The Ueno Ameyayokochō Time

Kaiser, my baby

I’m a lousy husband. I find it impossible to hang around my wife’s hospital room for hours watching her writhe in pain while the nurses and her doctor wait for her condition to stabilize. When it does, they’ll determine if she needs surgery. In the meantime, I’ve been bringing her things that she needs, and drinking too much when I’m home. This is all new and overwhelming to me. My wife’s the toughest son of a bitch I’ve ever known, and I can’t take away her pain. I can’t do anything at all right now but love her.

And take a few pictures, to maybe make some good come of this in the form of my inadequate art…

KaiserMyBaby 13-4

South San Francisco and the El Camino Real from the roof of the Kaiser Permanente parking garage.

KaiserMyBaby 15-1

Colma Creek from the roof of the parking garage.

KaiserMyBaby 16-2

Hallway on my wife’s ward.

KaiserMyBaby 18-1

Hospital gift shop couture.

Kaiser Permanente, South San Francisco, California 2017

My wife is in the hospital on her birthday…

She entered the hospital last night, for an ailment that is hers to disclose. Not life-threatening, but perhaps life-changing. She’s the best person I’ve ever known, so it was agony to see her writhing and shifting for hours in emergency room pain. I would have taken that nerve-lashing unto myself if I could.

And today is her 63rd birthday. I should be making her a favorite dinner, but she’s in a hospital bed on Opiate Street. “Time’s passing so slow” morphine-she said to me this morning. We both have less time than we used to have, but its savory quality has increased as we’ve aged.

I could’ve grown old with myself. I will likely grow old longer because of her. Not knowing what to do, and being a poor hospital tourist, I took some photographs when my wife didn’t need my attention. There will likely be more; but on her birthday when she can eat no cake on the inpatient ward, these will do…

KaiserMyBaby 2-4

The admitting technician was a fine fellow of compassionate demeanor.

Sunday night at Kaiser, South San Francisco, California 2016

A dinosaur-child in the hallway as my wife was moved from the ER to her room.

KaiserMyBaby 012-2

No names on the screen means no pain in a hallway for healing professionals.

KaiserMyBaby 017-1

She’s in bed and waiting, and monitoring time.

Kaiser Permanente, South San Francisco, California 2017

Contrasts

Nihonzutsumi retail

Sundries, wares, liquor, and Kleenex, you can find everything you need for normal everyday happy life on the Irohakai shōtengai (いろは会商店街) in Nihonzutsumi, which used to be known as Sanya.

I wasn’t sure what she was browsing for. She had a jittery way about her, perhaps because some big damn foreigner was pointing a camera at her and taking her picture. For me in Tokyo that’s sometimes an unintended consequence.

TokyoDay17 075-1

But once she composed herself she was cool. And she was generous with both her smile and the peace sign the Japanese love to make when being photographed. Sometimes that peace sign makes me squirm a little, like I’m some American soldier running around Tokyo taking happy snaps during the post-war U.S. occupation.

TokyoDay17 076-2

I’m probably reading too much into my own presence on Tokyo’s streets. But my own discomfort is a price I gladly pay for the enrichment I get from being in this city and among these amazing people.

And I sure as hell hope that after I walked away, this nice woman found what she was shopping for.

(Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo 2015)

Roll the beach

Sometimes

when you drive by the beach

you see big bastard machines

and boys on skateboards

and

you don’t know if

Ocean Beach, San Francisco 2016

one is going to crush the other

but you figure

what the hell

you might as well stop

have a look

and wait to find out.

(Erosion control @ Ocean Beach, San Francisco 2016. This photo is also on Flickr.)

This beautiful man…

Look at this unconventionally beautiful man, and what he was willing to share with my wife. She and I were at a festival at the Ohtori Shrine in Asakusa on a Tuesday…

TokyoDay22 156-1

To this man we were strangers, foreigners to him, and that mattered for nothing. When I asked to take his picture, he agreed. Then he saw my wife and insisted she borrow his shimekazari so that I could take a picture of her holding it…

TokyoDay22 158-3

The Japanese are often the most warm, generous people you will ever meet. And because of this man, that day in the Asakusa sun with my wife was one of my best days in Tokyo or anywhere ever.

TokyoDay22 157-2

(Asakusa 4-chome, Tokyo 2015)

25 Days in Tokyo—14 to 16: Kyoto the Human

In late October, 2015, I was in Tokyo, Japan for 25 days. I shot many photographs. This series presents the most interesting, compelling, or touching person or scene I saw each day I was there. Click here to see the previous entries.

Exactly one year ago, give or take a day, my wife and I went to Kyoto for three nights. We stayed in a traditional room at a ryokan in Gion. My wife had always wanted to see Kyoto, and I really wanted her to. But I’m a die-hard fan of Japanese pop culture as opposed to Japanese traditional culture, so I have always been ambivalent about going there. Now I’m glad I did, because it’s a lovely town and I’d like to see it again. Kyoto is smaller than Tokyo, and does not seem quite as frenetic and cramped. And the people seem friendlier, warmer, easier with a smile.

Perhaps they’ve been conditioned to be that way by the constant stream of tourists through the city. But my instincts told me that Kyoto gets so many tourists, at least in part, because its people are just that way naturally.

November 14th

  TokyoDay14 070-1

Shijō Dōri, Gion

  TokyoDay14 073-2

Issen Yōshoku, a restaurant in Gion

November 15th

  Hanamikoji Dori, Gion, Kyoto 2015

Rehearsing here on Hanamikōji Dōri for some kind of video shoot

  Gion, Kyoto, Japan 2015

Yamato Oji Dōri, Gion

TokyoDay15 068-1

Togetsukyō Bridge, Arashiyama

 November 16th

  TokyoDay16 064-5

Firefighters, Gion (Gionmachi Minamigawa)

TokyoDay16 084-6

Shijō Dōri, Gion

(Kyoto, Japan 2015)

In my neighborhood…

This is our country now, this is our lives.

I saw a flag on a house

that does not usually fly one.

An elected official lives there.

I voted for her, hell yes.

Brisbane RAW 1300-1

I’ve voted a shitload in my life.

I voted the last time,

the bad time

when the change we wanted

is the worst we could’ve imagined.

And I’m standing there

looking at this flag,

and the dog’s looking at me.

And I’m pretty sure

the dog’s asking “What in the FUCK did you people do?!!”

And, you know,

I love that dog,

I’ve known him for years,

but I hate the question.

Because I don’t have an answer,

and I’m not gonna like

the answer that comes.

(This is a real photograph, not staged, proudly taken in Brisbane, California on November 12th, 2016)

25 Days in Tokyo—13: Yasukuni rain

Yasukuni Shrine is an interesting place, but I won’t make more of visiting it than doing so deserves. The truth is, my wife and I went there on a rainy Sunday primarily to browse a weekly flea market on the shrine grounds. We arrived around 9:45 a.m. There wasn’t much right-wing nationalist activity, just five or six men in olive-drab uniforms sitting out the rain in two black propaganda vans. They drove away 20 minutes later.

Everything at Yasukuni was wet, the sky was uniformly dour and grey, and the immense Daiichi Torii gate looked as if it was indifferent to who walked under it that day and would maintain its indifference for the next 1,000 years…

Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo 2015

(Yasukuni Jinja, Tokyo 2015)

%d bloggers like this: