Monday, February 05, 2007

Grease in a foreign land

Most of the Japanese people that I met when I was in Japan, naturally, were very shy people. They were shy about everything that they did. They didn’t like to have their pictures taken, with the exception of the very young, and they shrinked away from most personal contact with the gaijinsan. One of the things that they were really shy about was their bodily functions.
I do have to agree with them there. Nothing is less pleasant than listening to someone in the stall next to you taking a huge shit and not doing the slightest thing to mask it’s brutal truth. The Japanese have discovered a brilliant way to deal with this, being that they are very sensibly (obsessively) clean about everything around then, and even under them.
My eyes opened to this all the second I arrived at Narita International Airport, east of Tokyo. I hate being on airplanes, but seeing as how it’s the best way to get to Japan from the mainland USA, I have to shut my mouth about the whole subject. Ok, so whenever I arrive to my destination, I am a wreck. Not eating on the plane, I hate the food as well; my condition is usually bad after eight to ten hours. When I arrive, I have to eat and I also have to take a giant shit because I can be poop shy at the worst times. I don’t want people to hear me alleviating myself of organic waste the same way that I don’t want to experience their movements. This makes it hard to shit in airplane toilets because airplanes are terribly quiet and my mind can’t tell my body to relax and just shit and maybe you can get the picture. Maybe there is someone standing on the outside of the door listening to me do my thing. Fuck. It’s a hang up, like everything else.
So when I get to the airport, and I have to deal with the bathroom and the food first thing. Airport bathrooms are very loud and I have had great success in shitting in those. People are in hurry and they make a lot of noise. This noise helps the people who are conscience of shitting in public. Chain of events, chain of events, you get it. Going in an airport bathroom is just more fluid, if you can grasp that concept.
Well, the smart fuckers in Japan have turned their shy sensibility into a power move for the rest of the challenged world. Being rude to let go of smells and gases in public, the Japanese have equipped their bathrooms with all kinds of goodies to help.
First, there are the set ups. The Japanese toilets are built low to the ground. They are oval shaped and rest flush (ha ha) with the tiles. You just pull down your pants and squat. There is no touching of the dirty public toilet seat. I do know that it is almost impossible to contract any type of virus from a toilet seat unless you have open sores on your ass or the backs of your legs, but not having to even make contact with another surface is an added bonus to the day. Plus, sitting on a cold seat freezes up the colon and makes it hard to shit, another thing that the genius Japanese have fixed.
Japan also has “western style” toilets, which are easy to find and have a sign on the door that says, “western style toilet.” These toilets are even more genius. Not wanting to experiment with the Japanese toilets, I decided to go the American route and just go with what I knew. I have shit everywhere on the earth, some places better than others, and I know that nothing beats the home field advantage. So I walk into the small bathroom in the airport, very small as not to pack the place with people, and select my stall. I notice the cleanliness of the bathroom. Once you leave the country that you live in and visit another, you recognize, first, the aspects of the country that you are in, secondly, how different the place is from the place you live, and third, just how fucked up the place you reside is and how bad you would like to leave.
Japan is a very clean place, and their public restrooms are a stunning example. The shitters are just FUCKING clean. No toilet paper anywhere, no little shit stains on the floor. Not even shoe scuffmarks on the walls. The places all have that showroom quality to them, and they get cleaned every half an hour. Going into a Japanese public restroom is like going into a rich persons crapper. Do you think rich people crap in dirty bathrooms?
Japanese people have a policy of never touching anything that doesn’t live outside of their houses. They take their shoes off before they go into the house. That prevents the whatever it is that lives outside of the house from coming to live inside of the clean house. They also don’t touch their food. Only the cook gets to do that. You eat with chopsticks and you don’t get to pick your food up like a dirty Mexican (if you are one). Your hands don’t get dirty and you don’t take the food away from the restaurant. You enjoy it there and then you leave.
The bathrooms operate on the same principle. You never touch anything in them. The sinks have motion sensors in them. To turn them on, you thrust your filthy hands under them and the hot water cleans them off. There are no bathrooms with the old sinks. It seems like the second the sensor sinks hit the market, every Japanese business flipped and had to get one to help win the war on touching anything with dirty hands. There aren’t any paper towel dispensers, either. A few places had the hot air machines for drying the hands, but most didn’t have anything. Even the hot air machines were sensor driven. No buttons on them at all. You were out of luck if you used a place without anything, which was almost all of them. I just wiped my hands on my filthy pants right in front of the Japanese, much to their chagrin, and it caused a few of them to faint onto the clean bathroom floors.
Although the sinks were impressive, the pinnacle of clean in the bathrooms was the toilets. The Japanese toilets you didn’t even touch with you horrible dirty body, and the western toilets are just so advanced, they will make you shit. I discovered these beauties in stages as I entered the stall. First, there are the walls. Every time I go into a bathroom in the States, I kneel down to check if there are shoes that I can see in the stalls. You know, with pants around the ankles. Have you ever been in a toilet and some dumb asshole knocks on the door when you are trying to do your thing in private? “Is anyone in there?” And the reply is always, “Yeah, occupied, that’s why the door is shut and locked, you nitz.”
In Japan, all of the stall walls go all the way down to the floor and all the way up to the ceiling. Amazing ingenuity by the Japanese. There is privacy all around. Once you are in your stall, there is nothing to bother you. The standard sliding lock feature is the same around the world, although I have seen rope and nail variations in the south of France, but they were all barbarians, for all I could surmise.
The thing that set apart the Japanese system of shitting was probably the length they went to hide the fact that fecal matter was sliding out of their assholes. There was a speaker installed in the particular toilets that I was using while I was pondering this entry. Then there was the features to the toilet itself, a marvelous piece of porcelain machinery that may never be realized by western man.
The speakers were one thing that got me thinking about the polite act of shitting. I was taken aback by the mechanization. When you close the door, a woman’s voice starts to speak. It was all in Japanese, but I am positive she was saying something pleasant like, “please pull your pants down and get ready to take a trip to the moon. This will be a most happy experience for you.” Then after she runs on for 30 or so seconds, the sound of falling water fills the john. Genius. She even proceeds to talk for another few minutes in the back of the waterfall mask.
Are you one of those people who goes to the bathroom in a friends house and runs the sink as to hide the terrible sound of grease and refuse leaving your colon? I have lived with someone for months and I cannot bring myself to shit in complete silence. Why? That is a bigger psychological issue that will not be raised here, but nevertheless, it is something real. The Japanese have conquered fear by prematurely installing noise to cover the sound. They have even picked something soothing and familiar to those people who have to run the sink, like running water. The woman’s voice that speaks is soft like a woman that would pick you up in a bar and offer you a ride home in her cloud mobile that was parked right next to heaven. That wasn’t the best part by far.
Maybe I should start by telling you, faithful reader, that I was sitting down to take my shit in Sapporo, a city located in Hokkaido, and island in the Japan chain. It was December, and they get some snow. The train that I had arrived on drove all night through a blizzard and the world was a cold place to be at that moment. I had to shit and there was nothing better than going into a john that was a little like home when I wanted it to be, and I really have to thank the Japanese inventors for doing this for me. I was really happy.
So the restroom was very cold on the inside. The door into the john almost connected with the big, sliding glass doors that opened up into a courtyard filled with snow. The air was biting cold and the drafts that were blowing up the back of my shirt would stop war campaigns. It was cold. The whole time I was having trouble with the cold I was having trouble with pulling my pants down to shit, but the Japanese pulled the ace out.
As soon as I got used to the woman talking and the privacy and the running water and the like, I dropped my pants and sat on the warmest seat that my ass had ever felt. Not warm like someone had just used the facilities four seconds before I have and it was the tropics so none of the heat from the person before could leave. Warm like going to your mom’s house on the East Coast and having those old electric wall heaters radiated just right and were located at shin level, because the smarties that invented them had on their thinking caps that day. The toilets must have linked to a power source somewhere. The seat was warm and there was snow outside, so what on earth could have been better than that moment?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Good Old Goners

So most of us know who John Steinbeck was. He wrote some good books. He wrote some really good books. He was in charge of putting the central valley in California on the map, like it was a job. He did such a great job; a Nobel Prize for Literature was given to the man.
But how good was Steinbeck? Did Tortilla Flats aptly describe what was going on in the dusty towns located on the coast? Did the writer really know what was going on in the backrooms and small houses that dotted the land? What, he didn’t have that vision?
Well, I certainly don’t doubt Steinbeck’s validity as a potent man of words. More eloquent than I, for sure. But that respect hasn’t gone that far with a lot of people, which I found out on a recent trip to Monterey, a town that Steinbeck practically founded in his book, Cannery Row.
The book was important to the town for establishing one of its main tourist pulls, which is the shitty, seaside run of buildings that used to be inhabited by rapscallions and now pulls in dollars with its beauty. Strange, no one would have known about the street if poor old John hadn’t have carved a life for it on his typewriter.
And now Mack and the Boys are taking turns spinning in their graves.
On the way back from a trip to Big Sur with my squeeze, a bet was forged. I would brave cold summer Pacific waters for a few seconds and the manliness; I would get a t-shirt out of the deal. I already knew what I was going to get. We were close to Monterey, which had food and a wealth of Steinbeck history. They (in my mind) had a wealth of Steinbeck tourist trinkets. I fixed my mind on a t-shirt.
Not just any shirt, but a white shirt with old John’s face stretched across the front, and maybe the years he lived and the year he died screened under it. A good profile picture would have made sense to a screen printer, and they would have sold well. That would be the shirt that I bought. A few of my illtiterati friends would have asked me where I got the shirt, and I would have told them.
“Cannery Row, man, I walked it.”
The shirt would have proven that I didn’t fib. Jealousy would have filled my friend’s hearts. They would have taken money out and tried to bribe me for the shirt.
But it wasn’t meant to be so.
The shops at Cannery Row didn’t have any Steinbeck shirts. If fact, out of the zillion souvenir shops that I visited, not one had a stupid Steinbeck shirt. Worse than not having a shirt, some of the shop keeps spoke like they had never read John Steinbeck before, like the guy didn’t exist.
“Sorry, man, we don’t carry anything with the guy who put our town on the map on it. We are just dumb philistines. Don’t forgive us”
The more hilarious part of the search was going into the places where you would think there would be a John Steinbeck article of some sort, but none were to be found. Like the Steinbeck Plaza, a retail building located square in the middle of the Row. Not one place in the whole joint had anything with Steinbeck on it.
Even funnier was the equally unforgivable John Steinbeck museum. The museum is in the basement to a bigger building that house a Chevy’s, or some other heinous chain restaurant like that. The museum entrance is obscured by a staircase that doesn’t look like it goes anywhere.
The staircase starts in the middle of a bizarre shop complex that sells crap and trinkets designed to catch the eye of simpletons from around the world. The wings, which extent like four arms, branch out to restaurants. Not much there. The museum lies in the basement of said building. A spiral staircase leads down the center of the mall. Animatronics dolls dressed like fishermen of the period work lacquered nets full of robotic crabs snared in the nets. The whole world creaks and moans in falsehood, fooling only the foolish. There are speakers that pump out sea sounds like gulls and waves and a fan that blows cold air to simulate real life outside.
Once down the freak show staircase, I found a small window with a man vacuuming the ground inside. There was a chair and a few rolls of entrance tickets for sale. The vendor, obvious, was just getting ready for the day.
I thought this man (he looked wizened with age) would know something about the author. Maybe he has been a fan for years and maybe he would point to some secret glen where John himself used to sit and tear life apart for his novels. Maybe the old men knew of a bar that John would sit in and drink himself to a calm point, after writing feverishly about the horrors of the working world.
“Do you have any John Steinbeck t shirts?”
“We are closed”
“I just want to buy a shirt,” I pleaded, pulling a wad of bills out for the man to see and believe.
“I have shirts, come in.” I was getting somewhere with the international sign of get off your ass and help me, I’ll pay you.
What the old guy had were Cannery Row shirts and a few copies of the book, which most Steinbeck fans already have. The gift shop, closet size with glass shelves lining the walls, displayed nothing of the man, only more of what he did for Monterrey, a place that had obviously forgotten about its patron saint.
On one of the selves, there was a mug with a blurred picture of John, and something printed over it. I didn’t bother to look at the blasphemy. There were also “signed” copies of some books. The signatures were laser printed and designed to snare the morons who thought John was still alive.
I didn’t bother to tell the clerk that I was going to walk out to the street and commit hari-kari because of my disgust. I just walked out of there. Good riddance to that.
I have been online for some time now and I have not found my shirt. The world and I have a problem to work out……….

Monday, September 11, 2006

The words come closer

I have too much to say, but I can’t say it because I have begun to sing like a bird on this very public forum. Plus, writing school essays where there should be entertaining prose is just bad form. Who wants to read the manicured corners of my mind? Is it all that refreshing to have someone blow hard in your face? No.
Yes, so there are people out there who I can’t talk about on the web. So? I should just up and squeal, but what good would that brings me. Am I afraid? If you were a brain doctor or a shrink of some kind, please email me and tell me what you think of the last few lines. The help would really help. Really. I need to talk this all out because friends have been so unfriendly for the last few weeks and I need to get it all out. They are friends, and this sounds high school, man, I thought I grew up. So nothing can be said about the matter except that my lips are tighter than rap videos and no one is going to hear about what I wrote. They are just going to have to ask me in person about what this is all about.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The truth on short term global warming

And to think that this blog was going to be sunny and nice! Ha! It is not going to be funny and it is not going to have much form, seeing as how I am very tired from all of the summer working that I have been doing. Maybe this can be the thing that I am going to write about. Maybe I can write about the steady shrinkage of my beloved free life in a place that I feel like living in, or maybe I can drone on about the simple fact that the loss of sleep from getting ahead is finally driving an emotional stake through my cardiac facilities.
So bullshit summer jobs it is. This loathsome idea of getting somewhere in life over a small period of just three small months is ridiculous. Now, please understand dear reader that this is all just a symptom of the grip that I am currently in. This blog is a sound off, loud and clear. Please forgive the salt in the eyes.
Three small months. Three months that most American children enjoy running through parks and beaches, drenched with sunshine. The summertime is sacred to this group of people and the culture behind the stories and tales hold it to absolute truth. The summer is a very important time in life.
The weather is good. Very few places in the world suffer from a snow-covered summer. The southern hemisphere does experience blizzards during these months, but that is just because we as Americans use our small American way of thinking and only hold the heat of the summer sun to the months of June, July and August. The skiing in Argentina is great during these months. They have a completely different idea of the summer.
The weather is good for us during this time. It is good for going out in the free air and lighting coals in a barbeque grill to cook food in the open air; it is good for removing clothing and letting the cancer giving sun have a chance to influence our bodies.
Why would we use this time to get a job? Why would we use this time to sit on the inside of a building when our hearts and vibrant imaginations pull us outside? It’s wrong. It’s more than wrong, it’s a crime that shouldn’t go unpunished. But it is unpunished. It is happening to the best of us. The best who can really get something going in a positive way for people. Those bright stars of summertime fun are stuck in chairs doing summer school homework or floundering at the desk of some job, compelled to work because they have the free time to do the task.
And that is the background. It all comes full circle and when read in solidarity, a great groan rises out of the throat and can be heard at all points of the map. Let those people enjoy their lives! Let them have a break from the onslaught of school and work and anything else that is boring and unimaginative. Set them free!
Set me free. Set me on my way into the sun, black shades on my nose, giving me cover, no heavy jacket to cover my skin. Set me free into warm nights to walk in alien heat when there is no sun. Set me free.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Go and get dressed, young man

Just something quick about nice clothing. Not a very big deal to me. I know that most people prefer to spend money on something that will make them look more appealing to each other, and that it’s important to well being, but it just doesn’t make sense in a natural way. If the animal kingdom relies on genetics for mating, why shouldn’t the human race do the same?
Birds that have the best looking plumage get laid faster, the stronger the ram, the more pussy, right? Well, humans have forgone the genetic part of mating and have gone to money to get laid. In fact, you can buy sex in the human kingdom. Money buys the nice clothing that replaces the feathers. All of the good-looking girls and guys in the social atmosphere will take notice of the latest fashion or shoe. What the fuck? Shouldn’t human beings improve their bodies, you know, genetically? Go to the gym or stop doing the drugs that make you pick at your face. Clear skin isn’t a myth. Maybe getting some sleep would help people out.
It’s just a bunch of horse balls when people think that doing more than an animal would do makes you more than an animal. Stupid humans. Fashion is just a tad bit illogical.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Some Academshit about a decent movie, boy-oo

Brokeback Mountain, a film that touched on issues in the homophobic American Midwest, was a less than epic story about cowboys in lust. The characters in the movie, one Jack Twist and his beefy undercover lover Ennis, were both guilty of the one thing that could have raised the movie to a higher pinnacle than it did. They cowboys could have told the truth about their affections for each other.
The problem with the story is that it was a love story that took themes form the gay community instead of being a gay themed movie altogether. The characters both lived in a world of lies and secrets, which most gay men did in that place and that time. Rock Hudson was dying of AIDS and the public was still scratching their heads about Cary Grant’s live in, close roommate friend, Randolph Scott. Overall, the movie was a love piece with a twist and that in it could have been the reason that it didn’t make the big time.
Straight people just don’t get being gay. Most straights can’t fathom hiding lovers and lying to friends about where they have been. Where the hickies on their necks came from. Women may not have had a problem with it, but men for ages have. Most straight men brag about what they have been doing and whom they have been doing it to. It’s a rite of passage that cannot be deigned during men’s youth. Bragging about what kill they just made or what color Mary Ann’s pubes were. Yes it’s all too familiar to a straight man. To be gay around all of this braggadocio would be a test. Why couldn’t you go on and on about Jimmy’s smooth chest or how rough Teddy was with you. It’s not fair to everyone.
Maybe this was one of the main reasons the film appeared so awkward. The characters didn’t seem to share any love for each other. Every scene that they shared, save the after sex shot of them in a hotel after not seeing each other for a few years, has a huge span between them. In the numerous camping scenes, Jack and Ennis sit a few feet apart, not even close enough to hold hands. They only embrace on screen and only kiss when it is relevant to unmask their infidelity to Ennis’s wife, excellently played by Michelle Williams. Ennis is more affectionate with his wife and subsequent lover. Jack moves on Anne Hathaway’s rodeo queen character faster than he moved on Ennis. That strangeness comes from the fact that the two gay cowboys don’t appear to be very gay. They seem to have a strong will to fornicate with each other and that is about it. They almost want the relationship to implode, which it does eventually.
The only gay character in the movie was the hustler that Jack visits in Mexico. Adhering to a stereotype, the young man leads Jack into the shadows for a clandestine tryst. In the film, this is the only display for brazen gay activity. The first time that Jack and Ennis are together on the mountain, they don’t even kiss. You don’t see them kiss until later in the film. They are obviously tied together by a force different that loves.
Maybe they are fraternal brothers in the Greek sense on the word. They only go on fishing trips together. The moments they share were very “man” oriented. The director left out all of the dialogue that may have cleared up the ambiguity between the cowboys. They are gay indeed, they have sex with each other, but they don’t seem to love each other like most people do.
Perhaps the greatest example of the confusion that this movie rises in the fact that you can replace either cowboy with a woman and it wouldn’t have changed the thread of the story. The movie was more about fated lovers than two gay men hiding something that they felt would have hurt them. Mysteriously, the men continued to live normally and didn’t really have a problem hiding their dirty secret for twenty years. They were only gay when they were fishing, and maybe not even then.
More confusing is the scene at the end of the movie when Ennis finds his shirt inside of Jack’s bloody, blue shirt. He seems to finally be gay, but you have to question if he is more upset about the death of his fishing buddy, not his partner.
Don’t see Brokeback Mountain for the action. Don’t see it for the barriers it is going to break down in Hollywood. The movie is just not going to give gay people anything. See the movie because you want to see Health Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal snog and roll around on the floor like fated lovers enjoying secrecy.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


It's the first day of this blog business. Open like a new business. And why not? Blogging is a way of talking to yourself and not worrying if anyone is going to listen. You can holler into the cyber-thin air and well, that's just the point now, isn't it? You can give out cards with the blog name scripted on them, feeling important. That's just nothing to be that excited about. But the blog itself is more of a diary, letting whoever do whatever they have to in order to be heard by anyone who is willing to read. So, in that way, it's almost like making friends or a visit to a shrink. I search for neither.
I wish to open this first blog by imagining I am tacking the first dollar bill that comes into the place on the wall, like a good harbinger. I can see it now, leaning back with my hands in my pockets and grinning, only to spin around when I hear any noise at the front door. More business? More business.