The idea of the kids still haunts me ten years later.
Very infrequently I have nightmares about ghostly green, purple, and burnt orange faces of Japanese children floating above their anguished parents, who are still living bitter lives in tiny yatai-shaped temporary houses scattered throughout a cartoon nuclear meltdown hellscape version of Fukushima.
I know the reality isn’t quite that bad. But ten years on folks in Tōhoku still can’t go home, and in the deep ocean there are the bones of innocent kids from 3/11 that will never be discovered nor buried. For ten years the loss of those lives and their potential has bothered me, and probably always will.
I wrote this poem about the lost children in 2014 for the third anniversary of the disaster. It’s also an ode to the sorrow and horror felt by a man who merely edited other people’s stories from the disaster but didn’t actually experience it himself. So take that for what it’s worth as you read the poem, and I hope you enjoy it…
Gone, just gone
The bubblegum kids no one is ever going to know,
rotting out their lives in the cold of Mishima’s boiling sea.
There’s grace in the truncheons of justice they may have become.
There’s iron will in the blood they will never spill on land.
There’s a permanent school of candyfloss and diamond textbooks
waiting to teach them about the ghosts of great emperors.
It’s the time when they died that will never forgive, and will ever hate itself
for taking them walking to the undersea graves of lost civilizations.
There’s teeny shoes floating in the sea that had warm, happy feet in them.
There’s a TV somewhere that always shows cartoons only Japanese children can understand.
There’s a tear we cry for strangers who will never grow up to be our friends.
Or invent new light.
Or cure the gangrene in our hateful bones.
There is soil that will never be disturbed, for there is no reason to displace it for graves.
It is fine soil, still, and we should honor it by planting flowers that taste like rice candy.
We should remember that sometimes the bubblegum kids see with both a living and a dead set of eyes.
And we should love them, and we should remember them,
And we should hold what we know of them with a warmth that radiates down into the deepest chasm at the bottom of the sea.
I’ve got another book for you, something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years but only managed to construct in the past couple of months during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders my wife and I are living under here in California.
And as you’ve likely guessed from the title above my book is about Tokyo, my favorite city in the world and a warmer, friendlier town than one might think. At least it has been for me. Maybe I’ve just been lucky or haven’t pissed off the right people, who knows?
Anyway, the book is full of (mostly) black and white photographs of (mostly) happy, smiling people in various street locations around the city. And like my last book, it’s free. But unlike my last book, there’s very little text in it (beyond captions) and the overall message of the work isn’t a heavy downer.
Thanks for having a look, and I hope you enjoy “Tokyo Likes You”.
(Brisbane, California, April 30, 2020. See my other work here.)
I’ve shopped in a lot of 7-11s in my life.
Maybe you have too.
I only started photographing people I’d encounter at 7-11 a few years ago. I was a public school substitute teacher in 2016 and 2017, and I used to stop by whatever store was on my way to work for a Dr Pepper and some kind of donut for breakfast.
I’m not a school teacher any longer, but I still treasure my 7-11 adventures. See more of the people I met at the convenience store here. I hope you enjoy them.
I’ve just completed my first photography book, a major (meaning ‘large’) work called “Tokyo Panic Stories” which presents Tokyo street life in pictures and words. And I want you to have a copy.
I’ve been working on this book for almost eight years, though prolonged bouts of writer’s block, chronic depression, alcoholism, self-doubt, massive anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (from a heart attack on New Year’s Eve, 2003), low self esteem, poor fashion sense, and general malaise. And now that it’s finally done, I want to share it with as many people as possible.
I’ve tried finding a publisher, but nobody’s interested. I don’t have the money to publish proper hardcopies of it myself, and I don’t want to wait until I do. So I’m just going to give it away. For now, at least.
Thanks for having a look, and I hope you enjoy my book.
Codename: Pink Tuba Fire…
Welcome to the first installment of a new weekly feature here on Brisbane Graphic Arts Museum. It’s an ongoing showcase of photographs from my growing body of photojournalism and street photography work, featuring what I think are the best and/or most interesting photos I shot during a given week. I hope you enjoy my work, or get some value from it, and will come back here each week to see how I’ve been seeing our world.
Here we go…
Remember: people and the world are more beautiful, odd, and interesting than you think, you just have to stop and look long enough to notice.
There are no roses for us
but the ones we make
from Japanese paper
made in China, by the way,
that we buy in vast retail spaces
stocked with glue and glitter and ribbon
and blank books of impermanent quality
with which we build volumes
of memory and dreams.
The dreams are for ourselves, supposedly.
The memory is for anthropologists, hopefully.
They’ll see how we were
then marvel at how dull it all was,
and wonder why we wasted our time
seeing our children,
or writing poems.
And they will envy us that we tried,
goddamn we really tried,
and that we left behind for them
enough of a world to pity.
Calling occupants of interplanetary craft stores….
I often look into mirrors
to view worlds we don’t normally see.
This woman in my world, for example,
at the next table over in a Japantown restaurant,
she was pretty and she was beside herself.
“That’s a great literal use of that phrase,” I thought
as I went back to eating my katsu curry.
And as I did I hoped
the woman in the mirror world
didn’t reach out and touch
the woman in my world,
as this would surely throw both worlds
into dangerous chaos and flux.
(Izumiya Restaurant, Japantown, San Francisco, September 2017)
It rained a little bit this morning.
just a few enlarged drops,
smacking the hood of my car.
Just enough rain
for the sky to
let the Earth know
that the Sky can kill it
anytime it wants.
But the Sky keeps the Earth around
like that coaster on the dining room table,
the coaster you got in Vegas
when you were just drunk enough
to win $100 on video poker.
It cost you $200
to win that $100,
and that’s how the Sky feels about the Earth.
We banish it
and frustrate it
and fill it with
and our vinegar.
The Sky is not our cloud atlas,
(The Sky really hated that book)
and it is not the take-away menu
at your corner dipshit combini.
The Sky is
your beauty and your love.
The Sky is
the only way you’ll ever get to Mars.
The Sky is
a chest of drawers full of only bright things,
things of silk and satin and Japanese whimsy.
is your mother
and your father
and we are rather cross with you right now
and need you to knock that shit off.
I like toys, specifically toys of Japanese design. This is one view of my office, in my house. I should be running a toy store in Nakano Broadway or Akihabara. It’s almost a bit out of control, is what it is…
(Brisbane, California, April 2016)