Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Oct 07 2014

What’s in a name

What, exactly, is my name? No, I’m not losing my memory (just yet). I’ve actually been kind of stuck on this issue for a long time. Unlike nigh-on unanswerable questions like “Where are you from?” etc., this question can’t really be danced around in the usual fashion. At some point, I have to come up with an answer. One would think after so many decades I would have settled on something, but apparently there is still cause for debate.

When I write this, of course I’m talking about my English name. There’s no such issue with my Chinese name (which can even, in a pinch, double as a Japanese name; how cool is that?) of 林道明. Thus far I’m known most widely as “TC Lin” online, followed by “TC Locke” thanks to being listed as such as the author of my books, while the “Tao-ming Lin” that is listed in my passport and other official documents comes in a distant third. Chenbl feels I shouldn’t bother with “TC Lin” as he feels it’s neither really Chinese or really English, but that’s what I’ve liked about it so far, and Chenbl obviously sees things differently than I do. When I say “so far,” I mean in the context of the English-language parts of my life in Taiwan. Increasingly, however, as the online and offline parts of life have been merging, becoming more and more inseparable, so the Chinese and English parts of my life have been coming into collision more often. In my fantasies about being interviewed by, say, Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, I wonder if I would feel more awkward being introduced with one name or the other for about ten seconds before realizing that they could call me “Snagruf the Surprisingly Intelligent Singing Vole (as featured on vilfsofsiberia.ru!) for all I care as long as I could be interviewed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.

The reason I’m thinking about it now is that a piece on Taiwanese photography that I worked on recently is being published in a book, and the publisher wants to know what name they should use. So far I’ve kept my film-making exploits, music stuff and photography solidly in the “TC Lin” camp, while making “TC Locke” a kind of pen name for my books, but is that policy going to end up kicking my ass as some point? Will future scholars poring over old Google searches be kept in the dark about who exactly this strange person or persons was/were because of this indecision on my part? I have no idea. Am I showing signs of a narcissistic personality disorder when I mention the unlikely possibility of future scholars poring over anything I do? Probably.

posted by Poagao at 12:26 pm  
Sep 30 2014

busy weekend

I reeeeeally need to update my website; it’s been rocking this millennial theme since, well, around the millennium, and it hopeless dated. If I don’t update it soon I won’t have to; I’ll just say it’s deliberately retro. Yeah, that’ll work. The problem is that I don’t know what I am doing when it comes to web design. I’m going to need a new computer in the near future as well. It’s always something.

The weekend, as I predicted, was madness. I met Chenbl at Jing-an Station in Yonghe on Saturday morning, where we got on a bus down to Taoyuan to join the wedding banquet of our friends Sean and Lulu. One of the nice things about a cross-cultural wedding, I thought, is that you can throw any old stupid event into the mix and everyone will assume that said stupid thing is a “tradition” of the other side, and nobody will be the wiser. But the weather was brilliant, the food good and the ceremony kept to a minimum, so it wasn’t bad, as weddings go.

In fact, it went so smoothly that we were back in Taipei in time for the Muddy Basin Ramblers’ set at Daniel Pearl Day, which was held at the Hakka Cultural Park this year. The place was so packed with young white people wearing pastel polo shirts, sunglasses and khaki shorts I could have sworn I’d been transported back to Lexington, Virginia. I’d told David I couldn’t guarantee I’d be there, so he got Sylvain to fill in on bass, so I sat out most of the first set. This was just as well as I was feeling a little under the weather. The second set was pure acoustic, held on the sidewalk, and didn’t really work because the music from the two stages drowned everything else out. Still, people were dancing.

I managed to get home at a decent hour, and took most of Sunday off to rest up, venturing out again in the evening for a dinner with Sean’s parents. Again, good food and company. Sean’s father apparently writes serial fiction, a la the old shorts they used to play in the theaters during matinees, but in print form, so perhaps more like Dickens or in Black Mask. I don’t know as I’ve never seen it, but I’d like to read some of it. At the very least it must be more interesting that this blogging business.

 

posted by Poagao at 3:27 pm  
Sep 26 2014

travels and travails

I recently took a break from browsing Internet content that could theoretically summon horrible bots to my computer to read Eric Kim’s description of his jet-setting travails. Every day he is meeting internationally famous people, and, damnit, the poor boy just can’t get a moment to himself to just go out and shoot! In the most noble fashion, however, Eric shrugs at this sacrifice, foregoing developing his own vision in solitude and instead plugging away on his mission to promote this thing he calls “street photography”.

I couldn’t help but note the contrast with my own travels. To me, the best kind of trip is open-ended, blanks schedules and vague goals, if any. When I went to Tokyo this last time, I did contact a few people in the photography community there, people who are constantly Doing Great Things Mentioned Frequently Online, but everyone was too busy to meet up. Of course I got to hang out with old friends like Yas and Louis, which was nice. Yas is always into interestingly bizarre things, and one of the things I appreciate most about Louis is that he puts a lot of thought into everything he says, making for very thought-provoking conversations (unless you count my meager contributions).

In any case, the more I thought about it, the happier I was that I wasn’t beholden to visiting bunches of people, free to wander the streets unnoticed, with no agenda, no meetings to attend, no keeping an eye on my watch (yes, I wear a watch; I hate having to pull out my phone just to check the time), eating at whatever time I was hungry at whatever place I happened across. If I’d had an agenda such as someone like Eric or Zack Arias or whomever, I would have gotten a lot less out of my time there than I did.

This is, of course, just me. Others may be “people people,” people who are more comfortable around other people, who derive feelings of security, safety, confidence and warmth from other people, who depend on those sources for whatever comfort they may feel. I am not such a person, as any of the few people who really know me can attest. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either type of personality. I am personally attracted to the art, photography, writing, what have you, that comes from people who tend to be loners, people who are acerbic and cranky if they hang around people too much. Difficult people. People who can see their surroundings clearly because they aren’t always busy wondering where they fit in. They know they don’t fit in, and never will. Even if they could, they wouldn’t get anything out of it.

Some of these have become famous as photographers, writer, etc. Vivian Maier was such a person, and even if she’d gotten her work in front of the right eyes at the time, she most likely wouldn’t have gotten anywhere simply because nobody wanted the hassle of dealing with her. And because she wasn’t already known, how could she become famous? She didn’t come from a rich family like Cartier-bresson or Eggleston or many of the others. She did what she could, and as much of what she loved as possible without sacrificing her dignity, unlike many others. Her story, including the most recent chapters, in which the vultures begin trying to peck apart any of the resulting fortune, is not surprising to anyone who has seen enough of the world and how things work.

In other news, the parents of a friend of mine are in town for my friend’s wedding tomorrow, which I will be attending. They hail from central Florida, not far from where I went to high school, so it was nice to meet up and chat about the area, which I haven’t seen for over two decades. After the wedding I will be rushing back to Taipei to try and catch the last part of the Daniel Pearl event at the Hakka Culture Park, but it’s going to be an iffy thing.

Everyone in my office is all in a tizzy about the new iPhone. Me, I’m sticking with my old iPhone 4. It works, and that’s enough for me.

posted by Poagao at 4:26 pm  
Sep 15 2014

Lindyhopping and a crazy bike ride

We were due in Danshui at around 6 on Saturday for a dancing gig that night, so I spent the day mostly at home before gathering up my instruments and heading out to the coast, hauling my cart. It was supposed to be a “black and white” affair. I didn’t really have any white shirts, so I just wore black: My black baggy worker pants from Osaka. Black T-shirt. Black jacket. Black Indonesian felt hat. Black shoes. Black glasses. At least my socks were white.

Sandman was sitting in the square outside the station, and soon other Ramblers began to turn up. Conor was last, of course. David and Mojo had already gone ahead, so we chose a Wish for a taxi, and were rather surprised when the driver didn’t seem very interested in taking us. It was as if he had just come across the concept of driving a taxi and couldn’t quite come to grips with it. He threw our stuff into the back and took off in a jerky, indignant rush, though we hadn’t said we were in a hurry. When we got to the cruise-ship-like hotel near the wharf, he claimed he couldn’t write a receipt because he didn’t have a pen, and he couldn’t give us change because he didn’t have NT$30 on him. Neither objection was sustained.

The dance club was empty as yet, though a tall Western fellow who was obviously in charge directed us inside to the storage room. We did a sound check and had just settled down to our boxed dinners when he told us that people might see us eating there and we’d better make ourselves scarce.

It was a lindy dance convention, it turned out, and boy do those folks take it seriously. I felt as if I were privy to the inner sanctum of some secret society. Everyone was dressed to the nines, but as the club’s AC didn’t work so well, most people had downgraded to around 6 before long. I was sweating profusely in my felt cap and jacket under the stage lights within minutes of starting our first set. A few songs in, and I had to take off my jacket. Unfortunately, I needed two hands to do this, and I lost my grip on the washtub bass stick, which clattered to the floor, eliciting a comment from David, who was trying to explain the next number to the audience. I threw my jacket to the side, bent down to pick up the stick, and then proceeded to put my foot through the tub.

Well. I’ve had tubs break, crack, or whatever, before, but never have I seen a tub disintegrate with such explosive force. Perhaps it was because it was the only green tub I’d ever bought (I got it in Kaohsiung when I was playing with the Heineken Band in ’09…perhaps five years is a considerable span of time for a tub after all. In any case, splinters of green plastic flew everywhere while the CRUNCH! reverberated through the room. I looked down at the destroyed tub, wondering what the hell I was going to do now.

Fortunately, David had spotted another tub in the club’s bathroom. So, while the rest of the band played something bassless, I “appropriated” it and created a hole with a screwdriver I’d heated with a lighter. Five minutes later we had our new tub.

We played until after midnight, two sets in total. My ears were ringing as the sound, which was good enough, was also very loud, and I was glad to get outside, back to the quiet, non-screaming dancer-filled world. The bus back to Taipei Main Station left around 1:15 after backing over some barriers. Thumper, Sandman and myself were on it. I had no idea what happened to the others; I just wanted my bed. At the station we caught a taxi deeper south, as we all live in the wilds of Xindian. I fell into bed around 3.

Sunday was bright and hot when I came to. Thumper had spent much of the previous evening regaling us with tales of the open road, so I decided the haul out the Crazy Bike, which hasn’t seen the light of day in a while. Of course the tires were flat and the frame coated with dust, but after a trip to the local scooter shop it rode just fine.

I took the riverside path north, thrilled to be out on my bike again on a brilliant, albeit hot day. At some point north of the Xiulang Bridge, however, I began to detect a certain odor coming from the river. Unbidden words came to my head from PDQ Bach’s cantata Iphigenia In Brooklyn:

Recitative:

“And lo, she found herself within a market, and all around her fish were dying; and yet their stench did live on.”

Ground:

“Dying, and yet in death alive.”

I continued riding, not daring to stop and eat the snack I’d brought, which was, unfortunately, a tuna rice triangle. At one point I spotted a crane and several city workers working to relieve a canal of what seemed like several thousand dead fish. Occasionally they scooped out a bird as well, one of which was actually still alive. I sidled up to some of the workers and said in a conversational tone, “So…lot of dead fish ya got there.”

“Ya think?”

“Any idea what killed them?” The worker grimaced.

“Weather…could be a reason,” he started.

“Not the only reason!” Another worker called over.

“Chemicals? Factory waste water?” I suggested.

“Can’t help it,” he told me, followed by the usual excuses about making money and this is Taiwan and that’s just the way things are, etc. It was depressing.

When I walked over to the city officials standing a ways off making notes, I asked the same question. “It’s the weather. Recent temperature fluctuations have taken all the oxygen out of the river water,” a woman with a badge told me.

“So, no possibility of chemicals in the water?” I said, eyeing the green sludge six feet away. She shook head.

“Definitely not. We tested.”

So that was that. I continued north, not letting the stench interfere with my happiness at just being on my bike on the riverside again. The paths had developed considerably since my last ride. I could now cross the intersection of the three rivers on a path hung precariously below the traffic bridge. The wind, thanks to an approaching typhoon, nearly blew me off at several points, but it was fun, and I snapped panoramas of the view. Small water buses plied the waters, which is a new and welcome sight. Taipei needs to engage its rivers more, in my opinion.

On the other wide was Sanchong, and instead of traveling up the Erchong Flood plain, I proceeded up the Danshui River on paths I’d never ridden before. It was fascinating. There is a lot of new development there, rows of huge luxury apartments with floor-length windows just waiting to be stacked with boxes and laundry. The new airport MRT line will go through there if it ever gets finished.

The sun was getting low in the sky, so I turned around near a small earth god temple from which issued the sounds of karaoke, and headed back to a water bus port I’d passed on the way there. The water buses, though very limited in scope, are a lot of fun and dirt cheap: NT$15 a trip, including bicycle, and you can use your Easycard. I only wish they had a wharf in Xindian. Fish were jumping out of the river as we headed south again. Was the water in that bad a shape? I wondered. At least it didn’t smell so much now. I Lined Chenbl and showed him the scenery from the boat. Line does not yet feature smells, but I’m sure they’re working on it.

I got off at the Huajiang Wharf and pedaled south, eyeing the flashes of a storm boiling up over the mountains beyond Xindian as I rode. Sure enough, drizzle began to splatter me as I crossed under the Xiulang Bridge. I sped up, as I hadn’t brought rain gear and my only defense against getting soaked was ineffectual cursing. The rain actually felt good after being in the hot sun all day, however. Night had fallen by the time I got back to the Water Curtain Cave, where I partook of a cold shower and a veggie dinner from the shop downstairs.

All in all, a good weekend. Tiring, but good.

posted by Poagao at 3:56 pm  
Sep 06 2014

Tokyo ’14, final

Checkout was at 10 a.m. After breakfast, I gathered up my things, shoved everything into my one rolling suitcase, a token of my time at Ogilvy & Mather, and left it at the desk while I went out to take a last stroll around the area. I walked down to Akihabara, turned east, crossed under the highway, and circled around. On the way I found a slightly depressed covered market called Satake, surrounded by older houses similar to the kind of old houses you find occasionally in Taipei, or at least until they’re all torn down.

Lunch was some fried pork chop with rice at the shop with the rude (for Japanese) waitresses, and then I headed back to the hotel. On the way I happened on an interesting second-hand camera store, but I didn’t have time to check out the lovely Leica M4s in the window; I had to catch the Skyliner out to the airport.

Oddly enough, the woman at the counter said all the aisle and window seats were taken. When I asked for an emergency exit seat, she checked, and found me an aisle seat that had miraculously appeared. When I got on the plane, the economy class was indeed booked solid. The business class was completely empty.

In any case, I had to follow the world outside the plane though the monitor screen, which was fairly entertaining.

Now I’m back at the Water Curtain Cave, transferring the few photos and videos I managed to take on this trip to my hard drives, and sorting dirty laundry, etc. The security guy downstairs is raising a kitten he found nearby. I’m fairly sure it is related to Rusty, the kitten I found for Chris Ly when she lived here years ago.

I’m not sure if this trip resolved anything in particular. It was mostly just me wandering around. I suspect my soul needed something like that, but 1) the benefits of such things are rarely immediately apparent, and 2) it’s a drop in a well. I’m glad I went, though. I got out from under things for a short time, managed to, as Winogrand put it, “not exist for a short while.” Fortunately it is the mid-autumn festival this weekend, so no work until Tuesday. I’ll worry about all that then. Or maybe I won’t.

posted by Poagao at 11:39 pm  
Sep 06 2014

Tokyo ’14 part 7

I needed something to lift me out of yesterday’s doldrums, so I took the subway to Asakusa and bought a one-way river cruise ticket. Sure enough, once we cast off and were plying the Sumida, my spirits rose. Canals, apartment buildings, offices, bridges, all slid past. Even the weather improved; it had been cloudy, but when we finally docked at Hinode pier, the sun was out in a brilliant blue sky. I spent a few minutes photographing the riveting of the old airstream parked there while passengers lined up for a dinner cruise next door, and then set off inland to the World Trade Center building that I visited years ago. This time, instead of going up to the observation deck, I wandered around the streets I’d photographed back then, as I’d wished to do, and indeed have surrepticiously done via Google street view while in the office from time to time. I was happy again by this point, almost giddy even, or at least as giddy as I am capable of being. It was lunchtime and the bright sidewalks were crowded with office workers, the bright sun causing their white dress shirts to shine and glow. I walked through a hulking black shrine complex to Tokyo Tower, which I’d never been up before. So I bought a ticket to the top platform to have a look around.

It occurred to me that Tokyo is at its most wonderful when I am not trying to accomplish anything, not having meetings or bringing things here or there. It’s a society that for the most part leaves me to my own devices, while providing a certain amount of impersonally convenient infrastructure for the loner. I also get the feeling of being a solid outsider, increasing my isolation in a way I don’t experience in many other countries. It’s a great place to think and wonder and wander for that very reason.

After the tower I walked to Roppongi, recalling the last time I strode up the balconies of the Mori Tower it was snowing there. The light was reflecting off the office towers  into the streets as I returned to Tokyo Tower via another route, past a high school  where kids were shouting and hitting baseballs against the netting.

Louis had told me about a particularly interesting bookstore called the Komiyama, near Jimbocho Station. They had many lovely photobooks. Unfortunately, they also closed at seven, so I was out on the streets again in far too short an order. I was about to have some gorilla curry when Louis called and invited me for sushi in Tsukiji. We met in front of the Hongan Shrine, and walked past a few restaurants, one featuring a man playing a Japanese flute for the customers sitting on the sidewalk, before finding a place to eat. It was quite good, and dessert was had at a Denny’s just across the river. I hadn’t been to a Denny’s in decades.

So now I’m back at my hotel. Tomorrow I’m flying back to Taipei, to start my regular life again. But for now, I’m still living in my little fantasy vacationland, so I’m not going to dwell on those depressing details just yet.

posted by Poagao at 12:26 am  
Sep 05 2014

Tokyo ’14, part 6

On the subway this morning, I watched a man with a shirt two sizes too small struggled into a pair of equally tiny socks. I was on my way to Shinjuku, to the park. It was cloudy. Why is it always cloudy when I go to Shinjuku this time around? I wondered. It was sunny when I left the hotel.

Anyway, I walked back from the park to more busy areas, through the construction that seems to have been going on for roughly a decade on the south side of the station, and then took another subway to Harajuku. From there I walked to Shibuya, home of Strange People with Cameras, and met Louis. We then headed to a photo fair near Daikanyama.

When we got there, a number of distinguished Japanese photographers were milling about the lobby. One of these was Eikoh Hosoe. They had given a talk, which we’d missed, but it was all in Japanese so I would have missed it in any case. We talked to some publishers. One of them was really into outrigger canoeing, and Louis was an instant convert. We also talked a bit about photography and photography books.

Afterwards, Louis had to go visit his sick dog in the dog hospital. I wandered aimlessly, feeling lost, but not the kind of lost I’d hoped to be when I came here this time. It was still cloudy. On many levels. So many levels that I found myself buying cinnamon buns, but that was rather a rather desperate measure.

So I walked, and walked. Up to Harajuku, over Omotesando, up the Ginza Line, until it was dark and my feet were sore. Then it was back to the hotel and a lie down before Louis called and said he’d be over for dinner.

I had wanted to find the little traditional Japanese restaurant where I’d often dined during my visit in ’08, but I couldn’t find it, so we settled on a yakitori place that had interesting meat and took 30 minutes to make canned spaghetti. It wasn’t bad. Later we had some crushed ice, and then Louis took his leave. It was almost midnight, and he had to catch a train.

posted by Poagao at 12:04 am  
Sep 03 2014

Tokyo ’14, part V

After the thrill of touring the Nippon Maru, I couldn’t get visions of the Hikawa Maru out of my head. Not just another ship, an old passenger liner from one of my favorite eras, the last of her kind still around…how could I pass that up? I’d be kicking myself all the way back to Taipei.

So, after experimenting with the hotel’s pancakes this morning at breakfast (verdict: Meh), I once again went to the JR station nearby and boarded a train bound for Yokohama. The trains were much more crowded this time, and it took a few before I could find a car that wasn’t bursting with people, all of them looking at their phones, except the ones looking at girlie mags. I managed, in turn, to retain possession of my hat.

Back at the last stop on the Minato-mirai line, which is for some reason buried a dozen stories underground, I emerged again to find cartloads of children being pushed around the park for some reason. Happily, the Hikawa Maru was open, and I boarded, bought a ticket, and then spent the next few hours wandering around in a 30′s-era reverie. The decor was pure Art Deco, and they were even playing period jazz songs, including the Japanese version of the St. Louis Blues, in the 1st-class dining room. The lounges, the smoking rooms, the cabins, everything made me want to spend two weeks crossing the Pacific in such a magnificent craft, not today’s cruiseliners, but a real, honest-to-goodness ship. Of course, I might change my mind if presented with the real life waves of the northern Pacific, but still. In the captain’s cabin I discovered the origin of the design, color and even the smell of my 1977 Datsun 810. Someone at Nissan ordered those exact hues and odors based on some fond memories; there can be no doubt. I can’t believe it’s a coincidence. Those shades of purple and brown simply don’t happen by accident.

I also discovered exactly what they were doing yesterday that required them to close the ship: painting. I got white paint on my hands when descending the ladders in the engine room, which is also truly magnificent to behold. A much better engine room than anything I’ve ever seen on Star Trek.

My appetite for 30′s-era ships somewhat sated, I had some lunch and then took a train back to Tokyo, listening to the soundtrack to Paprika as I did so. It made for a rather surreal experience. The Japanese music and songs come across differently in Japan. Context. I then sat through the entire length of the Ginza Line to Asakusa, where I disembarked and asked one of the staff what train I should take to the Skytree, feeling somewhat satisfied that I managed the whole conversation in Japanese. It turned out I could walk it, so I did, crossing the Sumida River by the giant Godzilla Turd, which is looking less golden with age these days, and up a tributary, through a rather rough neighborhood by Tokyo standards, to the towering monstrosity that is Tokyo Skytree as the sky clouded over.

Tokyo Skytree charges extra for access to the upper levels, so I just paid for the basic level, which was enough. They have carefully arranged the top level to not let anyone sit down, in order to move them to lower levels. It’s quite clever. I loafed around as the city lights began to come on, thinking I’d really rather be down in it all, not up above everything. After night had fallen, I went down and had some very salty noodles at a nearby shop, and then walked back to Ueno. It was a long walk, but I like walking here, and I could pick my own pace and dodge into alleys for the occasional photo without having to make any excuses for anyone. Very nice.

Tomorrow I’ll be visiting a photobook thing in Ebisu.

posted by Poagao at 9:56 pm  
Sep 02 2014

Tokyo ’14, part I dunno, Tuesday?

Sunny! As if to make up for yesterday’s torrents, today the sky was a solid blue, with nary a cloud in sight. After breakfast I boarded a JR train bound for Yokohama…which turned out to be the wrong train. I did manage to get there, without my hat, which I left on the train accidentally. Every station seemed to have a plethora of connecting lines, and I felt like I was in a huge spider web.

I took the subway out to the end of the line, and went to Chinatown to buy a new hat. For some reason, none of the proprietors there actually spoke Chinese. I got a couple of hats anyway, and headed to see the ship I’d so wanted to see last time I was in Yokohama, five years ago, the Hikawa Maru. It had been a Monday then, so it was closed. But today was Tuesday!

But it was still closed. The sign actually read, “The ship is not open to visitors today because fuck you.” Or something like that. Or maybe that was me. After a round of solid cursing, I walked back through town, because I like walking through Yokohama. It’s very pleasant, with wide, tree-lined streets and old buildings. One of these was hosting some election activity, with lots of men in suits coming and going and bowing to each other.

I walked through the city to the Nippon Maru, my second-favorite old ship in Yokohama. Fortunately, not only was it open, they were having a deal on cheap tickets that included access ot the nearby museum. The Nippon Maru is a sailing ship, with multiple masts, built in 1930. Touring it was fascinating, and really made me wonder what life at sea was like back then. I would have climbed the rigging had they let me, the spoilsports.

After some lunch and wifi at Starbucks, I caught a fast train back to Tokyo, landing at Shibuya just in time for the beginning of rush hour. Or, rather, Western Street Photographer rush hour, as the famous intersection was teeming with various doughy males with Fuji X100s. One guy was making a time-lapse shot from the Official Shibuya Crossing Time Lapse Corner(tm). Several interviews were taking place, discussing, I imagine, deep questions like “Why do you think there are so many interviews being held in this particular place?”

It was getting a little odd, not to mention claustrophobic with all the people and even more giant screens competing to see who is the most annoying, so I returned to my hotel in Ueno, took a shower to the sounds of the nearby temple’s bell, and then headed out to the Ginza to meet Louis for dinner. The entire Ginza line seems a step above in terms of quality of people. I wonder if it’s just that higher class people take the line, or does the opulance of the lines cause people to behave better while riding it, or both? The golden hues of the seats and other accents really matches the golden nature of the name. The Ginza itself is kept better than other parts of the city, with nicer buildings and more even sidewalks, wider and sparkling clean. The only uncouth thing about the Ginza was the loud Chinese tourists.

I walked the length of the street on both sides in time to meet Louis outside the Mitsukoshi door, and he took me to an adjacent neighborhood full of small restaurants. We had French food while sitting outside the tiny place, eating foi gras and crepes, and talking about photography. Louis said he thinks of photography in terms of molecules, and suggested I move towards entire animals in terms of projects. It bears thinking about. After dinner we walked to where Louis had parked his bicycle, near Tsukiji, and I took the subway home, after photographing some construction sights.

posted by Poagao at 11:26 pm  
Sep 01 2014

Tokyo 2014, part 3

Rain. And more rain. That was today. It was raining when I got up. My hopes lifted at breakfast downstairs when it let up a little and people on the sidewalk stopped carrying umbrellas, but by the time I was ready to go out, it was raining again. I got in touch my with old classmate from film school, Yas, and we arranged to meet at 4 at his shop.

The museums being closed, I decided I’d head to Shinjuku for a bit, managing to understand the subway staff’s instructions on how to use the card I’d kept from Osaka. I was looking for signs to the Marunouchi Line from the Ginza Line when an American woman pulling a large piece of luggage asked me just that. “I, uh…” I stammered, as I didn’t know. She stared at me, and then shrugged dismissively.

“No help? Fine. Ok.” she said, as if I had snubbed her.

I did manage to fine the right platform. And so did she. It’s not hard if you just follow the signs.

In Shinjuku I walked over and through the Golden Gai, where I’d first met and photographed Daido Moriyama years ago. All the little shops were closed, of course. After lunch I visited the shrine that had been under construction the last time I was staying in the area. Rain once again began to pelt the ground as I walked back towards the train station. Dozens of stories above, window washers were no doubt saying to themselves, “Well,  shit.”

I found a Starbucks near a Krispy Kreme whose empty, silent assembly line bore quiet testament to the fact that Krispy Kreme isn’t nearly as popular as it was before they changed the recipes. I’d been told that all Starbucks offered free wifi, but the sign-up process requires that you register at home first. So much for that. In fact, in the year 2014, Japan, which is so advanced in so many other ways, takes a positively medieval view of wifi. It is almost never offered, and when it is, it’s with prohibitively complicated requirements.

Outside, people were struggling with their umbrellas as the wind picked up, adding to the general nastiness of the day. I took the train out to Asagaya Minami, where Yas’ shop is, and completely failed to find it until Yas actually came out and grabbed me from the sidewalk. We spent the next few hours talking about his new career as a VJ, movies, etc. It was good to catch up. I showed him some clips from The Kiss of Lady X, and he was astounded that we did what we did for such a small amount of money. He also suggested I watch The Castle of Caglioso, an early Miyazaki work.

I took the train back around 9 pm. The rain continued, unabated. The wind wasn’t helping, either. I had some katsu-don at a nearby place Louis had recommended, which had surprisingly rude (for Japan) waitresses, and then it was back to the hotel  to dry out my things and take a hot shower. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow.

posted by Poagao at 10:16 pm  
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