Space Traveller

After 58 revolutions around the sun, I am a veteran space traveller. I am adjusting and improving. I used to like the old me better than I liked me old.

“Been there, done that.” I celebrate every new been then lament the done that it entails.

I’m old enough to allow myself moments of grumpiness. I complain about things breaking down, wearing out quickly. If I blame the quality then I am not getting older.

Vinyl, ha ha! VCR, ha ha! I imagine that some people need to Duck Duck what a tennis racket press is (what happened to the racket press makers?). I needed Wikipedia to understand the NeHi phenomenon.

During hockey season I would watch the second half of the 11 o’clock news to get the day’s scores. Afterwards, I would choose between the two classic movies.

I understand the significance of a Siemens clock in 60’s Hong Kong. I’d say I’m dating myself but the restaurants are closed.

There are a hundred times more TV stations now, none that sign-off. The shortage of anthems is not noticed, the jingoists have their own 24-hour channels.

I am not beyond self-pity. Everyone admits that they are not perfect but no one will admit to themselves that they are not otherwise superhuman. Age sometimes forces a few concessions.

Heels Over Head

I have decided I must be standing on my hands. Apparently after a while, my brain will adapt and I will again start seeing the world right-side-up.

The size of the hole in the bottom of the boat is negatively correlated to the time left before it sinks.

Who said governments are supposed to be busy doing things that the next government will undo before it starts its doings. Replacing a tyranny of the minority by a tyranny of the majority is forgetting that it was an attempt at a tyranny of the majority that made the tyranny of the minority so effective. Pendulums are wrecking balls.

I don’t ask questions that I know the answer to. I think I have most of the answers.

How do you define straight? Let’s start by agreeing that that screw is bent. I am hoping you wont notice that I haven’t asked you to specify the variety. It’s my just-in-case-we-disagree-that-that-banana-is-not-curved joker.

I don’t understand people who don’t understand.

Tastefully Tasty

I thought it had disappeared into history. It’s in a different neighbourhood and is now for sale. My hometown paper tells me so.

I am not going to say they are the best croissants I have ever had. Great is great. Golden brown, flaky and still warm from the oven. Butter flavour in the mouth, butter stains on the paper bag, and butter smell on the fingers. Once everything is right, the degrees of difference are too small to rank.

It is my reference croissant. They always got it right, you could smell them when you got near them and it is my earliest memory of what a really good croissant tastes like.

It was my mother’s best friend that taught me about them. Croissant sandwiches were the latest craze to hit the Vancouver food scene and I was complaining that they were made with flakeless buns in the shape of a croissant. My mother added that they were expensive, very, but the only place in town that knew how to make real French style pastry.

I became a regular that summer, by circumstance. I was working my first proper summer job (on the books with a pay slip) just around the corner from them. With money in pocket, I would often, after a sandwich lunch, grab breakfast for dessert. The bakery is one of the elements of my burning-the-candle-at-both-ends summer.

I have come to parrot my Mother’s opinion that the best French food can be found outside out of France. It is an unfair statement. There is a lot more average and bad French food in France but that is only because here it is not a specialty. My favourite croissants come from a place that also sells cheap crappy ones made with sunflower seed oil.

My nostalgia has been priced and I am tempted. I fantasize a moment then write my memories.

Time Square Arrival

July 8th, 1977, early morning, the San Francisco – New York Greyhound I’m riding pulls up to the bay. The door’s hydraulics do their call-response announcing a new batch of arrivals. I ignore the greetings and offers for help from the friendly strangers meeting the bus. Spotters looking for runaways. Fresh youth sells well.

Suitcase stored, I help some bus mates struggling with a locker’s instructions. I recognize them from their frequent trips to the bathroom. They laugh. One of them tells me I should have said something before: “We just finished splitting up the leftovers, almost an ounce.” Someone makes a joke about the bathroom problems only showing up once we had crossed into Nevada. Nostalgia for the paranoia free smoking in the back of the bus in laid-back California is shared. I am bluffing.

Port Authority smells of garbage. One of my acquaintances tells me I’m lucky there isn’t a garbage strike on.

We walk towards Times Square. Hustlers in front of the Skee ball, sex for sale in so many formats. Star Wars is playing at one the cinemas. He tells me I should go see it. It’s going to be the hit of the summer. He goes his way. Science Fiction is not my thing.

Signs announce LIVE sex shows. What is the thrill in watching people mechanically fucking?

Years later, a girlfriend wanted to go see the Amsterdam shows. “Research.” she said. Her latest get rich scheme, red light tours, is the excuse. I read reviews online. My curiosity did not extend to champagne scams run by performers that no longer qualify for video work.

Ricky is a few months older than me and, like me, passes for college age. He is a six foot tall Brazilian with dirty blond hair, light freckling, peach fuzz facial hair and who gave me the Chicken Pox. We spent the ’77 Christmas break taking bus and BART northwards. Meat market movies (Saturday Night Fever, Looking for Mr. Goodbar) followed by 17 & over clubs to try and live out the newly informed fantasies. We finish our evenings by door-shopping the dens in SF and Berkeley. Getting cheap thrills from the arm strokes, the incidental body contact that was part of the solicitation. We looked like easy marks, we couldn’t even afford the massage.

His father has money. The family supplies cuffs and collars for most of the men’s designer shirts. They’d had a scare when he lost a contract to a low-cost rival but quality won. Somehow that is related to his New York story. He shares advice from his trip. I gather the memories of my Times Square to create an image of Ricky’s massage parlor. Tells me the trick to getting your money’s worth is to jerk off before. I file the information away in the folder on how other people live.

Staring Out

I spend a lot of time proving the maxim that people love to talk about themselves.

It was a big deal to see our name in the phonebook, a sign we existed. Was this something I got from my parents? They had grown up in an age when not everyone had a phone. A few years later, my mother red-listed our number and that was even cooler because everyone was in the phonebook.

She attributes the relationship to propinquity. I haven’t heard the word in ages. Google’s Ngram confirms that its use has been halved since the late 70’s.

I learn a little bit about Titus Oates. Unprecedented is used by people who don’t know history.

“I don’t believe in those crazy conspiracy theories but…” I pull the plug when his argument devolves to comparing the lock-down to the literal definition of the word quarantine. I explain it is a subject I am deliberately avoiding. Conceding that I am exaggerating, I tell him that I only check to see if I am allowed to leave the house. Wrong joke, I stop his restart by asking about his daughter.

Would we still be friends if I were to tell him that I believe he would be a Trump supporter instead of a critic were he raised in the US? He has been trying to sell me his world view for at least fifteen years. If the conversation doesn’t run out of time, then I am usually the one that changes the subject. I will point out the fallacies in his argument, he will respond with a barrage of other premises more or less related to the original and I will finish by saying in one way or another that is is time to agree to disagree.

He once wondered why, with such opposing world views, I liked talking to him. I replied that the conversations were fun and when the fun was at risk of disappearing, it was easy to change the subject.

What excuse would he have given if I had asked him the same question? Regardless, I have attributed my reason for it. Excluding wall-talkers, he is one of the few people with whom I spend more time listening.

House of Tropes

There is something too deliberate in House of Games, like it was overthunk, and, I thoroughly enjoyed unravelling the thinking. (First I had to unravel why ravel is not a thing. Its definitions, paraphrased, are: 1. To unravel; 2. The opposite of unravel. It is not surprising that it is only used for bolero attribution.)

The movie kept on showing up as interesting with a but. Most recently, it was while listening to podcast, an offhand remark during an off-topic discussion about Glengarry Glen Ross. A few months before, it was a blogging friend’s review. I look it up and see that it got mixed reviews with Roger Ebert giving it four stars (I rarely dislike an Ebert four star). I also see that I have already bookmarked the article so I decide to add it to my watch list and find that it is already there with a blurb that tells me I found it in a listicle.

The subtexts captivate me, opening in 80’s modern thriller: large terraced concrete plaza, glass buildings, and the double fake of the creepy faux first-person point of view.

The next couple of scenes set the foundations. Clues just obvious enough to be noted but not explicit enough to be understood. The set-up continues the tactics; you can see the scene will lead to the blurb’s scenario but you don’t know how it is going to get there.

The blinds announce the move into film-noir mode. Half-drawn blinds, shadows and period decoration: art-deco lamp, old wooden desk, and a radiator. I notice the protagonist is using a fountain pen, lighting filterless cigarettes with matches and there is the gun in the drawer. Nothing glaringly out of place for the period but a clear evocation.

A door metaphorically opens and closes with an air of suspense into another noir scene, a rundown bar that hasn’t changed in ages. Pool tables, an enigmatic bar man and, for the unique touch, an homme fatal. The place even has boxing posters.

I recognize Ricky Jay and for a while, expecting a sleight of hand, I start watching him closely. A Checker Cab closes the chapter.

A literal reveal announces the tone of the new chapter. This chapter is different—it starts in a newer bar and the protagonist is now writing her notes on paper napkins with a disposable roller pen. The tropes may be less established but the vibe is now early 60’s caper film.

The protagonist dress is also contributing to the story line. The bangs have been let down and the collar has gone from pinned at the top to hints of a decolleté. The costumes will punctuate the story of her evolution right through to the end

Once the film finished, my first reaction is that the film falls just short of being great. Everything is there but the magic, the unintentional subtleties. I blame this on it being David Mamet‘s directorial debut; like the tinkerer using their newest tool for everything, he takes his newfound control of the visual story-line and runs with it. The consensus view holds: interesting but…, a watch-once movie even if only for the “May I have another?”.

Rain Again

It is enthusiastically welcomed as it takes five Celsius. The air is lightened and you can smell the earth coming back to life. This time the rain has come for an extended visit.

It takes another five Celsius on its second day back. After weeks of being smothered by the surplus, they are given up with a sense of relief.

Day three. No jacket, no hat. Not even an emergency umbrella. I have forgotten what having it around means. It has only taken a few more Celsius; I dry off quickly.

It leaves again. The timing is perfect. I get some time with the sun and it brings Celsius. We spend a busy morning together, have lunch on a patio, and, after a nap, an ice cream.

I spend the next day basking in the after glow. The new green space, with its younger grass, is already going green.

In the evening, the rain comes for a quick visit. It is just in time to help stop the Celsius from over accumulating.

This is the season when I usually meet up with family in The Netherlands. Even if I can only spend time with the members already on-site, it would be nice to spend a week, or two, hunting patios. The spell is broken when I start planning.

The next few days are going to be just busy enough that it will have to wait at least a week. My Monday rendez-vous may make my wait longer and it could also limit how long I can spend looking for new patios to visit.

The lazy feeling is gone. Time is a factor. If I don’t go soon then having the right conditions becomes a matter of chance. It’s not clouds that are making me turn on the lights at 8 PM.

Small pools of stagnant water, one more side effect of rain, a place for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. My slap was too late; I have fed a pregnant female.

I see an error in my picture of the sequence of events. I have put them in the order I have thought of them: puddles, eggs then bites. However, the female doesn’t feed the eggs after she has laid them.

Rain Dance

There is fruit fly drinking from the drop of water next to the tap. The dogs cover their urine in sand clouds. Most of the birds have flown to neighbourhoods with water sources.

The rain has been mostly absent since March. Sometimes it is only the marks it leaves in the car’s dust covering that tell me it has made one of its rare visits.

In April I tell my daughter that the way things are going we may not see it often before September or October. I follow this up with equivocation because it has a long history of unpredictable behaviour. By the end of May my arms are browner than the grass.

It comes and spends a few days in town in June. The grass celebrates and paints the neighbourhood green. The colour fades quickly.

Lately I have been noticing the increase in grey arm-hair. The bathroom is so thirsty that not even a long shower can steam the mirror.

The apple tree took advantage of a windy evening to shed a branch while the other trees limit themselves to shedding leaves. One of the poplars looks like it is cheating, it is the only completely green tree or bush around. It is probably sticking its roots into the sewage pipes.

The weatherman says the rain will be back on Thursday. Then again, the visit was originally announced for Wednesday.

My Vampire, My Flapper

It has been one of those years. Time moving in fast intense spurts followed by a slow circling. It is the slow days that have gone by the fastest because when the days resemble each other they are stored as one Blursday.

The threads come together in a tapestry. Movies are dominating this cycle.

Watching Nashville, I decide Altman likes tall skinny brunettes. The bartender is called Trout, his real name is Kilgore.

Heelots, the Colonel called them. It ain’t that different from Helots.

Great cinematography. Dustin Hoffman is irritating. The awkwardness is what would be felt, not acted. Or so my experience has been.

The Graduate leads to Girl Shy. Don Quixote becomes dreams of Don Juan. A Cracker Jack puzzle. The surprise should have been a whistle. I keep renaming the movie Shy Guy.

95 years to make it to the public domain. There was a time when these movies where contemporary. I even saw Nashville at the cinema. It was confusing to the thirteen year-old brain.

Caricature?

I am enjoying finding the questions more than finding the answers. In other words, I am enjoying reinventing the wheel. Or, in other other words, using a cliché, it’s about the journey.

Street of Shame starts with a pan of Tokyo. It looks nothing like the Tokyo in today’s films. It reminds me of the shots of 30’s Los Angeles.

The solicitation scenes get me questioning. Was (is?) this aggressive attack of prospects the norm in Japan? It is possible; Almost any male in the neighbourhood is there on purpose.

I think back to the European red-light districts I have walked through. It’s all relatively passive: a change in position, a come hither hand sign. Then again, the ones I have seen are famous, tourist attractions.

I recall a walk on San Francisco’s Broadway in the 70’s. Anytime we slowed down near one of their doorways we would be greeted by touchy-feely women attempting to entice us to get a “massage.”

A door to the movie is unlocked. The actions of the Yoshiwara women are not that different from those in San Francisco. The aggressive desperation is the prostitute’s point of view; The scenes are shot looking out from inside the brothel.

I feel quite the cinephile. I see appeals to a noble history: a straw of dignity for the sex workers, a justification for the brothel owners. The archetypes exploring, without answering, the policeman’s question about the impending ban on prostitution. The movie is in black & white and, for those directly concerned, none of the answers are.

I do not know much about Japanese culture other than the general interest stories and occasional film. I know even less about the culture of post-war Japan. I am still wondering about the degree of exaggeration used in the caricatures.