Thursday, October 11, 2018

No Sake in Osaka

Osaka is probably best told in a series of vignettes, so let's get the stats out of the way. I arrived September 28th (crossing the international date line - I wasn't on an overnight flight) and left October 1st (originally scheduled for September 30, but was interrupted by a Typhoon). I made a series of mistakes on this leg, the biggest being withdrawing 50,000 Yen instead of $5,000 Yen ($500 instead of $50). The second biggest was in the choice of hotel. There was also the fact that I clicked "bid 4 biz" on the airline and entered the lowest bid - $120 - assuming I wouldn't really pay that. I won the bid and got upgraded to first class on the flight to Osaka, though I'd already paid extra for my bag and a meal.

THE SLEEPING CAR


Head back, slowly sliding in his seat toward the center of the car, the man in a suit was a model sleeper. The woman to his left was not so. She'd been fighting the urge from the beginning, first by reading some manga, then by trying to make a phone call or two. It was futile, though - her muscles relaxed and she began to slump, jerking herself back to consciousness when her center of mass pulled her off the seat and toward the middle of the car. After a bit though, through that natural process our bodies use to find a comfortable medium, she found a place on the seat where she wouldn't slouch forward.

Instead, her beret'd head would lead the charge, shifting toward one of her shoulders. Head slightly forward, she would begin to list, slowly, toward the man in the suit. She'd almost be leaning on his shoulder when one of three things would happen: her book would slip from her fingers, her face would graze the man's shoulder, or the train would pass a second train with a violent "whoom!". In all three cases she'd dart back up, eyes flashing for a second to make sure she wasn't in danger and a minor effort to remain awake would be over in three to five breaths.

When her head chose the opposite direction, toward an alert-but-elsewhere occupied European traveler, the process would prove just about the same, but with the added element of the second woman jumping a bit when our hero's head touched upon her shoulder. One might think that after the first or second time the touch might have proven less jarring, but the second woman kept jumping, never thinking to keep an eye on the slouching arc of the first's head.

As is the case with public transit, people kept shuffling in and out of the car, getting where they needed to go. At some point, in mid-journey, I found myself at eye level with a young soccer player standing arms-length away from where I was sitting. Knowing what I look like, I did a bad job of suppressing my smile as the uniformed and cleated kid took stock of me. Once in a while I'd steal a glance his way too - if only to let him know I noticed him noticing me. After a bit of this, we met eyes, and I knodded toward the show on the bench opposite.

At that, it became the two of us. Now we were an audience as we watched the slow metronome of the woman in the beret. Emboldened, one of us would let out a small signal as the woman reached the nadir of her arc - a wink, a scoff, a nod - just to acknowledge that we were still engaged in the entertainment at hand.

His stop came soon enough though and he left me to watch alone. Another few stops and I, too, was off, ready to find my hotel and take a nap.

XXXXX


I don't have a good transition and I don't have my list of stories I wanted to tell on my person, so I'll pause here to say I checked into my hotel. It was a smelly smoking room with a mat on the floor - the bathroom down the hall had a stall that was the same size as the toilet it housed, and the shower/bath (downstairs, next to reception) was a public room to be used by men and women. Not exactly an exhibitionist, I ended up getting up early and taking very quick showers so I didn't have to interact with anyone else.

As one might expect, I took a stroll around the neighborhood, got some dinner in a giant shopping mall (there is a story there) and got a drink in a "traveler's bar" that was... okay.

"Poet"

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