I remember writing this. I put on Danzig's "IV" and made notes when the songs changed, and unburdened myself. I think composing and posting this had a therapeutic effect; my relationships with both the old man and myself improved a lot afterward. –Ed.
DANZIG IV - BRAND NEW GOD Here we go again. Another morning, like any other. This morning, at this moment, 0753 on Monday, June 23rd, 2003, is cloudy. The humidity is down, which is a welcome relief. It is supposed to be the Japanese rainy season, but I have not seen a drop for three days. The heat of the afternoon yesterday was nasty, and we spent most of the day indoors. The only time spent outside was to head over to the ubiquitous bookstore Book Off and search in vain for some freaky, messed up horror comic books. Ayako is deep into that stuff. Most of the comics I read as a kid were tame compared to what most Japanese people grow up with. Ultra-violent, head-splitting, gut-spilling, entrails-spewing black and white graphics adorn most of the fare that’s available for purchase at any local convenience store. I wonder what percentage of people purchase the comics. Here in Japan, it is fully acceptable to stand at any given magazine rack and read, from cover to cover, any title you choose. If one was so inclined, they could spend all day reading every single magazine or book in a bookstore and not receive a single word of reprimand from the staff. This would be ideal for myself if I could read the language. I am usually stuck BRINGER OF DEATH “reading” (more like simply looking at) the backs of game software jewel cases, or the pictures in some comics. Side-by-side with the gore there is a lot of graphically rendered tits and ass. It seems that most of the comics are split down the middle between killing and fucking. Mind you, most graphic sexual acts are censored, which involves erasing any sign of genitalia. The act of copulation is obvious, there’s just either a black smudge or a white blob where the genitals should be. When I first found out about the censorship of the pornography over here, and that most kids grew without ever having seen a vagina or penis, it started to make sense as to why the public culture felt so sexually inhibited. This theory of mine has worn a little thin over time, but I still believe the censorship of pornography and sexually explicit material remains a contributing factor to moral depravity. Thank God for the Internet and its unregulated stream of filth, or I really would not know what to do with myself.
I live with a cripple. He had a stroke about two years ago, and before that CANTSPEAK he was a selfish bastard who took his entire family and position for granted. This comes from my wife’s anecdotal evidence and my own interactions with the man in his post-stroke condition. It breaks down like this: before I came over to Japan, my wife was living at home with her mother and father. She has a brother, and at that time he was rarely at home. I believe he had another place somewhere or stayed with friends. The family lived in a house over a liquor store. The shop had been in the family for at least a generation, and the father was the main proprietor. The mother worked the front, handling all the customers and logistics of keeping the business running, while the father was a glorified delivery man who spent his workdays driving around, filling up vending machines, and hauling liquor to distribution points. A lousy arrangement, as the mother had little time for herself and spent most of the day in the shop, alone. DOMINION Prior to my arrival in Japan, my wife (then girlfriend) had been complaining of her parent’s constant fighting. After I arrived, I spent some time in the shop spinning my wheels trying to find gainful employment and keep myself fed. My wife moved out of the family home, and we got a small apartment a little further down the train line towards Tokyo, and so she at least found some freedom from the bad situation at home. During my second or third stay at the liquor store, I was introduced to some supposed yakuza. Yakuza are the Japanese equivalent of gangsters, and as with any criminal element there is a wide range of them. These guys, to my trained eyes, were low-level thugs. They had made a habit of visiting the shop, helping themselves to liquor, and chatting up the GOING DOWN TO DIE mother. I guess one of them ended up convincing her it would be in her best interest to leave the father and go off into the world. The tension between the mother and father grew until it burst with the mother leaving. She just split in the middle of the night, divorced, and took whatever savings she could get her hands on. In Japan, divorce is as easy as one of the partners taking both partner’s official seals (the equivalent of a legal signature) down to the local government office and stamping a form. Convenient, eh? She also had access to the bank account, so there went that cash. Her leaving dealt a critical blow to the father. He now found himself having to run a business he knew nothing about. She had handled all the important aspects of the store, and he had no clue about ordering, dealing with the regular customers, stocking, and so on. The pressure fell on him. He had a stroke and fell into a coma.
At first, we assumed that the brother would take care of everything, as traditionally in Japan the eldest son is the inheritor and thus required to care for an ailing father. Well, this number one son was a greedy, fat bastard (the apple falling not far from the tree) I DON’T MIND THE PAIN who cared little for the welfare of his father. I couldn’t blame him, having gotten to know the man over the past three years, but still. Your father lies half-dead in the hospital, what is the “right” thing to do? Go and help him out, of course. But this brilliant example of filial love waited for signs of life before going in for a visit, and one of the first things he presented to his father when he became conscious was a request to co-sign and sponsor a car loan! When the father refused (the son already had a fine car, and it was still being paid for) the boy turned to his uncle. Family values, right? My wife, meanwhile, tended to her father, shouldering the burdens her brother should have borne. She visited the old man often in the hospital and handled the restocking of the family vending machines. The shop was closed, but there a few vending machines in the vicinity of the house that they had an interest in and needed to keep stocked. My wife spent a great deal of time and energy on her weekends and after work carrying heavy loads of alcohol and soft drinks between the house and these machines. The stress wore on her and seeped into me as well.
It was bad enough with my own five-in-the-morning to eleven-at-night job INVOCATION but this was to be the beginning of a serious fracture in our marriage. During the year that the father was in the hospital, I saw my wife for maybe sixty days in total. I forgot who she was.
We moved into the family house after the father came out of the coma. He had to stay in the hospital for a long time, so we thought that since the house was standing empty, we might as well move in there and take advantage of a rent-free situation. It was great (kind of—seeing as the house was a dusty, old, musty, dirty, further-from-Tokyo, stinky, roach-prone dwelling) but we only managed to save a little money. There was little to show for that time. Then the father got well enough to come back home, and I could experience firsthand who he was. It wasn’t a pretty picture. The stroke had changed nothing in the man. He was still a selfish jerk who loved to talk to himself more than anyone else. You would think that surviving a life-and-death experience like that would change a person, either for the better or the worse (in my case, when I died the first time back in ’96 I became the self-righteous bastard I am today) but he went through the ordeal with barely a tic. We couldn’t escape. He didn’t need us in any way, there was no requirement for palliative care, and he could cook and clean for himself, thank God. He still can, and now he can even drive a car and get around fine.
One of the greatest benefits and curses of being with the man has been the ability to purchase our own house, albeit with him in it. We live in a nice new apartment in reasonable comfort, if you can ignore the zombie that occasionally shuffles through the halls. So here we are, and it’s starting to get to me. I can’t hate him in the way I can impersonally hate most people, as he is “family”, and something of a victim of circumstance, but I can loath and despise him. He doesn’t directly bother me, as he’s made no attempt to communicate with me. He speaks as much English as I do Japanese, which is to say sweet fuck all. What’s the big problem, then? He stands between my wife and me. He gets “in the way”. Yet we can’t escape. I suppose eventually he’ll either have another stroke or become mentally invalid at which time he can be committed to a care home. Will that solve anything? I don’t know.
What is this stress? The feeling of partial ownership? The feeling of not being the absolute superior male in the household? I don’t know. Changing the subject, I’ve realized what it is that’s preventing me from feeling good these days: beliefs. Beliefs are fucking up my thought processes. This requires a little background. When I was twenty-one or twenty-two, I came to the realization that I had in some magical way stripped myself of any fetters of personality and belief. Through years of drug, alcohol, and self-abuse, I had removed most of the sense of id from my mind. There was nothing there. I had become a blank slate. There was a gap in my mind between the rush of the four previous years of being “so high that I could touch the sky” and being as normal as I was going to get. In that time, I couldn’t think of what I was supposed to be or believe. It was a time of extreme lateral thought, where I was so free and possessed such great freedom of movement and thought that I ended up drifting aimlessly. It was like being shoved into a state of bliss without the mental discipline to deal with it. The state was ideal, but the controls weren’t in place, and that made the efficiency of being in that state nil. Even now I can remember that condition of total unbelief. It was delicious and wholly satisfying. Nothing affected or effected me. I was totally unfettered. Now, however, that condition has grown into one rife with fetters. I had removed all remnants of personality over four years of social self-destruction, and then built a new persona on top of the old, and like layers of sediment I could geologically track my development. The bedrock would always be the first sixteen years of life and unchangeable, save the few major rifts and faults, and then this non-layer of scattered experience and mental destruction lasting some four years and so much heavier and vaster than the first fifteen years, and finally a very thin layer of whatever experience would “stick” atop everything else. Only now, looking closely, do I see a somewhat decent stratum of living on top of what came before. I would say the last four years and the two before those contain about a year’s worth of experience. The first three years in Japan were just too overwhelming to process anything and being culturally and socially isolated acted like a dissociative state like the years I spent under the influence of street drugs. Only in the last year, having scaled back my working hours and put myself in a state of trying to be, have I really made any personal development progress. I feel a sick longing for the time wasted, as I suppose anyone who has realized such a loss would, but with it comes the understanding that there is such a vast distance of time to cover in the future that the last six years are nothing. Less than ten percent of life. If I were to quantify all the time up to now, I could say that less than thirty percent of my time on Earth has been used up. Perhaps less, depending on the effects of my present health regimen and mental health development.
STALKER SONG It’s now, 0848 on Monday, June 23rd, 2003, that I realize a return to the blankness of four years ago is what I need. I now have beliefs, certain beliefs that are preventing me from thinking and acting as freely as I once did. I must work to destroy these fresh chains and build anew. I believe life is a process of building and destroying. I’m a child on a vast beach, building sandcastles for the tide to take, or for my own feet and hands to bring down, each time constructing something more elaborate or with greater efficiency. I’ve never really felt the deep sense of satisfaction that people say they feel from finishing something. Perhaps this is because I have never truly finished a thing. And I know exactly where this all comes from. I remember back to my grade twelve math class at Camosun College, when it dawned on me that there was no true completion in creation, and that everything had to be less than perfect, that every measure was an approximation, that nothing real was exact or precise. That understanding freed my mind to a greater degree than any of the “revelations” I’d had on drugs. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is finished. Nothing is complete. Nothing is accurate. Everything is just a best guess, it’s always possible to dispute the information at hand, and therefore believing nothing and using only that which is best suited to a given purpose is the key to living a stress-free life. UNTIL YOU CALL ON THE DARK The fact that every one of us on the planet is thinking in a way that is just ever so slightly (or, as in many cases, radically) different from each other, that there can never be a total world peace or anything resembling perfect harmony. Only a best guess. Humans are a best guess. And if we’re made in the image of some greater being, that being itself must be imperfect. The pursuit of perfection is pointless, and those who tolerate imperfection are those who advance furthest in this reality. Thus comes one aspect of my personal trinity: tolerance. And the trinity, the guiding principles I’ve developed over these blank years. Patience, tolerance, and diligence. I’m so apt to forget them. I must practice. This I suppose is a kind of religion. I’m losing the desire to write for now, but it was nice to vent this.