January 14, 2005 09:31 | Travel


Here's how the last 60 hours or so of my life went by.

Let's begin at 10:00 am EST Tuesday January 11th, 2005.
I awake with the knowledge that this would be the last real rest I would get until my arrival in Tokyo, many many moments away. It is 22 hours before my flight, and I have lots to do. After checking email and IM'ing for a few minutes (yeah yeah yeah), I begin my mad dash around Montreal. First to St-Denis Street, to pick up my last cheque from an old client. Our business relationship over, this last payment will cover all the last minute stuff I need to buy and my first two weeks of public transport in Japan.

Downtown, I illegally park in a "reserved for diplomats" spot and run into the national Bank of Greece to buy some Yen. Go figure, they have the best rates apparently... Pull around the corner and flashers blinking run into Future Shop to pick up a CD/DVD wallet.

Needing to visit my sister to pick up a key to mom's house, I call. She's not ready. I am starving. I stop in Chinatown for a Pho. On to sister's, stopping on the way at the Salvation Army to drop off another bag full of old clothes. Waste not want not. Hung out at sis' for roughly 45 minutes, almost falling asleep on the couch for some reason... Go home.

By this time it's become about 4pm. Laundry time. Pack it up, haul it down. What I always do when I do this is put the laundry in the washers, run home and do dishes, run back to put laundry in dryers, back home to vacuum, back to laundromat, fold, pack and schlepp it all back home. I take at least 2-3 washers and dryers, and get everything done in under 2 hours. This is commando action. I'm german, right?

About 6pm and I start losing it. Somehow I get stuck on the computer doing not much really. Limbo. I've sorta packed, mostly not. Without realizing it, it's now 9pm. Damn. Wash out the cat litter, collect kitty's stuff... we gotta go! Drop cat off at Caroline's. All goes well until for some unknown reason - do they ever have one really? - Emma decides to take me down a notch and cuts me a nice red line down the edge of my palm. Love you too, you bi... damn, that smarts!

It's 10 o'clock and Anders is waiting for me. He's late for his hockey game, he's holding some music CDs he's made for me and to top it off this is our last goodbye for at least a year as he is moving to Turkey to start his Master's degree. Done. Take care dude, cya on IM!

Now for the car. I have been all over the greater urban area of Montreal today... time to hit the suburbs. Good friend Steven meets me in Pointe Claire on my way to drop off the Golf at mom's in deepest Pierrefonds. An hour and a half and a stop at Fairmount Bagel later, I am home. No cat, no car, last inning, and what I thought would be a long night suddenly hits fast forward. I have no idea what happened here, but basically all of a sudden it is 4am and I am only partially packed, not showered, not even prepared... Panic. Flight is at 8 am. That means be at the airport at 6-6:30am, that means call a cab at 5:30ish...

Bang bang bang. Done. It is better this way. No time to endlessly debate which t-shirts to bring or leave behind. I catch myself fiddling about trying to stuff Q-Tips into a little travel case and have to wonder out loud "just what the f**k do you think you're doing?!"

As I put on my jacket, the taxi pulls up and I spot that cheque I had picked up that morning. OMFG. I forgot to cash it. It is 6:10am and I have to make the taxi cab driver take a detour to my bank. Thankfully the he has some brains and I don't have to ask him to step on it.

Check in, queue up, take it all off and out, put it all back on and in, sit and wait. Fly away. The in-flight movie is some god awful period piece. I refuse to watch. Five hours later we land in Vancouver. Taxiing to the terminal I ask the nice guy next to me what he's doing in Vancouver. He's an independent academic doing work and research to try to spread the reconciliation of God and science. No shit. Note to self: next time ask that question when taxing FROM the terminal. He tells me he admires and is somewhat jealous of my freedom and independence. I don't tell him what a basket case I am because of my freedom. Nor do I tell him how I am somewhat jealous of his ability to believe something. ;)

"Stuck" looking at the monumental views of the mountains around Vancouver from the boarding gate, I think "damn I wish I'd hang out here for a bit", before remembering "oh yeah.. I will be in 4 weeks..." It is a heavy burden I carry. :p

What the hell was that I ate? Turkey wrapped in a red tortilla with some weird dill/ranch dip? Why do yuppies hate food so much? Why am I sucker for crap like this? Damn. Six bucks worth of blandness.

There is nothing I can say that can make you understand the pain of a 10+ hour flight. Most of you have done it, so you know. Mercifully the plane was 1/3rd empty and I managed to snag a row for myself in the back. The stewardesses were very nice with me. In-flight movies and programming, in sequence: Cat Woman (minus 5 stars, two thumbs down, someone should get shot for this one), an hour of "Bewitched", Rocky 1 ("Yo Adriaaaane!"), a Discovery channel special on major oceanic disasters (way to go, sensitive programming!), "I, Robot" (I, want-you-to-give-me-a-break).

For the record, i had the salmon and beef meals, respectively. Both wished they were teriyaki. I wished they'd just stop trying. I drank lots of green tea to forget.

We land, deplane, passport check (not even a glance at me), baggage pickup, customs. It must be said that that is merely a formality it seems. My luggage was about 40% stuff I was "smuggling in". "Omiyage" (gifts of local merchandise one brings when visiting or returning from visiting from a foreign place) is a magical word, especially when coming from the lips of a gaijin. After chuckling at my mouse and my 3 bags of bagels, the customs official asks, by pointing at an illustration, if I have any knives, guns or drugs to declare. I almost break out in laughter.

Through the glass doors and ... OMG OMG OMG I AM HERE! Whoooohoooooo!
Limousine bus ticket bound for Shinjuku Eki in my pocket, I grab a Pocari Sweat and a salmon onigiri... and smile wildly.

Two hours later, after a nice bus ride that took me over the Rainbow Bridge, past Tokyo Tower, and struggling though Shinjuku Station - one of the busiest, largest, most maddening patchwork of multiple trainstations in the world - I get off at the right metro stop, but am, for the lack of a better word... lost. Jim's handwriting, my reduction of his blurry photograph of the map he had drawn, and a poorly considered fold in the paper had me walk about 10 minutes in the exact opposite direction. Exit A2 instead of A1. And who would have thought that 10 minutes away from where you live, there is a street corner with the exact same combination of business as the one on the corner of your street... Food market and pizza joint. But this isn't the right street, for sure. Ichigome Kagurazaka is an infinitely looping mirror image of itself! Aaaargh! Or maybe I should have tried harder to sleep on that flight...

Thanks to the wonders of pay-phone technology, Jim is able to triangulate my position and guide me home. Where ever you go, there you are.

A smoke, a beer, a poop, a shower... I hafta run to Harajuku to meet Gen. This night would be spent at his place as Jim and Yuka's had been previously reserved by Ado from some friends of his. Anyways, on my way to Shinjuku, I get off at the wrong bloody station. Go ahead laugh at me. I'm looking to go to Shinjuku, but Oedo doesn't stop at Shinjuku proper, it stops ate Shinjuku-nishigushi. But before it does that, it stops at Higashi-shinjuku. Bewildered, 3 hours late, I hop a cab: "Harajuku eki!" Cab driver then chides me for not having showed him my map earlier as he would have avoided the traffic. Yes yes, I wanted the corner of Omotesando and Meiji, not Harajuku station, ok ok. Arriagto!

I walk into the fourth floor "Soho Restaurant" just as Gen's dinner party is splitting up the bill. Damn. "Hi! Hello! My name is Boris. Pleased to meet you. Yes I just arrived! From Montreal! Yes yes, it was fine. Ah, allo Olivier, ├ža va? Magnifique." We are SO jet set. You cannot imagine. :D

By the way, for those who care, at this point I am wearing my B/W Adidas Sambas, dark blue Diesel jeans, dark blue t-shirt and jogger vest from American Apparel, my father's dark blue with grey and burgundy pinstripes italian wool 2 button tailored suit jacket, and a loooong powder blue scarf, folded and looped around my neck, "in the Tokyo way". Tssssssss. ;)

Walking to Gen's apartment building from Meguro station, chatting about tags and semantic data management, I am happy to recognize the area as I had been there a year and half earlier, the night before the 1IMC, an event that lies at the very beginning of this new life of mine.

It is 23:59, Thursday 13th, 2005, Tokyo local time (10:00 EST). It has been 48 hours since I have seen a bed. Amazingly it took another 20 minutes of chatting and email checking for it all to run up and drop me, in an instant, into deep sleep.

Six hours later, jet lag opens my eyes. Damn you, jet lag.

Over the course of midday, I made my way back to Jim and Yuka's, stopping in Shibuya to check out keitai (cellphones), Shinjuku for lunch at my favorite little yakitori counter/hole in the wall. A laaarge bottle of Sapporo, a small bowl of chicken bits stew, some marinated lotus root, and a sampler plate of yakitori. I think I may have cried for joy. ;) (No pictures as I had stupidly let my camera battery run out. I promise to go back, just for you all...). Mama-san, as the other clients called her, as I was paying giggled and asked how old i was. "Thirty", says I. "Ohhh, I am thirty three!" she says smiling wildly. For about 1/2 a second I try to imagine what kind of life I could possibly have with a yakitori counter worker. "Arrigato gozaimashta!" I say as I walk out. "Please come again" she calls after me...

I have spent the rest of the day settling into and relaxing at Jim and Yuka's fabulous new place. Did I mention it is fabulous? Yes, it is fabulous. No fridge or reliable WiFi yet, but hey. I am here. And I am happy. :)

(This has been a story titled "And thou shall know our verbosity")


My bro wants to go to Japan next year. If this is an omen of things to come I'm definitively sending him your blog's address.

You're so ...cute.

I loved your verbosity! I almost feel like I've been on that long boring dry flight (well, kinda since I just got back from a hella long plane trip with 5 hours in Taipei). And I totally identify with your pokari sweat/onigiri wild smile. Me too!!

Someday, let's coordinate so I can hang with you in Tokyo. Say hi to Gen-chan.