What do you do when you hear a voice you haven't heard in weeks? Do you calmly listen to the recording on the answering machine, the one you have heard so many times? Or do you almost drop the phone in start, not believing your ears, but knowing they don't lie?

He has been gone since the beginning of June, gone to serve our country. One letter from him and second hand stories from his mom is all I have heard of him since he left. It was weird to go from seeing him almost daily, to this. Not that we were dating, but good friends. We had gone to our senior prom together, ran track and cross country together, and worked at the tree farm up the road together this past Christmas season. We met almost seven years ago, and now he is gone for six.

I learned long ago, things change, and people leave. I had changed schools three times before I started third grade. When I moved for my last time (seven years ago), I made a promise to myself not to get attached again, not to get hurt. But being friendless in middle school is hard, and compromises are easily made. I made friends, dated, loved and lost. I got hurt, rejected, and I still lived. I decided it was worth it.

As I leave for college, I face my hardest task though. With so many of my friends leaving, and me leaving so many more, I must come to terms with the fact many I will never see again. Or will lose touch with before the year is out. But tis life, for it is better to have loved and lost, then to never have loved before.

My emotions are better left inside and dying than outside and killing.

I am not yet recovered.

I cannot count the things that draw me to them, these things that radiate to make the sun touch them with envy.

So many things, so many of them just beyond my fingertips, things that almost seem possible, as though they're about to happen, any moment now. It's always been any moment now, any moment at all for the last seven years.


I need to go nova, lost in my own passions.

I need to find meaning again, silver within dusty concrete.

I need to remember what it was like to chase rainbows, too young to know what age was.

There are moments that I have not yet had that call me in my sleep, that pull part of me away from my waking self, leaving me only half-alive with a hunger that I have never known.


Any moment now, it'll come together and make itself known.

Any moment now, it'll fall through, leaving me where I've always been.

Any moment now, it'll all become clear.


Any moment now.

He left me today.

We were hanging out the laundry in the back garden. Or rather, I was hanging out the laundry while he explored the principles of clothespegs. At fifteen months, such things are very interesting.

Then, quite calmly, he closed the clothespeg bag, picked it up, and stood up. He slung his burden over one shoulder (it still nearly dragged on the ground), then turned and gave me a solemn wave. "Bye," he said, exhausting his vocabulary. He waved again and turned, still clutching the clothespeg bag. Then he walked to the back door.

Sadly, he was too short to reach the handle, so I never saw how far he was determined to go.

It was a cute game, however abortive. He's exploring the ideas of separation and departure in his own way. His ability to control his movements, to leave at will, gives him the power to flirt with these difficult, dangerous notions.

Watching him, I saw the shadows of future departures - off to school, leaving for college perhaps. Driving away with all his things in the trunk of his car. Walking up to the altar with his true love.

A cloud seemed to cross the sun as I thought of another departure, me from him or him from me, more final than any of those bright futures. That's the leave-taking he dreads, looking back so anxiously as he goes, just to be sure that I'm still there. He doesn't know about death, of course, but he fears loss nevertheless.

The sun came out again as he came toddling back. He threw his arms around me and gave me a soggy, open-mouthed kiss. The shadows of future departures, both good and bad, vanished in the delight of the present.

I love you, Bobo

Forward to : Fun at the ball game

My girlfriend and I are in Washington DC at the moment. We flew in on Monday and a friend of Stella's dad was kind enough to pick us up at the airport. He gave us a nice driven tour of Washington on a sort of roundabout route to where we are staying, the Washington International Student Center.

We've been to see all the sights, particularly galleries, the National Gallery of Art was amazing. You can view all the pictures on a computer system and plan out your route before you go round which is a great help and allows you to mix up the 15th century biblical scenes with some great modern stuff like Chuck Close and Mark Rothko.

Washington is a really wierd place, it is empty, there are no shops and it no one really seems to live around the centre at all. It certainly doesn't feel like the capitol of the most powerful and commercial nation on the planet.

It has been great so far and this guys who picked us up, Dan, is a genuine fact file as far as Washington goes. He knows the history of every building in the city it seems.

Our next stop is Richmond where we're in a hotel which will be a nice change. I'm looking forward to meeting up with noders in New York and hopefully Boston but if you take a peek at my homenode and live anywhere that we are heading just drop me a msg or email (greatneb AT hotmail DOT com) and we'd love to meet up.

Oh yeah, American food rocks.

My emotions died a long time ago. They served no purpose at all for me. The only thing they did do was drain me of energy which would have been better spent in other areas of my life.

I am disabled. I have little energy as it is. I must budget it as others budget their money. My energy is better spent on reading and learning.

These are the things I enjoy most in life.

Status report

It's carnival time here, with a whole street walled off by aluminum campers hawking burgers or Vietnamese food and a parking lot filled with overpriced rides and a painful karaoke contest in the park. It's a carnival for teenagers and state workers, with the All-American ugliness and none of the simple animal dung smells or hay in your socks. My baby bought me a cheeseburger and won me a goldfish.

So I took the goldfish and tried to pawn it off on a little blonde girl who was innocent enough to ask where I got it. Neither she or her little round brother would take it. Someone says, "She looked at you like you tried to give her your baby." Not to be ungreatful.

I'm so anxious that I'll forget to feed it or some other triviality of caring for dumb animals (a dog or a cat will say what it wants from you), and so have overfed it. Now its little alien fish-lips are glued to the surface tension of the brandy snifter it'll call home until it dies, and I can't tell if I overfed it or it's sick or if that's just what fish do.

Everything I held to be true about the World Wide Web fell apart today. I was reading about XHTML, which I'd never heard of cause I don't pay attention, and it took me a long time to understand what that meant when the man said "you don't have to hack it to make it work now." All those empty table cells and spacer gifs and all those years and now I don't have to do it that way. So I tried it and it works like they say, with the neat everything-in-its-place XML code and CSS that goes on so long I'm wondering where I can find specifics on how inheritance trickles down the DOM.

All this because I've got nothing to do at work. A superior says, "You'll learn.. If you're a contractor, you never tell them you've run out of work." It's a trying thing, trapped in that cubicle, treading water when I'd rather at least swim around in circles. However, SourceForge is teaching me that there are a lot of really dumb coders out there.

And I can drive again. It's not hitting me quite yet. I feel 16 behind the wheel, scared of every speed limit sign and frozen when a black-and-white crosses my path. It's coming back slowly. It's summer and it's good enough to move fast through the stencil of the setting sun.

The sweet-ass apartment is still criminally neglected and not yet even unpacked. I tell myself I'm waiting on a bookshelf. I just don't have the energy. I collapse onto the same stained dorm couch with shirt unbuttoned and just listen to the tattoo shop downstairs blare into the evening. And I just want to drive away for a week where it's perfect roadtrip summerland and you never have to go home. But I'm not even motivated to walk a block to the car so I can buy cigarettes, and so I end up asleep and next morning I go to work again for lack of better options.

..So the fish died.


weill in japan: day 16

Classes are as mundane as ever, and morale is low among the students. Many of us feel that we aren't learning anything in class, and that attitude makes the new material much harder to digest. The difficulty level is just right -- the material is neither too easy nor too hard -- but the presentation doesn't stimulate any energy among the students. It could have something to do with the early start time for classes coupled with the fact that nearly all of the students are in college and are used to college-style time schedules.

For the past two days, I've been buying my 100-yen cup of espresso from the vending machine but have found that it has no positive effect on my energy. Caffeine is a double-edged sword: it often increases energy for a while, but it can sometimes have a negative effect. Both the positive and negative effects can be strong. I haven't fallen asleep in class yet, but I very well could. In a class of some 14 people, sleep is not an option.


Although the attitude of many Japanese people towards unknown foreigners is still cautious, Tokyo is still a very tourist-friendly neighborhood. Anyone who has visited a big city or tourist attraction in America will undoubtedly have seen the large groups of Japanese tourists stereotypically associated with Japanese travel abroad. While American groups traveling to Japan have not been as visible so far, I've taken a ton of pictures. I haven't tried it yet, but I get the idea that Japanese people do not like to be photographed by people whom they do not know. Far more often in Japan than in the U.S., people being interviewed on television news broadcasts are shown with their face obscured and their voice drastically altered. For this reason, I haven't taken pictures of anonymous Japanese people. When taking pictures of buildings or other points of interest such as a 5-foot-tall Colonel Sanders figure outside a KFC, many people will suddenly stop rather than enter the frame of my picture. While a friend of mine took my picture today with the Colonel, no fewer than three businessmen stopped dead in their tracks to avoid being in the picture. I was pretty impressed; in New York or just about any other city I've visited, passersby wouldn't think twice about staying on their course. It's almost as if the tourist is respected here in Tokyo.

Tourists can also get help from the koban, or police boxes, located near train stations and elsewhere throughout the various neighborhoods in Tokyo. They provide maps, lend out bicycles and umbrellas, and can help with many other things that you wouldn't expect the police to do. The high police presence is not at all oppressive, and Japan's low crime rate helps the situation.

engrish in sight

English, particularly American English, is commonly regarded as "cool" in Japan. Many TV and radio stations will use a mix of Japanese and English announcements even though their regular programming is exclusively in Japanese. For this reason, little thought goes into the English used for promotional purposes. Enter Engrish, a term which gets its name from the lack of difference between 'l' and 'r' sounds in the Japanese language. Today, I made my first sightings of Engrish firsthand.

After arriving back at Ogikubo station, I decided to go shopping in another of the many shopping centers near the station. There, I found three t-shirts for only about ¥1000 ($8.60) each. They say, in English:

  1. Best of power comes out of consciousness
  2. CITY-BRED: Air is polluted... but not altogether bad.
  3. We must not forget to love and cherish the nature. Because the nature gives us peaceful time. We are a piece of the world for peace.

Right. One of them is for me; the other two will find their way to friends and family back in the U.S. These three weren't the worst that I've seen so far. Many shirts and bags have entire paragraphs written in poor grammar on them.

As if right on cue, I saw a drink vending machine as I left the store. This "Seibu Box" machine bore the slogan "See You Time." I guess I will!

who wants to be an $86,000-aire?

Tonight at 7:00 PM, I caught the Japanese version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" on television. Being a lifelong fan of game shows, I wanted to see what adaptations were made for Japan. Japanese game shows tend to stress outrageous stunts and prizes instead of trivia questions. Think "Fear Factor" without the forced trash talk.

The show's main premise remains largely unchanged from the original British formula: answer 15 multiple-choice questions to win the top prize of ¥10,000,000 (about $86,000). That's not a lot of money, but people are still very excited. Lifelines are still available, although the phone-a-friend actually involves calling a group of friends who can collaborate on the answer on camera. Dramatic pauses after the "fainaru ansaa" are further elongated by commercial breaks. The questions are still fairly difficult, although my host family parents were able to answer many of them. Some personalities backstage also provide their thoughts to fill the time.

To try and compete with the frenetic pace and crazy action of the typical Japanese game show, some cuts were made from the 55-minute show. For example, the fastest-finger competition is almost entirely skipped, with the winner being announced before his or her qualifying question is shown in retrospect. All questions up to the first lifeline are also skipped, meaning that as many as nine questions out of the 15 could be skipped in this manner. A brief biographical introduction shows video filmed at the contestant's hometown, with explanations of what he or she wants to do with 10 million yen.

Many comedy, variety, and game shows feature subtitles, provided more for entertainment value than for the aid of the deaf. These titles, added in post-production, are brightly colored and vividly animated. Sometimes, words are crossed out and corrections appear in the subtitles to indicate that a speaker is mistaken. For people still learning the language, this also provides an opportunity to easily recognize words and characters.

Even though the quiz show allows contestants to stop at any time if they would rather not risk losing money, most contestants will take a wild guess. Money is something of a taboo in Japan. While spending large sums on lavish gifts is a common occurrence in the summer and winter time, accumulating money is usually done in private. Humility is a big factor. Because of this, quiz shows like "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" are not very popular in Japan. Instead, shows like "TV Challenge," which last Thursday featured various challenges testing contestants' knowledge of ice cream, are much more well-liked.

politeness has its limits

Japan is typically known as a very polite nation. On the Japanese version of "Millionaire," contestants bow as they leave with their prize money. People in cars and on the phone will bow out of habit in situations when it is logistically absurd. The other person can't see you bow on the phone, for example.

In fast-paced Tokyo, the limits of politeness are tested every day. On trains, people silently cram themselves into each car. People push, poke, and step on each other, but this is not considered an insult unless it is done deliberately.

Today, I saw a time when even these limits were surpassed. A man on a bicycle sped through an intersection, forcing a car to stop short. The bike also stopped, as the rider feared he would be hit and wanted to reduce his momentum. The driver of the car looked at the bicyclist. The bicyclist looked at the driver.

Their glance lasted only a second. In a show of deference to the driver, the bicyclist leaned towards the car...

...and gave the driver the finger.

I love this place.

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