Friday, July 30, 2004
After fears about my job and a slight isolation from people this week, I had a glowing day today. I accomplished everything that I had set out to do yesterday night. What made it really good was that I conferred with a lot of people. I spoke to nearly everyone in my sales group.
I went to a tempura restaurant under the railway. It was a mom and pop restaurant. The father and mother looked about 60, and the son over 30. It was a simple restaurant, consisting of bar-style seating in front of the kitchen. I liked watching them cook. They were in synchrony. Once, as the father was working over a bowl of hot soba noodles, the son helped by scooping some fried tempura batter and placing it in the bowl.
They joked with each other about things as they worked. At one instance, the mother counted "One..., two..., three!", and as they were concentrating on preparing their dishes, the son and father burst into a chorus of "Irasshaimase!" but no one came in. She laughed.
They were very busy. People like me were getting off work, and hungry. I watched their little efficiencies. The father opened the refrigerator, took up a steel cup, took a swig of water, and put it back in the fridge and closed the door. The son helped his mother as she was having trouble opening a package of parsley for the tempura patty.
Once after pouring soba sauce from a larger container to a can, the son started screwing the cap back on the larger container. It fell into the can. With a placid face, the son looked down, picked it up and screwed it back on.
A customer ordered. The son repeated the order. "One hot soba, please!"
"Hai!" replied the mother and father.
They had done this job so much that there was no wasted effort, and they helped make each other more efficient without thinking.
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Today was a lot of fun.
I called up K-san and we went to the art museum in Ueno. K-san had some interesting things to say about the art. One exhibit showed embroidered birds that were used to decorate the ceiling of the Room of a Hundred Flowers and a Hundred Birds, at one of the World Fairs from at least a hundred years ago. The embroidered birds were in a display case. Since they were made to go on the ceiling, the view was of their underbellies, so they would look as if they were flying. "That they're embroidered makes the feathers look as if they're real." she said, and at once, I noticed the feathers, and that this was so.
"You notice details." I said.
"I like looking at things."
There was a corridor along the path around the lake at Ueno where people were selling antiques. I saw a tent where guitars were hanging.
"Irasshaimase." Welcome, said a child of about six.
"Could I try playing this?" I asked him.
"Yes, please." he said.
I'd been thinking of getting a guitar for awhile. I got a lot of attention from the storekeepers. He took a folk guitar, tuned it and played it, and since I asked him about the difference between a classical and a folk guitar, he took a classical guitar to do the same.
As he tuned the classical guitar, the boy playfully plucked on the other strings, making it hard to tune. The man pushed playfully on the kid's forehead, whereupon the kid recoiled, touched his forehead, and laughed, while in the meantime, the man was able to adjust the string he was working on. This game was repeated a few times, and soon my guitar was tuned.
He played two pieces, then started playing a third, but couldn't remember. He passed it onto the young woman tending the store.
"Why don't you try?"
"Because you remember."
She took it and played.
"This is a nice guitar." She said. "I recommend this one."
I asked to hear a cheaper one that I was considering earlier. The old man brought one down, tuned it and played it.
"Different, right?" he said.
"Yeah. It doesn't resonate as much." I was surprised at the difference. I bought the one the young woman recommended.
"Pick it up every day for the first three months." said the man. "You'll get it."
There was a lot of love there. The way the young boy playfully interrupted the man's tuning. The way the man turned the interruption into a game. The way the young woman could play the guitar, too, and the way the man talked about what makes a good guitar.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
This is my second week in Japan after two weeks away from Japan. I come back, and it feels like I've been away for a long time.
I had diarrhea in the States. Really bad diarrhea. On the fourth night, I saw blood. As I went to bed, I was a little scared of what I might have. I thought about how I had just graduated a year ago. How I had only just started my first job. All the new friends that I had made. How I had planned to go horseback riding with a co-worker I had met only a week before leaving Japan. All that I had to look forward to. And I let my imagination wander. I imagined that I might die.
A few years ago, a friend of mine died from an intestinal cancer. She was 20. It was a long fight for her. She was a fighter. She was afraid, but resolved to live. I cried for her again that night back in the States. It was different from other times that I had cried for her. Before, I mourned the loss of a friend, but this time, I imagined vividly what she must have felt.
She was smart. Motivated to chase after what interested her. Fresh into college, meeting new people and confronting new ideas, and unafraid. Seemed thoroughly to enjoy it. Didn't want to die. Didn't want to leave her new start and new friends. I thought about her going through succesive stages of shock, acceptance, and resolving to fight, and I wept tears for her. Being sick and exhausted myself, I could better imagine how she felt.
When people die, their relationships do not die. The people they leave behind remember them. The relationships can even change as the people who are still living learn more about themselves and relate differently to the dead.
I hope I will never long forget my mortality, and that I will be able to call upon that feeling for strength in the mornings, to give life to my day. I remember you.