Journal entries: August 2008 - March 2009
FRIDAY 1 AUGUST 2008
They say that in East St Louis you have to stand in line to commit a crime.
Got the ‘recommendation’ form from International Christian University regarding Daisuke F. Surprised that it was two pages long. It took about an hour to translate, making sure how they want the questions about Daisuke answered. Pretty straightforward and not too hard to apply to someone I believe is a bright and worthy applicant. Will take my time writing the best possible descriptions in each section. Lots of time, no hurry.
Reading Philip Roth’s Exit Ghost. I went to Kinokuniya thinking I might find a copy of his 1959 novel Goodbye Columbus, but among a large assortment of Roth books that title was missing.
SUNDAY 17 AUGUST
Strangely cool today. Horribly hot and humid all week and suddenly on Sunday you think about pulling on a jacket. Had to wait a couple of hours for a misty rain to clear and in the end wore long pants for my walk. It finally dried up enough to not worry about fogged glasses. Usual distance of 5 miles, barely breaking a sweat because of the coolness. Good for a change to see everything through a cloudy sky without the glare and harsh sun that is usually the case on summer days. In cloud or bright light the green of summer is vibrant all along the Kanda River. Gigantic sunflowers stare out at joggers and cyclists passing the stretch in front of the bamboo grove.
In the afternoon I stopped for an iced coffee on the terrace of the Starbucks in Kichijôji, the one behind Tokyu Department Store. Crowded, much of the foot traffic high schoolers and mothers taking their young children out for a stroll in the cooler weather. Beautiful afternoon, looking around and noticing what a pleasing street this is with its well-kept and busy shops. The street a mosaic of red brick, green all around in the shape of trees and potted plants, tubs of flowers and a never ending parade of very fashionable young Japanese men & women. I sit in a pleasant spot opposite the Mediterranean restaurant Tapas Tapas. Hope I can talk the Aoki family into eating there when we go out for dinner on Friday.
SUNDAY 31 AUGUST
Mostly a day at home working at my desk. Talked on the phone with Nobu in Florida; he’s at the beach and worrying about Hurricane Hanna. Looks a little threatening at this point, but still too far out in the Atlantic to be called a certain threat to Florida’s east coast. The hope is that it will veer south and bypass Florida. For now, it’s in almost a straight line to collide with New Smyrna Beach.
TUESDAY 9 SEPTEMBER
Something of a landmark day guess you’d call it. Got news of a necessary ‘first time’ event in my relatively healthy span of years. At sometime in the next 2 or 3 weeks I will have to spend 2 days in Keio University Hospital for tests. Frankly, the procedure sounds a little frightening, maybe with the possibility of some pain. Never spent so much as one night in a hospital up to now. Surprising was the explanation that I must bring another person along with me on the morning I am admitted. Not only that, but he or she will have to remain at the hospital until the tests are completed; sit around the hospital all day waiting to be told that everything is okay, and that it’s permissible to leave. The hospital also requires a signature from my employer, a little more than I ever imagined, but then really unavoidable. It’s the Japanese way.
THURSDAY 25 DECEMBER
In as few as 6 words the lavender fragrance is rising off the page of this notebook. Writing today with another of the new De Atramentis inks, this one with a lavender scent. Got myself a bottle when I bought a Christmas bottle for Kumiko. We had lunch today at Salvatore’s in Akasaka-Mitsuke. Haven’t seen a whole lot of Kumiko lately for one reason or another. She sounds busy with work. According to her, the economic downturn has been good for her company, Brown-Foreman. More people staying home and drinking, avoiding the higher cost of doing it in restaurants & bars. Gave her the ink, a desk diary and the latest issue of Shumi no bungu bako, thought she might enjoy looking through the handsome pages and layouts it always includes.
FRIDAY 26 DECEMBER
Dentist appointment at noon; cleaning part 2. Amazing analysis of my gums using of all things an iPod Touch loaded with some kind of dental software. During the examination, the hygienist punched in notes on the iPod resting on my chest. Dr Kondô then looked over my gums while giving notes to the hygienist, who once more entered them into the iPod. When the analysis was complete I got a three page color printout of the results.
Leaving Dr Kondô’s office I went to Tower Records in Kichijôji to look for a CD I heard at the dentist. Bought a new Shôta Shimizu CD.
Freezing cold today; feels like the coldest day of the season so far.
Continue to read Peter Matthiessen’s 3 volume history of southwest Florida, Shadow Country, about the infamous E. J. Watson. On the 2nd book now and it continues to fascinate me. Matthiessen as much environmentalist as writer. Stories and descriptions of Florida in the early 20th century are moving.
FRIDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2009
From Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union…
“Don’t take that tone with me, John Bear,” the old man says. “I don’t care for it.”
“Tone?” Berko says, his voice stacked like a measure of musical score with a half dozen tones, a chamber ensemble of insolence, resentment, sarcasm, provocation, innocence and surprise. “Tone?”
SUNDAY 8 MARCH
Dinner with Kumiko last night. Altogether a disappointing Mexican restaurant in Yotsuya. A couple of months back I went to a good little Mexican restaurant in Yotsuya San-Chome called Salsa Cabana. The card I picked up there advertised another branch in Yotsuya. It was this branch that Kumiko and I went to last night. The fact that there were only 7 people in the place on a Saturday night says something about the restaurant’s popularity, and probably something about the food. Most of what we ordered came to the table cold. All except the Corona beer, only slightly chilled. Would have done better to have chosen one of the other 3 Mexican restaurants on the same street.
Returned to work on the story-in-progress—the one formerly titled “Smile” now renamed “An Old Woman’s Smile.” Made the decision to hack off the last 4 pages—almost 3,000 words—and end the story at Mr Kobayashi’s funeral. The character of Walter has now been rewritten into a younger man named Wilson, who doesn’t figure largely in the story. Worked on a difficult passage this morning, the visit to Mrs Kobayashi by Hank after Mr Kobayashi’s death. The whole story has been telescoped into a period of 4 months as opposed to many years. Far from finished at this point.
THURSDAY 19 MARCH
Went to Kichijôji to return DVDs and once more decided to walk home from there. That’s a good walk, without putting strain on a still weak right knee. Writing this from the bench along the Kanda River between Mitakadai and Kugayama. Bought vegetables & some fruit at the green grocer’s by the tracks in Mitakadai. Got some incredibly sweet persimmons from Israel, of all places.
FRIDAY 20 MARCH
Shinjuku to do a little research for the story I’m working on. I walked over to the east side of Shinjuku Station to search out a shop I found on the Internet, a place named Kagaya. Turned out it was a cigar speciality store and not the kind of tobacco shop I had in mind. But someone in Kagaya suggested I walk over to Sagami-ya, a few minutes away. So, I did and found exactly the kind of place I had in mind. I asked the man inside and he told me the shop had been there in 1980, and that at the time they stocked the American brand, Lucky Strike cigarettes. That bit of information will be an easy fit in the story.