Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday papers: Swami Sivananda

"When one forgets himself, God appears to him as the universe. When one is established in one's own self, the universe appears as God."

--Bliss Divine

On the turntable: The Fixx, "Reach the Beach"
On the nighttable: Chie Nakane, "Japanese Society"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Plucked Plum

Damp grey tapestry torn away. The sky over the hills an incredible dark shade of blue. With it comes the heat, my cycling form a clothed sprinkler.

On the turntable: Black Sabbath, "The Mob Rules"
On the nighttable: George MacDonald Fraser, "Flashman at the Charge"

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday papers: Okakura Kakuzo

"[The] rush and struggle of modern civilization give no opportunity for the leisure required for the crystallization of ideas"

On the turntable: The Nightwatchman, "One Man Revolution"
On the nighttable: Eckhart Tolle, "The Power of Now"

Friday, July 20, 2007

Same as it Ever Was

Back in Japan a week. The rain has finally stopped but the smell of mold permeates. The famous Kyoto festival, Gion Matsuri, has come and gone. Miki and I didn't see any of it this year, our nights ending early, sleepiness brought on by the Malachi Crunch of jetlag and high humidity. Last Sunday was my birthday party at Bosom. (I usually don't make a big deal of my own birthday--I mean, what are we really celebrating? The fact that I didn't die last year? But forty is special.) We'd thought we'd bring the whole party downtown to continue the festivities, but the food and conversation was good, and the gang lingered til late. During the day, Miki and I avoided downtown altogether, until late Tuesday when the Yamaboko parade was finished. We bicycle slalomed around the yukata-clad dregs, and had coffee on the terrace of Sanjo Starbucks, (it's the location, stupid) overlooking a Kamogawa running full and fast. I notice that the usually massive desserts have been reduced by a third. (Down Size Me?) Later at our own small gathering for two, we accidentally encountered a small parade which ran in front of our Merry Island sidewalk table.

A couple days later, the election trucks are making the rounds in full squeal. In a nice twist, a small group of Communist Party supporters make their way up our hill on foot, yelling the name of their candidate through little plastic megaphones. A nice respite for the ears, and I especially appreciate the symbolic support for CO2 emissions reduction in this, the city that spawned the Protocol.

On the turntable: Bjork, "Unplugged"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

When the Music's Over

From the hillsides,
Cicada sing an elegy
For themselves

On the turntable: "Closed on Account of Rabies: Poems and Tales of Edgar Allan Poe"
On the nighttable: George Hurchalla, "Going Underground: American Punk 1979-92"

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday papers: Rumi

"I go into the Muslim mosque and the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church and I see one altar."

On the turntable: Talking Heads, "Remain in Light"
On the nighttable: James Sydney, "The Warrior's Path"

Saturday, July 14, 2007

SW notes

I've been back in Kyoto more than 48 hours and it hasn't stopped raining yet. The trees lining this valley have begun to dance, and the sky is lit the Kleig light color of a Hollywood premiere. Translation: a typhoon is on the way.
Let's return to drier climes...

Miki flies in for a weekend in Phoenix, which consists mainly of swimming off jetlag. Mike and Holly live on the outskirts of the city, so the desert is close. I had wanted to climb some of the nearby hills, but it is 113 (45C) degrees most of the time. We hit the Heard Museum to escape the heat, wandering the pots and kachinas made by those who traditionally had no recourse to AC, here set far too high. One morning we take a short walk, but the sun exhausts us. The local wildlife is far heartier, and surprisingly prevalent.

After a few days, we drive north. We hit Jerome first, a former ghost town now remade as an artist colony. This small town's two roads run parallel to and above each other on the hillside. I seem to remember fewer shops here. We've left the car in front of a mountain shop. I spy an old-school rucksack in the window. I picture it on the back of one my heroes. The owner has glasses that fold back like the doors of a Delorean. He immediately comments on my Japan-made pack, on my shoes. I respect how he knows his trade.

We pass through Sedona without stopping, merely admire the interesting rocks outside town. Not stopping here has become the norm. I had once intended to, fifteen years ago, but fell asleep on a nearby stream bed instead, spending the day in slumber. Today, we move up though Red Rock Canyon, gorgeous in all its twists and turns.

A brief passage along I-40, outrunning the trucks on this high, flat desert. We turn off onto Navajo land, long straightaways broken only by towns vaguely familiar from Hillerman novels. The Hopi have windier roads, and slightly nicer homes. Nothing at all prepares us for Canyon de Chelly. We do the only hike we're allowed, down to White House. Through small overhangs and along the sandy floor of the canyon. Miki and I stand awhile in the silence, neither of us willing or able to break it. In this silence we agree that the day's journey is done. We need to sleep someplace close, give ourselves to the magic of the place. We lean against the cliff face, feel the warmth trapped in rock. Above us, the moon has risen over the canyon wall, a familiar Ansel Adams image that startles in color. On the climb up, we are surprised at the multiple groups of twos and threes heading down this late in the day. Navajo on an evening walk. A few homes are on the floor of the canyon and I wonder if the inhabitants curse or embrace their isolation.

A short drive takes us to Spider Rock. I tell Miki the legend, or at least the version I know. We had been told by an English couple that some bears had been seen heading this way. We once again stand in quiet, but are soon joined by a preteen girl and her parents. I hear a noise echo up from the valley, and stain to hear but why won't that kid stop her horrid singing? I quickly tell Miki to listen, and that finally stops the singing and her parents' scolding. Bear? I hear the sound again. A cow...

The next morning we stand upon the North Rim. We've definitely timed this well. Sunset on the South, sunrise on the North, the opposite wall lit golden red to reveal all the details, yet none of the mystery. Again, we are moved by the silence. Again, it takes us awhile to move away. At our next stop too we find we have the place to ourselves. But returning to the car we're startled to see a lone guy by the empty carpark, selling his wares. Where'd he come from? As we drive away I look back but he's gone. Skinwalker?

We drive north, the sun once again on the right side of Miki's face. Tall buttes begin to build toward Monument Valley proportions. At Four Corners we take cheesy photos, amused by the old German who gets angry when people exceed the limit of two on the small platform which overlooks the large overturned dinner plate that marks the point. We walk the shops on the perimeter and I wonder how they work out the sales tax here. Drive on through a stretch of desert that seems especially large and empty and hot due to the fact that we have little gas. We smile as a casino looms us, at least until we notice the price at the pumps. Nearby is Pueblo, CO. A guy I knew back in college had been thrilled to have escaped from here. Nearby Mesa Verde would be a highlight I suppose, but it has been whitewashed by multiple years of summer wildfires. (A decade back, I'd flown to Cheju-do in order to climb Korea's highest mountain. A km from the summit I'd been disappointed to find that the peak was closed for 8 years (!) in order to let nature regroup. Now I can appreciate the logic.) Miki and I didn't linger long, turned off by the busy roads and crowded trails. But I was really moved by the sight of a girl with two false legs, pulling herself up and down the ladder into the kiva. Nature, human or otherwise, always prevails.

On the drive out, I pass on double yellow, then far exceed the speed limit, but a cop chooses to stop the car in front of me instead. Somebody smiles on me today. Miki takes the wheel and fulfills her dream of driving in New Mexico. The road shoots straight south through the red earth upon which Shiprock sails. We are forced to take the freeway again. I-40 epitomizes why I hate the interstate. Too many trucks, plus construction every ten miles. NM has adopted the annoying "Safety Corridor," where fines are doubled. Are they that hard up for cash? Something has to pay for all the orange barrels I guess.

Leave the highway again. We race a freight train toward a crossing, in true '70s TV style. An hour later we arrive...

On the turntable: "Music from Glastonbury The Film"
On the nighttable: Jason Flores-Williams, "The End of the West"

Friday, July 13, 2007

Return to the Womb?

I come back to a house that is dark, wet, and cramped. A palace by Japanese standards, it seems tiny after weeks in the sprawling American homes of my friends. Worse, it smells like the shower room of an indoor swimming pool. I'm a veteran of over a dozen summers here, yet a return to the height of rainy season after weeks in the dry West feels like a plunge. This morning, it took multiple attempts to light a stick of incense, which refused to stand up straight in ash packed tight by moisture. Where's Spongebob when I need him?

On the turntable: Bjork, "Volta"
On the nighttable: Robert Ward, "Shedding Skin"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Taylor looks at 40

Forty years ago today, Newark, NJ was in flames. Across the river in Manhatten, I took my first breath. Haven't stopped yet...

On the turntable: Jimmy Buffet, "A1A"
On the nighttable: Haruki Murakami, "Birthday Stories"

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday papers: Albert Einstein

"You cannot solve problems with the way of thinking that led to their creation."

On the turntable: Isis, "In the Absence of Truth"
On the nighttable: Henri-Pierre Roche, "Jules and Jim"

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sunday papers: Junot Diaz

"Once somebody gets a little escape velocity going on, ain't no play in the world that will keep them from leaving."

On the turntable: "Shakti Fusion"
On the nighttable: Davy Rothbart, "The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas"