Thursday, 9 August 2018

SE Digest Update (and a new travel story to boot!)

quote [ Before I arrived in Japan, I had already set an assumption about how my experience would go. I was traveling solo, don't speak the language, am socially introverted, and I had chosen to stay the first week at an AirBnB private room in a small town outside Tokyo. I imagined most of my trip would be spent alone. ]

I CAN POST!!!

Finally! I felt like I was drowning not being able to interact with SE. You're my friends even if we've never met. I missed you.

I wanted to post this a while ago, but due to some weird glitch in the matrix, my ability to PM, comment, or post was causing a connection error using the Chrome browser. Installed Firefox and all seems well.

Please check out the extended for more info on the future of the SE Digest podcast and a new(ish) travel story I wrote.

For my regular listeners, sorry for the lack of a more digestible SE for your auditory enjoyment this post. Before my computer issues began, I had decided to take a short hiatus in order to retool the show to make it more interesting and expand it in some ways to help it (and hopefully SE in general!) grow more.

First and foremost, I'm going scale back to doing two episodes a month, shoot for a 1st and 15th of the month schedule. Every 10 days makes sense based on the metrics available on the admin page, but I also feel like I'm oversaturating the market in a way. SE is a small community and I only register 10-20 listens on average after 10 days (unfortunately I have no way of knowing amount of listens past that). Hoping the extra time in between episodes will give me a little more time to prepare for them, as well.

Second, I am going to get more guests on the podcast. Tired of talking to myself all the time. I'm already trying to find people I know that seem interesting, or want to discuss a specific topic with me. Either in person or over the phone, I want to have more dialogue on this show. I will invite them to join me in discussing posts as I go through the "digest" part of the podcast, because that should really remain the core or foundation of the podcast, but if they decline the episode may be split into "digest" half and "interview" half. SE first, my silly BS second. And speaking of my silliness, I'll try to refrain from talking about personal life unless it's really interesting. I'm not famous enough for anyone to care about how I butter my toast... YET.

And third, the reasoning behind these changes is I want to reach a larger audience. After 2 years of doing this I feel like I've got the hang of it, I'm not so bad at keeping a pace, and apparently my voice makes for good radio voice. So I'm gonna figure out how I can get the podcast listed on iTunes and other popular streaming sites and feeds that share podcasts. (You hear that Joe Rogan? I'm gunning for your spot at the top!) I'm gonna write some theme music, and even make (or hire someone to make) a decent logo. Gotta present myself if I'm gonna get those listeners.

I may even (gasp!) consider advertising spots if I ever get popular enough. Then I could actually make a little scratch from talking into a microphone in my underwear.

These are all mostly ideas still, and I still need to figure out how to do a lot of it. I'm back to being busy as shit and dealing with life per usual, but I really want to devote more time to this hobby/side project and make it the best it can be. Hope you'll join me for the ride.

I am talking to a few people about doing interviews on the show, so hopefully now that I can post again I will have something for you by September 1st.

Here's a little something something to keep you fed until I get the show back on the road. If you listened to my last episode, you heard me talk about a surprise meeting with a woman in Japan. That was kind of a rough draft of sorts, me sorting through my thoughts right after having the experience. This is a better organized second draft I read on stage a couple weeks ago. Enjoy.

IN CASE YOU THOUGHT ROMANCE WAS DEAD
Reveal
Years ago for a UK magazine's website I wrote a series of personal travel essays under the heading of "The Time I...". The time I did such and such in a specific location, or the time a specific location did such and such back at me. I began my first published piece with a simple premise that still resonates with me today. I wrote: "There are three things that happen when you travel. One thing is a story where nothing happens. Another thing is that you make something happen to have a story. The third thing was a story before it happened, a story waiting to happen."

Before I arrived in Japan, I had already set an assumption about how my experience would go. I was traveling solo, don't speak the language, am socially introverted, and I had chosen to stay the first week at an AirBnB private room in a small town outside Tokyo. I imagined most of my trip would be spent alone.

On the second day of my stay I met Scarlett, a twenty-three year old Chinese woman from Shenzhen. She was staying in the room next to mine at the AirBnB. Satoshi, the man who's home we stayed in, introduced us. We smiled and exchanged pleasantries. Later, I found myself seated at the kitchen table, helping her figure out where to exchange currency. Although she had a solid grasp of basic conversational English, we found it easier to speak through the translation apps on our phones. She mentioned she'd graduated recently, studying public administration in college. When I asked what she did for a living, she laughed and typed on her phone, the translation: "I am lost."

Same.

She was worried about finding her way around while wandering the town, so gave up on her search and returned to her room. A few moments later, I knocked on her door and showed her directions I mapped out to the nearest bank. She copied the directions and thanked me.

Later, I was resting in my room when I received a knock at the door. It was Scarlett, asking if she could borrow my jacket. There were heavy rains my first few days in Japan. It was worse in the south of the country, where I learned later a tsunami had brought massive flooding to areas, killing over two hundred and displacing or threatening millions of others. I lent her the jacket.

My first impressions of her were slightly off because, as I learned later, she was not accustomed to traveling alone. Although she seemed bewildered by her present surroundings, I didn't sense any ignorance or naivety in her. She spoke clearly and directly, and confidently used the phrase "Of course," to begin several of her sentences.

She returned some time later, I heard her enter the house and then her room, she did not return the jacket. I didn't think much of it, I'd ask for it back later. Not too long after this thought, she knocked on my door again. "Would you like to go for a walk?" Yes, Scarlett, I believe I would.

We walked aimlessly together. The rain had lessened some. She still wore my jacket around her shoulders. We conversed as best we could, only relying on the phones when necessary. We shared stories of our lives. She asked if I was "superstitious", in other words if I was religious or spiritual. I told her I was not. She agreed, said she preferred science and rationalism. I smiled. I knew I had made a new friend.

Walking on, a Buddhist shrine and grounds were found to explore. Inside there was a giant statue of a deity. I asked her if she knew it. She did. It was Guanyin, known as the "Goddess of Mercy", though it can be depicted as male or female interchangeably. "When you do something wrong, you ask them to save you," she told me. I thought that was much like the Catholic concept of confession I grew up with. I pulled out my phone to snap a picture, but she stopped me. "No, you do not take photos, it is disrespectful." She wasn't superstitious, but she was still respectful. I nodded and pocketed the phone.

We returned to the AirBnB and made plans to travel into Tokyo city center together the next day, bidding each other a good night and retiring to our respective rooms. I wondered about hugging her when parting, but I did not want to give her the wrong impression. Later, she would call me a gentleman, that notion of which I doubt, if she saw all of me, she would defend.

Riding the train into central Tokyo we explored the grounds of the Emperor's East Gardens at the Imperial Palace. She thought I was silly for getting so excited over touching a camphor tree, a childhood dream since watching the film My Neighbor Totoro. Then over to the Akihabara district, well known for its electronics stores and, more recently, Otaku culture. We were inundated with giant screens playing J-Pop videos and anime. We split up after this, she wanted to do some shopping and I preferred to see more of the city. She had grown tired of carrying her camera around, and asked if I would take it, said I could take as many pictures as I like. I obliged.

I was checking out a Confusius temple and school, one of only a handful in Japan as the practice isn't as popular as Shintoism or Buddhism, when I got a message. She wasn't feeling well and was going back to her room. I offered to ride back with her, but she told me to keep exploring. I headed over to the harbor near Chiba, took some pictures of the sea for her. She had mentioned that she loved the ocean.

Took a solo trip to Mitake the following day. The area includes a spectacular gorge along the Tama river and Mitakesan, a small mountain with much to take in at the summit including a very old shinto shrine, and a waterfall I drank the coldest, freshest tasting water from. While I was out and about, I continued to converse with Scarlett over email. She asked how I was, and that she had found a bug and thought of me. Earlier on our walk, she had listened to me speak of my love of insects, and had witnessed my letting an ant crawl across my skin while expressing fear that it would bite. We continued light and carefree correspondence for a time, then I unexpectedly received a message carrying a tone of being upset. "In China, if you want to express your gratitude to someone for missing you, you should say I missed you too."

I was taken aback. She had not said anything to indicate this feeling. I explained I could not infer from her words before that this was an intended message. She understood, and said, "ok, I miss you." and I said it back. And when I wrote the words, I realized I meant them. I had enjoyed our time together thus far. She was very easy to talk to, despite the language barrier. We made plans to have dinner together at the AirBnB that night, but I was very late in getting back. She had already retired to her room, so I cooked a meal for myself, ate, and then lied down in my bed to sleep. At this point, I recognized what was going on between us, so I cannot say I was surprised when I received another message from her. "Can you come and sleep with me? Just no sex, because I feel a little strange."

My reply was getting out of my bed and knocking on her door. She let me in and I crawled into bed with her. We held each other close and spoke at length about life and loneliness. Hours passed, feeling tired but excited. I was spooning her when one of us said something that caused a laugh. She turned her head to look at me. We stared into each others eyes, eyes that couldn't be more different. Mine a shifting prism of blue-green-grey, hers a dark obsidian, a glassy abyss, two black holes I wanted to fall into very badly. We kissed. No hesitation, no worry or wonder. It was a collision that would not be avoided. We didn't get much sleep that night.

The next three days and nights were spent together. We cooked for each other, explored Lake Kawaguchi near the base of Mt. Fuji, and generally enjoyed the company while it lasted. On the last night of her visit to Japan, we bought food and alcohol and imbibed in my room. We had sex again, but afterward, there was a melancholy that came over her. She grew quiet and distant. She announced she was going to take a shower. I stepped outside for a cigarette. When I returned to my room she wasn't there. I tried knocking on her door but there was no answer. I fell asleep confused.

In the morning I received an answer. She was distraught because she did not want to leave me. She was falling for me, wanted me to be her "American boyfriend". I knew at this point that I had some feelings for her, but I didn't know how to express them well. "If we are to have anything beyond this, it would take time and much work from both of us." was all I could muster.

I helped her pack and went with her to the airport. We enjoyed our last few moments together on the train, and walking to the terminal. She delayed going to her gate for as long as possible. When it was time to part, I held her in my arms while she sobbed into her hands. I wiped the tears off her face with my bandanna. It had been hanging off my day pack while we had been exploring Japan together, she called it my tail. I found myself tying it around her arm. "When people point to your arm and ask what it is, you can say, 'Oh, it is my boyfriend's tail.'" I got a smile out of her. We embraced one more time, and just as quickly as she had entered my world, she waved to me and was gone.

Gone, but not gone. You understand. I don't know what comes next. Scarlett is a dedicated, organized, hard working individual. She currently works for a company in charge of planning and drawing up designs for construction work sites to make them aesthetically pleasing for the public. She has a mind, winning or placing at the top of calligraphy and speed reading competitions in her youth. She has an eye for photography and enjoys modeling. She's a sultry voiced singer, a poet, and a hopeless romantic. She has a plan for herself. She knows the year she will write her first biography. The year she will marry and have a child. She speaks of these things as if they already exist.

It is intimidating to say the least, and I wonder why someone so clear-headed and calm-minded would ever consider me a suitable partner. If you've heard me speak up here on stage before, or read my words online, you know what a mess it is behind this stoic eyes. Eyes she told me that when she looked into she knew I was the one, but also eyes she did not see the same feeling reciprocated through. And that is a problem with the way I look at the world, it is with indifference. I detach myself from the experience in order to understand it better, because the closer you get to the fire the hotter it burns you alive.

The ending to Scarlett and Joseph's story hasn't been written. Nobody likes a story without an ending, so here is the best one I have for you. When I returned from the airport I had to walk from the train station to my room. On the way, I thought very hard on all that had transpired. I had so many thoughts it was drowning me. It began to rain again. I realized I needed to look outside myself for once in my life, something I fail to do often. I decided to return to that Buddhist shrine we had visited, but I couldn't remember the way we took to get there. We hadn't gone looking for it, it had come to us. I tried several streets and routes, but it was nowhere to be found. Google maps didn't help me, either. I knew I needed to return to my abode and get some sleep. I had a long and strenuous climb up Mt. Fuji the next day to focus on. I needed to be ready for that. I gave up looking for the shrine, but I didn't have to be there to do what I needed to do. It was a simple thing, yet it was something I had never done before in thirty-three years of existing.

I asked the universe to save me, to save me from myself.
[SFW] [do it yourSElf] [+10 Good]
[by JWWargo]
<-- Entry / Comment History

rndmnmbr said @ 11:51am GMT on 10th August
Firefox Quantum is good shit, but be advised, it deliberately broke addon compatibility, so if you're dependent on an old addon that's not popular enough to get a rewrite then you're just SOL. To put my tabs below the address bar, I had to do some userChrome.css modifications - two lines, real easy, but still.

Also, frankly, these days blame the website itself for poor performance and heavy resource usage. Web developers don't seem to think optimization is required anymore.


rndmnmbr said @ 11:52am GMT on 10th August
Firefox Quantum is good shit, but be advised, it deliberately broke addon compatibility, so if you're dependent on an old addon that's not popular enough to get a rewrite then you're just SOL. To put my tabs below the address bar, I had to do some userChrome.css modifications - two lines, real easy, but still.

Also, frankly, these days blame the website itself for poor performance and heavy resource usage. Web developers don't seem to think optimization is required anymore.

e. That's not a dig at you, Steele. The site I had in mind was facebook.



<-- Entry / Current Comment
rndmnmbr said @ 11:51am GMT on 10th August
Firefox Quantum is good shit, but be advised, it deliberately broke addon compatibility, so if you're dependent on an old addon that's not popular enough to get a rewrite then you're just SOL. To put my tabs below the address bar, I had to do some userChrome.css modifications - two lines, real easy, but still.

Also, frankly, these days blame the website itself for poor performance and heavy resource usage. Web developers don't seem to think optimization is required anymore.

e. That's not a dig at you, Steele. The site I had in mind was facebook.




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