March 20, 2006

The Disappearance of a Registry

What a strange weekend indeed. Friday night involved the typical Wakayaman fare: finish work, go to the gym, shower and shave, food at an izakaya, a few drinks with some friends, sleep. After that, everything that I undertook was distinctly outside of the routine. I got up at 6:00am on Saturday morning, rode the train to Namba Station while listening to Daniel Lanois on my discman and groggily reading Murakami's novel A Wild Sheep Chase. It is an amusing and often poignant off beat detective story, but still it is not nearly as strong in a narrative sense or in a philosophical sense as Hard Boiled Wonderland or Norwegian Wood. Upon arriving at Namba, I met up with Kris and Martyn, good friends that I made on my trip to Vietnam. We spent the day together at Universal Studios Japan, waiting in long lines, goofing off (their laughter is contagious and irresistably salubrious), and roaming through replicated American cities while the rainfall gradually dampened my clothes. Throughout the day I noticed luminous fragments of my childhood appearing to me for a second only to drift off somewhere out to sea. Those halcyon years of Fred Flintstone's "Yabba dabba doo!", cheeseburgers on Saturday afternoons, friends I would hang out with all day long, smells of the streets of Berkeley, near campus, Shattuck Ave., North Berkeley, etc. Although I was very tired, I was awake to something, perhaps that something is both within me and beyond the present day.

Upon my return, I made some friends at Wakayama Station. Makiko, Nanayo, and Ayano gave me a ride home because I had no umbrella and was barely able to keep my eyes open or stand up straight. This constellation shines on me through rainy evenings and I wander my way to something good. I made three friends, and went to bed tired, grateful, at around midnight.

On Sunday I headed up to Osaka again for round two with my friends. As I was waiting outside Namba Station, I felt the bittersweet pang of solitude--of being alone in an enormous crowd. The rush of young people--on dates, in groups, waiting for someone, going home from work, etc. gives one the feeling of being in a dream. Everytime I stand outside Namba Station by myself, I feel this deep, immeasurable duration of the world--changing at every moment, each moment interpenetrating the other and yet wholly different. Everybody is on their way--all at the same time, all falling forward into the next moment, extending with every step what is past. At night, I dreamt a very strange dream which has been in my thoughts this morning:

I was somewhere in Japan, and had a date with a very close girlfriend. Her name started with an "M." I was looking through my mobile phone to find her name, but a message had come up on my phone. I read the text message, but it turned out to be a virus that deleted my entire directory of phone numbers and mail addresses. Not only did this crush me because I needed to get into contact with "M" (as each second went by in the dream, I could imagine her forgetting me), but I also knew in some way that this loss really entailed losing my entire stay in Japan. Three unforgettable years of my life vanishing with an errant press of a button. When my body rose this morning, I felt the heft of this dream, of my recent thoughts about my last few months of this stay. After my shower, I sat on my balcony, where I routinely sit a few minutes every morning, and saw a perfectly clear blue sky--it looked bigger than I had ever seen it in Japan. The sky itself seemed like my life--in the rough, uninspiring days, it seems to contract, get smaller, more sordid and meaningless, then one morning you wake up and see how vast and endless it really is.

Today I am the only one in the teacher's room. It is a lonely sound--these computers and the kersone heater running as well as the arrhythmic click and ping of my typing cutting through the noxious drone of machines.

March 15, 2006


In today's News Wakayama (p.3), there appears an article with the heading, "Foreigners Try Sumo." At the top left of the article, which recounts the events of Wakayama International Exchange Association's Sumo Workshop for Foreigners, there is an action shot of yours truly, on my way to being ignominously smothered and quashed by a large man over 150kg and whose legs are three times the diameter as mine. My claim to fame has taken quite a disparaging route of humiliation. Oh well, the nabe was tasty.

March 12, 2006

Yearbooks and a Diaper

Last night I had a chance to see an amazing band play in Wakayama. The Aramaki Band is a quartet based in Tokyo consisting of Shigeo Aramaki (bass), Nao Takeuchi (tenor sax), Keiichi Yoshida (piano), and Tamaya Honda (drums). If the reader can find these names and procure a recording of their work, there is no doubt that he or she will be moved.

Other things I have done so far in March: bid farewell to the third-year students at my high school's graduation ceremony, sumo wrestling, and fought a bad case of chronic diarrhea (photos witheld). All sumo wrestlers have a wrestler's name, one which represents them in some way, usually with kanji (Chinese characters). Mine was 割箸, "disposable chopsticks," given both for my physical attributes and for my disposability in the ring.

March 02, 2006

Still, no picture

of what I am going to be doing in the future. Bergson elucidates the centrality of intuition over intellect in consciousness, and right now I am running low on intellect. Perhaps all humans resemble the hybrid cars that recently hit the market. We run on intellect/reason for as far as we can until our limit is reached and then switch over to intuition. If I could understand him a little more, I would be more confident in saying that Bergson was one of those people who, like well-intentioned energy researchers everywhere, are looking for ways to get us around without destructing, or deconstructing, our environment.

I remembered what and why I wanted to talk about today. Reading the newspaper this morning, another "off-day" at school (we have hit the doldrums of the Japanese school year, between graduation (yesterday) and the beginning of classes (mid April)), I came across an article about physchotherapy and its commercialization. Apparently the field of psychotherapy is undergoing an identity crisis itself, says the author. I thought of academics too in the same light, and really all of my options lead to the same destination. I am not in any way alluding to some metaphysical truth, no, just a state of things in the present world. There seems to be no place in the world, no position one can hold, that is free from this invisible, pervasive, and unnameable presence. I can' put my finger on it, but everytime I think about how to make money, how to merely "survive"; everytime I read a scientific explanation of the world, extracting the wonder and joy from being alive and putting it in one of the lab's many beakers that stand lifelessly on the shelves; or (re)read the newspaper every day with a sense of deja vu, that there seemed to have been a car bombing in Iraq yesterday (and there was), skimming a very graphic report of the killing of school children in rural Japan, reports on global warming, McDonalds making profits on their new Ebi Filet-O burger, email scandals in the top-level of Japan's government, bird flu arriving in France, Bush's surprise visit to Afghanistan, etc.--in all of these observations, these apparitions, it feels as if this "thing" has just passed by me, like a ghost, and I can only intuit for a second what was there. A vestige remains somewhere in my memory of this unnameable, absent figure.

Then there is the positive things happening in life--also happening now in concurrence with the aforementioned personal, global, and universal woes. I read C.S. Lewis's "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" the other day, and I am looking forward to seeing the movie on Saturday. Even though the Disney version will surely be less fulfilling than the book, will shine a little too brightly and lack the depth of Lewis's original (which is a masterpiece), I still believe the experience to be promising. I've also been reading the work of Haruki Murakami, Henri Bergson, and (off and on) O. Henry. Lots of Hs, I know. So, while March rolls along with promises of spring slowly unfurling in the first few plum blossoms, I have a lot and not much on my mind. Reading books, enjoying life, and all the time carrying around that companion with which I must learn to live with, smile at, and forebear in everything I do.