Column: Peripatetic Postcards

Bunny Country

I just saw Live Free or Die Hard, so I do understand that there is a limit on how often one can suspend disbelief in life. That said, I am pretty much the eternal optimist. (I mean, it is true that I entered Live Free . . . expecting to like it!) So, I guess that just goes to show that I'm the original "there's-always-something-good-around-the-next-corner" kind of guy. And if not "good", then "wild" or "unexpected" or "worth keeping awake for" or simply "can't wait to see what happens next". Well . . . that's me.

I don't know about you, but I have to say that I am rarely disappointed. 'Cause invariably, after turning that corner, something unanticipated, unusual, something worth encountering, generally is standing right there. To my utter surprise (and general a/mu/ma/zement).

Like Bunny Country.

Bunny Country -- or "usagi no kuni" for you literalists out there -- can be found along the freeway (well, nothing in life is free, and this, after all, is actually a toll-way -- a pricey tollway at that -- so scratch that last thought).

Start again.

Bunny Country can be found at a rest stop along the (expensive) chunk of road between Tokyo and my hometown, Sendai, in Sano City, which is tucked in the folds of Tochigi Prefecture in the southern portion of the northern part of Honshu. Clear?

Well, if not, this should be clearer: the Bunny part of this Country is in a wired off space to the side of the rest rooms, which, themselves, are off to the side from the vending machines, and indoor benches that are serviced by a batallion of grills -- serving up plump hot dogs on a stick, octopus in doughy, fried batter; noodles and assorted vegetables smothered by sticky brown sauce, and free (well, nothing in life is free -- I thought we'd just established that!), lime-green bowls filled with tepid yellow-green tea.

Despite being tucked in a corner, the bunnies have a view of the parking lot, which sits in front of a low-rising mound of rock and trees that probably straddles the distinction between "hill" and "mountain". The bunnies also have a view of the few folks ambitious enough to come over and smack their lips, cluck their tongues, snap their fingers, and generally scare the stuffing out of the furry critters unfortunate enough to have been bagged and dumped in captivity. Although . . . they are given a home with its very own name. So, there is that.

On the down side, these incarcerated few are ensconced in a small pen that fronts a sloping vegetated patch of dirt, outfitted with enough netting to (hopefully) repel the crows and hawks, and possibly provide them with enough shade and water to ensure against death by dehydration. In short, these creatures are saddled with enough melancholic misery to inspire one to fantasize playing a character in a John Irving novel. The kind who would be foolish enough to adopt the mantle of a (would-be) good samaritan; the hero who breaks down, bursts forth, and sets free the bunnies.

With my luck, I try that maneuver?: they all end up as fur-linings for truck tires. So, wisely, I refrain.

In the end, though, despite all the architectural ministrations, the bunnies are simply hot -- too hot to entertain. At least on the day that I turned their corner.They were basically inert. Unenthused. Under-inspired. Disengaged.

Nonetheless, I did happen upon a pair in the midst of a moment. Proving, I guess, that anyone (or thing) has energy for love.

Which led me to the surprising insight (you see, you take to the road, you can always manage to bump into something that adds to your knowledge reservoir): that grooming goes on between bunnied partners. Or maybe even perfect strangers. At this point, who would know? I mean, how can one ever know without performing a proper experiment; engaging in sustained observation; taking proper measurements? Going through the requisite intellectual motions.

But, whose got time for science? It is, after all, just a rest stop along the Japanese highway, in the midst of another peripatetic sojourn.

Still it does go to show: you never know. You know? Never know what is around the next corner. Or down that next stretch of unfurling road.

Which is good to know. A reassuring thought to help keep one motivated. 'Cause rather than Irving, I'm thinking Frost here. As in Robert, the poet. These aren't Energizer Bunnies before me, a la Mr. Willis-cum-McClane. And I am not being pressed by their (in)action to see the world as it could be, to become a mundane hero; to suspend disbelief. As motivated as I might be to spare some sorry critters from craven captivity, I can't afford to spend my remaining hours trying to inspire, then push, them from their cowed spots.

Rather than setting free the bunnies (who probably wouldn't care to budge, even if I tried), I have to act on my own freedom. To get into the car and moooooove. I have miles to go before I sleep. Miles to go. Far down the pike. Far from this stange slice of everyday irony (and hopefully not practical metaphor), known as "Bunny Country".

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