Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Drum-n-bass, Peace Park bench, a-bomb epicenter, drag queen show, island camping, thunderstorm, sailing, The Fountain


Friday night I drove with some Japanese friends up to Hiroshima, The City of Peace, for a drum-n-bass show. I wore the “screamer” t-shirt I bought for sixty bucks months before at the request of the driver, Yoshi, “to help with my Hiroshima friend’s t-shirt business. And if you wear it, you will  get benefits at shows.” And I had received a few discounts at some events, but nothing more. I wore it Friday night like he said and at the club I met the designer. He showered me in love. I was treated with drinks and endless appreciation. It was great!  The music, superb.   

That event lasted until about 6 AM. I helped clean the club and said goodbye to my ride home. My plan was to stay in Hiroshima until the next morning, and then make my way to a campsite in the middle of the Inland sea.
So, with no sleep I walked the streets of Hiroshima looking for a bathhouse. Giving up, I got into a taxi and they took me to the nearest one, one block away. Fare: $6.50. no tipping in Japan. Great little onsen...Ondou Onsen.  I got stared at a lot, but no worries...
Clean and relaxed, awake and dreaming, I went to the Peace Park, laid my body down on a shaded bench out of the way, and fell fast sleep. Three other people were doing the same thing on benches beside me, in the small wooded area, next to some monument id never seen before. (In Japan I can sleep outside and not worry about my bag or body being stolen; it’s so safe here...) Deep dreamless sleep came, followed by a few sweaty dreams...

caleb drinking rum out of a watermelon. 

I soon woke up. First thought: find air conditioning, I was so hot. And Coffee.  Coffee and air conditioning. I remembered spotting a Starbucks near the entrance of the park ...Easy. 

I rested my mind and energized my body at the Starbucks near the epicenter of the Hiroshima bomb.

Coincidentally (?) I’m reading Man’s search for Meaning right now.  Bri told me to. It’s great so far, albeit sad. I read a bit, then wondered back into the park to visit the A-Bomb Dome (Genbaku domu). If you don't know, the A-Bomb Dome is probably the most famous monument/artifact in Hiroshima.  Standing right by the river, it’s one of the only buildings left after the blast. Now it’s sometimes called the Peace Dome. Don't get near it, though. The sensors will go off.

I thought I had seen everything in the park for the third time when I stumbled upon the epicenter monument, (designed by Tange Kenzo). You know what it fees like to suddenly find the epicenter of the atomic bomb? And interestingly, it was the monument right next to the bench that I slept on.

At first, in a small garden next to the doors into the monument, you see an abstract sculpture representing a clock stopped at 8:15. It was really hot outside and so I hurried into the cool building.

 The monument was actually underground...a counter-clockwise spiraling ramp took me down into the worshiping space below. The hallway walls were lined with tiny black square windows that increased in number as the wall grew taller and taller.


The end of the ramp emptied into the cylindrical sanctuary. It was still pretty early so nobody else was in there. Only me, my iphone, and my primordial condition of non-dual mirror-mind.


An oculus in the ceiling brought up (re-membered) the Pantheon, and the columns the Hagia Sophia, (I kept seeing the hole in the ceiling as a positive—remembering James Turrell’s technique of “bringing the sky down.”) (look at the video "meeting." for a superb example of his illusionism. He is a master of light.)

The walls in the Hall of Remembrance depicted a panorama of the city from the epicenter after its ruin, made from 140,000 tiles, each representing a person who died. The altar in the middle of the dark room was a fountain in the shape of a clock stopped at 8:15, similar to the one in teh garden above.  (look closely at this picture and you can see the A-Bomb Dome in the tiled wall.) 

The sound of water and indigenous lighting made me feel high and clear. 

I sat in the air-conditioned Remembrance, rested my eyes, but did not fall asleep.  I could hear the water in the fountain, and welcomed deeply the lucid, cool air. The empty room was so refreshing, probably an intentional gift, blatantly contrasting the conditions that exact area had suffered right after the bomb. This air conditioned room was at the epicenter of the hottest bomb ever, after all. The fountain an offering to the people who died while trying to quench their thirst in that river, (the famous, most haunting image is how the river was filled with dead bodies, because everyone dying went there to drink water.)

the sound of water...

Suddenly I heard footsteps, and a child laughing hysterically. Because of the design of the monument, you cannot see people as they descend down the ramp circumambulating the room. But you can hear them clearly. So in my meditative awareness I followed a child laughing and skipping, his two parents shortly behind.  I began to do my dream yoga practice. 

My main spiritual practice is Dream Yoga, a form of  Dzogchen Buddhism. Sometimes, with a teacher, introduction to timeless Self is given directly to the inherent state of the individual, by means of an explanation of the primordial base of existence which is the original condition of all beings. Dzogchen here doesn't use renunciation, or compassion, or transformation to achieve this introduction (although all those other techniques are very good and useful, in buddhism or any other way of living.) Dzogchen instead focuses on the mind itself, in its current state, whatever that my be. The inherent state of your individual self right now is mind, is awareness, right there, so pointing directly to that mind is, in essence, the same as pointing directly to your inherent, primordial state.  Look and you will see why. 

(It's the mirror-mind, in so many words, and it is the ground of all being, and all beings, already. One Love, One Heart, One Mind. The content of that primordial mind, however, varies with each individual.) 

That's Ty's boat. 

I planned to spend the entire day at the Peace Park because that night I was meeting up with some friends from Niihama and going to a huge drag show, one that happens only once-a year in this area of Japan. Tokyo’s best, Osaka’s best, Shikoku’s best drag queens gather and perform, and queer guys and girls (strange guys and girls) gather and watch. The conversations that I had that night were actually quite boring. Too much drinking....and I admit, talking to a foreigner, especially one like me, can be difficult for anyone...

As many of you know, I am extremely interested in human sexuality and am trying to establish myself as a some-what expert in gender-issues, androgyny in general, queer culture in particular (old-time interest). (Japanese) Drag Queens are very telling about gender-bending and sexuality.  It’s very complicated, because it's a man dressed as a beautiful woman. The drag queen turns everyone on, and everyone off, simultaneously. 

Gay men are attracted to the manliness of the queen, straight men are attracted to the femininity...gay women love them, straight women love them, theater nerds love them (except for Josh, who has yet to be entertained). See Hedwig for a quick look at the power and potential of a good drag queen.

Clown-like exaggerations, ribaldry, satire, comedy, dance...Drag Queens are usually brilliant performers, with no shame.  

The host for the evening (which traditionally is usually the biggest drag-queen) was a huge Diva, with big football-player shoulders, and hair short like a man’s. (S)he had a naked, large, hairless masculine chest, with well-made dark circular stickers covering the nipples, very feminine, very erotic, with a woman’s face, and a woman’s queenly corset, and hairless, androgynous legs.

You see what I mean?  The gender mixing is confusing for everyone. It’s fantastic!

I found that Japanese drag queens did more skits, less karaoke. It was like Saturday Night Live. There was even a magician.  I was chosen as a volunteer for a cool card trick.

So, that went on until about 5 in the morning.  I caught the 6 o’clock bullet train to the next town over, then a local train to the port, then a super-fast ferry to Shiraishi-jima. White stone island, to meet up with the Fixations.  


The entire band (Emily, Trish, Ty, Chris, Melissa, Caleb, Amy, and Hayden) had arrived the day before on Ty’s new sailboat.  (For those of you who don't know, these are almost all of my best friends in Ehime.)


The island was like any great resort island...it had the bar at the beach,  and cute locals catering to the tourists needs.  A group of about twenty people joined us that night, some arriving on their jet-ski’s from the main island.  The band actually got to perform sing-alongs at the restaurant. It had a piano and a tourist who just happened to know someone on the island with a bass and amp. We had a guitar and the band actually got to perform.  It was amazing...

And we met all these great people, as you do at these kinds of beach bars and campsites...

Finally, sleep. Maybe it was midnight when we made our way back to the campsite. I planned to sleep in the big tent with Chris and Caleb, but the first tent I found was empty. It’s residents decided to sleep on the boat, so I was thrilled to have it all to myself. Yes! I thought. The rain started pouring at about 2:30.  Amazing thunderstorm. I woke up soaked.


I woke up in water. The fly for the tent was gone. Panic. How? Why? What...I was surprised that I was so tired to not have woken up sooner! I was so tired.

Huh? I grabbed my purse with my phone and wallet, and my backpack, and my glasses, and thought about the wet pillow and futon, but said fuck it, and ran over to Chris and Caleb’s tent, took off my wet clothes, and got it. 

They welcomed me with loving arms, awake as well since their tent was leaking. They dried me off, and we sat, listened to music, talked about just staying awake, and then managed to quickly fall back asleep.

Hayden and Emily had to be at work the next day so at the crack, in the rain, we packed up everything and got back on the boat to sail home.

No wind, heavy rain, happy loving people. Only about half of us could fit in the cabin at a time, so we took shifts sitting with Ty out in the rain, drinking wine and pointing out the beauty happening all around. Thank god it wasn't very cold. The rain was quite refreshing, actually.  And exciting. Thunder and lightning always shock me out of time. 

We got to Shikoku, found an onsen, ate lunch, did laundry, and in the evening  we watched The Fountain. I think it was my tenth time seeing it and I still found new things. For example, Lizzy starts the book she is writing with a man torturing himself... 


raouldukelives said...

great story, brother. always a pleasure to read what you have to say.

Briohny said...


May all beings be Free and in Love.

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