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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Japan

I arrived at the San Francisco Airport by 8AM for a noon flight to Tokyo, and then onto the island of Okinawa. Well, the check engine light came on and the plane we were suppose to take wont be here till 5PM. You ever try to kill time in an airport? There is not much to do and even less you can afford. I ended up going back into the city where I saw an afternoon showing of the Simpson's Movie. I was the only one in the theater. It made me oddly self-consciences about laughing out loud. Like someone was going to walk in and look at me. "Really? That's what you found funny?"
Luckily, I down loaded the entire season of the short lived 70's Sci-Fi series, Logan's Run. Based on the movie of the same name, it was the classic story of a society gone horribly wrong after a world wide war with ray guns and feathered hair. Even by 70's standards the special effects were awful and most of the stories revolved around pretty standard ideas. Yet, I love it. I love to see what the 1970's thought the future might look like. Turns out, they thought it would look pretty much like a modern home of that era; lots of shinny formed plastic chairs, shag carpeting and modular furniture. Computers were still large ungainly things covered with lots of lights that blink in random patterns. It's the clothes that are always the funniest. At some point in our future history, almost every movie of the future assumes we will all shed our blue jeans and tennis shoes in favor of shimmering robes. Gaudy, bright and oddly lacking in sexuality, these seem to be the uniform of someday. It will take a world wide holocaust to get us into these things.
So, I spent a few hours with my MacBook on my knees watching bad 70's Sci-Fi.
Eventually, we board the plane. The first hint that I was leaving America came at this time. When they called out for us to board, people got up and rushed for the front of the line. Because of the way the chairs in the waiting area are situated, it was impossible to form a single line at the gate. We all sorta bunched together near the velvet ropes. I assumed we would all stand there jossling for position to get on the plane. Nope. Most of these passengers were Japanese. Quietly and with an invisible efficiently, one by one we walked threw the opening and onto the plane. Amazing!
When we land, there is a young man waiting for me. I know this cause I can identify my name on the large printed card he is holding among all the other words written in Blade Runner font. He apologizes for the delay and explains what they have done to get me onto my final destination. He is cordial to the extreme. What they have done is get me a room at the other airport in Tokyo. I just have to ride a bus for an hour to get there and then leave from that airport in the morning. I am tired. Yet the idea of riding a bus now is kind of cool. I feel like I will get to see the country a little bit at the street level.
Everything is the same but different. Guard rails, light poles, the color of the road signs; it is all familiar. I can't read anything or understand the conversations around me, but I can identify what things are. As we get onto the highway, I feel this odd sensation that I should be more excited. I am in Japan, after all! Yet, I am tired and need to peel off my clothes and shower. It is 5 in the AM by my time, but just before 9 at night by local time. My head is a little spun. I start watching the brightly lit neon names of hotels go by in the bus window. I can see cars passing us and all seems mundane. That's when I get my first little rush of appreciation for where I am. This is Japan! A whole other country. All I have to guide me onto my evenings rest in a ticket stub with a hand written name of where to get off. It's oddly exciting! I don't have a clue where I am or even where I am going. But I am some place else. Some place distant and exotic just by the fact that this is not America.
Eventually we come into the outskirts of Tokyo. On both sides of the highway, huge apartment buildings rise like massive blocks riddled with windows and lights. The scale of these buildings dwarf any single city block in New York. These structures are giant uniform living quarters for the millions of people who live here. There is not one or two of these buildings either, there every where! Lit up like slices of space ships from Star Wars, they are the landscape. Even though everything is familiar, I start to notice the lack of general disorder. No graffiti on the over head bridges. No broken down cars on the side of the road. No dirt on the floors of the airport. Not a single light burned out. The whole country starts to remind me of Logan's Run. That utopia of a perfect city under domes.
There is an order to things here. It makes me wonder if all this politeness masks something darker. My good old fashioned American cynicism is showing.
I spend a wrestles night tossing and turning worried if I will actually get to this gig. When morning comes, I am anything but rested, but eager to be on my way. Maybe it's the lack of sleep or the worry that I am not going to get there on time, but standing in line at the airport in Tokyo, it suddenly hits me; this is farther away from anything and everything I have ever been in my life. There is a quick sense of panic that swims up from the back of my mind and does a belly flop in the center of my chest. I take a few deep breaths but the realization coalesces into the knowledge that here; I am an alien. I am alone on the other side of the globe. One day out of the states and I am feeling more different that at any other time in my life. For all the times I felt isolated, America was still a place I understood. There is no wi-fi access in the Airport. My cell phone is useless too. I am out of reach from anything familiar. It's scary. I have felt alone in life before, but this is real.
I take a few more deep breaths and remind myself that so far the Japanese have demonstrated an amazing politeness that has gotten me this far. Yet, I am struck by how absolutely alone I really am. Me being me, the floor falls out on these thoughts and what was a mildly uneasy feeling swiftly becomes something of a panic attack right there in line among a thousand Japanese. The only thing that prevents this from happening is something the Japanese culture can appreciate; embarrassment. I have this fear of being the ugly American in any way. Surely falling to the ground and clutching my chest as I wet myself would do nothing to improve our image abroad. On the flight from SF, there was an American guy behind me. When the smiling flight attendant ask him to put the empty seat beside him back in the upright position, he said, "Whats the difference? I'm not using it."
She smiled again and he eventually complied. But I sat there thinking, just for once in your life, do what your asked like you have been asked a million times before on a million other flights and don't be a dick!
Part of my anxiety attack, and that's what were calling it now, is fueled by my lack of fuel; coffee. I would pay anything for a tall Starbucks coffee right now. I hate to admit that. Where are you corporate America when I need you most? Logos, brands, images; I know they are all signs, but for what? This is becoming a little like that Twilight Zone episode where the guy suddenly loses the ability to understand English. He cant read it or speak it or understand it spoken to him. That's what I am going through right now. A lot of the loneliness I felt as a kid was self induced. That's what finally made the anxiety attack subside. This knowledge that even here, I could make contact with my eyes and smile. In America, there was much I didn't agree with or like, but it was my culture. I spoke the language and knew the ways. Why couldn't I reach out to people? And with this thought came a series of others. The whole thing about back packing across a foreign land to find yourself, it made sense now. I use to think it was silly. But finding yourself by placing yourself in an alien culture to find out what is you and what is the environment you grew up with is valuable to know. Maybe there is no other way to get that information too. This is all great, but I also know that tonight I will have to stand in front of an audience and tell jokes I am really not connected to anymore. It's a shame, cause if I could stick with what is going on inside me right now, I might be able to go farther away than ever. Even on the plane, it was such a humbling feeling to look out the window and see nothing but miles of unbroken sea scratching the horizon. When I look out the windows on the other side of the plane, nothing but bright blue ovals. It is terrifying and strangely calming to realize the scale of the planet in relation to yourself. I could be swallowed whole out here and no one would ever know. The sea is so bright that even threw sun glasses I have to squint when I look at it.

FIRST SHOW,
I should be embracing the unique experience of coming to Okinawa, Japan. Instead, I am pissed off in my hotel room on base because I cant get on line. I tried to go for a walk off base, but 5 minutes after leaving the building I got caught in a down pour. I don't mean a nice summer shower, I mean I heard what sounded like a freight train behind me. When I turned to look I could see a thick dark curtain rushing up to me. In a second, I was drenched. My clothes felt like concrete against my skin. I turned around and started heading back to the hotel. My biggest fear at the moment was getting my passport and travel orders wet. We were told to have them with us at all times. The travel orders gave us access to the various bases spread around the island. Its basically just a piece of paper with a lot of bureaucratic nonsense on them. If I lost those or damaged them in any way, I was screwed. So I rushed back my room content with the idea of wasting time on the Internet till the sun broke threw again and I would be daring enough to attempt another solo excursion. I cant see coming all the way to this place and staying inside the whole time. But I am starting to fear exactly that. I am also starting to think this was a huge disaster. Allow me to explain.
I was met at the airport by a guy about my age whose eyes are set to far a part in his head and has a slight Tennessee twang in his words. Nice enough and charming in a really creepy way, he gave me the "Rules we need to cover" as we walked toward the van.
"Do you make fun of Bush in your act at all?"
Well, yes, but on this trip no. I am not a moron. I am not going to be on a base with 20 year old drunk guys who have been trained in combat. But that wasn't the most interesting question he had for me.
"Do you use the N-word much in your act?"
What an odd question.
"Much? How about never. I think one time might be to many."
"You cant drink on stage either."
"Well, I don't drink and I am not a racist, so I guess it will work out then."
At this I laughed hoping to lighten the mood. Who the hell has been out here on these trips? Michael Richard's?
I ask him how long he has been out here.
"1o years."
Wow! That's amazing. To be an American so far from home that long has to be interesting. I pepper him with questions about cultural and emotional differences that he largely shrugs off. However, when I ask him if he missed America in anyway, he says, "What, crime ignorant people and bad schools for my daughter? Not at all."
I nod my head in agreement. Then he follows up with this statement as he eye balls a girl waiting to the cross the street.
"I'll tell you this, the women over here are built for fun."
It's not that he says this in any particular creepy way, it's the way he is looking at the young girl. Hey, I like girls to. Young and hot and Asian, hell yes! But there is a special way he looks at this girl that makes a light go off in the back of my mind somewhere. A perv alert is blinking red. Far be it for me to judge any man and his kinks. God knows I have more than my share of them. But this isn't just looking. I know instantly that he is making that statement from experience.
I think he catches me judging him a little and drops it.
The drive threw the city is fascinating to me. Again, everything is familiar; sidewalks are sidewalks, street lights are street lights, cars are cars. But I know I am else where. Not just because the signs are in another language, but there is a subtle difference to everything. The smell of the air and the flavors of even familiar foods are different. The architecture is of course different too. Everything is made out of concert. I would think that would be ugly, but there is a weathered almost pleasant charm to the square buildings. Later when we drive around the island, you can see how rural it still is. The narrow streets wind around the low hills and past squat buildings with lanterns hung outside. I am almost embarrassed to say this, but my first thought is how much it reminds me of the anime I have seen. There are also vending machines everywhere. Bright square boxes that are clean and in perfect repair are on almost every corner in front of buildings that sometimes look abandoned. I wonder where these machines are plugged in or why they are not damaged in anyway.
Then there is graffiti. The farther away you get the more things are the same. Just like in the states, as everyone calls America here, I cant read this graffiti either. Mostly what gets me is that I am someplace else. There is something in knowing that. Something I find profoundly cool. No matter that I don't understand much or that my guide is a little strange, I am not in America and I find this incredible. Not in a fuck the states sort of way, but in a curious way. What is the rest of the planet about? Sadly, the more I see and experience out here, I realize just how much of an empire we are. Its not just the fast food places we drag with us into seemingly every corner of the globe, its the attitude that comes with it. We expect to be welcomed. We expect for them to know English. We expect them to do the work of cleaning up after us.
When we drive to the base where the show where will be, I meet the other comic, Dean and the event coordinator, Jasmine who I will be seeing all this week. Dean's act consists mostly of setting up jokes with old phrases like, Guys, let me give you some advice on women. Or, the ever present and eternally hacky; Ladies, you know that's true! Then its all about farting during sex or him humping the air in front of him to make his point. But they also laugh hard at this shit. I mean hard. The club we are performing in might as well be a Fridays back home. We are in the middle of the deep blue Pacific where plants blossom from rocks and the humidity is perfect to keep things a live. But here, we are surrounded by plastic plants. Faded, burnt and dust covered plastic plants. When I got off the plane here, the glass walk way from plane to lobby was lined with rows of orchids. It makes for a perfect hot house. There are little plants everywhere in Japan. It is a nice touch. But once your on base, its pure America baby! Fake plastic leaves, and beat up chairs around a small dance floor and a stage carpeted with a oatmeal colored rug that bares all the scars of every dropped cigarette and spilled beer it has ever had to absorb. It is a supremely depressing moment to see the venue. I am told it will be one of the better venues on this tour.
God help me.
I go first. Still jet lagged and now with a full meal in my belly, I am less than ready to stand on stage for 45 minutes and scream jokes. But, it is what I signed up to do. As soon as say I am from San Francisco, a guy shouts out fag. I so don't want to deal with this. And of course, when I go up there, that's exactly what it is. I might as well be in fucking Modesto. The crowd is nothing but young drunk idiots whose patriotic beliefs are about as well thought out as the common pick up truck commercial. They are all so young too! It catches me a little off guard. I realize I am almost 40 now, but every single guy in the place has a baby face. Its striking to consider that this is also what the men in Iraq must look like. But we are not in Iraq. We are on a Pacific island paradise and this is a group of young, dumb drunk kids that I might deal with at any shitty one nighter back in the states. I go into material but anything that requires them to logically make the jump to the punch line or has any bit of subtly to it is completely lost on them. I try to talk to them but for military men, they are amazingly thin skinned. So much for being playful. Its about 25 minutes in when I realize, I am dead in the water. I really don't have that many dick jokes and frankly this is a bad crowd any way you look at it. I ask them what I should see before I leave Okinawa. This is always a fascinating question for me. The response some people will give you is the boring, depends on what you want to see. Or, you get the list of attractions or in this case, you get the entire room shouting, "Banana lady!"
I was ready for this.
Earlier in the day, the Banana lady was explained to me. She is an older woman who takes a banana up her vagina and cuts it. She can also make change with it and shoot ping pong balls across the room. You know, authentic island stuff.
This is the crowd I am now telling jokes to. Its not like I was doing philosophy 101 up there, but I might as well have been. So, I talk about the banana lady and get my first big round of laughter. And this is when it occurs to me that at the end of this week I am going to hate myself for what I will need to do on stage to survive.
Tonight, I go second. That worries me, because I have to follow farting while you fuck jokes. I am good, but it doesn't seem that good is what you need to make this work out here. It also strikes me as embarrassing. Walking threw the club picking up empty glasses and keeping things clean are locals. This is what they base their judgment of America on. Not the constitution or some vague idea of freedom that in the presidents mouth sounds dirty as he stumbles through another lame speech, its this; Drunk 20 year old's yelling about the banana lady. We are latter day Romans stationing our legions in the far flung regions of the globe for all those just in case scenarios that makes us so unpopular with the world. And these are our ambassadors. These kids yelling about a woman who takes fruit up her snatch.
I am being paid pretty good money to be here. Your tax dollars have been spent so I can travel to a distant base in our crumbling empire to tell dick jokes to troops so they know we respect the difficult job they are doing in defending our freedom. It says that in my travel orders packet so I know what my job is. The whole thing strikes me as utterly preposterous. I crossed an ocean, several time zones, and had what amounted to a minor existential break down in one airport and now, whatever artistic integrity I thought I still might have will have to be thrown out the window if I don't want to be booed off stage or worse.
At one point a guy in complete dessert camo yells out that northern California sucks. Were half way across the planet and your still holding onto that? I thought we were all American anyway? Its the self destruct mechanism in the human condition. That need to define ones self in a smaller and smaller ever more exclusive group. There is something else too. The lack of curiosity in your surroundings. When I ask about the islands religion, they tell me you can go to any kind of church here. But that's not what I mean. What about the local beliefs? I am met with blank stares. It only takes me 5 minutes of reading in the welcome to Okinawa in room magazine to learn a little about the ancestors worship and shinto beliefs. You can see tombs all over the island. Some of them are just off base or scattered in the most unlikely of locations, But you cant miss them. When I ask about them, it's the same awkward pause in conversation before someone proudly says, I dont know. I find this amazing. I ask our sound man for the week and creepy dude, about a temple we pass. He shrugs his shoulders. He has lived here ten years. Ten years and he never once thought about these tiny structures and what they mean? More than anything, this is what dooms our empire. Even the Romans knew to respect the local customs. It was an insurance policy against uprising. But here in the far flung island of okinawa, the American troops dont seem much interested in knowing anything about the island.
We revel in our ignorance too. There is a traditional dance festival here called eisa. Pronounced almost exactly as it seems, e-sa. To commemorate the local festival, the armed forces get involved to build community support by sponsoring events. Its an outreach to the community that eyes the military with skepticism. The headline in the Local Stars and stripes magazine reads, Eisa Small World After All.
Nice.
You can almost hear the sound of a gong in the back ground as you read the play on words headline.
Since the internet is down, I watch TV. It is the official armed forces network. Truly bizarre in its programing choices, you can see the ABC evening news followed by Sesame Street episodes. Then theres the commercials. Aparently, your not suppose to shake a baby. Its a mixture of public services announcements and propaganda.
Anyway, we have to leave early for the show tonight because we have to stop at a store and pick up supplies. A typhoon is coming and if the wind blows above 50 MPH, the base gets locked down. Sweet! I crossed the globe to be stuck in a room with no connection to the outside world as the sea tries to smash its way threw my window! After last nights show, I wouldnt mind that actually.

THURSDAY SHOW,
A completely diffrent expcience. The show its self was OK. Not a performnce I would brag about, but I did good and they had fun. They came up to me afterwards and told me so. One after the other lined up and said they had fun and that I was funny. I have a tendcy to blow of comlmients or to just drain them of any real sincearity. These guys meant it. Talking to the mager of the club afterwards, he said how good it was to see these guys happy. A lot of them had just come back from Iraq. The people on base who didnt go, were working double shifts. I never realy thought about it. I dont like the war or agree with anything associated with it, but I can clearly see that these guys enjoy what they do. I get that. I get that they are serious when they need to be and when I see them, they are blowing off steam. Tonight, I didnt worry so much about me having fun. It was more about them having fun. I did OK following fart jokes when you fuck. Better than OK. A young mexican guy kept shaking my hand and telling me I was the first white guy they laughed at.
Thanks?
I told him I will take word back to my people.
He was very grateful for the laughs. He couldnt stop shaking my hands. All of these guys were like that tonight. The manager of the club kept telling me how important this is for moral. It turns out, I am not just telling dirity jokes to drunk guys; I am boosting moral for people who have a very hard job. The more I thought about it, the more I felt bad about the first night. It's not like that show went bad really, its just that I delt with them more like I would in any shitty one nighter gig. These are diffrent. I now know that. Like a lot of things in life; it's not about me.
It has been raining off and on tonight. The wind has picked up. No matter what, I am taking a cab down town tomorow and see some of this place before it's gone.
I wake up around 9AM local time each day and switch on my computer to see if I can get on line. 9AM Okinawa, is 5PM back home. It is very disorienting to see the time in the upper right hand corner of my computer screen and reconcile it with the fact that I just woke up.
Getting on line is problamatic. The computer in the room works, but the connection to the base line is spotty at best. My computer has built in Wi-Fi, but the only way I can get it is if I place my computer near a corner of my bed. I dont know why it picks up a signal there, but it does. It fades in and out and I lose it on a regular basies, but I can read e-mails and occasionaly it holds long enough for me to send one out. I went walking in the town yesterday and seriously thought about buying a bike for 5,000 yen. Thats about $45.00. It might be worth it to ride around the island for the last few days.
I am tired. Not in the usual way, just tired of the shows. Last night was another great example of the conflicting nature of this tour. In front of me last night were 3 long tables of audience. One table listend and got the jokes. One table sat with arms folded and in my mind, refused to even try to have fun. Directly in front of me were the young guys. Drunk, loud and largely out of control, I spent 45 minutes fucking with them back. It gets old. As much as I enjoy being on stage and playing with the crowd, I feel like I am talking over idoits at times. But heres the thing and it repeated its self all week; after each show, these guys came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the show. Its classic. Often times hecklers will aproch you after shows completely ignorant of how disruptive they were to tell you how good you were. Its a little like the grafitti artist complmenting the builder on his wall. But this is diffrent. These guys are so ernest in their appreiation. They are truly happy that you came out here and they respect you all the more for giving them shit back. I spend another 20 minutes after each show just talking with these guys and listen to them. Its an odd feeling for me. Over and over every rank tells me how good the show was and how much they really like having us come on out and make them laugh. Then, the conversation shifts into the serious side. They explain to me how everyone is on edge about deployment. I feel odd cause, I dont get it. I dont undersatnd why anyone would join the millitary. I really dont. But I understand the need to test yourself and have pride in your life. That I get. And the more I listen to these guys one on one, The more I understand their motivation for joinging up. Its just about me telling dirity jokes to drunk crowds, its about giving some comfort to these guys. I can not pretend to agree with the war or completly get why someone would chose this life; but its not for me to get. It is their life and I am here to make it a little easier.
Saturday Nights show is the best one of the week. The crowd is large and rowdy, but they actually listen. I also figured out the best aproch for these shows as I watch Dean, destroy. I am the most nervous tonight than on any other night cause Dean is absoultly killing with his ussual brand of shit. His riffing is really good too. That worries me cause he is burning every member of the crowd close to the stage. Thats what makes me nervous. There is a competitve nature to being a comic too. He knows he is killing on stage right now and he knows I have to try and follow this. At the end of his set he closes on something I havent heard him do yet. Ussualy, he will end by saying something like "Dont do it for me, do it for your children cause they are the future." This craks me up cause he just spent 45 minutes calling people retards and doing jokes about farting while you fuck a chick. He never swears though. I imagine he takes some pride in this too, yet everything in his act is about sex or women. It strikes me as completely disingeniuos, but the crowd never fails to give him a huge round of appluse. Well, tonight he ends by telling them to call home cause the people they care about want to know their safe. He knows how important this is cause he lost his mother a year ago.
What!?
A second ago you were screaming a joke into the mic about men not being able to go all night. Whatever. Its calculated audience manipulation. More importantly, its designed to make it imposible for me to follow. That is exactly what I am thinking as I take the stage, but tonight, I am taking a diffrent approch. Tonight, I go up gun's blazing and open up on every pot joe I ever wrote. I end up killing every bit as hard as Dean, and I end up working the crowd deeper. That is always the thing I have. Where most comics have their canned resposnes, I am in the moment. When people yell out stuff, and they do, I give fast answers that kill. About half way threw my set I actually feel myself relax for the first time on stage since I got here.
We have been co-headlinning this tour. That means one night I go first and one night he goes first. It is impossible to forget this argangement. All you have to do is remember who went last the previous night. As the two of us climb back into the van, he says to me, "you know you go first tomorow night?"
Ah yes.
The Tour coridnators are two young girls who confess to me that as they are expossed to more and more comedy, they prefer the smarter stuff. I tell them that the danger in working these gigs is that they can posion you. Dean has been almost exclusivly working these military gigs. A mostly young male rowdy crowd that is drinking is not going to want to hear anything with subtluety. If you do any type of gig like these on a regular bassis, its going to ruin your act. Its discourageing. Truth is, the money is better than what you would make for a week in a club, but at the same time, these are some of the worse crowds to stand in front of. I feel guilty saying that, but it has nothing to do with my patriotism or the respect I have for these guys individualy; it's just a fact. It's frustrating. I wonder if I will ever get the exprcience of standing before a crowd that really gets me.
I am not eager to get home. And yet, I am done with all this new. When I get home, it is back to having to deal with all that needs to be delt with.
I could fall backwards or slump forward into middle age. I feel the weight ever more acutely as another birthday comes. A weight not of practical experience, but of regrets for a thousand little things and a precious few that all have names to match the eyes I can still recall. This is not growing up. This is growing old.
The missed chances, the bank account that is small, the places yet to visit; at some point all those things that still shimmered in the minds eye as someday, become a silent weight known only to yourself. That is both the source of their great weight and my only way to deal with it; silence. What ever secrets I thought only I would someday discover turned out to just be the residue of wishful thinking placed there by 38 years of summer movies. Day dreams. Thats what most of my life has been composed of. Quotes from movies and boyhood longings to have powers. These are the places I drew meaning from. Not the world around me or the people in it. Escape, imagination; these were the ways I avoided what came naturally to everyone else. When Yoda, stands in his little hut and answers the disembodied voice of Obi-wan-Konobie with the words, "...all his life looking at the horizon. Never his mind on where he was..." I felt those words deeply. It stung. Even then, I understood that whatever image I had of myself as fooling the system, it first required me to fool myself. Now when I think of those movies, I feel ashamed that whatever spiritual ideas I had back then came from a summer blockbuster. Such was the way for my generation though. I do not think that story is so uncommon. After all, the strict theology of being christian in the midwest offered none of the compassion nor adventure like the world I could almost will myself into. But all of that, all of the special effects wonder lust provided no practical training for what the world would place before me. I managed to survive as long as I did with unrealistic thinking so long because of the worlds enduring quality; indifference. It's not that people didn't care or couldn't see I needed something, it's just that I could not find the words to ask for their help.
My God, I have just looked back at this paragraph and it reads to me like a suicide note! All of this stuff, this great weight I refer to lays directly infront of me NOW. I can slump forward into middle age like a frog falling of a stump into a black water pond. Thats how it seems. The energy to resist this seems so impossible to muster. I guess first of all, I would have to care. And right now, even though I write these words while I am in Okinawa, Japan, my life seems incredibly empty. It seems as if no matter what I learn and how far forward I might come, in the end, I always fall back to this state. It wears me out. I have been broke, in love, happy, suicidal, depressed, exhilarated, sober, homeless and lonely. All in the space of this year. Tonight is the last night here and while I recognize it as one of the most amazing opportunities of my life; I feel removed from it by all those regrets I spoke of earlier. This is the weight that pulls me forward with all the grace of gravity acting on a bag of sand. I could spend the rest of my days slowly loosing myself in memories of what might have been. I have seen my genaration dissolve into drugs and DVD's till they are shells that answer to names. I have also seen others rise to places I so want to be and yet even they will not call themselves successful. So what is it? what is the big secret to this life of mine. Cause thats all I want. Perhaps that is selfish, but truth be told; I dont want the secret to life, I just want the secret to mine. Thats how I feel! Like I should know it by now. That desire to be special should have long ago left me as other childish things have. It feels very ironic to be mourning my youth at the same time I am realizing how much I have never grown up. But thats me. A middle age man with a middle aged man''s waist line and a heart that can no longer be entered. I cant be alone in this. Can I? I think it is a plague of our time. I think this longing for meaning and hope for some as of yet unknown thing only I can do, is the secret and great sadness of our time. Plato said, the unexamined life is not worth living. Maybe. But how do you turn it off? Sit-Com's have turned being to aware of yourself into entertainment. Lines from movies become the phrases we utter back and forth to each other cause we dont have any of our own thoughts to express. Has pop culture always been this intrusive? I dont know. I dont know if all of this rambling is even connected.
As I sit in my hotel room on base, I hear music outside. Like a mandolin or ukulele. I can hear a drum slow and deep over the sound of chanting too. When I look out the window, I can see a narrow road that winds up a hill. Hanging from poles every few feet are red lanterns. They weren't there the other day. Somethings going on. Some sort of festival. I walk outside and move toward it. I am curious about the lanterns, the music, the beauty of the scene. I'm curious, but you know what keeps me from walking over to the hill? Fear. I crossed the international date line, spent 13 hours in flight, made fun of marines back from Iraq, but it is my fear of somehow getting in trouble cause I dont know the language or the customs or the ettique that keeps me from walking up that hill. It didn't matter how far I came, that fear came with me. I recognize it. It was the reason I didn't tell girls things I desperately wanted to. It was the reason I didn't pick up the phone and speak to people who could help me with my career. Its the same brand of fear that lead directly to the weight of those regrets. In an instant, I see the whole God damn circle. All because of some Japanese laterns and weird music that got me out of my room before a show. But there it is; a stuningly simple little truth well worth the shitty crowds.

4 comments:

Veronica said...

Lost in Translation?

Joe said...

No, but I did see Scarlet doing a commercial for some coffee like drink!
JK

Dean said...

Judging by the Seattle and now Okinawa blogs, it sounds like you're on a spiritual journey, but don't know it yet.

Anonymous said...

"A man's got to know his limitations." -- Dirty Harry

(Heh. Referring to how folks will quote movies. I dated a guy who quoted extensively from Kelly's Heroes (I think that was the name of it) and Power Puff Girls. I realized that actual conversation scared him. So many red flags....)

I remember in high school, my best friend and I mulling over our ethnic and national identities. She was Greek; I'm a mutt. Her line of identification went from general to specific: American, Greek, San Franciscan, Ithacan (because her father came from Ithaca!). My line of identity went from specific to general: half-Japanese, an eighth each of Danish, German, English, French-Canadian; San Franciscan; North Californian; American; North American; earth; solar system. I called myself a world citizen years before I realized I was in good company:

"I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world." -- Socrates (who also said that the unexamined life wasn't worth living) (yeah, it was Socrates).

There's a lot of good, meaty stuff to respond to here, but I don't have the time right now to delve. But I have a question.

What do you do with your epiphanies?

etherENQUIRINGMINDnautrix