Today is my 26th birthday. That seems unbearably old to me, but I guess it doesn't really matter since it's just a statistic.

My girlfriend Annalisa is in town for the occasion, and in a few minutes we'll be off to Juan's Flying Burrito for some Mexican food and punk rock.

Annalisa gave me the coolest birthday present yesterday -- a Lego rendering of the Lego figure on the cover of Douglas Coupland's Microserfs, which is sitting on my desk right now, seemingly watching me as my fingers hover over my inane Microsoft ergonomic keyboard, seeking out the keys to type this.

People with whom I share a birthday: actor/sex addict Billy Bob Thornton, New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, gothic author Percy Bysshe Shelley, actor Richard Belzer, jazz vocalist Louis Armstrong, Montréal Canadiens hall-of-famer Maurice "The Rocket" Richard, NASCAR person Jeff Gordon, British entertainer Harry Lauder, and the recently departed Queen Mum.

Oolong says re August 4, 2002: Hey, happy birthday...
LaylaLeigh says we have the same birthday! Happy Birthday! *high fives you*
C-Dawg says re August 4, 2002: Happy birthday, youngster!
LaggedyAnne says happy birthday to you!
Lometa says re August 4, 2002: *balloons* Happy Birthday avalyn!
hookskies says hey there, just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday!!! Cheers
sighmoan says (: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, YOU HOSER!!! :)
Wuukiee says re August 4, 2002: happy birthday from one leo to another. ;)

Thank you all!

Our world, lost.
Those fateful words flow like water, brown murky liquid over my tongue; never talk to me again.”
I spoke, rather shouted, at her. She looked at me like I was alien, a distant glare that cut right through me. Sometimes I think I’m like that look she gave me, full of sorrow, full of angst. But I’m not really. Inside me lurks something blacker but unclouded, diluted against such petty emotions.
And still, it gets harder and harder to justify myself.
I stare in to the mirror. My face, blank and uncaring, stares right back.
That morning, I had to wonder if it was a soul that lay behind my eyes. I didn’t feel human.
Whispers fly around me, glances of guilt as I turn and sight my perusers in the halls.

The first girl, blushes at my knife-edged response.
“Yes, we are finished.”
It is everyone’s business for some reason. They seem to know more than I do.
“No, she cheated on me.”
Now there are more of them. I see red.
“No, I don’t feel the obligation to apologise.”
What a thought.
“Yes, I meant what I said.”
They stare at me like I’ve said something wrong.
“Tell her from me she needs her head checked.”
I sit there for ninety minutes, somehow taking in the distant voice that I assumed was talking to me the entire time.
Cruel, cruel guy. You're just cruel to her.”
I look up, nobody is talking to me; a thousand eyes echo the same thing. I still feel the spotlight burning me, the limelight for once not a cherished thing.

Auburn is the colour of her hair, which is something I’ve always overlooked as mere trick of the light. The red tinge flashes brilliantly when challenged by the sun and always served as a reminder of what we had, as she tinkered with the destruction of everything I once believed. Because that’s what she really was for me, a destroyer. She gave little life to me near our climatic finish, and now at the denouement I want her to sink away from me like a rock in the deep ocean, forever borne to the depths.

I would not care if I had to forget she ever existed, her exit would please me more than breathing right now. I’ve spent a nuance of my life pining over my losses with her, which were frequent and often without justification.

Still she walks the world, ever searching for an answer I can’t give her.
Me the three kids, the dog and the cat all up in the isolated cabin up north. 2 hours down the highway, drove through 15 minutes of nothing to get there. I didn't mind doing it since it helped my sister.

The dog was being difficult. Kept sneezing, waking herself up then barking for 5 minutes. I wondered if something sinister was lurking outside and the dog knew... but the bitch was just being paranoid.

The eldest woke up, crying and told me that his whole body hurt everywhere, he needed help. I hugged him, kissed him, put his blankets around him, gave him water and assured him that all of these things together would cure his ills. He was asleep 10 minutes later. I briefly missed having someone who reassured me like this.

All this time, I was really sick. Only took breaks to check on the infant and yell at the dog. Finally, at 2:30, my sister came home, sick too. I could not tell her what was wrong, she was busy, so I left a note -- "I am going to the hospital". I left like a thief in the night. I remembered having that feeling before.

45 minutes later, I was in the small-town hospital. A girl with her nose gashed in, blood running down her face; a suicide attempt; 2 men and a woman who looked like they were part of some cult took a keen interest in me. I crossed my arms and read a magazine. A woman fainted near front reception but no one picked her up. The nurses knew she was faking it because she took off her glasses before she fell. They shared a laugh.

The dr. finally came to attend to me. I joked around with him, flirted. I wanted to be a easy, good-natured patient compared to the rest of what he saw. He gave me my perscription and I was gone. I thought about how manipulation can be used for good.

It was 4 in the morning. I popped the first pill, it made me so drowsy, and I had 1.5 hrs of driving. I went for coffee in the derelict small-town cafe. No book or paper, I just looked out the window. I was already feeling better. I felt good about modern medicine.

Driving home, I was almost asleep. I drove with my right hand and held my eye open with my left. The music was turned on loud. Finally, I made it back to the city.

Alone in my apartment, I pondered the trappings of true love and fell asleep.

I went to Morocco and all I got was this lousy sunburnt square of skin on my foot

Actually, not true. Not at all. I went to Morocco and got a huge gallery of photos, fond memories, musings on comparative wealth, and some cheap Stolichnaya. A splendid time was had, although the foot burn seems to be the likely extent of my tan. Tan! the last time I was remotely tanned was on a family holiday to Devon. I was 8. Since then it's been a case of pale / not so pale.

And was it hot? Well, yes and no. I mean it was hot alright, but it seems that once you get above about 30 it's all much of a muchness. A bit like getting wet. Sometimes you don't bother running in from the rain because you can only get so wet, and you're already that wet. Humidity, now that's the beast.

Casablanca was humid. Also, dusty, dirty, busy, loud, and scary for a middle-class boy from a sheltered background. I'm just not that used to seeing and sensing poverty all around. And part of me thinking how wrong it is, part of me figuring that's just the way it is, part of me knowing that I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm lucky. I was born in a country of much wealth, which means I can take holidays in Morocco, while a delightfully friendly hotel receptionist, charming, with a pleasant smile, good at her job, fluent in Arabic, French, and English (and probably not bad in around 3 other languages) has never left Morocco.

She asked me: "What is England like?"

I said: "It's nice", and showed myself less articulate in my first language than she was in her third.

I was better in French until I couldn't remember how to say "already", but, please, I'm not as stupid as you might be thinking.

I wasn't in expansive mood by then though. After a couple of days in Casa, we set off for Fes. A few days spent in the Ville Nouvelle, with a couple of ventures into the Medina, Fes-el-Bali. The first, disastrous, opting not to have an official guide, opting to enter the medina by the route of most touristness. A swarm of faux guides appeared from their fox-holes - "Can I help you?", "What would you like to see?", "He's a lucky charm, take him" - none of them more than about 15, latching on to our Englishness straight away (not that it takes an evil genius to see that, although I occasionally find myself facing questions in German when I travel, while the lady next to me on a plane once mistook my home counties accent for an American one), and coming in for the kill. The Rough Guide (which I swear I will ignore every time I travel, but always end up referring to, once I've wrung the smugness out first, of course) assured me they would give up after 50 metres. Hmm. Maybe if you swat them enough with your copy, they do. We tried 50 metres one way, then the next, then the next, then back again, with no sign of this magical 50 metre line painted on the ground. Most gave in, but Rashid persevered, we weren't having much fun, so gave in. I know; dumb tourists = rich pickings, but I didn't feel that pathetic in all honesty. We negotiate 30 Dirham for Rashid and his silent friend to guide us about for a bit.

Not such a bad deal all round. We get to walk without further offers of guides every two steps, Rashid gets some cash, and doubtless a commission from the leather shop owner at the tanneries (the whistle-stop tour's last stop, and the scene of some embarrasingly bad haggling - I half expect to pay more than is originally suggested). "He's too gentle" according to several shop owners, but Rashid turns out to be bit of a player around the medina, and clearly knows everyone or likes to make out he does.

We return the next day with an official guide, Abdul. Much better. We see seemingly the whole Medina ("My medina has over 5000 streets, the good news is you will only see 3000 of them, please, this way"), take our holiday snaps ("He is the finest craftsman in Medina, you can take a photo", "It is the oldest Fondouk in the medina, you can take a photo"), dine ("It is the best restaurant in the whole Medina"), and then suddenly find ourselves nearly buying two Moroccan carpets for just under a thousand pounds.

I'd been reliably informed that this carpet thing would happen at some point. And just when I was beginning to disbelieve, there I was, in among hundreds of rugs, drinking mint tea, saying "Haldi" when I didn't want to see a carpet again, and another word (I've regressed it) if I wanted to look at it a bit longer. Where look at it almost equals buy it. Then suddenly, my girlfriend says she likes the pastel ones, unfurling suddenly are 300 pastel rugs. I want to scream that I'll buy them all if it buys my path outside, but despite our seller's aside to me:

"We say that you forget the price of the carpet when you make love on it"
I'm reminded of a rug my Mum made, and that it's very nice thank you for a fraction of the cost and I'm sorry but we can't afford any of your carpets and please don't be offended, please god can we go. Thank you, it was our pleasure too. Then sunlight. I can barely walk with relief.

We leave without having to declare bankruptcy, and opt for blowing the cost of a third of two rugs on one night in the Hotel Palais Jamai. Just inside the Medina walls, it has a sensational view across the whole Medina below (and a view back up for Medina residents with binoculars, it turns out), and a feeling of sumptuous wealth and opulence. And a pool. Oh, this is good, this is a HOLIDAY. Drinks are ordered, and brought poolside. The sun melts the skin. Birds play round the pool and fountain, diving in for imaginary fish, and far too many people with good tans and swimming technique lounge poolside. It's our one night of fantasy hideaway from the world, in our almost penthouse room, the hotel manager Aziz sensing a poverty and sadness in us that we could only afford one night, giving us a room way up top.

Then it was back to Casa, and the curious, articulate receptionist. Tacitly admitting that the Palais was the end of our holiday, we dined in style at Pizza Hut - celebrating its tenth anniversary of something, not sure what though - and retired to our room. "Careworn but comfortable" in the words of The Really Rough and Ready Guide. 70s time warp deco and a suspicion of insects in the words of reality. Not that it was genuinely that bad, but... it was no Palais.

Then the plane, then the tarmac of Heathrow. The grey of the Sky. The wetness of England.

Contributions to theboy holiday fund 2003 gladly received.

Well, here I am in the hospital library researching pacemakers. My mom, who is in Maryland visiting from Florida, asks (over oatmeal) “Carla, do you think it matters that I keep feeling dizzy?”. I wonder, hmmmm, think it over about 5 minutes (that is about 4 and a half minutes too long) and remember she is on digoxin, coumadin and has atrial fibrillation. SO…..yeah mom, I think it matters and by the way we are going to the ER. We get there and push her through to triage where we find she has a heart rate of 37. I have since learned this is not in itself life threatening but very likely to make her fall, pass out while driving and generally make her feel VERY fatigued. No wonder she hasn’t been having much fun this vacation! Poor mom. She was admitted, we found a wonderful cardiologist and are in the midst of the evaluation that will most likely lead to insertion of a permanent pacemaker.

God, I love the Internet. I can get my questions answered and blow off steam to a group of people I don’t even know but have come to view as friends.

We are in my hospital (where I am employed), which does make all more tolerable. I can walk about to visit friends, go to the medical library, evaluate staffing and peak at the lab results. I’m not really supposed to do that but I am mom’s medical agent so I don’t feel like I’m truly breaking the spirit of the law, just the actual rule. Mom likes it too. She feels “special” because my co-workers drop in and say hi.

Well, back to the research. Thanks for listening.

I've got some good news and some bad news. Last week, down here in Miami, Florida, The Miami Herald began running a comic strip of The Simpsons on their Sunday Comics. Well, thats the good news. The bad news is that neither of them featured Homer Simpson (the greatest cartoon character in my book...which isn't written yet). The first week had Groundskeeper Willie and Lisa Simpson. This week it had the Flanders'. It was funny nonetheless.

I need to start paying more attention to my TV. I've already missed too much programming which I had promised to myself I would watch. I was planning to check out that 30 second talent show on FOX (the name doesn't come to my mind right now, even though I just saw the commercial a few minutes ago) just to see what all the hoopla is about. I finally watched TV for the first time in weeks last Thursday when watching WWE (formerly WWF) Smackdown. I don't care what anybody says, wrestling (well watching it at least) is a good way to pass time.

I also finally finished downloading the songs on my list of music. My music featured a lot of Ice Cube and N.W.A. (not the E2 brand of music, but great nonetheless). My friend also told me of this band named Sugarcult saying that their a mixture of Blink 182, Green Day and New Found Glory. I shall check them out as well.

Now I must log off and leave. Where to? I have to go to the mosque and pray my Isha salaat. What's Isha? Isha is the fifth and final prayer of the day. Well, considering that the day begins at midnight. In actual Islamic time, the day begins at sunset. When I went to Saudi Arabia last summer they actually had both sort of clocks. So at sunset, the clock would read "12." Pretty cool.

crawling towards monday

weill in japan: day 33

I don't think I like traveling in large tourist-like groups any more.

Today closed out my big three-day weekend of travel and photography with a Godzilla-themed trip that took a couple of turns. The underlying theme was the complete lack of speed or apparent direction in the trip, which was primarily organized by one of the course's students but directed by one of the organizers and her Tokyo guide book.

The trip started in the bustling youth district of Shibuya with a visit to the Tokyo Energy Museum. For reasons that I can't quite understand, the museum has welcomed a temporary exhibit about the history of Godzilla amidst its otherwise ordinary exhibits about power generation and distribution. On display were several costume pieces, a few animatronic models, and a tape playing trailers from Godzilla films from the 1950s through 2000's "Godzilla Millennium." As the production values improve, Godzilla movies arguably get worse due to the inclusion of cheesy CG animation and even romantic elements. Hollywood's 1998 adaptation of the franchise (tagline: "Size does matter") is considered to be one of the worst Godzilla movies, since the directors took the modern disaster movie formula and plugged a giant lizard into it. Regardless, it was an interesting exhibit. Maybe I should actually see a Godzilla movie to better understand all of this.

The group congregated for about five to ten minutes in front of the elevators doing nothing. We were supposedly waiting for an empty elevator, but even when one came the group was slow to move. Without leaders to bring us from place to place effectively, this sort of thing became extremely annoying throughout the day. The worst part was that we were constantly blocking foot traffic in one of the world's most fast-paced cities. Since the ICU helpers in attendance are all quite familiar with the city, I can't understand why the pace was so sluggish.

From there, it was an unlikely subway ride to Koto-ku, a place which has nothing whatsoever to do with Godzilla but which featured lunch. Lunch selection was by committee, but for once I completely distanced myself from the discussion. Already fairly tired from walking through the summer heat and humidity, I gave the organizers a simple plan as I did the previous day in Asakusa: take me to a restaurant, allow me to get food, and I will eat. I told them that I would eat anything for any price. File that one under "Things I never would have said before coming here."

After lunch, it was on to a nearby temple to do the whole tourist thing, including group photos with twenty different cameras that shut off automatically before they come up in the queue. At that point I decided to stop standing still for 25 minutes at a time while photos were being taken.

A nice find: not too far from the Koto temple was a shrine with a large flea market set up outside. With dozens of tables selling all sorts of antique goods, it was the perfect place to finish up my souvenir shopping. Just in time, too: I have no idea how I'll fit all this stuff into my bags.

The Koto trip was defined by sitting, trying to find something else to do, standing around, waiting for someone to buy something, standing around, asking where we're going next, and getting no response. Eventually we walked across the district to a history museum that provided a nice insight into the past world of Tokyo. Despite the fact that the museum was basically one large room, most of our group took pictures of each other in various poses by various exhibits until the museum closed 45 minutes later. In my case, this led to long stretches of sitting around doing nothing.

Finally, we headed to Hibiya for the anticlimactic finish to our trip: a Godzilla statue about one meter tall near an office park. After taking eighty photos of it, we sat around for 15 minutes before splitting up and heading home. Having missed dinner at home, I grabbed some dinner on the way back and felt a little less bitter about how dismally slow the day went.

Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was dehydration, or maybe it was just the people obsessed with group photos. Any way you slice it, I didn't have fun today. I did take plenty of pictures on my own, without waiting for people to do the silly peace-sign pose or look at me. I also declined the chance to pose for photos to be taken with my camera, since I don't really want any pictures of myself looking exhausted and pissed-off standing with six people whose names I'll forget tomorrow.

There are still two weeks left in the course, and there's a festival on Saturday. I'll probably go with a few friends to enjoy the fun and take pictures of people who I actually know.


For a country which prides itself on recycling efforts, bakeries must have missed a few memos. Today for breakfast, I bought two small doughnuts at a bakery. The doughnuts were then wrapped in wax paper and placed into a small bag. The small bag in turn was placed into a larger bag, and I was given a receipt to prove for my records that I bought two doughnuts. The crumpled-up mass of packaging was larger than the doughnuts that I bought.

With all my exhaustion and negativity, I decided to try Taiko no Tatsujin 3 on the highest difficulty setting for the first time. I stumbled my way through the first song, failing it miserably. That didn't help my mood any.

The rains came through and drenched Tokyo again this evening, but I got home when they were just a slight drizzle.

Promotional trains have been cropping up around Tokyo, similar to the bus sponsorships being done more and more often in the U.S. These promotional trains bear exclusive sponsorships from Pokemon, and in one case Tabasco (the "spicy train"). Of course, I have pictures of these.

I'm working on a prototype of Weill in Japan's dedicated web site, centered around these daily write-ups but also including photos and more original writing. It will launch in September or October. If there's something you want to see, or if you know a good Japan-travel web site I should know about, send me a message.

The weekend ended on a bit of a down note, but I'm still ready to go for week five. As long as I can get back into positive mood territory, I'll be okay.

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