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Saturday, Jun 30, 2007




The hard part about life is extracting enough novelty from it to keep it interesting, but not so much as to make it intolerably, unbearably, unmanageably, unliveable.



Which is why we have heuristics. Or other simplifying devices like codifications and formulas, recipes and examples, parables and analogies, metaphors and portents.


(Oh, and travel blogs and people like me!)


You know: intellectual tools that help present life as it is: unique,  yet, at the same time, compact and fathomable; and not so overwhelming as to tap us over like so many ten pins standing helpless, in muted anticipation, in some inert line we have been fitting into.


Which (believe it or not) is one reason that I’m about to talk about Iraq, but only as a prelude to talking about my guitar-playing son. And it is also why, along the way, I’ll probably take a detour through Oedipus Rex. Maybe as a means of verifying that this is a travelblog – which is another way of observing that just about everything we think or do has detours and rivulets and tributaries and ultimately feeds into and contributes to the execution of the great journey of life.


 


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Sunday, May 27, 2007

I once had a girl, or should I say . . .”


No, that’s John’s line. Me, being different, mine better start cleaner. Clearer. Something more kosher, like thus:


I once had an acquaintance who wrote songs for a living. Apparently she had a knack for it since she managed to cut 5 records (remember those vinyl things?) and 3 CDs over the past couple decades. Because I had a past life in music (well, after a fashion) sometimes we sat around and kicked song titles or themes about. Just for the jest of it.


”Hey, how about a song about a couple meeting for a date, only they screw up their coordinates and board trains going in opposite directions, and end up in different cities? Call it something like ‘wrong-headed rendezvous’.”

“That’s horrible.”

“You can do better, then go ahead.”

“Well sure. How about the ballad of a guy and girl who fall for each other after he almost drowns and she has to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Call it ‘breath-taking love’.”

“You really think that’ll sell? Well, no wonder you’re holding chalk in a classroom.”


 


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Tuesday, Mar 13, 2007

There’s a song I have played to death over the years. Still do. One by John Martyn, about “a man in the station/he’s takin’ the next train home”. Actually, Martyn has a couple of versions of it: the original, with his distinctive acoustic six-string, played like it’s a percussive instrument, backed by a slow-burn jazz combo that makes its points with a Gretsch guitar with most of the treble removed, a Fender Rhodes sounding haunting and subdued to start—beginning like the one in John Klemmer’s “Touch”—but then becoming pulsing and insistent—ending like Billy Preston’s work at the close of “Let It Be”. All this held together by a heavy vise of bass and drums. The other version is much more up-beat, Martyn’s voice sounding much less like before, when it seemed to have captured a dude struggling up the back slope of a cocaine ride run its course.


Still, both commendable efforts, worthy of your time.



This time ‘round, though . . . this time when I actually am in the station, I actually encounter a man in the station . . .  and this time, it is all quite different.


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Saturday, Feb 17, 2007
by tjm Holden

I was in Tokyo for work at The Japan Foundation and ended up at the Mandarin Bar. This watering hole commands the entire 37th floor of the 38-storey building that houses Mandarin Oriental, one of Tokyo’s nascent six-star hotels. Rooms at the MO start at five hundred bucks, which is why I was only having a drink there. As it was, drinks were about 20 smackeroos a pop, which is also why I was there. I wanted to partake of what surely is one of Tokyo’s most expensive pubs. As dear as it may be, if drink is your thing then you should consider going. And if you go I would recommend the Martinis. Ample in portion, very dry, chilled, and shaken, and probably strong enough to stop a rampaging rhino at fifty furlongs.


The Manhattans were not bad, apparently, as the woman seated next to me was quickly learning. Red (were both the drink and her cheeks), with enough whiskey to make “s” quickly transmogrify into “th” (and occasionally x, y and z). This inadvertent seatmate introduced herself as Sachiko (which, soon enough sounded seriously like “Thathiko”) and after the slow dance of “how-and-who-are-you”s, and the magic elixir of a softly-lit, tastefully understated, but glistening, vibrant, barroom full of sleek, well-appointed, self-satisfied people, Sachiko and I were quickly moving toward shoulder-to-shoulder camaraderie.


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