Friday, August 13, 2004

the camping trip

There are 17 circular floating gardens in the fountain in front of me here in Ebisu Garden Square. Its funny, but I’ve taken to counting things this last week. Not because I self-consciously want to imitate Cameron, but only because before we read ‘The Hawkline Monster’ it had never occurred to me to count things. And I’ve been taking a certain pleasure in doing just that. Its makes me feel like I’m someone else for a minute – someone who believes that an important part of the reality of any scene is a precise knowledge of numbers and amounts. It makes me feel like my vision has expanded beyond myself. It makes me wonder about the volume of sand on the beach. And then I really feel like I’m changing! There were 27 palm trees just off the beach where we spent the first night. And when I woke up the next morning I had 11 sand flea bites.

We caught the 6:30 bus. A warm morning, the sky filled with fresh vanilla clouds. We sat at the very back of the bus next to two superficial Japanese country girls. Day out in the big city for sure – they dolled themselves up the whole way, gluing their eyelids, gluing on eyelashes, painting their nails, laughing in fake breathy little gusts. Their conversation seemed to focus on topics that can be responded to using the expressions: ‘ god, really?’ ‘shit, that’s awesome’ and ‘ no way!’.
Of course my handle on Japanese is hardly fluent, for all I know they were fucking scholars. Their ugly crunched up feet in their ugly wooden heels with triangular toes sat dumbly on the foot rests. Staring at them a second I thought that if some kind of fire broke out, both these bambis would be sure to twist their ankles and fall. No doubt they would make some kind of idiotic mewing noise as they dropped slowly between the seats. Then they’d probably just lie there blinking their fake lashed, fake lidded peepers up at people with more sensible footwear. But nothing happened. I slept the whole way and was spared from having to spend hours lamenting the state of womanhood. When I woke up as we pulled into Shinjuku, the girls were already on their way out, trotting with their toes turned in.

We carved our way through the human flurries of Shinjuku station and boarded a local train bound for Odawara. While my companion napped, I stared out the window and listened to the wheels on the tracks. At Odawara we bought a baguette and then transferred to the Izu Hanto heading for Shimoda. A rather adorable couple sat in the bench seats across the aisle from us. They were out of another era, in that particular way that Japanese people can look like they are from the 50’s at first glance. Look a little closer though and you will probably notice a few discrepancies – the electronics are almost always the giveaway that you haven’t fallen into a time warp… She was a very pale woman with a delicately bony face and a gentle mouth. A wide-brimmed pastel sun hat sat solidly on her head, and besides that she wore a striped seersucker jacket, long pants, small running shoes and socks with UCLA woven into them. He was a balding man with a round head and fleshy face, wearing round sunglasses and cotton shorts. He was not fat, but a somewhat beefy man. I couldn’t decide at first whether they were married or not. They seemed comfortable and content together, but were rather flirtatious as well. I thought perhaps a new romance after failed marriages on both sides? But at various intervals she slapped him playfully on his thick hairy knee and I decided they must be husband and wife. The feeling conveyed through the gesture had a long history, there was no question. They talked a little to us in English, where did we live, what did we do. It turned out she was going to a hospital in Atami. We never found out what for.
Hours passed on that slow train, the land became more lush and tropical, and the hills wore a constant green fur of trees and undergrowth. We wound through tunnels and passes, stopping at each tiny station on the way.

At each stop when the doors open, a new plane of space appears – a conglomerate of that particular unique station platform and the inside of my train car. The space lingers for only a fleeting moment, then vanishes out of existence. 26 stops from Odawara to Shimoda. At last the sea came into view, and I was elated to see it. In places crashing full force onto rocky beaches, in others held back by concrete breakwaters shaped like enormous piles of jacks. I pressed my face to the glass, swiveled my head to follow the shore.

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