What a scene it was from the escalator-
There I am slowly carried up, a steady stream of people climb the escalators to my right, moving upward at a faster rate, while beyond them another steady stream of people are carried downward, and beyond them, a faster stream of people walking down, and in between us an equally steady, if more random, flow of people up and down the staircase. Moving like a dot matrix diagram of an electrical grid, like a network of small highways, a waterfall of conservative black coats, black hair, black briefcases, black shoes, white shirts goes drifting pass at the mercy of their respective flow…so choreographed as to seem somehow pre-ordained, directed offstage by some camera crew. Each to our own thousands of destinations, the waterfall grid of people splashes to the platforms, diverges to hundreds of glistening gateways, opening and closing of turnstiles, loaded like cattle into the muscular metal bodies of traincars. Standing impassive, inscrutable, face down in a cell phone or book or newspaper or magazine. Each with an identical expression. Identical purpose, identical lives.

Settled into my seat on the superexpress, there is, lo and behold, a picturesque view of Fuji from the train window. Rare for the foggy winter days, it sits iconic, symmetrical, the archetype of “mountain.” So purely is it “mountain” that it shrugs off effortlessly the millions of homages paid to it. Ignores the millions of prints and images devoted to it. It stands untouched by its own cliché, unmarred by it’s own exploited status as icon, flagship of a country, idol of an aesthetic. I am unable to remove my eyes from it, as it slowly turns to watch us pass, looking down it’s long, smooth, snowy brow at the passing of sleek technological marvels such as the Nozomi Superexpress 700 series, 111. The tubby man in glasses next to me sleeps with his earbuds in. Out of his briefcase pokes “Draft plan of IT meeting in January.” I see his name is Itaru Asa—something. I see his buisnessman’s second-day stubble poking up from under his smooth skin. I smell the mackerel in the bento of the family siting in front of me. I watch the patriarch in a green and grey-stripped turtleneck shovel rice into his mouth with a determinedly blank expression. I see the woman across the isle in cheap black stockings and leopard-print boots pretend to sleep as she hugs her tacky faux-fur coat to her stomach. And outside the country slips by in a jetstream, punctuated by the flash of regular concrete poles strug together in the steady blur of electrical wires. The great mountain is left behind now. There is only the mildly comforting sensation of watching distance distort the speed of passing objects.

As the train shoots forward, the mind reaches backward, and a reflective haze sets in as my eyes gloss over the gliding patterns of buildings and scenery. Certain select images. Home. My mother, her apron on inside-out, holds a cigarette aloft as she stands next to the stove fan. Brothers, brother’s girlfriends, occasional lovers, friends and strays crowd the kitchen, anxious for the coming feast. A pot of brown rice boils over slightly. The order had been to feed 8, but the actual number turns out around 14. There is enough. Bob is rambling softly in the corner about a joke he wants to tell. Spencer is changing the music. Bill is hovering at the counter. Michael kisses his sweetheart. Paul goes for beers. I stand in it, waiting for a plate, engrossed in the warm momentum of this scene, wishing I could hold it static, wishing it would revolve this way endlessly, like a snow-globe picture show. And really, that’s just what it is in memory…I can’t remember the banter, the jokes, the sarcastic remarks and guffaws from who or which corner of the room. It has become, like many other such nights, a kind of silent movie, detached from context and playing on endless loop.

Now playing: The Kinks – Johnny Thunder
via FoxyTunes


One Comment

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  1. January 23, 2008

    hey, this reminds me of that scene in “The Cossacks” when the main character is leaving home and he reaches that pivotal point where he stops thinking ahead and starts looking behind, or was it visa versa? God, I loved that story. Journeying – shared by all travelers to all destinations – seems to have a certain format, a reflective feeling torn between where you’re headed and what you leave behind. I like Calvino’s insight in if on a winters night a traveler about people in airplanes being inbetween time and space, in a sort of no mans land, perhaps because they don’t feel that shrinking of home on the horizon, and the slow rise and swell of the unexpected… anyways, miss you brother. I need to reread The Cossacks.

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