Friday, November 03, 2006

so long, astoria or: my long lost 80s childhood

due to the undeniable beginnings of something i had all but forgotten about here--cold--i pulled a soft, hefty blanket from the closet last night and added it to my covers. the increased weight and warmth quite literally put me under a deep burden of sleep (known to scientists as "hi-ber-na-tion") that was seemingly inpenetrable until the alarm i had forgotten to unset for the holiday today racked my ears at 6am. i hit the off button soon enough, but i was startled by an even stranger sound (due to its infrequency)--my phone ringing! the voice that emerged from my throat seemed to come from beyond the grave, and i'm surprised my mom didn't hang up when she heard a ninety-year-old croaking into the phone. we said goodbye after only a few minutes of me struggling to break the surface of consciousness, and i was quickly drawn under it again. three hours later i finally washed ashore.
[i know it's a faux pas, but i'm going to change tenses now]
the day that greets me is sunny and languid, so i head outside as soon as possible (at, ahem, noon). the air smells of mothballs; i guess kumano is putting itself up for the winter. i pass a few students on my bike, and they wave and call my name. for a few, i slow down and ask, "how are you?"
"i'm fine" is the response they've all learned, so that's how they answer, but their smiles are warm as i pass. the last group of girls recognize my back and call my name, so i wave over my shoulder without turning around. this sends them into giggling fits. i believe kids are allowed to be kids longer in japan, and it's disarming. far from being jaded and sarcastic, the high schoolers (and adults too, for that matter) remain openly surprised and gleeful at my antics, beautiful fireworks, or whatever. their artless expressions of emotion encourage me to see the world again with fresh eyes.
i stop briefly at the bank for some cash. the ATM vestibule (attached to the bank) is permeated by a faint scent of paint thinner, which propels me unexpectedly into memories of my college art studio and first learning to paint. i hear echoes of jim's voice discussing vermeer's possible use of the camera obscura and remember the smells of individual pigments on my palette...schmincke yellow ochre always reminds me of turkey stuffing. i see rag towels stained with color, brush handles jutting like headless flowers from jars of turpentine, and half-finished paintings struggling to be set free from their two-dimensionality. the air is close with familiar chemicals (that now feel like old friends), but there's also the swirling, laden atmosphere of people trying to see with more than their eyes...the deep listening to inner echoes. i really miss that world, but i'm afraid i'm getting farther and farther from it. my fate, whether i admit it or not, has always been sealed in the pages of a book, not on canvas. i was made for words and paper and type and ink.
i leave the bank, jumping the curb on my bicycle and swerving a little to get going up the hill. the day stretches sunny and endless before me. suddenly i feel like the kid i never was--carefree and confident on two wheels, the earth nothing but wide streets and sidewalks made just for my tires.

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