Sunday, May 11, 2008


So I am back in East Timor. And I have to admit, this poor little bastard of a country is starting to grow on me. The weather is beautiful, the beach this morning was great, I had a great dinner last night of this massive whole grilled tuna… Now if only they could do something about the frequency of armed insurrection and the fact that you can’t get a baseball game on Australian satellite TV, I would be all set.

The trip over was, as always, three fun-filled days of plane travel. I had a 24 hour layover this time in Tokyo, which was fun. I got up early and took Japanese rush-hour public transportation the 1.5 hours from the airport city of Narita into downtown Tokyo. Now, as a veteran of the morning rush on the 6 Lexington Line subway, I can tell you that I understand the squeeze. This was definitely on par with the worst that the 6 has to offer, but it was the ENTIRE subway system. Though it was actually the most orderly made cattlecrush I have ever experienced. No one bitched about else’s umbrella poking them in the ^*($. When the doors opened everyone orderly and politely shoved the people next to them out of the way to get out, then the crowd on the platform orderly and politely pushed back in. Strange.

Anyway, the hope had been to spend the morning walking around the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, the Imperial Palace is closed on to the public since 9-11 (why must terrorists ruin *everything*?) so I was shit outta luck. I took a couple of pictures of the Niju-bashi Bridge outside and wandered off in search of plan B.

I meandered through the Ginza shopping district for awhile but that wasn’t really doing it for me. I can’t imagine why anyone in general would buy a Fendi handbag, but I really can’t fathom paying for it in yen. I was getting a little desperate when I walked by what appeared to be a small riot of traditionally dressed pensioners in front of an elaborated carved building. Hmm, I thought, this looks like something I need to get into the middle of. So I waded in to find out what was going on.

The tickets had just gone on sale for the daily kabuki performance. For those of you that don’t know kabuki, it is the art of traditional Japanese theater with fancy costumes and lots of screaming. Tickets generally cost in upwards of a car payment for box seats to an all day performance, but you can get the cheap seats for an hour for a mere $10. So I found myself in the front row of the upper deck watching the theater fill in. There was definitely a regular crowd of retired folk that came every day. Some of the women had the extravagant robes and insane hairdos. There was a guy that looked like a homeless version of James A. Garfield and Fu Manchu’s love child. When the performance began, they went crazy (but very politely) for their favorite stars. It was all and all quiet surreal.

Not that I had any bloody clue what was going on. The plot seemed to generally follow that of the 50’s classic, “My Boyfriend’s Back.” Guy has family. Guy goes to war (with much pomp and circumstance and drinking of the tea). Neighbor draft-dodgers hassle the little woman (This also involves tea drinking.) Guy comes back and settles shit (though he might have died and come back as a ghost because he was all in white and didn’t get to drink tea anymore.) This all rapped up just in time for me to catch the express train back to the airport to head off to Bali and East Timor.

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