Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

I’m working on it…

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

I’m working on a couple of blog posts (replete with pictures) about my experience with the kayak rangers in September.

Meanwhile…

I’m back in Juneau. Working on The Blue Bear.

This article about Voices Of the Wilderness came out today. There’s a section about me:

http://juneauempire.com/stories/121610/art_757473449.shtml

Yeee haaaa…

Stay cozy everyone!

Here we are again…

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Another attempted bombing on an American airline.

The arguing that has already begun about this will continue. Everyone will see in this what they want. Everyone will trim their sails to take advantage of this particular gust of wind.

I don’t have any particular new or original information about the incident, or what was and will be done about it. But I have a couple thoughts, and one idea. These are things that I think are fairly clear.

The only way to absolutely prevent this kind of thing is to scan passengers for intent. We can’t do that yet. Not well. Sure it seems like a good idea to have things like no-fly lists, but then, as in this case you get into a whole argument about how we pick people for such a list. I’m sure that one of the effects of this will be a lowering of the bar for entry onto the list. I would expect the no-fly list to balloon, if it hasn’t already. This may or may not prevent another attempt.

I think I can say with some confidence that expanding the no-fly list will not absolutely prevent another attack. It will, however, absolutely guarantee an increase in the number of people who are on the list who have no intention of ever doing anything on an airplane but traveling. This increase will increase the number of people who have a pretty legitimate reason to be frustrated and angry with the US. And the cycle continues…

Do I have an answer? No (well I have one idea but we’ll get to that).

Do I think this guy should have been let on that flight knowing what I know now? No.

Do I think that it is possible to know what someone is going to do before they do it? No.

And this is the problem. We’re dealing with people. People with passion. Given the right circumstances almost anyone will commit terrorism. And given the right circumstances almost anyone will jump across airline seats to stop an act of terrorism.

So what do you do if you can’t scan for intent?

Our current solution to not being able to do this is presumption of guilt. We assume intent, so we try to remove the means. Let’s say I want to blow up a plane, and I try to get past TSA with a couple of bottles of fluid, disguised as shampoo, which constitute a binary explosive. What happens is that they take away my bottles and I go my smiling, if thwarted, way. If I’m sufficiently motivated, I’ll still try to do something. My intent is still there. To be absolutely consistent, it should be legal to carry explosives on airplanes. What should be illegal is the blowing up of airplanes. Of course its hard to come up with a good benign reason for having C4 in your carry-on, but we allow people to carry guns in all kinds of crazy places if they don’t seem to have criminal intentions.

I hate the current TSA checkpoints, and the regulations on behavior in the air (how is listening to my iPod while the plane is landing going to cause a problem?). And now they’re going to get worse. Great! As Harry Shearer said: “The passengers prevented a disaster, so let’s punish all passengers.”

Most solutions are not solutions to problems, but distractions from problems. (and if you’re going to fly, you better make sure that your solution is non-flamable and in a bottle that is 3.4 ounces or less.)

It has been a mental habit of mine to think as I go through TSA… “This would be easier on me if I thought it was actually helping.” I don’t say this out loud… I’m not a complete idiot, nor do I think hassling the employees of TSA is a sane or humane way of expressing anger about our society. But now we have a case in which despite all the hoops they make us jump through, this yahoo still gets to self-imolate on an airplane. So our response is, let’s do MORE of what we’re doing, because clearly we’re not doing ENOUGH. Instead of lets look at what we’re doing.

So here’s my suggestion (I don’t know how original it is): How’s about a licensing system. If you want to travel by air, you have to get a license. And society will check you out and decide if we think its safe to have you in the system, just like with guns and cars. I’m sure that if we imposed 24 hour sobriety checks on every street corner, we would save millions of lives, but we don’t do that. We check every passenger, every time they use air transport… and we still don’t do it well.

I mean if there were a well designed test, that determined my ability, and presumed willingness, to use the air-transport system without endangering society, then I should be allowed to do so without undue hindrance. And I should be issued a license card that allows me to identify myself as such. I’m sure we could come up with something here, and yes, such a system would be rife with abuse and problems, but so is the system we have, so let’s try SOMETHING!!

Aren’t we supposed to be the country that’s innovative in the area of human liberty? I know we haven’t been sometimes, but aren’t we supposed to be? Aren’t we supposed to be the country that inspires people to want to come here and be part of this interesting project? Rather than inspiring young men to come here to try to blow stuff up…

What do I know? I’m just a citizen, and that seems to mean less and less these days…

hmmm.

Shooting more complicated fish in a barrel…

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

This was on the wall outside a restroom at Narita Airport:

ostimate

I have a fairly large vocabulary, but I didn’t know what “Ostimate” was until I looked it up. It refers to a person who has had an “ostomy” which is (it seems) an entire class of surgical procedures dealing with the re-routing of urinary and excretory function. The most commonly known one being a “colostomy”.

So, this is an example of a sign that appears, at first glance, to be needlessly obtuse, but is in fact extremely helpful. I would assume that to someone to whom this notice is targeted, the utility and clarity is clear. There is no doubt. And I also assume that it is deeply and practically appreciated.

This humble blogger for one, is humbled. And educated. And more attentive as a result…

hmmmm…

…stay tuned!

Shooting fish in a barrel (pt. 2)

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

From a Japanese customs, entry form:

prohibited

Sorry. This picture isn’t so good. I’d like to draw your attention to item number 5, which states as prohibited articles: “Obscene or immoral materials, and Child pornography.” Here again there are two rather interesting implications.

  1. Child pornography is not included in the class of objects described as “Obscene or immoral materials.”

  2. In order to be in violation of this rule one needs to have BOTH “Obscene or immoral materials” AND “Child pornography.”

Oh what a difference that “and” makes.

hmmm…

…stay tuned!

New category.

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I’ve always been fascinated by the way language in general and English in particular gets bent out of shape in the, so called, public forum. And now that I’m always carrying a camera with me on my iPhone, I’ve decided to start documenting some examples of this and posting them here.

To this end, I’ve created a new category on the blog called “Mangled English”. Enjoy!

I’m not exactly above reproach when it comes to my own use of English, so I accept the inherent hypocrisy in this endeavor. I mean no ill-will towards the people who are behind these various oddities. It’s just funny/interesting…

Ok. Here’s the first one:

Disposable

This is from the restroom of a domestic American Airliner. There are two rather odd implications in this sign.

The first is that is that there is such a thing as reusable toilet tissue. The second is that toilet tissue, is inherently, foreign.

hmmmm…

…stay tuned!

Marina Del Ray

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

For the last two weeks, I’ve been in Los Angeles. Actually Santa Monica. Actually Marina Del Ray. A gang of us from SITI Company have been making a new show. It is a new version of Antigone, written by Jocelyn Clarke. We’re working at the Getty Villa which is just up the coast from where we’re living. Where we’re living is two blocks from Venice Beach.

I’m spent quite a bit of time in Los Angeles over the years, and have come out to this area just to visit the beach, but I’ve never spent this much time here. Although we’ve been so busy with the show I haven’t had that much time to myself, I’ve taken a few walks around and done a bit of running. It strikes me that the climate, fauna and even the architecture of this area is remarkably similar to areas of Japan that are very familiar to me from childhood. This is a bit weird. I mean, this is Venice Beach. We’re talking Muscle-Beach and paddle-tennis and literal beach bums waking up under huge swaths of graffiti. Sand in everything. Despite the clear differences between almost any part of Japan and California beach culture, I have moments when a smell wafts through the air here that transports me back to my childhood in a powerful way.

It’s not just the ocean. Even though it is the Pacific one.

I think a lot of this is botanical.

I think a lot of this is neurological.

Powerful nostalgia in places we’ve never been…

I fly to Shanghai in the wee hours of Monday morning. Never been there. Wonder if I’ll remember it…

TSA

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

TSA airport security inspections suck.

Who was it who said that TSA stands for “Thousands, Standing Around.”

There is, on one hand, the whole political argument about being subjected to a search without probable cause, and the attendant argument about whether any of this is really doing what they say it’s doing, but that’s a rant that been ranted in other places by other ranters. Let me just say that I have deeper questions about the whole thing.

But the frustration that I’m ranting about here, is related to the aesthetics of the experience. I mean, I know there’s probably some sort of security reason why the whole thing has to be flexible or something, but why does it always seem like these TSA inspections are run by FEMA? I know for a fact that there are architects in this country. It follows that some of them are talented. It follows that some of these could solve this. It just doesn’t seem that hard to design a way to do this with a modicum of grace. It’s one thing to have to take your belt and shoes off as part of a public transportation experience. But I don’t think they could do this worse if they tried. Even the newer facilities that have been built in the last few years, look like they were set up in a couple of hours by some high-school student council committee.

Beyond the design issues, there is the problem of the staff. There seem to be two types.

The first is the type that knows that there is an inherent arbitrary absurdity to the situation and the best thing they can do is try to maintain compliance with this week’s regulations with a minimum of stress. These people are relatively helpful.

Earlier this summer I was going through security in Las Vegas (on the way from Edmonton Alberta to Chicago Illinois… in addition to architects I think we could use some cartographers.). I have taken to carrying Sigg water bottles with me when I fly. By filling them at water fountains at the gate, I can avoid the carbon footprint of bottled water and the bacterial footprint of onboard water tanks. Anyway, the trick requires going through security with the bottles empty, but in Las Vegas, because I was on a lay-over I didn’t expect to have to do the TSA thing, and one of my bottles was full of Canadian water. So the guy said, you’re going to have to empty it, and then escorted me on a circuitous path that took me around the entire inspection area and back to the other side. We walked past several water fountains and restrooms. He said he’s having to do this more and more because more and more people have similar hydration strategies to mine, and he doesn’t think it’s right to take their bottles away. When I said “And there’s no way I can just dump it on THIS side, he shook his head and rolled his eyes.

The other type of TSA employee is apparently dealing with the largest amount of authority they have ever had. They are not dealing with it well. They have allowed their perception of the stakes of their situation to stress them out, and make them vaguely abusive. Harking back to Milgram, these people have been given instructions that allow them to be stupider and ruder than they probably would be in normal circumstances.

I was going through security in New Orleans once, several years ago. I had a button shirt that I was wearing over a T-shirt. It was unbuttoned and untucked. I was flying north and I would want it buttoned by the time we landed. The guy told me to take my jacket off. I told him that it wasn’t a jacket, it was a shirt. But he made me take it off. I asked him if he would have made me take it off if it had been buttoned up. He just stared at me. But I really wanted to know, so after getting through, I went back out, buttoned and tucked in my shirt, went through again. The guy just stared at me. He was clearly pissed off at me, but he couldn’t ask me to take my shirt off. Ok, so that’s a story about how I’m kind of a jerk, but the point is that these rules are CRAZY, and they set up situations in which human interactions become really dumb. Unless this craziness is the common enemy we’re at odds with each other.

On the positive side, the TSA has set up TSA Complaints, and I have heard reports that this has been effective. Some things that people have complained about have been addressed.

However, in addition to the TSA staff, there is another group of people who frustrate me when going through airport security.

The other passengers.

I’m sure I’m guilty of pissing people off in TSA lines as well, but I have NEVER gone through one of these lines without feeling that people aren’t paying attention or thinking ahead. I understand that some people don’t travel very much and aren’t used to this process, but it just isn’t that tricky. Here are some “rules” that have emerged for me.

  1. Think ahead. Pack your carry-on with a thought towards this process. Put the contents of your pockets in your bag before you get anywhere near the scanner.

  2. Think through how many of those plastic tubs you’re going to need. Grab that number and keep moving. Keep your stuff together for as long as you can.

  3. Put your, laptop, little baggie of liquids, your shoes, and belt etc in the tubs at the last possible moment, and send them through the scanner.

  4. At the other end, the priority is to keep moving. Grab your stuff and get as far from the scanner as you can. If you are standing at the exit to the scanner, putting your shoes on, you are causing a problem.

If people would just do this, it would move SO MUCH smoother.

All of this of course is filed under the heading of sweeping generalizations. There are plenty of anecdotes about helpful TSA folk and efficient passengers. But on the whole, I find everyone to be at least mildly irritating, if not wildly infuriating while involved in this hateful practice.

It has always driven me irrationally crazy, and I could never figure out why. Going through security at Jet Blue in JFK this last weekend, I suddenly realized why this is so irritating to me. As a theatre artist a big part of my job/interest is movement through time and space. I’m not an expert when it comes to the legality of this whole TSA enterprise. I am an expert when it comes to how it’s performed. TSA security inspections are badly staged!

I can see how to fix this problem but I need everyone to either train more or rehearse.

Oy vey

Walking Broadway

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

I’ve always had this conception about Manhattan that an important part of it’s dynamism, arises from basic design characteristics. On the most basic level, this comes down to, the compression of being an island, balanced by the big hole in the middle (Central Park). But moving one level closer, the most interesting characteristic to me is that the grid that forms most of the island is sliced diagonally on it’s long axis by the avenue known as Broadway. The places where the diagonal crosses other North – South avenues become complex intersections with a park (Washington Square) or a high concentration of activity (Times Square). Also given that the rough history of the city begins on the southern tip of the island and moves north, Broadway traces time as well as space.

I’ve always had this idea about making this observation experiential by walking the entire length of Manhattan island along Broadway. From Battery Park to the Harlem river. So yesterday, I did it.

It took five hours to cover the thirteen miles, with occasional stops. I stayed on the East side of Broadway the whole way.

I know that one of the reasons why I did this now is that I was just in Boulder Co. for five weeks and I did a lot of hiking there. The primary feature that I was hiking on and around in the Front Range of the Rockies outside of Boulder was the three big rock cathedrals known as “The Flatirons.” It didn’t hit me till I was right there, but at one point yesterday I looked up and started laughing. I was looking at the Flatiron Building.

Comparing hiking in Manhatten to hiking in the Front Range, one notes a sharp up tick in the number of restaurants and other commercial establishments. Not to mention people. For a good part of the walk, I was basically walking through a crowd. But the amazing thing is how in five hours I walked through a countless number of micro-cultures. It was like taking a core sample of, not just New York, but America. And if the universal is in the specific then it was like looking at the tree-rings of humanity. Something important in the patterns, revealing a different view of the universe itself. These are the things that pass through the mind.

One observation, that stunned me, was how obviously Manhattan is bisected on it’s short axis as well as it’s long. Manhattan below 120th street and Manhattan above it are TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS! I’ve always known this, but it was so clearly and unambiguously palpable. There is a good deal of variety of experience between Wall St, and Morningside Heights, but none of it is as drastic as the shift when you hit Harlem.

I want to try to go the other direction some time (and walk the West side of the street), but five hours pounding concrete has left me feeling like someone has been working me over with a ball-peen hammer.

I need some time to recover.

Kermit the car RIP…

Friday, May 9th, 2008

I took possetion of a 1992 Honda Accord on January 9th, 2004. It was purchased from Team Honda in Baton Rouge LA. Because of the color the car quickly came to be known as Kermit the car. It turns out that it wasn’t easy being green.

Kermit when new (for me).

Kermit when new (for me).

On May 5th 2008 at almost exactly 5 pm (5/5, 5:00), while driving at about 80 mph, shortly after entering the Chesapeake Bay watershed near the highest point on I80 East of the Mississippi in central PA, Kermit’s engine made a fairly disturbing sound, emitted a cloud of white smoke, and stopped running. I pulled over to the shoulder, and called the Better World Club (eco alternative to AAA). I was on day two of a two day drive from Boulder CO. I had about 4.5 hours ahead of me to get to NY. It took over two hours for a tow truck to arrive. When it did, the guy told me I was about as far from a town as I could possibly be. He towed me to the town of Clearfield. Explaining on the way that the garage would be closed but he would drop me at the Super 8 Motel and then drop the car at the garage. I should call in the morning and find out what the story was.

So I checked in (they had a 10% discount for people in my kind of plight), and went for a walk. The sunset was breathtaking, and it became clear that I had a choice; I could torture myself with the frustration of a thwarted trip, and anxiety over the fate of the car (I was having trouble thinking of anything trivial that would have caused the symptoms it was presenting). Or I could breath the mountain air, and allow the sunset to work it’s magic. I took the later.

In the morning I called the garage. I was hesitant because I couldn’t figure out a safe way to pronounce the name “Bob Boob’s Garage” but I think Mr. Boob is used to this. I told him the story, he said he would take a look at Kermit and get back to me. It seemed like 15 seconds, but it must have been 5 minutes later, he called to say “Yeah, your car is dead. DOA.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said “Your engine done blown up.” So I made preliminary funerary arrangements and went about trying to find a mode of transport for me and my stuff. After many investigations it turned out that the best bet was to take a “Silver Bullet Cab” company car to Du Bois (pronounced “Doo Bois” not “Doo Bwa” I learned) airport to get a one way rental from Hertz. This was enough of a distance that the cab fair was 75 dollars, but there was simply no other way to get there. The driver was a fantastic retired bottle plant worker with a severe stutter unless he was quoting someone. We had a great conversation the whole way. I got a car and went looking for Bob Boob garage inc.

Bob Boob sign.

Bob Boob sign.

Found it, and stripped everything I wanted off of Kermit, pulling out my stereo etc. And then I drove away. This is a picture of Kermit as I left it. Damage is visible on the front port side from the deer we killed last year.

Dead Kermit...

Dead Kermit...

I liked Kermit. It was a fun car and we put a lot of miles in together. 4 round trips between Baton Rouge and New York. New York to Arizona and back. Twice to Louisville. Chicago. Kalamazoo. It was stolen and recovered and had two stereo’s stolen out of it (once when the care was taken). And of course there was the deer in Michigan last year. However, I was thinking of getting rid of the car. Kermit’s death accelerated the process. Removing the band-aid quickly. In many ways I’m more relieved than anything. I was trying to use it to get to gigs as a way of reducing my carbon footprint. I just wish that Zip cars let you go between cities, but we’ll have to wait on that.

Anyone got a Segway they’re not using?

Seeing things and people in Tokyo.

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

So I’ve been in Tokyo for the last while. My time here has been extremely busy. No time for silly things like blogging. However, I have been thinking a good deal about this country and culture.

The one thought that I keep circling around is the idea that Japan is spending a good deal of energy and resources on innovation and development that is relevant only for the Japanese, and is still somehow failing to find ways to make their contributions resonate fully in the world community. I’ll try to come back to this point, but for now some vignettes of the week.

We spent the first couple of nights in Tokyo at the home of Yoji Sakate. Mr. Sakate is the artistic director of the Rinkogun company, and current head of the Japan Playwrights Association. I have known Sakate for about a decade now. We first met when I performed the simultaneous translation for a tour of Rinkogun’s Capital Of The City of the Gods. This was a significant tour for me in that it marked my first visit to New Orleans. I have since translated a number of Sacate’s plays and directed a reading of a section of his Attic. The last time I was in Japan was when I was here 6 years ago to create an adaptation of Moby Dick with RInkogun. So the first night we were in Tokyo, a bunch of the people who had worked on that show came over and we had about 17 tons of food and drink. It lasted late into the night. I had a long conversation with Mr. Furumoto, Rinkogun’s managing director. He’s from Toyota, where I grew up, so we have always had an interesting bond. It was interesting to hear how the funding situation in Japan is getting more and more severe. GOS grants that had kept the company alive for most of it’s 25 years, have simply gone away. Despite the fact that Rinkogun and Sakate have won just about every award available to them, and are arguably one of the most firmly established companies in the country, they’re still having to re-invent the funding wheel every year to stay afloat. There was a woman at the party that I did not know, who brought some food that she introduced as “macrobiotic”, informing us that it’s currently a big hit in the United States. This is a common trope, something that is barely on the radar in the U.S. is marketed here as a huge craze that is sweeping the United States. What struck me though was that she used the word “macrobiotic”. Now, I may be wrong about this, but my understanding is that the concept of macrobiotic food is based on “Shoujin Ryouri”, which is the food eaten in certain Japanese Buddhist monasteries. So there’s a perfectly good Japanese term for this stuff, which everyone in Japan would understand. “Macrobiotic” is, at best, clumsy in Japanese.

The next day, Akiko and I went down to Yokohama to have lunch with Akiko’s older sister and the elder of her two daughters. The ocean-front area of Yokohama around the new “Landmark Tower” is a futuristic architectural splurge with amusement parks, hotels and shopping malls arranged like the diorama of a theoretical cubist city. Post-modernism is alive and well in Yokohama. After lunch, Akiko and I went up to the top of the Landscape Tower (the tallest structure in Japan) on the elevator (the fastest elevator in Japan, although the certificate on display from Guiness said “Fastest Elevator” so I’m not sure if there’s a faster one anywhere). The view was spectacular. Even in Yokohama, which is technically past the southern border of Tokyo, the expanse of buildings is unending. You literally can’s see the edges of the city. It’s civilization as far as the eye can see, off past the curvature of the earth.

That night, Akiko went to see the dance company she used to dance with and Sakate met me at the Tokyo Public theatre to see Hanagumishibai’s new take on Chushingura. Hanagumishibai is a 20 year old company that has as it’s theme, the re-interpretation of Kabuki in a modern, unauthorized context. These guys (and yes, they’re all men) trained in the traditional techniques of Kabuki but are not part of the official Kabuki organization. I hadn’t seen their work in over 10 years, so I was curious to see how they were doing. I was a bit disappointed. Back in the day, the company had featured a friend of mine, the extraordinary Sasai Eisuke, as the principal Onnagata (specialist in playing women). Sasai was so compelling he became a kind of phenomenon all on his own. The times that I saw the company, the interplay between Sasai and company founder and director/performer Mr. Kanou was mind-blowing. These two guys were at the edges of their ability, weaving a totally new kind of cloth out of this ancient thread. Sasai has since left the company, and although Kanou is still really (and I mean REALLY) amazing on stage, the production as a whole felt safe. They have a lot of money now, the costumes look fabulous, the staging is gorgeous, but many of the very things that they began criticizing about official Kabuki are now features of their performance. It could have been because they were doing, perhaps, the most well worn play in the Kabuki cannon, but especially the first half was deadly boring.

The next day, Akiko and I moved to my brother Joel’s place for a night. After a beautiful walk through Tama Cemetery (resting place of Yukio Mishima, Edogawa Rampo, General Tojo and Admiral Yamamoto), we had dinner with Akiyo (an old friend from Toyota) and her two kids, so along with Joel’s family it was quite a crowd.

The next morning, with the help of Joel, I got a bunch of little fixes implemented on the blog. So if you haven’t noticed, things are working smoother and every-thing’s a bit prettier here at Leon’s blog.

Akiko and I then moved to a hotel in Ikebukuro, which was part of our old stomping grounds. That night we went to see Shiraishi Kayoko play the mother in Parco Theater’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenan. For those who don’t know, Shiraishi Kayoko is the best stage actor in the world right now. I would qualify this as my opinion, but I’m not the only one who feels this way. She was Suzuki’s lead actor for the period of time when his work was important, and she was the progenitor of much of the so-called Suzuki Method. I was lucky enough to have my time with the Suzuki company and hers, overlapp by about 3 years, during which time we became quite close. She has toured to the United States twice with her “Hyakumonogatari” solo performances, and I have made a fool of myself on those occasions, distracting the audience with simultaneous translations. Aside from being a remarkable performer of the first order, she is also a fanatically loyal friend and one of my favorite people. The production was directed by a new up-and-coming 32 year old whipper-snapper of a director. It was solid, but not brilliant as a production. As is appropriate to the material, the style of performance was naturalistic. But this raises one of the most interesting points about the production; Kayoko is anything BUT a naturalistic performer. She is a monster on stage. A huge theatrical presence of titanic proportions, and to the very depths of every bone in her body, theatrical. So for her, acting “normal” on stage is immensely difficult. What this meant is that everyone else on stage is coming from a place of comfort within the daily-life body of naturalistic performance, and reaching towards theatricality. Kayoko is starting from a place of intense theatricality and reaching towards daily-life. Which one do YOU think is more interesting to watch? For me it’s no contest. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The character is a horrible, cruel, resentful hag of a woman. Kayoko makes her absolutely and terrifyingly vivid in all her ugliness and then makes you care about her. It was, in a word, stunning. After the show Akiko and I and Kayoko and her Husband went to Roppongi for late night Chinese. At midnight it became Kayoko’s 66th birthday so we made a deal about that. She was born the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor. As she said, “…there’s always been something about me and America.”

The next day (Sunday), I met my childhood friend and ersatz guru Tom “Peach-fuzz” Eskildsen for breakfast. We then met up with Akiko, Ivar Eimon, Paul Hoshizaki and his wife Hiroko for lunch. These are all childhood friends of mine. We were eating at this really rather good “All the organic food you can eat in 90 mins for 1800 yen” place when another childhood friend who lives in Kobe, Loren Gilbertson called Ivar. It was about as close to a full-on reunion as I care for.

Ivar had to leave but the rest of us went over to the Ginza and walked around until Joel and Ruth showed up and we had Joel’s favorite thing to eat in the entire world An-pan fresh from Kimuraya. Kimuraya is a very old bakery on the Ginza and An-pan is a sweet bean-paste filled roll that originated there.

The party then shed those not related to the Ingulsruds and we went to big brother John E’s and after meeting up with Joel’s two girls, we had a pizza dinner surrounded by John and Kate’s 29th floor, panoramic view of Tokyo at night.

This morning we had to leave the hotel by 10 am leaving us the bulk of the day before our evening flight, so we went to Ueno (the Hard Rock Cafe spells it “Uyeno”), put our bags in a big locker, and went to Ryogoku; the Sumo district. The reason for this side trip was that we had not had any luck finding Tabi (Japanese formal socks with a bifurcated toe that we wear for Suzuki Training) in my size. For reasons that perhaps obvious to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the sport, the Sumo district is a good place to look for anything oversized you might want in Japan. Please insert here one or more jokes at my expense comparing me to a sumo wrestler.

And now I’m at the airport. The tabi and everything else is checked in and we’re checked into that international limbo of intercontinental air travel. This has always been an emotionally and philosophically loaded space for me. I used to write poetry on airplanes a lot. Then I stopped writing poetry all together and the world was a better place.

I can’t say that I’m ready to go back. There are certain things/people I’m looking forward to seeing. But on the whole, I wish I’d been here longer. This is leading to a sense that I want to get back as soon as possible, and for as long as possible. I don’t want to be an ex-pat. I find them sad. But I do love this place and feel a bond to it, even if it’s only one way.

Then again, I want to live a life with lots of places that I miss.