Saturday, November 1, 2008

I, Samurai

A breathe, a sigh. Two things, then I'm gone. Presuppose I'm a time capsule of sorts. Suppose for a moment I'm mushing about Juneau's back roads, finding myself exceedingly lucky just to have the space to walk. Like a blank page, the road, perfect and for me to mess. Kicking out my one lame leg followed by my one expert leg, I'm taken outside the city toward impassible mountains.

On my home archipelago there exists the belief that mountains are gods. But not the kind of gods you probably think of as sort of all seeing all knowing, these gods are more like spirits, and these spirits see some things, some of the time. They are not perfect. The vigorous walking is my way of summoning my personal deity of sorts.

By time capsuling my intention was really that of reverse-archeology. Find artifacts, bury them, unearth those artifacts at a later day and time, in celebration of how very far you have come. Seems appropriate. Seems almost to have a sort of poetics.

These things help to take the edge off: public transport which spews black smoke; and the fishing boats which chug along with whiter-black smoke; the dichotomy of flurries on the lake-front with the snow fleeced ground flowing into black liquid, not oil; water in a black and blue night; and always, stunningly so, the voice of a woman.

There are shady sorts mulling near the dock. Huddled about a fire burning inside of a garbage barrel. I built many endless fires in Tsushima. Those fires are not worth their wood. What purpose really for a fire, but to huddle about in warmth with those of your clan?

The beggars are ragged, with torn shoddy, woolly rags beggars are wont to compliment themselves with. An old PhD I once regarded highly became very sick, and resigned under rather ridiculous and wholly mysterious circumstances. I did not see him again until he was a beggar on the foggy docks of San Francisco. I did not offer money to him then, it was out of surprise, I was aghast, truly, and I think if I had that moment to live again I would have purchased for him soap and pizza and a warm room. I did not judge him. He had his reasons, just not his wits. I'm almost surprised not to find him here in the panhandle, panhandling in a kind beggarly salon near the fire.

"Blokes!" I interject, startling myself, and for no reason really, doing my best to disguise myself as British, "if I might share with you a dream of Plato and God. They agreed to my sentence, if you can believe it, I was to be put to death. Nothing can help that now I suppose."

They were quiet. A lecture-hall in repose, they warmed themselves only, and they did not speak. They very badly needed to shower. And so I wheeled on, in my wake a voice, echo-like and amplified asking: "I think he was a sociologist?"

No, I don't really believe I'm British. Yes, I sometimes have nightmares. I'm not really all that haunted, just imaginative in a harmless but not altogether healthy way.

Herewith is the telegram I received, God knows I am only in the habit of choosing friends who would fancy completely antiquated forms of communication. I did not even know one could get a telegram sent in the modern era. And yet, and yet, the evidence:

Simon. I have been authorized to offer you a position with our team. Please return home. We worry for you.

His intention, I'm sure, is verbal theatrics. From a purely humane point of view, I seem almost required to engage in, at least weekly, and so I call.

"Hi, I'm not coming back. Stop the telegrams."


"You can't offer me anything I want. I'm staying in Alaska. It's not a phase, don't act like my mother. Hm, the telegram is cute, though," I was folding it into what I supposed must be a paper fish, "I hope it wasn't expensive. Please let me some peace would you?"

Even when I was a part of that world, I was very outside of it all, maybe by choice somehow. As if, they all were in on something that I never grasped, or never wanted to. I guess they once painted me as an Idealist, which is unfair, because I did play their game once. But not again.

"... is it that you think you're better than us?" He was of course bringing up ancient history, a time when I was truly on a high horse, acting like nobility.

"I think I'm over it now. There are many others with a lot more talent. And desire. Chase them down, would you? Really, I'm going to start over. I'm going to clean-slate this whole decade. I feel pretty good about it."

If you were reading just a solitary page out of some Samurai's diary and read about his old war exploits, you may think he was once a terrible deadly warrior. This particular solitary samurai was in fact a man of Tactics, like a modern Odysseus, minus the Athena protectorate status; meaning he laid out plans, only, and was not really a fighter.

"Would you listen to our representative at least?"

"Don't send him."

"He'll be there shortly, I expect."

"This is probably harassment," I said, finally, stepping out of the phone booth and into the snow, hoping for a blizzard and to crunch my heels through fresh snow and to walk where no one walks. At least I didn't say something ridiculous. At least I did not try to recite poetry or become embarrassingly emotional.

"Why do you wander the steppe?" she asked, doing some real spot-on quoting from the Epic of Gilgamesh. Her memory was damn scary. She reminded me of the dream of a giant unconquerable shadow from which all things must hide. And in that dream I tried to hide her from the shadow. That was it--I hid her from the shadow and then flew at it, knowing it would take me. I advanced anyway.

"You're not really who-slash-what I expected," I said, very tired.

She was quiet, as was her way when she walked intently. She walked bow-legged and I liked to watch her try to correct for the bow-leggedness she unconsciously attempted to correct. Usually she drove. And so, I expect she was taking minimal pleasure in the assignment at hand. She looked tired, too. I walked into her, apologetically.

"You look how I feel," I told her.

"That comforts you?"

"I need a cane. Or a staff. Or one crutch. You can have the other one."

"What happened?"

"I tried to break my leg."

She squinted and nodded. I think she was going to call me on it. I almost wish she would just call me on it.

"Be serious for once would you?" Her hand emphasized this point with a chopping motion toward the leg in question. She had painted her nails black for some reason. She was talking kind of fast, even for her.

"I'm sorry. I never wanted to be a bother," I said.

I've no problem with stores in general, but specifically, aisles and the organization of commodities do make me laugh. My usual response to aisles in a store is either laughter or tears. I want to find her a big bag of chocolate.

"Do you remember when we were in New York and I was so sick on too much coffee?"

She nodded.

"You brought me to the doctor. You remember that don't you."

"I remember you held a picture of someone over your heart. That was odd."

It was a picture that came in a wallet, not a real person. Or at least not a real person that I had ever met. I thought the picture was going to save my heart.

"What's with the chocolates?" she asks.

"It's for you. I think I don't mind traveling home with you."

"No jokes?"

"I'm going to eat a bag of chocolate with you on the warm train. That has to be enough."

And we paid for our goods. In a simple and ridiculous way I do sincerely enjoy being near her when it is cold, but I could not say that, could never, never say that; not with a company employee could one say these things.

When Samurai's charge into battle they shout their names/homes, so as to let their opponents know from who/where the coming onslaught can be blamed upon. As a sort of inside joke I've been completely silent in that regard; though shouting her name as a solitary Samurai rushing impossibly into the fray would not seem so far from actual true humaneness.