Categories
Chiba Japan: Living Journal Life In Music

Lonesome Bike Boy

Gumyo Beech Roof

Time to take my time.

Open the door and stick out my hand, finger the first bite of winter.

No matter, a morning without a roof makes up for the hours.

I often wonder

about a life spent out beyond the city limits.

Gumyo Lanes

It’s all tied together

in lattices of stories and building frames,

back along the old ways, when and where our tails meet.

Blow on your hands,

see the billowing breath of others who’ve stood here before.

Gumyo Bamboo Fence

Past, past doors and windows.

I can’t wait for a nod or a friendly hello.

The wheels grind crusted dust,

the hub of a possible breakdown.

Sorry, sorry I have to go.

Gumyo Farmer

If you wait long enough

the sprouts separate the asphalt

and conjure up a potpourrie we all remember.

It doesn’t take any sleight of hand

to dig and let loose the straw.

Gumyo Sea Track

When I was a boy

the wind was my friend. I laughed

when the trees swayed and dragonflies

blew west into the setting sun.

Now I clutch my hat, bracing against the cold.

Gumyo Gingko Shrine

Hold on there,

why don’t you pick that up?

Everything has fallen here, but that doesn’t mean

any old tossing of litter

earns its place among the bones.

Gumyo Old House 2

I remember when Mama took me into the garden

and we buried Melanie (the hamster)

among the roots.

Soil dashed across her body,

forever clothed in loam.

Gumyo Roof Leaves

The cat she settled in the stillness,

pricking her ears for

scratching feet. A crow sailed

over, eyeing branches.

She curled up, hidden from view.

Gumyo Boots
Categories
Bicycle Travel Japan: Living Journal

Stopping for Milk

Mikuni Pass Motorcycle
Motocyclist topping the high point of Mikuni Pass, Chichibu, Japan, 1994

Motorcycles don’t usually impress me all that much, especially when they roar through the backroads where I’m trying to get away from the noise of the city on my bicycle, but this one moment has stuck with me.

It came after a grueling 12 hour grind up the “wrong” side of Mikuni Pass… the side which even four-wheel drive landrovers had a hard time negotiating because of all the ruts, protruding rocks, and gullies. I had figured that the climb would take only about 6 hours, but halfway through, with half of the time spent shoving the bicycle up the steep gradient, I knew that I wouldn’t make it to the top before evening fell.

All through the day all terrain vehicles and motocross motorcyles came bouncing by, occasionally spraying gravel or spitting pebbles like bullets that had to be dodged. I wasn’t too thrilled then, when, reaching the top of the pass and just wanting to stop and take my breath amidst the stillness of the lowering evening, yet another motorcycle puttered up behind me. But this driver took his time. He stopped, switched off his engine, and stood beside me as the sun set. Neither of us said anything. When it began to grow dark, he mounted his motorcycle without a word and slowly zoomed off down the other side of the mountain.

I decided to set up camp in this lonely location, along a side road overgrown with susuki grass and kudzu. After that motorcycle the place fell into a different kind of solitude. The trees seemed to loom larger and noises amidst the underbrush at the side of the road grew more distinct. I heard rustlings and chirrups and pattering of feet. Insects seemed to multiply into millions of crickets and katydids and buzzing, bumbling cockchafers and whirring sphinx moths. A shadowy ghost of what I figured must be an owl stitched its way amidst the shadows of the trees above. I set up my tent in the middle of all this and made dinner.

I hadn’t noticed earlier, but from back on the main road an eerie, white light glowed over the thicket there. I picked up my flashlight and sauntered over to check it out. Upon rounding onto the main road I was surprised to discover a lone vending machine, humming in the darkness, its flourescent light illuminating the new asphalt pavement that started on the other side of the pass.

I walked up to the vending machine and peered at its contents. Would you believe it? Milk! Four different kinds of milk! Plain, strawberry, chocolate, and banana. I pondered this a moment, weighing my policy about not relying too much on convenience when out in the mountains. But, this was too much. A vending machine? Here? Milk! Who would ever have thought…?

I dug in my pocket for some change and bought a chocolate milk. The carton tumbled into the tray and I picked it out. Stabbing the hole at the top of the container with the provided straw, I shuffled back to the campsite, humming the tune to the Christmas carol, “The Boar’s Head”.

No one but the insects heard the satisfactory slurp as the straw sucked out the last drops of chocolate milk.

Categories
Japan: Living Journal Musings Tokyo

Blood

I almost died on Sunday evening. I was bicycling along the Nogawa River near my home, returning from a pleasant glide downhill beside the chest-high grass-overgrown banks, when I entered an unlit stretch under the darkness of an arbor of cherry trees. Suddenly, before I realized what was happening, my bicycle jerked up from under me, the tree canopy and bicycle path whirled up and around, and the next thing I knew the asphalt hit my outstretched hands and shoulder. It was as if an invisible person had just thrown me over their shoulder. The impact badly gouged my palms, right elbow, right knee and shin. My (stupidly unworn) bicycling gloves, bandana, and bicycle mirror flew across the pavement. Stupidly I gazed back from whence I had flown and recognized the shadow of tree root heaving up the asphalt and forming a perfect launch thank-you-m’am. Naturally my first oh-so-dignified reaction (I am not neko-gata, cat profile) was to jump and and stamp about swearing at the sky. And then kicking the bump. And then swearing at Chofu city authorities. And then picking up my poor bicycle to check if she was okay. (All right outside the open window of a family’s house, wherein the occupants were sittiing down to dinner while watching tv) And only then, after wasting about 5 minutes in impotent fooldoggery, feeling the pain and staring at the lacerated skin and blood all over. After picking up my things, I gingerly got back on my bicycle and creaked home, while pipistrelle bats twittered and looped above the river.

My skull continued to swivel on my vertebrate. The eggshell had not been cracked and no soup had been spilled. And all while not wearing a helmet. I never do learn. Except that the spark that I carry sure seemed precious when the fingerhold snapped away for a moment.