Written Tuesday, 9 August to Friday, 12 August:
So today I finally found a direct route between the trailer house and the north side of the little peninsula on which I live. Up ‘til now, my exploration of the north side has been limited to one trip, ‘cause getting there was a bit of a hassle, with a long busy road to walk down and (as far as I’ve seen so far) homogeneous urban sprawl to go through, but today, after skating to the east end of the peninsula and overshooting the ruins that were my goal, I found myself on the north side, having gone all the way around. I didn’t want to retrace my tracks the whole way back, and though I could see the route I took last time (with the busy road and the urban sprawl) from where I stopped to get some peanuts and a banana for a recharge, I wasn’t too hyped on the idea of going that far around Nakagusuku Bay only to follow a concrete-hot, car-loud road. So I decided to shoot for this goal I’ve been playing with for a while, and search for a route back up to the ridge where I live that goes direct from the shore on the north side. There isn’t one on my touristy guide map, so I looked up the hill for what seemed like the most promising spot (things that might be guardrails peeking through the trees, buildings high up the slope), and started walking (skating where it was flattish). I got higher and higher, each time I could still see road ahead after a turn giving me more hope, and cars kept coming down the hill toward me, and when I saw a little van with the logo of a restaurant on the south side of the ridge come my way, I felt pretty confident—and it worked! I came out just east of the two windmills that I can see from the trailer house, not ten minutes’ skate from my front door! This should facilitate further—more specifically, faster—exploration of the north side, for which I am glad. Also, the route up the hill was pretty cool—very steep, steep enough that they groove the road for traction, and mostly farms and forest. Quite mellow. Victory!
Other collected thoughts from the last couple days:
It seems like it might feel really good to be a gecko. You walk around with your silky wrinkly body swishing against everything around you, step-slithering your thin-skinned lithe belly up walls and around corners and over ledges like you’re being stroked wherever your nimble-toed self goes.
Two boys and their mom came for a ride the other morning at the farm. Afterwards, I walked around the field with the boys as they caught bugs with a net and plastic case (inago is a kind of grasshopper, kometsuki-mushi is a click bug (kometsuki is the motion of flailing rice to separate the edible part from the rest, I think, and mushi means insect)). For being as interested in bugs as the older one was, he didn’t seem to have much care for them as beings: he handled them roughly, heavy-fingered, as if they were coins or pebbles. Squeezed them like bus fare into his little plastic box. I ripped up some grass and other little plants and put them in so the mushi would have something to eat.
I’m getting more time off! The farm’s profile on the WWOOF Japan website noted that volunteers here would work more than the standard WWOOF 30-hour week, but I never figured they meant the 55 to 60-some hour weeks that I’ve been doing. So I asked Hime-san if I could have more time to go exploring around the area—one of my big reasons for coming here—and she said yes! When there aren’t customers scheduled to ride, I get to leave, giving me half-days and whole days off! This Wednesday, the morning was the weekly lesson for a group of kids, but the afternoon was mine! I wandered down the hill, found a waterfall I’d seen from the car, went down near the shore, poked around this concert hall, saw some ruins (I think…?), found a free lock and key on the ground (rusty, but some WD-40 should fix it up), and ate a tasty apple. And what’s more, since it’s usually dark pretty soon after work’s been ending, I’ve mostly just been skatin’ for my commute each day, not truly making good on the “Dirty Wheels” part of this beast’s name except some times on my single day off per week. So now, with the new free-time paradigm, I shall go for to ramble.
Whoa, wait it’s August! Wow. Like, I knew it was the month after July, but seeing it written out, it just kinda jumped at me—it’s really here! And furthermore, I’m posting this on the first day of the second half of my stay—there’s officially more behind me than in front, and not just ‘cause riding’s toning my butt (it’s not, actually, at least not as far as I know). I feel good about the second half—now that I’ve got more time to explore with, I think it’s gonna be closer to what I came here hoping for.
A note to all omnivores who might at any point serve food to vegans and/or vegetarians: Sometimes we (veg*ns) hear things like “Oh, we’ll order one pizza for everybody, and you can just pick the sausage off,” or “Yeah, the whole thing was cooked with fish in it, but I took it out of yours—if I missed any, just eat around it.” I can’t speak for everyone, but for many of us, that is so not how it works. So wildly, utterly, completely not the way it works. I haven’t yet come up with a really good analogy, but the rough one I’ve got is this: imagine you’re buying a house, and the seller tells you “So, there was a grisly triple homicide here ten years ago, but don’t worry—it was in the basement, not any of the bedrooms, so it’s chill.” Think about it: we (a lot of us, anyway) see killing and eating animals as torture and murder and eating dead bodies. The fact that the bits of the corpse that used to be in my food have been picked out doesn’t keep the taste of them off of the rest of the dish, doesn’t keep the fluids that once pulsed through that being’s body from being all the fuck over my rice. That shit is still there, and that shit is not food. And if we, in situations where we don’t want to cause offense or a hassle (like traveling in other countries) queasily pick our way through what we’ve been served, and realize too late that we missed something in the bite we just took, we goddamn well don’t like it. And if we’re not so concerned about causing offense or a hassle, sometimes we just don’t get dinner—or we’re told “You can eat the salad!” Yeah, ‘cause people who have trouble finding adequate protein and fat in mainstream cooking every damn day really want another plate of iceberg and onions. None of those options is good. Many of y’all omnivores are well aware of this and hella considerate, but in case you weren’t: be aware. And tell your friends. “Pick it out” is a terrible approach. If you were chilling with some cannibals, and they told you “just pick it out,” you wouldn’t like it. It’s like that. And though actual body parts are the worst (for me anyway), “pick it out is nonsense” still very much applies to milk products, eggs and honey. Also, I’m thinkin’ the same is true for many people with food allergies. And in their case the consequences could be much worse: “Just pick the peanuts out!” “If I miss one, I will die.” And even a milder allergy can leave somebody’s stomach fucked up and them in miserable agony for the rest of the night. A related concept, for veg*ns and folks with allergies alike: “Oh, there’s only a little bit of [untenable ingredient] in it, it’s okay.” Not gonna fly, buddies—not gonna fly. Likewise, vegetables grilled on the same part of the grill as animals without cleaning it first. Please speak up if you notice any variant on these situations about to go down—we will be so very grateful. And lastly, my upset tone is not meant to be accusatory or derisive, but rather to convey the frustration and pain that goes along with this issue.
The other night, there was a party at the farm—a bunch of Ma-kun’s friends all came and there was food and laughing and little kids. Since Kondo-san, one of the guests, is a musician, Ma-kun said I should bring my guitar, and maybe we’d each play a bit. Kondo-san forgot her instrument (she plays something called a kalimba (no idea of the proper spelling, sorry), which as I understand it is similar to an mbira, with the metal tines you play with your thumbs), but I was encouraged to go ahead and play anyway. I was nervous, but I did it! It’s the first time I’ve played guitar publicly outside of the awesome but extremely forgiving Indigo Bridge Open Mic. Granted, a culture renowned for its extreme politeness is probably not gonna make for the toughest crowd either, but still—it was the first time I’ve played in front of mostly strangers, and it went okay! I may’ve been wildly off-key, I’m not sure (I often am), but it felt alright, and overall, it went down fine. East Bay Night by Rancid and Wildwood Flower by the Carter Family. Other interesting stuff at the party: the super-drunk potter who was soooooo amped about the fact that my name is Castro, and kept insisting that I look like Che Guevara. He kept standing up and putting his hands on my shoulders or holding my chin and patting my cheek really hard. There was also his friend, also a potter, and a saxophonist too, with whom I chatted in half-English half-Japanese about jazz, sweet potatoes, Obon (a Japanese tradition honoring the dead that’s about to start), and the American military-industrial complex. Those topics make it sound like we were able to get a lot deeper into our subject matter than we actually were, though—his English was better than my Japanese, but not better enough that we could speak with much nuance (although his comment that Japanese music has very little improvisation because musicians lack feeling (I think that’s what he said) was very interesting—I wish we could’ve talked more about that). Too, Kondo-san’s daughter and her fiancee were there, and her fiancee is an American soldier. We talked about skating (he shortboards), he said he makes beats, and he was gonna freestyle for the guests after I played guitar, but he felt too put-on-the-spot to get into it. He’s a nice guy—we exchanged numbers, and might hang out some time before I go (maybe swap boards a little bit and ride…?).
Speaking of skating, check out this video. It’s the beginning of Long Treks On Skate Decks: Morocco,the second long-distance longboard voyage by distance-skating heroes Adam, Paul and Aaron. The first trip, through Peru and Bolivia, resulted in a super-rad series of videos, also on youtube (highly recommended viewing, even if you don’t skate), and this new trip just started being posted.
I’ve been thinkin’ that what I’ve believed for a few years now, that our species is currently so nastily socialized that we probably aren’t ready for anarchy yet and should have a few generations of detoxifying socialism first, is wrong. I think we should just go for anarchy. I was thinking that to say people “aren’t ready” for it is perhaps no less insulting than capitalists with profit to gain from exploiting poor countries saying those countries’ populations “aren’t ready” for democracy, ‘cause both share the idea that some people aren’t ready or worthy to decide their own fates or guide their own lives, and that someone else should get to call the shots. And that’s not cool. Certainly we have a lot of bullshit to work through on the way to something healthy, but we can do a pretty good job of working through bullshit when we put our minds to it. There’s no reason every person on this earth can’t understand every other person’s inherent worth, and act with compassion and respect toward them—it may be a difficult point to get to, but it is possible. People with all the reason in the world to hate each other have made peace time and again throughout history, so we definitely have it in us. Why wait?