On solid ground, so to speak…
Monday, November 1 2004
Tohoku was forged into a regional empire by an audacious, 17-year-old warrior king: the perfect stage for a foreigner arriving with little more than vigor and passion, and the unrealistic hopes and uncertain certainties of youth. Yet characteristic of Japan, the people of Tohoku tend toward modesty and shun pretension; they tend to keep their place in the constellation of power and cultural relations well rehearsed throughout the archipelago. Or do they? No longer guaranteed a career, a way of life long known to their elders, Tohoku's youth show a robust affinity for individuality; for free-lancing in sport, and, at times, for pursuing a private, bohemian dream.
In 'The Wizard of Oz', a tornado acquaints the characters. In South Norfolk, a hurricane provides the introduction for the new folks in the neighborhood. Much like the girl in Oz's Emerald City, the fellow in South Norfolk, with his emerald-green, mysteriously self-mowing lawn, learns that there really is no place like home.
No matter that the coast is a mosquito-infested swampland and the region a well-worn corridor for house-destroying hurricanes, newly-created communities along this strip of eastern North Carolina attract wealthy retirees from the northern states. They come with their large sailboats, Lincoln Towncars, and an insatiable desire for golf. But when they emerge from their gated communities they rub elbows, so to speak, with the people who have lived here for generations; many accustomed to working 12 hours a day for minimum wage and no benefits.
'The House that Ruth Built' has been through some changes, over the years. Like a grand ballroom in a mansion where the wealthy once came to dance, Yankee Stadium is now less imposing, more friendly, and open to the general public for viewing, providing one has a ticket.
Sometimes, the best way to really see a city clearly is through a bus window, smudged by the sticky hands of the toddler in his mother's arms, or through the crowd of people waiting with you on a non-descript platform at the light rail station. If you really want to know what Denver is like, leave the car behind, walk to a bus or train stop, make sure you've got change for the fare, then hop on board.