Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The First - A kind kid, a couple of smelly guys on the train

(Old journal entry - first night in Japan)
It started.... where? Where to start?

Next to me, two good old boys bumping along on the train from a big night of drinking, my tired head and stomach filled with butterflies and a willingness to accept anything. These guys smelled bad, and I don't mean bad the way unclean people can get to smelling after a few days of sweating in the same clothes, but bad in the way that reminds one of pollution and aggressive, self-destructive smoking, drinking, greasy food, and overwork. Their alcohol-poisoned breath permeated everything until even public the transportation, if it could speak, might complain about the smell of public transportation.

Before I had the two old boys kept me company on the way to a mysterious place called Ueno with the rest of Tokyo fluttering by, there was a kind young kid in the airport who spoke English and helped me to send my bags ahead to yet another mysterious town, leaving me with only my backpack. My conversation with the kid; lost to memory. Probably in college, he smiled a lot and invited me to visit his family in Tokyo sometime. When that would be, I don't think we ever agreed upon. My soupy jetlagged head never thought to collect his number.

To all of you people in the world who have helped a dumb, fish-eyed American find his own ass in a strange town, thank you. Honestly, you'd be doing yourselves and your countrymen a favor by turning us right back around and putting us on the next returning plane a small souvenir to give our friends back home. That would be standard protocol. I will also tell you a secret, you saints of lost travelers: After my bags were taken care of, I was just happy to be rid of them. We only care about where our bags are when we're in the comfort of our hotels and our shirts begin to smell. Between the airport and the hotel, feel free to steal our bags so we won't have to carry them.

On the way to Ueno, sitting in a cloud of stale smoke with the smell of alcohol sweat, those two old guys were probably best train buddies I could have had at that time. Iike me, they were mellow, exhausted, and fogged-over; completely out of step with the rest of the world. They tried in vain to communicate with me and it didn't matter that they couldn't. It was my first cultural exchange with the real Japan, and the first of many more to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment