Saturday, October 09, 2004

If you sit down with this old clown, I'll your frown and break it...

Friday, October 8 2004
My apartment

Loyal readers, sorry about the delay between posts. I’ve been busy as hell. Allow me to enter in what I wrote by hand at work the other day:
-Writing by hand is a sort of residue of another age, it’s a baby with a vestigial tail. However, there are times when it must be done. Did you know Nick Cave was once spotted on a subway writing his lyrics with a bloody syringe? Talk about tearing off the tail.

But, I have a narrative to complete. I’ll explain later why this is written by hand (…and entered into computer later, you hairy ape!).

So, when last we saw our hero, he was dead in a river of runoff water during the tail end (more tails!) of a Shakespearean-in-magnitude tempest. Kill bill references abound, though that line drove me nuts in the movie cuz it sounds so unpretty.

Anyway, a normal man would stop there. For our hero, however, “death is not the end. (Nick Cave> Though the cities are on fire with the burning flesh of men, just remember, death is not the end. Shane MacGowan > Not the end, not the end…. Kylie Minogue> Just remember, death is not the end…).”

So anyway, he woke up the next morning (which was sunny and beautiful) only to discover that the entire world had been washed away by the rain, the tears of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for the sins of humanity. Then he remembered that he was hyperbolizing, and that if he didn’t hurry he’d be late for work.

And so hurry he did, putting on his last clean set of work clothes and hauling arse to the office on his bike, over and around mountains and valleys of storm-dredged sludge. Upon arrival, he remembered the phone call he’d received just prior to his death the night before. His office, situated in a bit of a valley between two ridges, had taken heavy casualties. The entire parking lot looked like a motocross course without the angst poppunk music and racers, and the first floor looked like an aquarium.

Glad he worked on the sixth floor, our intrepid salary-man-to-be-but-not-really went to the elevator, only to almost die for a second time in 12 hours when it turned out not to be functioning. Of course, flooded shafts. With a sigh, he walked to the stairs, waving as he went to his Viking friends, who were pillaging desks and stocking up on secretaries.

--and that’s the extent of the manuscript. The author, we know through carbon dating, lived some time in the very early 21st century. Archeologists the world over were overcome with joy to find an actual hand-written piece of literature from the age shortly before the earth was mostly destroyed by the great Mormon Uprising of 2007. Please note that recent studies have argued that the presence of Vikings, especially Vikings acting in so unrestrained a manner, is highly unlikely given the timeframe.

Moving on to our next exhibit, another fragment of the same story, we get a better idea of what life must have been like in the dark ages. As it is not handwritten, there is no way of actually confirming its validity, but there is general agreement that style and content make it an immediate follow up to the Besshi Manuscript. This was, like the manuscript, discovered by vacationing students near the base of Besshi Volcano in the Crater region of what was once known as Japan. It has been preserved miraculously through the centuries, likely due in part to the protection provided by the author’s mostly-intact body slumped over it. Interestingly enough, the body exhibits signs of death just prior to the surprise eruption of Mount Besshi in spring 2005. Lodged in the corpse’s throat is a mummified piece of what appears to be raw “fish.” “Fish” were monsters that lived in the “sea” in those days; please see our ecological exhibits on the fourth floor for more details.

The exhibit:

After scaling the stairs, our hero gleefully collapsed at his desk. A few minutes later, he noticed that there was nobody else in the office. He was confused for a moment, then decided it would be in his best interest to surf the internet for a bit in the confusion.

Sadly, the confusion was only his own, as a few minutes later one of his bosses came in and asked him his schedule for the day. As his schedule consisted of doing whatever they wanted him to, he reported as much and was promptly sent home to change into clothes more suitable for scrounging around in fecal goo.

He raced home on his bike, in the process coating his good clothing with mud that kicked up from the street, changed, and raced back. Then it was time for the operation.

When he arrived, he stowed his bike to the side of the parking lot. The lot itself was filled, as mentioned, with slime and mud from the typhoon – no asphalt was visible. Someone put a push broom/scrub brush in his hand and sent him towards the nearest crowd of troops scrubbing valiantly at the mud. He felt as though he had been drafted.

So without even the benefit of boot camp, our hero found himself on the front lines. He and his comrades, though striving for dear life, found it very difficult to make any headway against the mud. Every time they cleared a pillbox or secured a beachhead, the enemy would mount a counter attack from behind. Yamauchi-san from Engineering was the first to fall, swallowed by a 3 meter mud swell. Tanaka-san, leader of the troop, died shortly thereafter, to a sniper. And so on and so forth.

Just when a full-retreat looked to be in order, reinforcements arrived in the form of a water tanker. Wartime metaphors increased exponentially as the heavily outgunned and outnumbered troops stopped to cheer for the arrival of the heavy artillery. Starting at one corner of the parking lot, then, the tanker began to gush water as the troops stood behind it and scrubbed. This time, the mud could not hold its ground, and was swept away in the tides of battle.

It was in this manner that the parking lot was finally subdued. The tanker made many trips to the filling station, during which time the remaining soldiers would huddle together, bravely facing down the ever-encroaching mud.

Once the entire lot had been cleared in this manner, it was still vaguely slimy. The next part of the operation, then involved a cement truck, also carrying water. The volume of dispersal was much greater with the cement truck, and rather than a plume of pressured water it spit out a veritable river of uncontrolled fluid. The last of the mud in the parking lot was swept to the drain gutters.

Then, of course, it was time to clean the drain gutters. They were maybe a foot wide and a foot deep, with removable metal grating over them, and surrounded the lot. The remaining mud had regrouped inside them, a solidly fortified position that was rather difficult to approach. As simply clearing the parking lot without actually exterminating the entire mud race was simply not an acceptable course of action, we took the metal grating off and got shovels.

And so under the burning sun of a clear day, after spending three hours scrubbing the parking lot by hand, the platoon began to dig. The mud was deep, and thick, and the fortifications were illshaped to allow shovels in. And so for the next two hours, the troops took the mud, ounce by ounce, from the gutters to waiting wheelbarrows. As the mud’s numbers began to dwindle, it was necessary for them to drop pushbroom/scrubbrushes into the gutter and slide them all the way down, thus grouping the mud in corners, where it was finished off.

So finally, the parking lot was completed. Our hero, once again an individual after hours of working as a part of a collective, gulped air and juice and cast around for what was coming. To his relief and surprise, the company executives had ordered food for everyone. He gladly washed his hands in a basin outside (there was no functioning plumbing in the building) and relished his tempura bento.

All too soon, it was time to start again. He was astonished to realize that the army was mobilizing for an external strike – both the cement truck and the water tanker had returned, and were waiting in the street in front of the building. The troops grabbed their weapons, and all proceeded to scrub the streets around the office building. Not simply right before the building, either – they cleaned from intersection to intersection, pausing now and again to scrub the front yard of some poor resident or shop.

This work was quite grueling, and so by 2:00 our hero was pretty worn out. Finally, however, the trucks departed for the last time, and everyone returned to the building, where another division had spent the day cleaning the first floor. Now, everything in the lobby had been destroyed, down to the floor – so the first order of business was to salvage what could be salvaged and dispose of the rest. The people working there were in the process of moving furniture and salvageables to the now clean parking lot. They welcomed the tired scrubbers, and the work was done quickly. Then half of the group removed and discarded floor tiles, while the other half scrubbed furniture outside. As there were over 100 people working on this project, it went pretty quickly. By 4:30, the inside was once again more or less clean, and the salvageable equipment was cleaned and replaced.

Given that it was almost 5, our hero naturally assumed that that was about it. He was physically exhausted, completely worn out. For this reason, he was rather perplexed when he saw a large group he had not seen earlier, entirely coated with mud, smelling of feces, and with the look of death in their eyes. When someone gave him a pair of gloves and pointed in the general direction of this squad, he was horrified but ultimately not surprised.

As it turned out, the building had a basement.

The entire basement had been more or less filled with mud and water, and this small elite group had been draining and scrubbing all day. What was left for them was to empty out the incredible volume of rubbish from down there. The basement, as it happened, was used primarily for storage. There were vast chasms, underground chambers filled with desks and cubicle walls, shafts holding stack upon stack of paper. And all of it was completely permeated with fecal water. It was time for work.

This was it, the last stronghold of the mud. Everyone, all hundred fifty plus employees, got together and lined up, all the way from the storage rooms to the surface. Junk was then passed from person to person all the way up, until it was finally put into a (rather well organized) pile in the parking lot. Our hero, uncommonly large and strong, volunteered to join the small task force that was carrying desks and file cabinets, things too large to send up the line.

And so, until around 630, the forces were so occupied. By that time, the main storage room had been cleared and the sun had set. Our hero’s superiors offered to give him a ride home, saying that the work would likely continue deep into the night and that our hero should have gone home at five, as his work day ended then. Our hero, however, gallant knight and defender of the public good that he was, scoffed, and said he would remain to the end, never looking back. His superiors were vaguely surprised that a foreigner would turn down an opportunity to call it quits for a day, and went on their way. Two minutes later word came that the day’s work was complete, and that everyone should come the next day in clothing appropriate for continued efforts along the same line.

Our hero, not even caring about the irony, biked home and emailed his friends, demanding someone join him for a drink. Todd replied, and invited him to participate in an impromptu trip to the karaoke bar. Our hero agreed, and spent the night singing and drinking with Todd, Jay, and a Japanese girl named Ayako. Inappropriately inebriated for a night between two days of physical labor, our hero got home around 130 and went to sleep only to wake up what seemed a moment later, and went to work.

Friday’s work was nothing to be surprised about. The basement was cleared out entirely, and then the pile of rubbish in the parking lot was sorted and removed. All was done around 3:00, and our hero sat around the office in jeans and an undershirt so covered in filth that he was almost washed out the door, mistaken for an enemy.

Friday night was, once again, Karaoke. Drinking and singing and drinking and singing late into the night, our hero celebrated the end of his hellish front-line experience until around 2, when he biked home, crawled into bed, and slept solidly until 5pm the next day. That night, Saturday, was a beach party in commemoration of Todd, who was leaving Niihama forever on Monday night. Dozens of people came, braving rain and bugs, and all laughed and drank for hours in a light drizzle, watching the sun set into the sea. Our hero, delighted with the idea that a good-bye party for one of Niihama’s most dearly beloved residents was celebrated with rain and sunset, enjoyed conversation and company late into the night.

Jackie and Jay and Alex and Avy all played guitar, and between them many interesting songs were played. Our hero recognizes what a lame sentence that was, shut up. Anyway, yeah. I think the story portion is over. I just couldn’t make that humorous or interesting. Sad – but ah well.

The goodbye party on the beach for Todd was really a lot of fun. I met a few more interesting people, most notably a few native girls. Ayako, who had come to Karaoke Thursday night, was 23 and very friendly, as was Wakana. I also got to know Sophie a bit more – she is from Scotland, and has a great accent. Please check out for photographs of the people and events that night.

I got a ride home from Ayako and Wakana, around 5am. This was rather humorous, as I had an appointment to proofread some translations at 8am the next day. So, I slept. Meh, whatever, I got up okay.

The next day’s proofreading was exciting. Apparently, the city of Niihama, as a sort of publicity bid, has hired a famous local haiku writer to do a sort of series of short essays about people and places in and around Niihama. This, then, was translated into English, and my job was to proofread the translations. Some of them were pretty good, some were pretty rough, but I worked until about 4pm. I am doing the same thing tomorrow (Sunday. I started writing this on Friday night, but it is now Saturday morning. There was a jazz club somewhere in the middle there), from 8am until 9pm. I’m very excited.

Yeah, I know, that sucks – but they’re paying me 30,000 yen. Which is around 300 dollars. Which is a playstation 2 and a few games. So yeah, I’m there. :-D

Anyway, I think it’s about time I wind up this entry. Boy, just writing about that cleaning project made me really tired. Heh, I’m gonna read through it later, but I betcha it sounds really boring. It was. But, I’m glad I was FINALLY able to do something productive at Ichimiya. I can’t understand a word they say, but I can lift heavy things. Later!

Man, if I had a dollar for every time I had to clean up fecal goo...

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