Hot, Hot, Hot.

animal-instinct

Having recently moved in to a teeny Tokyo tiny one bedroom studio apartment in Darlinghurst– my world– as is my preference– is now without a television. It was not until I returned back to Newcastle on Monday just passed that I became fully aware of the extent to which the Australian state of Victoria has been completely ravaged over the past weekend.

http://www.redcross.org.au

Old news now, of course, but pertinent still in some respects.

A powerful display of animal instinct was shown across my nation this last weekend past. I am always moved by images of koalas gulping water from the sea or kangarros en mas diving in to the ocean to escape the heat. Whether I’m living in Oz or elsewhere, these sorts of images always throw me. As do those of people whom have lost their homes.

My mothers house burned down when she was a young girl and as such, this sense of loss and devastation has always been firmly planted in my psyche. I don’t pretend to know what the loss of every single earthly belonging is like– though I do feel, for good reason– that I have a fair idea of how it must feel… perhaps more so than your common punter watching the news.

All of this aside, there have been some conspiracy theories arising over the past week regarding all the “deliberately lit” bush fires in Victoria and the timeliness of it all. I don’t know how you feel about this, or if anyone you know and/or care for was injured in anyway over the weekend, but… there are some that are arguing the whole ordeal might well have been avoided.

For example, the army and help from other states (and SAS troops, etc.) was not called upon until the final hour, though there had been observations and predictions of things turning pear-shaped well in advance. The army, some say, could have been asked on the very first day of the fires (C. Friday before last) to get water tanks from the cooler states down to Victoria pronto. The towns themselves could have performed preventative back burns as the temperatures soared (much like they do every year on the F3 dividing Newcastle and Sydney).

A large percentage of the fatalities were of people whom died in their vehicles trying to flee. Assumedly the evacuation bodies that be must not have secured roads– usually the main entry exit from towns is secured first, leaving the priority to be getting people out safely– In this instance that wasn’t the case. Odd.

I have it from a source also that police were on the ground doing photo ops. when one would think this would be a time to be negotiating and strategising, i.e. making shit happen.

All of this, quite curiously comes at a time of it comes at a time of very low employment, and hit hardest have been the towns where people are predominantly on some sort of Centerlink payment. The $0.5 a billion insurance companies now need to pay out will be used to stimulate employment. Those who are now homeless are left with nothing. People are going to have to buy everything, EVERYTHING, which in turn will stimulate cash flow for the economy, no?

I’m fairly certain myself that a lot of cash is now going to be sunk in to fire prevention and everyone will get lots of pats on the back.

All of this quite timely too in that over the past week many ‘unaffected’ citizens have began proferring their promised $950 from the Rudd government as a donation to those who have lost their homes and livlihoods over the weekend.

Whats happened is sad, devastating and horrific. Why it has happened is arguably criminal.

——————-

And Germaine, at the weekend, always pipping me at the gate:

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/australian-authorities-arsonists-germaine-greer-20090213-86h7.html

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Tattoos and Fools.

atarzasuwarazuonna no joukaWhy cancer? Why a sunset?

It has recently been brought to my attention that tattoos, largely, in this culture, are for people other than ones self.

I had forgotten this, you see.

Stupidly, as my first tattoo was gleaned, after much thought, during my schoolies week in Byron C.2000.

Lucky for me I got it right. Kanji as permanent ink ANYWHERE outside of Asia is risky business. Note to self. My first brandishing was on the back of my neck so, not only did I seldom think of it, or see it, I was also sporting long hair at the time, and was thus, seldom asked what my ‘tattoo meant.’

That was then.

Moving to Tokyo in 2001 added some insult to injury in so far as I was
a: all of a sudden surrounded by people who do not celebrate tattoos

and

b: sporting a couple of kanji on the back of my neck.

onnna no jouka

which I did not know how to pronounce in 2000 means, loosely, ‘a woman of words.’

‘A Lady Writer’ an ex would explain.

Though ‘jouka’ in nihongo refers more to scripture, or calligraphy, or painting than writing. Though to caligraphise is to write. Right?

Long hair eradicates these sorts of conversations.

Then there were two more.

Tattoos that is.

The Stevie J Spears quote came to me quietly one Saturday afternoon on the loo, reading the paper.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/arts/playwright-loses-his-cancer-struggle/2007/10/16/1192300766967.html

I’d spent, you see, the best part of a year in Melbourne trying my darndest to get on top of my health, in addition to completing an MA full time in Creative Media while working part time writing reports for a forensic psychiatrist on Colllins St. I was busy. Real busy, but finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate and/or write. This was pissing me off.

It was during this time that I found myself somewhat spell bound by the state of my health. With the luxury of time for the first time since Tokyo I began to pay particular heed to all things My Body.

Much to my detriment… I remain convinced.

Things got worse, as I have detailed in my book.

Much worse.

Riding a bike became an impossibility, a tall order from a city cyclist from way back.

My testosterone continued to soar despite the detoxing– no drinking, no smoking, no indulging– way of life.

I wanted to fuck everything.

Anything.

The two days leading up to my period rendered me bed-bound. Fatigued. Pained. OD-ing on nurofen and marijuana.

After my first ’30 Day Bikram Challenge’ I gave up the dope and the nurofen. Even the vino.

My cycle, while having been regular now for years, continued to be a pain in the fucking ass.

Days off work.
Days spent somewhat unproductive at work despite the hold on things.

The odd day off here and there, due largely to the fact I could not fucking move. Function. Get out of bed. To work. To do anything really. It was nasty. You get the point.

I remember how hard it was to juggle the morning around at work to get time off enough to go and see a specialist. I remember how I felt sitting in the waiting room, amongst so many happy photos of new mothers and fathers with their babies. I remember the look on my gynecologists face when she said ‘endometriosis. I remember how I well I slept that same night after bikram.

I remember clearly, the two weeks after the fact, in between appointments. I remember feeling very much like the hypochondriacal virgo… but still… now old enough to trust my instincts enough to live my them.

I remember feeling, ultimately, like I had cancer.

The clinic I went to have my ‘interior ultrasound’ was silent and cold as I entered. Despite the May Melbourne song.

I was tired and scared when the sonographer stared up at the screen and made a little “hmm…” sound with her pursed lips.

She tried to disguise saying anything more as she forced the plastic penis higher up into my pelvis, nudging my internal organs (and that mandatory 5L of water one must consume prior to said procedure) up and harder then they’ve ever had to make room for in the past.

“See this?” She said, as she rammed the object hard and up into my uterus… “This is not good.”

I had had, by this stage, some 5 or so internal ultrasounds, all of which, ‘not good.’

I could recognise foreign objects and had an inkling to what she might say.

”This is a tumor Alexandra. This has to be removed.”

I dressed slowly and quietly. I will not cry. I don’t know what it is about hospital gowns but they just make me want to fucking burst out in tears. Every time. They do. And I did. Quietly. With some sense of decorum. Still tears. Still real tears. And lots of them.

Pulling myself together I gathered myself and headed out of the change rooms and out in to the waiting room. “Alexandra Coffey” I said to the lady at the desk, keeping my head bowed, trying to not let on I’d been crying so hard.

“$360.85” she said as she handed the invoice across the desk.
“Yeah, sure” I replied, phoning my dad.

My dads phone didn’t answer. I left a voice message. “Just had an ultrasound. Need your credit card digits. Tar. Tar.”

(beep. beep. beep. beep.)

The nurse who had performed the ultrasound walked up behind the woman at the desk, whispered something in her ear, and then left the room. The woman at the desk reprinted the bill as an invoice and told me I could pay it at a later date.

I then proceeded to walk through the Fitzroy Gardens with a belly full of grief. I sobbed audibly. A young mother saw me and ushered her kids away from the pond and off home, away from me. I spent forever watching the ducks, looking up at the trees. Searching for any kind of sign. Anything. Nothing. Anything. It was cold and eventually it rained which seemed fitting.

Upon returning home to my sharehouse abode, I didn’t have the heart to inform my flatmates.

So I didn’t.

For days.

I launched in to Over Drive.

I phoned family specialists. Wrote letters. Posted blogs. All but begged to have my tentative surgery date set forward from 12 months– to 3-ish months– from now.

I received an email from my specialist in Newcastle some 24 hours later. No small feat. Offering me a tentative surgery date a month from the day. Perfect.

Things had been shonky and strange between my boss and I since day one so… I went about battening down the hatchets in others ways: Home. Freelance gigs. Bills. Overheads. My boss and I had gotten in to a rather grand argument the day before I was due to fly out over his luddite ways– He had this ridiculous dial up system that he’d use intermittently throughout the day to check “how the horses were going.” This would tie up the land line I was supposed to be using to schedule appointments and return calls regarding reports and court proceedings. This slowed me down… constantly… and pissed me off no end. He’d yell and rant and rave about my not getting enough done and the pain in my pelvis would always get worse. I began to wonder if it was psychosomatic. I think most pain is. Needless to say I never really felt safe enough to confide in him, so I didn’t. I just sent him an email.

I had promised myself, a year earlier, you see, on the back lawn of my place in North Melbourne, that if things didn’t get better. Didn’t change. Then I could top myself.

Fair and square.

That seemed fair.

All of this aside, I now find myself in a position where by things have not gotten better. BUT THEY HAVE CHANGED.

A stickler for semantics. I wait.

Have the surgery,

Undergo 9 months of subsequent treatment and find myself
on a toilet
in Melbourne
reading The Age
and thinking
thinking about Stevie J Spears.

———

I make myself some pesto neapolitana from scratch.
I boil some gluten free pasta.
I refill my glass of vino.
I roll a cigarette.

———

http://www.smh.com.au/news/arts/playwright-loses-his-cancer-struggle/2007/10/16/1192300766967.html

———

I am yet so find a direct link to the exact article I read. Though I have tried.

———

Why cancer? Why a sunset?

He concludes.

———-

I moved in with my sister and her partner as I began my treatment in October last year. We invited a 4th party to share the rent as I was not working and overheads were high.

He, a musician, and I spoke wildly by moonlight about words and poets and Stevie J Spears and my health. Sacred times. Special times.

By the time he moved out I’d decided what I needed to have tattooed on my left wrist.

My left wrist because:
a) I peruse it when I write songs on my guitar, and when I gig. When I play.
b) My left wrist because it can be easily disguised by a watch or bangle when it comes time to be employed.
c) My left wrist because the decision was ‘left brained.’
d) and my wrist because, confronting as it sounds, I’d tried slicing that bad boy once before and had not felt a thing. I wanted the tattoo to hurt. I believe it was Amy Winehouse who said that tattoos are a way of suffering for the things you believe in. God bless her little cotton sox.

——–

And then there were three:

I’d been living in Tokyo for 2 years before I left. Left due to ill health. A wee bit of surgery and a little longer spent recovering than I’d anticipated.

Some 3 months turned in to 9.

I found myself dreaming wildly in Japanese.

Weirdly. Oddly. Wildly. Somewhat completely fucking fluently in Japanese.

Dreams of fishing and consciousness.

Dreams of articulate fucking… and politics.

And of a level of fluency I had never gained in situ.

And of subject matter that confounded me.

One of such dreams found me waking, running, swimming, organic tee-totaling, juicing and then referencing my phrase book:

atara zasu wa ra zu.

No real leads.

I darted off an email to a clever, linguistic friend in Tokyo.

‘nani doishi ta no?’

She replied with a fairly well rounded, ‘I’ve got nothing.’

And so I continued.

To figure out this puzzle of a puzzle.

I asked virtually everyone I would meet.

I relocated back to Tokyo and began my search. Not entirely for this reason, though in part.

I met and I asked. I met and I asked some more.

Finally, I found myself perched well up high on a bench seat in Yoyogi-koen, C. 2004.
Some Canadian friends of mine with portable turntables had suggested a picnic with tunes and guitars. I’d been invited and so obliged. And we played. For hours. Just played and played.

A homeless guy came and joined us.

(Refer to my ‘High & Low’ blog on nihonjin homeless… I digress…)

We offered him a beer and he played a song on my guitar about his mother, whom, from his lyrics, I gleaned, had orphaned him as a boy.

My Canadian friend invited him to play another song.

He did.

The conversation then somehow turned to what we all did for a crust. We all exchanged anecdotes as he began the story of how he came to be living in Yoyogi-koen. The park, not the chome.

Knowing so many of these cats live in the parks of Tokyo for reasons based purely on fiscal shame… I was curious as to what this cat had to say.

He began to explain, my lover at the time, somewhat of a Tokyo based-Seattle born rock star of sorts began to translate for the Canadians and the Australians amongst us.

The homeless man intercepted.

“No, no, I wanting Alek-u-su to say fings for me, ne?”

So I did.

Surprised by his request, I began to explain, to the best of my linguistic abilities, the story of this mans fucking life… in Japanese.

I was only just drunk. As was he. Surrounded by friends and music in the park, mid-summer Tokyo. A beautiful sight.

He spoke of the Japanese mans fantasy. And of Tokyo Disney. And of being an orphan. And of being made redundant and of choosing to live in the park. This park. He spoke for a long time and I did my very best to translate his story perfectly. And then when he’d stopped speaking. Then when it was all over Sandy, my Canadian friend popped another record on his turn table and he and I, the homeless guy and I, began to talk, quietly, seriously.

I turned to him after some time and asked… atara zasu wa ra zu… what does that mean to you?

He stared at me long and hard for what seemed like an age, before asking, how do you know that?

“nani wakaru doishita no ne?”

“I dreamt it.”

“Hmm.”

He grunted.

Eventually adding, atara zasu wa ra zu is old school samurai speak… meaning to forget those who disrespect you.

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David Horvitz.

David Horvitz.

A good friend of mine in New York sent me a link to this site this morning: http://davidhorvitz.tumblr.com/page/1

I’ve just had a good read, and then, just now, another re-read and have grown fascinated by this guy– David Horvitz that is– not my friend in NYC. (Tehehe).

I think a lot of the ideas contained in his blog will have been executed by many of you before. Though many will not have. And that’s the point. I think this is an awesome experiment in all matters serotonin and navigating your way around the ol Black Dog.

Have a gander and let me know your thoughts. I intend to print this out and keep it in my bathroom.

An early morning mantra, if you will.

I also think that not too dissimilarly to what Michel Gondry is doing with his community film making in Brooklyn– this idea– as a culture will really take off. I was fortunate enough to see something similar at the New York Book Fair last October. Well worth checking out if ever you are in town.

There are absolutely no parameters to how big or inventive these sorts of pursuits can be for the individual and the community.

So get cracking kids. And write. And photograph. And blog. And post. And exhibit. And enjoy the rain.

Links:

More of David Horvitz.

http://www.gadling.com/2008/03/16/exclusive-interview-with-world-traveler-2-0-david-horvitz/

Michel Gondry dissects his ‘Be Kind Rewind Protocol.’

http://www.aintitcool.com/node/39226

Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artists Way.’

http://www.theartistsway.com/

The New York Book Fair.

http://www.nyartbookfair.com/about.php

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By Far The Coolest Thing I Did In NYC.

dscf2454By far the coolest thing I did in New York.
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29 December 2008 at 12:43 | Edit Note | Delete

On a recent trip to New York city I had the rousing fortune of happening across an advert in the New York Times advertising a Christopher Hitchens debate on the upper west side.

Circling the time/date/location I made a mental (as well as physical note) to get thine ass to said presentation on the eve in question.

As the days passed I found myself somewhat perturbed by the subway line on the west side, and as such, often lost or left roaming. All well in good when you’ve no place to be in a hurry. A bloody nightmare if you’re exhausted and keep nodding off on board, missing your stop, losing the address of your hotel, for example., etc.

I digress.

It was a Tuesday evening and I had resigned myself, after some 3 hours of missing my stop and ending up in Brooklyn with tired feet and a brain full of Champix, to the fact that I would perhaps, in such a state, be incapable of dealing with the added stress of finding yet another location on the west side and so, instead opted for a dirty martini at a local jazz house and an early night.

It was at this little hole in the wall establishment that I asked for a table to myself in a corner some place where I would not be poached by anyone out on the Dating Prowl.

I find this funny about New York. I used to think Sex In The City was a sitcom. Its not. Its a fairly accurate representation of a culture obsessed with dating and absolutely terrified of solitude, or so at least it seems to me… Again, I digress.

The doorman insisting that perhaps I would be more “comfortable” sitting on my own at the bar greeted me with a rather opposing sense of pity. “I actually wouldn’t mind hiding to be honest” was my response. To which he laughed and informed me that “…physical bars, like tables, also have corners.”

And so there I was seated. Happy hour. Fabulous. Somewhat exposed but open to the arrangement.

Seated to my right was an older gentleman with a book and a martini, to my left a middle-aged Jewish woman. Overhearing me place my order with the bar tender, she, the middle-aged jewish woman with the red wine lent in toward me and said, “Australian?” And from there things flew naturally and unequivocally. I liked her.

She like the dirty martini and the establishment and to a large degree the Jewish population of NYC seemed fairly fabulous. We clicked almost immediately. “I don’t really like people,” she added. “I don’t really like pretending someone is riveting when they’re not. You know a lot of people are really not that interesting at all.” She continued. Eventually asking me what my plans were for the rest of the evening.

New Yorkers, it seems, always make plans. Have plans. Keep plans. Lots of plans. Talk about their plans. This seems to be what they do. So this was of course, when I mentioned to her the Christopher Hitchens debate with a very well known local rabbi (whose name I have forgotten and am unable to locate– and would be delighted if if anyone knows or can come to know the the debate I speak of or the Synagogue on the lower west side I’m referring to– the worlds largest (or at least wealthiest) Synagogue I am told. Any takers?

The woman sitting next to me at the bar looks at me gob smacked at this stage. “You know about that? How do you know about that? You’re not Jewish? Are you Jewish? No. How do you know about that? Thats where I’m heading after I finish my vino. Would you care to join me?”

Perfect.

So off we sauntered into the night. Me with the luxury of observing my surrounds rather than having to navigate and survive– her talking wildly about New York city and all things Christopher Hutchins. Good times.

The particular debate that I attended, to my knowledge, was not recorded, or at least I am unable to locate it online. Here is a debate of his with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of a very, very similar nature.

Enjoy. As I did.

halal.

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Running Out of Steam:

I am co-hosting the Arts program on ABC Radio (Newcastle) this coming Friday July 4th. Being a one-off opportunity I have wanted to make it special.

My initial thoughts were to base the program around my music and the music of some pretty talented cats I call friends. However, I found myself attending a support group meeting a fortnight ago that somewhat changed the general direction of what I had foreseen, if only in my minds eye.

I have written a fair bit about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. A lot of it no one has read for various reasons.  With the exception of course, of my professor Antoni Jach who has very generously issued me with a month extension on my exegesis– I’m inclined to believe, partly for this very reason. (Oh and I have just been reprimanded– With the exception, also, of my Novel Writing class @ RMIT)–

PCOS swallows you whole. Leaves you with little but a running narrative from everyone else who has no idea what they’re talking about.

The majority of my experience with this particular condition has been solitary. Prior to joining the support group I’d not met a single soul who understood what I was talking about when I worked up the courage to explain myself and “my condition.”

I was living in Tokyo when my father sent me the following link: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/enoughrope/transcripts/s1433225.htm

It would be 2 years before I managed to get my hands on a copy of the interview from the ABC AV archives in the RMIT Library.

Juli Stopp is a pretty cool chick and then it hit me like a tonne of bricks during this PCOS support group meeting that perhaps what I needed to talk about on the radio show was not so much myself or my own ego but about something that consumes us all. Perhaps rather than sitting in a room surrounded by women trying to conceive I should get off my own ass and conceive something much less egotistical. That’s where Juli comes in.

Tracking her down was no easy feat. Through a series of searches and a couple of phone calls I made some contacts who made some other contacts, then– I had a text message sitting in my mobile phone 48 hours later from none other than Ms. Stopp.

My fear of phones has often seen me miss out on various opportunities as I struggle to work up the courage to dial a number. Though, thats another story. What eventuated from this phone call last week was a conversation that lasted well over an hour. A conversation I’m not sure I’ve ever actually had. A simpatico. Finally.

The following link is somewhat unrelated in subject matter, though for me, the point is clear. We run out of steam. We chose everyday whether we’re interested in riding it out and throwing it all in. Managing any kind of illness is a full time job. I suppose what I’m getting at is that phone conversation last week and possibly the opportunity to re-invent the Medical Wheel– insofar– as sexing up a long heralded ugly beast– is, from my vantage point, a trajectory worth surviving. A story worth telling. A bloody good read.

So tune in: http://www.abc.net.au/newcastle/

Friday July 4th 0800-1100hrs EST

And this from Finn: http://www.health-science-spirit.com/iodine.html

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Bill Fucking Henson

Well.

I struggle.

Like this.

I do.

With a great number of things.

Let me first begin with the subject of “art.”

I am a Novocastrian by birth. By trade. By class. There are a number of things about this that piss me off. Naturally.

I was, this eve, just now, bouncing around at my local watering hole when at long last the subject turned to all matters Bill Henson.

It was, of course, announced, last night on Media Watch: http://www2b.abc.net.au/tmb/Client/Message.aspx?b=33&m=3230&dm=1&pd=2&am=3230

that the Newcastle Herald were the DASHING media publication that pipped the cops off on all things “pornographic” re: Henson’s latest gallery showing.

Well.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/arts/models-mother-defends-henson/2008/05/29/1211654225893.htm

It’s tricky for me, for a number of reasons, to write, in the way I’d like to.

My health brought me back to Australia (from Tokyo). And my culture renders me in an environment where I’m having these conversations. I think Newcastle has A LOT of things going for it. But to be frank, I find these “pub discussions”– the same I’ve had in a great number of cities throughout the world– dull as fuck

This is why:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/2048325/Cate-Blanchett-joins-art-censorship-row-in-Australia.html

and this is why:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Henson

We. As Australians are big flat brown nation of people that CONTINUE to be the most opiniated while having the LEAST amount of information.

More of this later:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2002/10/16/do1601.xml

Fuck I miss my expatriates.

My Americans.

My artists.

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chikansen

The Japanese rape fantasy:

 

I’d been working at Tokyo’s leading English magazine—Metropolis—for a good 6 months when I was approached to write a feature about the recently opened venue in Shinjuku– The chikansen.

 

The title being a play on words—a rarity in the Japanese language—a chikan is the colloquial term given to “train gropers”, men with a penchant for boarding crowded trains and pressing hard against unsuspecting women and well, groping them. The remainder of the term makes reference to the shinkansen, or bullet train. 

 

I need to make a few points here about the chikan culture in Japan, Tokyo specifically, as the majority of my experiences during the 4 years I spent living there were of course, in Tokyo and Tokyo, in my opinion at least is somewhat juxtaposed to the rest of Japan. The chikan culture is so entrenched there that it’s not really something you often here people speaking about, so much so, it often goes largely ignored. A nation of those wanting to “keep the peace” renders most victims of anything mute.

 

One such example comes to mind. I was riding the tube home from work, a 13 minute express journey from Tokyo eki (station) to Shinkoiwa eki. The express train is always crowded, to say the least, and of course crowded in the Japanese sense… none of this oh boo hoo I’ve not enough room to rest my feet on the opposing seat.

 

On this particular occasion a chikan was pressing quite forcefully into a young woman standing with her mother. The girl, in typical Japanese etiquette was rising above it—ganbaru. Her mother also adhering true to her own culture was doing much the same—overcoming “the inconvenience.” As the chikan pressed his body harder and harder into the young woman’s she lowered her head, lower and lower, her mother asking intermittently, “daijabu desu ka? daija bu?” Are you ok? Still ok?

 

What has always struck me so profoundly about this phenomenon is the degree to which this kind of behavior is tolerated. Accepted, seemingly. The Japanese are such grand advocators of “rising above” the obstacle, the challenge, the hardship. I guess Western post-feminist culture approaches things from a silently different angle, and as such, I would often find myself reaching a point of no return. In this particular instance I did what anyone would do in a position of power—I pushed back. Hard. Repeatedly. It’s also important to understand how much of this is all so below the belt, under rug swept, so fucking Japanese. You can inflict a great deal of pain on someone standing right next to you in a crowded train without anyone noticing. Sharp elbows, spiky umbrella tips speared into the shoe of an unsuspecting chikan. Anything goes as long as no one notices. There are Japanese women I have known that do this. Not many though.

 

This kind of chikan encounter has happened to me on several occasions; it seldom lasts long, however. I’ve always been exceptionally strong for a woman and exceptionally intolerant of this kind of carry-on. The Japanese are always going to be staring at you so why not give them something to stare at? It may seem arrogant but this kind of change happens slowly and just like fashion, it only takes one person to pull of a feather fedora for the next to think they could emulate the exact same kind of look. For the first few years of my time in Tokyo I was convinced I could change the place in some little way. The slow trickle down effect. Cultural mores, however, are so entrenched that it was during my 3rd year in the City of T that I came to the conclusion that in order to see any real feminist revolution could take a life time and I’d always kind of had my heart set on living somewhere fabulous in Spain and being celebrated for all that I am, rather than criticized for all that I am not.

 

Which leads me to my next anecdote, but first let me tie up the whole notion of the chikansen.

 

Basically my editor was asking me to go and review this restaurant that had opened—the premise of the establishment being a simulated train venue where by over worked and under sexed salary men could pay 20,000 yen ($US200) to spend an evening riding this makeshift train, the waitresses posing as unsuspecting passengers, ripe for the unwelcome advances of the sexually repressed sarary man.

 

Great.

 

I invite you now to reflect on a scenario I found myself in several years ago in Nishi-Azabu, a rather funky little district of Tokyo (a stones throw from the red light district of Roppongi)—think models and actors and me and my Australian flat mate. To back track briefly my flat mate and I had been flogging Soccer t-shirts during the World Cup in Japan. Looking the way we did meant we made a fucking killing—some 500,000 yen ($US5K) during the grand final game in Yokohama. The stout little English man who’d been distributing these t-shirts had initially asked for a 10% cut of the takings. Upon hearing we’d done as well as we did he deemed it only fair to up the stakes. My flat mate and I spoke with great diplomacy initially, explaining that it was us who’d earnt the additional keepings, not the product itself. Reluctant to accept such a fate the relationship grew rather tumultuous rather quickly. Myself being the more dominant of the two had found that the task of “negotiating” was left largely up to me and he.

 

Leaving Roppongi (where she worked) somewhat tidily one evening my flat mate returned to our apaato (apartment) with the news that he, the stout Englishman had followed her home and now knew where we lived.

 

Great.

 

So begun the lengthy, laborious process of him arriving on our doorstep with vast regularity, pounding at the door, and demanding we give him “his money.”

 

I had, at the time, been learning some 82 Disney songs (for a role I’d nailed with Tokyo Disney) and thus, found myself turning my Disney CDs up to an unacceptable volume (by Tokyo standards) to drown out the sound of being abused by someone who, by this stage, was well out of line.

 

An awkward audition (The Tokyo Disney gig was never going to be a sure deal until I’d shown the advisory board that I could perform all 82 songs without deliberation or mistake—a process which, in itself, took some 3 months). So that kind of pressure and a few other stressors caused my flat mate and I to drink to excess one evening. Not “excess” by Australian binge drinking standards but a bottle each in the midst of a scorching Asian summer. This kind of heat drives you quite mad in next to no time. The thought of wearing clothes, for example is incomprehensible once in the safe confines of your own apaato. So we seldom did. Wear clothes, or answer the door.

 

It was my cigarette addiction that drove me to pop my mamma-chari (typical Japanese bicycles replete with basket) into the elevator, down to the bottom floor where I found myself, as I mounted the bike, confronted by none other than Mr. Nasty.

 

What happened next happened quickly and abruptly.

 

I was called a great number of unmentionables before being hit squarely in the face. The blow knocked me square off my bicycle as my head landed hard on the nearby bus stop post. I recall black but who ever really has any real idea of how long they are unconscious for? I came to, stood up and stared at the man long enough for him to feel some kind of remorse, or at least that’s what his face indicated.

 

What struck me most about this scenario, more than the blow to the head, and my now non-existent ego was/is that by the bus stop stood a procession of people, of all ages, waiting for a bus to arrive. People, who just stood there, watched the whole scenario play out and did sweet fuck all.

 

This is Japan.

 

Under rug swept.

 

The way adults look away when a child falls. If we don’t make eye contact maybe the child won’t cry. This is the rationale.

 

Though, I’m not a child and this kind of behavior is completely incomprehensible, in any culture, according to me.

 

I returned to my apartment that evening somewhat shaken and somewhat enraged. A Japanese girlfriend of mine arrived shortly after and accompanied me to the local koban (police box—on most street corners in Tokyo) to file a report. We spent some 3 hours at the station early that morning. The police officers photocopying everything from my passport to my gaijin (alien registration) card, to my VISA to a transcript of the interview. They asked me all manner of questions and seemed to be taking the whole thing a lot more seriously than I’d anticipated. My first real foray into the Japanese obsession with paperwork, details. questions, signatures and more paperwork.

 

I phoned the Australian embassy later that same day to update them on the situation and to seek further counsel. They insisted I come into the embassy in person the following day for an interview.

 

“You have three options Alexandra Coffey. The first being you pay this gentleman the money he deems owing and be done with the whole thing. The second option being you can file an AVO out on the man– which I must advise– is a pretty serious approach as an expatriate on a Working Holiday VISA. By doing this, as you would in Australia, he will not be able to come within 100m of your apartment or your person. He may also have great difficulty in securing any additional Visas for himself. The third and final option being you relocate back to Australia with a clean record and conscious. Entirely up to you.”

 

I could hardly breathe that day sitting in that interview room at the embassy. I didn’t want to play Good Cop/Bad Cop but I also didn’t want to be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my time in Japan. I’d never been struck by a man before and to say the least, it’d done somewhat of a number on my self esteem. So I opted for the AVO. The embassy also stated that they would be phoning the koban office where I had been interviewed to follow up on the report.

 

I received a phone call the following day from the embassy updating me on the progress of the report. “Your statement has been lodged on behalf of the Australian embassy. We have however, contacted Roppongi koban and discussed your interview and statement with them. Alexandra, unfortunately this is relatively common but they have absolutely no formal record of you ever attending the office, let alone making any formal statement in either English or Japanese.” My chest grew hard and heavy as it had done the day prior at the embassy. This was pretty serious shit. Suffice to say Mr. Nasty flew to Thailand a month later for a “VISA run” and upon return to Japan was refused entry for “no incited terms.” 

 

So somewhere in between the chikansen and the nasty man we find ourselves occupying a lot of grey area. Marijuana procession is a greater criminal offence in Japan than rape. I have far too many stories of this nature too. Later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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