In 1993-4, I worked as a mushroom farmhand in Tottori-ken (prefecture), a rather remote area of Japan (southwestern-ish Honshu). The work was long and arduous and the boss was a jerk so, I eventually split unannounced one day.
Determined to explore some of the country before my visa ran out, I stuck my thumb-out seeking a “bouken” (adventure) after making destination signs by copying place name kanji characters onto 100 yes store notebooks with crayon and decorating with some lucky words and stamps (not sure if this helped).
Hitch-hiking isn’t very common in Japan but by sticking to rural areas – including the traditional “o henrosan dori” (the pilgrim’s path) on Shikoku (the smallest of the 4 main islands of the Japanese archipelago) which has seen many wandering poets, seekers and prayers over centuries – I skidded along alright.
Getting rides in the country areas was usually rather quick but often times, the ride would insist of showing “hospitality” in form of taking to their hometown to show off “the thing their town is famous for” (of which every town has one thing). Not ideal for fast moving but well… the take the ride, you go where it goes. Getting between big cities along the expressways was much less enjoyable and relied on waiting around rest/service areas in these cases.
I pitched my small tent most anywhere (beaches, shrines, parks etc) much the chagrin of caretakers and so on who would scold aloud in the early hours. In these situations, I poked my shaggy head out of the tent flap and yammered confused apologies in my farmer Japanese – this tactic would usually confuse the situation into submission.
Some of the time I was accompanied by a mysterious and intrepid Japanese surfer girl who thought my ridiculous plan was worth trying. I liked this part.
What follows are a few pieces of photographic evidence from these journeys, snapped with an early generation panorama camera – but developed “normal aspect” hence black framing bars on some shots.
“You can’t go home again” says Thomas Wolfe, and i’m cool with that as i don’t have a “home” however, there a few spots in the world that i always yearn to return to – one of which is Misasa Onsen, a small mountain town in Tottori-ken (prefecture) Japan(note: pop. approx 6500) which boasts hotsprings with exceptionally high levels of Radon/Radium (is this good for you? i dunno, not a chemist – note: radon is the gas-form).
They folklore says (as per the town’s name which translates to “Three Mornings”) that staying and bathing here for three days will cure you of all your ills. As Radium was discovered by French scientist Marie Curie, the town celebrates all things France with a statue, festival and park dedicated to the wise lady, and other Franco-accruements.
Received some photos as a complete surprise… The fella above in the middle J/C.T (who I’m not sure I’ve seen since this journey in 1988) tracked me down to send this delightful documentation from a walk across the Grand Canyon. The emotionless faces were intentional and we were having a much better time then we let on (probably) :-) That’s filmmaker BGK on the left.
Note: J/C and me each had loaded up 24 cans of warm beer (purchased with my fake ID) to keep the trip a bit weirder.
Day one, knee busting endless steps all the way down to South rim (including a tunnel which revealed the canyon bottom
Day two across the hot bottom, refreshed by a swim in a perfect pool and time for contemplation of the indigenous folks who’d roamed these canyons before we did so for “recreation”.
Day three, brings nothing but up up up the North rim which included pockets of snow and, upon getting closer to the top, piles of donkey/mule shit, while we avoided the (lazy!) tourists riding on their burdened backs.
We celebrated and gave thanks with a sacrifice on a stone altar.
Love tracking down analog gems like this!
Aside: Also, he reminded me of our 30th high school reunion is this summer. Technically, I dropped out and attended/graduated “adult high school” at the local community college which was one of my smartest ideas ever as i took photography, mountaineering, ceramics as well as creative writing, humanities and geology (just to get onboard with this field trip). Renaissance guy in training indeed.
++ Front Row, Surrounded by Pals, Lost in Music ++
Whalley-ite and publisher of the fanzine Terminally Stupid and Vancouver hardcore music historian of sorts Dan Walters shared this snap. Can ya spot me? I’m always front row and smiling – i like it loud and music was escape. Note middle part hair.
Anyhow, Dan writes, “York Theatre Feb 17 1985 TSOL headlined. In the photo with you, Brad, Kamel, Kai, Kelly, Tim is Judas Goat onstage- Dave and Brian from DOA with Andy Graffiti on drums.”
Kameljit Gill was a force of nature (it was early days for the Indian influx to Surrey), tall, fearless and creative and always stirring up trouble – also an asshole but it was Whalley, you sorta had to be – i havent seen him since these olden days. Kai (another big guy) and him would make me be the first stage diver at shows to get things going. They’d toss me up there and sometimes even catch me when i leapt – pain tolerance was higher than. Brad Rees and I were pretty inseparable and i snuck out and stayed at his house often cause his Mom was cool (still is) and we could play music in the basement (until a grumpy step-dad would get liquored and angry).
Lots of the punk bands (which to me were already legendary superheroes) had “Fuck Bands” where they’d switch up instruments and wear ridiculous costumes and adopt other personas (I recall Chainsaw Running with Dave Gregg on drums being another).
Our little squad of Whalley misfits were all very different but hung out cause we were punks in a land of metal hessians. We made fanzine and bands. Notably AOT (Abortions on Toast) which the aforementioned Mr. Walters digitized the cassette “Music to Eat Lightbulbs by” (which i’ll make a soundcloud for one of these days and share some snaps). Dan Barney has a tshirt. I don’t.
The York was such a great place as shows were all ages and, importantly for us suburban skid kids, *NOT* downtown. Busses were tough (this is pre-Skytrain when we rolled the 312 or 316 in) and sometimes we were stuck walking all the way to Hastings/Refrew PNE to catch a bus back to Surrey. This night, we got as far as Whalley Exchange which was a shit place to be at 1AM or so. Dayton boot clad Whalley Burnouts ruled Surrey then and you’d get stomped if not careful. I hated living there and music was my escape.
These few years (83-85) were halcyon times for me seeing dozens of bands. Saving my money from delivering Real Estate Weekly newspaper to see shows from Bowie at BC Place to Clash at Coliseum to Dead Kennedys at York and Ramones at Commodore (at 14) and dozens more including loads of California-based punk bands and DOA a few dozens times. Bill of Rights, Death Sentence, House of Commons, Shanghai Dog seemed to open up so many shows (hence the fuck bands to bring variety). Plus Bag O Dirt, Slits, I Braineater, Spores….
On a personal note: This night, my Mom picked me/us up at Whalley Exchange (called from a payphone at Mac’s), the 17th was her birthday and Dad was not thrilled i went to the show and out late and all that. A couple months later my parents were split and i moved to Utah. Life changed a lot. These were golden times for me and the only shows i regret are the ones i didn’t go to.
The York turned into the Raja cinema and then was evidently saved from demolition by East Van Cultch.
Did you see shows at the York? Were you a suburban kid escaping for music? Did music save you? Define you? Tell me about it.
When living on Guam (1993-96 ish), i had 3 jobs – along with selling my hemp bags and flower sticks.
I previously told you about SS Neptune submarine-ish tour guide, and alluded to the job at Starsand Private Beach Club where i was a “bi-lingual club host” meaning i welcomed the guests (mostly Japanese but some Korean and a few Chinese) gave a briefing of the day’s agenda and available activities (horseback riding, atv riding, kayaking, beach games, bar-b-q lunch…) and led jungle hiking tours which i devised and included war artifacts like an unexploded grenade lodged in a tree, a cave where Japanese soldiers hid out, a traditional Chammoro grass hut (where i’d take my medicinal breaks) and all sorts of wildlife (wild boars included!)
Also led snorkelling group sessions to help pax understand how to wear and clear a mask, avoid coral, identify some fish and go in the appropriate direction to avoid fighting current. Due to slippery rocks and jellyfish, this also involved lost of first aid – some quite grisly. I’ll spare you.
Sometime groups would stay over and i’d be paid to eat my weight in sashimi (granted i was pretty skinny then), entertain with fire juggling, pretend to understand mah-jong and take photos – then sleep in hammock or tent. Sometimes the groups were filming TV shows and so somewhere out there, I am in the background of various mini-series rom-com dramas. Not to mention all the family vacation photo albums in which i make a thin but tanned appearance.
Guam is a quick 3-ish hour flight from Japan making a for an easy and decadent weekend getaway. Most guests were honey-mooners, some families, company groups and lots of 20 year olds enjoying a brief reprieve from the pressures of education and work to celebrate their seijin shiki (coming of age day). Most all came in organized tour groups and then would purchase “optional tours” including the private beach day, at hotel tour desks. Other activities (besides submarines and scuba diving) included duty-free shopping, “massage” parlours and gun shooting ranges.
Anyhow, my co-workers worked the “bad boy” image pretty hard and acted like smooth operating beach toys (with much success plying dates for after work) whereas i was the (almost shockingly) “good-ish boy” hanging out with the folks interested in history, poetry and practicing my Japanese skills. Mostly.
The beach club was run by a corrupt as fck family who controlled liquor and tobacco concessions for outer islands. A weird trio of bosses who were never on the same page and constantly overirdiing each other on decisions and appointing relatives as “managers”. They also imported grunt labor from Truk/Chuuk island and paid them seemingly in booze. They lived on site in shacks and raked the beach and other odd jobs.
The club was sorta landlocked with the only access being through Andersen Air Force base (yes the one in the news recently regarding DPRK’s ambition s to bomb it) which accommodated all sorts of planes (Stealth bomebrs, Concorde and those big transport planes, plus FedEX planes bringing in fresh meat and produce to stock the base stores). Post-9/11, the base shut down the thru-access required to bring guests in and, as such, the club was closed. I imagine there are some squatters there enjoying the pristine yet rugged location noted for the “sand” which was really broken up pieces of coral resembled stars. Not sure of the current situation there and because this was before the advent of “consumer internet” there isn’t much record of evidence. Every few years, i’ll from another former employee or another who’ll dig into the internet and come across my snapshots. There are some photos out there from the last few years (i think from the part of the club made for the Korean guests as the K & J’s had a hard time getting along so became prudent to separate oddly) but could be from another beach with star sand. If you have intell, please let me know.
Like this evidence: Here i am plying my trade with a quartet of lovely Japanese ladies enjoying an idyllic day on the beach.
NOTE: Snap taken with an early generation Japanese panorama camera but developed on “normal” size resulting in black bars (mostly cropped out) on top and bottom of print.
Grateful to those of you who gave me a place to sleep, a hug, answered the phone, rescued me, put up with me, let me send you postcards, reminded me of important things, told me I was useful, etc. in this past year. May our gentle friendship revolution continue in perpetuity.
Nov. 27th 2017 Mountain Time – Nov. 28th 2017 in Galle, Sri Lanka
Well, the date came around today. Its a foggy number for me as I was so far elsewhere in the “tomorrow” time zone and also took the brothers a couple of days to track me down to deliver the news so I actually had to look at your obituary to know exactly which date was the day.
The date shouldn’t matter and I maybe should be “unattached” according to the Buddhists or doing the whole “she’s in a better place” crap which frankly I don’t believe in – maybe there is an after-life but we have no proof and only folktales augmented by the spectre of “faith” to go on – so to me, whether there is or isn’t makes no difference (also, who’s to say this isn’t the “after-life”). Oh and to the faith of my relations, I don’t want a whole planet to “manage” if it means I must supervise wars and disease and disasters, anyhow I digress… to me, the only salient aspect of memory I feel and care to share is simply “I miss you”. That’s all. And, I want to, aim to, and am keeping your memory alive in a very tangible way.
You have no marker, your body is still at University of Utah Medical Center, used by a little squadron of medical students and there’s maybe an engraving of your name on some associated memorial wall in SLC somewhere – we ordered it, filled out the form but don’t have evidence of actual existence.
Of course, there’s your sons and friends and grandkids still roaming around but your stories will fade if someone doesn’t keep the tradition alive. With this in mind, I post photos of you and about you, on the Internet so folks can click a button of acknowledgement, drop a few words, etc. – but to me, this isn’t all of what’s needed. With your love of genealogy – or rather the research of the stories of ancestors as they are rather than just a list of data points to perform unrequested ceremonies upon – and your interest in findagrave and tending to headstones, I want to put a stone somewhere with your full name, birth place and date and same with death, just for the “Lauralees of the future” who have the same interest as you to dig into the stories of the past.