“Living for the City” is a song of Stevie wonder singing about black people’s hard lives. I often sampled this song as I played a mix of Hip hop music at night clubs. I especially like the phrase “her closes are old but never are they dirty,” so I used to scratch that part repeatedly. When I traveled Bangkok and hanged around the city, I saw a girl on the street of a chaotic downtown. She instantly reminded me of the song. I took a shot of her, repeating the phrase like a mantra on my mind.
Since my childhood, it is my father’s daily routine in summer to have a glass of shochou (distilled spirit) after farm works and take a nap in a room where the family Buddhist altar and photos of our ancestors are placed. For all the cats in our family history, it is their daily routine to accompany him for a nap, chilling out in safety. Watched over by a portrait of his father in military uniform, whom he hardly remembers, he sleeps like a boy in perfect peace.
It is time to close for the day. The owner starts cleaning up the shop. During the midnight he has to prepare for fishing early in the morning before closing season. A customer here interrupts him, toxicated and collapsed on the floor like melted ice cream. Another customer there, who is also about to melt, orders the most valuable bottle of wine in the house. He gives up fishing and takes orders with an unhappy look.
My cousin died in his forties last autumn. His funeral brought his last girlfriend, two exes, and six children back in the house all together. While the young girlfriend was weeping and wailing, the second wife looked at her with a cold eye. On the other hand, the first wife, who remarried a company president and moved to Kyushu, looked utterly calm. She brought their daughter from her previous marriage to bid farewell to the father. Throughout the funeral his mother and aunt was showing their concerns in turns to these women in his life. Behind them, I was secretly expecting his Korean girlfriend and child would show up, but the drama never happened.
When I was an employee at a concrete material company, I visited a small island of Mie called Kamishima with an executive of a local marine engineering company. We met at ten in the morning at Toba and boarded a regular liner for the island. In Kamishima, we conducted a pre-survey for scrapping caisson of the harbor, and it was done much earlier than expected. As I didn’t feel like going back so soon, I planned a little tour of the island until the afternoon liner. Since I was dressed in working uniform like a decent engineer, nobody paid attention. I walked into alleys that sprawl in different directions like a maze and there appeared a cemetery out of blue. It looked like an arched theater built toward the ocean, with tombs standing like audience. My definition of “island” is an isolated land in the ocean just like this place. , It is no longer an “island” if it is accessible by a bridge over the ocean If ancestors settled here to avoid getting in touch with the rest of the world, they would hate the idea of building a bridge or tunnel, and would rather leave for somewhere else than have those, crossing a bridge of disappointment. There was still some time until the departure. After having some drinks and snacks, I boarded with my co-workers. I fell asleep, missed my stop, and found myself at the terminal in a small town. Feeling hopeless in the middle of nowhere, I noticed a man beckoning to me from a car. It was him, the executive of the local company, smiling at me.
My relatives got together in the first summer since my cousin passed away. I thought I should take this chance to keep the little ones on my side, and got tons of fireworks and bottle rockets as a starter. When you shoot a bottle rocket, a parachute pops out. After my late cousin, I offered the boys 100 yen if they would go get it. They loved the idea. It turned out to be a disaster, though. The rocket unfortunately flied to the neighbor’s house and it upset their grandmother. The oldest boy was scolded for the group while I pretended I wasn’t part of this. Sorry guys, I was the one who should’ve got that scolding.
Seeing my old friend and his son bathing together, I was feeling relieved and a little jealous. When we were young, I used to be concerned that he might become a gangster. He left home because of conflict with his father. When he came back for the first time since then, his father was dying of terminal cancer and not able to have conversation due to painkiller. After all those years of struggle, he couldn’t make up with him to the end. One day at a bar, he picked a quarrel with some strange kid sitting next to him. He snatched an iPod from him, stomped on it, and said “such a fake stuff”. Was his anger related with the unfinished conflict? I assume it was. Bathing one’s kid is such an ordinary thing in everyday life, but it means something more in his life.
Dogs love driving. Back in home, our dog never failed in telling the sound of my father’s ISUZU truck from the neighbor’s DAIHATSU. The dog and I used to be driven to the farm together on the truck to help father. While I was displeased during the drive, he loved the wind on his nose and proudly showed himself off to other dogs barking at him. One day, he failed in jumping onto the truck. He shrank his tail in shame and gave up driving eventually. The tragic incident accelerated aging. He soon began to get cramp often and passed away shortly. This husky used to welcome customers at her owner’s shop and accompany him for climbing all over the country. Since she became unable to jump on a wagon, she always stays at home except for the family’s camping held twice a year. Now that it is difficult to walk, she just sits around the tent. Although she can hardly see anymore, she must be sensing the same sunshine, the same smell of hay, the same sound of brush once experienced in those mountains, and it might be bringing back the vision of the days in her youth.