Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My Nemesis!
Tokyo Yoga is on the fourth floor of a building in the neighborhood of Shibuya, which is just like the city in Blade Runner, only cleaner and more organized. The front entrance is locked until 8, so students use the rear entrance.

On Tuesday morning I cruised around the back to see a Maserati, an all-white Brabus G-Wagon, and a Ferrari Testarosa parked on the curb. Across the street, a crowd of wasted Japanese kids screeched and hollered in the blue neon light and heavy bass that spilled from the doorway of the newly opened Club Camelot.

Motherfuckers were still partying at 4:30 in the morning on a Monday night!


Katsu was already practicing when I got up to the studio. He finished by 5 and laid down for savasana. It was a deep, deep savasana, as he began snoring. Katsu slept for a whole hour.

(I was in the middle of practice at 5:30 when Club Camelot closed, a fact I deduced from the sounds of 100 wasted people milling around on the street below.)

Part of the reason Katsu got a key to the joint was because Chama hired him to work the front desk, a good deal for Katsu because he gets a key to the studio and gets to practice for free.

After I finished, he asked if he could talk to me.

"I practice twice yesterday," he said, "and today I am tired and sore! What can I do?" He's finding that banging out the double practices takes quite a physical toll. He asked me how often I practiced. "Once a day is enough!" I said.

I told him to keep practicing, and either the soreness and exhaustion would go away or he'd have a complete mental meltdown.

I don't know how much he understood.

I got home later to find my flatmates huddled around their laptops. "You told Katsu you practice once a day?" they asked.

"How do you guys know that?" I said, and peaked at their screens---only to find that Katsu has a blog! He's blogging about me in Japanese!

Ye gods, what is this strange mirror universe into which I've fallen?

Katsu is my doppleganger, a Japanese Bizarro-Jason.

He must be destroyed.

My Least Favorite Authors, Musicians, Artists and Iconic Marxist Guerrillas
In no particular order.

Aleister Crowley
William Burroughs
Jack Kerouac
Charles Bukowski
Salvador Dali
M.C. Escher
Bob Marley
The Greatful Dead
Che Guevara

A Baby Angel Dies
Did you know that a baby angel dies every time Paul McCartney releases a record or the Rolling Stones take the stage and launch into "Start Me Up"?

It's true.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Mantra of the Day
Today's mantra comes courtesy of Brooklyn-based rapper Fabolous:

"I'm on the parkway, see me at the Knick game
Probably seen this tatted on your chick frame:

Fabolous is saying here that he is a player of such incomprehensible magnitude that your girlfriend, and in fact all men's girlfriends everywhere, have tattooed his name somewhere on their bodies.

Your directions: repeat mantra throughout practice, and for the rest of day. For is this not god inscribing god's name on the flesh of god, all for the delight of god?

Perhaps it's just a hook from a catchy song.

Next week's mantra will come courtesy of Queensbridge rapper Jadakiss.

Extreme Decisions of a Biblical Magnitude
The new Final Fantasy video game was released to shitloads of fanfare on the sixteenth here in Tokyo, the culmination of weeks of promotional hype. There have been mega-story billboards on buildings througout the city, posters wheatpasted on every building, and the giant jumbotron building monitors have been running commercials non-stop. On weekends, the exits of the major subways were patrolled by scantily clad girls dressed as characters from the game.

The only way to top the last bit would be if the heavens opened and comic books fell from the sky. But anyway, at 6:30 in the morning of the release day, I trucked past the Shibuya Tsutaya to see 50 people lined up and waiting to purchase the game. My nerd heart swelled with emotion.

I love this country's overwelming love and support of all things nerd-related, and when a role-playing videogame is accorded the pomp and circumstance of a major cultural event, it brings tears to a grown nerd's eyes. There are now Final Fantasy point-of-purchase displays at the front counter of every 7-11. The staples: Milk, bread, rice-balls ... and Final Fantasy.

Which brings me to my current and related dilemma, on par with Abraham's from the Old Testament: I have to choose between attending a Chuck and Maty workshop this coming weekend ... or the Tokyo International Anime Fair.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cell Phones
They’re everywhere in Tokyo, no shit. Yoga students tuck ‘em under their mats and check for text messages during practice.

That Crazy Bastard Katsu
My buddy Katsu, he of double-practice hamburger-flipping fame, is trying to out-zealot me! The crazy bastard! He connived a key to the studio and I arrived at 4:30 this morning to find he’d already started his practice! (Presumably his first.) I’ll show him who’s crazier …

Tokyo Defamiliarization
I walk or bike everywhere in Tokyo and live at the top of a fourth-floor walk-up. What’s a lazy man to do? I keep cashing out my calorie bank account, and consequently I’m so hungry at all times of the day that, if pressed, I could devour my own foot. (I've thought a lot about it: the left one goes first.) I cannot stop eating.

I walked by a Subway sandwich store the other day and ducked inside to hork down some carbohydrates. Ah, the generic familiarity of the global chain stores! One is always automatically oriented to the colors, the menu, and the layout.

Tokyo Subways are the same as the ones in the U.S.---the wallpaper features nineteenth-century newspaper headlines and subway blueprints, the palette is the reassuring yellow and green, and the employees stand behind the same glassed-off sandwich assembly line.

Fabolous’ “You Can’t Deny It,” featuring Nate Dogg, bumps from the overhead speakers, volume at eight. The Japanese woman behind the counter, resplendent in her Subway uniform and visor, inquires about the bread I desire for my 8cm carb-laden treat.

I am about to answer when Fabolous interrupts to say, “And if you duck cheese I'ma fuck her---duck these, motherfucker! Ghetto fabulous nigga, I ride 'til I die!”

I am stunned into immobility. Apparently big corpo chains don’t require radio edits! I recover my composure enough to ask for wheat. The Subway woman and I slide down the counter, and she asks me in open-faced earnestness which vegetables I want. Nate Dogg pipes in from the speakers: “Y’all can’t deny it, I’m a fuckin’ rider---you don’t wanna fuck with me!”

My mission is now to pay for my sandwich with a straight face.

It is difficult.

Fabolous hijacks the familiar in Tokyo! What’s the word? “Ostranenie:” to make the familiar strange. The Russian Formalists, the Situationists, Fabolous, and maybe even Brecht would be doing cartwheels.

I wolfed my Veggie Delite, head bobbing. Fabolous says, “Still don't know me, still jump in a Lex---the chain so icy I got chill bumps on my neck!”

Speaking of Bumping
The girl behind the counter at the corporate yoga studio bumped Enya at volume 10 this morning, doubtless because Enya is on the corporate “Approved Music for Yoga Studios” list. I force her to swab my vomit from the hardwood floor. “There’s a good lass,” I tell her. “You couldn’t have known.” There's nothing worse than Enya, except maybe Enya and power crystals and pewter dragons.

... And Just to Keep it Chemical!
On the heels of the popular phencyclidine posts comes another must-read!

Unfortunately I cannot lay claim to genuine experiential participation in the following event, given my hatred of cigarettes, which seems to be genetically encoded. In addition to dipping their coffin nails in liquid phencyclidine, John and a few homies used to dip 'em in Wite-Out. You know, Liquid Paper?

There was another cross-town crew who reputedly dipped theirs in embalming fluid, but that might've been rumor. Where the fuck does one get embalming fluid? Then again, where does one lay hands on liquid PCP?

I wasn't on-hand the day Eddie flopped over and had a seizure as a result of smoking the Wite-Out-coated cigarette, but I did see him after he'd recovered. One side of his face was paralyzed and looked like lumpy clay: the left side of his mouth drooped and leaked drool and his left eyelid sagged closed. Eddie had to worry about the eyeball drying out because he couldn't blink.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ah, Phencyclidine
My buddy John had an unspecified number of older brothers, unspecified because they were on steady rotation in and out of jail. They were all in some East Coast biker gang. John's refrigerator at home had one entire shelf stacked with Elmer's glue jars, the kind with the glue-brush stuck on the inside of the top. The glue jars were filled with liquid phencyclidine. We used to take parsley, dip it in the jars, wrap it in tin-foil to soak, then smoke it, releasing a very singular chemical-laced parsley smell.

Once, one of John's brothers was due to be released, so John and his other brothers packed a car and picked him up from jail for a celebratory fishing trip. How many jars of Elmer's were in the car? Who knows, but I'd guess a lot, because as they sped down the freeway, the brother fresh from lock-up opened the car door and stepped out for some fresh air.

He went to the hospital and then straight back to the clink, released Friday and back on Monday. John laughed when he told me the story, like, "Hey, what the fuck? He's a dumbfuck. Shit happens." John was pretty fucked up.

Profanity-laced Phrases That Have No Japanese Equivalent When Shouted In Moving Traffic From A Speeding Bicycle
1. "Loogout homie."
2. "Watch it there, tubby."
3. "Stay in your lane, fuckface."
4. "Gah!
5. "Your left, your left, your left! Your left! Shit."
6. "Hey there chief."
7. "Oops."
8. "Whoops."
9. "Fucktard!"
10. "I am sure your BMW is not scratched."

In broken English, Katsu tells me he quit his job as a graphic designer in order to practice ashtanga. He wanted a job that freed up his mornings so he could practice ashtanga. He now "makes hamburgers" from 10 to 10 everyday. That is to say, he works a 10-hour shift at a fast-food restaurant.

He also practices twice a day. I asked him if he was trying to get "there" twice as fast, but he didn't understand me.

We've become friends as Katsu is the first human I see every morning. He arrives at the studio to begin his first practice just when I'm finishing at around 6 a.m. He hasn't abandoned graphic design, however---he has just designed some banging shirts for my friend Chama's studio,

"Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius"
"Anansi Boys" by Neil Gaiman
"60 Stories" by Donald Barthelme
"Kundalini: Aghori II" by Bobby Svoboda
"The Book of the New Sun" by Gene Wolfe
The number-one Tokyo banger, however, has been "Who Cares?!" by Ramesh Balsekar

Cartoons, Or, Why I Loved Bittorrent Until Our ISP Choked Our Service
Dragon Ball Z
Yu Yu Hakusho
Gundam: War in the Pocket
Gundam: Starlight Express