They have this new thing here in Japan that I just found out about when I got a multipart sticky postcard saying that since I'm over 70 and my drivers license is expiring, I have to take the Dementia Driving Test. That's my name for it.
They don't call it that, of course, they call it something like the Silver Driver Autumn Leaf Test with Hello Kitty, something more euphemistic, the card has all sorts of unnecessary information on its eight sides, with no map or directions for location or anything, just lists of fees and degrees of senescence plus some phone numbers. I had to phone them to find out where I actually had to go, in the physical form that embodiment imposes.
The card said come on Thursday Sept 13 and bring a lot of money with your imminently useless license and a bunch of other stuff, maybe a collapsible bicycle in case I had to pedal home if I knew where that was ha ha, but I use my dementia to perform complex tasks on Thursdays in the big city, so when I called them I said - exerting optimal coherence, which I can still manage at times, even at my advanced age - that since I was working on the 13th, Wed Sept 12 would be good, that was my day off, they said We don't have the test on Wed, (there's that old naivete again, thinking that public convenience was a factor) so we sumoed some dates around and finally settled on this coming Monday, which is good because usually Mondays are when I'm least demented.
If they asked me - but bureaucracies never do, for some reason - it would be a sufficient test to simply see if I could find my way to the Motor Vehicle Bureau on my birthday and stand in each of the many long lines in correct sequence, fill out all the complex forms, answer all the questions, sign my name, read the numbers, pass all the other tests that the younger, less experienced drivers have to pass and that I myself have successfully done many times, without strangling a single bureaucrat or even babbling upon exit, before I was as richly experienced at driving license obtainment as I am now.
However, the mandatory driving schools in Japan are big business, and the bureaucracy-tempered cynic in me figures that with fewer and fewer young people being born in Japan, and the expanding proportion of elderly Japanese simply renewing their licenses every 4 years or so (for a fortune each time!), the driving schools, once a cash cow for legislators' relatives (what a cynic), are no longer pulling in the cash as hand-over-fistly as they once were (a driver's license requires many hours of formal driver training at a government-licensed school, for a minimum cost of 300,000 yen (ca. $4000), and if you don't pass - like so many don't - you gotta do it all again, with instructors I suspect are retired drill sergeants. It's a tough few months.
So on Monday I go to take my DDT, with lecture, virtual driving test, actual driving test and discussion, 3 full hours in total, the whole morning shot, and if I don't run over any virtual grandmothers or try to convince the tester of my Napoleonhood, I should get permission to continue driving until I turn 75, when I'll have to do it all over again, at a higher price.
Maybe I should emigrate before they come out with the Deceased Driving Test.
THE PORKY CHRONICLES,Part 2: Cheaper than Wolf Urine
When I got home that evening from a full day of some of the most modern activities on the planet, Echo told me she had found in one of the local farm stores a product that claimed to be an inoshishi repellent but was pretty expensive, should she get some. It also claimed to repel bats, cats, snakes, rats, moles, raccoons, just about everything except the IRS, which claims gave me pause, but though expensive it was a lot cheaper than wolf urine, so I put the mental barbed wire on one of my mind's wayback shelves and sprang for the stuff.
Next evening I came home from another day riddled with more of said modern activities to find sitting on the kitchen table what looked like a box of Satan's favorite cereal. The red-flaming garish package indeed claimed to repel wild pigs, prominently among all the other things. As proof, on the front, above a wild pig in a red circle with a bar across it (could this really be as easy as No Parking?) growled a big, angry, sharp-fanged habanero pepper that evoked devilish gratification at sprinkling this stuff around my property, now pocked all over with holes that pigs had made in the ground. It was darkly satisfying to imagine large porky pig snouts snorking along in the night, coming upon a little pile of this devilish stuff and just sucking it up into flaring pig nares-- oh, if I could only see the flames that would follow as the beasts ran off into the night, never to return; imagination is almost as good as being there. How many are the degrees of surreality, I wonder.
Repellently curious, I opened the box, then the plastic bag inside; sniffed, reeled. One kilo of pig antimatter, uncut. Looked like (but did NOT smell like) a chunky instant coffee packet for a large creature of the night. Contained dried habanero, NEET, creosote, garlic, an occult concoction of stuff that would repel anything, including vampires; it certainly repelled this mere mortal to a considerable distance, and might even work on zombies.
The next morning, with delightful images of flaming pig nostrils dancing in my head, I sprinkled the black magical piggypowder everywhere a porker might snork. The bag was quickly emptied, but those little nosebombs were everywhere enough that during the night I might just hear the wild pig equivalent of Porky Pig sniffing up some scoville 5 million. Couldn't wait. At the end of my task, I split open the empty bag, laid it smelly-side-up in the middle of the slope the porks had made of the stone wall into my little deckside garden, and there pinned it to the ground with a rock, like a figurative middle finger salute to the night invaders.
The next night was pigless. And the night after that. It was working, at least; the porkers could smell it for miles and wouldn't be coming back, suggested the the "Curly" portion of my brain’s Corpora tristoogia. Cerebrally speaking, I should have twisted his nose with some pliers.
THE PORKY CHRONICLES, Part 1: The Mind Runs through Barbed Wire
It's not easy to imagine the things that rampage through an alien landowner-gardener-householder's mind at discovering in the morning that the inoshishi (wild pigs) have again rooted with feral anarchy all over his property like they did the other night for the first time in the 20 years he's lived here, but fortunately I am such a guy and can directly relate the trauma of all those heedless porky noses harrowing my tender garden soil, soil carefully prepped over decades, noses that (thankfully) ignored the trampled organic peppers, dangling organic zukes and uprooted organic cukes in preference to earthworms of all things, then rooted at the stony bases of my deck supports, and in the small deck garden - wild madness there - rooted deeply at the foot of the huge boulder that could topple either onto the deck and house or onto pig and deck, my own wild side sensing that naturally-natural pigs are way less likely to be mistaken than a delusional gardener, so it's the house-and-deck that will get the big rock, given the ways of the universe.
Plus there's all that here-and-there gravel the pigs have rooted into, leaving quarry holes, and the small boulders toppled from stone walls onto the driveway, the large and heavy slabs of granite tossed left and right like giant stale potato chips, the scattered edging rocks-- Monkeys were never this rampant or nonfood focused; what the hell do you do about recurring visits of ruthless wormslavering hogs who have no compunction about toppling your house with you inside if there’s an earthworm underneath, and from the look of things those noses could do it.
The inoshishi trap that comes immediately to mind is a huge truck-borne rebar cage that would take up the entire driveway, so where do I put the car for a week or two and what do I do when I come out one morning on the way to work and find in there a trapped 80 kilo boar rumbling hungry frothing and gnashing his tusks with whom I have to deal in person, plus I need a costly license to enjoy that experience.
Some folks might want to be nice to the beast, since they're - well - green, which I can understand, wild things being so zoozy cute on the Discovery channel and YouTube and imgur, but when it's your property and your decades of effort, your eyes widen a bit with ancient rage and you too are wild, you've got fangs growing, feelslike, and a bloodthirst; had it in you all along. But nonetheless in time you come to your wisened senses, death is but a last resort, though a night-eyed boar clacking his tusks at me in his path to food will not think along those lines; such is the distance we have traveled to empathy.
I know this will all soon end, for this year at least, and anyway I've gotten what I consider my share of the vegs out of what I still perversely think of as my garden, but these pigs and their piglets, and all the piglets after them on down the countless porky generations, intuit this property in the deepest sense, that it formally belongs to them, as it has for thousands of eons thus far; they have simply reclaimed it, left their marks here and there, so they'll be back, one way or another, one inoshishi or another - How long the mind on the train wanders amid strange themes - lost vegetables and saved, rifles, toppled walls, night watches, poison, traps, spears, the price of wild pork, barbed wire, wolf urine (expensive!) and at the end emerges as from a cave of night, heads for what the hell is an office, where he is a modern man, doing modern things...
We all remember that summer morning sunrise at Woodstock when Jimi wailed away at his guitar and polished a fresh facet on the new age with the first explosive chords of The Star-Spangled Banner, in a musical performance that has become an icon of national change; well move over, Jimi. Make room for Miasa, who took it to an international level.
Miasa, who with her sisters has for some time now been studying the traditional 3-stringed Japanese instrument known as the shamisen, for some reason selected as her solo recital song a piece titled: Amerika Gasshukoku no Kokka, which translates as "The National Anthem of the United States of America," an anthem that, needless to say, is familiar to all the world but new to 9-year-old Japan resident Miasa. In fact, I'd say that, when she took to the stage at the recital and began to play Amerika Gasshukoku no Kokka on her shamisen, she hadn't heard that uplifting melody in well over 9 years.
As she plucked out each of the song's single individual and separately notated notes in her spritely manner, it came to me that never before in their long history had the international relations of Japan and the United States been deconstructed in such a youthful way in a public arena, particularly in the plangent musical vernacular unique to the shamisen.
The liberty of tempo, the individualistic bending of traditional notes and chords into modern cultural commentary, with implicit political overtones, had every member of the Japanese audience - all thoroughly familiar with the noble song - on the edges of their seats, somewhat as the folks at Woodstock were, even without seats, when Jimi cranked it to the limits in his inimitable way, transforming that staid anthem we all know into an icon of neorevolutionary aspiration that lives on today in cultures around the world, and that found even newer resonance at the shamisen recital on Sunday.
Miasa's own unique 2nd-generation American-Japanese interpretation of The Star-Spangled Banner on the shamisen before a fully Japanese audience set a new standard for interpretive listening, one that will live on in all those hearts, and thence into the ages.
Well done Miasa. Two nations, now much closer, salute you.
Jimi, thanks for the precedent, and for moving over.
Born and raised in upstate New York, traveled for a decade after college, lived in various places around the world, keeping a journal. Settled in Kyoto in 1980, moved to this mountainside above Lake Biwa in 1995. Started Pure Land Mountain in April 2002.
Written and sidebar contents 2002~2015 copyright Robert Brady