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Monday, October 31, 2011

When Things Fall Apart...

Well, here it is the afternoon of October 31, and the state around me is one of disarray and jumbled thoughts.  We are still repairing from the freak fall/winter storm that blasted us over the weekend, and it's led me to think in a number of different threads, which I hope somehow to put together.


I have been without electricity in my house for about 36 hours of so; strange, I had power on Saturday, but Sunday morning it was gone.  My landlords (aged they are) have gone without since I think Saturday, and our block of homes around here are out as well.


That is a very strange thing...I don't recall the power ever being out for this long in all the years I've lived here.  I can't remember power being out anywhere for such a long time.  Then again, so much of the world doesn't even have electricity still.  We certainly do take that for granted, don't we?


I worry about my landlord and his wife.  They are nearly 90, and while I marvel at their ability to get around, they do have their limits.  They have been handling this as well as they can, but I can tell they're worried.  At least they have family and friends to look in on them, but I do wonder about a number of things.


We did indeed get slammed...some 12,000 were out of power in York alone, and while that's down to less than half, Reading still has more than 12,000 customers out.  From this  area of south central PA to the northeast, it was a swath that storm cut.


For this area, lot of downed trees, limbs, etc., especially on the property I rent.  We're gonna need to get someone here to drag it out.  Most of them are too damn big, and need cutting, and so forth.


As it is Samhain, I have dragged a large amount of brush, wood and stuff to my little stone fire pit.  I will be doing a little burning this evening, and hopefully meditation on this and other things.  I am now officially solitary, and it's time to do this.  I'd hoped to be with friends tonight, but circumstances I don't think will permit this.


It is strange, coming home to a dark house, using candles and a flashlight to get around, and then burrowing under every comforter and blanket I have to stay warm and actually sleep.  It does get pretty cold here, and will tonight.  The temperature in my house is hovering at 50 degrees; not terrible, but still a problem eventually for the pipes and other fixtures.


My cats are handling it well; Sofia is on my lap right now, and they all know it's warm where the human sleeps.  Izzy just won't come in there, but she knows where to find space of her own.


I just have to bring water in; again, I'm gonna lose a bunch of food in my fridge, if this doesn't come back soon, but that's nothing really.


OK...where's this going?  I've been thinking about this problem for a long time, and I wonder if any of this makes since.  Our infrastructure has been crumbling in this country, and this outage is one example of how that has happened.


Then...take how YOU feel, if you are affected by all this.


Here's a similie:  ever have one of those days where things just fall apart?  The car doesn't start for some reason, your coffeemaker just suddenly dies on you, your laptop won't fire up or just freezes and keeps doing it.  These are all little things that we can get around and handle.  


Sometimes, you get behind that one person in line at a store who takes forever...or you get the clerk who is clueless and doesn't fully know their job yet...you feel the tension rise, don't you?  You feel ready to snap; you want to, but you don't because you know better.


But a lot of people don't like that, and don't have that in them.  Some people do snap; breaking points are different, and I wonder if we're not headed right for it.


Look at the Occupy movements around the US.  People have just had enough with Wall Street, our government, the way things are.  Our infrastructure is crumbling from the inside; our roads and bridges are one thing, there's also the infrastructure that is our economy.


Look at the jobs...or lack thereof.  In my line of work, the broadcasting world has taken another gash to the body, and the blood is again flowing.  Clear Channel, one of the VERY BIG BROADCASTING CORPORATIONS OF AMERICA (do you know where the joke lies therein?) has again slashed its staff, and there will be an effort to make even more with even less.


My friend and colleague Scott Fybush details the latest bloodletting at www.nerw.com -- please check it out.


I work part-time for CC Harrisburg, so I know some of the people let go.  We've all been through it, but it seems every line of work is being eroded by a need to keep the bottom line fat and happy, the shareholders fat and happy and the owners fatter and happier.


Jobs being exported overseas where people work in virtual slave labor conditions to make stuff, and I'm sorry, but not as good as we could have done in a lot of cases.  Okay, we sure lost our way with cars.


We are now a nation of service jobs; we're servicing everyone, including ourselves, and even that is not working that well, is it?  


A power outage turns to outrage for some people; it's nothing compared to the big picture, don't you think?


I wonder where we're headed; I really think we need to reach a consensus on what our values and priorities are, and none of this involves politics or religion or anything else.  


If we're going to have an economy that provides good services and things we all need and want...we have to pay for it.  More than we have for years, look at gas; we got away with it for so long, and we still do.  $3.45 for regular?  Three times that elsewhere in the world, folks, get over it.


That said, we also have to consider how we are going to repair ourselves, so that we can take the stress out of our lives, and still get things done.


We are a nation that knows what we want, and we want it yesterday.  We've all been like that; well, I know as well as anyone that power restoration will not happen yesterday or right now.  Bet anything, when the power comes back on, people will appreciate it even more.


Do we want too much?  Sometimes, yes.  A little inconvenience becomes one big headache, but only if we let it.


Guess what I'm saying is, let's remember what the deal is, and try to make the right choices for us.  Doesn't hurt anyone other.


Be mindful of what you have, and when you think what you need is important, ask yourself if it really is.  Or can it wait?


Now this takes me back a ways...I remember when I was a kid one time, when we did have a significant power outage.  Probably only a few hours, but it was at night, and we were in the dark.  


Mom had a couple of decorative kerosene lamps, which actually worked.  We lit those up, and I read by one of them for a while.  That's all they had, or firelight back in the day.  How many of you remember that?


Alice told me a story, which is going to be very hard for you to believe, as it was for me:  she used to live in Perry County, which is northwest of here...she and whomever she was with at the time lived there about nine years.  Now...wait for it...


...THEY DID NOT HAVE ELECTRICITY.  EVER.


Now how you live like that...I had to wonder.  I still do.


Anyway, I have candles, and I have other ways to work around all this for a bit.  Camping, if you will, just inside.


I can also escape to places where I can plug in my laptop (hooray for the MacBook Pro battery!), shower, etc.  But you know, a little inconvenience makes you remember how good we have it...and that we can make it even better.


Okay...I have Samhain to do tonight, and I turn 46 on the morrow.  Hopefully we'll "get power" by then, but who knows?


Blessed Samhain to you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Take Another Road, Chapter 19--"Fall"

Here we go, with Chapter 19 of "Take Another Road."  Hope you have liked the saga so far...

###


Chapter 19--Fall

            Kaz sat on the floor the room.  Legs crossed, his guitar on his lap, he sang his newest song for an audience of one:  “My father told me, when I was just a child/Don’t lend your fancy to the wind/There’s nothing good that can grow from something wild…”

            Minoru was seated on his platform bed, in thought.  He was hastily copying the lyrics to his notebook from the two sheets that lay alongside.  As he did, Minoru thought of what he was hearing:  the verse chords were simple enough, but did have some quirks to them.  Using a red pen, he wrote down the chords where Kaz seemed to be placing them. 

            “It builds up here,” Kaz said as he did the same with the strumming action of his right hand, “and…”

“The higher you climb

The farther you fall

You get hit the hardest when you’re standing tall



The fullest cup is the easiest to spill

And the waves will always find the castles that you build

(Oh) I can’t believe, that you believed…”



            Minoru gave a vigorous nod and kept jotting down the lyrics.  “Keep going,” he urged during the instrumental break.  Minoru noted the choruses did change slightly, and they didn’t rely on the same words each time; Kaz had definitely picked up how to structure a song from Kaldera.  But these words--they were so eloquent, and Kaz’s range fit the emotion of the piece.

            “Don’t fear the climb, though you may have to crawl…”  Kaz built up the final chorus, going high for the last chorus and sang of belief and will.  He played through the chords once more, then brought the song to an end. 

            “That,” Minoru declared,” “is exceptional!”  He put his palms together and bowed from his seated position in Kaz’s direction.  “Kaz, there is nothing to change; you must bring this to Kaldera and the others this week.” 

            Minoru had referred to another get-together of the club at the boathouse Wednesday.  At this Kaz smiled, but shrugged.  “I don’t know; I think it needs a little more work.”

            “I detect,” Minoru replied as he jumped to his feet, “a little doubt in your voice, Kaz!  There is nothing to be afraid of with this.  Besides, you will be among friends, it’s not one of those Idol shows.”

            Kaz laughed as he gathered up his papers and placed them in his book bag.  “True,” he replied.  “I hoped to let a little of myself go, the way Kaldera did the other night, that where it came from.”  Kaz paused then asked with surprise in his voice, “Speaking of which, did you read that email from Midori yesterday?”

            “Yes, I did,” Minoru said as they put their instruments away.  “How sad a story, and yet one is also inspired at the same time.” 

            Now it was Kaz’s turn to be the questioner.  “What do you mean by that?”

            “How Midori can be so kind to others,” Minoru replied, “after being abandoned like that.  Her years at the temple most certainly healed her inner self.”

            Minoru sounded genuinely saddened at recounting Midori’s tale.  “You have your own,” Kaz noted, “and somehow you remain pretty cool.”

            Minoru chuckled as he slung his shamisen bag over his shoulder.  “It’s not easy,” he admitted.  He reached out and carefully adjusted the photo of Ebissan, before the two left the apartment. 

            The narrow hallway was carpeted, but the steps of the two young men could be heard, and their voices echoed off the open ceilings and walls.  “I remember it being very strange that I didn’t have a father,” Minoru continued, “he was never around.  Mother raised me on her own, but unlike Midori’s, she did not forsake me.  I remember how hard she worked, but always at the end of a long day she made time for me at home.  She read to me, and later I to her; at times Mother was very intense, due to her work.  When she was around me, that went away; I feel fortunate for that.”

            The two walked into the sunshine of the afternoon; they’d decided to get coffee at a nearby place both favored.  Kaz was about to ask further about Minoru’s mother when the latter’s cell phone hummed.  Checking the text message, Minoru stopped in his tracks.  “Oh no,” he exclaimed.

            “What?”  Minoru’s face had gone white, if it were possible. 

            “This is not good,” he replied. “Where is Aimi today?”

            “She’s at the shop.”

            “Have you the number?”  Minoru punched the numbers into his phone as the two walked on now at a quickened pace.  Aimi apparently answered the phone, for Minoru made a polite but fast greeting and added, “Will you be able to leave work?  I’m sorry to ask you this favor, but can you meet Kaz and myself at the Metro?  There’s a serious problem, and I may need your help.”  There was a pause as the two halted at the nearby bus stop, and Minoru said into the phone, “Thank you, Aimi.  We’ll be there soon and I’ll explain.”

            Ringing off, Minoru then speed-dialed another number, but after several moments he rang off.  “Kaldera is nowhere to be found,” he commented.  “Not to diminish Mei and Midori’s importance, but I believe we, or rather myself with your and Aimi’s assistance should suffice.”

            The bus was pulling up, Minoru and Kaz the only ones waiting.  They were aboard almost before the bus stopped moving, and Minoru headed for the rear seats where they could sit and hold their instrument cases comfortably. 

            “Minoru, what is going on?”  Kaz asked, once they had sat down.  “I’ve never seen you so agitated.”

            Minoru was in fact shaking, and he nearly dropped his phone.  “That text,” he said, “means it is time for truth to be told; but,” Minoru added, “I am not sure if I can do it.  Let us please say no more, until we see Aimi.”

            Asuka was on her cell in her room.  She was confused, firstly about a strange message delivered to her today, and the conversation she was currently engaged in.  “Homoka,” she said, “I don’t understand why you’re so concerned about this.  So Minoru and Aimi were seen together; so what?  Aimi is a friend, a very dear one, and there is nothing going on there.  You are overreacting.” 

            There was a silence as Asuka listened, and she replied, “I am sorry, I must go.  My mother wishes to see me right now; I will call you later, but please don’t worry about it.  All right, goodbye.”

            Asuka sighed and tossed the phone onto her bed.  Homoka was in one of her conspiratorial moods, and her teammate, though a good friend tended to see more to a situation than there actually was.  She brushed out her hair, put it back in a ponytail, and smoothed her blouse and skirt.  Nanae had said Keru was coming home soon, and he wanted both to be present for a family meeting. 

            She wondered what this was about as she descended the staircase, and found herself feeling most uncomfortable.  Asuka remembered that Nanae had said very little at dinner the night before, and she looked terribly restrained.  Keru had of course not spoken much, but for a few cursory questions about each of their days.

            When she tried to question her mother in private following the meal Nanae only said, “I cannot speak about this while your father is in the house, Asuka.  See me tomorrow, after he has gone to work.”

            Further bewildered, Asuka spent the balance of the evening in her room attending to her summer break homework and reading.  She then slept in; Keru had already left for work by the time she came down for breakfast.  There, one of the staff told her that Nanae had not yet arisen. 

            Concerned, Asuka went back upstairs after breakfast and caught her mother in the hall.  The conversation was brief, and even more baffling. 

            “Clouds are gathering; I anticipate a coming storm,” her mother said.  Nanae placed a firm hand on Asuka’s wrist.  “Be prepared, Asuka,” she said, “and be brave when the time calls for it.” 

            Nanae turned without further word, and headed downstairs.  Asuka did not have time to say more; Nanae’s words were cryptic, and the look in her eyes was one Asuka had never seen before.  For the first time ever, Asuka thought Nanae was actually afraid of something; but what? 

            With nothing else to go on, Asuka busied herself with a workout in the small gym in the basement of the house, and then returned to her room for more homework.  Now came this call from Homoka; and before Asuka could leave the room, her phone went off again.

            This ring tone was the special one Asuka reserved for Minoru, and she plucked the cell off the bed.  Before Asuka could say more than hello, she was cut off. 

            “We’re coming over,” Minoru said, “but do not tell your parents, please!   Our arrival must be made in secret.”

            “Minoru, what in the world is going on?”  Asuka demanded.  “Everyone I’ve spoken to today has been acting crazy.  What is happening?”

            “I’ll tell you when we get there.”  Minoru’s voice sounded like he was either running or walking fast, as he was breathless.  “Just hold on!” 

            The line went dead.  Then Asuka heard the front door open, followed by the familiar heavy tread of Keru’s feet, plus the lighter footsteps of Daisuke.  She heard her name being called, and that of Nanae’s in the voice Keru used when he had something important to discuss.

            Putting her phone down again, Asuka left the room.  She suddenly felt very afraid.

            The day was darkening, and the wind had begun to blow.  The first drops of rain began to fall, and struck hard.  Yet Kaldera was unconcerned about this as he sat in meditation outside on the deck.  Had his eyes been open, Kaldera would have been staring to sea, but he remained focused on his breathing and that imaginary point before him. 

            He was alone; Marlie had moved on with her tour after staying that first night with Kaldera, and he had not heard much from his friends.  They now were on his mind.  Kaldera sat in contemplation of what he was feeling; he could ascertain the energies of each person involved. 

            There was the rumble of thunder; Kaldera could feel the wind blow his hair back and slam against the closed glass doors.  The rain fell harder, and stung his face.  What Kaldera had felt growing in strength these past few days he now identified.

            “I know,” he said aloud to the sky, “and there is nothing I can do.  It is up to those most closely involved.”

            “You cannot be serious, Father!”

            Asuka was seated in the living room beside her mother, while Keru stood near the unlit fireplace.  He had delivered his verdict on the matter at hand. 

            She looked to her left.  Nanae stared at her husband, her dark eyes narrowed.  Beyond her, Daisuke stood near the doors to the patio.  His face remained impassive, but the look he shot Keru’s direction was a stern one; he, too was not pleased with what he had heard.

            “I am perfectly serious,” Keru said, displeased at what he considered back talk from his daughter.  “It is clear to me,” he went on, “that you have a choice to make:  either cut your associations with that rabble you’ve been hanging around with, or another school elsewhere will be your fate.”

            Nanae stood up.  “Keru,” she replied, a rarely-expressed anger in her voice, “your arrogance knows no bounds!  I overheard your conversation with the headmaster of that school.  I am insulted,” she continued, “that you have the temerity to set these plans in motion without consulting me, and without even considering our daughter’s feelings.”

            Nanae was usually more than a match for Keru, but this time he appeared ready for it.  “Do not go against me on this, Nanae,” he returned, “I have made up my mind; these lowlifes from Asuka’s influence.”

            “They are not lowlifes!”  Asuka was angry, yet also scared as she too stood and approached her father.  “They are my friends, and they are as good as any people I have ever met.  In fact, they are better than many of the people I thought were my friends.”

            “Then perhaps you need to learn to choose your friends more wisely,” Keru snapped, and he too stepped forward.  A tall girl, Asuka still had to look up to Keru.  “I have worked long and hard for too many years,” he declared, “to build our family’s business, and to have something for you in your future.  Minoru is one matter, but these others are people who will amount to nothing.  They quite likely are your friends only because they sense wealth, or something they can get hold of.”

            “That is not so!  They are real people who care nothing for class!”  Asuka felt her eyes welling up with tears, and she was shaking.  Keru looked even bigger now than before, and for some reason Nanae was silent on the whole thing.  Had she given up?

            Her voice shaking, Asuka looked her father in the eye.  She saw his lined face and the scowl that filled her vision.  “I shall do neither of the things you say, Father,” she said, “and that is my decision!

            Asuka heard the crack and felt herself falling, a sharp pain across the left side of her face where Keru had struck her.  Her body fell to the carpet, which did little to cushion her fall.  Asuka saw stars; she heard Aimi and Kaz’s voices, and those familiar hands take hold of her.  She heard Nanae shouting angrily at Keru, and Daisuke’s voice as he told his boss to control himself. 

            Then there came another voice:  “Stop!  Dissemble no more, Keru!  Or do you still deny that which is due your son?”

            The room fell silent but for the rain, which Asuka was only vaguely aware of at this moment.  She looked up to see Minoru, standing in his customary black clothing and overcoat at the entrance to the living room.  He strode past her and their friends, and placed himself in the center of the room, between Asuka and Keru.  As she looked past him to her father, Asuka saw the man’s face had changed from one of great anger to one of shock.

            Everyone else appeared stunned by this statement too, but for Daisuke.  He calmly walked back to his place by the windows and stood there, a knowing look on his face.

            “Minoru,” Nanae gasped, “what did you just say?”

            Minoru continued to glare at Keru.  “This man is my father,” he said quietly.  “It has been our dirty little secret for far too long.  I knew one day,” he added, as his own voice began to falter, “that I would have to bring this out.  You always said that it was too early, or the timing was not right.  But I now know, that time would never have been right for you.”

            He turned and helped the others lift Asuka back to her chair.  The side of her face throbbed, and tears ran down her face, as she stared in disbelief at Minoru.  She tried to say his name, but no words came.

            Minoru turned again, and stood fully erect before Keru.  “All your young servants,” he said, “are drifting away.  I care not if you cut me off forever; but you will not use Asuka, and you will not take away what the both of us have desired for years!”

            He then turned and stormed from the room.  Asuka rose to her feet, pushed past Kaz and hurried down the hall.  But Minoru had gained a head start; Asuka felt the breeze from the open front door, and she ran out into the now-driving rain behind him.

            “Minoru, wait for me!” She shouted.  “I need to know!”  Asuka nearly fell going down the steps, but caught herself.  She jumped from the stone steps to the carport, then followed Minoru down to the lawn.

            Fortunately Minoru had cut across here, so the going was easier on Asuka’s feet.  She put on speed and caught Minoru on the lawn near the street.  Grabbing at the bag that held his shamisen, Asuka pulled him to a stop, then got in front of Minoru. 

            “Asuka,” Minoru said, “I can’t say anymore, this is not the time--”

            --Minoru, for once will you shut up!”  Asuka screamed at him.  “I must know,” she pleaded, “is this true?  Are you my brother?” 

            It was like looking in a mirror, she was just able to comprehend.  Through the rain, the tears flooding from her eyes and her shaking from emotion and the cold of the outside, Asuka could tell that Minoru was in the exact same condition.  He was sobbing; Asuka had not seen this from Minoru since the day Ebissan had died.

            “Yes,” he cried, “you’re my sister, my half-sister.  I’m sorry, Asuka--I’ve been lying to you.  But there is another who loves you.  He is closer than you think.” 

            Minoru then pushed past her and hurried off in the rain, and this time Asuka could not follow him.  Her legs buckled and she collapsed into the wet grass and mud.

            Asuka felt Aimi taking hold of her arm and pulling her to her knees.  She heard Kaz’s voice as he ran past them down the street, calling for Minoru to come back.   

            Asuka could bear no more.  She buried her face in her hands and screamed her brother’s name.

(Writer's Note:  "Climb" is written by John Lauver, and was performed by Ahltyrra.)
###
There you have it!  Please leave comments, I welcome them...

"There's no rewrite in this carnival world..."--Jimmy Buffett

Well, it's been a while since I've blogged, and I have been busy and with enterprise of late.  So where have I been?

First, the radio work is about the same, weekends for Radio PA/KYW, occasional work on WITF, and Clear Channel.  Not much different.

Am doing my best to finally get a bit more work out there.  I have a new profile on a voiceover site, so we'll see what transpires through it:

http://voice123.com/torrancegates

So you'll get to hear some recent cuts and voice tracks.  I will change those from time to time.  Seeing what's out there.

Also looking into jobs in a few places, to see if anything's available. 

From Jimmy Buffett, to "Law Dogs," by the Doobie Brothers.  From last year's "World Gone Crazy" CD.  Good stuff.

The pitfalls of having your resume online can suck...I've gotten calls from fly by night operations looking for people, or rather other suckers for their pyramid schemes.  Fun.

The music has been good the past few weeks; I won't be going to HMAC Wednesday, as I have a coven parting ritual to attend.  I will officially leave Moonsong after nearly eight years; it is a decision I've written of in the past and I don't feel the need to say any more about it.

Whether or not the rest of the band goes up there, I don't know.  They are free to do it, they don't need me.

"Over the Waterfall," Robert Earl Keen...exceptional song from "Picnic."  Best thing he's ever done.

My relationship with Alice is back on, and it's good.  We have had some rough spots, but we both agree those needed to be ridden out before we commit.  But we are, and maybe we should be...heh.

It's all good...there's a feeling of stability I've not had in years, and Alice and I have agreed to take our time with all this.  It's very good, very good indeed.

Working out...yes, still on course.  Nearly three months in, and I'm feeling and looking a lot better.  My swimming and cardio work is going well, and while you have to make adjustments sometimes, it is working.  I have not felt this well in years.

Writing...sigh, but you know a new story has been working in my brain for months...it needs more tweaking before I can write it, but I do think it has potential.

The Sweet Dreams Series is being edited, and I'll have a new chapter of "Take Another Road" here soon.  We'll see how everything works out.

All's good, and if I don't get here again before, a Joyous Samhaim to you and yours!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Take Another Road," Chapter 18--Perfect for Mei

Here we go, with another chapter of "Take Another Road."  Before so doing, I must do a bit of an update on things:

The Dharma Fools will again be back onstage Wednesday evening at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center, aka HMAC.  Open Mic Night starts at 7:30, hosted by the amazing Mike Banks...it's a lot of fun and a great to be had.

Now, onward we go...enjoy, and let me know what you think!

###


Chapter 18—Perfect for Mei

            Mei turned in her seat on the Metro, and tried to see ahead to the approaching station.  She was decked out once again in her Gothic Lolita rig, and headed for Harajuku, where she’d meet up with Midori.  There was a still a few minutes to go, and she cycled through her iPod while waiting. 

            The car she was riding in was full of cosplayers, Furries, and just about every anime show or film one could name was represented.  There was also a knot of Ganguro girls, a curious bunch that (allegedly) emulated the Southern California lifestyle, by caking on layers of dark pancake makeup to make them looked tanned.  Pre-cancero Girls, Mei called them, generally because they were obnoxious, even by Otaku standards.  That, plus their platinum blonde and other wildly colored wigs attracted the most attention of the car. 

            She hid her smirk as she looked at some of the more conventionally dressed Japanese, plus the few tourists who looked absolutely frightened, like they’d walked onto the set of Night of the Living Dead.  Mei found the song she wanted and sat back.

“I can’t help it, you’re perfect for me

I could care less, you’re perfect for me

I’ve been waiting, you’re perfect for me

Right now…”



            The singer sounded like an aging punk rocker with a young hardcore band behind him, but Mei didn’t care.  The song reminded her of Midori, and the lyrics, though a little goofy at certain points was perfect, for her.  She nodded in time to the beat, and thought about her discussion that morning with Reiko.

            Mei had done an early workout, and then made sure her mother would be all right for a few hours.  Reiko assured her she would be, and added as they sat on her bed while Mei wrapped her right wrist, “You need some time with your significant other.”

            Mei laughed as she lost her grip on the Ace bandage, and had to rewrap Reiko’s hand.  Both of Reiko’s wrists tended to swell up, and the bandages gave her support to take hold of items. 

            “Yeah, well,” she commented, “I’m glad you are joking about it Mom, instead of being mad at me.”

            “How could I be angry,” Reiko replied, “when my daughter radiates a light I’ve never seen from her?”

            Mei’s eyebrows went up.  “A light?”

            “Yes.”  Reiko ran her free hand through Mei’s hair.  “Midori is a charming girl, and she has needed someone as much as you have.  I don’t know much of her life, but from what you have told me, you two girls have a great deal in common.  If you are in love, then so be it.  I will always support you, Mei, whichever path you choose.”

            “It’s a different kind of love…”  Mei smiled as she thought of the conversation.  The train was slowing up, and she was on her feet to get to the door quickly.  Mom’s cool; she has always been, but I am so thankful she’s on our side.  I wonder how Midori’s parents will react when they find out.  They seem pretty open-minded, but still…something like this is generally accepted here, but not always.

            The train came to a stop, and Mei strode in her “bitch boots” to the stairs through the crush of commuters.  She tucked her earbuds inside her school bag, made sure her long hair was out of the strap and stepped into Harajuku. 

            Immediately, Mei was in an element familiar to her:  most of the people here were in costume, apart from the tourists and those who actually worked in the area.  Each time was different here, Mei knew, a surreal wonderland of color and outlandish fashion.  Shops with brightly colored awnings and window dressings promised good deals on top-line merchandise; street musicians, particularly kodo drummers and shamisen players vied for attention and tips amongst the revelry.  But Mei was not looking at, nor listening to any of it.  She was making for the boardwalk area, where she and Midori were to meet.

            Then she saw her.  Midori’s costume was a little more subdued today, a very short grey skirt (almost completely covered by Mei’s old jacket), white hose with black ribbons that went to mid-thigh, and a pair of patent leather shoes with chunky heels.  Mei started to have that feeling the moment she saw Midori…but who was this she was talking to?

            Mei ducked behind a news pillar.  This person was not in costume; that was certain.  It was a woman, but Mei could not ascertain her age, due to her shaved head and androgynous red and orange robes.  It was a Buddhist nun, and there were a group of others standing nearby, apparently waiting for this one to finish her conversation with Midori.

            Mei continued to watch.  The woman was several years older than Midori, but the two were speaking to each other in a very personal manner, and both seemed extremely happy to see one another.  Midori never told me she knew a nun; I wonder if this is a relative of hers.  I’d love to meet her, but this talk looks like a private one.

            After a few moments more, the two held each other in a long embrace, and kissed one another on the cheeks.  The nun waved and rejoined her colleagues, and all walked off.  Mei watched as Midori stood there, her hands together in front of her, smiling.  The meeting with this woman was obviously unexpected.

            Mei casually walked around the pillar as if she’d just arrived.  Midori saw her immediately, ran to her and practically leaped into her arms, hailing her friend and kissing her lips.  “I’m so glad to see you,” she said, “you’ve just missed an old friend of mine.”

            “Oh, really?”  Mei hated to lie, but feigned knowing.  “Who was it?”

            “Her name is Lobsang, but that’s really her divinity name,” Midori explained.  “It’s Sherpa for ‘kind-hearted one,’ and she was.”

            “How did you know her?”  Mei asked.

            “Well,” Midori began to explain, then paused.  “Lobsang was a mentor to me when I was little.”  Then she stopped again.

            “What is it?”  Mei reached out and took Midori gently by the shoulders.  A haunted look had come across Midori’s face.

            Midori looked up at Mei, and there were mixed emotions in those huge brown eyes.  “I need to tell you,” she said, “come on.” 

            Taking Mei’s hand, Midori led her onto the long wooden walkway, and they traveled a distance down it in silence.  Mei understood that something big was coming, and they needed some sort of privacy.  Eventually they found an open spot, and Midori slid her legs onto the second rail of the fence-like protective barrier.  As she leaned on the top rail, Mei joined her in a similar fashion. 

            “I haven’t told you about certain things,” Midori said as she stared forward and rested her chin on her forearms.  “Seeing Lobsang today brings it all back.  Mei, you’ve noticed that my Mom and Dad are pretty young?”

            “Yes.”  Mei watched Midori as she spoke.  “I assumed you had been adopted at an older age, not as a baby.”

            “You are right,” Midori said.  “I was adopted when I was nine.  Something happened in Osaka, where I used to live.  We’d moved here just before you and I met, but that’s where I was born.

            ‘My father,” she continued, “I never knew.  He split from my mother when I was very small, and I barely remember him.  So it was just my mom and my sister and me.”

            Mei turned further in surprise.  “You have a sister?”

            “Had.”  Midori continued to stare ahead.  Her fingers now shook, and Midori gripped the sleeves of her jacket to make it stop.  “Her Japanese name was Takako, but I used to not be able to pronounce it, so we all called her Taka.  She was three years older than me.  Anyway, after our father left, it was the three of us in a tiny apartment. 

            ‘Mom didn’t have much education, and being Korean it was pretty hard to find work,” Midori explained.  “She worked two jobs a lot, and I don’t remember seeing her much.  We couldn’t afford a babysitter, so Taka was the one who looked after me.”

            “That’s awfully young to have that job,” Mei commented.

            Midori nodded.  “But Taka really was good to me,” she replied, as she turned to face Mei.  “We got along so well, never fought or anything.  She also told me a lot about how things were:  when I’d ask about Dad, she would tell me that he had to leave, and that Mom was working really hard for us, and that I should not ask for anything too special or expensive for my birthday or for the holidays.  The money just was not there.  I understood, as best as a small child can, but then again it didn’t matter.  Taka and I were so close; having her in my life made it all right.”

            Mei slid her arm around Midori’s shoulders.  She had stared off again, and Mei knew there was more to come.  “What happened to them?”

            “It was what happened to me, Mei,” Midori replied.  “I was five years old at the time.  It was winter, and I remember it being very, very cold that season.  I remember that Mom seemed to be home more than usual.  Taka told me that she’d lost one of her jobs, and that things were even tighter than before.”

            Midori had set her teeth behind her lips, but only for a moment.  “Then one night,” she continued, “Taka took me into our bedroom and got me dressed to go out.  I didn’t have a winter jacket, and neither did my sister.  But we did the best we could with what clothes we had.

            ‘I asked where we were going,” Midori continued, “and Taka said Mom was sending us to the store for a couple of items.  I didn’t think anything of it; we often did that for her.

            ‘But soon…” Midori shuddered slightly before going on, “I realized we not going to the grocery store near our apartment; we were going in a different direction, to another neighborhood that I’d never been in before.”

            Midori reached over to Mei, and took her other hand in both of hers.  “I asked Taka why we were going this way,” she said, “and she turned and looked down at me, with the saddest look on her face.  She finally said that Mom needed a couple of things at a certain store that we could not get at the other.  I had no reason to doubt her.

            ‘It was getting very dark, and very cold now,” Midori went on.  “There weren’t many streetlights in this part of the city, and it was spooky.  We got the things Mom wanted, and we started for home.  After a block or two, Taka turned to me and said, ‘Hey!  Race you home!’”

            Mei gasped inwardly as Midori continued, “We did that all the time, and I told her, ‘You’re on!’  Taka took off running and of course she got ahead of me quickly.  She kept running, and she didn’t look back.”

            “My God,” Mei breathed as she pulled Midori to her.  Midori continued to stare forward, dry-eyed as the story tumbled from her lips in a slow rush.  “Have you ever felt so completely alone, so lost and unwanted, as that?  I ran after Taka, yelling for her to stop, she was going too fast.  But she ran off into the night, and I never saw her again.”

            Midori rested her head in Mei’s arms as she continued:  “I didn’t know where I was.  None of the streets were familiar, and I kept running, hoping to catch Taka or to find a street, a building or some landmark I recognized.  I found neither.  I ran till I was exhausted; I was in the street, alone and knew no one.  I had no money; I didn’t even know my phone number.  I tried to stop someone for help, but for a long time, no one would.  Who’s going to help a Korean?”

            Mei massaged Midori’s shoulder with one hand and ran her other through the girl’s hair.  “All these people,” Midori said, “just walked past me.  They acted like I didn’t exist.  Finally, a young couple did stop.  They calmed me down and called the police.  Two officers drove up, and I gave my address.  They took me home, and said they would find out why this happened.  But when we got there, all we found was the landlord and one of our neighbors from the floor.  I was told that Mom and Taka were seen leaving the apartment, each with a suitcase.  The landlord told the police Mom was behind on the rent, and that he was going to evict us.

            ‘I remember being in a state of shock.  Mom was gone, Taka was gone, and I felt like nobody wanted me.  The police could not get a hold of anyone from Child Services that late at night, so they took me to a temple run by Buddhist monks.  I was taken in, while the police tried to find my family.”

            “Did they?”  Mei asked.

            “No.”  Midori shook her head, raised it slightly, and then leaned on Mei’s shoulder again.  “They disappeared.  I don’t know what became of them.  Anyway, the elder monks assigned Lobsang to look after me.  There were other orphans there, mostly Korean children.  Lobsang told me that one of the missions of the temple was to help the children that nobody wanted.  She made a space for me in her tiny room, and she looked after me for four years.”

            Midori sat up, but she clung to Mei.  “That’s where I learned about meditation,” she explained.  “I used to follow Lobsang to the hall, and seeing everyone sit and do it, I thought I should as well.  That delighted everyone, and I became inseparable from Lobsang.  The others called me her ‘Shadow,’ but it was meant well.  I made friends with the other kids there, but Lobsang was everything to me—my second sister, my second mother, my only real friend.

            ‘I thought a lot about what had happened.  I don’t blame Taka, nor do I hate her for what she did, Mei--I know Mom ordered her to lose me on the way home.  Maybe she thought one less mouth to feed would make it easier.”

            “Still,” Mei replied, trying to suppress the anger and sadness in her, “that’s not the way to do it.”

            “I know,” Midori said, “and I once asked Lobsang why Mom would do such a thing.  She said she didn’t know, and we can’t always know the mind of another in a situation like that.  Lobsang said she thought that Mom must have been so stressed out that her mind made decisions she wasn’t aware of, or didn’t understand.  Anyway, I feel worse for Taka.”

            “How?”

            “Taka would be 18 now,” Midori said, “and I wish I could know how she is.  She protected me, watched out for me so well.  To be told to get rid of her little sister must have been terribly painful.  I wonder how she has borne that.”

            Midori slid her feet back to the walkway, and Mei joined her.  As they walked back toward the crowd, Midori held to Mei.  “Mom and Dad visited the temple when I was nine.  Believe it or not, that couple that helped me that night in the street?  It was them; they were looking to adopt, and Mom remembered that night, and wondered where I had ended up.  They made inquiries, and found me.  Mom said she knew we were meant to be a family.”

            Mei smiled.  “That’s amazing,” she said, “but yeah, she was right.  I’m ashamed to admit this, Midori,” she continued, “but I did see Lobsang with you.  Just the very end of the conversation, and it looked like something I should not intrude on.  Was that the first time you’d seen her since leaving the temple?”
            “Yes, we’d stayed in touch by letter on occasion,” Midori explained, “and she is well.  She is mentoring another little girl now.  I do wish you could have met her,” she added as they stopped along the beginning of one of the crowded streets, “you would not have interfered.  I did tell Lobsang about you, and she is happy for us.”

            They stopped, and Mei smiled as Midori leaned her body against her.  She felt the girl’s arms go around her waist.  “I’m even more astounded now,” Mei said as she stroked Midori’s cheek, “by you.”

            Midori smiled in response.  “How?”

            “You didn’t cry or break down while telling me that story,” Mei said, “and you are so forgiving of Taka.  Add to it, your happiness and kindness towards others, me especially is touching.”

            Midori bowed her head on Mei’s shoulder and said, “It is what I’ve learned.  In Buddhism, you learn to love, you learn to be kind, to yourself and others; and you learn to forgive, truly forgive once you understand everything.  I have nothing to complain about:  I’m alive, I have a family, I have friends and I am in love.”  She looked up and kissed Mei on the lips.  “That’s with you, you know.”

            Mei smiled and kissed Midori back, and the two held to each other as a costumed world turned around them, not knowing or caring about it, for the moment.

###

(Writer's Note:  "Perfect" is written by John Cale, and appears on his CD, blackAcetate, 2005.

There you have it!