Monthly Archives: August 2015

買物では狭く、書店では広く

私は多くの人と本屋さんと百貨店の楽しみ方が違うということが分かった。百貨店では歩き回って、セールがあるのか、いいものないかと思いながら歩いてみることが楽しいと思わい。大抵、特定的に何かを買うのだ。

スーパーでもこの買い方だ。

本屋さんでは却って特定科目を見るのではなく、あらゆる分野の本を取り上げてみる。この前、語学、伝記、歴史、建築、哲学、ロマンス、科学、音楽、作文、古典を全部取り上げてみた。

これが自分の中では買い物だけではなく、多くのことに渡ってパターンかされている。私は案外常に新しい見方とやり方を試している。北米に帰るたびに、自分とは逆のパターンの人と再会して、どれほど会っていない間に自分が変わって、相手が同じ道に進んでいるのがわかる。その時に、相手が経験している問題に少し開く道を案内するが、相手のために歩くことができない。

Full Range

The Budget Inn Patricia is situated in downtown Vancouver in an area filled with vagrants. Yesterday night on my way home I saw a guy with his back to the sidewalk in the entrance nook of a store that was closed. At first, I thought he was doing something with the door, but I saw that his left arm was straight and his right arm was bent. He seemed to be taking care to do something with his right arm. Shooting up? I wondered.

Approaching the hotel, and getting ready to cross the street, there was a woman on the corner in jeans and a black tank top, looking around as if she were looking for someone. She would turn her head quite suddenly as she scanned. She turned and looked at me as I was crossing the street. Just then, there was a woman she knew who approached from the right, who called out to her, and they talked animatedly. As I neared the kerb, there was a tall skinny guy walking a erratically, but singing a jingle. The second woman seemed to like the jingle, because she laughed out loud. As I stepped on the curb, the man passed in front of me, continuing to sing, but eyeing me out of the corner of his eye with caution. I smiled in a relaxed way, and he responded by continuing on his way, but turning his head more toward me and nodding a little bit.

I’m staying at this hotel because it’s the only one in downtown within the company budget.

Sunday night, on my way back to the hotel, there was a man yelling at a group of people lined up outside a pizzeria. He was mostly incoherent to me, but I understood the words “all of you can fucking go starve.” He was very animated and loud. As I crossed the street, I heard him say something about communism, but all of his anger was directed through me to the group of people behind me. He had deliberately put the street in between him and the people he was yelling at, and was directing all of his energy forwards, so that as I crossed the street and passed him by, it was as if I did not exist for him, as if he did not see me at all. Like I’m a cameraman and they he and his antagonists are acting for me.

When I checked in on Sunday afternoon, my cousin, her son, and my aunt came with me. After check-in, we stood in the shade on a street corner a ways away from the bus stop. We were talking about how funny we thought it was that the young clerk (from Brazil by his accent) and the older clerk kept talking about whether another guest was interested in the young clerk, while the young guy was preparing my check-in paperwork. They had continued to talk about it while my cousin, her son, and my aunt waited in the lobby while I took my luggage to my room. Just then:

“Yo. Can you guys move?” Asked a man who just arrived.

I looked at him. “Why?” I asked. He lowered his head a little, crossed his arms, and pulled his shoulders in ever so slightly. He did not face me full on with his body. I was closest to him. My cousin with the stroller to my left, my aunt to my right. They stepped slightly back.

“Because I work here and I’m about to open this store, okay?” He gestured behind himself with his thumb. “And I can’t open it with you guys blocking the door.”

I looked. Ng Suey San Florist, said the sign. I wondered if Mr. Ng would hire someone like this. Probably not.

“We’re waiting for the bus. It’s hot. We wanted to wait in the shade.” I stepped laterally, putting myself between him and my aunt.

“Well, can you wait at the bus stop? I need to open this store.” The man had a scar on his left forearm that looked like the scars that my friend Arji has from a bar fight that he got into, where the guy he was fighting had fought him with a broken beer bottle. Only with this man, he was wounded in a strange place – the inner, upper surface of his left arm, which indicated that someone had got him with his hand down.

I looked toward the bus stop. The sidewalk was clear. I looked at my cousin and nodded. She started moving toward the bus stop, my Aunt followed, and I brought up the rear.

“That’s why they make bus stops, you know?” He said, wanting to get a last word in. I was amused. No cursing, and no racial slurs. He’s a polite vagrant, I thought. It may have been because I was so calm and polite with him, that he had to stay in character.

There came a shorter skinny guy with long blonde hair. They bumped fists in greeting and talked. Opening shop. Drug dealer? I wondered.

Our bus came, and we were off.

For much less than the Hyatt, and the same price as staying at a duller hotel in the suburbs, I get to stay here. In twenty minutes’ walking radius are where the rich people park their yachts, the young people go out partying, and immediately outside, where homeless and vagrants do their thing, until (one can hope) they get things sorted out. The rooms are clean, comfortable, and do not smell.

Fucking brilliant! I feel alive – walking, observing, interacting confidently. Save for putting my cousin and aunt in an uncomfortable situation on Sunday afternoon, all of this is amusing for me. It is a chance to practice being relaxed, aware, and masculine.

Monday morning, as I am getting ready to cross the street away from the hotel, I hear a motorcycle horn honking from my right. He waits until a car passes, then makes a u-turn in the street in front of me. He has the tatoos, a black motorcycle skull cap, and round sunglasses, but he is on an electric motor scooter resembling a Vespa. He is wearing a silly grin. It seems like he saw someone he knew. He accelerates steeply and silently in the direction from where he came. It occurs to me that he is aware and having fun. For me it’s like this place is allowing me to open up my awareness, and detect it when others are. I feel aware and am having fun, too.

How could I possibly want to stay anywhere else?

六月我因日本朋友來而請假, 陪他們在迪化街散步. 路過在執行藝術展的一棟樓. 走入看到有兩個學生坐在一間茶屋裏在飲茶. 她們看到我就出來解釋作品.

作品名叫「圄」. 圄字意「吾於框中」. 感到压迫時, 常因自己作了個圍牆而把自己置於內. 命品為「圄」是希望碰到該樣心況時能借此茶屋學個不同的看法. 是把自己置於不同的框子而找所処難況的出口.

作品制造者是銘傳學建築部的四名女子大生. 她們為了作茶屋和倒茶的研究, 去了農場, 由摘葉至烘焙學了制茶的流程. 又學了茶屋建築的歷史同應用. 甚至門框的高低. 日本的茶屋門框矮, 以使人低頭入屋. 銘傳大學生的茶屋亦該樣.

我及四個日本朋友, 加銘大的學生, 坐入茶屋, 賞飲茶. 話提講到茶, 天氣, 來自的地方, 要去的地方,  有時不談而賞微風股, 讓我覺得我回到人類的基本. 沙漠裏遊牧民在遠行中入當地包裏亦會聊般的. 學生招待我們飲茶, 我們共同取靜, 除之外暫無地位, 對屋主的儘力招待感謝.

四泡茶, 約二十分鐘後, 我和我的日本朋友出去, 継續逛街. 後來逛到無時間食午餐. 朋友說還好有幾會於茶屋取靜, 否則最後感情會漂浮.

送好朋友上車去機場後, 我回到藝術展再和學生欱茶. 那時, 有一位中年女氏也一起欱. 她一直不停地講哪裡買了房屋, 哪裡旅遊過, 親戚在國外的那裡住, 房子有幾坪. 她很好意地想要分享她的経驗, 但是我覺得還是大學生人格較大, 不必借財物地位講話. 不只是那樣, 自己周圍置的財物及地位會擋住她是視野, 阻止她和其他人溝通. 今世的社會勸我們更專業化, 鋪設條漂亮的路而寫履歷書, 賺更多錢. 但我常覺得那樣不過是給自己做個圍牆, 把自己放在裏面.

大學生的熱心的招待不是為著爭地位或爭錢, 而純是為著要斟一杯好茶. 那樣全面地研究, 純心地執行,讓我感動. 但願那些大學生可以継續那樣純真的.

Winging It

When traveling, I have been in the habit of simply showing up to a dojo, introducing myself, and asking the teacher if I may practice. This has always worked well for me. I started doing this when, in Japan, I got turned down by a dojo in Matsuyama, Japan, when I called ahead and asked if I could practice.

I figure, if I get turned down, I at least get to see who is turning me down.

I have actually never had a problem come up by just showing up. I show up before class starts with my uniform in my bag, say a friendly hello to the teacher, smile, ask to train, talk about how much I love Aikido and how I’d love to practice with him and his students, and I’m in!

This week, I’m in Vancouver for meetings. For yesterday’s practice, against my usual policy, I gave advance notice, emailing the teacher beforehand to say that I was coming. He remembered me, and gave me permission.

Practice started with one of the senior students because Sensei was late. Sensei entered as we were doing breakfall drills. We nodded at each other from across the room, I bowed toward him, and continued with the drills. After sensei finished changing and stretching, he took over from the senior student.

Practice was great. There were some elements that I experience, but had not yet incorporated into my training. However, I could sense a certain edge to Sensei that I hadn’t sensed before, like he had his guard up a little more. My instinct tells me that this guardedness was due to my relying on my email and his memory of me, and not introducing myself at the beginning of class.

So much for the importance of advance notice. This tells me that a face-to-face introduction is the main thing, and email is an extra. Speaking with him after class, it was clear that while he did remember me, he didn’t really – he was asking me questions he’s asked before. This also makes it clear that the point of going to practice is not to talk… because the body remembers movements, but the mind doesn’t remember conversations!

Speaking of words not mattering, I was out dancing Wednesday last week. There was a free class, and people stayed after to dance. There were some women looking hopeful at the edge of the dance floor. I watched as a few men asked tentatively “Would you like to dance?” Let’s think about this. She got dressed up. She came early to participate in the dance class. She stayed after class. She is standing at the edge of the dance floor. OF COURSE SHE WANTS TO DANCE. In fact, the look on the women’s faces had an incredulous “why are you even asking?” expression that they were trying to hide.

So, I made this my approach: look around. Make eye contact. Approach directly from the front with a relaxed smile. Raise eyebrows and gesture to the dance floor. We’re in! NO WORDS NEEDED. With women I’d already danced with, I could take drinks out of their hands, set them on the counter with a smile, and they would let themselves be led to the dance floor. They didn’t feel this was rude; they liked it. They were just waiting for someone to ask them to dance.

I’ve been giving thought recently to the layered nature of social interactions. There are verbal and non-verbal layers. Humans are educated to think the verbal layer matters, but it doesn’t matter as much as the non-verbal layer. What’s more, the verbal layer often doesn’t matter in terms of content. Monkeys groom each other. Dogs play and snuggle. Talking is the human means to the same end. Thank goodness for Aikido and dance. They make for non-verbal conversations.