Friday, August 11, 2006

Tokyo Sucks

Okay. Admittedly, I don't think its the city that sucks, but more my work situation while here. I'm being held hostage in a printing plant in Itabashi. With my co-worker John leaving Vis so suddenly at the most crucial time, the two magazines closing and trying to get them out to the printer, plus all that I am trying to accomplish/wrap up on Decades --- it's simply been a mess. Our two biggest "fall fashion" issues of the year are coming out 5-7 days late (unheard of, and really bad) and extra costs have mounted on all sides as we all struggle to cope, pulling in help from all sides. I'm powering through with coffee and several drinks/sleeping pill a night to shut it all off so I can sleep for 6 hours before waking up already amped the instant I open my eyes, answering emails and making phone calls. Good news is: this time next week all should be relatively calm. I have to work 12 hours every day except Saturday (I told them I would cry if I didn't get a day off) before going to Hong Kong. And maybe, just maybe, I can relax then and have some fun. After all, it's only magazines we make. It's not real life. And doing all I can to keep this perspective is (barely) keeping me sane.

I threw my American-style tantrum, complete with patented slash-and-burn emails in simplified English on Monday night, and things FINALLY started moving properly. I will be able to get out of here by the morning of the 16th, my scheduled departure time, but it never would have happened if i had continued to acquiesce to the mindset of the Japanese printing business. The "sorrys" came fast and furious on Tuesday, and the gentlemen of Toppan moved themselves out of my dingy little room so i would have it all to myself while at the plant. Good. I wanted to concentrate on other things and needed a break from hearing a foreign language around me 24-7. Everything is cool now, and we are all pals etc., but I would love -- just ONCE -- to not have to be so demanding in my job. I'd like to know that a printer would be happy to see me coming instead of avoiding me in fear. I think it's the nature of what we do, though, and this is the both good and bad in what I get to work on. In order to get the quality that our publications demand, there's no other way to go about it. And when it works, it's something to be proud of, for anyone who has contributed. God knows I've never been one to avoid a confrontation, so in some ways, there's no better person suited for the job.

I've noticed walking around Tokyo the profusion of Anglo men with Japanese women. Obviously this would be a good place to live and work if you are so inclined to those, um, fetishes, but you simply don't see any Anglo women with Japanese men. There's not the same tradeoff between the sexes at all. I'm guessing Japanese men would only marry Japanese women, but not vice-versa. And I, myself, am one of those who said just a couple weeks ago "I'm not into Asian men." The greatest illustration I saw of this dichotomy was at the Citibank ATM last weekend. I saw two couples (young, gorgeous Japanese women w/American men), men who would never have pulled the chicks they were with if in the States. Not the best-looking guys, let's say.The main gist of these women's English seemed to be "cash" and "money" (not kidding) as the men emptied their accounts to take their girlies out for the night. I don't know why this surprised me (maybe because it was so blatant), but it was hard to stand there and not look at them with contempt. But what the hell -- I guess why not, if you can afford it? When in Rome, I mean, Tokyo....Maybe I'll go to Ireland and see if I can pull the same deal on a 25-year old hotties from Cork.

One of the Toppan guys told me Wednesday morning the typhoon was coming. It a good thing he told me - I would have had no idea that it was more than a severe, windy rainstorm. And a typhoon is simply a Pacific hurricane, from what I could gather, but it sounds MUCH more serious!....I've been frequenting every fake pub-style bar in Ikebukuro after work to wind down (there are 4 or 5 near my hotel because it's located near a huge train station). The thing about these places is that there's always another American there acting the total jackass. Loud, drunk, braying his opinions around the bar, making a general idiot of himself. I usually sit tight and read my book, trying not to speak while avoiding all eye contact so these fucking frat boys don't come over and tell me about their hometown in Connecticut or wherever. I realize why everyone hates Americans. I hate Americans (or really, anyone) who acts like this....Trying to talk to Japanese people, I realize how much slang I use. Like: I was "worked up"; we need to get this done and "out the door"; it's "no big deal"; "what's the story?"; "its not the end of the world" "I'm crabby" and any cuss word possible. I've been trying to pull this stuff out of my speech, and perhaps I'm becoming a more conscientious and formal speaker being in Asia....Interesting fact: if someone commits suicide in Tokyo on the train tracks (something like 32,000 people committed suicide in Japan last year, more than double the average in the U.S.), the family of the casualty is charged around $250,000 (or more depending on the line) for "cleanup". So not only have you suddenly lost your beloved family member, you also have to pay for the privilege....Toilets here are a trip. Heated seat, some play flushing noises to cover up sounds, bidet sprayer, butt sprayer, music, every single one with a different flushing mechanism. It's a little confusing, to be quite honest. Any button could set off anything at a moment's notice. And nobody wants to be wondering what's the hell is going on when sitting on the can. It look me a week to figure out which way to face to use the traditional squat toilets in women's room in the plant. This tells you how out of it I am....There are some elderly Japanese men and women who, seriously, come up to my elbow. Like under 4 feet tall. They stare at me and I always stare right back at them. I wonder if they are thinking what I am thinking: what would it be like if I just picked them up and swung them around?

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