Three Month Notice

I have been busy now that I have a job.  I was hesitant to teach in Japanese Junior High Schools and Elementary Schools at first, but in the end, I actually enjoy it even though it’s not something I thought I would enjoy.  Teaching kids can be really rewarding, and it is not that different from teaching acrobatics, except I have to deal with their shyness instead of their fear.

Ironcically, now that I know I’ll be leaving in the summer, I need to write the English teaching company and quit.  My plan was initially to wait until the last week of the school year and then to give three-month’s notice, but they just offered me a full-time contract as a manager with quite good pay and possibility to advance rapidly in the company.

I could have just shut my mouth, signed the contract, worked for higher pay for 4 months and then said that I was quitting because of some family emergency or something like that, but I just don’t believe in such dishonesty.

Instead, I offered to work April-June, full time and help find and train a replacement including accompanying them on their first week or so teaching in the schools since lack of a transition seems to bother the schools more than actual turnover in the teachers.

So we’ll see, they may scrap my employment immediately and start fresh with someone else.  So be it.  I just think that this was the best way to honestly propose a solution to my upcoming departure.

Stake in the Ground

Crazy.  I just got out of a meeting with Hata Sensei, a former Prime Minister of Japan, who wants to help find a way to produce this Taiwanese show.  He referred me to the Ministry of Culture, where I met with three very helpful gentlemen who explained to me that as much as they would like to help me, their function is actually to act as exporters of Japanese content but then set up a meeting for me at the National Theater tomorrow.

The Rocker asked me about what trick I use to meet so many government people.   It’s all because of The Activist, actually, and she says the most important thing is to have a strategy.  In a sense, it’s just networking, but The Activist makes is a bit of an art and I’m just starting to get the hang of it now thanks to her.  Mostly, it’s going to as many functions as possible, not letting people say no to meeting, and walking out of every meeting with at least two more contacts in the calling card case.

After the meeting with Hata Sensei, The Designer invited The Activist and I to nice fresh Cuban cigars and some great grand marnier and rum at party in an Omote Sando basement.  Unfortunately, The Activist doesn’t like cigar smoke, but when we offered to change places, she insisted that we stay because she had work she needed to get done anyways.

She has been a great mentor and has a totally unique approach to business here.  She has a beautiful tendency to get involved in the real art of the project whereas other business people seem only interested in profit margins and the bottom line.  She’s great at talking with arts organizations or philanthropists who are interested in supporting the arts.  I’m curious to see how well this approach works in the more corporate world.

She is giving so much time and energy to this project even though she’s been a bit sick.  For example, today, she drove me around to see offices that we could use as a Japanese base despite feeling ill and not quite liking the offices we were seeing.  I was impressed by her attention to detail in this matter and feel bad that I don’t have as strong an opinion about the office as she seems to.  I feel very stupid about such things, but she is a very good resource and is teaching me quite a bit about how business works in Japan.  I’ve been telling her to take it easy, that she must not sacrifice her health for what we are trying to do.  I don’t want her to burn out and be unhappy.   Without her help, I would have nothing now.  She is doing all the giving, and I need to find ways that I can make her job easier as this work is getting to be quite a bit for two people.

I have not had more than a couple minutes free since the last time I saw her – I am working or training from 7am to 12 am.  It is exhausting, but this project is very important to me.  Ironically, even though I need to keep The Activist updated, I kept telling myself ‘wait to write her until you finish this next little thing…’  Finally, I decided that enough is enough and wrote her today even though the website and the video are still not ready to show.
Now that I’ve gotten things as far as I think I can on the business end of things, I have the luxury of meeting with people more concerned with the cultural value of things.  Much more rewarding and its much easier for me to talk to people who are artists first and business people a distant second (but they still want these letters of introduction to know who the fuck I am).  The Activist has been meeting and introducing me to so many arts organizations and producers like a theater collective based in Nagoya that is interested in the Taiwan project.  What’s interesting is that they might be able to arrange a theater for us no problem.  This way if we could manage a ‘first step’ showing of a weekend or two and make it incredibly successful and popular and cool, we could back for a long-term engagement more easily.  They also gave me some good advice saying that if I call it ‘contemporary acrobatic dance’ instead of ‘circus’ I would find a lot more cultural partners who would otherwise be alienated by the negative and commercial connotations of ‘circus’ here in Japan.

Life progresses here as it should, naturally, I guess, with those precious few uncommon days popping up between all the common ones to remind me that there is a reason to be on this rotating clump of dirt, mud, and brine after all.

Roppongi Headbutt

Ah, a perfect night out with friends: a restaurant, a bar, karaoke, and a club.  Oh, and a short, brutal, and bizzare altercation on the steets of Roppongi.

Around 5am, we stumble out of the club and onto the streets of Roppongi.  Everyone has that post-dancing glow about them; that euphoria.  Eriko and Paul are planning to go to a karaoke together, the rest of us are going to share a taxi to the Yamanote-sen, when Paul and Gordon are accosted by two gents who seem friendly enough.  WARNING SIGN: one of them has a raised welt on the top of his forehead.  Typical drunken banter ensues:

‘Who are you guys meant to be?’

‘We can be whomever you want us to be!’

‘Can you be wrestlers?’

‘Please be wrestlers’

‘Where are you from?’

‘Scandinavia.  Norway.’

‘Norway’s got it going on!  Norway’s got it going on!’

Then: SMACK.

A quiet smack, a wet smack.  Concussive.   The shaved headed Scandinavian who now has two bruises on his forehead looks strangely puzzled and is restrained by the Norwegian.  I turn to my left, where Paul is standing with a stream of blood emanating from above his right eyebrow.  He is smiling; dazed.  Filipina hookers and Nigerian night club callers are surrounding him with concerned looks.  Some run off to get towels, ice.  Gordon is screaming at the Scandinavian:

“What the FUCK was that, man?  What the FUCK was that?  Walk away, asshole, just walk the fuck away.”

Gordon attacks the skinhead; he is restrained by, well, everyone.

Then: “He need a hospital.”

I think this Filipina is right. She is looking at me; concerned.  She would have told gordon, the more vocal member of our party, but he’s already running down the street.

It’s not just a cut, it’s a slice.  Deep, and the edges beginning to swell.  Paul wants to keep walking.  He is in shock.  He laughs at the idea.  To him it was just a little head-butt.  How can you go into shock from a little head-butt?  But then the spike of adrenaline fades, and he loses his legs.  We get him to a barrier.  He is shaking and pale.  I am worried about the combined effects of alchohol and shock.  I want him to lie down.  he says he is comfortable where he is.  Yuuko is gone.  I want him to go to a koban at least; he is going to need stitches, but he is refusing.  Where’s Gordon?  “Paul, can I get you to lie down?”  “I’m OK here.”  He is worried about his suit.  It is covered with blood.  Gordon comes back.   “I got him, man,” he is repeating over and over.  “You got him,” asks Paul?  “Yeah, man.  Two times.  Once here, and once over there.  Where’s yuuko?”  Yuuko comes back from the conbini with some bandages…  he needs more than that.  Someone suggests a hospital again.  Gordon refuses.  I say he needs a koban, at least; Gordon agrees, I go to look for one.

When I get back, the Guardian Angels are on the scene.  They manage some quick first aid, but they do not have any butterfly bands that will hold the cut closed.  The Angel that is bandaging Paul has shaking hands.  He touches the edges of the cut and hesitates, uneasy.

“Tabun, byoin ni itta hoo ga iin desu…” he mutters.

Paul has no insurance.  The Angels bandage him as best they can, a Turkish guy is explaining what he saw in Japanese to the leader of the Angels.  Just as they start bandaging paul, the Norwegian comes back.

Gordon takes a swing at him, and the Norwegian falls to the ground.  The Angels restrain them both, the Norwegian is in an arm lock on the ground.  head bent.

Gordon is screaming again:  “Where’s your friend, tough guy? Where’s you fucking friend?  I’ll kill you!”

The Norwegian is silent, restrained, pinned to the ground.  “I just came to apologize,” he says, palms up… eyes wide.  The Angels escort him a few meters away.  Gordon is hugging Paul.  Yuuko is crying.  Eriko has her head on paul’s shoulder…  the Norwegian is scared and held up against a wall by the Angels.  He does not understand their English or their Japanese.  I decide that I need to help the guy out.

If he had any malicious intent, there is no way he would have come up to Paul amidst a red-jacketed swarm of volunteer crowd control specialists.  The police are coming soon, I know, and I have not been impressed with the way Japanese police deal with foreigners, particularly foreigners that do not speak Japanese.  One misstep; one incorrect answer to a misunderstood question, and I know that the Norwegian’s holiday can take a litigatious turn.

I talk with him about what happened, and certain things become clear.  He did not know the attacker.  He was just walking him out of a bar to help him find a taxi as he had clearly been drinking too much.  They had met at the bar when they discovered that they were both Scandinavian.  Our Norwegian friend, now bearing the brunt of the responsibility, is of all things, a fucking pacifist.

His friends showed up, asking what had happened.  Their well-meaning, gentle friend is pinned to a brick wall by Japanese police and Guardian Angels and they are not allowed to approach him.  They get angry.  The Japanese police get tense.  I eye their batons nervously, and am worried things are going to get out of hand.  His friends to not seem to share his pacifistic tendencies, and they are getting irate.

I go to them to explain.  I tell them that it will take a bit of time, but that I don’t think their friend is going to be taken in.  They calm down a bit.  Say they will wait.  They wait.

The Angels and the cops are talking and I go back to the Norwegian.

“Maybe I should have let that guy keep hitting him,” he says, talking about Gordon’s revenge “but I didn’t want to see the violence.”

“You may have caused more trouble for yourself by coming back, my friend,” I say.

“I know.  but I wanted to apologise.  You can’t just head-butt a person cause you don’t like the way they look.  What is that about?”

The police are done.  The Angels are done.  I exchange emails with the Norwegian in case Paul or anyone need to get in touch with him later.  His friends are mad.  They didn’t trust the attacker at all because he was a Swede.

I offer to help them get a taxi, but they are OK.  His big friend is telling me how the Norwegians hate the Swedes because in 1939 they let Hitler march through their country into Scandinavia.  I have heard stories like this all my life.  The Chinese hate the Japanese because of blah blah blah.  The Dutch hate the Germans, the Lithuanians hate the Russians, the Quebecois hate the Anglos.  The Canadians hate the Americans, the Arabs hate the Jews…  same old song with infinite verses.

I used to think it was ridiculous.  A hold-over from a more violent time, but I have come to realize that it all stems from a basic element of human nature.  If an attack on a friend of couple months can incite violent anger in a borderline anarchist philosophy major, imagine what a blinding maelstrom of rage an attack on your family, culture and comrades can engender.

As members of varied cultures we are all more different than the current political model in the West suggests.  I think that the answer to the last generation’s question “Why can’t we all just get along” lies somewhere in that phenomenon.  The question is a false one, spurred by the notion that such a “we” exists.  It is a myth born out of the various social movements that swept the globe in the sixties and seventies and it is a legacy that we need to sweep from our eyes like so many other utopian dreams that have repeatedly poisoned our politics and history through the ages.

Risk of Burnout

So The Rocker was just named Artistic Director of the festival, we have actual dates, I am confirmed to go to Taiwan to support him at the end of June (which gives me a little more time to support the project in Japan), and that I will be in the show too, which makes me even more excited. On top of that, Cirque Human has agreed to be part of the festival.  Loving this business shit.  He’s finally the boss which is fun for a while…  until all the shit hits!

It is a strange thing.  When things start going well, you have to be quick enough to stay on top of all of it or you start to lose control of everything.  I’m nervous, for example, that The Rocker signed a deal with an arts management firm to manage both the production of the show and also any possible Taiwan Tour.  In other words, they are going to be doing roughly what Adco proposed to do for the Tokyo Tour; finding corporate sponsors in Taipei, etc.  If there ends up being a huge connection between the business ends in Taiwan and Tokyo might they just take over everything from me?  The Rocker understands and told me that it would be a good idea for me to connect with them to let them know what I’ve been working on in Japan:

I’ve been approaching the project from two different directions.  The first is the “Big Business” direction as “New Project Coordinator” for The Rocker.  I present the project to advertising and production contacts that I developed as Acrobatic Team Co-Manager at the Toyota Pavilion at the Universal Expo in Aichi, Japan in 2005.  So far they have shown interest in bringing this project to their clients as an advertising campaign for companies that are interested in associating with the “Circus Brand” in advance of Cirque Du Soleil’s 2008 Tokyo permanent show.  They see investing in the circus image and the associated “cool” early as a chance to get a head start now rather than play “catch-up” with Cirque-centered advertising monopoly later.

The other approach I have been taking I call the “grass-roots” approach, and is essentially taking on the role of a representative of The Rocker’s company as a small, internationally-minded, arts organization that is looking to produce a limited engagement but high-visibility show in Tokyo.  I have been working with a partner who has an impressive network of politicians, artists, arts organizations, and philanthropists, and who is very enthusiastic about helping this project come to Tokyo.  We are proceeding in a stepwise fashion, securing one part of the puzzle at a time.  We are trying to get good quotes on theater rental, local publicity costs, and trying to attract smaller companies and investors with the project on out own.

Both approaches are moving forward steadily, and I have a guarded optimism about our chances of bringing the show here in 2007.

On your side, is there any interest in helping to bring The Rocker’s show to Tokyo?  If so, what is the best way for us to pool our resources to work effectively and efficiently?

In any case, now that things are confirmed, casting and its associated drama is accelerating.  For example, The Rocker told me that he just learned that a competing circus director will be working with the circus school to open a circus show on the same day as our festival.  This is the same circus school that we were supposed to be working with for our show but The Rocker insisted on keeping first pick of their artists since, “HE WAS THERE FIRST!”.

The only question is if we can use the school’s rehearsal space or not.  One of their graduates is very excited about working with us to develop a Chinese “rock” circus and shared a video of the student’s personal work that is very interesting.  The Rocker also may be able to sign two straps artists who are former Cirque du Soleil artists.  If that happens we’re increasing our chances of success in Tokyo.

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Even more excited but I’m ever more aware of the risk of burnout.  I am working harder than ever…  somedays I crash so hard emotionally that I can barely open my eyes… other days, I am flying high…  it is like a sick, sick drug.  The only thing I can compare it to is the rush of being on stage!

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Letter Home From Japan

I am still in Tokyo.  It has been more than a year since setting foot back on this volcanic archipelago of my childhood.  In many ways, the Japan that I remeber has crumbled into the sea.  That Japan stays forever in my memory, but what remains – presently – before me, is a land of opportunity.  It is like my ‘wild west’ has shot far past California and the Polynesian islands to come full circle and rest here in the ever-renewing, ever-crumbling Land of the Rising Sun.

Here, I can be what I want to be.  I can be White or Asian, American or European.  I can be an Artist or a Businessman or a Scientist.  I can be young or old, exotic or commonplace…  whatever I say is what I am.

I am trying to produce this show.  Starting in June, I go to Taiwan to make a new circus show.  I am working with a director friend of mine as new project coordinator and assistant director.  I am trying to produce the Japanese leg of the tour.  We are also directing the first major modern circus festival in Asia.  We get to work with former classmates, cirque du soleil artists, and some of the biggest names in circus today.  I will finally be a “producer” with a company starting to making a name for itself.  I am brokering deals larger than any I ever imagined while living in a one-room apartment with two Lithuanian roommates and no shower.

I’m reading voraciously.  At least two books a week.  Science journals.  Social criticism.  Philosophy.  Novels.  I read in French, in English, in Japanese, anything to stay mentally active.

Most people aren’t as interesting as these opportunities are so I don’t lose to much time to social things.  The friends I do have are as close to me as they are different from each other.  Journalists, politicians, teachers, public relations experts.  They keep me moving in different circles from each other so the water around me cstays clean and swiftly-flowing.

I have my vices…  I like to drink, I drink a lot every couple of weeks, and I like flirting with women.  I’m liking it a lot more than I was liking having a girlfriend.  Every month, I find I need to spend money on a nice dinner and show to feel like (despite my less than luxurious living conditions) can still appreciate finer things from time to time.

I get job offers frequently for nice, stable jobs that I will not like.  Interviewing for such jobs helps me practice negotiation and learn for myself that business is all about convincing people that they need you, and then proving it.  It is about finding out what you are worth, knowing what you are worth, getting more, and then living up to it.

I am enjoying myself, but whenever I give myself a break, I get depressed.  A fifteen-minute break from the computer writing business emails or running from meeting to meeting makes me feel like I am building everything on a lie; that everything is escaping me.  I wake up in the middle of the night to edit publicity videos, to write web pages, to contact investors.  I am never alone from my thoughts.

This is why I love meeting people.  They provide the best way to escape my own head.  I simply enter theirs, care about what they care about, and learn about a world that is as alien as any extraterrestrial planet:  my world as seen by someone else.

I am forcing myself to take a break.  I will go to Hawaii and Minnesota at the end of March, and will only allow myself 3 business stops a week of no more than 4 hours each.  I will think of nothing, and write all the time.  I will climb mountains and hike rainforests and drive in lazy loops and piercing treks across the plains.  I will excersise outside and breathe clean air and smoke a cigar on the beach.

All this will come to an end.  If I accomplish what I truly hope to accomplish in the next two years, it is time for another change.  It is time for university; it is degree time.

I am sure that someday in my life I will grow up and settle down.  I am sure that someday I will find a way to keep my mind on one path, but for now, at age 28, there are so many mountains to climb and so many paths to take.

Science, art, business, politics, writing… who know what it all means and where it all leads.

At least I have moments, every couple of weeks or so; in the neon underbrush of Shibuya or the quiet, European streets lining the inside of the Yamanote loop… in Japanese lessons with the woman who has taught my father, sister, and me for almost 22 years…  biking through the rain, or drinking a fragrant, inky wine with a beautiful woman over a savory meal and spicy political discourse a quarter mile above the quiet chaos below…  when I can step outside of myself, my life, into the realm where I exist close to the people I love – my family – a place far removed from the four dimensions of everyday life.

Where your presence warms my spirit and moves my soul and makes me understand that wherever I go, whatever I do, I am not alone in the world.

I hope to make you all proud someday,

Your loving son and brother,

The Travelling Acrobat

Leveling Up

Funny experience of the week: Reaching out to my former dance company and the company that hired me for the Expo project to see if

1) they would be willing to come to the Taiwan festival,

2) see if I can help them with developing their work in Japan and Taiwan, and

3) to see if they have any contacts here that they’d be willing to introduce me to.

An Adachi Valentine’s Story

She’s lying in bed when she hears what she can only assume is the long-haired, balding, overweight Canadian man above us fucking a Japanese woman.  Finding herself unconscionably aroused, she does what any sexually healthy woman would do in such a situation and begins to pleasure herself.  As the pace accelerates to a dangerous, or at least painful sounding rhythm, the sound slowly dies away.  After achieving a short but satisfactory orgasm just before her roommate returns home.

“Oh did you over miss something,” she says.  “our roommate was very busy just now…”  as the sound starts up again…

Her roommate listens for a while, puzzled, before clarifying “busy doing his laundry, you mean?”  Spin dry and buzzer sounds.  cycle complete!

Oh, life in Adachi-ku.