Sunday, February 29, 2004

Well, February was a productive month, blog-wise, as this is my fifth post of the month. Hooray for leap-years! And my posts have been longer in recent weeks. I guess I'm not as constipated as I was when I started punching out whatever rolled off the tip of my mind. At leat one person read my last post, aside from myself. It doesn't get me down, though. I've been writing poetry for years that no one reads. I guess I need to hype it more, my poetry and my blog. Look for me in an e-zine near you.

What's new? Yesterday, Angela and me went plum blossom viewing at Osaka Castle with about one million other Osakans. I missed plum blossom viewing last year, only catching the tail-end of cherry blossoms while drinking a midnight beer with my roommate after work one evening, so I didn't want to miss this season. The weather was ripe for it, clear skies and bright sunshine, and we didn't have anything better to do with our Saturday afternoon. Aside from that, I always try to immerse myself in Japanese-ish activity whenever possible. At least, those activities that I can understand. Especially, when it doesn't cost anything. It's my way of blending in or feeling Japanese, and observing beautiful things is not solely a Japanese passion.

Seriously, I believe blossom viewing is a fine way to spend an afternoon, and nobody does it better than the Japanese. The air smells wonderful, which is not easy to say about most places in Osaka, and almost everyone seems to be in high spirits while they wander along the dirt paths considering the white, pink and red emblazoned trees. An old woman in a purple kimono laid out a bunch of props and a cassette player, and started dancing, waving her fan, for those of us who had chosen to spend our afternoon at the base of the castle walls and the whims of nature. The wind kicked-up and we walked back to the station in a snow of late Valentine petals.

It rained hard and steady this morning, probably knocking off all of the fragile blossoms that we had observed yesterday. Such is the life of a blossom, subject to the extremities of the season. I thought it was a good day to work, which is what I did. More blossoms will appear in a few days, though. The last of the plums and the late-bloomers will emerge and fade, and then we will begin to prepare for the awakening of the cherry trees as the weather warms and turns Spring.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Someone in my office, a woman (if you were questioning my sources), said that Japan was 'Communism gone horribly wrong.' I may be paraphrasing, but it's not incredibly inaccurate, if I do say so myself. The woman also happened to be from New Zealand, if that further clarifies the situation in your mind. I don't know if I agree with her off-cuff remark, although it made me laugh, but I will add that the Japanese love singing and songs in general.

You've heard of Karaoke. You can play your favorite songs, sans the original vocals, and sing along with them. If you don't know the lyrics, you can sing along by following the words as they appear on a TV screen, which generally accompanies this activity, perched atop a large machine. They are kind of alternative music videos for budding vocalists or amateur time-killers. Mix in all of your friends, a lot of beer, and a score for accuracy, and you have hours of fun. I've done this with a group of Italians, who all sing every song as loud as possible, and it was quite fun. It sounds like Democracy.

Many of the crosswalks in this city play a short musical tune, Japanese-y sounding, when it's safe to cross the street. It's a musical greeting card kind of sound that's not very appealing if you have to listen to it more than every so often, but I suppose they don't want you standing around enjoying the wistful tunes when you should be quickly getting out of the way of traffic. Many schools and offices play little melodies when it's the beginning of the day or lunchtime or I don't know what. The office building across from my apartment complex always plays a twinkly version of "Yesterday" by The Beatles, and then all the workers come outside and exercise or something. The gas trucks play a little chorus of children singing as they go around the block. Late at night, like after midnight, a really old Japanese man wheels a wooden-cart through the streets selling ramen to the late-drinking salarymen, who come out from pissing behind shrubs to purchase hot bowls of noodles. All the while, a high-pitched tape-recorded singing continues, looped from a loudspeaker attached to the cart, alerting anyone within a one-mile radius, including anyone who may be soundly dreaming, that noodles are nearby.

In my office, at the beginning and end of every lesson, a likeness of Big Ben rings throughout the office. I'm actually not sure if it's an accurate representation of the chime that famous clock in Europe makes, not having heard it myself, but some of my coworkers said as much and that's good enough for me. And besides, it sounds European distorted through the speakers sixteen times each day.

When I first met Angela, we were serenaded weekly by the garbage trucks in the morning, which played little musical passages when they rumbled through her neighborhood. Different garbage trucks play different songs, and they come in many colors, as well. Perhaps the songs correspond to the colors or to the neighborhoods. We never figured it out, but we eventually dubbed one song as "our" song, and we have since learned to whistle the tune. It reminded me of something the ice-cream truck would play when I was a kid, bumbling through my neighborhood in the afternoon.

Is it Communism? It's hard to say.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Aside from this banter, I write poetry, which is a little more than refined banter and love drivel, but I can't live without it. It's about the only completely satisfying thing in my sphere, which is far from expansive.

Sure, I know what you're saying: "I write, too!" How many times have I heard a new acquaintance, even an old one, make a remark to this effect? Too many. But I'm not discounting all of you closet writers out there who scrawl and scratch it out in your diaries and daybooks. Those are valuable endeavors to look into yourselves. Please don't stop doing it.

But, yes, I write poetry and I write it for other people. I want other people to read it. I consider my audience, however small. I send my work to electronic publications.

I used to do it the old-fashioned way, by stuffing envelopes, but times have obviously changed. I don't have a fixed residence or a P.O. Box to which I am returning. I live in Japan and forsee continued movement to other foreign lands for, at least, the next 18 months. Now, it's simply cheaper, faster, environmentally proper and more efficient to submit my work electronically. No more checking the letterbox, which has well-rusted shut by now. I find that I get many more personal responses, even in rejection, which was a rarity the old-fashioned way.

So after some years of doing this and cutting my niche in poetic cyberspace, albeit shallow, I'm still shocked to find that some magazines do not accept work electronically. It's preposterous. I won't name names. I can review the magazines and look at their impressive list of authors, but I can't reach them unless I send them a dreadfully slow letter by post. I don't have the time, energy or interest. I just don't read that stuff anymore.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Back at it on another Wednesday. It's like a magnet. I suppose it's really just the best day for my cyber-dalliances. Angela works early tomorrow, whereas I don't have to go to work until the late afternoon, thus another early-morning jaw from Japan.

I guess I don't pay much attention to time and its passing or I wouldn't become so preoccupied with the obvious patterns on which it relies. I know that I'm getting older, I go to a job five times every seven days, other people have birthdays that come and go, the clock continues its tireless orbit, the sun gets up and falls down again, but it's difficult to distinguish one day from the next. Sure the season's change, sometimes it's colder and sometimes there's lots of rain or it's very hot and you sweat too much, but then simply the quiet evermore rain of events or none at all quoth the raven. I'm talking myself into a large black bird who was born in a poem. Here I am at your window. Can you hear my pecking at your glass?

When you wake from your warm passages through the dreamy disarray of sandman and ramshackle conundrum to read this, will you know there was a bird peering in at you while you turned over? The dark bird of a poet's nightmare alight on a pale Winter beam from the moon. Will it return again next week in the wee hours and speak nevermore the strange language of persistence? We are waiting.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Because you must have even more of me. Those of you who can find it, anyway. And, as I can't seem to sleep now, having taken a lengthy nap this afternoon, I feel the need to get off Wednesdays, which has become a bloggy doldrum for me, at least over the first month of this year of the Monkey, so, at least, I endeavor to break my own mold.

We celebrated the Superbowl today in Osaka by attending a bar in the early hours of Monday morning to watch the game and enjoy beer breakfasts. I had taken the day off to not only view the game live (rather than watching a rebroadcast or video) but to also savor the after-effects of either the competition or a lingering beer fade. It was an enjoyable game and well worth watching. Already, it seems like a distant activity.

And with sleep now so close, the other inhabitants of my apartment having long since retired to their futons, the return to my work and the regimen of regularity can't be far off. Soon, I too will enjoy the dwindling hours of what's left of this morning, again to grind my teeth in a dream, anticipating the early cry of the alarm in a premeditating slumber that would be impossible to call sleep. I put off the inevitable for a few more keystrokes.

Is it important to keep doing this, dabbling the wordy goo and nonsense of Bobby-boo, while my toes freeze in the cold kitchen, pausing again to check the remaining minutes of this hour, the last one I will see before dreaming? You tell me. We always seek validation for these sorts of things. I imagine it continues unacknowledged into the wee hours of a life.