The Next Step: part one - the start

Friday, March 31. 2006
All of this has to start somewhere. Up until this morning, it had been nothing but some notes in a book and talk. Talk as people asked me what I was doing if not working, talk as I went with my friend to pick out the right backpack. Talk as I figured out in my own head just what I was going to do.

Until today, just talk. Now the great Peoples Republic has my passport. I could hear a billion cheers, yes, we have his passport! The crowd goes wild! Haha ha! The application form was, in the eyes of one observer, riddled with lies. When, where, how long, where am I staying, all of it, glossed over, all of it, just to make someone with a rubber stamp happy. Dont hesitate, just do it. Stamp it and let me pay my yen on Tuesday morning when I got to get it back. They have my passport, but only temporarily.

After seeing the ends of Japan that have escaped my attention so far, I will leave this country via Okinawa and head for the hills of Taiwan. There I shall ensconce with the J for a week or so, maybe less, maybe more, and there will be drinking of beers. After that, China is the destination. I really need to find out how I am best going to get from Taipei to the mainland, if indeed such a task is possible. The overall picture of all this is to not get on an airplane, if it can be avoided. I like the idiosyncrasy of the idea, but in practical terms, I have since found its not so cool. Can I get a boat ride from Taipei to Shanghai? The proverbial slow boat to China. Im half into the idea just so I can say I did it, half because its cheaper and better for Mother Earth.

(That last point is the real heart of my anti-airplane plannings. With the rising cost of fuel and the attached fuel tax, flying is getting more and more expensive every day. The burring of fossil fuels is something I try to avoid on a daily basis, see now, it isnt just poverty that prevents me owning a car. Furthermore, the editors at Lonely Planet go so far as to suggest flying as little as possible, even when economically viable, because of the environmental impact as much as the financial. Regrets concerning the hundreds of flights they have taken over the years in the course of writing their guides are now common in newer editions.)

So it was with that I headed down to the Chinese Embassy this morning, ID photos in hand and passport at the ready. I was so tired, but I cant blame the communists for that. To get to the consular section, one must negotiate their way to Roppongi station, on the Subway Line To Hell. Usually visits to this section of town are restricted to drunken escapades, so it was with a strange sensation that I stepped out of the exit into the mid-morning sunshine to a place I usually only get to observe in an inebriated blur. The map I had tracked down was minimally useful and before too long I had gone too far. I turned a corner, then a few more and found myself across the road from the destination. It was full of Chinese people. I presume that China itself will be much like this, only with more shouting. I needed to be on the third floor. I went up there mad discovered a confused mob, all milling about with forms of varying colour and purpose. I elbowed my way to a rack of forms, discerned the correct one and spent the next thirty minutes writing, cutting, pasting, lying and pushing my way to the front. They took my effects with little query. The return trip, I pray will yield success. And will be followed by an account of my trip to the Russian Embassy.

Stay tuned.

Countries I Hate Because They Are Tight With Visas (Or Why We Still Need To Hate Communism)

Wednesday, March 29. 2006
Yes, people, its true. Not every country in the world will let foreign nationals pass freely across their borders! Some even make it difficult to do so, implementing Byzantine methods requiring visas. This makes me sick to my stomach.

Some places will give you a complimentary 90 day tourist visa when you walk in the door. This is to be applauded! My beloved Japan will do this, as will dear Taiwan. Many places I plan to visit extend this charity. But not all, oh no, not all will be so good to the visitor. I have been very busy these few days tracking down the required bits and pieces of information required to be permitted to go and spend my hard-earned as a peaceful tourist, and I have become very frustrated indeed. Witness!

China. Oh, how I scorn thee, with your embassy only open from nine till noon. What a bunch of lazy bastards! All of you, shame. At least the application only takes a few days. The charge of a few thousand yen I could deal without, but they are money grubbing capitalists these days.

Russia, I considered skipping you altogether. Why must you be so cruel? It isnt like you have anything worth taking, so why lock the door? Two weeks, if you dont like to pay, one if you cough up four thousand yen. If you would like it in any real timeframe, you can pay up to thirty thousand yen! Thank you, no. And I most object to your insistence on having some paperwork from a registered travel agency! What about us free spirited independent travellers? We seek no travel agency to guide us, yet you require it. Mother Russia, I am appalled at your freedom crushing regime. Someone needs to let you know that the wall already came down. Even Slovakia lets me in without a whimper.

Dont even get me started on the places that require me to have travel insurance. Sure, its not just a good idea but practically a necessity, but who are you, my mum? Checking up on me, making sure I have clean undies in my backpack?

Then there are the places that still have pre-war regulations when checking your health. Tuberculosis? A chest x-ray, why not as much fun as it sounds, is just plain annoying. While a HIV test is also a good idea from time to time, I think it foul that Russia ask it of me! I intend to do as little polluting of bloodstreams while I am there, thank you very much!

Time for a lie down. This is all getting to me

For Saint Patrick

Monday, March 20. 2006
Did you hear about the Irishman who locked his keys in the cars?

Took him six and a half hours to get his wife out.

Here's to being somewhat Irish, to being green enough to get sloshed on the day. True to form, we are late with out greetings -- but sod it, I was hungover.

A step-by-step guide to Beginning Snowboarding

Sunday, March 19. 2006
Step one: Before beginning, you much achieve a state of Zen-like oneness with your board. To do this, you put your boots into the bindings and tighten the straps. Additionally, you will also find you have a sudden irrational hatred of anyone wearing skis.

Step two: You are now ready to attempt standing up. Lean forward and grasp the middle of the board and push up with your other hand. If done correctly, you should either pitch forward and get a face full of snow or fall back on your arse, beginning the inevitable massive bruising.

Step three: Repeat step two until you fail, achieving a tenuous balance by flailing your arms about and windmilling like a brain damaged Pete Townsend. You should be leaning back on your heels. Now you are ready to attempt mounting the chairlift.

Step four: The chairlift is there to ferry your dumb arse to the top of the run. You should have one foot in and one foot out of your bindings. This leaves you free to propel yourself headlong into the ground with the free foot. Repeat until you are near the lift, remembering to bang into as many strangers as possible on the way. Manoeuvre yourself in front of the chair as it comes around and let it sweep you away to almost certain icy failure. Dont forget to leave your pride at the bottom. You wont be needing it any time soon.

Step five: On the way up, be sure to observe all the experienced riders as they smoothly glide along beneath the lift. It will be unlikely that you will ever be that good, but dont worry. You should also be able to see other hapless beginners. Take heart from the fact that everyone goes around them, not over them.

Step six: At the top of the lift, say a prayer as the lift attendant signals you to get off. Place one foot on the grip on the inside of the back binding and stand up. The momentum of the lift should send you flailing forward into a snow drift at the side of the lift house (if you are lucky) or into a group of skiers (if you are unlucky). Collapse into the snow and ask yourself what the fuck you are doing there.

Step seven: Get the courage to stand and make your way over to where the crowd of other boarders are sitting and strapping their other foot onto the board. Slowly make your way over, stopping to let anyone else pass, lest you take them down with you. Upon making it to the top of the run, strap yourself in and plunge your body headlong down the hill. Make sure to note other people, trees and poles as potentially holiday-wrecking, bone-smashing and soul-crushing objects. Your aim should be to make it back to the ski lift without hitting any of them. Your out of control board will do its best to make contact with all of them, so be wary.

Step eight: Your two basic moves are board facing dead straight, hurtling out of control and painful lump in the snow. Repeat these two simple moves until the relieving sight of the lift comes into view. Feel relived and fall over. You have made your first run down the mountain. Congratulations! You should be unhurt. Collect a small amount of your pride and get back on the lift. You can only get better from here.

Kerouac Cat has spent a grand total of five days on a snowboard. He has tasted the cold chill of the ice on three different runs and the bitter humiliation of wiping out in front of a group of snow bunnies more times than he cares to remember. The first heady run down the easy run at Gala Yuzawa will forever be his most memorable. These days he can make it all the way to the bottom of a green run without eating it and has little trouble getting off a ski lift. If you see him, be sure to leave a wide berth because going slowly is not his strongest point.

Camera Karma

Wednesday, March 15. 2006
Last night, I went for dinner with my girl. On the way to the restaurant, in the cab I found a mobile phone. The phone rang - of course it was the owner looking for the phone. I considered for the briefest of moments rejecting the call, keeping the phone and selling it before handing it to Dinna for her to tell the caller to come pick it up.

After an excellent dinner, we headed back home. As I got out of the cab, I left my camera on the back seat.

We got out near Dinna's place. The cab drove away. It was in the 7-11 we walked to that I realised it was gone. No cab registration, no cab company, he didn't even know where her apartment was. Good bye, camera.

Karma is not supposed to work this way.

Kill All Nerds

Wednesday, March 8. 2006
Last Thursday the Nintendo DS Lite hit the street. Subsequently all evidence of its existence vanished. Further compounding the picture, the original model vanished as the price was dropped to accommodate the new model into the marketplace. These goddamn things cannot be had for love or money right now. So why is it that every pre-pubescent I see in the street, on the train or in a restaurant (and most non-pre-pubescent-should-know-better-early-teenagers) have one? Why oh why, why must we working folk endure the shortage just because we cannot dedicate hours of our precious life to lining up on a cold evening to get our grimy hands on one? We are adding to the economy, not subtracting! We should reap the rewards, not suffer while children run around with the toys we deserve.

Goddamn nerds, have you nothing better to do with your time? Go study something! Read a book without pictures! And leave some for me next time!

This is the truth. The DS phenomenon has truly caught fire. The reality is that the original model has been unavailable for a few months now, the last small release happened to coincide with New Years. Second hand electronics stores are selling them for more than retail; the new Lite model remains a myth as far as the larger populace is concerned. I havent even laid my own eyes on more than a picture.

And yet I always see sticky fingered grubby kids with these things. I shudder at the thought of the touch screens condition.

This modern age, and why the dead really piss me off

Wednesday, March 1. 2006
Yesterday was a public holiday here. True to form, it was raining, and pretty cold, despite most of winter being pretty mild.

I didn't do much, though on the scale of achievement I think I did ok. I blew off a whole bunch of shopping I had wanted to do, thus saving me some money - at least, till another day. I finished reading Chuck Palahniuk's Choke, cleaned things up a bit then went over to Bikefarm to finish off painting Jeremy's shelves.

After that I messed around with my bike, replaced the axle bearings, fixed a few miscellaneous parts. Came home and got to bed fairly early. Quiet, but not a bad day.

I didn't get to bed before a lacklustre exchange with KC happened. I suspect we were both feeling a bit down or out of sorts or something, but I came away feeling that I hadn't acted the way a friend should. We called it quits before a real discussion happened, but he still put his post on here before he went to bed.

In other news, it's cold as fuck here in Taiwan, and pretty wet. I finally got around to buying some new gloves to replace the ones I had stolen in Taizhong. (See my next update.) Anyway some important fuck must've died, because there was the biggest, noisiest funeral procession I've ever seen going on today.

Let me explain: In Taiwan, if you're a bigwig, when you die, you have a huge noisy procession with all kinds of weird crap to remind everyone that you were a big one and they still have to suffer this before they can be glad you're dead. This one had it all:

  • Brass band

  • Loads and loads of drummers on the backs of trucks

  • Paid mourners/weepers

  • Ugly girls in stupid costumes singing karaoke on the backs of trucks

  • A millions traffic cops

Anyway I ride off to buy my gloves on my break at the time this thing is going past work. I would it would take about 20 or more minutes for the entire procession to pass a single point. And somehow, this thing manages to cross my path four times between going to the shop and coming back to work. Jesus fucking Christ. The only good that came of it was seeing the panties of one of the ugly karaoke singers. The highest point of some very low ground.

Refuse the refuse

Wednesday, March 1. 2006
Dont make this so hard
Its me leaving, not you
Down, so never a clue
Just change the rules, he said
Wont you do me now, she said
Its not the way, you know that wont do

Hamburgers tomorrow, three more weeks
Or those noodles now, before the clock hits two
Cant know how sorry I am for you
These days it feels like it might all be the last fight,
And consider that might just be right --
Yeah, could I have just told you its not all true?

I only just started telling people that I am leaving. The reactions have been chilling, condemning, right through to wrenching. I never thought I guess it does take a disaster to make you miss what always seemed to be there. A disaster, might I be facing down a battle I cant win? Im doing all this because I want to and that doesnt make it right by default. Oh no, now its different, because I will suffer no matter which way I move. I wonder if this has any garlic in it?

I must take this giant down, because Ill never belive in myself if I dont do it. Even if I have to whip myself into action. Turn gravity on itself. Leave something potentially potent and grab a rancid ride out of here. Im in so many minds, I clamour to know what being in just two would be like. Single minded bastard, why would you wait until I am gone to make your move?

The puzzle pieces shift. I know that. Investments in one place come good, others go bad, and you never heed the advice you really need to so where does that leave me? Probably where I was destined. Single minded bastard.

Each move has a black mark on it and theres corners I cant see around. Which direction? Empty bottles, no clues, no ways to read the signs.

Two minds would be a blessing right about now, because then I could leave them to argue with each other while I get some goddamn sleep.

Stay away from my coffee.

Thats a metaphorical coffee, you jackass.