Sunday, November 18, 2007


After a particularly unfortunate night in late October, I woke up without my wallet. I returned to the city of Susono a couple weeks later to check with the police to find if any progress had been made in locating my belongings. Despite the shockingly honest nature of Japan's people, my wallet had not been returned, however a few its contents were scattered underneath a tree and reported to be waiting for me at the local Koban.

When I arrived, there was some confusion in exactly which police box held my account cards. I was mildly disappointed, however I soon became distracted by an interesting discovery. On the walk home, my friend and I discovered this beautiful area tucked away behind a grassy field beneath an old wooden swingset.

The single detail that caught my attention was the striking similarity of the playset to the one that my brother had fallen from when we were kids. That trip to the Alhambra park had eventually led us to the emergency room, where my brother had to get yet another set of stitches in his head, also leaving us to never visit that park again, which wouldn't you guess, was one of my favorites. Due to this connection, I was facinated by that jungle gym, and began to walk toward it.

My friend commented on the Japanese father and son bonding in the parking lot over a set of training wheels. It was right before she commented on how one of her adult-aged students referred to his weekends with his family as "sabisu (service) hours", which troubled her enough to correct him on his English, telling him those words aren't a very nice way of describing weekend family time. I just gave a nod of understanding while shortly pondering on how japanglish really does reflect the interesting phenomena of cultural differences.

Watching the man with his son did make me smile in remembrance of how my father used to put in his service hours at the park. I sometimes forget how my Dad actually did try to make up for his absence. How could I make any complaints when my own memory of riding alone on two wheels was when he let go of my pink banana seat and I tumbled into a bush only to get my first and only bee sting.

Not long after we entered we heard the sound of rushing water. This is what we found.

The wind was wild that day, and because it was becoming autumn, the leaves were flying playfully to their doom. As picturesque and natural as it may seem, it was doom nonetheless. The environment was astounding, and my tuna-mayonaise onigiri tasted quite good despite it being washed down with a convenience store-bought Starbucks latte. I'd probably bet a Jackson that none of my sweetie pies from America have ever indulged in this culinary combination. It may seem most disgusting, however, on that day, on that beautifully leavey and windy was perfect. Perfect.

After finishing my lunch, my friend and I separated. I wanted to explore the waterfall because for some unexplainable reason, I am ridiculously attracted to waterfalls. For some reason, it is the body of water that most excites me. I feel both scared and calm when i come near one. I love the feeling of the mist on my face, the beads that form on my clothes, and the puddles that form beneath my feet. I become respectful of the loud, pulsing noise that strangles my eardrums and starts in on my heart. I like to climb on slimy rocks and breathe the greenish smell of truant moss. Waterfalls are my favorite.

Once I grew bored of being alone, I went off to find my friend. She had taken a photo of me by the waterfall, then vanished into the trees. I climbed up the stoney staircase to find the source of the silencable falls.

Once I caught up to her, I found her taking photos of a strange dirt building. There, about a couple meters away from the pre-fall pond was a dirt-walled shed that stood beside a quiet temple. This shed was surrounded by abandoned, rusted farming equipment that gave the impression that eventually all things are forgotten.

The walls were made of rope and mud insulation. I suppose that the elements have had their way with stucture.

Unlike most things, once we began to look closer, the place grew more interesting and unexplainable. The only two openings to the shed was a sealed door with a small window and this small boarded window, that left but a crack to peer into.

After wiping the dust from the glass, I could see inside. It appeared to be a study that had a small desk in the corner and one of those hot pot inside-the-floor-things that I ate shabu shabu from amongst strangers last Christmas-time in Takayama. A fire is built in a hole in the ground inside the living room, and everybody sits beside it to cook and keep warm. It was difficult to tell how long this room had gone without any visitors. Though it appeared well-swept, with no spiderwebs lurking in the rafters, which, believe me, is unusual due to the overabundance of spiders during the autumn season. The room kept to its mysterious self.

I took photos of the serious statues, stepping my gaijin feet all over the graveyard. I made annoying sounds with my voice in the form of talking to my friend. If the gods grew angry, they might punish me for the many wrongs I have made in this world. My dubious soul is staunch, expecting and incredibly American. Still remaining, and unpunished.

Monday, November 12, 2007


"Fuck Christmas, Fuck New Years, Fuck Martin Luther King Junior!
Winter's nothing but another shitty year's three month hangover."

drunken shouting senior citizen, presumed homeless
People's Park, 2005

Thursday, November 08, 2007


"No one uses the phone anymore
The tracks are wrecked and the odometer's ticking
The edge is pushed and the lines are melting
Too scared to look at what I hear outside....release"

AFK by Pinback

There were too many bad days, so in attempt to set things right, I've gone into purification mode. I'm on a schedule in order to keep my mind from going to the bad place. I wake up, go to school, stay late and study Japanese or wander around and talk to the kids or fool around in their clubs. I come home, have dinner while watching ridiculous game shows, take a walk or ride my bike around the dark country roads. I bring my Ipod, but listen to Japanese quizzes rather than music. I'm not sure if I like this, but I continue to do it. I prefer to be close to the river that runs by the forest. I turn around just before the trees become too dense. I use the word 'become' more often. I blame Japanese. I return home and bathe. Sometimes I bring my cold water bottle into the shower with me. I like how it feels to drink ice cold water while hot water washes down my face. I only do this after I exercise. It would seem wasteful or out-of-sync if I did this at any other time. Occasionally, I'll go straight to my desk and write for awhile, while other times I'll lie on my bed and make lists. Usually they are practical lists, you know, like things to do tomorrow, things I need to buy before my trip home, reasons I should stop (insert habit here). But no matter what I do after my shower, I will always read before going to sleep. And that is what I like most about my extended periods without toxins, reading before bed. I have problems reading while drunk. Whenever I try to do this, I read much too fast out of eagerness and end up remembering nothing by the time I hit the end of the page. At those times, I usually pass out before I get the chance to turn another page. The best thing to read into sleep is a quality collection of short stories. Despite my love for reading, I don't know much about books. I was made to read plenty of them in school, but I don't really know about new things or bestsellers or things like that. So since being recommended a couple of good ones, I've become obsessed. Two weeks ago, Leonie lent me Haruki Murakami's After the Quake. I was unaware that it was another collection of short stories. I read all but one story by the time my train pulled into Shimada station. I was so disappointed in myself for finishing it so quickly. That night, I read the last story and went to bed. A couple days later, I went to the bookstore and decided to buy another Murakami since I felt a little cheated by the brevity of book I had just read. The Elephant Vanishes was much thicker, so I somehow felt comforted. Since then, I have limited myself to only one story per night. After I finished last night's story, Sleep, I couldn't breathe. I couldn't take my eyes off the last word. Coincidently, the word was 'over'. But it didn't feel over. I was in a perfectly fine mood when I laid down and opened to the folded corner at the top of the page. I had just finished talking to Gabriel, and debated whether or not it was too late to get in a quick story. Obviously, it's never too late. The beginning reminded me of Fight Club, while the middle seemed to reverberate the usual Murakami haze of disattachment, abnormal normality, and the apathetic romanticism which leads you along like a paper lullaby. As I read on, I began to realize this character was me. I wasn't scared to read me in someone's book, not at all. And I wasn't scared when I read that terrifying final paragraph of the story. I couldn't breathe, and I couldn't take my eyes off the last word, sure, but I wasn't scared. I was something else. This morning I woke up crying. I doubt it had anything to do with the story I read last night, but nevertheless, I decided to link these two moments of my life together, here, for the sheer convenience that where one day ended, another began. I was crying in my sleep, and I remember the dream. In fact, I couldn't stop thinking about it all day. The first person I saw today as I rode my bike into the school gates was Yamaguchi-sensei. It was his words, in my dream, that had caused me to sob like a bereaved child. He's a really nice guy, and one of my favorite teachers at school. In fact, when I recounted to Gabby what exactly he said to me that had hurt my feelings, I felt silly. It wasn't until I spoke the words out loud that I realized these things would never affect a wakeful Toby. No, not at all. However, I still agree that if I could, I'd read instead of sleep, just like I did in the story. If not for only free time, but from an escape from subconsciousness.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ja no michi wa hebi

I like sharing wavelengths. I like people who try new things. Even sick things, like eating raw horsemeat. Basashi is what they call it here. Horse Sashimi. This restaurant we went to was on TV because of its tasty basashi and Houtou. "Hoto" is how you say faggot in Spanish. My dad said it once when he declared the reason why he waits by the dryers while his laundry finishes is because he doesn't want those "hotos down the hall touching them." However, Houtou is also a delicious soup that may just be vegetarian. There was my favorite lil pumpkin, kabocha, floating above the noodles when the hot pot was placed in the middle of the table. The noodles are flat and wider than linguine but not as slippery as udon. There were strange roots and veggies that i hadn't recognized from any other soups I've had in Japan, so I suggest you eat it if you ever wander through the groves of Yamanashi-shi.

One highlight of the excursion was when I stood at the window wearing a horse's head, peering into the restaurant. I felt bad minutes later when he said that we probably ruined everybody's dinner. I didn't mean to do that. Minna-san, gomen.

And in the midst of troubles and distractions, a time will come when everything is still and perfect. Similar to the phenomenon that one is rarely conscious of the passing of consistencies, like breathing, blinking, thinking. Until suddenly, the temperature drops or sand blows in your face, or you see something that makes you stop and stare, and completely forget the last thirty thoughts that rushed their way through your head. And they never return.