Monday, May 27, 2013

"An odd sense of companionship arises along the lonely road--a solidarity of sorts with the darkened truckstop, the rare passing drivers you only know by their hazy taillights, and most of all the big sky that reminds you emptiness can be beauty, too. 

Crossing three state borders in one night's madcap ride, and there are still twenty bottles of beer left
...on the wall 
" I typed on my mom's iPhone screen, fumbling with the letters as we jolted along on the freeway in Middle-of-Nowhere, Northern Michigan.

From Friday till today (Monday where I am, here in Tokyo) every day has been spent traveling. On Friday, as soon as we landed in Chicago our first order of business was picking up the rental car that took us down that aforementioned "lonely road," all so that we could make Adrianna's graduation the morning following. We all sighed when the trip seemed to have suddenly gotten longer--in actuality, all that had happened was losing an hour because of the Central to Eastern time change.

When we finally pulled into a hotel in Big Rapids, MI, it was drawing close to 3 AM. The following morning we'd wake up early to make the final leg of the drive up to Interlochen...all these miles being covered by dear old Dad. No one else in the family knows how to drive (yet). (I'm on it!)

Adrianna's graduation made me feel simultaneously old and young. To see your sister in a cap and gown is to see a little bit of your own life flash before your eyes. It's also an incredibly proud and happy feeling. When the Dean of Students at Interlochen called out her name I stood up (screw decorum!) and yelled with a "WOOOOOOOOO" so loud that a lady two rows forward turned and stared.

Immediately after Adrianna had bid some all-too-brief goodbyes to friends and classmates we took off for Chicago again. That night we had the chance  to meet up with the Gevinsons--I first met/last saw Tavi three years ago when we were both speaking at the IdeaCity conference in Toronto, Canada. In fact, the entire day was filled with seeing people I haven't talked to in ages, from my sister in the morning (boarding school half across the country isn't exactly conducive to family visits), to Tavi in the evening, to friends from summer camp at Stanford last year at night! I stayed up (or as my dad put it, "slacked off way too much") talking to them till some time past midnight Chicago time...but I wouldn't have changed it for the world. And this all left me completely exhausted but FIRED UP AND READY TO GOOO (yeah, stolen from the Obama campaign a l'il bit) in the morning for the 11-hour flight to Tokyo!

Can you tell my enthusiasm is manufactured?

The first thing I said, stupidly, when my sister raised the window shade on the plane was, "Oh my god. Oh my god. It's the water. They're boats!" I dunno what I thought the spectral shapes floating in the fog-shrouded water were, but as we began the slow lurch forward (aka gradual descent to Narita) some of their names even became clear.

Getting off the plane launched us into a deluge of culture shock, from the vending machines to the hustle and bustle to the face-mask-wearing masses. It reminded me of something out of the movie "Contagion" except sans white people. (Why haven't I seen any Americans here wearing face masks?)

A few more quick thoughts/mental snapshots of Tokyo so far:
- tradition! Our hotel and the restaurant we ate at both feature tatami mats and the requirement of taking the shoes off, so we got thrown into the (relatively, for us) deep end soon! Yayyy
- shortness! I actually feel tall standing next to some doors here. My heart goes out to those poor souls taller than 5'5"
- bikes! So many people here bike, and I've been trying to stay extra observant as to not cause some horrible sidewalk collision
- poor Adrianna! That is to say, most of the restaurants we've been to have not been the most awesome for in, not having anything at all.

All this travel makes me inordinately grateful for a sense of place/home. It's easy, like Ryan Bingham in one of my favorite movies, "Up in the Air," to forget where you come from, to find a place to belong. Often when I walk into airports now I get that same Bingham-esque feeling of having come home--and then I remind myself of people. Because ultimately it's not the familiar roads or flowering trees or even my house itself that speak "home" the loudest to me, but the friends I love and who, I promise, I'm reminding myself to buy souvenirs for.

There's a famous Chinese poem wherein a weary traveler sees the moonlight and thinks of his family seeing the same. Looking up and seeing the moon and the stars has always given me solace because of the comforting thought of people I know seeing the same moon and the same stars. It's probably why I had my face pressed up against the cold glass of the rental car as we drove from Chicago to Michigan, trying to stare up at the vast empty sky and memorize its outlines with all the intensity of someone trying ESP. Maybe it's why now, I've perched myself on my windowsill to look up at the night sky in Tokyo. And what with timezones and all the rest, barring the idea that we are looking at the same things at the same time, I think of this line from Up in the Air instead.

"Tonight, most people will be welcomed home by jumping dogs and squealing kids. Their spouses will ask about their day, and tonight, they’ll sleep. The stars will wheel forth from their daytime hiding places; and one of those lights, slightly brighter than the rest, will be my wingtip, passing over."

1 comment:

  1. I don't know how long you are staying in Japan but we don't want Adrianna to starve. Perhaps she can try shiitake-maki (mushroom roll), natto (fermented soybeans, warning it is strong!), kappa (cucumber), or perhaps tofu dengaku if she eats eggs. There are several Japan vegetarian/vegan survival guides on the Web you can search for.