Monday, January 08, 2007

Yes, Virginia, there is a mayor.

Virginia Berkman, 82, is Chris' mother and my new housemate. She's great. Anytime the conversation lulls, just ask her about The Depression and settle in for some stories.

From 1960 to '64, she was a fieldwork supervisor at the U.C. Berkeley Department of Social Welfare. Her best student was the young and charismatic Mr. Ronald Dellums. Virginia has followed his subsequent career, including twenty-six years in U.S. Congress, with interest and affection.

On January 8th, Ron Dellums was to be inaugurated as the new Mayor of Oakland. Virginia decided to make an appearance and I volunteered to escort her.

The ceremony began with open meetings of the Oakland School Board and City Council. I expected to be bored, but was instead captivated by drama and controversy. The eight-member City Council was to vote on the Council Presidency, and many members of the audience made passionate speeches urging current President De La Fuente to step down. Instead he won again by a vote of 5 to 3, provoking so much cat-calling and outright booing from the audience that Mayor Elect Dellums came down to the podium and asked for civility and respect for the democratic process. It was better than the West Wing.

Eventually, Mayor Dellums was inaugurated and gave a strong, inspiring speech.

Then it was time for the reception line. Would the Mayor remember his fieldwork supervisor from forty years prior?

Apparently so.

There was some interest on the part of the media.

A most enjoyable day.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

Back with the Bay Area gang!

Chris and Maria celebrate the New Year.

I look on, concerned.

To new beginnings. Happy 2007!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve, Roppongi.

Goodbye Tokyo. Goodbye Japan.

Goodbye Mochy and Michiko and Yuriko and Poem and Py and Ruko and Mishy and Moe and everyone else I was fortunate enough to meet.

Thanks for everything. I had a blast.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chris in Japan!

I let her out occasionally to do some sightseeing.

Tokyo skyline from Mori tower.

The Great Pumpkin hovers over the city.

We take a five-day trip South, passing through Kyoto on the way to Beppu. Here's Kinkaku-ji, (The Golden Temple) in Kyoto.

Chris finds a place to pick up some English men.

Don' let the MDMA shadow-monster get you.

In Beppu we stay in a resort known for it's extensive onsen (hot springs). Chris in the resort Yukata:

Back sightseeing in Tokyo:

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Calmly Surrounded

I know this is worse than fish in a barrel, but the sign below is now my favorite in all of Tokyo.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Paul Simon goes to a love hotel . . .

. . . in Shinjuku, Tokyo. He sees this sponge . . .

. . . and his head explodes.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Local cuisine offers sustenance for the final ascent.

Orange gateway to temple on a steep hill.

Washing hands before entering.

School kids on a field trip.

Most temples will have someone on duty to inscribe temple books with calligraphy. A visitor can buy a book at one temple and then have it filled with inscriptions from each temple he visits.

Insensitive tourist tries to pick up local girls.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ginkakuji Temple

The next day, Paul and I hit some more temples on our own. First, we pick up supplies.

Ginkakuji was more my style again. Zen gardens and amazing landscaping.

Very Important Moss.

Your narrator.

Paul contemplates nature.

A block away, we return to "real life."

Ninnaji Temple

Five minutes down the road from the Ryoanji Temple lies the Ninnaji. Bigger, and with a generally different aesthetic. I didn't love the pagoda here, but Paul did which made me happy.

Ryoanji Temple

After three weeks of gradual disillusionment with Tokyo, I finally got myself onto the Shinkansen and visited Kyoto with my friend, Paul Weaver.

Would I find the "real" Japan in the city regarded as its spiritual home?

We were met by the delightful Michy, one of the top backgammon players in Japan. He suggested visiting the Ryoanji Temple, which was fortuitous as I had my eye on that one from the guidebooks.

We approached the temple through a breath-taking landscape.

The pond was filled with giant carp and strange lilies. At the temple we removed our shoes (of course), and entered the rock garden.

It turns out this was not just a zen rock garden, but one of the first ever zen rock gardens, highly influential to the development of the art. It's hard for me to describe how perfect it was. (Perhaps I need to describe three weeks of bustling pseudo-New York in Tokyo.) The garden hit me in precisely the way it had been designed to do, some six-hundred years ago. It was pre-conscious. I smiled and was at peace.

It reminded me of a time ten years ago, when I was wandering through the Art Institute of Chicago after gorging myself on Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. I entered a room and saw a painting of a forest with a glowing red sun . . . only the sun was in front of the trees. I was grinning like a madman before I knew what hit me, before I even truly parsed the image. I walked over and of course it was a Magritte which I had somehow never seen before.

This rock garden was my first blissful aesthetic experience in Japan. Nothing could distract me. Not the crowds, nor Paul's semi-serious joking around that he didn't "get" it.

On our way out, we passed through the calming and exotic landscape again, and while thinking about how all this would look in Winter, I saw this . . . (Be sure to click on the image -- any image, in fact -- for a larger view)

. . . and thought to myself, "Of course this is where Haiku were born."