Tokyo: With Money to Burn

From having a chef prepare teppanyaki in your own exquisite limestone-cave-reminiscent dining room, to eating in front of a multi-story glass-paned wine cellar, to mouthwatering foie gras-topped wagyu inside of Tokyo’s most exclusive private club, to painstakingly perfect sushi so gorgeous that you hesitate to eat it, if you have a plethora of ¥10,000 yen notes, I have the places for you to spend them. I also have the places for you to avoid like the plague, places that are date ruiners, places that could cause whoever you are with to look at you with contempt if you take them there. Knowledge is power.

Azuman|2-3-9 Azabujuban, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0045, Japan +81 3-3454-5871
Opening Hours: Lunch: Monday – Saturday, 11 am – 1 pm | Dinner: Friday – Saturday, 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm.
Closest Subway Station: Azujuban

Azuman plays it so cool that, even with highly precise directions and the GPS on my phone repeatedly announcing that I was standing directly in front of my intended destination, I found myself staring at a brick wall, mouth open, baffled. Neither neighboring shop on either side of the alleged restaurant/actual brick wall had any idea what Azuman was, nor recognized the logo on the business card that I showed them. It was a riddle wrapped in a mystery. Just as I turned around to leave, a black-tinted, nondescript door on the edge of the flower shop to the edge of the brick wall caught my eye. No sign, no indication of where the door led to, no clues. With nothing left to lose, I stepped inside. Darkness fell upon me, but, dim light spilled down from the top of the steps on the second floor. Gingerly walking up, ignoring the nagging feeling that I might be barging directly into someone’s living room, I heard the gentle murmur of voices. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, I turned to the right, where a wide-eyed Japanese hostess greeted me. “Irrashaimase,” she cooed. “Welcome to Azuman.” Leading me into a cozy little waiting area, where the rest of my lunch party was already waiting, she informed me in Japanese that it would be just a minute before our private room was ready. Less than 15 seconds later, before I even had time to properly sink into a soft leather chair, we were led away.

Where you wait for your private room to be ready

The cozy little waiting area

As we passed the long communal counter that ran perpendicular to most of the private rooms, I was able to peer into the open doors.

If you are not feeling a private room, you can also eat lunch at this elegant counter.

One of the private rooms

One of the private rooms I passed.

Finally reaching our private room, I noticed that the configuration was exactly like the counter in the main part of the restaurant, meaning that it was difficult to hold a conversation with anyone except for the people seated on either side of you. However, with this configuration, everyone had unobstructed interactions with the various members of staff that rotated on and off of the other side of the table: the sommelier, the chef, and the restaurant’s manager.

My private room seated 5.

The enthusiastic sommelier.

Another member of my lunch party ordered for the table, meaning that I never even peeked at the menu. This was not a great loss, as I doubt they even had a menu in English. Instead of fretting over what to eat, I sat back and enjoyed a perfectly chilled glass of champagne.

A pretty appetizer

My pretty appetizer: tempura something with flowers.

First came a pretty little appetizer, tempura something with tiny purple flowers. While I didn’t care for the sauce it was floating in, the presentation was aesthetically pleasing enough to overlook it.

Followed by this

Ensuite…

The next appetizer was a mystery. Cucumber and salmon were involved, but beyond that I know nothing.

Then this

The hot mess.

The next dish was a hot mess of assorted seafood and vegetables.  I stoically worked my way through the dish, feeling slightly bored and unimpressed with all that had been on offer up until now.

Next, some little plates were placed in front of me.

Next, some little plates were placed in front of me.

Suddenly, glistening chunks of wagyu caught my eye at the same time that three bowls of seasonings and a slate plate with horseradish and wasabi were placed in front of me.  I looked up, hopefully. A chef entered the room. Pensively staring down at his chopsticks, he lit a small fire. A plate of sliced vegetables was placed next to the plate of wagyu. Australian Shiraz pooled ruby-red in our wine glasses. A hush fell over the group. The stage was set.

The chef appeared

The pensive chef.

I was like, "Let's do this!"

I was thinking, “Let’s do this!”

So he did.

He cooked our lunch with a small charcoal fire and chopsticks. La classe.

Yummers.

Yummers.

The wagyu was by far my favorite part of the meal. Added bonus: fried garlic chips!

Japanese digestive soup

Japanese digestive soup

As the meal wound down, I was given a bowl of miso soup, the traditional ending to a Japanese meal. Each restaurant makes their miso soup just a little bit differently than all of its competitors, so I always enjoy trying a mouthful or two of it when eating somewhere for the first time.

Dessert

Dessert

Dessert was a slice of mango cake with a scoop of indeterminate ice cream. At this point I was so full that it took everything in me to feebly manage one spoonful of sugary sweetness.

Looking back on this lunch, months later, I can not tell you how to get to Azuman, even with the restaurant’s business card, even with the GPS on my cell phone. However, I clearly remember the mouth-watering flavor of the wagyu chunks and the poetic melancholiness of the chef. While this is an excellent place to have a quiet lunch with friends, it would be a nightmare for a non-Japanese speaker. Bring a Japanese friend.

Lunch for one at Azuman, without wine, is approximately $150 USD. Good luck finding it.

Dazzle|2-4-1 2 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061, Japan +81 3-5159-0991
Opening Hours:  Dinner: 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Closest Subway Station: Ginza

The wine cellar at Dazzle

The multi-story glass-paned wine cellar at Dazzle is the show piece of the restaurant.

Dazzle is yet another somewhat difficult restaurant to find. Even if you manage to locate the elevator and press the button to the correct floor, you’ll notice that you’ve been deposited squarely in the middle of the restaurant’s kitchen, with, in my case at least, several chefs and sous-chefs eyeing you. Don’t worry. You are, in fact, exactly where you’re meant to be. Turning to the right, a small, nondescript area contains two hostesses, one of which will gently guide you over to them if you become frozen in the gaze of the kitchen staff. After crossing your name off of the reservation list, one of the hostesses will lead you to another, smaller elevator. The first elevator you had to come up in was not large to begin with, or even normal sized, so this smaller elevator is one you should only enter with people you wish to know intimately. It is Parisian-sized. You will take the elevator up one floor, and, stepping out, rest your gaze on one of the most gorgeously weird wine cellars I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. It is the focal piece of the main dining room and something about staring at the dark bottles of wine in the multi-story glass structure is soothing.

Dazzle describes itself on its website as follows, “Dazzle’s vibrant kitchen is alive with sights, sounds and flavor to excite the senses. The beautiful open design makes you part of the kitchen as we blend the best of traditional cooking technique with the finest ingredients to create a uniquely contemporary cuisine.” I think that the open design makes you part of the wine cellar, and not part of the kitchen, which is not even on the same floor as the dining area. In any case, it is a weirdly, and wonderfully designed, multi-level space.

I found myself at Dazzle for a wine dinner that promised excellent pairings of Shafer wine with each course. Reasoning that, even if the food was boring, the wine alone would be worth the cost of the meal, I went with relatively high expectations. While all of the Shafer absolutely lived up to its reputation, the food was also surprisingly good, if not innovative. My only objection went to the summer truffles in the venison tortellini, as no good truffles come from the summer. The truffles were tasteless, but that was only to be expected.

The wine dinner I attended

Zee menu.

Here are Dazzle’s DinnerDessertWine and Cocktails menus. This would be a safe choice to bring a date, business associates or friends. While the food is not particularly exciting, the quality is consistent and the decor is intriguing. Dinner for one, without wine, runs approximately $100 USD.

Decanter at Tokyo American Club|2-1-2 Azabudai, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0041, Japan +81 3-4588-0675
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 6 pm – 11 pm. Closed Sunday.
Closest Subway Station: Azujuban

Decanter is one of my happy places. Part of Tokyo American Club, where I am a member, it is conveniently located for spontaneous steak cravings in an upscale setting. I go so often that all of the staff know me by name, which is nice. It is also a three-minute walk away from the fitness center, which is even nicer. Eating dinner at Decanter feels like being back in the States, which is incredibly comforting when constant Japanese food starts to feel overwhelming.

Decanter’s website describes itself as follows: “The Club’s flagship culinary destination, Decanter, invites diners to indulge in its playful avant-garde concept. Featuring an eclectic mix of Las Vegas- and Hollywood-inspired spaces and menus, diners can expect nothing less than impeccable service, fabulous new American fare and uncomplicated dining fun, partnered with one of the country’s finest wine collections. Decanter, which is open to adult Members and non-Members alike, offers seating for 60 in the main dining area, with up to an additional 40 in the dining bridges, FLATiRON and the intimate chef’s table.”

Decanter

Decanter

Low lighting, discrete seating arrangements and luxurious velvet chairs make Decanter a blissfully romantic place to bring a loved one, or someone who you would like to become a loved one. Besides couples murmuring softly to each other, I often see groups of businessmen intensely negotiating deals over $400 bottles of wine and groups of women chatting over cups of tea. The views from the floor to ceiling windows are stunning, the food is delicious and the staff is incredibly attentive. Not only have all of the servers memorized my (never-changing) order, but they also remember whatever I told them the last time they saw me and follow up on it. “How was your trip to Scotland,” “Did you have a nice birthday,”  and “How much longer before your cats arrive,” are only some of the questions I’ve been asked. Everyone working in Decanter is kind, without being uncomfortably familiar, and quick to do any and everything that could make your experience at Decanter any more pleasant. Tokyo American Club’s President is known to walk around the restaurant, shaking hands with all of the members, which is also a fun experience is you are lucky enough to be there at the same time as him.

Zee menu

Zee iPad menu

The finish on the wood tables is sexy, the glassware is sexy and the iPad menus are sexy. The magnifying glass icon, seen in both the above and below pictures, shows you a picture of each item on the menu when you tap on it. This is helpful when stuck between deciding on two dishes, or when bringing a guest to Decanter that has never tried anything on its menu before.

Zee menu part 2

Zee menu part 2

One of Decanter’s best-kept secrets is its incredibly competitively priced wine menu. I have ordered excellent vintages here at a fraction of what I could get them for anywhere else in Tokyo. If you are willing to drop $200 or $300 USD on a bottle of wine, you’ll find that your purchasing power is on par with someone who has $500 or $600 USD to spend on the same bottle elsewhere in Tokyo. Here are the Dinner and Wine menus.

Decanter

A bottle of 2003 Pommard on the incredibly sexy table.

A yummy brioche

A yummy brioche

Once you’ve placed your order, a delicious brioche with black sea salt appears on your table. Fluffy, buttery goodness pared with salt is a flavor profile not to be missed. My record number of brioche eaten before a meal? 3. I have to cut myself off at some point, each and every time. I could eat nothing but Decanter’s brioche and sea salt and be satisfied. When the mere before-dinner bread is this good, you know great things are coming.

Tenderloin with foie gras

5 ounce Wagyu Tenderloin with foie gras

I always order the 5 ounce Wagyu tenderloin with a side of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese that the table shares. Sometimes, if I am feeling particularly decadent, I will order the wagyu topped with seared foie gras.

Dessert

New York Cheesecake

The New York cheesecake is one of the desserts on the old menu, which was recently, sadly, changed. Nothing on the new dessert menu appeals to me, but this cheesecake, if ever brought back into the mix, is a creamy, graham cracker crusted delight.

Dessert

Deconstructed Black Forest Cake

My other favorite dessert from the old dessert menu was the Deconstructed Black Forest Cake, seen above. Oh, the decadence.

Dinner for two, with a mid-range bottle of wine, is $350 USD for members of Tokyo American Club, $400 USD for non-members.

The French Kitchen|Grand Hyatt Grand Hyatt 6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, Japan, 106-0032 +81 3 4333 8781
Opening Hours: Daily, 6:30 am – 9:30 pm | Bar: 11 am – 9:30 pm

The restaurant was completely empty when I visited it last week, at 9 pm on a Wednesday evening. My 8 person dinner party felt very small in the cavernous indoor space, leading me to wonder what had gone so terribly wrong that no one else in Grand Hyatt’s 200 room hotel wanted to eat there. Then, I ate the bland steak and boring sour cherry tart and understood. There was no passion in the food, no soul, no life. It was definitely not, as it describes itself, “Classic French”, despite what was listed on the menu.

Additionally, the service was painfully bad. I kept flagging down waiters to ask for water, which is rather annoying when you can finish off the half-filled water glass in two gulps.

The French Kitchen describes itself on its website as follows: “The French Kitchen offers breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch buffets, and is open all day, serving classic French dishes from Pâté de Campagne and Sole Grenobloise to Boeuf Bourguignon. The restaurant features an open kitchen, a bar, an outside terrace and the “Chef’s Table”, a private dining room equipped with its own kitchen that is ideal for special dinners, private parties and company celebrations.”

frenchkitchen2

The outside dining area at The French Kitchen.

frenchkitchen

The inside dining area at The French Kitchen

Here are The French Kitchen’s BreakfastBrunchLunchDinner and Bar/Dessert menus.

Dinner for one, without wine, is approximately $125 USD. I would not recommend eating here unless you need a place to break up with someone, end a friendship, resign from a job or announce depressing news.

Kazahana|Conrad, 1-9-1 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 105-7337 Japan +81 3-6388-8000
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11:30 am – 9 pm | Sunday: 11:30 am – 2 pm
Closest Subway Station: Shiodome

Kazahana

Oh, the gorgeousness of it all.

Having eaten sushi all over Tokyo, I have become a bit of a sushi connoisseur. At the very least, I can tell good sushi from bad sushi. The quality of Hazakana’s sushi is no better than the sushi I can get for $10 in the building next to my apartment. Do not get me wrong, the preparation of this sushi is the stuff legends are made of. Unfortunately, you will pay through the nose for it without tasting any discernible boost in quality. Additionally, the sushi chef is a bit controlling on how much soy sauce you can use. I realize that sushi should not be submerged in soy sauce, but some of us like doing that, and no one should try to make us feel bad for doing so. The decor is nice, it is The Conrad, after all, but the taste of Kazahana’s sushi lacks any sort of wow factor. It is once again, in my opinion, extremely expensive for the quality of the sushi received.

The Conrad’s website describes Kazahana as follows: “Sample traditional Japanese dishes given a contemporary twist at Kazahana. Take in the skyline view through floor-to-ceiling windows and appreciate the contemporary Japanese decor. Dine on a countertop and soak up the convivial atmosphere. Indulge in an intimate dinner in a private dining room and enjoy the elegant ambiance. Savor innovative Sushi, Kaiseki and Teppan dishes while taking in the minimalist design of this skyscraper restaurant.”

I ordered the Sushi Set Lunch. This was the first thing I received, some sort of salad from hell.

A pretty ballsy salad for a sushi restaurant.

After the salad, which I half-heartedly forked through, the sushi started coming, fast and furious, as beautiful as sushi can possibly look. When I asked the chef for soy sauce (because none had been provided), he pretended not to hear me. Homie don’t play that. I ended up with the soy sauce I wanted, but not before he explained to me what a mistake I was making. As I was plunging each piece of sushi in the soy sauce directly in front of his face, I felt a tad uncomfortable. His eyes shot daggers at me. I tried to ignore him, but, remembering a long-ago watched episode of Seinfeld, a little voice in my mind kept chanting, “Sushi nazi, sushi nazi, sushi nazi!”

Kazahana

Isn’t this exquisite looking?

Kazahana

A piece of art.

Kazahana

Look at how rich the color of this piece of sushi is.

Kazahana

Yummers.

Kazahana

Hello, beauty.

Here are Kazahana’s KaisekiSushi and Teppan menus.

Lunch for two, with a mid-range bottle of wine, is approximately $250 USD. If presentation is all that you care about, and you are cool with someone trying to micro-manage the amount of soy sauce that you use, Kazahana might be just the place for you.

La Tour D’Argent|4-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 102-8578, Japan +81 3-3239-3111
Opening Hours: Daily, 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Closest Subway Station: Nagatacho

La Tour D’Argent’s Tokyo website reads, “Since 1582, La Tour D’Argent in Paris has upheld a standard of quality and tradition, serving only the most exquisite French Cuisine. It has been honored for being the most authentic representation of French culture and tradition, and has been compared to a National Treasure. La Tour D’Argent, Tokyo, is the only other La Tour D’Argent. It is decorated with period pieces and its rooms have the style and design representations of the many centuries that have marked the original. Let us majestically wine and dine you with the best wine cellar in the world and the seasonal creations of our Chef.”

Wikipedia adds, “The restaurant claims that it was founded in 1582 and frequented by Henri IV; it does not however offer any documentation for these or other claims about its history. Duck, especially the pressed duck, is the specialty (Canard à la presse, Caneton à la presse, Caneton Tour d’Argent). The restaurant raises its ducks on its own farm. Diners who order the duck receive a postcard with the bird’s serial number, now well over 1 million.”

I could not get over the carpet. It reminded me of the castle at the end of each level of Super Mario Brothers 3. All that was missing was the Princess.

La Tour D'Argent

An elegant location for lunch, especially if you played Super Mario Brothers 3 as a child.

The Precious.

The Precious.

La Tour D'Argent

Zee menu.

La Tour D'Argent

Choices, choices, choices.

La Tour D'Argent

Christofle cutlery. Ooh la la. Notice the Super Mario Brothers castle on the tablecloth.

La Tour D'Argent

Aesthetically pleasing.

La Tour D'Argent

Salad.

La Tour D'Argent

A nice bottle of wine.

La Tour D'Argent

I liked the shape of this dish.

La Tour D'Argent

I tend to not like branded glassware but this was tolerable.

La Tour D'Argent

Tasty.

La Tour D'Argent

I ate duck #22047. Sorry, buddy.

La Tour D'Argent

Elegant.

La Tour D'Argent

Choose  your cheese, bitches.

La Tour D'Argent

Delish.

La Tour D'Argent

Perfection.

La Tour D'Argent

Yummers.

La Tour D'Argent

I liked the china.

La Tour D'Argent

What a gorgeous dessert presentation.

Eating at La Tour d’Argent reminded me of every high-end restaurant in Paris that I love. Lunch for one, with a decent bottle of wine, is approximately $400 USD, and is, if you can ignore the Super Mario Brothers carpet, worth every penny.

Had I listed all of the restaurants in Tokyo that I love or loathe, this entry would have become extraordinarily long. Thus, I will continue documenting my quest for quality meals in subsequent posts. In the meantime, いただきます!

Mashup: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray/W.B. Yeats’ The Sorrow of Love

Hygeia, Gustav Klimt, 1907.

Hygeia, Gustav Klimt, 1907.

“You didn’t even need to tell me the story,” he told me. “I could have told it to you.” I stared out the window stoically, my iPhone glowing on my left cheek. I felt nothing. I felt everything. I felt everything so much that I felt nothing.

Excerpts from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
and
“The Sorrow of Love” by W.B. Yeats

The quarrel of the sparrows in the eaves

Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel. One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in form! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as the viol or of the lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?

The full round moon and the star-laden sky,

It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style.

And the loud song of the ever-singing leaves,

There were poisons so subtle that to know their properties one had to sicken of them. There were maladies so strange that one had to pass through them if one sought to understand their nature. And, yet, what a great reward one received! How wonderful the whole world became to one! To note the curious hard logic of passion, and the emotional coloured life of the intellect – to observe where they met, and where they separated, at what point they were in unison, and at what point they were at discord – there was a delight in that! What matter what the cost was? One could never pay too high a price for any sensation.

Has hid away earth’s old and weary cry.

His own nature had revolted against the excess of anguish that had sought to maim and mar the perfection of its calm. With subtle and finely wrought temperaments it is always so. Their strong passions must either bruise or bend. They either slay the man, or themselves die. Shallow sorrows and shallow loves live on. The loves and sorrows that are great are destroyed by their own plentitude.

And then you came with those red mournful lips,

Life suddenly became fiery-coloured to him. It seemed to him that he had been walking in fire. Why had he not known it?

And with you came the whole of the world’s tears,

Out of its secret hiding-place had crept his soul, and desire had come to meet it on the way.

And all the sorrows of her labouring ships,

I am so glad that you have never done anything, never carved a statue, or painted a picture, or produced anything outside of yourself! Life has been your art. You have set yourself to music. Your days are your sonnets.

And all the burden of her myriad years.

What an exquisite life you have had! You have drunk deeply of everything. You have crushed the grapes against your palate. Nothing has been hidden from you. And it has all been to you no more than the sound of music. It has not marred you. You are still the same.

And now the sparrows warring in the eaves,

I used to look at everyone who passed me, and wonder, with a mad curiousity, what sort of lives they led. Some of them fascinated me. Others filled me with terror. There was an exquisite poison in the air.

The curd-pale moon, the white stars in the sky,

Don’t be afraid. There are exquisite things in store for you. This is merely the beginning.

And the loud chaunting of the unquiet leaves,

The joy of a caged bird was in her voice. Her eyes caught the melody, and echoed it in radiance: then closed for a moment, as though to hide their secret. When they opened, the mist of a dream had passed across them.

Are shaken with earth’s old and weary cry.

Mashup: Thomas Hardy’s The Ruined Maid/Carl Sandburg’s Mamie

Cape Cod Morning, Edward Hopper, 1950.

Cape Cod Morning, Edward Hopper, 1950.

I had so much fun creating a mashup of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and Carl Sandburg’s “Gone” a few days ago that I decided to do another one.

“The Ruined Maid” by Thomas Hardy
and

“Mamie” by Carl Sandburg

“O ‘Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?” —
“O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?” said she.

Mamie beat her head against the bars of a little Indiana
town and dreamed of romance and big things off
somewhere the way the railroad trains all rain.

— “You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!” —
“Yes: that’s how we dress when we’re ruined,” said she.

She could see the smoke of the engines get lost down
where the streaks of steel flashed in the sun and
when the newspapers came in on the morning mail
she knew there was a big Chicago far off, where all
the trains ran.

— “At home in the barton you said thee’ and thou,’
And thik oon,’ and theäs oon,’ and t’other’; but now
Your talking quite fits ‘ee for high compa-ny!” —
“Some polish is gained with one’s ruin,” said she.

She got tired of the barber shop boys and the post office
chatter and the church gossip and the old pieces the
band played on the Fourth of July and Decoration Day
And sobbed at her fate and beat her head against the
bars and was going to kill herself.

— “Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I’m bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!” —
“We never do work when we’re ruined,” said she.

When the thought came to her that if she was going to
die she might as well die struggling for a clutch of
romance along the streets of Chicago. 

— “You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you’d sigh, and you’d sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!” —
“True. One’s pretty lively when ruined,” said she.

She has a job now at six dollars a week in the basement of the Boston Store

— “I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!” —
“My dear — a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain’t ruined,” said she.

And even now she beats her head against the bars in the 
same old way and wonders if there is a bigger place
the railroads run to from Chicago where maybe
there is
romance
and big things
and real dreams
that never go smash.

Ernest Hemingway: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Cafe de Flore

Cafe de Flore

I stared out the window at the ever-changing landscape. No one was out this late. Not this time of year. Not in this place. At the first red light, the driver looked at me in the rearview mirror and tried to make conversation. Waving my right hand in front of my face and shaking my head from side to side, I ran my fingers over my lips, like I always do when I am pondering something, and stared down at the dark floorboard, silent. A thought furiously twisted and turned in my mind, as if it were a Rubik’s cube that could be figured out if given enough attention. My analytical nature broke the thought down into a bowlful of wooden beads, thumbed through them frantically, and tried to find a way to string them together. I had not expected to care about this at all, but apparently I did. This thought had never, ever crossed my mind before, and yet there it was. Pressing my head against the cool glass of the left backseat window, I sighed. Three miles is a long way to ride on a cold, drizzly night, especially on a bike.

“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”
by Ernest Hemingway

It was very late and everyone had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light. In the day time the street was dusty, but at night the dew settled the dust and the old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference. The two waiters inside the cafe knew that the old man was a little drunk, and while he was a good client they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without paying, so they kept watch on him.

“Last week he tried to commit suicide,” one waiter said.

“Why?”

“He was in despair.”

“What about?”

“Nothing.”

“How do you know it was nothing?”

“He has plenty of money.”

They sat together at a table that was close against the wall near the door of the cafe and looked at the terrace where the tables were all empty except where the old man sat in the shadow of the leaves of the tree that moved slightly in the wind. A girl and a soldier went by in the street. The street light shone on the brass number on his collar. The girl wore no head covering and hurried beside him.

“The guard will pick him up,” one waiter said.

“What does it matter if he gets what he’s after?”

“He had better get off the street now. The guard will get him. They went by five minutes ago.”

The old man sitting in the shadow rapped on his saucer with his glass. The younger waiter went over to him.

“What do you want?”

The old man looked at him. “Another brandy,” he said.

“You’ll be drunk,” the waiter said. The old man looked at him. The waiter went away.

“He’ll stay all night,” he said to his colleague. “I’m sleepy now. I never get into bed before three o’clock. He should have killed himself last week.”

The waiter took the brandy bottle and another saucer from the counter inside the cafe and marched out to the old man’s table. He put down the saucer and poured the glass full of brandy.

“You should have killed yourself last week,” he said to the deaf man. The old man motioned with his finger. “A little more,” he said. The waiter poured on into the glass so that the brandy slopped over and ran down the stem into the top saucer of the pile. “Thank you,” the old man said. The waiter took the bottle back inside the cafe. He sat down at the table with his colleague again.

“He’s drunk now,” he said.

“He’s drunk every night.”

“What did he want to kill himself for?”

“How should I know.”

“How did he do it?”

“He hung himself with a rope.”

“Who cut him down?”

“His niece.”

“Why did they do it?”

“Fear for his soul.”

“How much money has he got?”

“He’s got plenty.”

“He must be eighty years old.”

“Anyway I should say he was eighty.”

“I wish he would go home. I never get to bed before three o’clock.What kind of hour is that to go to bed?”

“He stays up because he likes it.”

“He’s lonely. I’m not lonely. I have a wife waiting in bed for me.”

“He had a wife once too.”

“A wife would be no good to him now.”

“You can’t tell. He might be better with a wife.”

“His niece looks after him. You said she cut him down.”

“I know.”

“I wouldn’t want to be that old. An old man is a nasty thing.”

“Not always. This old man is clean. He drinks without spilling. Even now, drunk. Look at him.”

“I don’t want to look at him. I wish he would go home. He has no regard for those who must work.”

The old man looked from his glass across the square, then over at the waiters.

“Another brandy,” he said, pointing to his glass. The waiter who was in a hurry came over.

“Finished,” he said, speaking with that omission of syntax stupid people employ when talking to drunken people or foreigners. “No more tonight. Close now.”

“Another,” said the old man.

“No. Finished.” The waiter wiped the edge of the table with a towel and shook his head.

The old man stood up, slowly counted the saucers, took a leather coin purse from his pocket and paid for the drinks, leaving half a peseta tip. The waiter watched him go down the street, a very old man walking unsteadily but with dignity.

“Why didn’t you let him stay and drink?” the unhurried waiter asked. They were putting up the shutters. “It is not half-past two.”

“I want to go home to bed.”

“What is an hour?”

“More to me than to him.”

“An hour is the same.”

“You talk like an old man yourself. He can buy a bottle and drink at home.”

“It’s not the same.”

“No, it is not,” agreed the waiter with a wife. He did not wish to be unjust. He was only in a hurry.

“And you? You have no fear of going home before your usual hour?”

“Are you trying to insult me?”

“No, hombre, only to make a joke.”

“No,” the waiter who was in a hurry said, rising from pulling down the metal shutters. “I have confidence. I am all confidence.”

“You have youth, confidence, and a job,” the older waiter said. “You have everything.”

“And what do you lack?”

“Everything but work.”

“You have everything I have.”

“No. I have never had confidence and I am not young.”

“Come on. Stop talking nonsense and lock up.”

“I am of those who like to stay late at the cafe,” the older waiter said. “With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night.”

“I want to go home and into bed.”

“We are of two different kinds,” the older waiter said. He was now dressed to go home. “It is not only a question of youth and confidence although those things are very beautiful. Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the cafe.”

Hombre, there are bodegas open all night long.”

“You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.”

“Good night,” said the younger waiter.

“Good night,” the other said. Turning off the electric light he continued the conversation with himself. It was the light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear? It was not a fear or dread. It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y naday pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. He smiled and stood before a bar with a shining steam pressure coffee machine.

“What’s yours?” asked the barman.

Nada.”

Otro loco mas,” said the barman and turned away.

“A little cup,” said the waiter.

The barman poured it for him.

“The light is very bright and pleasant but the bar is unpolished,” the waiter said.

The barman looked at him but did not answer. It was too late at night for conversation.

“You want another copita?” the barman asked.

“No, thank you,” said the waiter and went out. He disliked bars and bodegas. A clean, well-lighted cafe was a very different thing. Now, without thinking further, he would go home to his room. He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it’s probably only insomnia. Many must have it.

Vue Nocturne, George Brassaï, 1935

Vue Nocturne, George Brassaï, 1935

Walt Whitman: Song Of The Open Road

Beech Grove, Gustave Klimt

Beech Grove, Gustave Klimt, 1902

I walked under a lush canopy of trees at the Hamarikyu Gardens this afternoon, contemplating my upcoming trip to Europe.

“Song of the Open Road”
by Walt Whitman

1
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)

2
You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here.
Here the profound lesson of reception, nor preference nor denial,
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas’d, the illiterate person, are not denied;
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar’s tramp, the drunkard’s stagger, the laughing party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person’s carriage, the fop, the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the town, the return back from the town,
They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be interdicted,

None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me.

3
You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.
You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d façades! you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings!
From all that has touch’d you I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me,

From the living and the dead you have peopled your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me.

4
The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of the road.
O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied, adhere to me?
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.
I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me,

I think whoever I see must be happy.

5
From this hour, freedom!
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.
All seems beautiful to me,
I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,

Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.

6
Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear it would not amaze me,
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear’d it would not astonish me.
Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
Here a great personal deed has room,
Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law and mocks all authority and all argument against it.
Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the Soul.
Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing currents.
Here is realization,
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in him,
The past, the future, majesty, love—if they are vacant of you, you are vacant of them.
Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for you and me?
Here is adhesiveness, it is not previously fashion’d, it is apropos;
Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by strangers?

Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?

7
Here is the efflux of the soul,
The efflux of the soul comes from within through embower’d gates, ever provoking questions,
These yearnings why are they? these thoughts in the darkness why are they?
Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the sunlight expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his side?
What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the shore as I walk by and pause?

What gives me to be free to a woman’s and man’s good-will? what gives them to be free to mine?

8
The efflux of the soul is happiness, here is happiness,
I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times,
Now it flows unto us, we are rightly charged.
Here rises the fluid and attaching character,
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and sweetness of man and woman,
(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and sweeter every day out of the roots of themselves, than it sprouts fresh and sweet continually out of itself.)
Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the sweat of the love of young and old,
From it falls distill’d the charm that mocks beauty and attainments,

Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.

9
Allons! whoever you are come travel with me!
Traveling with me you find what never tires.
The earth never tires,
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
Allons! we must not stop here,
However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here,
However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters we must not anchor here,

However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while.

10
Allons! the inducements shall be greater,
We will sail pathless and wild seas,
We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.
Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements,
Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;
Allons! from all formules!
From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic priests.
The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the burial waits no longer.
Allons! yet take warning!
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance,
None may come to the trial till he or she bring courage and health,
Come not here if you have already spent the best of yourself,
Only those may come who come in sweet and determin’d bodies,
No diseas’d person, no rum-drinker or venereal taint is permitted here.
(I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes, rhymes,

We convince by our presence.)

11
Listen! I will be honest with you,
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is call’d riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d, you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you,
What beckonings of love you receive you shall only answer with passionate kisses of parting,

You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach’d hands toward you.

12
Allons! after the great Companions, and to belong to them!
They too are on the road—they are the swift and majestic men—they are the greatest women,
Enjoyers of calms of seas and storms of seas,
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of land,
Habituès of many distant countries, habituès of far-distant dwellings,
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, solitary toilers,
Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells of the shore,
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender helpers of children, bearers of children,
Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lowerers-down of coffins,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years, the curious years each emerging from that which preceded it,
Journeyers as with companions, namely their own diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
Journeyers gayly with their own youth, journeyers with their bearded and well-grain’d manhood,
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass’d, content,
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of manhood or womanhood,
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the universe,

Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom of death.

13
Allons! to that which is endless as it was beginningless,
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys,
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it,
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you, however long but it stretches and waits for you,
To see no being, not God’s or any, but you also go thither,
To see no possession but you may possess it, enjoying all without labor or purchase, abstracting the feast yet not abstracting one particle of it,
To take the best of the farmer’s farm and the rich man’s elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-married couple, and the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens,
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass through,
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them, to gather the love out of their hearts,
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.
All parts away for the progress of souls,
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments—all that was or is apparent upon this globe or any globe, falls into niches and corners before the procession of souls along the grand roads of the universe.
Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand roads of the universe, all other progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.
Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know not where they go,
But I know that they go toward the best—toward something great.
Whoever you are, come forth! or man or woman come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, though you built it, or though it has been built for you.
Out of the dark confinement! out from behind the screen!
It is useless to protest, I know all and expose it.
Behold through you as bad as the rest,
Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of people,
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash’d and trimm’d faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.
No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the confession,
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and hiding it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities, polite and bland in the parlors,
In the cars of railroads, in steamboats, in the public assembly,
Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in the bedroom, everywhere,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright, death under the breast-bones, hell under the skull-bones,
Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons and artificial flowers,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable of itself,

Speaking of any thing else but never of itself.

14
Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.
Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? Nature?
Now understand me well—it is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.
My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion,
He going with me must go well arm’d,

He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry enemies, desertions.

15
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Edna St. Vincent Millay – Renascence

Ophelia, James William Waterhouse, 1889.

Ophelia, James William Waterhouse, 1889.

The morning sun spilled majestically over the smooth edges of metallic buildings. Whatever the perfect temperature is, it was that temperature. A cool breeze wafted in off of Tokyo Bay. Birdsong filled my ears. I smiled to myself as I walked to my Japanese lesson, whispering, “かんぺき. Perfect.”

“Renascence”
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I’d started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Over these things I could not see;
These were the things that bounded me;
And I could touch them with my hand,
Almost, I thought, from where I stand.
And all at once things seemed so small
My breath came short, and scarce at all.
But, sure, the sky is big, I said;
Miles and miles above my head;
So here upon my back I’ll lie
And look my fill into the sky.
And so I looked, and, after all,
The sky was not so very tall.
The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,
And — sure enough! — I see the top!
The sky, I thought, is not so grand;
I ‘most could touch it with my hand!
And reaching up my hand to try,
I screamed to feel it touch the sky.
I screamed, and — lo! — Infinity
Came down and settled over me;
Forced back my scream into my chest,
Bent back my arm upon my breast,
And, pressing of the Undefined
The definition on my mind,
Held up before my eyes a glass
Through which my shrinking sight did pass
Until it seemed I must behold
Immensity made manifold;
Whispered to me a word whose sound
Deafened the air for worlds around,
And brought unmuffled to my ears
The gossiping of friendly spheres,
The creaking of the tented sky,
The ticking of Eternity.
I saw and heard, and knew at last
The How and Why of all things, past,
And present, and forevermore.
The Universe, cleft to the core,
Lay open to my probing sense
That, sick’ning, I would fain pluck thence
But could not, — nay! But needs must suck
At the great wound, and could not pluck
My lips away till I had drawn
All venom out. — Ah, fearful pawn!
For my omniscience paid I toll
In infinite remorse of soul.
All sin was of my sinning, all
Atoning mine, and mine the gall
Of all regret. Mine was the weight
Of every brooded wrong, the hate
That stood behind each envious thrust,
Mine every greed, mine every lust.
And all the while for every grief,
Each suffering, I craved relief
With individual desire, —
Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fire
About a thousand people crawl;
Perished with each, — then mourned for all!
A man was starving in Capri;
He moved his eyes and looked at me;
I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,
And knew his hunger as my own.
I saw at sea a great fog bank
Between two ships that struck and sank;
A thousand screams the heavens smote;
And every scream tore through my throat.
No hurt I did not feel, no death
That was not mine; mine each last breath
That, crying, met an answering cry
From the compassion that was I.
All suffering mine, and mine its rod;
Mine, pity like the pity of God.
Ah, awful weight! Infinity
Pressed down upon the finite Me!
My anguished spirit, like a bird,
Beating against my lips I heard;
Yet lay the weight so close about
There was no room for it without.
And so beneath the weight lay I
And suffered death, but could not die.

Long had I lain thus, craving death,
When quietly the earth beneath
Gave way, and inch by inch, so great
At last had grown the crushing weight,
Into the earth I sank till I
Full six feet under ground did lie,
And sank no more, — there is no weight
Can follow here, however great.
From off my breast I felt it roll,
And as it went my tortured soul
Burst forth and fled in such a gust
That all about me swirled the dust.

Deep in the earth I rested now;
Cool is its hand upon the brow
And soft its breast beneath the head
Of one who is so gladly dead.
And all at once, and over all
The pitying rain began to fall;
I lay and heard each pattering hoof
Upon my lowly, thatched roof,
And seemed to love the sound far more
Than ever I had done before.
For rain it hath a friendly sound
To one who’s six feet underground;
And scarce the friendly voice or face:
A grave is such a quiet place.

The rain, I said, is kind to come
And speak to me in my new home.
I would I were alive again
To kiss the fingers of the rain,
To drink into my eyes the shine
Of every slanting silver line,
To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze
From drenched and dripping apple-trees.
For soon the shower will be done,
And then the broad face of the sun
Will laugh above the rain-soaked earth
Until the world with answering mirth
Shakes joyously, and each round drop
Rolls, twinkling, from its grass-blade top.
How can I bear it; buried here,
While overhead the sky grows clear
And blue again after the storm?
O, multi-colored, multiform,
Beloved beauty over me,
That I shall never, never see Again!
Spring-silver, autumn-gold,
That I shall never more behold!
Sleeping your myriad magics through,
Close-sepulchred away from you!
O God, I cried, give me new birth,
And put me back upon the earth!
Upset each cloud’s gigantic gourd
And let the heavy rain, down-poured
In one big torrent, set me free,
Washing my grave away from me!

I ceased; and through the breathless hush
That answered me, the far-off rush
Of herald wings came whispering
Like music down the vibrant string
Of my ascending prayer, and — crash!
Before the wild wind’s whistling lash
The startled storm-clouds reared on high
And plunged in terror down the sky,
And the big rain in one black wave
Fell from the sky and struck my grave.
I know not how such things can be;
I only know there came to me
A fragrance such as never clings
To aught save happy living things;
A sound as of some joyous elf
Singing sweet songs to please himself,
And, through and over everything,
A sense of glad awakening.
The grass, a-tiptoe at my ear,
Whispering to me I could hear;
I felt the rain’s cool finger-tips
Brushed tenderly across my lips,
Laid gently on my sealed sight,
And all at once the heavy night
Fell from my eyes and I could see, —
A drenched and dripping apple-tree,
A last long line of silver rain,
A sky grown clear and blue again.
And as I looked a quickening gust
Of wind blew up to me and thrust
Into my face a miracle
Of orchard-breath, and with the smell, —
I know not how such things can be! —
I breathed my soul back into me.
Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I
And hailed the earth with such a cry
As is not heard save from a man
Who has been dead, and lives again.
About the trees my arms I wound;
Like one gone mad I hugged the ground;
I raised my quivering arms on high;
I laughed and laughed into the sky,
Till at my throat a strangling sob
Caught fiercely, and a great heart-throb
Sent instant tears into my eyes;
O God, I cried, no dark disguise
Can e’er hereafter hide from me
Thy radiant identity!
Thou canst not move across the grass
But my quick eyes will see Thee pass,
Nor speak, however silently,
But my hushed voice will answer Thee.
I know the path that tells Thy way
Through the cool eve of every day;
God, I can push the grass apart
And lay my finger on Thy heart!

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, —
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat — the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

Robert Frost: Meeting And Passing

Woman With A Parasol Facing Right, Claude Monet, 1886.

Woman With A Parasol Facing Right, Claude Monet, 1886.

This poem flitted through my mind on the way to my Japanese lesson this morning. There I was, in the midst of Tokyo’s endless skyscrapers, whispering Robert Frost to myself. “Afterward I went passed what you had passed/Before we met and you what I had passed,” I murmured quietly, as it started to rain.

“Meeting and Passing”
by Robert Frost

As I went down the hill along the wall
There was a gate I had leaned at for the view
And had just turned from when I first saw you
As you came up the hill. We met. But all
We did that day was mingle great and small
Footprints in summer dust as if we drew
The figure of our being less that two
But more than one as yet. Your parasol
Pointed the decimal off with one deep thrust.
And all the time we talked you seemed to see
Something down there to smile at in the dust.
(Oh, it was without prejudice to me!)
Afterward I went past what you had passed
Before we met and you what I had passed.

Mashup: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby/Carl Sandburg’s Gone

Perhaps I’ve watched too many Glee mashups, but as I read “Gone” by Carl Sandburg, quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” kept running through my mind. I decided to try to create a literary mashup.

thegreatgatsbydaisy

Carey Mulligan is now stuck in my head as Daisy.

Excerpts from “Gone”
by Carl Sandburg
and
“The Great Gatsby”
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Everyone loved Chick Lorimer in our town.

“They’re a rotten crowd’, I shouted across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

Far off
Everybody loved her.

“Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.”

So we all love a wild girl keeping hold
On a dream she wants.

“All the time something within her was crying for a decision. She wanted her life shaped now, immediately — and the decision must be made by some force — of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality — that was close at hand.”

Nobody knows now where Chick Lorimer went.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever is was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” -The Great Gatsby

Nobody knows why she packed her trunk…a few old things
And is gone,

“As for Tom, the fact that he “had some woman in New York” was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book. Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.”

Gone with her little chin
Thrust ahead of her

“I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom’s, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. “Sophisticated — God, I’m sophisticated!”

And her soft hair blowing careless
From under a wide hat,

“For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened – then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.”

Dancer, singer, a laughing passionate lover.

“They’re such beautiful shirts,’ she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. ‘It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before.”

Were there ten men or a hundred hunting Chick?

“His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”

Were there five men or fifty with aching hearts?

“Ah,” she cried, “you look so cool.”
Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space. With an effort she glanced down at the table.
“You always look so cool,” she repeated.
She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw.”

Everybody loved Chick Lorimer.

“All I kept thinking about, over and over, was ‘You can’t live forever; you can’t live forever.”

Nobody knows where she’s gone.

“Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.”

The original cover of "The Great Gatsby"

The original cover of “The Great Gatsby”

Singapore Airlines Suites: SQ 638 – Singapore to Tokyo

Having caught, at most 45 minutes of sleep on my previous Suites flight from London to Singapore, I arrived in Singapore sleep-deprived, groggy and full of Xanax.

Why did I have Xanax in my system, you ask? In 2005, I was on a flight, from New York to Paris, that caught on fire. Something in the cargo hold burst into flames, an hour into my flight, well over the Atlantic Ocean. I awoke to oxygen masks dropping. We had an emergency landing on an ice field in Newfoundland, where we were on the ground for 5 hours. Highly traumatized by that event, I can no longer board a flight lasting over 7 hours without sedating myself, or I’ll have a panic attack. Not a little, easily ignored panic attack that passes quietly. Oh no. One that involves tears and hyperventilating to the point that I need an oxygen mask.

Unfortunately, the Xanax hadn’t knocked me out on my London to Singapore flight, as anticipated, (probably due to the countless number of Diet Cokes I consumed) but it did make everything that followed for the next few hours seem extra-trippy.

Once my flight from London landed at Changi Airport, I woozily wandered through Terminal 3, wandering if I should book a transit hotel for my nearly 8 hour layover.

I decided to make a decision after stopping at the SilverKris lounge, arguably the best of all of Singapore Airlines lounges worldwide.

Singapore Airlines' Flagship Lounge

Singapore Airlines’ Flagship Lounge

I wandered into the SilverKris lounge general reception area, flashed my Suites boarding pass and waited for an escort to The Private Room. I’ve flown Singapore Airlines First Class before, so I knew how good of a place I was lucky enough to be going to.

The SilverKris Lounge in Terminal 3 has 3 sections: Business Class, First Class and The Private Room. I’ve always made it into The Private Room, which is the most difficult of any Singapore Airlines lounge, worldwide, to gain access to.

First Class, baby.

First Class, baby.

The Inner Sanctum

The Inner Sanctum

Once inside “The Private Room”, which is actually an ultra-luxurious lounge, I found the most remote, isolated armchair and wilted gracelessly into its leather folds.

Where I wilted gracelessly

Where I wilted gracelessly.

Someone came by with the two page food menu. I blearily looked at each page, whimpered something about needing a Diet Coke and Chicken Satay, then melted back into my armchair.

Choices, choices.

Choices, choices.

More choices.

More choices.

When the lady came back with my Diet Coke and Chicken Satay, I asked if she could help me drag another armchair over, so I could put it at the end of my armchair and make a bed. “I’m becoming delirious from the lack of sleep,” I explained, “and I have an eight hour layover here.” The woman eyed me kindly, then asked me to wait a moment, that she would be right back. Confident that another armchair would soon be joining mine, I sipped my Diet Coke happily.

Five minutes later, she came back. “I’ve turned the Baby Changing Room into a bedroom for you. I’ve made you a bed on the floor,” she told me. My eyes widened. This was better than I could have hoped for! I followed her groggily, holding a Diet Coke and muttering something unintelligible. I came upon a sight so marvelous that I would later have believed I imagined it, had I not had in my possession photographic proof proclaiming the opposite.

I needed this.

I needed this.

She turned off the lights and turned to walk away. “Could you wake me up at 10 pm,” I asked her as an afterthought, afraid that in my Xanax-haze I could sleep through my 11:55 pm flight. “Of course,” she said with a smile, and walked out.

A whole room to myself to sleep in! In the airport! In The Private Room! This was nothing short of miraculous. I curled up on the Givenchy blankets and settled down for a good nap. Unfortunately, Xanax is a bit of a truth serum for me. I fired off an ill-advised email, which I think, luckily, was never read by its recipient, someone in London. After triumphantly pressing send, I turned off my computer, put in my earplugs and slept soundly for the next 5 hours, until nearly 10 pm.

I woke up bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Life seemed infinitely better after a bit of sleep. I looked over to my left, saw the cold, uneaten Chicken Satay from 5 hours prior and shrugged it off as a casualty of war. Gathering up all of my things, I moved back to my original armchair and re-ordered the Chicken Satay.

Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay

It tasted delicious. Encouraged by the bolt of energy that came from consuming a few calories, I continued my epiucurean feast, ordering a Chocolate Cookie Dough Ice Cream.

Chocolate Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Chocolate Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Licking my lips, sated, I decided to roam around The Private Room and see what was shaking. Most of the Xanax had dissipated in my system by this point, leaving me merely relaxed and mellow. I roamed.

Inside the Inner Sanctum

Inside the Inner Sanctum

A perfectly cushy, squishy leather armchair that everyone was polite enough to not sit in.

A perfectly cushy, squishy leather armchair that everyone was polite enough to not sit in.

TV, if you want it.

TV, if you want it.

My main man telling it straight.

My main man telling it straight.

Lovely.

I love orchids.

Eventually, I ended up in the restaurant section of The Private Room, which has fabulous leather chairs. Unabashedly, I stood in the corner taking pictures with my iPhone 4S. No one noticed, or, if they did notice, they didn’t care, which was just the way I wanted it.

In "The Private Room's" restaurant

In The Private Room’s restaurant

Nice decor, non?

Nice decor, non?

I especially liked the leather banquette in the center.

I especially liked the leather banquette in the center.

Discrete refinement.

Discrete refinement.

Yummers.

Yummers.

Cheese and fruit

Cheese and fruit

Dessert

Dessert

I had no intention of eating anything else, and didn’t, but enjoyed traipsing around the different food choices. The chocolates looked especially tasty.

Eventually, a boarding announcement for my flight caught my ears. I gathered up my things and prepared to leave. No one offered to walk me to the gate, like sweet Sharmila did, back at Heathrow. I walked through the labyrinthine corridors leading back to the gates and wondered how long it would be before I would have the chance to enjoy The Private Room again. Having just blown out the last of my Singapore Airlines miles on this Suites flight, and the Suites flight from London to Singapore, I guessed it would take me at least a year to accrue the mileage needed for another one-way, London to Singapore to Tokyo Suites ticket.

Once on the plane, I requested to be in 2A, instead of 2D, my original choice. “No problem,” one of the kind stewards murmured, leading me to my seat. “Some champagne,” he inquired. “Krug, please, then Dom after take off,” I whispered under my breath. How quickly one becomes accustomed to the Suites lifestyle.

My original seat, 2D

My original seat, 2D

My new seat, 2A

My new seat, 2A

Krug and Diet Coke = Rebecca defined.

Krug and Diet Coke = Rebecca defined.

Happiness.

Happiness.

If you are surprised that I would drink Diet Coke and Krug at the same time, you must not have read any of my previous posts.

I walked down the hallway, to the bathroom, and on the way back, took a shot of the odd hallway configuration.

Suites Hallway

Suites Hallway

Anticipating that I would soon be asked for my dinner and breakfast orders, I checked out the menu. The first thing I noticed was that it read First Class and not Suites. What was up with that?

Why does the menu say First Class and not Suites, SQ?

Why does the menu say First Class and not Suites, SQ?

Blah, blah, blah

Suites Menu

More of the Suites menu.

More of the Suites menu.

Blah, blah, blah

More of the Suites menu.

Blah, blah, blah

More of the Suites menu.

Blah, blah, blah

Oh yes, I photographed every page.

Blah, blah, blah

Pour it up.

Blah, blah, blah

Choices, choices.

More choices for libations

More choices for libations

A midnight cocktail?

A midnight cocktail?

More choices.

More choices.

More choices.

More choices.

I'm not a coffee drinker.

I’m not a coffee drinker.

Espresso? Yummy.

But, I do like espresso.

Many interesting choices.

Many interesting choices.

Diet Coke? Say no more.

Diet Coke? Say no more.

When Delphine, the stewardess assigned to me, came over and asked me if I would be having dinner or breakfast, I stared at her confusedly. “Both?” I asked, as if it were a trick question. She sighed. But then, the head steward came over with my Dom and Coke. Delphine disappeared and I sat back and sighed contentedly.

Bring. It.

Bring. It.

Rebecca defined.

Rebecca, defined.

Notice how transparent the top and bottom are. No sex in the champagne room.

Notice how transparent the top and bottom are. No sex in the champagne room.

2007 Cos D'Estournel. I mean, it is a pretty nice bottle.

2007 Cos D’Estournel. I mean, it is a pretty nice bottle.

Olive Oil flavors. My favorite is the truffle one.

Olive Oil flavors. My favorite is the truffle one.

Chicken

Chicken breast with herb mousse and jus, pumpkin mash, bell pepper and green asparagus.

Fruit for dessert.

Fruit for dessert.

A comfortable enough place for a little nappy nap nap.

A comfortable enough place for a little nappy nap nap.

Givenchy blanket.

Notice the Givenchy blanket. It is sitting on my couch right now.

My neighbor might have been bothered by my constant flashing. Dommage.

My neighbor would have been bothered by the flash on my iPhone 4S, if I would have had a neighbor.

Another view out of my Suite.

Another view out of my Suite.

No one really sleeps with their seatbelt on.

No one really sleeps with their seatbelt on.

An eye mask and socks. Both are meant to be worn once.

An eye mask and socks. Both are meant to be worn once.

Givenchy sleepwear. Pretty low-grade, non?

Givenchy sleepwear. Pretty low-grade, non?

Comfy but not couture.

Comfy but not couture.

My TV

My TV

This is the full amount of privacy one has.

This is the full amount of privacy one has.

Which is not so very much.

Which is not so very much.

Another view

Another view

The Bad One.

The Bad One.

Delphine, the stewardess shown in the above picture, thoughtlessly put my bed away when I got up to go to the bathroom, 2 hours before the flight landed. Everyone else was still fast asleep in their beds.

“The bed needs to be put away at least 30 minutes before the flight lands,” she explained, as if I was an idiot.

“Well, 30 minutes before the flight lands is 90 minutes from now, right,” I asked her, flashing my death stare.

“Well, er, yes,” she stammered. “So, put my bed back out,” I informed her. She walked away to consult another stewardess, leaving me standing outside of my Suite, exhausted, for another 5 minutes.

“Put my bed back out NOW,” I said, loudly, perhaps waking some of the other still-sleeping passengers.

At this point, the steward in charge of the cabin came over, put my bed back out and apologized profusely. “She is brand new and no good,” he told me. He let me keep my bed out until 7 minutes before the flight landed, to make up for what I had been through.

Delphine eventually apologized, but it was too late. I couldn’t go back to sleep.

Breakfast

Breakfast. I was still mad at Delphine.

Neighbor-free.

Neighbor-free.

Silent.

Silent.

My Suite.

My Suite. Haters be trying to get rid of my bed extra-early, right Delphine?

Another shot of my Suite.

Another shot of my Suite.

Landing.

Landing.

Delphine said, in parting, “I know we aren’t friends.”

I glanced back at her. “It isn’t a big deal. Just don’t do it to anyone else. People need their sleep.” I waved goodbye.

Even though I was the first off of the plane, there are usually several flights arriving at roughly the same time. Narita is always teeming with people. Yet, oddly enough, this is what I saw as I walked through the concourse:

I was the first one off the plane.

No one.

Narita was silent.

Narita was silent.

There was no one else.

Nothing stood in my way or slowed me down.

A new country, a new story.

A new country, a new story.

I have never been to any international airport, anywhere in the world, where I have not seen another soul until reaching immigration. From the time I stepped off of the plane until the time I left the airport, only 9 minutes elapsed, which never happens at Narita. I felt that it was a good omen.

A one-way flight from Singapore to Tokyo, in Suites Class, costs 4812 SGD, roughly $3,910 USD.

Charles Baudelaire: A Former Life

"Cleopatra", John William Waterhouse, 1887.

Cleopatra, John William Waterhouse, 1887.

“A Former Life”
by Charles Baudelaire

Long since, I lived beneath vast porticoes,
By many ocean-sunsets tinged and fired,
Where mighty pillars, in majestic rows,
Seemed like basaltic caves when day expired.

We sat on the back porch, weather-worn wood dark gray against the bright green grass in the yard below. Dusk crouched in the neighbor’s branches. “Take my advice on this,” he told me, smoking the wrong end of a CAO cigar, “You never listen, but take my advice on this.”

The rolling surge that mirrored all the skies
Mingled its music, turbulent and rich,
Solemn and mystic, with the colours which
The setting sun reflected in my eyes.

“I cannot do it,” I responded, leaning over the railing, staring down at the bright green grass in the yard below, at the metal chipmunk trap in the bright green grass.

“You are supposed to be an example,” he continued.

I inhaled my cigar, which I also smoked from the wrong end, because we had lost the cigar cutter yet once again.

And there I lived amid voluptuous calms,
In splendours of blue sky and wandering wave,
Tended by many a naked, perfumed slave,

“I cannot do it. I cannot do it. I cannot do it,” I repeated. “I can’t do it.”

“I think you can,” he countered.

Dusk crept into the yard, little step by little step. He flung his cigar into the yard (standard practice). I did the same.

Who fanned my languid brow with waving palms.
They were my slaves—the only care they had
To know what secret grief had made me sad.

I left the city, then the state, then the time zone, then the country, but that conversation still binds me to the back porch of a house in a different city, in a different state, in a different time zone, in a different country.

There is so much to be done.

There is nothing to be done.

There is so much to be done.