Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Future is Now
Our washing machine washes, rinses, spins and dries clothes---all in one. You put the clothes in, push a button, and return two hours later to a load of clean, dry clothes.

Our microwave is also a toaster---you pull off the revolving plate and a grill is underneath. There's a toast button on the front.

Kranti bought the most futuristic cell phone in the world for ¥1. It's a Star Trek tricorder that takes photos and videos, recieves and sends e-mails, browses the Web, and makes excellent wet cappucinos. You can also swipe the phone on the electric sensors at subway turnstiles to ride the train. You can swipe it on many vending machines, which, in Tokyo, contain soda, juices, water, coffee, sandwiches, beer, mixed drinks, cigarettes, cigars, school-girl underpants, et cetera et cetera. There are a growing number of restaurants where you can swipe your phone to pay the bill.

Every day, yoga studios in Tokyo provide fresh wet-wipes to students, with which they wipe down their mats.

Public Bath Blues
I am denied entry to a public bath due to my tattoos; a sign in front of the building features an "x" over an icon of a man covered in dragon tattoos. I try to explain to the employees that I am not yakuza, but to no avail.

Recipe for Coma
1. Wake at 3 a.m. to practice yoga at 4.
2. Stay awake all day.
3. That evening, swallow 1,000mgs of Robaxin (generic name: Methocarbamol).
4. Follow that with two hours in a Japanese bath. "Bath" includes sauna, hot tub, ice dip, and steam room. (Note: "hot" tub more accurately called "core of the fucking sun" tub.)
5. After bath, drink half of one shot-glass-sized hot sake.

Slide off the restaurant booth into a puddle on the floor, unable to move your limbs. Blink "SOS" in Morse code to alert friends that you are in fact a sentient puddle of water, and that you need to be levered into a taxi with your home address pinned to your lapel.

Psilocybin mushrooms were legal in Japan until three years ago; head shops used to sell baggies of them. In contrast, marijuana is very illegal. People are brought up on criminal charges for failing urine tests.

DMT is still legal and available; I have not inquired about ketamine.

The GG Allin Challenge
Consumer culture has reached its apogee in Tokyo. Fashion has been deconstructed down to the molecular level and codified accordingly; fashion is followed with a rigor and zeal that, as William Gibson says in Pattern Recognition, has become an act of worship.

All of which has pushed me to the other and no less extreme end of the spectrum, the GG Allin Challenge, or the Scum Fuck Possession Fast, which involves giving up material possessions and only living with whatever fits in a brown paper bag.

GG Allin, as I'm sure everyone is aware, was a punk-rock car accident, a perpetual man on fire who wrote classic songs like "Drink, Fight and Fuck," and who hurled obscenities, fists, excrement, and other bodily effluvia on audience members. He swore he was going to kill himself on stage, but overdosed and died before he could make good.

GG had a simple philosophy on life. He had the jacket on his back and could fit everything else he owned in a brown paper bag, in case he needed to blow town, which he often did. The brown paper bag also presumably contained a six-pack and a carton of cigs.

Proposal: 10-day fast with only access to the clothing and toiletries that one is wearing and and one can fit in one regulation-sized brown paper shopping bag. No layering of clothes like girls who cheat at spin the bottle, and no department store bags! (Those are considered sacks.)

Things that are not considered "clothing" and "toiletries," and are as such outside of the fast: books, music, comic books.

You can't use your credit card, either. It's all cash-on-hand. So withdraw some money and live on a budget. You think fucking GG Allin, who wrote an album called Live Fast, Die Fast, had a fucking credit card, college boy? Fuck no.

Ten days? Make it a month.

You could do this no problem in India ... Tokyo, however, as with most places in the West: much harder---not least because it's freezing in Japan right now and you'd fill up the bag with just one sweater.

Okay, so we make it a seasonal fast---spring and summer only.

Which lets me off the hook ... for now.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Subtle and Insidious
The allure to "teach," to be a "teacher." To tell it like it "is." To see the hunger for knowledge in a slight tilt of head and to seize upon it. To enjoy the role of authoriity figure. To enjoy being listened to and taken seriously. To shrug on the coat of gravitas, worldliness, experience. To hesitate at the thought of practicing with students.To hesitate to be seen as anything less than perfect.

Recipe for Antidote
Practice, practice, practice. Practice. Listen more, talk less. Pause before speaking. Inhale, exhale. Always question, yet move spontaneously. Is this about me? Or them? The worst vice is advice. Your truth is not their truth. Your truth is not even your truth. Remember Siddartha Gautama on his deathbed, to his monks: "Be a lamp unto yourselves."

Respect Due
Tim Miller would no doubt laugh, but one of the things I most respect about him is that he practices with his students three times a week. He unrolls his mat just as they (we) do and then puts in the work, gifts and impediments bare for all to see, sattvic and tamasic days alike.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

What the hell? Where have I been? Why haven't I posted in ages? And why am I in Tokyo?

The Rain Bit
It rained non-stop for seven of our ten-day stay in Auroville last October. It was Indra's fury at the Bay of Bengal manifest as an unending apocalyptic torrent of water, which poured forthl from the sky to blot out the universe. All roads were muddy brown lakes that we forded on motorcylce, ankle-deep. The very walls of our guesthouse exhaled water that soaked through our bed.

Everywhere, everything was mold, mud and grit. And always the fucking rain. After three straight days it had penetrated our skins and skulls and souls.

The murder marked the low point. A young man, a member of one of two local village gangs, was stabbed to death by rival gang-members. For the remainder of our stay, the air was filled with tension and grief and the dull roar of the grey rain.

The Cockroach Bit
Fuck a two-hour car ride from Auroville to Chennai, follwed by a nine-hour train ride home to Mysore. We strapped into seats on Air Deccan for a one-hour flight.

Just before take-off, a fat brown roach skittered over the headrest of the seat in front of me. It waved its antennae and then disappeared, continuing its cabin circumambulations.

Jet Lag
For my money, the best drug on the market. Your circadian rhythms are like, totally fucked, man. As William Gibson says, jet lag is like sending your body someplace, and then waiting a few days for it to reel in your soul.

Two or Three Things About in Tokyo
1. People don't lock up bikes. They just park 'em on the sidewalk, hit the kick-stand, and leave 'em.

2, Don't cross against the light at crowded intersections. Lemming-like, everyone will follow you across the street; even into the face of oncoming traffic.

3. The mouth of Takeshita Street slopes gradually downhill. Hundreds of shoppers clog the street and sidewalk, wall to wall. All twirl, maneuver and otherwise pilot umbrellas to fend off the snow pouring forth from the heavens. It is a delicate dance. I am a full head taller than most everyone, and tower over a sea of bobbing plastic Technicolor domes, red, green, white, black, blue, clear, camouflage; plain or monogrammed. It is a Busby Berkeley set waiting for someone to cry "Action!" to cue synchronized song and dance.

The Power Nap Bit
Mid-day: the kid next to me at the coffee-shop is studying, highlighting a page in a book and taking notes, doubtless preparing himself for the critical entrance exam into eleventh grade. Twenty minutes pass. The kid leans back in his chair, closes his eyes, and slides down in the booth, dead asleep.

A friend told me that many Japanese students get very little sleep due to school, after-school tutoring school (called "cram" school), and then more studying.

Waitresses passed too and fro and batted nary an eye. After an hour the kid gave a little snort, woke up, and resumed studying.