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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Prison Japan (an Introduction to the Story!)

Who could imagine that a night on the town would land you in jail for 16 days? Who would predict that a stupid dare could see you thrown behind bars, browbeaten by the cops and barraged by interrogation after interrogation, like something out of an old Pacific War movie (I am thinking in particular of Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, or Bridge Over the River Kwai)? If some soothsayer had warned me that one day I would be arrested and go to jail and live the complete jail experience, in bonsai form at least, I would have sniggered and said: "As if!" That is not to say I haven't had some close calls with the law -- I once got busted at Tokyo's Narita Airport with a Nepalese pipe in my suitcase, the same pipe that I had been hammering for two weeks in the Himalaya Mountains, smoking hash and weed. I didn't even clean it properly, and in a backroom at Narita Airport, as customs officers fiddled with tweezers and twirled test-tubes around, I discovered there are certain chemicals which change color to reveal the presence of marijuana. The cops let me off with a warning then (but confiscated my pipe), and I winged off on my merry way, oblivious to what horrors I had avoided. I just never imagined I would ever be arrested, or worse yet -- detained -- and so I remained in a state of ignorance. The prospect seemed absurd, and so I didn't even contemplate it. I guess most people do likewise, until it happens to them.


Menace and Crystal Meth hijinking, just before our Holiday in Hell (Japan, 2007)
Anyway, this story is real, and this is how it started: on Sunday, March 13 I collided with my man Crystal Meth and his brother Garnet, who was in Japan en route to Cannes where he was working another con. As I have already admitted, Meth lives in Kichijoji on the west side of Tokyo, and I had spent the past 48 hours drinking and running amok there and dare I say it, even smoking the odd canful of hash smoke. It had been a big weekend and I had only slept a couple of hours, so I wasn't really in the mood for another late night, especially since I had work to do on Monday. But you know, the guys insisted I go out, so how could I say no?! Truth be told the real reason I decided to go out on that fateful night was that I wanted to see Garnet's old girlfriend Miho, who was rumoured to be in attendance. Call me foolish, but I was beginning to think that I might have a chance with her!

I snuck back into my apartment on Sunday afternoon to drop off another shipment of stuff, and was seduced by the sight of my soft futon, its linen still crisp, lying prostrate on the floor. I remember thinking to myself: Surely I have partied hard enough this weekend... I deserve some time off. Time enough to sleep, or to watch some free-to-air TV, possibly even chant with Kobayashi-sensei, and get back into his good books. Buy a few cans of Asahi Dry from 7-11, and sink into oblivion. Then Meth texted me, saying that Miho was coming over. This was worse than waving a red flag at a bull, and I was forced to comply.

A few hours later we were doing dinner at a restaurant in Kichijoji. We found ourselves a table in the back corner; Meth, ever the joker, suggested we sit in single file against the wall, like panelists on a game show, facing the other diners. Typical gaijin prank, I thought to myself, embarrassed by the strange looks we provoked. I ended up on the far end of the line from Miho, and was not happy about this position (...always go to places you can kino the chick). Before too long I conspired to break ranks, by moving up to sit opposite her, in one of the empty chairs. Not that it got me anywhere, and I earned some chagrin from Garnet and Meth, who accused me of spoiling the symmetry of our seating. I was eating the entrée, tofu and shaved fish, when I got a phone call from another one of our friends, a Kiwi called Dennis (Dennis the Menace, aka Maniac High), who happens to be a porn actor in Japan.

Maniac High, aka Dennis the Menace (Japan, 2007)

"Hey, Diggity Dog, what's up?" he said, voice as smooth as silk. "Why don't you get yourselves over to Shimokitazawa (下北沢), we could play pool, have a few drinks, and I could hit you up with some choco." So we decided to meet up with him in Tokyo's Bohemian quarter, about 25 minutes away by train. Sadly, Miho made her adieu, bade her sayonara, leaving me empty-handed once again. I wasn't really that keen to go out, and I didn't have any money, but Garnet and Meth insisted: "You have to come -- we will pay for you." That is the honest truth.

I didn't have any cash... but that is not the reason I ran. What does it take to convince you? Looks like I need to rewind, and give this story better context! Let's backtrack a few days: Friday, May 11 I lobbed into Liberty House, and finally managed to get all my stuff out (mostly.) I stayed a few hours there slaving around with brush and broom, deleting the detritus of my occupation.... I must say I had that room completely polished by the time I left. I even got into the high shelf behind my bed, where I discovered whole drifts of mouse droppings hard as pellets, which must have accumulated during my stay. It disgusted me to think that I had been living so close to so much filth, for so many years, in such a state of ignorance. At least I won't have to worry about that in Shinozaki... that place is brandnew (not to mention bugproof). Nonetheless, my room at Liberty House was looking so clean that I once again regretted my decision to move. What exactly am I getting myself into, shacking up with Kobayashi-san? Why do I want to move into the 'burbs? I was in a rebellious mood, and I resolved: I have lost Liberty House, but I still have the 3rd Free Day! Let's put up a fight for it!




Bailing out: my room in Liberty House, cleaner than it had ever been (Japan, 2007)
I lugged my sack and some assorted bags by way of the warm sunny streets, up through Ueno to the Buddhist goods district in Suehirocho (末広町), where I was due to teach Sasaki-san. Actually, maybe she met me at Liberty House, and accompanied me to the cafe, offering to help carry my luggage? The details are so foggy, I honestly don't remember! The bags were heavy, and sharp angles dug into my legs as I walked. I had a full day ahead of me... after Sasaki-san, a TE semi-session, high in the clouds. And then the following morning, babysitting Kobayashi's rug-rats, at Kidea, etc. At times like this, I wished I had a simpler life, a freer schedule, and a bit more social excitement. Couldn't I cut Kobayashi loose? I thought to myself, as I shuttled to Shinjuku. But I just moved in with him, of course, and I had lost my liberty. The long game had come to an end, and his grasp was growing stronger by the hour.

Mad scramble, in Kichijoji Plaza, two days before our arrest (Japan, 2007)
Sometimes in life you need to do something stupid just to show that you have boundaries, and that those boundaries have been violated. Of course, in a perfect world nobody would need to act out, because everyone would recognize and respect their limits. That is not the world we live in. Much as I would like to believe that I am the victim, I know that I have crossed the boundaries of others once or twice in the past, and that those transgressions require punishment. What I am trying to say is that: having done the crime, I am willing the do the time. Jail is there, to show you that you have crossed the line. I have no regrets about what fate awaits for me. So for what it is worth, this is my confession.
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