September 9, 2007
September 8, 2007
Jazz shakuhachi? That's what we heard tonight at the Shinjuku Pit Inn, one of Tokyo's legendary jazz clubs, and Doi Keisuke's playing was awe-inspiring. But the real revelation of the evening, to us anyway, was Akiko Grace, whose piano trio anchored the evening's set. Incredibly supple playing, every note clear as a jeweler's hammer tap, but with enough power behind it to blow the audience through the back of the club. After the set, I think Laura was a little taken aback to return from the women's room and find me chatting with Ms. Grace herself. The pianist had signed a CD for me, and we had moved on to talking about New York and science fiction. I think I have a little crush. Laura poked merciless fun at me on the ride back to Roppongi and our hotel.
Much more to post about Japan, and a lot more pictures too, but it will wait until we're back home. Our flight leaves first thing tomorrow morning, and we arrive in Chicago two hours earlier than we leave Tokyo.
September 6, 2007
Just had lunch (and five beers!) here in Tokyo with a close friend from my high school years whom I haven't seen in (we worked it out) at least 21 years. I can't even describe what a pleasure that was. To compare how far we've both come from those days, and not look back on the times with bitternessit's a blessing.
We may be sitting directly in the path of a typhoon, but at least we're living it up at Icebar Tokyo.
We hit it with Craig Engler and Brooks Peck. All the drinks are made with Absolut vodka, your glass is made of ice, and you're only allowed to be inside for forty-five minutes. You have to make the time count.
September 2, 2007
I'm thrilled that Tim Pratt won a Hugo last night. Paul Melko accepted it, and it was my supreme honor to sit next to Tim's Hugo. Okay, who am I kidding? We passed it down the row and all took turns holding it. Cory Doctorow might have licked it, I'm not sure.
I was disappointed not to win, of course, but we've had a great time this week, with more great times to come today. Congrats to Robert Reed also, and all the winners!
August 29, 2007
Much longer ago than "this morning," we hauled our tired asses out of bed, hauled our luggage to the train, and hied ourselves to O'Hare. Check-in was delightfully pleasant, our cruise through security simplicity itself, and to say that our thirteen-hour flight to Japan seemed much quicker than our recent eight-hour flight from Chicago to New York would be an understatement roughly the size of the Pacific.
We sailed through immigration, baggage claim, and customs at Narita, and after two uneventful hours of train travel (with some unasked-for directions from kind commuters), we made it to Tokyo and our hotel. We wandered the streets of Roppongi until the desk clerk's directions began to make sense, and we had the amazing meal we were hunting for at a robatayaki called Inakaya, where two cooks sit across a wide counter from you and fry up the selections you point to from the cornucopia of foods spread between. There is much ritualized shouting, and the food is served to you by the cooks on an eight-foot paddle, without them getting up. The whole red snapper we ate Laura named Bob. I named my tiger prawn Paul. Don't ask us why.
Our waiter kindly took our picture, and then he showed us the restaurant's photo book, full of pictures of patrons like Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Cameron Diaz, Peter Jackson, Viggo Mortenson, Keith Richards, and so on. They will be opening a location next year on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan.
The tiniest bit tipsy on sake, we wandered Roppongi again, this time in search of the Absolut Ice Bar. We didn't find it, but I am determined to get there on our return to Tokyo next week and sip vodka from an ice glass whilst wrapped in a Swedish cloak.
We're so happy to be here.
Now, to end this 26-hour consciousness binge. Tomorrow, Yokohama.
August 28, 2007
October 4, 2000
So last week Laura thought I had died again.
Here's what happened: As we were saying goodnight on the phone, she offered to call me at seven in the morning to make sure I was awake, since she knows I often sleep through my alarm clock. This is not an unusual offer. I accepted.
Then I did a strange thing. I woke up at five in the morning and decided I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep, so I got ready and went to the office, figuring I could get some work done on my book before anyone else got there. I was out of the apartment by 6:30.
Well, around 9:30 I got a call at my little cubicle. "This is Bill," I said.
"I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!" said Laura.
"Oh, no! I came to the office early and forgot to call you!"
"I've been calling your answering machine for two and a half hours trying to wake you up! I didn't know if you had the bedroom door shut and couldn't hear me or if you choked in your sleep! My coworkers are mocking me! I was about to go to Brooklyn and make sure you were alive!"
Well, I apologized as best I could, and she insisted that I call my answering machine and listen to all the torture I had put her through, which I happily agreed to do.
This episode harked back to the most infamous "Bill is dead" episode of all, which happened at a little ryokan in the hills south of Mishima on whatever that peninsula is called that juts south off Honshu from Mt. Fuji. My high school friend Jon, who has lived in Japan for eleven years, hosted us on a two-week vacation. This particular night, he had booked Laura and me into a small traditional inn with famous natural baths, arranged everything we needed with the staff, then taken the train back home.
This particular ryokan featured co-ed bathing in a natural cave, but only at certain times of the day. That evening Laura and I agreed to each try the segregated indoor and outdoor baths, then to meet back at the hotel room at 9:30 to visit the co-ed bath together when it opened.
After an amusing adventure deciphering the kanji for "men's dressing room" and "women's dressing room"and a near-disaster when Laura almost walked naked into the men's bathwe each found our respective baths and began soaking. I started out in the men's indoor bath, then moved to the outdoor bath. I had it to myself, and there was nothing more pleasant or relaxing the whole trip as sitting back in that hot water with twisted trees all around staring up in the night sky with a light snow just beginning to fall.
After a nice long interval, I hauled my carcass out of the bath and dressed. According to my watch, it was about 9:22, so I figured I'd rest in the dressing room, looking out at the snow, for a few minutes before returning to our room to meet Laura. I felt very relaxed.
Next thing I know, Laura is grabbing me by the shoulders shouting, "I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!" and bursting into tears.
I sat up, confused, and looked at my watch. It was 10:15. Oops. Must have fallen asleep.
Over the next hour or so, Laura regaled me with the story of how she had tried to communicate to the staff of the ryokan, none of whom spoke any English whatsoever, that her boyfriend had not reappeared from the baths and had probably hit his head and drowned. The little man who eventually understood had apparently seen me sleeping in the dressing room and led Laura there, asking her, "California?" as they negotiated the maze of hallways.
"No, New York City," she said, stunned that someone should try to make small talk while her boyfriend was lying facedown in a pool of hot water and blood.
Then the little man opened the dressing room and motioned for her to go in. As soon as she saw me and started emoting, he discreetly disappeared.
We didn't end up trying the co-ed baths that night, but we did the next morning, and I saw enough naked old Japanese ladies to last me a lifetime.
I hope I'm not making Laura sound like a bitch. That's hardly the case, and in fact it's pretty nice to have someone who worries that you're dead if you don't answer the phone for two and a half hours, or if you don't come out of the hot spring on time.