6/23 and 24
One of the defining features of playing whiskey tennis is that you often can’t remember anything except for the fact that you played it. I say this to illustrate how much it stuck with me when my Very Tall Friend said something during the game (context forgotten, of course.) “I don’t hide well,” he said, as I laughed.
I don’t hide well here. Welcome to Tokyo, sensei.
That was pretty much the theme of yesterday, which I am trying very, very hard to forget as I renegotiate with whichever part of my brain determines my attitude.
See, I love going new places alone. I love it wholeheartedly, minus the chunk reserved for full moons, live music, and shiny pants. I feel like if I drop into a place and experience the differences through the distorted lens of Caroline, my brain enjoys some little-kid plasticity and has this explosion of neuronal connections that both excites me and makes me better. When I’m forced unwittingly into a six hour tour of slowly moving, non-context, stare-fest narrated in Japanese, I shrink. Inasmuch as you can shrink into yourself and still feel like a literal and metaphorical cow.
Yeah, my legs and ankles were back to monstrous all day. I’d like to say it was the weirdest thing and be special about my maladies, but I looked it up on the Internet- which is always true- and found out it’s a really common side effect of flying 14 hours in a window seat that you don’t want to vacate because the two people next to you are sleeping, so you don’t drink any water in favor of watching most of the first season of New Girl, which puts you into spasms of upper body laughter while your lower half stays cramped and paralytic under somebody else’s seat. Whatever, I know it’s my fault. It’s still not that fun to walk around all day when your shoes don’t fit, though. Especially when people are staring at you for being shock-topped and taller than your comrades.
So my bloated, surly self felt physically bovine, and the herding to which I was subjected only added to that. To be fair, the four of us from Portland have only encountered the sweetest and most generous of well-intentioned hosts (exception: the boy who sneezed on my knuckles) and I am quite certain that most people- and I certainly should be- thrilled at their thoughtful guidance. I do very much appreciate the time they took out of their Sunday. On the other hand, I have this severe itis about not having control of my own life and though it was only six hours, it was six long hours of reinforcing the plaster on my smile.
Oh- sidebar with a different attitude!- the initial quick destinations were top awesome! Our guides showed us to the nearest grocery store, 100 yen store (Japan’s dollar store counterpart) and train station and ohhhh, honey, the first two blew my mind. The succulent sushi I can get here will happen on the reg, I promise you that. I won’t even attempt to describe the place but hope you can imagine by the frantic flitting I did from aisle to aisle with a manic and gleeful expression. I think Japanese anime characters have such enormous eyes because they’re looking at this incredible food all the time. A little piece of me will hate myself when I get home, get hungry, and have, like, cheese and crackers as an option when I’m craving tube sushi the size of a murder weapon.
That sounds sinister, yes, but this super-sized sushi has the dimensions of a Granny’s burrito and the coloring of a lead pipe. Astonishing in the very best way.
When I wasn’t marveling at the amazing fishy goodness, there were carnival sideshow offerings that quenched my thirsty imagination. I mean, look at this thing! It’s the most androgynously sexual food I’ve ever seen, and I’ll bet a frat boy could make a lot of Bud Ice money eating it for a drunken, chanting crowd. Would you just look at it?
A phalanx of sidelong glances were aimed at us from the grocery, as you can imagine. Little kids were more blunt with their gaping stares.
The 100 yen store was also interesting, and I later picked up an umbrella and 10 gift bags for about five bucks, so that was productive. I also got a good laugh out of some translated ads, like the lotion labeled Urea Cream. While I understand that urea is a vital part of many lotions, in the US, the market tries to hide it in the melange of listed ingredients. So it was hilarious to see it advertised here as, essentially, bladder juice face goo.
The train station was next, and all of a sudden I found myself at this temple, with absolutely no idea if it was real or a plaster tourist magnet. Throngs of people were milling about at the infinite gift shops, and without historical context or even knowing the name of the place, I was crowd-sourced to the front of the line where I understood that I was to throw in 10 yen, bow, and pray. This is not something at which I excel. The shrine next door was much of the same, except we ran into a wedding party, replete with traditional costume, rickshaw, and a bride who was actively trying not to vom. It was horribly uncomfortable watching her repeatedly open her mouth, close it hastily looking terrified, and swallow while her groom paraded around the steps to the shrine fanning himself and looking for all the world like Harold Hill waiting for us to buy his trumpets. He totally ignored her. The bowing, clapping, and praying I was expected to do seemed even more incongruous.
It was probably an hour ferry ride back with people actively noticing us a lot. It was squished and the guide wasn’t sexy like the duck tour guy. We don’t get paid until tomorrow, so I couldn’t drown my ankles in the beer they were selling. I’m complaining too much because I felt so trapped, and I recognize the need to stop.
Home. Grocery store for dinner. Credit card declined, embarrassing in her inability to tell me in any way but by making a big “x” with her hands, and in my inability to do anything but put an exaggerated sheepish look on my face and slowly step away from the food. Almost run over by a bike because everyone walks on the left here. Momentarily shocked out of lethargic submission from sound of two screeching tires. Debit card worked at 7/11. Food ingested.
Tomorrow, maybe I’ll hide well?