Friday, July 29, 2005
SANTA FE RAMBLE
Yesterday Thomas and I had a men’s morning and went to Harry’s roadside café on the Old Las Vegas Highway for one of my American icons, the traditional US breakfast of eggs and homefries, which we enjoyed in the cool morning sunshine of Harry’s garden; we then went into Santa Fe to pick up my resoled boots at City Shoe Repair, the best boot repair place in the region. The founder is still there, working on boots, he was a member of the US Occupation Forces after the war, taught shoe repair to folks in Kobe.
We then went to Santa Fe Plaza and strolled among the Native American sellers of beautiful crafts of all kinds at The Palace of the Governors, one of my favorite to-do’s in Santa fe; stopped in at the special La Fonda Hotel to take some pictures, then a short stroll down to Tribes at the end of an arcade - where few tourists go - for the quiet and a good coffee before heading off to the Second Street Brewery for a glass of Otowa Pale while we waited to meet a man who wanted to buy another copy of Thomas and Karen’s beautiful new book “Is Two Becomes One - The Love Book” about which more below.
The big news of my visit is that Thomas, famed for his spontaneous anecdotes, HAS FINALLY STARTED A BLOG! After going through the initial cyberwork, he is now a timeless fish in timeless water, and so many more folks can enjoy his tales and writings. His blog description and profile say it all. He started the blog off with matters concerning the new book and a related reading and booksigning he will be giving next Friday at Collected Works in Santa Fe. I won’t be here to see it unfortunately, but if you’re in the vicinity, I recommend it highly. Details are at the Santa Fe Rambler, his new blog. Enjoy.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Monday, July 25, 2005
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Have arrived at La Villa de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis, more commonly (and understandably) known by the short handle Santa Fe, the oldest capital in America (founded 1610) and I haven’t seen so many hummingbirds since I was here last. They hang from the penstemon blossoms like emerald-throated fruits.
Driving here from Albuquerque in my elephantine rental vehicle (the only one left available; there are more tourists here than hummingbirds) feeling like a neomahout, from the tops of the rolling hills I could see all kinds of weather. Here a blue-brown mirage of heat, there a compact thunderstorm huddled over a cluster of small mountains, sky-high white thunderhead just poised over one spot lightninging and thundering, emptying its whiteness into a hidden canyon; shimmering here and there across the air were bright slabs of rainbow - not the conventional arc that prevails elsewhere, but amorphous sheens of broken light spanning from sky to earth like angel sleeves hanging down, dragging slowly across the broad brown landscape.
Seems most of my time on this US trip will be spent in deserts, which is fine with me. Where better than the place of revelation?
Friday, July 22, 2005
To us facing west at near sunset, the San Bernardino mountains form a bare outline behind a rising night-sheen of light, as the desert gives to the coming night its little moisture of the day - the misty veil is stripped away into broad blueness and the darkened mountains emerge onto the stage of evening, the tips of their jagged silhouette still flecked with snow.
To the south the San Jacinto mountains rise into stars above the sage-scented mist whose vapors blow to us on a steady wind, wind that has a texture of its own, as water does, airwater flowing in a mountain stream vast as the air through Coachella Valley --
As it nears the mountains, the blinding sun shrinks to the ball of light it is, the mountain shadows racing toward our place - out here it is easy to understand the ancient honors bestowed upon the sun by the first of ourselves, who could see it as it is without the broadening restrictions of science - it sinks behind the stone shadow of the mountains now, rendering their majesty in lines upon the edge of night that takes their jagged shape as it rises from the desert ground and fills with stars --
As the river of desert air, bearing all its fragrances, sinks into our evening beings and there evokes the ancient lives that were borne on the very bones that bear us now - lives that knew those fragrances and all they have ever meant - they speak in soundless words we have not, after all, forgotten, that there is no end.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
NO JAPAN WHATSOEVER
Last night went to a Japanese restaurant in Palm Springs just across the valley, there ordering various dishes that were all surprisingly good, though the waitress was Vietnamese and didn't understand our experienced questions about the foody details. The zarusoba we ordered, soba (buckwheat) noodles served on a bamboo net (zaru) in Japan, were served on a plate (felt very strange) thus making it not zarusoba but sarasoba (sara = plate), but why quibble that the plate lets no air in, under and through to drain and dry the wet the noodles and subtly enhance their flavor as you eat? The Japanese perpetrate the same local transformations on foreign food like pizza, and very few there really know any difference; visiting Italians complain in vain. But apart from those details, the food, including the sushi, was surprisingly good; the misoshiru (miso soup) would pass muster in the best traditional inns in Japan. Then we stepped out into 115-degree heat and immediately no Japan whatsoever, but huge parking lots filled with SUVs umbrellaed by tall palm trees backed by very non-Japanese mountains and a clear desert sky.
It's now (at 6pm) 106 degrees outside here in Desert Hot Springs, where dozens of new houses have gone up since I was here last week; this is one of busiest housebuilding areas in the busiest realty state in the US. There are stacks of building materials everywhere, houses in all stages of construction along the gradual valley slopes like a boom town, folks moving out here from LA, San Diego and points farther north and east for the beautiful views and the still low but fast-rising prices. Keech now has the realty bug, plans to take courses in the subject (already has taken a few) before starting his real estate empire. Rumor has it that Oprah recently bought a mountaintop somewhere in these mountains, just over which is Joshua Tree National Park.
Went to the Salton Sea again today so Keech could see it and experience Bombay Beach in person, took some video and fotos, the Sea very different on a misty day like today; it was nevertheless 116 degrees there, and oddly it's been a humid heat because of the mistiness. After a delicous Mexican lunch at a desert roadside greasy spoon straight out of Baghdad Cafe, exited the restaurant into a local Romeo reacting violently to being rejected by his local Juliet, battling it out right there beside the car in the sun-shimmering street. Love is a local thing. In a grocery stop at one of the ritzy Palm Springs malls on the way back, overheard someone say: "Thank God for golf carts." God appears to vary with location.
Time and life permitting, I'll post some photos here when we get back to the Mac in Santa Barbara.
Monday, July 18, 2005
WHERE THE BABES ARE
Hard to keep the three sun-hungry Seattle guys off the long golden beaches where the thonged babes are. And this being a bright blue Sunday, soon as they're up from yesterday's extended adventures, have scarfed up some breakfast and made a few burritos they're off again, while we elder males sit out on the front porch in the shade with our feet up and recall our own finely detailed and retrospectively florid beach histories, pleasantly punctuated by a tall cold Corona and lime or two. The photo is of the three (L2R: Chad, Keech and Kelly) beside their convertible wheels after breakfast at the Brown Pelican on Hendry's Beach.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Keech and his friends Chad and Kelly finally made it here a couple nights ago, on their long drive from Seattle in quest of some sun and beach, via the beautiful drive down California highway 1 through Big Sur, and I got to see Keech for the first time in three years. I'd seen all three of them in the musical they did when they were together at Summit. They're all quite a bit taller now, no longer boys. Chad and Kelly have rented a car and will trip down the coast to Hollywood and San Diego to suss out info on some business ideas they have while we take Keech down to Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs for a few days, then we'll all meet up down there for a tour of the Salton Sea, which they say they must see and film. Fun to be a father on tour in California.
So much to write about, so little time. My brother Mick and I also decided to start a blog together (The Blog Brothers) to be continued from our opposite sides of the world, enabling us to carry on the greatly memorable but evanescent late-night remeniscing-musing conversations we've been having every night since I got here.
Then in my quest for pie (a major feature of all my US visits) there was my first visit to Costco, macrocosm of America, where we bought a peach pie we practically need a garage for... will deal with these and many other subjects at appropriate length when leisure returns...
Friday, July 15, 2005
THE PRICE OF FISH IN VLADIVOSTOK
One thing that re-struck me immediately I landed on US soil (at the airport, in fact) was the ease with which Americans enter into conversations with complete strangers. I was just standing there waiting for the hour or so in the boarding lounge and another fellow started a conversation (I'm still Japanese when I land in America), where was I from, he was an Orange County businessman traveling from Korea, we got talking about business, travel, being the ages we were, politics, grandkids, and another fellow joined right in when he heard mention of Korea, he was Korean-American, just back from Vladivostok where he'd been very successfully negotiating fishery deals, big fish market there, gave us the rundown on fish prices and his system for winning at roulette at the new casinos there, he won five times in a row and they wouldn't let him play any more - I'll try that system if Iever get a chance - then a young woman standing nearby said did I hear you say you were from Orange County, so am I, I'm heading home, I'm so excited and thus it went on, the conversational crowd growing as we waited, then we all got on our planes and went our ways, full of new things, the energy of travel in the US.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
SCORCHING BLUE SALT
Yesterday we headed into even hotter heat as we traveled south from Desert Hot Springs to visit the scorching electric-blue mirror of shattered dreams that is the Salton Sea. Beside the 120-degree heat-shimmering road we followed stood a headless giant offering live bait for use in the salty-shored blue water that is 90 degrees warm, 25% saltier than the ocean and getting steadily saltier; you don't swim in it, you swim on it. But no one was swimming there, no one was boating there, no one was there, except us. Until we got to Bombay Beach, to describe which will take much more time than I can grab right now.
Along the Sea stood abandoned and salt-threatened marinas, motels, playgrounds, docks, bait stores, restaurants, hotels and related signage, all from the rocket-finned 50's, when things were looking up, now standing empty, boarded, hollow, peeling, salt-scored, vacancy signs still hanging hopefully, as if everyone had left not long ago and would be back tomorrow to try again, all in the midst of that eye-searing electric blue that makes you squint there in the heat that sucks the moisture right out of your body while you walk around on the salt crust marveling among the bright mod ruins laid out in the shapes life's dreams took before that still blue mirror of the Salton Sea, spread out before the chocolate-colored mountains.
I am burned with the natural beauty of the place, the stark scorch of that majestic backdrop to the forlorn museum of abandoned dreams, that stand waiting in the shimmering blue silence, still bearing all the streamlined optimistic dynamism of the 50's.
I've got to go back there and explore at more length, find the painted mountain, explore Bombay Beach. As my brother said, "If I were a UFO captain, I'd land in Bombay beach."
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
WHAT JET LAG?
Found the perfect cure for jet lag: an imprecise number of cold Corona-with-limes on a west-facing deck as the sun sets behind the San Bernardino Mountains. Then, next hot morning, an American breakfast in a great Palm Springs restaurant with all the "misters" going. Today we drive down to the Salton Sea, whose banks are a living repository of 1950's architecture. Longer and more detailed posts will follow - with links even - when I have the time and mind to figure out how to use this notebook...
Friday, July 08, 2005
GOT A SECOND?
I just found out through reliable and needless to say timely sources that 2005 is going to have an extra second added, and now I have to figure out what to do with it. I'm forever in need of more time, and all they can do is add one measly tick every seven years? Whatever happened to the time budget? They blow it with money, why not with time?
I know I'm being unreasonable, but a second just isn't worth the trouble. Why are those anonymous time guys being so stingy, doling out a single clock-click every yearweek. They put Scrooge to shame. And what ever happened to the leap month of weekends I strongly suggested years ago? Can't they get their chronic act together on behalf of all time lovers, even if only to save up those leap seconds, leap days and leap whatevers, then just add another day to every weekend?
These fussbudget sticklers for accuracy (what, is there a planetary train to catch?) add a “leap second” every seven years in an effort to keep us all in sync with the world's wobbly ways so that we don't slip backward calendarwise to the extent that in say 20 million years, what we think is Blue Monday is in fact payday Friday, and sadly all unknowing we're going off to work with a handful of change, when we should in fact be going flush to a big bash. It would also play hell with prime time, though without our having a clue that the paleoreruns we're watching should be BayWatch, not Pat Robertson. Timewarps can be hell.
To save us from such a fate, relentlessly every seven years we're saddled with just one additional second, big deal, so mark your calendars, 'cause you're gonna have to do an extra second of whatever it is, just like everybody else. I sure hope it's something nice.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
SOME FOLKS ARE WILIER THAN OTHERS
“…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
The US founding fathers, given their immediate history, were particularly concerned about all aspects of property rights as the very basis of personal freedom vis-à-vis the depredations of government, which rights the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were created and designed to protect; but even those exalted individuals, in all their carefully considered collective wisdom, and wily as they’d been made by recent experience, weren’t nearly wily enough to foresee the need to include the phrase “nor shall private property be taken for private use…” Who back then would have even suggested such a mad eventuality in the noble country they foresaw? Looks like it’s back to kings and peasants again...
I DON'T SEE ANY ELEPHANT!
Folks in the financial media keep telling me there's very little inflation of the US dollar (though returns on savings are lower than the government-issue rate of inflation), but last week I checked the price of a July 13 round-trip flight between Santa Barbara and Seattle and the price was a bit over 300 dollars; I checked the same route and date again this week and it was a bit over 400 dollars. That's not inflation, that's explosion. - Did oil go up 33% in the past week? - Impromptu commensurate calculation indicates that 10-year dollar-denominated CDs must be garnering about 30% interest. Think I'll get some...
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
If you had driven by the house today on your way up or down the mountain and glanced out of your window as you passed you would perhaps have seen what appeared to be a darkly clad dervish blurring hither and yon in the garden and other environs of said house, bearing various tools and watering the landscape with perspiration. That would be me.
I was completely blurry today because this is the first non-rainy day in a week and my last off-day before I wing it to the US. I work Thursday and Friday in the Big City, then on Saturday I fly.
As a total blur, at last doing all the normally 3 or 4 days' worth of stuff I have to do before I leave, I chainsawed three large oak logs into 2 meter pieces and stacked them, prepped several garden beds and planted all the local Japanese tomato plants Kaya planted as seeds when she was here last (she HAS to see those when she visits in August), then planted purple, pale purple and yellow Echinacea; sweet basil, Genoese basil, lime basil, spicy globe basil and lemongrass; weeded the ginger and oregano; harvested the last of the lettuce, discovered that invisible monkeys had got at my biggest Roma tomatoes (and not enjoyed them because they were green ha ha), then I top-covered all the firewood with greenhouse plastic, rocked down to withstand any hurricanes that might pass by in my absence. I also put up the window screens.
I cleared the raingutters and roof channels during the heart of Monday's downpour, so that's one thing I didn't have to do today, which made it possible to finish before midnight. Every single other thing I did. I think. I'm sure I'll remember something crucial in the skies over Catalina Island.
Now to shower, chew dinner with the few muscles I have left that still seem to work, then dissolve into a fleshy puddle that emits large balloon-like orange Zs that float to the ceiling.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
IS THAT A MOMENT OF RECKONING APPROACHING?
"The problem is that we are reliant on a handful of gigantic (and aging) oilfields for the vast majority of our oil supply – oilfields that have been in production for decades and may have been 'overproduced' in order to keep up with growing demand. As these fields go, so does global oil production – they are that large. Nothing found since can hold a candle to these goliaths. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia which is the largest OPEC producer by far. 90% of the oil that Saudi Arabia has ever produced has come from five giant oilfields, some of which (like Ghawar) are over 50 years old. The two largest, Ghawar and Safaniya, have accounted for 75% of all Saudi oil production ever, and Ghawar today at five million barrels per day still accounts for almost 60% of Saudi production. To put the size and relevance of Ghawar in perspective, in the last 25 years the number of oilfields discovered in the world that are producing over 250,000 barrels per day can be counted on one hand."
Monday, July 04, 2005
The sky cascade of the rainy season has finally arrived, looking much as Hiroshige depicted it in #46 (not far from here) of his 53 Stages of the Tokkaido, except that the straw hats, rain capes and straw sandals are now in folk museums. The fully clad farmers nowadays wear nylon windbreakers, running shoes, trucker hats that say things like Shiga Rice Co-op and drive pickup trucks, though they carry the same mDNA as their ancestors in the woodblock print, traveling the same long road.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
"The first scenario is a battle over energy sources. It assumes that if China reinforces its procurement of energy without taking cost-efficiency into consideration, the world will be plunged into a situation in which each country competes for oil by ignoring international market mechanisms.
As a result, political tension between the two countries over resources in the East China Sea will mount.
The second scenario assumes the isolation of Japan. If China succeeds in concluding free trade agreements with Southeast Asian countries, their reliance on China will increase, leading to the isolation of Japan.
Both scenarios portray shocking futures for Japan."
From China Gorging and Japan-China Resource and Energy Conflicts
Saturday, July 02, 2005
SOME FOLKS ARE PREPARING
"This is so serious that it eclipses even Authoritarian Free Enterprise and all it means. This virus is the potential mother of all terrorist bio threats. Estimates suggest that 65% to 75% of those infected will die. This is so serious that even if it never happens nothing would be wasted by private or public funds supporting a research effort for an effective vaccine to prevent it. Right now there is no such vaccine no matter what medical spin you hear in order to 'maintain the social order.'"
"The report projects between 479 and 1,390 deaths in Durham and the surrounding area over the course of a 12-month avian flu pandemic period. In addition, it is estimated that between 1,306 and 4,606 people would require hospitalization, and up to 233,090 would need outpatient care.
'These numbers are pretty staggering,' Mr. MacEachern said. 'Especially when you consider that the hospitals in Durham probably couldn't handle an extra 10 patients right now.'"
But they aren't virologists, microbiologists, epidemiologists or public health leaders. (Well, most of them aren't, anyway.) They are regular folk - housewives, writers, college instructors - who share an obsession over what they believe is the looming threat of a flu pandemic.
ON NOT GETTING HOSED
"Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed."
Excerpted from David Foster Wallace's 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address, as posted at Marginalia.
Friday, July 01, 2005
THE HILTON REALITY
While I was sitesurfing I read somewhere on a drop of netspray that the Hilton family was going to be on Larry King Live one of these nights, discussing "what it's really like being a Hilton." Now there's something to fill your life-time with.
I remember back in the 60's reading Andy Warhol's tiny desperate classified ad in the Village Voice for anyone wanting the Factory's paid endorsement for any kind of anything - whatever it is, we'll endorse it for a fee - and thinking that the Factory had reached its nadir; the sophisticated art world would toss them out on their ears now; the general public's taste is improving!
How wrong I was; I had no idea then, in that upward-yearning idealism of youth, as to the extent of the public's appetite for bottom feeding. Andy later capsulized it all in his "15 minutes of fame" quip - which at the time was almost paradoxical, but soon described more "celebs" than you could shake a remote at; then came reality tv. (When I met Andy in Tokyo in the 70s and asked him right off if he'd been getting enough sleep, he was visibly taken aback at someone actually saying something personally genuine to him.)
The tube is no longer the merely distractive mirror it used to be; it's now beginning to replace big chunks of actual lifetime with mental styrofoam peanuts.
They'll never find me here, though, as long as the oak leaves are in session.