image image image Basking in red glow, Saint Jack and colleagues seem nearly deified in their alcoves. The restaurant resembled a grotto, but it was not clear whether the theme was a manifestation of some sort of rampant religiosity, the kitschy francophilia found in Christian villages, or something to do with hunting. Try as I might, I discerned no numinosity without imbibing.


image image image image image image As far as I could tell, every municipality had a different design, meaning Tokyo alone must have hundreds, though not so many were painted. The third one is quite small, more a cathole cover.

image image image image image image image image image

image There seemed to be a ghost tree casting its shadow on the plinth and petrified, truncated trunk. Surely this is surreal, a visual metaphor for the supernatural. There are misconceptions about the nature of ghosts, the primary being whether they exist. Of course they exist in the same plane as other supernatural phenomena: our minds. This is not to assert that that consciousness and free will are mere illusions, rather that they are also supernatural. Thus, the supernatural mind depends on the physical brain, and other supernatural phenomena depend on the mind. They are there because we can see them.

image Unfortunately not invited to lunch at the palace, I wandered around central Tokyo in search of a meal. Many places looked a little too fancy or did not have anything on my yet-to-be-eaten list. A picture of tempura udon caught my eye. It was not on my list, but it was once a great favorite, and for the sake of nostalgia and my stomach, I entered the mall-like building, found the shop in the basement, and simply said, after an attempt at a polite response to the greeting, “Tempura ramen.” I was understood and fed. It was not fantastic, but it was very good. The idea of something deep-fried soaking in a hot broth with noodles may seem a bit strange at first, but the deep-fried flavor and richness come through. A dish of many harmonious contrasts. The part above the liquid should retain some crunch, and the tails most certainly will.

The dish reminds me of Bratherring, a German dish in which herring are floured, fried, and then pickled. I like it. I once worked where our Kantine had not changed much in the ten years since the reunification, and the workers, the diners, and the menu were that of the former Deutche Demokratische Republik (beim Mauerfall). That is where I learned to avoid being first in the group, to say “ich auch,” and to try things I never would have if I had known more German. As were many dishes there, the Bratherring was served with boiled potatoes. They tended to cook vegetables longer than my preference, and some of the meals I tried only once (Eisbein), while others just did not seem a proper lunch (pancakes and apple sauce), but the food was satisfying and cheap. When I moved to the university in the former West, I found the meals at the Mensa the worst I had ever had in Germany and started bringing leftovers from home. The equivalent Japanese university cafeterias where I have eaten in Japan were almost always very good, though they were in Eastern Japan.

image image image image image Tokyo.

image On a recent evening, exploring the history of rock with the help of YouTube, I came across a video of a favorite Rolling Stones song, “Beast of Burden.” It was a live version from the television show “Saturday Night Live.” A convergence of memories struck hard, because the first time I heard the song (or remembered hearing the song) was that show, 1978. I do not think I have watched the SNL in decades, but back in the day, high school it must have been, I watched it regularly. The convergence brought with it the very certain memory of where I was, who I was with, what we were doing (watching black and white TV in the basement), and, as if in a dream, the emotions, even zeitgeist, reigning then and there. I was living in rural Oregon, my Gothic wellspring of memories (wellspring of Gothic memories?), but visiting a friend, now deceased, who had moved so far away that we, with my brother, would meet sporadically at his father’s near the Portland zoo. I will save Greyhound bus rides to downtown Portland in the seventies for a later post. Of course, staying up late to watch TV after a long, heroic day of making mischief was typical. I never paid much attention to popular music (until encountering the late John Peel’s show on the BBC, see post “Corazón del Loco Jorge” 27 December 2013), possibly resulting from the AM radio overload on the bus ride to school (see post “Cryin’ but My Tears Are Far Away” 11 November 2014), but more probably resulting from other distractions too numerous to enumerate here. So, it seems hard to believe that I had not heard the song before, but perhaps the setting and the seeing displaced the earliers. It is also possible that rural Oregon AM was so saturated with Kansas, Queen, Aerosmith, Boston, Cream, and Kiss, that the Rolling Stones were never modulated with any amplitude. So now, hearing the song, I cannot separate the associations of the memories of that time from those that could have been elicited directly: they converge and convolute, and the result is some complex having shades of melancholy, nostalgia, bereavement, appreciation, wonder, and remoteness.

With apologies to Marcel Proust.

image image image image image image image image On a parking attendant shack wall, Makdessi Street, Hamra.

image image image This coral tree, a member of the genus Erythina, is in bloom again, and this time, I noticed the thorns. The bare branches and bokeh in these images give a surreal impression. With apologies to Lord Tennyson, but the flowers do resemble teeth.

image image image The one and only Moustachio.


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