fatman Find the clues!

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Travel blah, blah, blah

Travel Diaries of a Fatman (Part the Last)

Day Nine (cont'd)
Dinner was in a restaurant that was hidden so that virtually everyone was late. It is at this point of the journey that I felt fear for the first time in quite a while. My mum's mentor in the world of fish was Tozawa-senei, a 64-year old gentleman who talked, acted and looked like an old school yakuza gang boss. Everyone seemed to be on their best behaviour. The waitresses were nervous. Even I was flinching. He is the kind of person that, if he sent you fish in the mail you would never be quite sure if it was a gift or a threat (For those who don't know what the hell I'm talking about, rent 'the Godfather'). It was time to out-think, out-drink, out-play.

Day Ten
Didn't wake up with a horse's head next to me (or anyone else for that matter) which I take as a good sign that Tozawa-sensei didn't feel obliged to 'cap' me for 'dissin' his ''tache'. Unfortunately had to visit the fish markets on about two hours sleep. It's an incredible place. People yelling at each other, forklifts elegantly dancing around one another and guys with hooks jabbing at bits of seafood lying on the ground. Breakfast was un-believable. It's the freshest goddamn sashimi on terra firma, you'd seriously have to swim in the ocean and take a hunk out of a passing shark to get close to the taste. But that would be very, very stupid.
I meet up with this guy, Sato, who has his own seafood biz later on that day, and he gives me a whole box full of live scallops to give to relatives in Koriyama.

Day Eleven
Koriyama. Box of scallops go down a treat. When my cousin (I'll use the word cousin for every relative from now on. I'd not want to get bogged down on any more details that I absolutely have to) told me how to get to Kori-yama via train he apologised for the 'primitive' mode of transport. You have to press a button to open the doors, he's telling me, embarassed. When I inform him that in Melbourne we wrench the doors open with our hands, there is a short pause as he searches for the right words of sympathy, pity. Incidentally I'd like to point out right now that according to Miss. Stacia Saunders, in Brisbane they have automatic doors as well.

Day Twelve.
Nothing and not much. Although I almost got into a fist fight with a useless interpreter.

Day Thirteen.
Hang out with more relatives. There's a story involving samurai swords and death.

Day Fourteen.
The End. It's time to get on the plane and get back to Australia.

Day Fifteen.
' This is your Captain speaking. Hope you had a fantastic sleep on this flight, I know you didn't. Those of you in economy class will have creaking joints and sore necks- maybe you'll think about coughing up a few more bucks on your next journey. Me? I had a lovely time lying here in this hammock with a nice martini, while a computer steers the plane to the destination where I can meet up with my mistress and have fun with the vast amount of money I'm making. Also I'd like to say a quick 'hello' to the passenger in seat 55-J who would have had an absolute ball in the toilets while we got slammed by multiple turbulence.'

Epilogue. Thus the journey comes to a close. Two weeks, a wallet that's bulging to the brim with name cards and not much yen, elevator doors that slam with such ferocity that people lose fingers and assorted limbs, hi-tech toilets where the sink turns itself on, yakuza fishermen, inept interpreters, trains, relatives, ninja mansions, a half a ton of raw fish. But I'm glad to be back.

You KNOW it,

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Part Two

The Travel Diaries of a Fat Man (Part Two of a supposed one part series)

Eastside Massive.
Day Four (continued)
Left the relative comfort of the internet cafe to be greeted by rain of biblical proportions. People were swept away, fish swam up and down the main street, old men built boats that could house two of each animal.
Dinner: Teppanyaki.
What is it? There`s a hotplate in front of you and a personal chef. In several other countries that have it, you pay this guy to throw eggs at you... recreating an `Open mic. night at an amature comedy venue` feel. This practice is apparently (let me get this right) an invention of the Chinese living in N.Y.C. doing a Japanese meal.
Prerequsites: Dispose of belt.

Day Five.
Waseda University. My granddad does an impromptu speech (he used to be a university professor and writer) that earns him equivelant of a $100 and free lunch for the family*.

Day Six.
From Waseda to Tokyo and I am a country bumpkin. How cool is this train? Most of the twenty seven minute trip is spent gaping, slack-jawed, at not one, but two, television screens on either doors of this carriage. One displays current location of the train, approximate arrival time for the next station, map of the next station to see where the nearest exits are, temperature of the outside world. The other shows commercials on a constant loop.
With all these futuristic wonders ( AUTOMATIC doors?) Tokyo is a neon Never Never Land and the population is made up of the lost boys and lost girls of Asia. Many people live 16-hour work days and have to commute 2 hours each way. They are like sleepwalkers (somnambulists, Wal?) or at least show heavy narcoleptic tendencies. People have a nap sitting down, some have a catnap standing up, but this one young guy walked into the carriage and, finding no available seats, promptly crouched down in the middle of the floor and fell asleep.

Day Seven.
Shinkansen to Kyoto. Shinkansen means `bullet train`. This is not the same as the subway of South Central L.A. which is a `bullet-riddled train` but infact a train that goes really, really fast.

Kyoto. Visit a ninja mansion. They no longer call this one a ninja mansion and so everytime I asked directions, people would narrow their eyes, more than usual, and say `There is.....no such place as a ninja mansion`. These dudes are really sneaky. When, after some difficulty, I found the place there was a tour full of high school kids and old people. After banging in to the sign that said `Please watch your step` the guide showed us around. Lots of hidden staircases and escape routes.

Stayed in a Ryokan, or Japanese-style Inn.

Day Eight.
Woke up in said Ryokan. After a traditional Japanese breakfast (ie, toast) made my way back to Kyoto Station and on to a Shinkansen, back to Tokyo.

Day Nine.
Another day, another bullet train. This time to Sendai to meet some of mum`s fishing mates. I`ve got to enter a drinking contest with these fishermen- notorious drunkards in any country- and then go to the fish markets early in the morning, like four o`clock.

Thank Yamada for the rabbits,

* Forgot about this asterisk till just then. Granddad wrote a book about his father, therefore my great-grandfather, Nakano Seigo. Nakano Seigo was one-legged, an excellent horseman, journalist and a statesman. He had met the likes of Mussolini and Hitler through his job and strongly objected to Tojo bringing Japan into WW2. This peeved off the Emperor who tried to sentence Seigo to death but was thwarted when he took his own life instead. This year is the sixtieth anniversary of his death.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Travel Diary of a Fat Man

The Travel Diary of a Fat Man (Part 1 of a series spanning only one part)

I got the house but not the deed
I got the horn but not the reed
I got the cards but not the luck
I got the wheel but not the truck
But heh I’m big in Japan, I’m big in Japan, I’m big in Japan.

Tom Waits, Big in Japan

Day One~

Mr. Schwarzenegger goes to Washington
or the End of Days?

In a landslide of Californian votes, riding atop the fallen bodies of Lawrence Flint, a well-known pornographer, and the boy-who-never-grew-up-but-ended-up-a-security-guard-who-punched-an-avid-if-annoying-fan, Mr. Garry Coleman, was the 'condom full of walnuts' himself, Arnie. Or Governor Schwarzenegger to you and me. He's grown large 'n' crazed. What lovely timing for me to take a soujorn from the Western world for a spell. I'm watching this guy make a speech while at the airport lounge in Sydney and it's like; click,whirrrr, engage SMILE MODE. ' Hello everybody,' (smile widens) 'I TERMINATed my opposition Davis. I will now say HASTA LA VISTA to all taxes for everbody. Hang on, I now go to the loo. But I'LL BE BACK!' I don't know what he plans to do exactly, but in a wall of cliches, I don't care. You know...he will eventually be digging into 'Kindergarden Cop' and 'Jingle all the Way' quotes. That's when you know you're screwed.

The flight across was a cramped, dehydrating affair that promised me 'Finding Nemo'. There was no Nemo to find, being replaced by 'Bruce Almighty'. C'est la vie.

Later on Day one...
Touch down in Japan.

About two and a half hours after that....
I'm at Fussa, where my grandparents live. It's hicksville in comparison to Tokyo but is about thirty years ahead of Melbourne with holographic pirates who...hang on. That's just some dream I had. There is, in all seriousness though, a roaming band of stray chickens that cluck around the local parks. According to my grandpaents they were part of some school science thing and they are now free to roam in Fussa.

Day Two.
Did bugger all. Bought some comics.

Day Three.
Off to Shinjuku. Called a cab to take me to the station. The cabbie, in closing the boot, does himself some damage. Blood is pouring out of his head. Now, for a man who may need some medical attention in the form of eight, perhaps nine stiches, his face is a mask of serenity. Offers of a handkerchief to stop the flow of blood are met with a polite refusal. We arrive at the station and the guy even helps with the luggage, tissues still clinging to the side of his head. Should I have tipped him? Oh, and here's another cool thing, the doors open and close automatically in taxis. It's not the work of poltergeists as I previously believed.

Day Four.
Found an internet cafe. The buttons are in weird places and so had to change from English to Japanese a few times. More later.

It's not how far you travel, but how well.

Haze, A.k.a. Fatman

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Come fly with me

First Class- Should a plane crash, those seated at the front are almost guaranteed a clean death. Their passage to the next world is eased by a decent last meal, unlimited alchohol and enough leg room to meet their end with dignity.
The middle classes sitting behind in full economy with their knees pressed neatly up against their throats know that they will have to wait longer to die. They may even be condemned to survive in some horribly maimed condition. As for the lumpenproletariat in the cheap seats at the back, they stand a reasonable chance of walking away from the
wreckage in good health, thus being denied release from their vale of tears on earth.

John Ralston Saul, The Doubter's Companion

I tend to have a wretched time trying to sleep on airplanes. The neck is twisted out of shape, you're trying not to nudge the person next to you with your elbows. All the while mewling babies are setting each other off like car alarms.
So I've got twelve hours or so of pure monotony to look forward to. Stuck in the grey belly of a 747 crammed to the gills with experienced travellers, first-time flyers, mothers with brats, brats, people
who worry about terrorists/ deep vein thrombosis,
(sp?) trying to amuse myself with the in-flight movies that compete for the title of 'Most Banal'. And I'm no picnic either.

How is it that one guy can start off an ear-popping 12 hour trip a perfect gentleman (huh?), but touch down
at Narita Airport a complete arsehole? The bar cart is partially responsible. That's when words like
'cockpit' and 'black box' start to get funny. When boredom starts gnawing at me I start hassling people, and when there's a little button that summons people
that are paid to keep you happy....'Can I use the oxygen mask? I want to breathe like Michael Jackson.
Are there lonely people out there who enjoy getting a body cavity search?' etc,etc,etc. I am at my absolute worst when I'm bored- I do dangerous things. Headline:
Wasabi snorting contest goes tragically wrong. (I don't know where I was going with that either)

So, as a final thing before I leave (I'm only going for two weeks) I have two words for you guys:

Old School.

This little baby is hot off the press on October the 8th and I implore all of you to run, don't walk, to your local video store to rent it out post-haste. Funny, funny, funny, funny, funny stuff.