Archive for November, 2009

Had a little bit of that dragon’s blood on my slapstick where his nose got stamped Cat In The Hat pink.  The folks took it and mixed it into the rum punch, baking and mixing our healing feast.

I celebrate community and survival, those things we are thankful for as we recognize the blessings of our life.

I mourn those who suffered savage brutality at the hands of settler colonialism, on the backs of whom many of us enjoy our privileges.

We hear the song of nature, and guided by the spirit of Sister Piscotti whose vase we must fill, sinners that we are, and go into the deep old woodland chaparral which refuses to let human beings push it around.

The old path that is normally there is overgrown, for the first time I can ever remember.  The unseasonably warm weather and rain have caused an almost spring like growth to emerge, lichens growing on tree trunks and moss in full bloom!

Rabbit escapes our sight through the roots and tangles of the path that is no more.

We roll with it, nomads that we are.  Many paths through the forest, but you have to pay.  Human remains.  Scratches of sharp spines on flesh, I am bloodied, roots trip us up, wet pine branches swipe us.  The forest doesn’t move, yet it has motion.

Fog swathed ways that come and go, lightning struck trees out of a dream, and all manner of growths.  We clip and gather a harvest for the vase cussing and swearing but somehow swerving both ways to the way out.

Explosions, the Grand Turkey Lord shooting off a series of cracks and pops in the deep to scare our pants off and make us laugh as we trudge out of the mud and back to the places where kids play, the first step back to home where a sacrifice awaits to feed us.

Celebrate, and mourn.

Singing ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down”, we brush off the brambles and retie shoelaces.  Back home, having paid our respects to the ancestors and the within, we toast and serve, candles lit.

Today, my friend Anne Wagener got a pre-Happy Turkey Day surprise.  A short story of hers, Time Machine, was published in an online magazine. Plus, she found out another short story of hers will be published at Splinter Generation.

Plus plus, she has two other short stories looking for homes as I speak.  One’s a strange tale that takes place in a planetarium and a cavern.  The other I got nothing.  Her secrecy cloaking device engages at this point, I only get so many bonus rounds.

Anne writes quirky, strange fiction that kind of unsettles me.  But I like it, and perhaps unusual encounters are your thing too.  I’ll post links to her other stuff as it materializes.  Congratulations Anne on taking the plunge and getting your stuff out there for people to puzzle over!

I got the summons from an old wreckhouse stringer, none other than Boot-beggar Head-squeezer The Constrained.  I get them all the time, but after getting one laugh-a-lariat gumption vacuum in the nowhere land I gave up.  If the big cheese biter won’t even bother showing up in un-person, sending some never-was crumb kneeler to tell me how much I will never ever whatever, I may as well pretend I have sour grapes syndrome and gnash them toothies.

This time, I dropped my six shooters and walked into the nasteroo un-gourge without a backup.  Maybe Xtine’s sharpening of the cleavers through ultrasonic screaming, or Hexe’s turning the ovens up to eleven (extra crunchy!), or Alexi’s diving into the morass of slavering munchuloids with a fake lightsaber and exoskeleton are rubbing of on me.  K prepped the hyperspace tunnel and offered me any number of below the belt stone knives and bearskins disguised as digital watch greatness, but I decided this called for no technique.

Make no mistake, Boot-beggar will stamp your ticket with dog doo ink and slap you senseless upside the sensibility.  You will get the viceroy gripper treatment on anything but your skull.  That gets saved so your teeth can fly out with a bloody pop as you watch them eviscerate your soul food.  Yep, your single serving size of batsplat is in your eye and out your sock.  You’ll be lucky if a piece of you wins the souvenir sweepstakes.  Every member of the wreckhouse loves a keepsake.  As long as they get to squeeze and watch the primary cell awareness squirm.

They don’t mention The Constrained because the outhouse ain’t working, no siree.  Here comes the rolf-a-lore, with a leverage on your shoulder blades that will make you watch the unfolding stupidity of nonsense puppets dangle before your very irradiated nose hairs.  Man, how long have I been living this genuine faux dungheap and wishing I could crawl more instead of less?

The hidden victims hadn’t crawled out of their capsules yet, but the mongering ankle-gores were ready for me.  All spines in full effect, a poison take-out trough prepared for the thousandth and one millenium since beatdown was coded into the particle stream of molten galactoids from the bubbling pampers of hell.  The preliminary foray of anti-humanors began the moment I stepped over the line and knocked the batteries off the ultra-Euclidean shoulders of the giant Moloch and Mammon elementars.  From there I was coded, identified, and shoved into a face full of fully paid for murder-death-kill.

I started sweating, and a gnawing headache seized my frontal lobe, while fluid accumulated at the back of my reptile gland and cut me to half auxiliary power.  Boot-beggar pulled off the masks and the insincere bystanders started screaming in-between attempts to breathe the jellified air.  Oh yeah, the wreckhouse stringer booting me full of insecurity and inadequacy, in the ultra terrestrial flesh, with alkaloid allies, miserable mopey minions, and vicious vicarious victims all flapping their arms furiously to get a bite in of my live brains before the surprise-you’re-dead negative round.

So yeah, it’s on, the big green dragon and I got nothing.  No quick, no slow, just an eternity of beatdown that can never be undone and I’m about to get shoed.  All unfolding before me, sneak previews all the way to the bone of what’s coming down the hammer stem along my spine.

Except I came back.

I move without moving, dodge without dodging, strike without force, free and easy as a nobody.  Lucerna’s training proves to be enough, I twist and turn, sing quietly, openly, dance with eyes on every small detail, swimming the luck plane with grace, genuine and true.  I am myself, lowdown loser Paul, but this time I feel it!  I can see for miles and miles.

Suddenly Boot-beggar starts running out of mo’, the energy bar shows up at the rear of the Oh-Crikey Coral and it’s not so certain now that I’m going down without a doubt.

Cause man, I got doubts.  I’m shining with them and it’s okay.  Nobody’s home, but leave a message ’cause I care to the max.

Final battle, and Boot-beggar throws the top talent up close and person, literally moving objects in my face to block my poise.  I’m cool, been fighting so long at full power with half a cup of noodles on good days, it’s just more of the same.  An entire wing falls off Boot-beggar and then the leaking begins, seriously blowing hot air out the door of the sphincter as the entire blood-eating externally internalized edifice starts to crumble.  The plan has to change, ’cause the no groove is bein’ played!

The rout unravels like a squid tentacle shot out a cannon, pieces of minion rejects fall away even though that’s all that’s holding the mind trench flowing with broken glass, the force field corn husks are rallying for a final desperate move.  That’s when I reverse course and swing past the avalanche of heartless and humiliation, causing the formations of prickly poison death to crash into each other.  The whole thing is done like bad ham in a fridge, and last person standing is dead meat.

Boot-beggar takes the blow, and staggers.  But I’m already flowing easily out the door as the jaws of fakery snap shut to erase this defeat.  No dice, no roll, got it?  Though the final griddle-waddle punt-waggle is there to catch me in a pincer attack for a group hump from behind, I wave my hand and within seconds I foible myself free of the whole affair, smoke rumbling out of the litterbox for human beings in need of odor control.

It’s a long haul out of the sucker pit, but K is there with healing potion snacks and the cats purr me back to main power.  The folks are hootin’ and hollerin’, slapping their knees with laughter.  What a story!  I swam the crocodile river and didn’t get wet.

Then it dawns on me.  I gave Boot-beggar the braaaat!  Oh, that old dragon got plenty more toys to break. All I did was not fall down this time.  But I held my own and kept it real, which I never ever whatever would have thought I could do, because I had been jacked.  From now on, that big green dragon will have a stain of pink on it’s nose.

The energy is so intense, that for a long hour I can hardly bear it.  I almost come down with an illness.  Yeah, like I said this isn’t Zelda on the N64, this is Zelda-and-then-you-die.

Then I start doing a stupid dance!  I put on Taco’s “Puttin On the Ritz”, and turn that sucker up loud.

Got-ta dance!  GOT-TA…DANCE!

Traveling back to a point in time where I was but a young boy in the single digits of age, there was a time when I was most disappointed to learn that phony time machines were being sold in stores as the real thing.  Imagine the nerve of such people!  Ripping you off from your parents’ hard-earned dollars for a mechanism that fails to achieve your desired purpose.

At the local toy store, I spotted a model.  I hadn’t quite gotten the hang of what a model was, or what its purpose might be.  I figured the awesome illustrations on the boxes were truthfully depicting the experience you could hope to have should you obtain the box, or somehow put the thing together (which ought to be very easy, without need for glue or paint).

The model as presented was a capsule time machine with a door you could open.  Inside would be a time traveler sitting down at his control panel, pulling a lever that would activate his journey.  Close the door and open it again, and you would find the traveler on the ground facing a group of hungry dinosaurs.  How cool is that!?

Alas, after opening such kits, all you find are a large number of plastic parts.  Putting the capsule together proved easy enough.  The two scenes were actually part of a rotating door and floor in the capsule.  There was a mechanism that turned the scenes from one to the other.  I wasn’t able to figure that out and consequently had to manually turn the knob to make the scenes change inside the capsule.

The scenes were not easy to put together or paint.  Glue just wasn’t my specialty, and my handling of model paints was abysmal.  You may as well have given a caveman an automobile to put together.  The finished product hardly looked like the amazing pictures on the box.

It dawned on me that I wasn’t going to actually end up with a working (if limited) time machine.  Instead, what I had was a piece of laughable piece of junk, glued and painted with amateurish skill.

What a rip off!

With a hand on my heart, reminiscing about strange days in the past, coming back to tell me their secrets now, I put a bunch of notes before me.  One note on my mind—I went into Sedulous Chair today and put up an ad for a weird program I’m working on.  We’ll see what ideas decide to apply for the job.

I have several nets out in the deep and a couple of radar arrays and satellites on the scent for goodies.  These sorts of things take patience to bear fruit, so to speak.  I’m very much a naturalist when it comes to coaxing out the wondrous treasures of the unknown.

There are practical matters to be attended to with regards to the honeycomb hideout.  Energy freed up from having to recalibrate the gravity wells of the haunted house can now be put towards surges of activity for settling in to the new locality.  Every department needs their allocation of warp power to accomplish their ends.  For once, we aren’t just surviving, there’s freedom to pursue the work of DEVOlopment.  Know what I’m sayin’?

For example, just today I noticed that I was carrying a lot less in the way of good luck charms, and saying a lot less prayers to reinforce the defenses.  My psychological forces are in a rest, repair, and renewal mode.  That’s how in the battle I was a few months ago.  Now that medicine, rest, and vacations are being handed out to the starfleet of the mind and body—a lot of good things are taking shape.

Of course, very much on my mind is the completion and release of my novel here.  I’ve got the posts at the ready.  I’m prepared and anxious to move onto the next book.  January will be the third year mark when I let this thing into me and the whole process started cracklin’.

I’m looking at my final checklist of items and I see of the eight things I need to be satisfied on, seven of them are checked.  Any month now I’ll be done and take the next step.  But oh!  I am so in the dip right now, climbing that hill and struggling to be satisfied.  I know it will happen, just not when and how.  Soon, soon!

Out of the sea, down from the heavens, what shall we be?  If there is a sense of having walked through a broken up road of red clay, which presages a promised migration route, then who are we to make a final check along the way?

The wild gives way to our experiment, and it is good to see how much we can accomplish, as child like and ignorant as we are.  We all live in a house on the side of the road waiting for our turn to see what grand plans await us, even if our decisions were small and almost unnoticeable.

How long have we been just playing?  It seems like ages, but really in truth not very long at all.  Gigantic movements all around us and only a microscopic window in which to move, our crawling through to an end not even nature knows, but hopes of.

Time and space inevitably push us forward, move the entire scheme of things in all directions at once forever and after before.  The inevitable becomes evident and nobody knows who they won’t be any longer, putting on roles and carrying props in a vaudeville sideshow we suppose is called life.

The show must go on, the entirety of God and not-God is watching us, searching for a performance that will unlock another facet of the unwinding, winding formula.  If we are dolls and puppets, to be broken apart in tantrums, or cast aside when through, or kept in a glass case in times of fond remembrance to come, are we not something?

When another doll leaps out of the case to crack its head upon the tile, what can be said of the doll who leaps to save that doll at the risk of going over also?  All the puppets have a life and gathering of their own, though we do not see it unless we try.

Or, even if there were no dolls, no puppets, no artist behind the strings there would still be nothing, no one, no body.  Nothingness.  The vast emptiness of the night contains all the time and space there ever was.  Nothing is anything.

Costume, actor, props, stage, lines, script.  These are all changeable.  Audience, performers, behind the scenes labor, we are all of these in any combination, at the same time or one at a time.  What happens when we realize we are both?  That we are always in truth even in our so-called darkest moments.  The additional dimension beckons to us, any day now we shall see beyond and within without, our own means of production and witness.

“My God, its full of stars.”

Happening now.

Now that the Celtic New Year has started up, it appears that the seas have calmed for a while.  Into this spare time I’ve been practicing my physical routines and learning the recorder.  Got to keep up the psychic kung fu training for Mother Mary’s Personal Assistant.

She upped the ante last week and I felt it in my ankle (which made me think of Xtine’s current ankle recovery mode), plus I got smoked in recorder practice.  If I wasn’t dedicated this is where I’d be getting real discouraged about now.

But I’m committed to the routines.  I know from past experience you have to go for the long haul with these kinds of lessons.  And I’m learning a lot about undeveloped aspects of my mind and body.  This gets me from the blind side but it’s good training.

The activity has inspired K to try some new bread kung fu.  She’s been experimenting with sour dough batches.  Starting them, nourishing them until the generations of yeast get attuned to their environment, and drawing out of them various flavors.  Then having to bake loaves of bread out of the mix.

Side benefit—some of the tastiest pancakes I have ever had.  Dense and absorbent enough to handle syrup, but still light and fluffy enough to cut with a fork.  They practically leap into my mouth they are so darn good.

The killer bees have settled into the new honeycomb hideout nicely.  They’ve kept to themselves, mutating and self-directing their destiny in mysterious ways.  I got the bonus round too—Lucerna (that’s MMPA’s name) got me seriously hooked onto raw and rough honey now.  All the granules of pollen and other goodies on top make for some wicked honey-tea.  She said I’d been taking such good care of the bees, that this clue got unlocked as a special maneuver.

Plus, she helped me locate my beloved Portland-Oregon black with white trim alpaca sweater, which had been missing after the first year in the haunted house.  Just in time for winter, so warm and snuggly soft is this wonderful garment.  Whoo!  I guess I need all this training and recovery.  Got work to do after all.

The spread of microbreweries throughout the country has had a positive effect I take considerable delight in—the proliferation of draft ciders.

When I discovered the pleasures of draft cider consumption, it was as if I had run into an old childhood friend—and discovered we had only truly begun to enjoy each other’s company.

Having taken the time to appreciate various kinds of the stuff, I now pass onto you the knowledge of my explorations.  Many brands are not represented, for the reason that I either haven’t tried them or haven’t been able to get my hands on them enough to form an opinion.

For example, there are a number of French ciders that come in wine bottles that I’ve tried, but haven’t been able to do so more than a handful of times.

I’ve rated these ciders by a 1-100% number.  This represents the chance that every time I drink a pint of these ciders, I get a point of Oh Yeah.  Every point of Oh Yeah can be exchanged for a psychic coin toss to see if the scene you are in becomes Good Times—or you can get rid of a point of Jackup.

Because with every pint your body is dishing out a point of Jackup.  3 Jackups means You Lose.  The body takes over, hope you are insured!

Hornsby’s (Regular and Dark And Dry)—31%
I started out with this brand, and put it through the long haul.  Pretty bleh taste; slightly dry and tangy, a lot like a wine cooler. Once I found other brands, I left this one behind.

Hard Core—39%
A little sweeter than Hornsby’s, but something about the body felt a bit light.  Tried to get into it, and for a while this was my alternate when the common Hornsby Jackups got tiresome.

Woodchuck Regular—53%
Pretty reliable flavor and effect.  Very sweet, almost sickly so.  Clear taste, potent effect.  This became my staple for a long while.  Slightly cheaper than Hornsby’s at the time.  I felt the sulfites on this a lot less.

Woodchuck (Granny Smith, Dark And Dry, Pear)—63%
Switched to these when they became available.  While I like “sweet”, the Woodchuck Regular was too sweet.  The Granny mixed sweet with sour, and really felt like a quality cider.  Dark And Dry mixes sweet with smoky, making for a heartier cider flavor.  Not bad.  We’re finally getting somewhere!

Woodchuck Rasberry—27%
Woodchuck rules, right?  Not so fast!  This flavor was way too sweet, a real disappointment.  Like Hornsby’s, the flavor overwhelms the rest of the cider, only in this case it’s a little too strong.  I’d really like to see a drier version of this, with less sweet.

Dry and bubbly, almost too tart.  I wanted to like this one, but Ace isn’t a cider you can really gulp.  It’s more of a sipping draft, something you’d serve at a picnic or casual dinner.

All natural organic and low sulfite cider.  Okay, this has got some good make-up.  Strong, tasty flavor and packing a bonus round punch.  Maybe too strong for me.  Part of my ritual is about spending time with people.  This takes me out a little too fast for my taste.

Original Sin—43%
Not bad.  A little too much of a Woodchuck clone, cashing in on the flavor and feel.  I found myself not handling these well after a while, perhaps due to a little less quality than Woodchuck.

Lacking much in the way of taste, or feel.  Not the worst, just simply nothing going on here.  This might work better for someone looking for a featureless cider.

Newton’s Folly (Granny Smith and Regular)—54%
Started hitting this at Trader Joe’s.  Basically a less expensive, less sweet version of Woodchuck, with a little less punch.  Have to say not bad at all!  Got used to this for a while, always delivering and very little payback.

Strong, sour flavor but grows on you.  Doesn’t pack much of a punch though.  I felt like I had to keep going to keep up.  Not exactly my favorite.

Maybe the English just know how to make real booze, I don’t know.  Dry, strong, satisfying, but with a slight hint of sweetness.  Packs a wallop up front, and follows up with a coup de grace if you aren’t careful.  I think I’m in love here.

Cider Jack—54%
Back in the day, I used to have six pack of this every once in a while.  Sweet, not very strong, and a little headachy.  Then this brand disappeared and I haven’t seen it in a while.  But now it’s come back several years later, and wow what a difference.  Dry, strong, still some aftereffects but much reduced.  I am impressed.

Godzilla isn’t the same for me anymore.  As a child I loved the destruction and the excitement.  But now, having been to Hiroshima, I also see the overwhelming, apocalyptic horror of the human experience crushed underfoot by the atomic unknown.

This is what is meant by the sublime.  The monstrous face we are seeing is humanity’s own hellish shadow, magnified many times over by enormous natural forces into a radioactive blast that annihilates the human completely.

I can’t know what it is like (I wasn’t there), or comprehend much of the significance—I’m just a tourist, a voyeur, a poser who caught a brief glimpse of an old claw-print.  But even having once seen evidence that Ancalagon is real, and we have the power to summon such enormous destruction against others, where can one hide?

I love the film deep and darkly, yet it is a heady draught I consume with caution and reserve.

This is the message the ghosts convey to me repeatedly for most of the night—that no one stands outside the shadow of humanity.  I lie in my bed, the other students fast asleep, and I hear the rumble of otherworldly clutches.  It might only be my conscience trying to open me up like a clam to the world, which I imagine to be the sounds of the dead.

I talk to them in my mind, twisting and turning hotly in bed unable to sleep.  I imagine myself helping them, being there with them (which is just fantasy guesswork), and suffering for them.  But these are all empty postures in the night.  I wear myself out wrestling with their noise and I finally sleep.

My dreams are of swimming in a vast underground ocean of red flame and muddy slime.  I am surrounded by people staring at me as they rot away into charred ooze.  Then I am struggling through the streets of a deserted, burning city that gives off a cloudy, shadowed heat.  I realize I’m asleep and I wake myself up, struggling to rouse my muscles and breathing out of the relaxation of slumber.  It’s daylight out.

The next stop for us is Itsukushima, which is known as Miyajima the Shrine Island.  One of the three holiest places in Japan.  No one is allowed to die here—you get shipped right off as soon as you start to croak.  People weren’t even allowed to live there until recently.  As a result, there is still a primordial virgin forest on the island.  Countless holy structures of all kinds shapes and sizes may be found throughout the island.  Plus lots of squeaking deer, and monkeys who are the messengers of the gods.

It feels good to escape the city for a while.  The sun is shining when we land, but the weather slowly changes as we meander through the streets.  A light rain begins, followed by a growing mist.  A few of us take the Miyajima Ropeway (a cable car system) to near the top of Mount Misen to snap some pictures, but by the time we get up there it’s useless.  The entire island and surrounding sea is shrouded in fog.

After a few minutes of taking things in, everyone decides to descend for some lunch, but I decline.  Taking my handy tourist map I figure I’m going to climb the summit and get some outdoor time to myself.  The map makes it look like a hop skip and a jump.  Scale, let me show you how not to use it.

I pass through a huge herd of monkeys and onto the fog-shrouded, forested mountain paths, which are well trod.  There’s no one about, and likely with good reason.  As I learned later, all tengu goblins in Japan gather in the forests of Mount Misen.  They scare away intruders by making loud noices like wooden blocks being banged together.

This is a scene only a crazy gaijin would find themselves in, ignorant of all the hazards of the spirit world.  Fools and little children protected by the purity of their motives, I suppose.

But I feel at peace, safe.  This a sacred place, whether or not I get the local meaning.  I know I’m an outsider, that I don’t belong, and yet I maintain a respectful thought at all times. I don’t hear anything but the wind and the rain.  Even the monkeys are quiet, and soon I don’t see them anymore (probably all hanging out close to the ropeway station for handouts).

I reach a small wayside shrine and make an offering of incense.  It takes considerable effort to light it in the light rain and wind, but I manage and place it in the proper place.  I struggle with my request of the gods, wanting very much to grant me some good fortune with my then-girlfriend at the time.  But all I can come up with is a request that my love for her be true, which seemed a cop-out, easy request to make in one’s prayers.

I ought to have prayed for the ghosts, or for an end to atomic weapons, yet all I can think of is my own needs at a time like this.  I spend a long time in the rain agonizing over whether I made the right request.  I tell myself that if the stick is still burning when I return this way, then I made the right decision.  I walk up the slope of the final approach to the top.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the shrine I visited is the Reikado (“Temple Which Protects Flame”).  There is a fire inside that is said to have been lit by a holy man and has been burning ever since.  This fire was used to light the Peace Flame in Hiroshima’s Peace Park, which will burn until all atomic weapons are destroyed and the world is free from their horror.

That holy man is Kobo Daishi, founder of one of the major branches of buddhism in Japan.  He’s one of the holiest holy men in Japanese culture, seriously big dude dinner stuff.  They say he’s still chilling out, hidden from our sight until the return of the biggest Buddha ever.  No messing around, seminal figure here.  Ka-boom.

I take the path where you have to bow down and walk under a stacked boulder to continue on the path.  It’s like a tunnel and a gateway at the same time.  The trees break away, the path twists one last time, and you find yourself with a 360 view of the surrounding area.  Boulders everywhere which the gods are said to rest upon and discuss/observe/contemplate the world.

Actually, I should mention that when I say “gods” I’m using it in the collectively neutral sense rather than say god/dess-s or divinities.  Shinto has a matriarchal pantheon, with all the major deities being female (for example, Amaterasu the sun goddess is no joke, takes care of her bizness, watch out).  The mother is everywhere in Japan, she’s what counts, but she’d insist harmony be maintained and everyone remain at the table, thus “gods”.

The actual summit holds an observation deck, which you climb a series of stairs to reach.  It’s a joke, actually.  You are standing on one of the most holy places you can in Japan, and there’s this ugly, cheeseball man-made structure to the side.  For some reason I didn’t mind though, it felt appropriate, like one last step into the heavens.  Taken on the stairway of ugliness, admitting our own human weakness.

This is the moment of enlightenment in the spiritual journey.  Hard climb, long travel, then revelation as the world opens up all around you.  At the top of the deck, I take in the four directions.  The spattering rain and crisp wind buffet my body, dousing my heat and strength.  Clouds and mist are rushing all around me.  The nearest shores and islands are hazy outlines.

I speak to the gods of Japan, ignorant of their names let alone their ranks and stations.  I tell them I don’t know what to say about what I’ve witnessed or how I feel.  I don’t know what to ask from them, or what to tell them.  I don’t even know if I should say anything at all.

It occurs to me I’m the only person up on this summit.  I am meant to be here, doused in the elements, shivering with the feeling of being alive.  A fragment of cultural relevance comes back to me from my studies, of how the Japanese consider themselves a “wet” people.  That is, they are a deeply feeling people who understand relatedness.  While outsiders, particularly westerners, are considered “dry”.  They have little awareness of the feelings of others.

I recognize how supremely purifying a moment this is.  Separated from the group and free to be myself, the gods are making me a “wet” outsider, if only for this moment.

Being blessed, I give thanks and take my leave, returning to the world of people with difficulty (harder to descend than ascend, and I’m low on energy).

The incense is still smoking as I shamble past the wayside shrine (if I can truly love, even after the mark of the ghosts, then the world grows). Marked, purified.  Departure, return.

At the bottom of the ropeway station, at a food stand, the group is waiting for me.  Waiting for the next ferry.  I have just enough time to scarf down a deep bowl of steamy hot udon noodle soup.


The bohemian, the barfly, and myself go wandering through the streets of Hiroshima.  No particular destination in mind, forgetting the sights and talking about nothing. We pass through a covered market street and end up in a cheap bar.

Before I know it, we’re all throwing back a few and talking about nothing while drunk.  Numbing our senses to what occurred earlier in the day.  I recall me and the bohemian sharing a few words about the horrors—she’s perceptive with those big bright eyes of hers.  My guess is she’s locked it away for detached thought later.  The barfly is on familiar ground—ride the experience on other peoples’ brain points until he achieves some manner of liftoff himself.  Addiction to alcohol has its advantages I suppose.

Having lost our way, we grab a taxi to take us back to our hostel—it’s time to return in time for the visit of the survivor.  This is where my two acquaintances do better than me, having logged more hours in the consume alcohol skill than me.  Up until my visit to Japan, where drinking is a pervasive part of the culture (particularly for males), I’d never actually had a drink.  I’ve only been doing this for maybe two months.  I overshoot my limits, and am clearly wasted while we sit in a room and are introduced to the survivor.

She’s dressed in a nice business-casual outfit, with kind features.  There doesn’t seem to be anything physically wrong with her.  When she speaks, her voice is calm and gentle.  Our interpreter doesn’t miss a beat, so I almost feel like I am hearing the survivor’s own voice, through a screen perhaps.  But, bless the social safety valves of Japanese culture, even though I am an embarrassment they make allowances.  I sit quietly and resolve to be as unobtrusive as my state allows.

I miss a lot of the groundwork of her story, her family and what she was doing on that day.  But gradually as I sober up by degrees her story becomes clearer to me.  The woman explains how she was turning a corner around a building when the bomb went off, burning half her body.  Then every detail starts to imprint itself on my brain and I begin to remember why I got drunk in the first place.  I’m trying to escape, I must escape this horror or I will break down in uncontrollable weeping.

She is rescued and taken to a care-taking station.  Really just a place to gather casualties, the first steps at response.  Her eye has been destroyed and is rotting in her skull.  Her caretakers have to remove the eye but they have no instruments.  A piece of shattered glass without anesthesia is all they have to offer, and her eye is removed.

I didn’t know the survivor had a glass eye.  Her skin on the burned side doesn’t look at all like the horrible mess she described.  You would never know by looking at her that she has been through hell on earth.  The Japanese are very good at maintaining appearances, and I wonder what deep emotions she might be restraining so that we get the point.

Even though it’s unbelievably disrespectful, I stand up and walk out of the room, out of the building, back into the street. I can’t take it anymore.  This is a nightmare from which there is no waking.  It really did happen with real people, and the desecration, the inhuman monstrosity of it is forever.  Ghosts, everywhere around me crying out for my attention.

I find an alleyway next to a drink machine and buy myself an orange juice.  Then I sit on the cold asphalt of the alleyway and zone out.  Then I start to talk to the ghosts, try and understand them.  But untangling the mass grave is impossible.  This dark shadow of what we have done to ourselves is too big, too immense for one person to find an answer to.

The bohemian and the barfly find me after about an hour—how far could I stagger?  The bohemian says everyone was worried about me, and I say I’m okay.  You know, just needed a breath of air and a little sobering up, which is I suppose a rational response.  Our go-between/chaperones are upset with me, which I try to dodge by acting sheepish.  How do I apologize for my own weakness?  How do I explain to them how shocked I am?  I am guilty, and I am also having exactly the kind of experience this visit to Hiroshima was made for.

Barfly looks strangely subdued, which I’m surprised at.  For once, he’s not the center of a drunken drama and I’m the one making the group look bad.  We’re all sent to bed early, with me not in good graces.

Lights off, buckwheat mattresses and pillows out.  If only I could sleep.