Friday, October 12, 2007

I decided to go to Japan to play shows again, even though I wasn't sure if it was a good idea or not. Maybe nobody there had heard any of my newer stuff-- or, based on what I had seen and heard of the last few newer Japanese bands that had come through Baltimore, maybe they were onto such a futuristic tip over there musically that my stuff might not hold up next to the average Japanese act. Whatever the case, my first (and only) time there was amazing and frightening and wonderful and I've wanted to go back there more than any other place I've visited. Somehow it worked out so I decided to go.

I planned to go alone, but not by plane. Instead I went to Olympia, on a hunch. Once I was there I went to the water, where there was a gigantic fortress on the water-- Olympia's famous port, one of the major hubs of the American import/export game. Beyond it I could see hundreds of ships, too many to count and steamers mostly. They were coming in and going out, docking, unloading-- it was noisy and crowded and quite beautiful to look at. My only luggage was my brown backpack, from which I pulled a deflated inner-tube, mostly white but with some pink and purple geometric designs on it, thin zig-zag lines and some tiny staircase shapes. I walked through the hubbub of the port and was easily able to get to the water's edge, where I blew up the inner tube and waded in.

Next thing I know, I was floating into a very similar port-- in fact, it was so similar I was initially convinced I had come right back to Olympia. I approached the port from one end, paddling myself up onto a grassy bank. It was only at this moment that I wondered how wet my laptop had gotten. My hair wasn't very wet, which gave me some hope. I thought it might be possible that only one side of the laptop would have been submerged during the trip and that it might be totally fine after it dried. I decided that this was "most likely" because I didn't want to think about what I would do about these shows in Japan if I didn't have a laptop. I pulled my cellphone out of my pants pocket-- it had been submerged in the water for most of the trip, and the display was acting weird, but it still seemed to respond somewhat when I pushed on the keypad. Maybe that would work fine after it dried, too. I put it back in my pocket and decided to focus on trying to get to wherever it was that I needed to be, but as soon as I walked up the grass and onto a paved walkway, I was almost immediately accosted by a young girl in a fancy dress. She was pretty, with brittle red hair piled high on top of her head-- she was clearly at some kind of special function. She was not into my presence, though, and explained that she and her group had rented this part of the port weeks ago and that I couldn't be there. I told her I was just leaving but she acted as if I had said the opposite, and continued to argue with me about her group's exclusive rights to this part of the port, so I just walked away, fiddling with my cellphone. She was white but once I cleared the high arching entrance of the port I realized I had in fact actually made it to Japan.

It was busy and crowded, with lots of signs I couldn't read sticking off just about every building. Japanese people were everywhere-- especially in diners. About every third building seemed to be a diner, the same kind you might see in any American metropolis, with the same clinking coffee cups and silverware, probably the same greasy food, too. As I walked further from the port, the streets became more and more narrow, until I was in a world of alleys, something like a roofless mall crossed with a dystopian labyrinth. At a few points I had to actually enter and walk through diners in order to keep going. I was starting to panic at this point, realizing that even if my phone did work I had no number to call, and no idea how far away my destination might be-- it might be on the other side of town. Part of me wanted to relax and allow myself the possibility that since I was charmed enough to actually make it to Japan on an inner tube, the place I was looking for was probably really close and I would probably just know it when I saw it, as long as I wasn't clenched up and freaking out.

I kept walking, scrutinizing signs written in entirely alien characters, trying to find some other way to evaluate them that didn't involve language. Eventually, I found the place-- a venue, but also a restaurant and hostel, full of kids, many of whom were from out of the country and could talk English to me. I wasn't supposed to play until the next day but I was welcomed in by a few of the people there. I couldn't figure out who exactly was in charge, nobody seemed to talk to me for very long before disappearing or directing me to some other part of the place. I walked down some stairs into a wide room with rice-paper walls and a long, low table that people were sitting around on pillows. At the head of the table was a smiling guy with a giant cubical cardboard box. I sat near him and another kid seated nearby explained they were having an auction. Up next were some figures for a tabletop fantasy wargame. I'd never played it but they looked cool, and supposedly it was a set that was only released in Japan. The guy next to me won it for like 80 yen. I didn't have any money on me, but when another set of Japan-only figures for the same game came up, I made the second bid. The first bid was 180, I bid 190. I thought about bidding more but didn't think I should actually win since I couldn't pay. I did win, though. I explained that I didn't have any money, so I didn't get the figures, but I wasn't too sad about it. Another guy explained to me that a package was coming for me tomorrow and in Japan it costs 80 yen to receive a package. He said that he or someone else who lived at this place would pay it for me and I could pay them back after the first show, which I thought was very kind.

I put my backpack down in a room that had a lot of bedrolls on the floor near the front door of the venue, then I walked around. It was a big place, taking up multiple buildings. I went to a dancing area with a bar that was almost empty and flirted with a girl from Europe. She wasn't that into me, though. That's all I can remember.