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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Osaka One: Posted, November 26, 2015 Japan/Philippines Trip:

[NOTE: I have limited internet access in Japan, so these reports will be very far behind the reality. This was published in Tokyo at the end of my trip... after: Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Odawara, Nagano and Kusatsu. The best way to contact me remains through facebook. I write this blog from Niigata, on the Japan Sea Coast. About three weeks after the fact]


Anything that can go wrong WILL go wrong, --Murphy's Laws

Even if nothing can go wrong, it STILL will go wrong. --Board's Law

Osaka has a population of about 9 million people... bigger than New York, but only number 2 in Japan. Japan's Second City, is a sister city to Chicago, America's THIRD city.

We left off last time in Osaka... at the “office” of Screaming Mad George... actually an apartment with a bunch of stuff in it-- much of it mine. It's in the heart of the Osaka action area... on the fourth floor above a sushi bar.

I had a hotel reservation, but canceled it thanks to George's fine offer of his place. It's my accommodation in Osaka... a private apartment... my own place... free to wake up when I want and do that thing that boys do to help sleep at night-- if I can get my computer to connect to George's wifi.

My computer, that's the problem. Gone... vanished like a date when she finds out “everything.”

I had it in Korea... when I went to the fake “Internet Cafe.” Have I seen it since? I don't think so. I must have left it in the airport... gone.... Wait a minute! I used it in the hotel... where I canceled my reservation. I remember looking at it there...

George!” I say, “Remember when I looked for an address on the Internet... in the canceled hotel?”

He nods.

I think THAT'S where I left my computer,” I say. “Could you call them and ask-- in Japanese-- if it's still there?”

Interrupting some internet research of his own, George calls. In any other other country in the world that computer would be on eBay by now. But, this is Japan.

They have it,” George tells me, still holding the phone.“They want to know what time you'll come by and pick it up.”

Tell them the early afternoon, tomorrow,” I say. “I don't do mornings.

Around 3?” he asks... sooo Japanese.

Sure,” I say.

That settled, it's good night. George leaves. I plan to meet him, Yoshii and Junshuu early tomorrow. George has to teach (film, make-up techniques and other stuff... at the city art college... a quite famous school that his daughter has just started attending. Daughter??? attending??? Ouch!)

George meets me early and we go out for coffee and breakfast. On the way back to the apartment, I hear a voice behind me.

It's a shout, that sounds like “Mykel!”

So many things in Japanese sound like “Mykel” (For example, a geisha-in-training is called MAI-KO) I ignore the illusion of my name. Then I hear it again. Okay, who do I owe money to here-- and how did they find me?

It's Yoshii and Junshuu, just out of the train. I introduce everybody.

You don't look as scary in person as I imagined,” Yoshii tells George.

George laughs.

We go to an Osaka walking street and ask a passer-by to take a picture. No fukin' selfie fuckin' sticks for me! Part of the fun of picture-taking is the social intercourse involved in asking someone to shoot the snapshot. A fan of all kinds of intercourse, I ask George to ask some stranger to take our picture.

Can you say motley crew? (NOT Motley Crüe)... something like fellow passengers on Noah's ark.

Soon after George goes to work. Junshuu and Yoshii have plans for me... a museum with a Buson collection. A trip to the SKYWALK BUILDING, and a bunch of other exciting and Osakan things to do.

Great,” I say. “But I need your help with a few things first. It shouldn't take much time.”

Mochiron,” says Junshuu, “Nihongo hanashimo ii desuka?”

You're kidding,” I say.

He laughs and we switch to English.

(Proud note: today, in Niigata, I've been speaking Japanese 90% of the time. No choice, though-- and it won't last.)

I need to get a SIM card for my mobile hotspot,” “I tell them. “I also need to ask my cellphone company how to use the fuckin' phone, get a charger for my old cellphone. It has all my phone numbers... and then we've got to pick up my computer.”

Where is your computer?” asks Yoshii.

It's at the STEP INN, in shin-Osaka,” I say. “I left it there last night. Chotto baka-na.”

Shin-Osaka is pretty fuckin' far,” says Yoshii.

Your English had improved,” I tell him. “And you're right.

First stop: BIC CAMERA... which-- since 1989-- I thought was BIG GAMERA.

We can take care of most of the electronic needs here. A charger for my phone, a last decade Motorola flip phone... no problem. Yeah, right.

Yoshii asks a saleslady... one of those uniformed girls in every department store... trained to speak in a Mickey Mouse voice. She refers us to a male expert, about 20 years old... probably a college part-timer, earning extra yen on the side.

Yoshii and Junshuu explain the problem and we go to the electrical charger section. I'll translate:

How 'bout this one?” says the sales guy picking up a charger. We look at the phone... no go.

And this?”


How 'bout this one?”

It looks good. They discuss it in Japanese, I don't understand anything except CHOW CHOW, which is Osakan for WRONG!

The guy gives up with a shrug. We go to another store. And another. And a fourth. Finally one of the salesmen suggests getting a battery charger, instead of a power cord... In other words, take the battery out of the phone and charge it separately.

Good idea!

My phone battery fits none of the chargers.

Time passes.

We return to Bic Camera.

We find the same guy who helped us the first time. Explain the new solution... BANG! He's there with a multi-battery charger that'll fit my camera battery as well as the cellphone battery... and anything else with a flat battery that has some gold squares on the side. DEED DONE!

Then it's the PORTABLE HOTSPOT. That should be easy. T-Mobile sent me the unlock code so all we need is a new chip and BANG... we're set. Yeah right.

We'll sell you a chip,” says the salesman in the phone department. “But it probably won't work. There are no refunds.”

I don't think so.

We go somewhere else.


A third place


Time passes.

We try another place.

And another.

Finally we find a place nice enough to let us try a sample SIM to check the UNLOCK directions... it doesn't work.

Fuck it!” I say, “I'll connect when I can. Let's go get the computer.

By now, it's around 4PM. We planned to pick up the computer by 3. After the subway to Shi-Osaka, we spend a half hour looking for STEP INN.

No luck.

I have an idea,” I say.

I can see that Uh-oh look crossing their faces.

We know that the hotel is near the station,” I continue, pretending not to notice their concern.

Why don't we start here and just walk in ever increasing circles... uzumaki.. That way we can't miss it.”

They look at each other, telepathing Is he serious? in Japanese.

I start spiraling from my place in the station. Yoshii grabs the back of my shirt collar and pushes me toward the door. I feel like I'm reliving my lesbian bar adventures.

We walk out of the station. Stop in a FAMILY MART convenience store and find the hotel around the corner. My computer is ready and waiting for me.

Okay,” I say. “Time for Buson.”

Sorry Mykel,” says Yoshii. “It's too late for Buson. He's closed. Besides, we have a date for the first Drink Club Osaka... in ….....” I couldn't understand what he said. But we were off again. Back into the subway. Off to someplace... a row of sky scrapers.

We pass an incredible looking building. Tall with a giant hole through the top, like a HELLO KITTY eye-- on heroin..

Through the building top you can see a network of crossed staircases, random beams... metal bars... Blade Runner style.

Wow,” I say, “what is that? It's incredible.”

It's Skywalk,” says Yoshii.Foreigners love this building,”

You don't like it?” I ask.

He laughs.

No, I mean it's popular... with everybody... like the Empire State Building... only more modern. It's a tourist attraction.”

Let's go,” I say... pointing up. “We CAN go, can't we?”

He shrugs, smiles, and we go in. Each of us pays 1500Y for the privilege of taking an elevator to the top.

Most of my pictures of the building, as well as the views from there, you can see by clicking on the image below. We're there for sunset, which is a great slight from so high up in Osaka.

Skywalk Building Osaka

Since Double Entendre is my middle name, I'm especially impressed by the sign at the END of the Skywalker Skytour. Sounds like the end of many of my late night adventures:

I didn't try to explain the double entendre to my hosts, but lo and behind... I don't need to. There's another sign... in the building... right after this one and before the elevator...

But if it's really a place of love... you'd be able to enter again... that's what I think.

From the Skywalk tour we go to the basement for Okonomiyaki. Ah, Osaka without okonomiyaki would be like a beer binge without the morning beershit... just not complete!
Yeah, it's the real stuff... it MOVES when you eat it. Many of my favorite things to put in my mouth MOVE when they get there.

Then to the city center, to be photographed with GLICA!! He's the town superhero who NO ONE is allowed to leave without being photographed with.

Ah, after a day half wasted with stupid electronics. The rest spent with great friends, with great plans for me... foiled by electronics and (my) stupidity. Redeemed by a skywalk... okonomiyaki... and the same great company.

All quite moving on day two in Japan.

--to be continued

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Landed: Posted, November 16, 2015 Japan/Philippines Trip:

[NOTE: I have limited internet access in Japan, so these reports will be very far behind the reality. This was published in Tokyo, after: Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Odawara, Nagano and Kusatsu. The best way to contact me remains facebook.]

If you have a screaming baby in a restaurant, the polite thing is to take it outside. The same should go for a screaming baby on an airplane.” --Mykel Board

ENTRY NUMBER 2: The plane to Korea... and Japan... and THE FIRST DAY.

Code Share is airline speak for MONOPOLY LIE TICKETING. You get a ticket through HoityToidy Air... and you wind up on the Flintsone Local.

My “Delta” frequent flyer miles put me on Korean Airlines. Delta, though, is the Flinstone line. While not as scummy as Spirit or Ryan, Delta is a typical US monopoly airline.

“Economy Class” means torture, with Vietnam era tiger-cage size seat space... pay for everything except the actual seat you sit in... (and-- if you want a bulkhead seat-- you pay extra for that)...

Koran Air has free movies, and-- get this-- two meals included in the trip price. The only minus I see here (2 hours early at the gate) is that the stewardesses wear the dumbest uniforms I've seen this side of a Bermudan Police officer. Check out the neckwear with one side sticking straight up in the air... like an aroused orangutan... the other side stiffly pointing at her shoes.

If you read my last blog, you know the plane leaves at the ungodly hour of 12:50... on Halloween. The flight will go from NY to Inchon in Korea. Then, a 4 hour layover in Inchon, where I can do my gift shopping. I still have about $12 in Korean Won left over from my 1998 trip.

I plan to get some ginseng products... they have a big cheap shop at the airport... and maybe a bottle of some whiskey or other. Then a short hour and a half hop to Kansai airport, where I'll be met by SCREAMING MAD GEORGE... who I haven't seen in 30 years.

I don't even know what you look like now,” I text him. “How will I recognize you?”

I've got white hair and black eye make-up,” he texts back. “I think you'll find me.”

At Kennedy airport I look around to check out my fellow passengers. Mostly Korean... I hear a smattering of Japanese... a few whitefolks... no Halloween costumes unless you count businessman drag, bag shlepper, or embarrassing American tourist in shorts and flip-flops as costumes.

There are few kids and NO BABIES! Yowsah!

I check for internet access. Only PAY service, sorry. I don't pay.

It's almost boarding time. The waiting seats at the gate have filled up. There have been several announcements... all in Korean... or English so bad it might as well be Korean. Here's another one, but this is accompanied by some shuffling. A uniformed airline man in creating an special aisle... from velvet waiting ropes.

Like a Broadway show where people appear from backstage, a crew of Africans... I guess they're African... colored people in bright clothes... about 20... in pairs... each pair, with one person of each of the standard genders. And each of the females in the group... you guessed it... carries an infant. They board the plane first.

On the plane, I have a seat by the window. I like to put my head against the window and sleep... and-- with window seats-- there's no one to climb over you. I'm sitting right over the wings on this 777. It looks like every seat is taken.

The Africans are mostly on the other side of the plane... in a reserved section. The babies are all quiet... for now. My row mates are an Oriental guy on the aisle and a youngish, softig Hispanic woman sitting next to me... not sitting exactly, but sleeping from the second she occupies her seat Before the plane takes off... she's out! Her knees pressed against the seatback in front of her. She remains sleeping the entire flight... leaning back when the plane takes off and leaves, otherwise slumped across the table in front of her... sometimes pushing aside her meal... sleeping next to it.

When I have to get to the bathroom. I doubt there's a way I can NOT wake her up. Do I climb over her? Stepping from armrest to armrest, balancing myself against the ceiling?


One lucky thing! The engine noise coming to the seats over the wings is as loud as a jet engine. Yep... it covers any screaming brats. I don't even know if there WERE any. Once, I heard the faint squawk of a diaper-deprived baby... but it was so background, I hardly noticed.

In Korea, there is no customs or immigration for us transferees. We're all shuffled to the transfer section where we go to our respective gates. We've arrived at 4AM local time. When I sit down with my bag I see that there is a big tear... halfway through the outer pocket.

Hey! I paid $4 for that bag and it falls apart after not even one use!

In the Inchon airport, it soon becomes obvious that this is NOT New York.

At the gate... right now it's only me... at least I'm the only one awake. Everyone else is sprawled on the benches... sleeping. The seats closest to THE CHARGING station are both occupied by sleeping young ladies. Everything is closed... the “internet cafe” doesn't open until 6. I'll go there as soon as it opens. Right now, I can use the free AIRPORT WIFI. A service provided in most airports of civilized countries.

The service isn't fast, but it is free... and it works. I'll move to the internet cafe when it opens at 6.

FLASH TO 6: The internet cafe opens. I buy a cup of coffee and some tasteless expensive “toast.” I take a table, plug in my laptop and look for the inet cafe router. I don't see it. KFAUN? HP-WIRELESS? AP-SECURITY? I don't think so.

I speak to the lady behind the counter. “What's the network name?” I ask.

AIRPORT WIFI,” she says.

You built something called an internet cafe that uses the same connection everyone else in the airport can use for free?” I don't ask.

Sucker!” she doesn't answer.

Slowly the shops are opening up. It's time to go shopping and get back in the plane for the last leg of the trip. First the cheap GINSENG as gifts for my Japanese hosts. Last time I was in this airport (1998?) they had miles and miles of ginseng... at prices cheaper than Chinatown.

Ah, here's a store with a giant DUTY FREE sign. Maybe I can go the the ginseng corner and stock up. Tea, candy, special formula to turn a soft day into a hard night... yeah! Let's see now.... huh? $85. $93... $145... the cheapest thing ginseng costs sixty bucks... and it looks like a bunch of gummy bears. NOTHING!! Okay, I'll buy a $20 carton of Marlboro like everybody else... shit.

Back at the gate, I've still got a few hours to go to boarding... but you don't have to suffer with me.

BANG: I'm on the plane... in my window seat... ready for the short hop to Osaka....


Out of the plane... I follow the line toward customs and immigration. Every few yards there are signs with pictures of camels on them. Around the camels are red circles with diagonal lines through them. NO CAMELS! Okay, I'm not bringing one in. I'm safe on that front... but what if they think I'm smuggling one?

Finally: on line with my customs and immigration forms... the long line for non-Japanese people...folds at least 10 times... It moves quickly, but it's still... On one of my forms is a cross out... mistook the line above for the box below. I wonder if they'll accept it or I'll have to go through some awful process a second... third time... they won't let me in the country. I'll be shipped off to North Korea... tortured...

Okay, I don't want to take the chance. I'm turning Japanese... risk adverse... I better fill out another form... make it perfect... I duck under the stretchy rope, go back to the entrance, fill out another form, and get back on the end of the line. I AM the end of the line, there is no one behind me.

Walk... walk... walk... a uniformed form checker stops me and asks to see my forms. (Actually, he stops EVERYONE to check the forms.) He frowns... uh oh. This is going to be bad... I just know it.

He shakes his head and turns the form over. In English it asks: Are you bring in any fruits or vegetables? Do you have more than $10,000 worth of gifts?

I shake my head.

You have to check NO,” he says pointing to the questions.

I do.

I carry all my bags with me, so I march through immigration and go to customs. My 50 years of traveling have taught me: ALWAYS GO THROUGH THE RED DOOR.

For those who don't know. Most customs stations have two doors. The Green one, that means NOTHING TO DECLARE. And the Red one, that means SOMETHING TO DECLARE. If you're a smuggler, naturally you head for the green door. You're not going to declare your heroine or AK-47. But if you're an honest person and have something to declare, you go to the red door. I always hit the red door and declare something stupid.

I have a computer I brought from the US... and a carton of duty free cigarettes,” I always tell the guy behind the inspection desk.

The immigration officer smiles and says, “That's okay, just go ahead.” and waves me out.

Except this time.

Of course, the officer is a young woman... they've always got something to prove.

I have a computer I brought from the US... and a carton of duty free cigarettes,” I say.

Open the large bag,” says the young lady.

It's locked,” I say stupidly.

You need to unlock it,” she replies.

Shit! Where's that fuckin' key? Shirt pocket. No. Left front pants pocket? No. Watch pocket? No. I continue to fiddle. The agent is patient.

Right pocket. Yep... as always, the last place I look.

I open the lock and unzip the bag. She looks at the books and ARTLESS CDs I've brought. She takes out my sleeping bag and shuffles through the underwear beneath it. Then she repacks it. (I've been in immigration for almost 2 hours now.)

Have a nice stay in Japan,” she says.

Fuck you,” I don't say.

Outside immigration, sitting patiently, is George!!

White hair, black leather jacket, hard to miss.

Mykel!” he shouts.

George!” I say.

Mykel!” shouts someone else... girl's voice.

It's Lola! Her wedding is one of the reasons I'm here in Kansai. She lives in Kyoto, not Osaka. Why is she at the airport waiting for me? How did she even know I'd be here?

“My brother is coming in now,” she says. “I'm waiting for him... had no idea you were on this flight too.” She motions to an attractive young man standing silently by her side.

This is my husband, Takashi,” she says.

Your husband?” I answer. “I thought I was going to your wedding.”

Oh, that's the reception. We've been married for months,”

I motion to George. “This is my friend George,” I tell her. “We've known each other for 30 years, but we're not married... at least not to each other.”

My brother is due now,” says Lola.

That's okay,” I tell her. “I've got to take a piss... and buy a phone.”

Use Softbank,” suggest Lola. “There's one over there.”

I figure I'll like Softbank... they're the owners of my second favorite Japanese baseball team, the Hawks. (Winners of this year's Japan series.)

First the bathroom. YES!!! I'm not only NOT in New York anymore, but I'm really in Japan!:

From there it's pick up a phone. (I had to buy one... it was cheaper than renting. It's a smart phone... and I hate it.) and into town.

Hey Mykel,” says George. “You want to stay in my office space? It's like an apartment... shower, bed, for free. Better than a hotel.”

Sure!” I tell him. “That would be great, but I need to see if there's a cancellation fee.”

No problem,” he answers. “I'll go with you to the hotel to make sure everything's okay.”

The hotel is not close. I only know it's in Shin Osaka... near the station. East Exit, I think it was. I printed out a map. I'm unable to find the map. The name of the place is STEP IN.

There is no East Exit. We leave through the South Exit. We ask. Shrugs. We ask again, at a FAMILY MART convenience store. More shrugs. But, they have heard of an EAST EXIT. It's at the same station, but a different train line. We get directions and try it.

Leaving the through the East Exit we find ANOTHER Family Mart.

Step Inn? Hai... chotto toi, demo.”

He gives George directions that are more complicated than my fuckin' smart fuckin' phone. I don't have a clue... but George does. And we're off. Turning this way and that, into the station and out someplace else. Wow! I'm getting the feeling that the wild goose has gotten away when George says,

Hey Mykel, look there.”

I see some street construction.

No,” he says sensing my confusion. “That sign up there.”

And yes! It's the STEP IN... and we do.

And, there's no charge for cancellation. So we're safe. Now all we have to do is contact the other hotel. Cancel that... and we're home free.

I've got the information in my computer, I say, taking it out of my bag. Here it is... the screen is blank.

Mykel,” he says, “I think you have to connect to the internet first.”

He talks to the hostess, we move to the free wifi area, get the information, and step out of STEP INN.

Then, it's off to drop my stuff at George's, go out for my first Takoyaki. You can see that in the blog header above. I donno, it looks like I'm not enjoying my food, but lemme tell ya. It's great! You can't get this stuff (at least not this quality) in New York. And, I can start taking pictures of bad English... always a source of enjoyment.

Here's George and I scaring our fellow patrons over takoyaki.

Osaka is a city of 9 million people. Bigger than New York, second in Japan to Tokyo. It's a beautiful maze of neon and water... with food food food galore.

It's an exciting walk to George's place where I'll rest for the night and take care of the second hotel-- actually a hostel-- cancellation.

George,” I say, “could you call the hostel and see how much I have to pay to cancel my reservation.

Sure,” he says, “just give me the information.”

It's right here,” I say, reaching into my bag. “It's in my computer.”

There is no computer.

--To be continued.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Japan/Philippines Trip: Halloween, A Horror Story

I like to do things way in advance. My bags were packed in April. I facebooked my Japanese friends,... sent postcards too... announcing my arrival.. I started the couch-surfing ball rolling... Every day planned. First fly to Osaka, meet my friends: Yada, Yoshi, Junshu... sleep on the floor of one of them... Then to Kyoto for Lola's wedding... you'll hear it all. Everything worked out... in my head. Demo atama yoku-nai yo!

Friday... getting close to leaving time. There are only a few thing I have to do.. last minute...

  • buy a waterproof bag for my camera so I can take it into the onsen and take pictures of naked monkeys
  • return my recently made key to the locksmith for fine tuning-- it doesn't work
  • buy some extra luggage locks
  • give Jody the key for a friend who will take my apartment for a week (saving $200 of my lost $1200!)
  • maybe buy an extra pair of socks
  • double check that my flight does, in fact, leave from Kennedy Airport and not Newark or LaGuardia.

Saturday October 31

Halloween, the day before I leave for Korea, then Japan.

My first travel blog entry on my last trip started something like: I hate it when everything goes right. Nothing insures a crash and burn holiday like everything going right. I don't have to worry about that this time. EVERYTHING'S gone wrong.

First my subletter, taking the whole place while I'm gone, paying my rent... cancels.

The text message reads: BAD NEWS (I just love it when someone starts their text that way!) Sorry, Mykel. I've got to be away on business and will be out of New York the whole month of November. I just can't do it.

Great. There's a thousand bucks down the metaphorical drain. Oh yeah, before that I took an extra hundred dollars in cash out of the bank. Set it on my bag to take as last minute spending money. It disappeared. No one stole it. I didn't use it by accident. One day, it was there. The next, it was gone. Poof! Okay, that's $1100.

Then, Yoshi, my pal in Osaka, tells me he won't be in town until the day AFTER I arrive. That means I'll have to find a hotel... he's booked one for me, only $50... no problem. That's minus $1150 before I leave.

Mykel,” comes the facebook mail, “have you decided where you're going to stay the rest of your time in Osaka?”

I thought it was going to be with you,” I answer back.

Like I told you,” he says. “I'm living with my parents. I can't take you in.”

Hmmm, I guess he DID tell me that, but it didn't click.

Quickly, I book a hostel 4 beds to a room $30 a night. 12% deposit, cancellation fee if canceled more than 3 days in advance. I book it,,, better safe than sleeping on the street.

I leave tomorrow at noon. I try to make the leaving time easy on my body... I never leave before noon. For all the traveling I do, I'm a nervous flyer... and I HATE airports.... planes aren't so bad, but airports. Expensive, annoying, uncomfortable. Security enemas... Awful places.

Take this as a hint of things to come: In the airport, I stop for a beer. On the menu, a few beers are listed... all without prices. (Strangely, other things are priced.) 

I order a Goose Island and drink it while watching the Mets game. (A Mets game at noon? You'll find out.)

One beer later, it's the 7th inning, the Mets have the lead and I have to catch a plane:

Waiter! Check please.”

Certainly, Sir.”

The word Sir is as nice to my ears as BAD NEWS.

There the bill. Served with a flourish... one handed... TA DAAA!

Believe me... they DON'T want to hear my feedback.



It's early on the day of Halloween, already the streets are filled with little princesses, a superman or three... No Donald Trumps or Bernie Sanders.

Jody and I meet for brunch. She's already been a heroine in this story. Taking care of my mail while I'm gone. Passing on the key to my sub-letter... Giving me an old Eee PC... where I type this now... I should pay for the dinner.

At lunch, we talk about her problems. The biggest one is no doorbell. Her building has a system where you punch in a number at the door and it rings your telephone. Her visitors get a fax line. I shake my head in sympathy... what else can I do?

I give her my spare key to pass on to Gil, my 1 week sub-letter. I vow to send a postcard and buy a sleeveless shirt for her with “something Japanese” on it. Unlike me, Jody loves Halloween. She wants to go to Washington Square Park and see the kids. We part company. I go home and she, I guess, goes to Washington Square.

The next task on my checklist is to buy a waterproof baggie for my camera. Reo suggested it, especially since I want to take pictures at the monkey Onsen in Nagano. According to Reo, what I need is like a special ziplock bag that you put over the camera to protect it from water. There's a Best Buy® across the street, I'll just run over and get the first TODO checked off.

The camera department has moved upstairs. It's not so popular anymore... everyone thinks their cellphone is a camera. So upstairs I go.

Aside: Usually I hate chain stores and big companies in general. But Best Buy® has been so good to me in the past. Exchanging stuff without a receipt... spending a half hour setting up a friend's new SIM card... exchanging open printer ink because I made a mistake and bought the wrong kind and it won't work in my printer. I like 'em!

So I go to the firrst friendly face on a body with a BEST BUY shirt-- a handsome young man...haircut like Harrison Ford's circa the first STAR WARS. movie. I'm surely not going to call him SIR. He's walking away from me. I run to catch up.

Excuse me,” I say, resisting the urge to grab his elbow to slow him down . “Do you have waterproof camera bags... like a baggie for protecting a pocket camera?”

He stops... furrows his young brow... shakes his head. “I'm sorry,” he says, “we don't carry those kind of accessories. You know Adorama?”

I shake my head.

It's a camera store,” he says, “like B&H-- but closer to here. That's where you need to go.” [Aside: for those not from New York B&H is a famous midtown camera store run by Hassidic Jews. They stock everything. It's worth visiting for the experience..)

He walks over to a cash register and pushes a button. The register spits blank receipt tape. He rips off a piece and writes on the back.

16th Street
Between 5th & 6th Ave.

I thank him and hike the 16 blocks uptown. I'm at 16th Street and Fifth Ave. I turn right. Walk to Sixth Avenue. NO ADORAMA. I cross 16th Street and walk back to 5th Ave, figuring I missed it from the other side of the street. I figure wrong. NO ADORAMA.

I turn on 5th Ave... walk into the first store, a hoity toidy men's shop. A guy in a suit comes up to me,

May I help you sir?”

Yes,” I answer, “do you know where Adorama is?”

What's Adorama?” he asks, perhaps thinking it's a line of men's cologne.

A camera store,” I tell him. “It should be around the corner on 16th Street.”

He pulls out his smart phone. Punches in ADORAMA. zips a finger up the screen. Squints.

It's on 18th Street,” he says. “Between Fifth and Sixth.”

I thank him. Walk up Fifth Ave. to 18th St. Turn right. And there it is... with a big red and white awning. ADORAMA. And yes... it's just like B& H... run by Hassidic Jews... WHO CLOSE FOR SHABBOS!
I don't even bother kicking the gate.

From there it's to the locksmith... a friendly guy who looks very much like the singer of a punkrock band I knew in the 80s. Like a Best Buy® worker, he takes my old key and makes careful adjustments to the edges. An artiste... it takes him a good 20 minutes to perfect the key and hand it to me with a big smile.

That should do it,” he says.

Were you ever in a punkrock band?” I ask.

Is that a joke?” he asks.

I shrug, thank him and leave the store.

Then it's back downtown to K-Mart I know, but it's cheap and they have everything... except waterproof camera bags. I can take care of the luggage lock and the socks.

I leave K-mart and walk south toward Bleecker. I pass a British style punkrocker... huge mohawk... multi-colored... leather jacket with a giant BLACK FLAG patch on the back... studs up the wazoo. Boots... nearly knee-high... somewhere between army boots and WWF. I thought the East Village was over, but there are still... Oh yeah... it's Halloween! This guy is as punk as Jeb Bush.

The streets are filling up. Still no Donald Trumps or Bernie Sanders. Mostly jocks with Spock-ears... a few witches... Batman walking arm-in-arm with a cop.

Home. I check the newly adjusted key.

It doesn't work.

I let myself in with my regular key, hanging it up, careful to keep it separate from the reject.

Next: I check the plane leaving place. I don't want to go to the wrong airport tomorrow. I open the computer, go to gmail, search for DELTA, find the right email. The plane does in fact leave from Kennedy airport. It does not, however, leave at noon tomorrow. It' leaves at midnight tonight. I did NOT get Kennedy and LaGuardia mixed up. I DID confuse AM with PM.

Fuck! No sleep tonight. I've got to leave for the airport in a few hours and the place is a mess. The least I can do for Gil is wash the dishes. I run the water to heat up. Then... no dish-washing liquid... not even scummy handsoap I can USE as dish-washing liquid... nothing.

Okay, there's a Duane Reade across the street. No time to be economically correct, I gotta run.

So run I do. Out the door, down the elevator, out front door... then I realize... I don't have my key. The spare that was in my pocket is now with Jody. My own key is hanging on the rack next to the door. I have my cellphone, but Jody often doesn't answer hers. There's no way I can find her in the Halloween chaos. The technical term for my condition is FUCKED!
I call anyway. The phone answers. I speak. My voice repeats itself. I can't hear anything but ME.

HELLO, I shout into the phone.
HELLO. comes by voice back to me.

I hang up. Call again HELLO? HELLO? This time nothing... dead air.

I'm in a t-shirt, the night air is getting colder. I've got to leave for the airport in a few hours. I run to her place... maybe she'll be home. It's not a big chance... she likes Halloween... this is Halloween. But it's all I can do.

On the way, my phone vibrates: a text message. IT'S YOUR PHONE. I CAN HEAR YOU, YOU CAN'T HEAR ME.

I'M ON MY WAY OVER. I text back, SEE YOU IN 5.

I arrive at Jody's door and push in her phone code.... wait a minute... the doorbell doesn't work. I call her... wait a minute... my phone doesn't work.. I text her... I'm in.

Jody as the heroine, walks with me and collects the key after I get into my apartment. The other details of the day are boring. I wash the dishes. Make it to the airport early. Have the drink I started this blog with. Find out that the Mets lost in the 8th inning. (I'll have to bare a serious consequence for that!) And get in the Korean Air flight to Inchon... Delta codeshare.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Back Home or The Final Mykel's Caribbean Blog

by Mykel Board

Nov, 2013

[Recap: From the start, it doesn't look good for this trip. Everything goes right... always a bad sign... Nothing portends disaster like everything going right.

Easy subletter in New York... smooth flight to Miami... promises of “meet you at the airport/seaport”... $10 a night accommodations in Guyana, the rest free.

Uh oh! Too good. The better the news early, the bigger the fall later. And things get worse. (Better) Miami goes so smoothly you could cry. The only problem is a lot of rain-- heavy rain. The streets are rivers... waves in the pool. I get wet. Very wet.

Then to Trinidad, where my friends pick me up at the airport and take me drinkin'-- and more drinking. It doesn't rain so much in Trinidad.

Then to Guyana.

In Guyana, my facebook friends from KEEP YOUR DAY JOB! meet me at the airport. The two weeks of my stay in Guyana are adventure-filled, and beer-dulled. Most days, it rains. Sometimes for just an hour or two in the afternoon. Sometimes all day.

I don't get it Mykel,” says my pal Jamal. “This isn't the rainy season.”

Rainman,” I say.

He still doesn't get it.

The plan is to travel to Suriname with Keep Your Day Job! But, uh oh... a drummer problem. Two drummers agreed to tour with us. One, a close friend, the other, more PUNKROCK. They ditch the friend for the punkrocker. He bails at the last minute. The now former-friend doesn't answer emails. This cannot work out. We go to Suriname anyway-- drummerless. It works out.

In Suriname, I stay with Jose, a punkrock student and his super-generous parents. They cook for me every day. I'm the guest of honor. It rains a lot.

Then it's on to French Guiana, where the brother of one of my top ten pals, Simon, lives with his girlfriend Marie. His name is Florian.

I take a small boat across the river that separates French Guiana from Suriname. The captain lets me choose my port of entry: “legal or backtrack?” I choose legal. At customs, I annoy the white immigration officers by asking for a passport stamp. It's raining.

My first days in French Guyana are distress free... unless you count the bottom paddling I get from my friends' spare bicycle. I have one of the best days of the entire trip: canoeing through the Amazon with Florian as my French guide. Chased by dogs, paddle-blistered hands, bitten by mosquitoes, stuck in the roots of swamp trees... it's wonderful.

The only thing better, I'm told, will be THE CARNIVAL... an all night festival my hosts and their friends have been working on for months.


It rains... pours... torrents of rain... non-stop. A field of dreams turned to mud. I'm outta there the next day. After a banana boat ride back to Suriname, I again find myself back at Jose's. It's monkey meat and gamelon--- probably less of a strange combination than it seems. Then, back to Guyana.

This time, I'm staying a couple of days with Peeps. The IT guy you met the last time I blogged about the country. ]

This will be the last entry in the Caribbean blog. I want to write about Detroit, but that was months ago and I've already forgotten. Maybe I can dig up my notes.

Right now, let's go to Ryon's (Peep's) place where I've got the front room... full of windows... with my own bed and a fan that blows just right in the sultry air.

(I stole this one from his Facebook Page)
Ryon (pronounced Rye-On, with an emphasis on the ON, to distinguish him from Ryan.. pronounced Rye-In) is the IT guy. Ryan is in Keep Your Day Job Exclamation Mark guy. My other friends call Ryon PEEPS, because of his thick glasses. And, he's one of those people who is cool enough not to care about nicknames. (Unlike me, who is easily irritated by shorty, baldy, or gramps.)

Besides me, Uncle Kennard is also staying at Peep's place. Skinnier than An Intellectual History of American Football, Kennard's not his real name. I can't remember what it is... and the internet tells me Kennard is the number one boy's name in Guyana. Unlike most Kennards, this guy is... let me rephrase that, unlike most of the humans on earth, this guy is...

Yeah Mykel,” he says, sitting on the couch next to me, wearing only a stained pair of boxer shorts. “Did I ever tell you about how we were poaching fish from Suriname. Always one step ahead of the cops... weird... catching fish on an empty stomach... you know meth...” he waves his hands in the air as if dispersing smoke. “Well, you don't feel like eating... so... where was I... the cops... they were after us... POW! POW! I don't know if they were trying to scare us with the guns or... look at this...” He shows me a round scar on his shoulder, “that there's a bullet hole... not from that time... from some other time... Anyway... we were hauling in the fish... no visas, of course.”

I didn't think fish needed visas,” I say.

He looks at me and squints.

Where was I...,” he continues. “Oh yeah, the cops were shooting at us, so we had to go inland... follow a stream... just a little biddy thing... mostly mud... but it went through... far enough away... I mean the cops were afraid of going in there... caymans and howlers... I donno... but we got away... then we realized we didn't know where we were or even how to get out... so we stopped to do some more fishing...”

And it goes on like this for some time. Most of the stories have left my head in fits of senility over the last year, but this guy was absolutely the most interesting person I met on the entire trip... and he cooked me French toast for breakfast. I wish I had a picture. (I'm going to have to steal a lot from the internet for this blog!)

I'm only in town for a couple days. So Gavin, Ryan, and Ryon arrange my farewell party at Peeps' place. We meet early and go to the local SURVIVAL supermarket, just around the corner. We pick up some BANKS for the party. I enter the store and see a big sign: WEDNESDAYS SENIOR DISCOUNT-- 62 or older.

Oh yeah, in case you forgot, BANKS BEER (actually headquartered in Barbados) is the main beer in Guyana. Here is a fine (internet) picture of the beer.

"Hey, I can save us money” I say, turning to look for my fellow shoppers. They're gone. I'm an escaped toddler in the Christmas rush... A lost puppy fallen from the box... I'm... where are they?

I walk around the store looking for my friends. Not here. There's no way in hell I can find my way back. I'll be spending my last night in Guyana... on the floor of the supermarket. I'm done for. Serves me right for so much good luck!

I leave the store.

Ryan stands outside looking worried. “Where were you Mykel?” he asks. We're gonna bring all this beer home.

I coulda got you a discount,” I whine. “I'm old.”

Oh that Senior Day thing?” he asks.

I nod.

It's no good for booze,” he shakes his head. “They don't think old people should be drinking.”

SHIFT TO RYON'S HOUSE, the front room... “my room.” It's a party... my party... a ton of people... all my favorite Guyanese. Gavin and Ryan and Jamal and Addevi and people I don't know, and their friends. Only Uncle Kennard isn't there.

And the beer starts... then a bottle of Jack Daniels KYDJ! brought back from Suriname... duty free.... then a bottle of Jim Beame I brought back from Suriname... duty free... ... then the weed... It's coming on 9 o'clock.

NINE PEE EM and the party is ALREADY in full swing. I'm beat, the trip has caught up with me. In New York, I'd be just starting at Nine. They're here for me and I want to go to sleep. I try to be nice, but my eyes close. I feel my head wobble on my neck.

My” bed is full... packed. People lying and drinking and smoking... a couple I don't know makes out at the edge. I can barely keep my assload of real estate. I can't stand... I don't have to... someone shoves another Banks into my hand.

I need to sleep... I'm going back to Trinidad tomorrow. The music is loud... mostly hip hop. Somehow I slip deeper into that assspace. I sleep, an old man falling asleep at his own farewell party. I can't help it... I...

BANG! The silence wakes me up. I open my eyes, but the rest of me is paralyzed. I hear a shuffling around the room. All I can see is directly in front of me... empty beer bottles... cigarette butts... roach ends... empty scotch bottles... cigarettes butts in empty beer bottles. There's more shuffling... I think it's Ryon... I have no strength to move my eyeballs to check.

Into my field of view moves Peeps. He's wearing pajamas or loose sweat pants or something. I want to look up, smile, let him know I'm awake, but it's like a dream. I can't move.

He's cleaning up. Moving the ashes from one beer bottle to another. Shuffling left-over contraband and heavy things I can't see. My eyes are locked-- like the rest of me... unable to move in their sockets. Then I notice it. His pants... pajamas... I don't know... they're sticking out in front... just a bit... poking up like happens to guys in the morning... a little tent. I shouldn't be staring at this. I shouldn't even be noticing. I can't help it. I can't do anything... turn away, even close my eyes... This cannot come to anything good. He's gonna look down... see me staring... then I'm in trouble...

The glass of the bottles clinks as he goes on his way, clearing, cleaning, he and his hard-on... still right in front of me... turning this way and that... I shouldn't be seeing this... I am seeing this... I should close my eyes... I can't close my eyes... I can close my eyes... I wake up and the room is empty.

I forget how I reach the airport that day. Probably the KYDJ! guys drive me. In Trinidad, Randy's brother Real picks me up at the airport. I'm staying with Randy at his parent's house. There is some tension in the air. I dunno. I get the feeling they're not happy to see me. Randy and his brothers are fine. But mom and dad... I don't know.

I'm only here a few days. Randy has scheduled some studio time. I was supposed to have written the words to a few songs. I had the MP3s in my computer--- the whole trip. More than a month to work on lyrics. I fucked up... forgot.

It's all last minute, and the words don't quite fit the tunes... or they do, but I didn't rehearse them enough. One song that Randy called PENN STATE, I rename I'M A PERVERT.

I love to release the feces and grease of a brown one
I love to splatter dung matter as I down one

Off your ivory tower my friend
A nice brown shower my friend

I'm just a pervert. You know I'm just a pervert
I'm glad to be a pervert... a pervert for you.

I love to explode just off the commode and then eat it
All the whole while releasing my fly so I can beat it.

You think I'm reckless my friend?
Want a pearl necklace my friend?


I love to sit close to the toes of my host and to taste them
I love to sniff deep and they call me a creep when I embrace them

I won't be saved by you
I'm depraved by you...

I'm a pervert. I'm just a pervert

Here I am in the studio... a fancy place... a relic in this age of home recording... a professional place... people who know a Sennheiser from a Shure... A real recording room... I can see the engineer and Randy on the other side of the window that looks into the control room. It's a chorus of eye-rolling.

All on Randy's (and Bryan's) dime... and I'm just fucking up... one tune after another. I can't make it work. My voice won't go the same way as the music. I have no control... like my eyes at Peeps' place.

I'm just a Pervert! I'm just a Pervert!

I sing/shout... missing the beat every time. The harder I try, the more I fuck up. Eventually, we give up.

Good job, Mykel,” Randy says to me the same way you might tell a toilet-training toddler “Good job,” when he just about hits the bowl.

The next day of my short stay it's off to the hummingbird sanctuary with Randy's mom. Also joining us is the mother of Bryan, the singer in ANTI-EVERYTHING and one of my recording sponsors.

Bryan's mom, a school-teacher in Port of Spain, greets me with “Mykel! I've heard so much about you. I've wanted to meet you for a long time.”

What a switch! Usually people who've heard so much about me... run like hell when they get a chance to meet me.

On the way to the car, I dump the lyrics to I'M A PERVERT and the other sick songs in a garbage can near the street. Then I get in the car... and we're off.

Randy's mom drives us to the sanctuary. Up in the mountains, through dirt roads that run along the sides of cliffs. My ears pop. The roads become narrower. The scenery becomes more... er... rustic. If they threw me out of the car and raced off, I'd have no idea where to begin. They don't.

Finally, we park... not in a lot... but in a precarious space at the edge of a cliff. One false move and it's Thelma and Louise! No false moves.

We get out of the car and walk up a steep hill to a closed gate in front of a massive house. Randy's mom rings a bell, and the gate swings open by itself. It could be the entrance to Dracula's castle. On the other side of the gate is another steep climb to the bird sanctuary where the birdman of Trinidad has thousands of hummingbirds... different colors... sizes from bumble bee to a Peeps-size erection.

The first thing I notice is the hum. I don't hear it. They're hum-fucking birds and there's no hum.

Why do they call them humming birds?” I whisper to Bryan's mom.

We sit on what looks like a large porch outside a country house. There's going to be a lecture, and then a tour of the sanctuary. There are chairs and space for about three dozen people.

You don't hear it?” she asks.

The sanctuary head, an elderly colored gentleman, looks at me and smiles.

Some people can't hear it,” he says. “I'm not sure what it is. But for some people, humming birds don't hum.”

It's 35 years of punkrock,” I don't tell him. “Waddaya expect?”

The presentation is fascinating. All the while this guy is telling us the history of the place, these tiny birds are flitting around him and the feeders hanging around the porch.

[Aside: Bird-watching is something I've changed my opinion about. I had this image of bird-watchers as nerdy old people in the park-- with binoculars. Hah! David Klauber, the only friend I have left from high school, is a bird-watcher. He's also my only friend who's gone to more countries than I have. He's visited Port Moresby, the highest crime city in the world. You can't walk on the street after 5 o'clock because some guy with a bone in his nose is gonna come up behind you and cut off your head... and shrink it. He went there to see this special bird you can't see anywhere else in the world. So don't tell me bird-watchers are wimps... They follow their passion... danger be damned... more than any other group I know... including bungee jumpers-- or punk rockers.]

The birds are amazing, fascinating, I took a ton of pictures-- and I can't find any of them. They're gone from my hard drive... from the camera... from the back-up. Disappeared like my memories... sad... but real. So here's a picture I got off the internet: 

Back at the bird sanctuary, I lean over and whisper in Randy's mom's ear. “This is terrific. Thanks for taking me. I wonder how they can maintain all this for free.

It's not free,” she says. “It's expensive.”

They paid for me! And a lot... wow.I had no idea.

Tell me how much it was,” I don't say. “I'll be happy to pay my share.”

I still feel a bit guilty about not paying anything. Such a good time on someone else's dime... er... dollar. I should have taken them out... but there was the feeling... the strange unwelcomed feeling I was getting from Randy's mother. Nothing overt, but just a cold feeling... very noticeable among these warmest Caribbean people.

It's my last day in Trinidad. Randy's mom won't even talk to me. Her only words: “I'm so busy, I just don't have time to talk.”

I'm worried. What's up? What happened? Maybe she found my PERVERT lyrics in the trashcan. I dunno...

It's leaving time. Rael's driving me to the airport. Mom's upstairs doing something with the laundry. Sorting or bagging or something... bent over a suitcase. I walk over to thank her... say good bye...

I'm leaving now,” I tell her.

All right,” she says.

Thanks for everything,” I say, walking towards her. I reach out to give her a hug. She pushes her hand in my chest... completely repulsed.. a DON'T TOUCH ME gesture. I don't get it. Had she walked in on me when I was... er... doing something private? I didn't use the sheets as a tissue. What's the problem? Guests aren't supposed to do that? I don't know the etiquette here. But I bet I'm not a guest again. Had she seen me through the window? Heard the rumors? Read the book? I don't know, but it's very sad... for me.

[OH NO! A long time ago, I complained to a friend of mine that she seemed annoyed. I asked her what I'd done. "It's not just about YOU, Mykel." she said. I thought it would be cool to make her an IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT YOU, MYKEL t-shirt to wear around New York. I never did it though. 

Now, after trashing Randy's mom, (She and Dad were so GREAT to me the first time I was in Trinidad), I find out that there was all kinds of background stuff I wasn't aware of. Personal problems, health problems, troubles that had NOTHING to do with me. I need to make an IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT YOU, MYKEL t-shirt for HER to wear! I feel better now, knowing that it WASN'T me. But I also feel guilty about complaining about her hospitality. 

Have I learned my lesson? Somehow, I doubt it.]

At the airport, I buy Rael some Royal Crown chicken and we share a farewell meal. My last taste of the greatest fast food chicken on the planet.

From Trinidad, it's on to Miami, a night with Alan and Sharon, then back to New York. When I arrive, it's not raining.

My apartment looks different. My subletter has returned to Australia. In her wake, the bathtub is white. 30 years of soapscum have been removed from the sink. I can see the grain in the wood floor. I can run my hand along a shelf without the need to wash immediately after. All the lightbulbs work. There is no garbage in the kitchen bin. The refrigerator smells like... like... nothing.

It'll be a week or so before I feel that I'm really home.


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