December 03, 2005

A Long Day

I went to bed at 5:00am this morning. One cannot say this is an effective preparation technique for taking the level 2 Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Waking up at around 11:30 or so, I hungrily and hungoverdly scarfed down a tasty but bite-size burger at Il Fait Beaux, or something like that. I cannot remember how to spell anything in French. Then it was a failed attempt to study at Mr. Donuts. I merely stared at my textbook and coffee, and that was that. Tomorrow will most likely bring me failure on the test, but I feel some sense of merit in that I have at least progessed in my reading and speaking abilities of Japanese since August.

Today I also made a detour to the bookstore to look at a volume of Shuntaro Tanikawa's poems. The collection is called "夕方” or "twilight." There was a poem called "さようなら" or "Goodbye." In the course of the poem, the speaker bids ado to things both here and not here, to sundry elements of an individual's experiences and imagination. There was a line that read something like this:

"Goodbye to the mother who will always be upset with me."

I thought to myself, Tanikawa, now in his late 80s or so, probably still struggles with the thought that his mother is still angry at him for something. Only now I am sure he embraces it in a way I cannot imagine it as a young, slightly rebellious sapling of almost 24 years.

In the evening, I put on Peter Apfelbaum's cd, "It Is Written." The last song features a tenor saxophone solo by Jessica Jones, a famous Berkeley-bred saxophonist who used to teach my jazz ensemble workshops in high school at various locales--Ashkenaz Dance Cafe, The Alice Arts Center, and even the Church of Unitarian Universalists. Hearing her "voice" again after many years was an inexpressible rush of nostalgia, a profoundly painful recognition of my childhood being long gone--I cannot remember the last time I was enthusiastic about anything like I was about playing drums in her classes, tucked away in the rehearsal room at the back of Ashkenaz. I would always walk out of those classes wanting to stay and play more, listen more. Her and Khaleel Shaheed, the other teacher of those classes, were probably some of the first people who really got me to hear music on a deeper level than that of most background, or "mood" music. The capoeira classes would be in full swing when we got out, the sounds of the berimbau bidding me farewell as the setting sun glimmered outside the windows facing west to San Pablo Avenue and the San Francisco Bay.

I could get caught up in these recollections for an indefinite period of time, a lifetime in fact, and that realization scared me today. Something that is dangerous to look at now, so it seems. It is like the face of Eurydice, who sits peacefully and eternally in some other world, which I must leave, must have left, some time ago.


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