Monday, April 16, 2007

"Finally."

Probably the sweetest -- and funniest -- thing anyone's ever said to me after a first kiss.

I'm the happiest I've been in a long time.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

人魚やナマコ

For the past week and a half or so, the MS has been very distracting. Usually I can mostly ignore it, even to the point that recalling I have MS is somewhat of a surprise, but occasionally the symptoms take on the guise of a clingy, demanding child. It's a struggle to focus on what's going on around me, because all I can hear is the white noise racing up and down my nerves, tugging at my sleeve. I want to push this mewling thing away so I can concentrate. Impossible, of course. It adds an extra barrier to outside interaction that is hard to explain -- I feel like I'm viewing the world through a thin layer of oil. Life has taken on a slightly dropsical quality.


One of my favorite manga series revolves around the premise that eating a mermaid's flesh will either make you immortal... or turn you into a disgusting watery ogre. Sometimes I feel like one of those ogres, lurching about, dripping slop everywhere. My body is insisting to me that my back is split open and oozing something cold and gelatinous; it's very clear on this point. I fully realize this is just dysesthetic nonsense, but it's difficult when talking with people to shake the notion that my back is busy vomitting up my insides in the manner of a frightened sea cucumber -- hard to imagine that they can't see it to the same extent that I can feel it. In my mind, I'm walking about hunched over, leaking gel like a broken cold pack. I keep waiting for someone to tell me I've soaked through the back of my shirt, the same way you'd tell a person she has pepper in her teeth.


When I first was diagnosed with MS, I didn't understand how enervating it would be. It takes more energy than you'd think to pretend your face isn't crawling with caterpillars, or to ignore the fact that an icy-numb chest makes it feel like you aren't wearing a shirt. I keep absentmindedly rubbing at the numb and tingly parts of my face and neck, actions only brought to my attention when, at the visa window, applicants subconsciously mimic my movements. It's awkward spending time with people: I've tried explaining the problem now and then, but it makes the other person so uncomfortable (and in all fairness, how do you respond to a comment like, "sorry I'm so distracted; it feels like I have no skin"?). So I generally don't mention it, though watching me twitch for no apparent reason really isn't any better. As a way of avoiding the problem altogether, I've taken to doing most things alone. Which is good, since I was so excessively outgoing before. Lucky for me MS put the brakes on my rampant social activity before it got out of hand.


Sometimes the situation has a certain "Flowers for Algernon" air to it, but mostly I'd say I've gotten pretty complacent about the whole affair -- almost impatient in a way. If I'm going to sink into the muck, I'd rather just dive in head first and get it done with.

Well, anyways, I'm sure it'll be better next week.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

何回もお花見


Sakura season, and Japan has become a soft pink fantasy land. The whole country is sprawled out beneath the cherry trees. Walking home along the river, I see the neighborhood's resident homeless man; he's drinking a beer and admiring the blossoms, like everyone else. Or so I first think. In reality, he's carrying on as always, and we're the ones in imitation of his daily activities. Maybe part of the fantasy is that it would be pleasant to live like this day in and day out... But he does seem to be enjoying himself. When the breeze shakes loose a flurry of petals, he smiles up at the branches. The brevity of the moment lends it a certain weight and clarity. In Japanese this is called ものがあわれ mono ga aware: the sad transience of things.

This pathos-inducing transience has less to do with hanami's inevitable end, however, than with its inevitable recurrence. The seasons appear and fade, appear and fade in a rhythm that is... comforting? stifling? A little of both. You want to ask where the time goes, but the truth is it doesn't go anywhere. Turn around and it's spring again. Every moment hiding inside every other, like a set of unending russian dolls.

Riding through the countryside, I make attempts at photographing the wild cherry blossoms through the bus windows. No good -- everything's a blur. At the mountainside park, my japanese father asks if I've ever been there before. "Yes, I believe so," I tell him. "I think this is my second time."

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Dude Looks Like a Lady


So, I went to see the famous Takarazuka Revue. It's an all female cast, and the women who play male roles are worshipped as veritable gods by their (also female) fans. There's not much you can say about that, really. Some people I've talked with claim that the 'male' leads are so popular because Japan is missing strong female role models; presumably then, in Takarazuka performances women can finally achieve an equal footing with men. But the fact that the story lines are all rehashed western fairy tales (hyper masculine boy saves hyper feminine girl; marriage ensues...) effectively removes any hint of progressivism from the plays. If the proscribed gender roles themselves don't change, then it doesn't really matter which biological sex fills them. It's the rigidity of the gender roles that form the basis of the inequality problem.

So, the take-away message is: only by assuming a masculine persona can japanese women achieve fame and power. Which I don't suppose is all that much worse than the western message that only by being physically attractive to a man can a woman achieve value. Well, you know... we've all got a long way to go.