A Continually Developing Film Starring Us

Things did not go as smoothly with The Contortionist being in Hawaii as I had hoped, but at least it gave us a chance to say goodbye face-to-face instead of over email.  I miss her, but it is hard for me to think about how I can write to her feeing this strange push and pull; understanding that I am choosing not to be with her despite this being a choice that I make as much for her as for me.

We are in a continually developing film starring us.

She wrote me today telling me that she finds it difficult to move on.  I know she can no more forget me as I can forget her, but I told her that she should not let our past paralyze her.  She wanted to come visit in a few weeks, but I said that it makes more sense to wait for the Taiwan project.  My reasoning is that my schedule is even more hectic here now that it was when our relationship trouble started, and I might be leaving for Taiwan even sooner than expected as I am now co-director.  Even if she is free in the next couple of weeks, there is no guarantee that I will be, and I will not necessarily be in the calmest of moods the next 6 weeks or so.  I may have looked like a bastard, but I would have looked like more of one if I invited her here and could not spend time with her.

The Contortionist tells me that she is feeling stressed about the next step in her life after her tour with Cirque Theatrical finishes.  She must feel a bit like how I’ve been feeling since last August when the end of expo was just around the corner.  It’s a crazy time.

She’s planning to start studying to finish her academic education that was interrupted when she came to Montreal for circus school and asked me how she should think about choosing subjects; if she should do as few as possible or as many as possible, what subjects to choose, etc.

My advice to her was to try to do as much as possible for as long as she can.  She might be surprised at how well she learns under pressure or that she naturally does better at some subjects than others, and just go with that.  Having a variety of subjects to work on at one time is also important because often, if she’s sick of one subject, like math, studying French might be a great way to relax from it.  If she’s only studying French, she might not get that sense of “ah, finally, something I enjoy…”

It’s just like how flexibility training can be such a nice change from strength training that it almost feels like you aren’t really working, even though you are getting the benefit of working hard at two things.

But everyone is different.  I know that if I just do one thing I get bored; I need to always have a choice and have to feel like there is more to do than I can ever accomplish.  For her, it might be easier to do just one or two subjects at a time.  I would say at least two, though, or she may get bored quickly!

It’s important for her to keep drop deadlines in mind so that she won’t get stuck with a class you are struggling in.  Maybe some of the classes she thinks will be hard will not be so tough after all and she will surprise herself.

She tells me that she hopes I will find someone extraordinary to be “my girl” but that she is having a hard time moving forward; that she is sorry about what happened.  I think we should maybe talk about us again after her tour is finished.  Maybe she’s right – maybe we could put this ugliness behind us and start over.

End of a Trip Abroad Back Home

I am sitting here, needing to leave in five hours to get to the airport and return to Japan.  Madness.  Looking forward to it, actually, but I’m sure I will be missing this vacation soon enough!

I finally did get a chance to do that hike, and it was perhaps the highlight of the trip.  Walking out, watching the humpback whales leap out of the water right next to the horizon, watching dolphins jump over each other in perfect synchronicity, watching the waves crash over the volcanic rocks below me.  Stopping here and there to explore tidepools or caves.  Having to steel myself to cross a bridge consisting of a single timber precariously balanced over a chasm.  I saw wild albatrosses feeding their young; chicks the size of their parents.  I walked on the only native and protected sand dune environment on the island out to the skinny westernmost point of the island where you can stand on a small jetty of volcanic rock and have the waves breaking on both sides of you.

Sitting there at the edge of the world with the oldest of the major Hawaiian islands crouching on the horizon under a blanket of clouds, I am surprised to find that I have been sitting not 5 meters away from a member of the endangered monk seal population.  Formerly numbering about 50, now growing in population to around 500 or 1000.  I am illegally close to him.  If I am caught, I will face a fine and prison time.  But there is no one around for miles, so I relax and converse with him in silence.  He has been attacked by a shark.  A tiger shark by the size and the shape of the bites.  He is missing a pectoral flipper, but seems to have taken it in stride.

This is the most remarkable beach… the sand is not sand at all, but bone-white coral shards, smoothed into round, palm-sized pebbles that are rough enough to keep from sliding over each other when I walk on them.  They hurt my feet; remind me of Taiwanese foot massages.  I also see a giant sea slug.  The older brother of the two I tried to rescue earlier in the trip.

After an hour of sitting there, seeing this place as hard as I can, I head back, scanning the darker lava for other monk seals.  I am not even surprised to find another one there, just on the other side of the rock that my shark-bitten friend was lounging on.  The third monk seal of the trip, the fourth of my life.

I body surf on Makaha Beach on the way home, knowing full well that there is a great white shark out there today, preying on the dolphins and seals that I have been communing with all afternoon.  He won’t bother me here, though, I think.  And he didn’t.

A man made blow-hole, glass on the ground, the way these mountains look after all this rain…  It is impossible to describe, and infinitely frustrating that way.  The whole trip has been that way a little.  Other stuff happened too, Hanauma Bay, dinner with my uncle, a trip to an American club, my last ever goodbye to The Contortionist, bookworm-infested paperbacks.  All impossible to explain in writing, I know, but these little journalings have been my humble attempts to capture some of this month-long journey abroad to my home.

Sakura Dreaming

I hope there are a few sakuras left when I get back to Japan.

The weather is drastically improved, and I have been taking advantage by going to the beach as much as possible.  There is a beach called ‘Sandy Beach’ right on the Eastern side of the island that had a 2 meter shore break yesterday… looked great for bodysurfing.  I went out and it was crazy!  The waves were great, and I was geting through it OK, but then saw that I had drifted about 100 meters down shore in about 1 minute and was getting sucked out to sea!  Strong, strong, strong currents.  It was the first time I had ever felt them this strongly.

The signs for sewage seem to be dissipating, which is good, it gives more options for my days…

The island is more beautiful than I have ever seen it because of all the rain and now the sun that is coming out to make everything greener than I have ever seen it.

I went out to Haleiwa beach which is the first beach I ever went to as a kid, and was amazed at how small it seems to me now.  the hike and the museum are still on my list of things to do because I am just not getting around to these things!

I hope that I will by the end of my time here.

Just about 50 hours until Tokyo!

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.

Learning To Hustle

Email still not really running, I am just logging in at an internet station in Shinjuku to do business about two hours a day.  Christmas in Holland is up in the air as I need to decide if it would be better to focus my energies on Tokyo right now with some of the projects that are coming up.

As I’m thinking more seriously about trying to develop projects here in Tokyo I’ve had the chance to meet a few people who have expressed interest in helping me out.  Here they are:

The Producer: worked for a major advertising company and a major movie studio, also working on his own projects and starting his own production company.  Sort of all over the map, it is hard for me to get a handle on what he really does, but I know he directs and produces small-scale, but high visibility shows (at Disneyland, shopping centers, that kind of thing).  He studied in the us and is fed up with Japanese conservativism in the arts, wants to do cool LV circus-style shows, but doesn’t know how and doesn’t have the personnel or the money/power to do it alone.  He is supposed to be my partner if we win the bid for East Asian business development with Global Live Entertainment.  He’s well-connected in all the power circles of Japanese entertainment.  Good name card to have.

The Designer: works in an advertising company, as best as I can tell.  His company is small-name, but still manages to land good, high-profile events, like the premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean 2, rock videos, in addition to designing posters, flyers, etc.  He has talked to me a lot of times about wanting to produce a show, what would it take, etc, etc.  I think he is trying to approach his boss with a project idea, but is intimidated by learning how to producing a large acrobatic show in Japan.  He’s may just seem like a graphic designer, but the company is in a posh location and he’s interested in expanding his influence internationally but he lacks contacts in Europe, USA, etc.  I was thinking of exchanging contacts if it will help us secure venues here in Tokyo.  After showing him the kind of work that The Rocker’s done, what we have done together, and giving him some ideas of how we might be able to do with this company, he offered to make a mock advertising campaign for the show that will help explain the project to interested investors in Japan and Taiwan.  He would do this free of charge, and sell it to the numerous clients who pass through his office looking for ideas of things to do…

The Project Guy: a new contact in Japan.  He runs a small production firm, wants to produce shows internationally.  I might be approaching him about a job as an oversees contact manager.  I wonder what he will have to tell us.

Mr. Taipei: actually, an investor I met in Taipei.  Very wordly, owns a bunch of restaurants and lounges in Taipei…  barely know him, but had dinner with him at a party he invited me to.  He was interested in what i am trying to do in terms of produce local Asian shows.  I wonder if he might be interested in what we are doing with the Taiwanese circus school?  His business card mentions CEO of his own company, VP, Chinese/German culture office, polish culture and economic association, chairman of Taipei Poems Club…. among other things.

So I am talking about projects in a very very very “what if” fashion to all these people because I’m still not totally clear on what The Rocker and I can really do.  At its simplest, I’m imagining a well-publicized, limited run in a prominent, medium-sized venue in Tokyo.

Auto Accident

Did I ever tell you about the time last year that I totaled my rental car on a deep-winter run between Boston and Montreal?  it was an all-night drive through a snowstorm after a one-day recording session with my former bandmate. I was in a hurry because I was driving to pick up The Contortionist, my brand-new girlfriend, from a party for an early morning tryst.  Black ice and poor visibility compounded by a few inches of drifting snow (the coarse kind; the stinging icy kind that hisses when it hits your windshield) led to a dead spin at about 60 mph.

I remember trying to right the vehicle as best as I could; turning into the skid and all that, before throwing my hands up in surrender; there was nothing I could do to avoid the inevitable that night.

I was on a bridge, which was cause for some alarm, and I was slowly drifting towards the railing.  Luckily for me, I went over the edge just at the end of the bridge, falling just a foot or two landing in a small tree at an angle of about 45 degrees to the ground.

The car was fucked up, and just trying to open the car door at that angle was a mind-altering experience.  After a tow truck and ambulance came (no injuries, but no longer tired) I was able to make it back to Montreal at a max speed of about 35 mph.  it really did look like I was driving a corpse of a car; all beat up and humming in a hiccupy way with a jerky sort of handling that pulled me so far to the right such that I had to constantly steer a hard left.  it felt like I was driving in circles, but I made it to Montreal at about 8 in the morning, three hours later than planned.

I was sure that there were to be repercussions of some sort when I returned the car, but they just asked me to fill in damaged areas with a ball point pen on a little pictogram of a car (“est-ce-que vous avez un felt-tip marker?” I asked before blacking out the entire car), and that was it.  The damage waiver of 20$ Canadian covered the whole thing.  There was no record of it at all.

The next time I rented from Hertz, they made no mention of it, I had no increase in insurance premiums… fuck!

The great thing was, it happened at a shitty time in my life; my teacher of three years had been deported, my new little circus company was falling apart before we had even managed to secure a big premiere, I was on academic suspension from my school, the plunging US dollar was causing me to lose about 100 dollars a week, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to graduate on time.

But shit, spinning around on a winter’s night on a suspension bridge put shit in perspective, and the satisfying crunch of landing in a tree and smashing the fuck out of a luxury automobile was a great purge of negativity.

And it only cost me 15 bucks US.

Lethargy And Paralysis

Lethargy has become the rule of the road for me now.  What road?  The road that winds me through the life that I no longer feel in control of.  I am lost now, and free at the same time.  I feel and see my body wasting away, unfed by the nutrients or the exercise that they are so used to.  At the same time, what it has for the first time in many years, is rest.  But it is so frustrating to see the work that went into keeping my body in shape to do what it needed to do, and to see that after just a bit of loss of focus, it can fall around me like a suit that fits too loosely…

The answer, of course, is fanatical dedication to a new regimen, one that dictates fatigue as being roughly necessary to the process of improvement.

And where, in all of this, does the notion of fairness or honesty to the people around me, specifically, those people who care about me or who wonder where I have disappeared to, what it is that I am doing?  Where is the idea of a narrative, of a character?  How do we know if we have an idea of genius or just one of stark convenience… maybe no one has ever done something like this simply because the idea is too damned pedestrian; too damned boring.

So this is my pledge to myself…

I will be at the gym for 4 hours a day, starting tomorrow.  I will leave the house before noon in order to do it.

I will email everyone on my list.

I will take this as a profound and deep failure on my part if I am unable to carry out these simple pledges to myself.

There will be no game-playing, there will be no wasting of time.  I will eat when I am not hungry, and I will drink when I am not thirsty.  I will take my vitamins, and I will write three thousand words a day because I claim to be an artist, an acrobat, and I need to take such things seriously!

Perhaps it is time to put things into perspective, perhaps it is time to take matters in hand.

I will be tired, I will be unhappy, and I will be bored, but I will have some sense of necessity in my life.

I remember being at a Famous Amos stand in the subway mall of Taipei and hearing a perhaps over-enthusiastic manager of the tiny cart remarking to my companion something about something that made her mention the fact that she had lived in Africa.  He says that life is simple there.  She says, “Yeah, real simple.  People’s kids dying all the time…”  he doesn’t understand her English.  He pauses.  He smiles and says in Taiwan, people have lots of heart attacks.  She seems to see his point.  I don’t.  but I don’t see hers either.

I agree that the world is a messed-up place, and I am the first agree that we need to do something about it, but at the same time, I think that we need to accept these little injustices without drama for the time being.  People die more in some countries than other.  Of course, looking at these things from a humanistic perspective gives us a lot of pause, but at the same time, we need to have the option, and only the option, of looking at it in a more detached way.

I need to write an email to The Contortionist now, and in it I need to include a white lie.  It is about why I did not email her last night as I am trying to email her every night.  I will tell her that my roommate suddenly fell ill and my other roommate and I had to take her to the doctor’s office.  That is not a lie, that is really quite true, but we did that in the morning.  The evening, she was still healthy, and we engaged in wine drinking and general revelry until the wee hours, and that was why I did not email my girlfriend.

I don’t know exactly what it takes to have a girlfriend in the world any more, at least when you are living outside the norms of a regular address, a phone that works, and a group of friends that you can disappear into.  Will I miss this instability if I am ever to actually sit down and have a more stable life?  Will that life be just as stifling and soul-killing as this one is feeling for me?  Maybe the world itself is a stifling one, and this sense of despair that I am feeling is just some sort of metaphysical entropy, and it is exactly this sort of decay that we need to steel ourselves against to keep living as “beings,” and not as “beens.”

I want to meet my future head-on, standing straight and tall against the winds, not feeling like I need to destroy the city of Tokyo with an earthquake just to feel better about my writing.

What are the balls that are in the air right now?  A modelling agency that is not responding to my numerous emails, a job from Adco that may or may not have me exploring the corporate side of entertainment, a job offer from a man that I met at a Lithuanian film festival who may or may not be interested in engaging me in a job that has me once again performing acrobatics for Toyota, of all possible clients…  I have my number itself, which comes and goes in terms of how viable it seems, I have a possible grant which can take me possibly to Mongolia, to Bulgaria, to Lithuania, if my contact there ever decides to write me back.  I have the idea to teach something at my old university, but so many of these little attempts keep coming back faced with a wall of white, insurmountable silence.  Silence in the form of unanswered emails.   Makes me realize exactly why people need phones and face to face in the real world these day.

I need to make handstand blocks, I need to make new DVD’s I need to write emails, I need to train, I need to feel a zest for life and to feel that sort of poetic cloud that can sometimes well up and swallow my head whole.

I think that it comes from new environments, though, and what are my new environments now?  There seem to be none.

Handstands, ironically enough, is a discipline that requires stability in more ways that simply on your hands, inverted.  We also need the structure in our lives to fit in a bit of training here or there.  Once the number exists, we can run through it once a day in an hour, given that we have the space and the discipline, but once the technique falls by the wayside, you are trying to work your way up a hill… I guess I really need to focus my training now on the number and them concern myself with training later.

This is the way to go, I guess.

But god, it would be nice to look at myself in a mirror naked again and like what I see.  What I see right now is mediocracy at best.

I feel forgotten, like a rocket that burned brightly, arcing over a hill where no one can see it anymore, and even less people care.  I like the notion of a journey, and I like certain images in my writing, but in the end if I cannot harness it all into a tale of some sort, if I cannot craft what I am writing into a format that someone else would want to read, I am lost.  Floating in space.