strings of letters, though for every man who has that super exciting Ninjas vs. Cast of Glee fanfiction epic bubbling up inside them I am sure this communal opportunity for shared busywork is a godsend.

Anyway, I just couldn’t leave you sitting here any longer without at least something in you, precious journal. You looked old and dead and that was creepy. So here you go, right on schedule, three weeks back. Maybe I will find some other, better time to use on the story-writing, because by gosh I missed you.

– Pepsi released their new “Mont Blanc” special-edition cola last week, and though they claim it tastes like chestnuts what it really tastes like is a cross between Vanilla Pepsi and the maligned Coke Blak–a delightful combination of sweetness and coffee. It is slammin’. Other new product? Pizza Margherita Cup Noodle, which tastes more like pizza than several actual Japanese pizzas I have eaten
– That Russell Crowe movie Robin Hood, which came out in the States some months ago, finally releases in Japan some time in December. In honor of its impending release, we downloaded the uncut high-definition version from the Internet and watched it at home
– I’ll be going back to America for the holidays in approximately five weeks, and I’ve already bought the ticket. I reserved it on the internet, grabbed a confirmation code from an e-mail, went to a Lawson convenience store, used their special terminal to print out a payment slip, then took it to the cash register and bought my ticket by slapping down well over a thousand bucks, in cash. She didn’t act like it was a big deal
– Japan and China kinda hate each other right now, because everyone seems pretty focused on fighting over a bunch of dumb shit like someone’s boat running into someone else’s boat. I think Japan is forgetting the good things about China: they invented fried rice, and some other stuff
– Still learning and studying Japanese, at a bit of a deliberate pace. Even at two nights a week I am stripped of virtually all my weeknight free-time, and despite my time investment just last week I finally learned how to say that I want something. It’s hard to say how much longer it will take, but before long I anticipate moving from the level of cerebrally-challenged carrot to that of slightly-stilted squash
– Street Fighter IV is more and more a Japanese game as I continue to play it: your performance is attributable solely to you and dependent on no other factors outside of your opponent. This game still incites stronger feelings of accomplishment and self-hatred than virtually any other game I have ever played, which is kind of reflective of the Japanese spirit in general

We’re getting a new refrigerator triple the capacity of our current one next week, which is a concession I made to Jessy despite my desire to return to simpler times when we had less stuff. As a sort of compensatory event we have agreed to at least rid ourselves of the old, tiny fridge, and perhaps trade the desk for some open space. Still, despite the additional space gobbled up and the expense, I am having a hard time not being excited about the fact that I’ll be able to keep more than two beers in the refrigerator, and I’ll be able to buy huge packages of meat from Costco and keep them in (one of!) the freezer(s). The damned thing even has a fourteen-space egg tray! In addition to the fridge on top and the two freezer drawers on the bottom, the very very bottom is a vegetable crisper drawer, an impossible luxury. The idea that I might be able to preserve a quantity of food significant enough that I need not visit the grocery store four times a week is liberating and shocking, and soon I will understand what it means to live in this bold new year, 1968.

I think part of my apprehensiveness to getting more things is knowing that as usual I am still transient. Though physically I now settle into a comfortable sort of established life in Japan, the fact that I’ve become increasingly aware that my time is limited causes me to revolt against the idea of being comfortable. Part of me says that’s what life is, always coursing on with the possibility that any day could be your last one in any certain place for whatever reason, and the other part says for the same reason, why not get comfortable? I think it might become a little different once the prospect of moving does not involve sending everything I own 6000 miles across the ocean.

Tagged , , , ,