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"I was Changed By Rock and Roll"

Musings on shows and introspective resolution. Yeah right.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

26 hours, 22 minutes, and a bit of sleep in the life of...

26 hour, 22 minutes, and 2 hours of sleep in the life of…

My longest day since college began with a phone call. I take that back. It started with breakfast. And since this is my blog and I can do things however I want to (and I’m on a plane and still haven’t caught up on my sleep) there will be tangents. That’s a promise.

I wake up at 8. Can’t get back to sleep. Toss. Turn. Alarm. Shit. Publicist is going to call . Must get breakfast. 9:30 am. Poached eggs. Too runny. Bacon. Not cooked enough. Toast. Good. Breakfast: $32. Sony, thanks for the per diem. Next time, give me cash so I can eat $10 sushi and spend the rest on the ubiquitous, really disturbing adult cartoons.

10am the publicist for the movie – ostensibly the reason for this entire trip – called to postpone the set visit. 3pm, she said. I say, “great.” I mean it too. I was hoping for another day of running around the city. I didn’t realize at that point what I was getting myself into…

I’m out of my room by 10:45. On the subway by 11. At Akihabara Electric Town by 11:30.

Akihabara Electric Town. Not just the band playing Silverlake Lounge next week. It’s CES meets every chachki flea mart you’ve ever seen meets Alex Rose’s wet dreams. The photo blog will have more explanation. Let’s put it this way: there’s something for everyone geeky you know, from your perverted uncle who collects ubiquitous, disturbing adult cartoons, to my brother, who would have dropped trou for the digital cameras. And that’s not even mentioning the arcades. Or the skill cranes. Dave, never go to Tokyo.

By noon-thirty-and-change I’m out of there. I’ve got cherry blossoms to see.

The blooming of cherry blossoms is apparently a big deal. I’ve heard there’s Sake drinking and blubbery old men. I’m excited. But when I get to the park, there’s no sign of sake, and no blubbering. Perhaps that’s because it’s drizzling. But there are cherry blossoms, and they are both on trees and littering the ground, looking like post-new-years confetti and nearly out-of-place amid the bustle I know is beneath this park that overlooks a place that I think is called Ubesu (I have no map with me on the plane any more. Sue me.)

A walk, a Zoo, a closed sign. Not just Akihabara Electric Town’s debut album, but my hour.

Another walk, some farmers stalls, some cirashi…mmm…chirashi…one of the weird things about Japan is that you have no idea whether people are talking about you – so when I paid and the woman said something that sounded like: hamikiha balmiaka ramrashi and the dude looked at me and laughed – yeah, that was probably: the white dude just ate intestine! Yum, is my response.

Then: Hotel. 3pm. Meet publicist. Long car ride. Toho studios (where they filmed Godzilla!) On set. Cool house. Expaining origin of the Grudge. Amber Tamblyn. Cuter in person. No photos allowed. Talked music. Talked karaoke. Asked her to play poker. Sketched out publicist (“Is this part of the interview?” Um, yes.) Talked to director. Talked to Exec producer. Cool guy. Lives down the street from the Troub. Likes Pearl Jam. Lots. Future HOJ (that’s Husband of Jenn.) Left studio. Entire work portion of trip: 4 hours.

Here’s where things get interesting.

It’s 9. I get to the hotel. I have an e-mail. From Bridget. She lived in Tokyo for 9 months. Has suggestions, including top of Park Hyatt. Lost in Translation. “The Best Bar in the World,” she says. And she knows. She’s traveled. Lots. Roponnggi. Bar suggestions. Friends to say hi to.

I’m in. Because – at this point – my plan is to go to the fish market at 5am for the Tuna Auction. Who are opening for Akihabara Electric Town, by the way. So I gotta stay up all night, right? It’d be crazy to go to bed.

I go to the station where she says to find the park hyatt. 9:30 pm. Here’s what progresses. In 13 easy steps:

1. Exit train station. All I know: Skyscraper District. See sign. Walk.

2. Walk. Ask british guys where the hotel is. Go into alley. Look for food. “Massage?” No, thanks. “It’s good.” No, thanks. “It’s cheap.” Um, no. Thanks.

3. Out of alley. Back on street.

4. Walk

5. Walk.

6. Walk by tour group. Wonder if they speak English. Realize I now have no idea where the train station is. Walk.

7. Backtrack. Where is the fucking hotel? Where is the fucking train station? Does the fucking tour group speak English? Cool backpack. Spikey.

8. Out of a building I hear English. Accented. German. Meet older, business-suited men and women. I call them the Asian/German Contingent. Who are playing spaceland the same night as Akihabara Electric Town. I may pull double duty. I digress. Anyways, the Asian/German contingent thinks it’s the building with the three pyramids. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. I need to pee. And I’m sketching out the Asian/German contingent. So I leave them. And walk.

9. And pee.

10. And walk.

11. And pee.

12. And walk. Under bridges. Through parks. I’m so lost. So I get in a cab. “Park Hyatt.” Soubaki? “Park Hyatt Hotel?” Fukibak? “Park Hyatt Hotel.” Aah, Park Hyatt Hotel! Cab driver points in front of the cab. We haven’t moved. We’re in front of the Park Hyatt Hotel. Jebus.

13. 12:30 pm. I go upstairs to the bar. Lost in Translation indeed. Buy a beer. $10. Best goddamned $10 beer ever.

We’re not done. Not even close.

I leave. Take a cab. $40. Holy fuck this city’s expensive. Except for Chirashi (mmm, chirashi.) Via Roppongi. (“I dreamed about killing you again last night/and it felt suki yaki…”)

“Massage?” You’re hot. But no thanks.

Bar #1. Geronimo’s shot bar. I ask for the Hong Kong bartendress. No longer there. I buy a shot. Bartender pours me two. They’re gross. I drink. It’s obviously a tourist bar, but I don’t care because somehow I feel some semblance of “normal.” Not ‘cause I’m drunk. ‘Cause I’m speaking English to people who understand.

1:30 AM. “Massage.” You’re hotter. “Sree Sousand Yen.” Oooph. Tempting. No thanks.

“You want see titties tonight?” Yes, please. But no massage, please. On second thought – better no titties, for fear of hidden massage cost. And that whole body-part-falling-off thing.

Bar #2 – Patty Foley’s. I can’t escape Irish bars. I’m supposed to find Kara. There is no Kara here. There are five guys. They’re closing up. May as well have a beer. Somehow I mention I play music.

And then…

Three beers later, we’re in a heated debate about whether Motley Crue is the next Rolling Stones. That’s from superfan #1, who’s seen the Crue – get this – 63 times. He’s the bartender. He’s younger then me. He’s wearing a Hendrix shirt, and has a huge fro. And he wants to jam.

Side of the bar: Francisco, from Peru. He owns the one rock club in town. His vote? Santana. And Judas Preist.

Next to him: Matt, 19. Direct quote: “Joe Satriani is so much better than Hendrix.” Dude, seriously?

My vote: a surprise. Green Day. Huge debate on who the best punk band ever is. Misfits? Ramones? Clash?

Why did it take me 4 days to find my peeps?

3am. It’s officially going to be an allnighter.
Bar 3: “Vanilla.” 1000 yen cover covers our drinks, too. We hear it’s Eurotrash. It’s not. We get a “Living on a Prayer” remix -> Pretty Fly For A White Guy set that ends up into “Testify” (Kanye, not Rage)-> Golddigger. Hotness. Red Bull Vodka. Darts.

On our walk, we see cops. I take out my camera. Ed (the Crue dude) looks at me. “Don’t shoo themt. Yakuza!” What? “Japanese Mafia. I know those guys.” Yeah, adventure.

Bar 4: We do flaming doctor peppers. My night gets a bit spotty. I meet a Taiwanese bartendress. We dance and shoot a picture. I dance on a table to “Killing in the Name,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and “Fight For Your Right.” Why’d it take me 4 days to find my bar?

Bar 5: Francisco’s bar. Drum kit. Jam to RHCP DVD. Bartendress serves us drinks. It’s 4:30 am, and in walks her roommate. We start talking. She’s half-Japanese, half-Brazillian. And Rivers Cuomo said it best: “Goddamned those half-Japanese girls, they do it to me every time.” And that redhead said she played the cello.

And I’m jello, baby.

She’s a stripper, just off work. I tell her I wish I’d found her club – because Titties? Yes. Massage? Not so much. She’s nice and very not-strippery and very shy. I’ve got a crush.

I’m gonna go to the fish market. No I’m not. Francisco knows, “The best sushi in Tokyo.” I’m in.

6am. Sushi breakfast. 2 more strippers meet us. We lose Ed and Matt. See ya, guys. Neither stripper’s very strippery. One’s Israeli. I wish her happy Passover. She laughs.

7am. Fish market? No. Just ate. Damn fine Toro.


Oh shit.

Here’s something: people who have no irony live in Tokyo. They sing Mariah Carey songs poorly at expensive karaoke bars at 7am, and wonder why you change the words to The Humpty Dance and sing along a bit with “The Power Of Love”. They go from being flirty to sketched out by you. And they end the night with a slow Japanese song. That sucks.

I pay. $32. To do karaoke in Japan at 7am? Priceless.

It’s 8:30. We say goodbye. The girls go for handshakes. I go for cheek kiss. They laugh. I leave.

I get to my hotel. “Good Morning!” No. “Goodnight.”

I email Kevin.

I get into bed. 9:48 am.

I wake up, two hours later.

And I think: Goddamned right. It’s a beautiful day.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Live at Bukkodan

There's so much to cover about the last two days. It's been whirlwind.

Got off the plane yesterday at 3:30 or so and immediately realised that Jack's comment about Japan being an alien planet was completely dead-on. Even the airport felt like a different world. Unlike anywhere else I've been, the language is SO different than english (and the writing, too) that it doesn't even seem phonetic; from now on when I see someone Asian speaking English I'm going to think it's strange.

My Hotel is (of course) on the other side of the city from the airport. By the time I figured out the bus system it was 4:30, by the time the next bus left it was 5:30, by the time I got to my hotel it was 7:30. So much for my first day.

But push-push-push was the theme. I got settled, figured out e-mail, sent a couple out. Ate. Terrible food. Buffet and they were going for Western; why the fuck should I eat western food in Japan? Oh yeah, it's free.

At the desk, I found an english speaker and asked her where to go out at night. I told her I wanted crazy. "Did you see Lost in Translation?" Yeah, of course. "That's Shubuya. You don't want that crazy." Um, yeah I do.

She hands me a map of Ropongee. "This is easy to get to," she says. I think about all the cities I've been in with a "nightlife" that turns out to be a letdown.

I leave the hotel, and walk through a mile of moving walkways, corridors, and steps before I reach the train station. Different planet? Um, yeah.

How the fuck am I supposed to read the subway map?

After a bit it becomes obvious that the map does, in fact, have English translations; not only that, the announcer says (in a Japanese accent), "Next stop, sorinjariku station." AND each station has a different name! there's Seibu-Senjuku, Higashi-Senjuku, and Minami Shinjuku. And, of course, Shinjuku.

Actually, the subways are great: they run on time and the station-masters all speak english (kindof) and have been exceedingly helpful. I've only had two disasters. The first was when I was standing, lost, in a station and a woman offered help (this seems to be unheard of here; even when I've talked to english-speaking people they seem to eye me with more than a little distrust). The second was after Bon Jovi (yes, I saw Bon Jovi. It was awesome, mostly because of the un-ironic fandom of the guy in front of me, and the fact that 52,000 people phonetically sang along with "Livin' On A Prayer" while I sat in the back row gleefully taking notes and thinking about how I'd spent more on a ticket for fucking BON JOVI then I'm going to spend on the rest of the trip combined.) Anyways, there are two different kinds of lines, the regular lines and the JR lines (as far as I can tell, this does not mean junior.)

Long story short, JR lines aren't marked well and I ended up in the wrong place. But I found my way back.

Where was I? Oh shit. We haven't even gotten to night one.

So she sent me to Ropangee, and said it was tame. Which it is, if you've been spending your life drunk, high on cocaine, and sleeping with hookers all while eating raw meat and listening to Hulk Hogan records in Amsterdam. Seriously: this place made every "nightlife" scene I've ever experienced look like the nonexistent bar next to Pirates of the Carribean. I was offered a "Massage" as I got off the subway (no, Mom and Dad, I did not accept. I had that chance once in Amsterdam, I did not take it, I will never take it. She was cute, though.) Then, walking through the street, pimp after pimp invited me into their "bars." These are places with pictures of naked girls outside and free beer offered. And I did not accept. Why?

Because I've heard too many horror stories of foriegners leaving places minus body parts and I'm a scardey-cat about that shit. And I'm not here with anyone.

AND: There was a beatles cover band!

They were all japanese, and were fantastic. I shared a table with a japanese couple (who I think had previously been massaging each other); the three of us (and the rest of the packed crowd) sang along to "Eleanor Rigby" and "Two of Us." And I came back, put on "Lost In Translation" -- and promptly fell asleep.

Which brings us to day #2. Again, where to start? This morning I searched Craigslist and found another American alone in Tokyo, so I offered to meet up with her. I have no cell phone. This did not work. If Roberta is out there, I waited 30 minutes for you before perusing the chachki shops and eventually finding food.

Did I mention it was sushi? Did I mention it was delicious? Did I mention I spent $10? Did I mention I stuffed my face? Did I mention even I'm jealous of myself? I didn't? Now I did. MMMMM.

Other things I did: Went to the bridge where the Harijuku girls hang out. Now, here' the thing -- pre Stefani, I wouldn't have known nor cared where Harijuku girls hung out, 'cause I'd never heard of them. To explain the freakishness -- let's put it this way, one of the girls was in a Pokemon outfit, with white face makeup and somehow looked goth. Basically, it's schoolgirls in fetish outfits, but not sexual in a weird way. And everyone wants their picture. So it's exhibitionist. But not. In a weird way.


I went shrine-seeing, ended up at a chachkimart/amusement park/farmers market, and then realized I was only two subway stops (on the cursed JR line) from the Bon Jovi show. It was 5:45 pm; I HAD to at least check it out, right?


Unfortunately (and unbeknownst to me) the show started at 5pm, promptly (that's something about these Japanese -- they. are. prompt!) But I really didn't need more than an hour of the Jovster, and I had the cash on me (yes, the ticket was expensive, no I didn't pay for the trip, no I don't want to think about the fact that the "massage" would have been less expensive than an hour of Bon Jovi).

So what'd I get?

Bed of Roses -- with a rose on the enormo-dome screen.

I'll Be There For You -- "From the album New Jersey" (no screams.)

Bad Medicine -- With clapping and singing.

The Jovster: "If I were a Baseball player at 44 years old, Id be retired!"

Raise Your Hands -- With Unironic hand raising

Some new slow song. Bathroom.

Living on A Prayer -- I love that I was the only one in my (nosebleed) section who recognised "You've got to hold on to what we've got" as the Jovster strummed his acoustic to intro the song. Oh yeah.


Some new slow song. What's up with that, Jovster?

One Last Cigarette -- featured a really dedicated fan trying to jump the 15-foot security barrier and getting grabbed and thrown to the ground by the beyond-ubiquitous security. Dude, give it up! Jovster: "Another Satisfied Customer" (note: he said this at least three times in the hour of Jovi I caught)

Runaway -- This song sucks

Keep The Faith -- this one sucks even more. But everyone clapped, which kind of made it cool.

I left after this, when the Jovster said "Thank you Tokyo! Gracias! Bonisima! Aragatto!" Apparently there was more, because I thought I'd beat the rush and have some ramen, but as I was finishing dinner the show ACTUALLY let out. Which kind of pisses me off, because it means I could have seen "You Give Love A Bad Name."

So my one regret so far is that there has been no karaoke to speak of. That may change tomorrow (I hope so.) I wanted to rally tonight, but my bed's looking oh-so-fucking-good. I will sleep...

Aragato, Gracias, Thank You,
Another Satisfied Customer