"working on my faults and cracks..."

5.25.2009

guiding a borrowed missile by stolen satellite

We know the formula better than anyone. Easy to feel empowered when they've entrusted us enough to pad these designer pockets. And so we push. After all, we've pushed enough of these kids through the test tubes to know exactly who and how they will succeed. And now there they are, formed in neat rows beneath the stage, being called upon to reach forth and seize the ropes to their infallible prepubescent dreams, joining the march toward a desk or filing cabinet in the skies of glass and steel above. I look at their faces, trying to pick out who, in untold months from now, wouldn't be able to take it anymore. Where is the boy who would crumble under the pressure, placing himself under house arrest for months on end before finally being coaxed off the proverbial ledge, and returning to class? Or maybe it would be one of his classmates--the pretty brown-eyed one, with long raven hair, until the stress caused it to start falling out. The cost of meeting expectations--graduation from a college of good reputation, a full decade from today, an academic record forged from remaining at the top of classes that no one will ever remember. Innocence. From children who were taught everything from every book--everything but how to grow, and learn to make mistakes on their own terms. In our adult rush to earn a reputation by introducing them into society and to the top of the boardroom, we forgot to show them how to seek, and inquire, and discover for themselves.

the choir sings... as gunfire rings...

All the young expats I've ever known in my experience with Japan lived painfully normal lives. They took their girlfriends or families to Royal Host following sunny afternoons at the park, and dutifully paid their city taxes--even giving the unscrupulous NHK man his due. They faithfully endured discriminating office politics, eventually working their way through the company till they'd saved enough to afford a Vespa and a 50cc driver's license. In some sense of the word, even hitting the glass ceiling was "making it." 'Stability' on a path others found unstable or unlivable could be counted as an accomplishment of its own. Yet nowhere in the scripted "living abroad" life manual have I ever seen anything about a Ferrari on unpayable loans from the bank, multiple high-rise properties, or the exorbitant, winner-to-gutterball swinger lifestyles that seem to be happening in that one 'other' famous expat metaphor. All the dime-store romanticism derived from taking a chance, with all the stakes not earned, but conveniently on loan. No sooner conveniently returned, none the wiser.
Guess I picked the wrong country.

...and you tell me you're so weary...

The old man in front of me scratched his graying stubble with a leathered fistful of ten-thousand yen notes; the two handcarts at his side piled high with boxes--all, needing postage labels. He had carefully balanced white styrofoam ones at the top, and thicker, corrugated cardboard ones on the bottom. Eavesdropping, I heard him tell the clerk he was sending fresh fish, and they needed to be rushed. "Might they arrive in the morning?" He hoped.
His galoshes, still wet from the rain outside, squeaked on the tile as he lifted each chilled husk from the cart to the window. With only a few minutes to go before midnight, he would be one of the last customers of the day. Him, and an American standing behind with only an envelope. He places the first package on the scale.
I found myself truly wanting to know. There had to be more to this man than just fish. More to the chase than just the expectations of the catch. More to living than just arriving.

...more like scratching lyrics on paper plates
 
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