Tokyo 2010: Finale

Shinagawa, South

Today was the first day since Christmas where I did not have something to see, somewhere to go, or anything to do. The hum of the heater has replaced the drone of aircraft; the distant squeal of the Jersey City lightrail turning the corner has replaced the rushing sound of the JR Yamanote line.

Piled across the kitchen counter are the things we brought back – cute dolls, strange snacks, and a pile of CDs. Our suitcases remain nearby, still mostly full of our clothing and charging cords. They will be unpacked in due time. The fridge has been refilled, the laundry is slowly getting done, and I am mysteriously not jetlagged even in the slightest.

I will not return to work until Wednesday, and while I’m starting to respond to work emails again, for now, I sit contently.

Hachiko Crossing

I have spent over five days in a place that was foreign yet welcoming, busy yet quiet, energetic yet polite.

Takeshita Dori

I have walked through neighborhoods I never thought I would set foot in, wandered without purpose in pedestrian malls, and blended into crowded trains and stores.

Waiting for Gold On To Open

I have inhaled the cloud of smoke in pachinko parlors, downed sake and shochu, seen some really weird things on TV, and inadvertently walked into the adult section of more than one anime store in Akihabara.

And yet it still feels like there is more to do. Even with another week, another month, I wouldn’t have been able to see it all. So we will continue working on our Japanese, keep our eyes peeled for new things to see when we are there, and start plotting for the next trip.

I can’t wait.

(Very special thanks to all of you who left comments, suggestions, questions, and encouragement on my blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook over the last week. It felt like you were there with us.)

Narrated Reflected

Farewell, Astoria

I’ve come to realize that I tend to be very terse when writing about life changes. While I’m happy to gush about job changes or anecdotes, things going on in my personal life feel almost less relevant.

But that, obviously, is ridiculous.

This is my last post from our apartment in Astoria; tomorrow around noon, I must drag the cable modem back to Time Warner and terminate my service. Friday afternoon brings movers, and movers will bring us to Jersey City. I should be back on line by Friday night, but this post officially closes the book on our five years in Queens.

Happened Narrated

One Last 2007 Story

In lieu of my traditional end of year posts, I instead offer an anecdote I offered a friend when summarizing my year, one that was left out of the relevant post:

On September 9th, around 3 PM, I went on the Cyclone at Coney. It was the last day that Astroland was going to be in existence; I had already seen the Zipper get driven away. In an effort to get the ride finished sooner (always hate the lines!), I opted for the last car – which I would be sharing with someone else. Someone considerably larger than me.

Sure enough, I had forgotten everything I had ever been told (NEVER RIDE THE LAST CAR) in a wave of nostalgia.

The first 30 seconds were fantastic, even as my back was reeling and my chest was crunching into the bar as we free-fell over and over again. Then we hit a sharp turn and my seatmate slammed into me, nearly breaking my ribs. It wasn’t much fun anymore, it was just pain – so I braced myself to avoid a repeat, and held on for the remainder of the ride.

I got off, collected my bag – cursing myself for deciding to lug all of my lenses and a monopod with me that day. It hurt enough to nearly bring me to tears, but not nearly enough to have me call an ambulance. At the same time – that was going to be my closing memory on Coney Island? I was livid in my pain – walked onto the beach, shot a 270° panorama, and hobbled to the train home.

It would hurt to breathe for the next week, and the pain would continue for about three weeks – and I think it ended right around the time they announced that, surprise, Astroland will be open again next year!

2007 is all right there – the joy, the pain that makes you wince, the regret and the stupid dramatic twist at the end.

Rollercoaster of a year, indeed.