Exiting the archive

We were in a crowded place.

No, we were on a boat
hearing the slap of water.

No, we were in the jungle
on a B-movie set.

There is no we
in the archive.

There is only I
with the husk
of the world

of the

sunrise, sunset, no pillow and stone,
no moving stars of earthly time,
just saltaway hope and who knows what
lavender rose and jacaranda
wine too bitter for the glass.

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The Day Is Here

Tomorrow (Thu) 7 pm central, Gary Gautier is the guest on the Chicago area Innovative Fiction Reading Group to discuss his new novel, Alice. The group admin will open the Zoom meeting at 7: https://northwestern.zoom.us/j/6362006135. All are welcome. Just bring your curiosity.

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The bench and the lantern

high above the pueblo we walk
awaiting the late night rain

scrub oak and cactus sprawl
three musicians appear

on a bench on a tiny plaza
we dance, we part, we hear

a door closing a market stall
while far far below

in the halo mist of the pueblo
a figure stops to light

a lantern that flashes red and gold
and brings us back to touch

one more time
as the first
drops fall

(alternate title: As the first drops fall)

Any votes for original (“The bench and the lanterns”) vs. alternate (“As the first drops fall”) title?

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Twelve Days Left

Sorry all. The public online book event for Alice (see previous post) was pushed back one week to Thursday, 9 March, 7 pm, Chicago time.

Same announcement link is still good: Here’s the link to the announcement.

For the actual Zoom link (embedded in the announcement), you may have to scroll to the bottom of the announcement (or here), as it may not appear in the announcement  header box.

The good news is you have a few extra days to read the book if you choose to do so, and the e-copy will stay at $2.99 for the longer window.

(If you don’t have a chance to read it, just come to the free event. Last minute is fine, but better if you can check “going” in advance.)


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Ten Days Left

Ten days left to read Alice before the author event at the online Innovative Fiction Book Club. (If you can’t read it, just bring your curiosity. All are invited.)

Thursday, March 2, 7:00 pm Chicago time.

Here’s the link to the announcement, which includes a Zoom link for the online event.

Here’s the link to the book itself (paperback or Kindle) with Kindle copies marked down to $2.99 until the event (next 10 days). If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the reader app from Amazon for free.

If you don’t have a chance to read it, just come to the free event. Last minute is fine, but better if you can check “going” in advance.


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Hitchhiking Japan

With my university teaching contract in Tokyo coming to an end, I thought about hitchhiking a bit. It would be nice to add another country to my hitchhiking repertoire (this would be #17). But it was winter and I was getting lazy. Then in a conversation about my hitchhiking trips last year in Mexico and from Spain to Poland, someone said, “You can’t really hitchhike in Japan.” That was the motivation I needed. I took the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto, figuring I’d be better off hitchhiking into a metro area of 35 million than out of it.

The night before

I switched from my Pakistani friend’s house to a cheap hotel the night before and took a last walk around Kyoto.


On the road

I left at daybreak. It’s at least a 6-hour drive (2 and a quarter on the bullet train) from Kyoto to Tokyo, and I wanted enough cushion to arrive before dark. Got directions from hitchwiki online to find a good spot in a service area at the edge of town. I was warned that I’d have to jump over a gate walling off the controlled access area of the highway, but luckily the gate was open. I just had to ignore the “no trespassing” sign and climb the hundred broken steps up the side of a hill with my full backpack.

Normally, when I’m in a service area rather than on the side of the road, I greet people with a word of two while holding up my sign. In Japan, though, random greeting by strangers is considered a bit strange. People are very nice, but everyone stays in their own space. This is a mixed blessing. There is something quiet, calm, and reflective built into Japanese life, even in the teeming city of Tokyo. It holds the best of the introvert’s potential. But there can also be a sense of loneliness and isolation – this too in the teeming city of Tokyo – and many Japanese feel it. As a gregarious, clumsy Westerner, I stand out. Strangers don’t seem to mind when I greet them. A few might find my extroverted ways disruptive, but more often they find it humorous, endearing, or just plain odd.

In any event, I figured I’d just stand by the curb and smile instead of greeting. In five minutes, a fortyish couple going to Nagoya picked me up. With my 10 words in Japanese and their 20 in English – and the telephone translator – we were on our way. They laughed that I was hitchhiking as a tourist activity, but picking up a hitchhiker was a kind of tourist thing for them too. They eagerly wanted a picture of the three of us in the car to send to their daughter.

Toshiyuki, my driver, found me a good service area on the east side of Nagoya — the Tokyo side — near the Toyota world headquarters. Great for me. Nagoya itself is a city of 2.5 million, and I did not want to get stuck in the middle of it. The new service area was vast, really 3 or 4 interlocking service areas, each with its own commercial center and each with several parking lots and lanes going in every direction. I picked a place with a friendly face to get my snack and coffee, hoping that the friendly-faced server would get me oriented on the road to Tokyo. Again, we each had a few words in each language, and she went far beyond duty – even went to get me a map of the service area complex, but all the loops in traffic lanes were too much for us. I walked over to a gas station near the exit, where I thought cars would funnel toward Tokyo, but it was a bad spot and the worker there gestured me away. I went back to my helpmate’s snack area and just randomly chose a lane going any which way. Good enough. A boat distributor, Shina, with an empty trailer (he had sold his boats for the day) picked me up.

Shina was also a champion rower, and when he went to conferences in the US, he would go with his friend who spoke English. The friend was not a rower but a sailor and a world-class one. He had either won or participated in – our communication was choppy on this – a number of America’s Cup races.

Then, rather suddenly, we passed Fuji-san.

Shina was going back to his dad’s farm, where they raised cattle or rice, depending on the season (as best I understand) but dropped me at a service area at the outer reaches of the Tokyo metro rail lines.

And home

I scrambled past the fence to get from controlled access to surface streets, and in two hours of walks, buses, and trains, I was at my hostel in Kita-Shinagawa, back on my old street in the south of Tokyo.

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