Escalation Of Force

The kids in the school crowd in the doorways and peek out the windows at the foreigners clearing the area. Once we finish and take up positions inside the courtyard, the kids become more curious.

"Hello Mista!"

"Mista! Football!"

"Mista! Pen!"

"Mista! I love you!"

"Mista! Give me!"

The teachers were obviously annoyed by the distraction and the kids' unruly behavior. There was really only one way that I could ever respond to something like this.

I gave the kids the thumbs up, which they returned, moderate cheering.

I threw my fist in the air. More excitement. I started clapping my hands over my head and making hand gestures to further rile them up. The shouting and cheering and idiocy amplified. I threw both fists in the air, bringing them to a crescendo of simple childish screeching. It was all I could do to keep myself from breaking out the chant of, "USA! USA! USA!"

Satisfied with the grade school riot I had incited, I went over to the main doorway again. First Sergeant asked what all the commotion was about.

"No idea, First Sergeant," I said. "I gave 'em the thumbs up. Guess they're happy to see us."

As we walked back, I took point, with my good friend, the travel partner, Solid Steak, on the other side of the road next to me. I went about the usual scanning paranoia routine, looking for the supposed bad guy before the supposed bad guy could supposedly get it on.

Down the road in front of us, an old dude pedaled towards us on a bike. I gave him the closed fist hand signal to stop. He didn't.

I gave him the Iraqi hand signal for Stop. He didn't.

I yelled at him, something polite like, "Hey! Keef! Stop! STOP MOTHERFUCKER!!!" He didn't.

I raised my M4 and put my sights on his face. "HEY! STOP AND GET THE FUCK OFF THE ROAD!!!" He didn't.

This ain't right, man. This motherfucker is wearing a suicide vest, HAS to be, no one would keep on pedaling--


I release the trigger as two plumes of dirt kick up five feet away from him. I had jerked my rifle a little to the right and downward to fire a warning shot, and Solid Steak sure wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to spit lead, and fired at the exact same time I did.

The old man hopped off the bike with a weak, "Aaah--aaaaah," sounding more like a lamb than anything else. Not thinking, I started walking towards him while shouting profanities, directives, and pointing to a lot off the side of the road.

"Take your fucking bike OVER THERE and WAIT for ONE MINUTE! WAHEED!" I tapped my watch. It took what felt like a minute of screaming at the guy to get my point across. It was stupid of me to get any closer to the guy than I already had, but it quickly became clear that he was just old, and possibly stupid. He didn't have any bulges in his clothing. I'm still on this earth writing this, so fuck it. Dumb move on my part.

An interpreter and a female officer talked to the guy on the side of the road as we headed back to another courtyard. Once everyone was inside, First Sergeant was relating what happened with one of the platoon leaders.

"What the fuck was that guy's problem?" I asked Top (1SG).

"Shit, he's just old, damn near blind, near sighted as hell, and probably half deaf too."

I would have felt bad if I had smoked him, but self preservation comes before my bleeding heart. If he wouldn't have stopped after that warning shot, I wouldn't have hesitated, not even for a second.



The same familiar dry and dead landscape flies past me as I stand in one of the hatches, on the same repetitive missions, and in that moment, it was like I had never left Iraq. Nothing had changed, same faces, same buildings, some destroyed, some just in pitiful condition.

We stop and the ramp drops. I step out and scan windows and rooftops and nooks and crannies and everything in between as we all link up and enter a building. My travel buddy and I take up positions in the stair well, not having much to talk about. The sun shining through a small window dimly lighting up the stair well added to the recurring surreal feeling I sometimes get here in Iraq. Once again, I couldn't believe that I was here.

I lit a cigarette and my train of thought began to flow. I started thinking about all the events that led up to this singular moment, working backwards. For five minutes, I backtracked, blowing my mind with each significant event. At any one of these points, a different decision would have changed everything. I followed it all the way back to the first real decision of my life.

The places I put myself and the people I surrounded myself with, the places, people, and events that shaped me. Meeting one person caused a series of events and introductions which led to new insights, opinions, disasters. My head began to spin a little. Anything could have re-directed this train.

A different MOS. A different branch. No military at all. College, or no college. Associating with different people, choosing to live in a different town, ANYWHERE, ANY SMALL DETAIL would result in a completely different life for me. The scary thing was that I didn't want the ability to change anything. Reality took a hit of ether and a tiny part of me wondered if this was really happening, all of this, or was it just one long vivid dream?

As we drove down the streets again later, I waved at a kid and he extended all fingers except the thumb and the ring finger. More commonly referred to as "The Shocker".

I guess this IS real.

There I am, that's me, almost seeing myself from the third person, drifting through the most illogical experience of my life. Yeah right there, that's me again, teaching kids the universal hand signal for "rock on". Now I'm holding the flag at a friend's re-enlistment ceremony.

My feet are kicking up gravel and I'm on my way to get some chow. How the hell did I get here again? I'm explaining that yes, ratemyboobies.com IS in fact, a viable excuse for being late to work. I'm watching director's cut episodes of Beavis and Butthead in a third world country. What the fuck am I DOING?

Most of the time, I don't think any of us really think about the reality of us actually being here. We keep ourselves sidetracked when we're off duty. If you thought about it too much, it just might drive you insane. And then you utter that subtle mantra:

"Holy shit....I'm in Iraq..."



Like the plagiaristic prostitute I am, I will now steal a trademark from someone dear to me. A series called "Lessons Learned". Here are some lessons I've learned in/about the army/Iraq.

-It is generally not a good idea to respond to radio traffic by saying, "That's a big, throbbing negative."

-If you throw soccer balls from a moving vehicle, children will chase you like super zombies in a George Romero movie.

-It is rude to taunt children with an uninflated soccer ball as you drive past.

-Telling the driver to "thrust" his way through an intersection and making continuous innuendo regarding symbols of phallic aggression will result in a loss of headset priveleges.

-Shooting things is fun.

-If you damage your own equipment, it'll probably never be fixed and your best bet is to use Gorilla Tape.

-Running while drunk can sometimes be unpleasant, but running while hung over is far worse.

-The word "Sarge" is no longer acceptable in the army.

-It's your fault. Always.

-It's considered rude to taunt friends attempting to quit smoking by waving cigarettes in front of them.

-Children are only afraid when you aren't trying to scare them. Making the conscious attempt will only entertain them.

-Never ask an Iraqi soldier about his sex life, or even allow the conversation to somehow drift there, which it will. You might not like what you hear.

-Never tell your platoon sergeant about any stories involving transsexuals in foreign countries, as he will alter the story and spread it around the company. Lulz ensue, but not for you.

-Don't drop your dogtags in the toilet.

-It's considered rude to take a brand new private, get him drunk, and take him to a strip club to watch him blow an entire paycheck.

-It's also rude if you run out of alcohol and decide to sneak through the barracks, trying every door until you find a locked one, and raiding their refrigerator for bottles of Bacardi.

-It gets you fucked up though.

-Don't piss when you wake up in the morning. That makes the surprise urinalysis much easier.

-When going to the aid station, inform them that your level of pain is 8, 9, or 10. This increases your chance of getting good drugs. But odds are, you won't, especially if you really are hurting.

-Motrin doesn't do shit.

-You are wrong.

-It is unwise to roadmarch with stubbly pubes (not learned from personal experience).

-It is not cool to wander around the barracks without a shirt on when you hear a female voice (learned by observing douchebags).

-You picked the wrong job.

-It is generally unwise to challenge a superior with a phrase such as, "You won't do it."

-College really was a good idea.

-Duck when entering low doorways of Iraqi houses.

-Energy drinks are bad before missions. Unless you enjoy vomiting off of the side of a Stryker (which I sort of did).

-It's rude to teach Iraqi children to chant, "USA! USA! USA!"

-If it's funny, it's probably rude.

-Breaking and entering is extremely fun.

-Breaking is fun.

-Entering without breaking is not that great.

-It is unwise to mock another company and/or their motto while they are in formation and their commander is standing behind them. This results in threats of having eyes snatched from their sockets, and pushups.

-It is unwise to point and laugh at someone who has to do pushups. You will join them.

-Volunteering never helps you out.

-If you don't clean your room, you run the risk of having to sleep outside.

-It is unwise to climb a mountain, start a fire, and get very drunk, but it IS fun to tell your drunk friends that you saw a mountain lion.

-Children seem to grasp the concept of the middle finger.

-Dogs and paintball guns go together very well.

-I am a bad person.

-iPods are for music, too.

-Launching water balloons at the Air Force can be excellent stress relief.

-It is unwise to inform a superior of their shortcomings.

-If I want to do it, it is probably unwise, and likely rude as well.

That's all I can think of for now. There's more, and there certainly will be even more, but that's all you get until later.


Switch It Back On

We poured into someone else's strykers, bags and all, and sweat in the dark all the way back to the FOB. When the ramp finally dropped, we stumbled out into horribly familiar territory and sulked our way back to our tent, dropped our gear, and began getting "normal" again.

This uniform really does do something to you. Being in this place, all of it, it pulls a different side of you out. Already, I'm not the person I was in Japan. Not the person I am when I wear what I want, do what I want, and don't have to worry about anything. This person is bitter, cynical, loudmouthed and rambunctious, dark humor and raucous profanity, arrogant and blasphemous. It's just what the uniform does to me, like that movie "The Mask" with Jim Carrey, it transforms some of us. Some more than others.

But atleast now I know that when the uniform comes off, it all switches off.

I walked back outside and took a look around at the familiar desolation of the FOB. No color, no life. Concrete, gravel, dirt, and hideous sky. The summer heat is on its way, and I'm dreading wearing all that equipment again. I dread walking through the streets of this pitiful wasteland, looking at the faces of local inhabitants. I dread interacting with them, the kids begging for soccer balls.

I'm not the only short-timer now. We're all short. This nightmare ends soon enough, and I don't know how everyone else feels, but I'm dead set on getting the hell out of here. I'm sure everyone else is getting excited, but I've got a scowl. From here on out, no one out there gets close to me. None of the Iraqi Armies or Sons of Iraq or Iraqi Police are going to get any small talk out of me.

Pull security and emanate disdain, that's the fourth quarter game plan. Fuck you, Iraq, I'm going home. And switching off for good.


Rear View Mirror

That horrible fucking day had to come, and it came way too fast for our liking. I found myself grudgingly checking out of the hotel. I made sure to say goodbye to my friend that works in my favorite lounge, and the next thing I know, I'm watching the city melt away through the window of a moving car.

I never understood anyone ever really being bummed about leaving any place, to me it was always like a kid going nuts when it was time to leave the playplace at McDonald's, but this was different. All those amazing signs, bustling crowds, incredible architecture, everything I'd come to love, the clean streets, the most incredible city I'd ever seen, it was all sliding past me.

At the airport, I hesitated. Getting on that plane was the hardest thing I'd ever done. Part of me knew that there was a small chance I could just say screw it, turn around and walk out. Find a job. Perfect the language. Plant my roots here and live it up. Why not? Everything about the city felt so right.

Back in the worst country on Earth, the rest of my friends are sucking it up, and it's my duty to do the same, but I'll be damned if I didn't have the most bitter taste in my mouth about it.

Waiting in the airport in Korea, the reality only intensified, leaving a massive lump in my throat. I could turn around and buy a ticket back. And I never miss places for some reason.

Maybe some other time. The Purgatorium is only one border away now. I have to finish this, but right now, I'm promising myself, I WILL visit Tokyo again.


What An Asshole

Never to be defeated, the arrogant bastard that I am, I refuse to succumb to the depressive knowledge that I have to leave what I feel is the coolest city in the world.

I try to take my friend to my sacred lounge, only to find that we wasted too much time shopping for stupid shit, and they're closed. This bummed me out further, so we settled for a pisspoor bar on the second floor with no windows, brick walls, and no sense of Awesome that the previous one did.

On a whim, we decided to hit the famous sky lounge from the hotel featured in my favorite movie, "Lost In Translation". We take a taxi to the Park Hyatt Hotel, with only a half hour left until last call. We cross our fingers as we catch every damn red light in our path.

By some sick twisted miracle of a bizarre god, we make it on time and make our way through the hotel. I'm silently tripping out, like a rocker that stumbled across the stage of the first tiny gig that Metallica played. I see familiar hallways, and I do all I can to contain myself, already buzzed with the blessed sake that I've become to intimate with.

The elevator doors open and we turn a corner, and fuck me rotten, there we are, in the same bar that I wanted to be in for four years now. I order a drink dedicated to the movie as well as an order of sake, my friends order their own sake, and we squeeze the last half hour of the night out.

Once everyone else was gone, we took our drunken cue and left. At this point, the only decent and good thing to do is to ride this out and keep on wringing the juices out. I feel fucking great, and we decide to hit up a convenience store for more booze. Fuck it, we have to go back to the shittiest place in the world, why not go apeshit while we can? It's what our friends would want us to do.

But the sad thing is, for a twisted bastard like myself, that alone just isn't enough. I was born with an innate ability to disturb and occasionally entertain my mother. God save the world, this ability multiplies each year. I adorned myself with a freshly purchased track suit modeled exactly after the getup of the main character from the Japanese cartoon "DragonBall Z".

The crossing light turns green and I sprint across the road, screaming at the top of my lungs. We ransack the convenience store, loading up on Suntory Whisky, anti-hangover potions, drunk eating, and any seemingly nonsensical items we can think of.

After returning to the room, we realized that we had no ice. Personally, I'm not above drinking rancid liquor straight from the bottle and accepting the hellish consequences, but at a request, we made the order for ice, courtesy of room service.

Five minutes later, there's a knock at the door. I jump up, wrap a white headband around my head, the kind with Japanese Kanji characters and a red sun in the center. I tear the door open and bow.

"Arigato Gozeimas!" I shout (It means thanks very much, homie).

The clerk takes one look at me and does his best to keep a straight face. I worsen the deal by giving him my most dipshit drunk grin. He politely offers me the ice as he continues to completely lose his shit. This poor bastard is trained to be professional and courteous, and he is welcomed at a random door by some psychotic white kid dressed in anime-hero gear and a stereotypical Japanese headband. He is visibly biting his cheek and his stomach is convulsing.

I hope I made that dude's night. That was ten minutes ago.

Anyhow, this one is to you, you the reader, you the anyone, wherever you may be. Though my friend and I return to horseshit duty soon, we aren't there tonight, and we'll act accordingly.

Kon-Pai motherfuckers.



The past few days, we've had the looming knowledge of having to return soon clouding over us. We do all we can to look the other way, not let a damn thing rain on our parade.

We stay at a traditional hotel and sleep on mats. Paper walls. Yukata robes.

We check out Buddhists temples and incredible green gardens, shit that takes your breath away and makes you wonder just HOW the rest of the world, normal civilization, can suck so completely. Caverns so small we have to duck walk through them, candles illuminate Buddhists sculptures.

A large wooden wheel that you turn by pushing, walking the full circle with it. They say that turning this wheel once is the equivalent to reading the Bible. Something to think about when you ride the subway I guess.

A park, beautiful as ever, hosts the most random cats running around that I've ever seen. Everywhere you look, there was a cat just chilling out.

We went to the beach. The weather was just nice enough for a t-shirt, for once. We take our shoes off and squeeze sand between our toes, skip rocks, walk in the tide. Best fucking vacation ever, and in the back (and the front) of our minds, we know that it's all ending soon.

When I drink, I wake up the next morning, and I suck down vitamins and orange juice and food to replenish everything I pissed away the night before, so as not to lose any time. If necessary, I even take the hair of the dog to reset my overcompensating nerves. Can't afford to lose any more time.

I look out the window and see the most amazing skyline. In the lounge at night, as I chat it up with my pal Hide (Hee-Day), I stare out at the lights, sip hot sake, chew on salted peas, and clap for the pianist and bass player, even when no one else pays them any mind.

Every time I look at my watch, we're on a new day. Time started off dragging beautifully slow the first week. Now it's taken a snowball avalanche momentum that we can't fucking stop. Like pressing against closing walls. Where the fuck is C3PO and R2D2 to stop this one?

We've had enough rest for today. No time to waste. Time to go and enjoy this while we can.

Fuck Iraq.


More Fine Dining

In Harajuku, I followed narrow streets and bizarrely painted buildings to what seemed like some sort of crazy drug-addled arthouse. The only thing though, is that drugs are supposedly next to non-existent here. I find that hard to believe. After five minutes of channel surfing through their TV channels, I am convinced that they are ALL covert potheads, because the ONLY thing that would add any logic (or explanation) to these TV shows and commercials is a healthy helping of Bob Marley Feelgood Spinach.

This crazy Jamaican-Meets-Korean Neo Pop Art And Mescaline building led to a restaurant, the kind where your table has a grill or whatever inserted into it. I experienced Japanese Pancakes, which are in no way like American Pancakes.

You mix up bowls of all kinds of crazy concoctions and pour them onto the hot black thing, and go through an arduous process of preparing your own meal. When it's finally done, you take that first clumsy chopstick bite and go, "Damn, that's pretty good!"

You eat about half of your share when you notice something purple and frighteningly familiar on your plate.

Goddamn octopus. Sneaky bastard found his way into my meal.

This is the point of no return, you can't unsee that slimy fucker, it's too late. Your meal is forever changed, because you KNOW that this unnatural monstrosity has tainted your food. I shoveled bite after bite into my mouth, chasing it with orange juice. No sense in going hungry, after all, the only way...is ALL the way.

Fucking octopus.


You can find any obscure movie or album in this city. There are specialty shops for everything. But nowhere will you find a copy of any of the American Pie movies. Except for The Naked Mile, which hardly counts.

Amidst the crowd, I wandered down the streets, from shop to shop, entering anything that had a sign reading DVD. You can find movies about 50 Foot Tall Women, any cult classic movie. Shops dedicated to horror flicks. It's awesome, you just can't find a good, common movie. It has to be a rare gem to be discovered here.

One building had a genre of music/music DVDs per floor. Progressive rock, heavy metal, punk, indie, and so on. As I climbed the stairs, I saw pictures of famous musicians on the walls. The pictures were taken in this store. The first one I recognized was Kirk Fucking Hammett of Metallica, pausing his perusal long enough to pose for a picture. Next is Lars Ulrich with his wife, and then Rob Trujillo. The only member that wasn't present was James Hetfield. As I climbed, I checked out all the pictures, thinking about how cool that was that all these dudes stopped in this store.

Then again, when you're out walking, you'll see Tommy Lee Jones on coffee vending machines. Boss is the brand. His facial expression looks like he was somewhat confused, listening very intently to an interpreter or something. A picture like that would have been scrapped in the states, but here, that's prime modeling at its best.

Cameron Diaz hawks cell phones for a company called SoftBank. Watch "Lost In Translation" and tell me that Anna Faris' character is NOT a total parody of that woman. I'll tell you that you're wrong.

Hillary Duff is selling cameras or something, and dancing with Mickey Mouse. It plays on giant video screens on gigantic buildings.

Hell, if they want white people to prostitute their image out for the sake of marketing, sign me up. These celebrities don't need to make an extra stop here, I'll take that bullet. Pay ME millions to have a deer in the headlight expression while I hold some tea or a PSP. I'm not too proud.

Off to Shibuya for more exploration, more immersion into the crowds, bombardment of the senses. I live for this.

Sure beats Iraq.


Moar Rad

We sleep when we have to, just to keep ourselves going. A few hours and we're fully charged and we're back out there again, devouring this place.

Tokyo is the opposite of Iraq. It's clean, safe, and thoroughly enjoyable. We walk down narrow streets lined with shops, rubbernecking unapologetically. Arcades, pachinko "casinos", stores selling DVD porn (we learned that if the sign is pink, it's probably porn or some other appendage of the sex industry).

There's a Chinatown in this city that we took advantage of, stealing an extra mini-vacation. Paper lamps are strung across the streets and you know they'd look fucking amazing at night when the candles are lit. Chowing down on their food, we fumbled with chopsticks, and then we went to an old temple and enjoyed some oooh ahhhing mindblown tourist goodness.

Another discovery we made: the restaurant that inspired the set of the epic fight against the Crazy 8s or whatever in the movie Kill Bill. If you remember Uma Thurman running across balconies, up and down stairs, hacking her way through an army of dudes in suits and masks, picture that building, only as a restaurant. That's the real incarnation of it. One of the waitresses informed me that Quentin Tarantino likes to hang out in this restaurant, and devoted that fight scene to it.

That's what I call awesome, folks.


De-Loused In The Chill Room

On a whim, from sheer boredom itself, mixed with a little bit of curiosity and the lack of the desire to leave the hotel, I found myself wandering up to the top level lounges.

It was quiet, so quiet that you're almost afraid to speak beyond that level just above a whisper, where your voice isn't quite natural but still amiable. The bartenders worked with delicate precision mixing drinks, setting glasses down so gently as to not even make a sound once they made contact with the counter.

I tested out the famed Santory whiskey. If you've had whiskey, you've had them all, that's my opinion. I've never been a liquor snob though, so take that with a grain of salt. After that, I ventured to the other lounge, and decided to try out sake, since I'd already crossed sushi off of my list of things to make me vomit.

This devil liquid goes down like water. I eyed my glass suspiciously, like a worthy opponent, and tried to guage its abilities. I sipped warily, pausing to observe the effects as they accumulated. As I waited, I'd stare out the windows, at the night time skyline of Tokyo, letting my mind get blown over and over again.

This lounge was quiet, calm, and downtempo as ever. I was just about to leave when a pianist and her bass playing counterpart showed up and laid out their sheet music. These people have this kind of chill music down to a science. It's the kind of thing you'd never let someone catch you listening to (if you're me), but once you're in an environment like this place, you open up and welcome it, and congratulations, you've just been blown away again.

I slowly sipped two jars or glasses of sake as I talked shop with one of the bartenders. He said my Japanese pronunciation was really good (overstatement, I'm sure) and we talked about the various places in the States that he visited, almost all of them being areas I never ventured to. When he asked me how I learned the Japanese that I did know, I wrote down the name of the company that does the language CDs and explained that he could probably get one that teaches from Japanese to English. This made him pretty happy, which in turn made me happy. These little interactions make the world go round if you ask me.

I continued to chill, sip, listen to the music, get lost in thoughts, stare out the windows, watch the employees and the patrons alike, and I realized that this was one of those unknowns that I had been searching for. No matter what, I have this particular place to relax in. For the time being, I've got my own spot.

I'd been searching from district to district for something I couldn't place, only to find that there was something right here in my own hotel.

Sushi Is Fail

There's an unwritten rule that requires any dipshit tourist in Japan to run out to a sushi restaurant, grab a menu, and point and grunt at a random picture, having resolved to try the Sushi Phenomenon. We were no exception.

Your beloved dynamic duo aimed themselves down a narrow street lined with shops and lights and signs, restaurants, convenience stores, little bars, anything. We found a restaurant that had doors that looked like the old school wooden sliding doors. They were painted to look that way though, actually being metal in reality, with a button in it labeled PUSH. Upon pressing the button, the doors automatically slid open, creating a paradox of old school antiquity with Star Wars technology.

The seats were tiny and I had no legroom, so I had to lean forward. We ordered some platter thing that was supposedly for two people. And then we waited, whispering smartass comments back and forth.

"What, are they still trying to catch the fish? How long does it take to grab a bunch of raw shit and throw it on a plate?"

A microscopic plate covered with assorted bits of What The Shit was delivered to us. We broke apart our chopsticks and fumbled with them like we'd been gassed with ether. I snatched up the first piece that was obviously fish, as it still had the skin and whatnot, and shoved it in my mouth. Not bad.

I just burped, and I can still taste it. Thought you should know.

Next, I snared a purplish square of some mystery meat, spotting suction cups on one side just as I threw it into my mouth. Must be octopus. Not bad to be honest, until you feel the suction cups crunching in your teeth, and you realize you're chowing down on Spongebob's pal. Speaking of Spongebob, a square of egg resembled a sponge, in an uncanny way. I decided to go ahead and eat Spongebob too.

A green blob of what appeared to be Play-Do lied in wait for me, so I threw that into my gaping maw as well. It stung like crowd control and set my mouth on fire. I did the typical hilarious reaction, where one realizes too late what they just ate and they suddenly go rigid and their eyes grow large.

Fucking wasabe.

I sucked down orange juice and any other random shit on my plate, ignoring the tough entrails that refused to break as I chewed through them. Shrimp or something that were fully intact, beady little black eyes staring at us.

"Aw dude, I can't eat something that still has EYES!" my friend laughs. We choke down the majority of the plate, looking at each other with regret in our eyes as we chuckle about this bizarre failed experiment.

We stood up, paid our check and walked out.

"All right," the friend says, "Wanna go get some dinner?"

We walked back to the hotel, glad that we could scratch sushi off of our to-do list.



Adapt And Overcome

In yesterday's episode, we were left with the inconclusive ending where my friend and I decided to go back to Roppongi, on a quiet Sunday night, as opposed to sitting in our hotel room.

I dropped all expectations, played it the same way he was, and I'll be damned if it wasn't one of the funnest nights we've had here. We went on a junior bar crawl, hitting one dead nightspot after another, getting a drink here and there. I chatted up some of the guys who worked in these bars, and they were cool as hell.

That's the upside of Roppongi, is all the English speaking people, it helps a lot. So no matter what, we've always got that. With that baseline established, the rest of the trip is golden and about where it needs to be for one important reason:

I'm on vacation, NOT in Iraq. Better bear that in mind at all times and act accordingly, whether we're club crawling or TV watching or bullshitting or getting more lost and dizzy than Cameron Diaz, being bombarded with lights and sounds and all things Holy Shit.

"What do you want to do today man?"

"I don't care. Let's go get lost again."

The Great Wall Of Whiteness

Days and nights and days bleed into each other, with periods of unshakable sleeplessness. The initial ooh and ahh has partially worn off, given way to dealing with insanely crowded areas, and a nearly impossible language barrier. I didn't study enough, but even then, as reserved as these people are until you get them drunk, I don't think that would have even mattered.

Hung over or waking up drunk, sucking down water WHILE drinking, trying to avoid beind debilitated, of wasting ANY time here, because it's precious, and I still don't feel like I've tapped the vein of this city.

Crowds of people, businessmen, trendy hipster young kids, girls in short skirts, all walks of life fill the streets and the subways are packed as hell but no one wants to know you it seems. I catch myself wondering if that Alleged Marine Rape Case or whatever has anything to do with this outsider feeling I get, or if that's just part of being here, a "Fucked Gaijin", as it were. Then I wonder if the Iraq War has fucked our image.

I chilled in my hotel, contemplating this, did more of the same while walking around. Can't let that shit get in the way though, I have no control over it. There's something intangible and indescribable that I'm trying to get ahold of here, and I gotta pull it off somehow.

We chilled in Shibuya, walking past endless porno shops and love hotels and pachinko (their primary means of gambling) machines. Hip hop culture has pretty much dominated the world, which adds to those feelings of isolation. My friend is much more relaxed than I am, and he just enjoys things for what they are, but I'm fucking hungry for something and I don't even know what. Can't even tell what it is I'm trying to force here.

Before this turns into some kind of fuckwit emo livejournal, let's get back to the sights n sounds and stories you all seem to like. Nothing has exploded here and no one's been shot.

This place is a concrete labyrinth, skyscrapers galore, and it pretty much looks like any city until you get to certain hubs of commerce and entertainment, and that's when the lights explode all around you and you're in some kind of technicolor pseudo-psychadelic dreamland. Tokyo is its own hallucinogenic (and no, it's no longer legal to purchase shrooms here).

In Roppongi a night or two (or three???) ago, I watched some Air Force or Navy or something group of guys I'd been hanging out with go apeshit on each other over money. Not even that much money. And they couldn't understand the concept that it really didn't matter that much. I left them to their bullshit and continued to wander, bombed-out drunk as the sun came up. The place was full of foreigners and locals and the obligatory black dudes who try to get you to go to their titty bars (I've befriended a couple of these guys just for the drunken hell of it).

Now the sun is up and everything has that early morning blue tint to it and two girls walk up to me and ask if I want massage. I decline and I decide to find an ATM to pull out more money. Another girl approaches me and asks if I'm looking for a massage. I tell her no, and we start almost debating with each other. Soon it's revealed that SHE isn't the one who does the massaging. Like the black dudes, her job is just to get customers to go there, to advertise on the street. She didn't seem too fond of it, kind of like the waitresses at strip clubs who sort of look at the "dancers" with disdain. It's funny. The whole thing depressed me a bit.

Anyway, she actually helped me find an ATM that had English options, and as it turns out, we'd already withdrawn my maximum for the day. My friend was with someone else we had met and we'd agreed to just meet back up at our hotel. As I wandered on the streets, I was nailed with this weird Catcher In The Rye syndrome I tend to get now and then.

All the massage hookers trying to rake in some cash, and the foreign strippers, the dipshit military fuckwits making asses of themselves, people jerking your sleeve to check out their particular den of evil, the locals that I just couldn't seem to connect with, it all started to depress me.

I had stuck to vodka the entire night, having heard that it contains less toxins, and sticking with one type of drink will keep you from being even MORE hung over. I had forgotten that vodka seems to have two phases: happy drunk phase, and depressive phase. The Navy Or Something crowd fighting like twats over money, drunk and retarded. Being temporarily broke for the next 24 hours. The stripper that I for some reason began to tell her about what kind of money she could make in America, breaking down the math of average cost of lapdance, average time of each song, to just how much insane money per night she could make. She was Romanian and seemed pretty nice (don't they all).

It all coalesced into one miserably failed night. I just started walking from there, somewhat bummed but wanting to figure it all out. I certainly wanted to get out of Roppongi. So I kept walking, not sure if I even had enough pocket change to ride the train.

I found the general direction that my district was in, and I started running. Hey, just some foreign dude out for a morning jog, right? Every now and then, I'd stop and make sure I was still heading in the same direction, and I just kept running. I didn't know how far it would be, but I knew I had to cross atleast two districts. I hadn't done any serious running in about a year. Stopping at a vending machine for a moment, I bought some orange juice and chugged it while I traversed the endless urban jungle.

And no one so much as looked at me.

I ended up in my hotel at about 9:30 or so and crashed out. I forget how many nights ago that was, probably two.

Now here I am, bored, wanting to go do something, unable to speak the language, with no friends here, wanting something I can't put my finger on, and directionless.

We're probably going back to Roppongi, the foreigner's fucked up haven.

Fuck me.