& the Glyph
I had a postcard for you, too, but a deer ate it. That's right. Japan is full of tame deer. Make that "tame". They play Bambi, but only until they need food. One of them antlered open my bag while I was in a park washroom and gnawed through to the letter 'M' in my postcard collection. This has soured me on interspecies glasnost and I am never again giving another animal anything to eat but raw cigarette butts.
Sitting for six weeks in the Zen meditation position has caused profound changes in me. First of all, my knees are killing me. I'll groan as softly as possible while I tell you all about it.
I spent five dollars on a cup of coffee, but that's what you're supposed to do when you're in Tokyo. I also spent six. I even got lost in a huge department store. Recall, however, that this is precisely what happened to Godzilla some years ago, thus saving entire sections of the Japanese capital from utter devastation. So I went up and down and around, listening to the porcellain dolls who run the elevators calling out the floors in their crystalline butterfly-wing voices. All the while, of course, I was racking up valuable bonus mileage in the store's Frequent Flyer Program; then the house dicks caught on and showed me the door, which is all I ever really wanted in the first place.
I couldn't even buy pepper in a local supermarket:
"No, look," I explained, making the universal sign for pepper by shaking imaginary spices from an imaginary shaker onto the back of my wrist, then sniffing it and feigning a sneeze.
"Ah, so. Cocaine. Aisle 6, next to the aspirin."
I noticed that normal looking adult males read pornographic comics on the trains. One man sitting next to me was dressed for a Toshiba board of directors meeting. He was reading Mutant Sex Slaves from Beyond Infinity, the title of which I was able to piece together from my meager knowledge of Japanese and by asking him not to turn the pages so fast.
Trying to read Japanese reminded me that I had really wanted to write an article on language. I remember sitting in graduate school doing what I usually did during lectures, humming and doodling. After one such spell, I looked down and saw that I had composed a neat little curly-cue with a destral bend sinister over the fernel.
"Gee, whatzat?" said the cutie sleeping next to me.
"Oh," I said, spontaneously given to lying at moments like these, "it's something I copied off a stone tablet we—I uncovered on a dig in Armenian Humongoustan."
"We're not sure. Might be a glyph."
That "wow" midwifed my idea of the 'status glyph', the use of the written language not for expression or communication, but for the psychological snob effect of "foreignness".
"Hey, where'd ya get that?"
"Oh. Whadzit say?"
"Beats me. It's heiroglyphics".
Thus do the Japanese treat English. In Japan, t-shirts abound with pointless expressions, unparalled in their ability to unleash Zen-like emptyness in the eye of the beholder. Things such as "toothbrush". Or "Chance, 3th, we love the game very much." Or the potentially ominous, "Be collecting all complete news". That reads like one of those Marxist party slogans obligatory before real talk, like: "Wishing you quota fulfillment and back-breaking toil for our Glorious Revolution. What time is it?" But Japanese t-shirts aren't political; it's just the status of the English words they're after. Like the soft-drink names, which employ the broad "anywhere in the ballpark" approach. There's an electrolyte drink for athletes called Sweat.
Looking for more and more expensive cups of coffee and foundering on the shoals of inarticulateness, while satisfying to some, leave yours truly truly unfulfilled. It's like looking for the ultimate in the Good, True and Beautiful. Actually, the jury may still be out on the Good and the True, but the verdict on Beautiful is in and I, the foreman, shall now deliver it.
I saw the world's most beautiful woman in Tokyo. Imagine that the Creation is being re-staged for your benefit. See The First Dawn spill its liquid gold down across the unruffled surface of a high mountain lake as all the eternal criteria for beauty are established in the twinkling of an eye. Now, distill the essence of that moment and let a drop of it fall onto your soul and diffuse into your mind's eye and see the woman that therein forms, so agonizingly all-beautious, it feels like diamonds making love in your solar plexus —beauty to lobotomize the will, transubstantiate the blood to rainbows and turn the male brain to tofu. That divine creature whom you now see is but acne on the face of true beauty, Eau de Bat-Breath, a supreme bow-wow compared to The Woman I saw on the Tokyo subway.
She was sitting and reading. Her head was at an angle, her long neck graced by a golden necklace, her straight black hair cresting on her right shoulder and falling to her breast. She was breathing softly, a delicate pianissimo composed by the gods, a wondrous constellation in the night sky, Pleiades unto herself of all the feminine attributes which have ever haunted the fantasies of man. "This is one small step for a Jeff, but a giant leap for Jeffkind," I said to myself, (for by this time I had truly begun to rant) as I prepared to do that which anyone with the soul of a poet and the liver of a lily would have done: throw myself from the moving train, so that my last vision in this life would be of Her. Also, there was always the outside chance that she would spring up and restrain me and say, "Ah, you impetuous fool, come here to me, please". (The "please" would actually be unnecessary). The chance of that particular outside chance happening was something like one in a "googol" (a one followed by a hundred zeros). What the heck, I was gonna go for it. She glanced up at me for a second and though her eyes said: "Sure, Buster, don't you wish," who knows what was really in her heart?
While I was deliberating, She rose to get off the train, then turned towards me and threw her head back and laughed. Her hair bounced around in slow motion just like the hair in shampoo commercials on TV. She moistened her lips with her tongue and mouthed a few syllables at me. My Japanese is shaky, but I am sure that she was saying one of two things: either (1) “I Love You” or (2) ”If You Would Like To Follow Me, My Four Brothers Will Be Happy To Show You Their Black Belts.”
Well, the train pulled out of paradise and I was on it, alone. I think I'm going to console myself with a nice cool can of Sweat.