I have been sulking for a while now over the death and mutant resurrection of my digital camera. It's a serious matter; a dozen tragedies bloom every time I step outside without it. You don't bring a knife to a gun-fight, and you don't go for a walk in Japan (or, as I have been thinking of it these days, Earth-J) with only your eyes as testimony. The camera was stone dead for a while, but when I swapped a borrowed battery into it, it came back to life. Evidently, it had killed both of the lithium-ion batteries I had been using for it. (They won't re-charge any more.) I bought a new battery (for 5000 yen, not chump change), and the camera works, but it drains the battery at a highly accelerated rate, so I have to keep popping the battery in and out while I'm in the field. That will do for now, but it will be a problem for more serious photographic research.
TALES OF THE SLIGHTLY SPOOKY
Before I came to Japan, I spent a week driving around South Dakota. One of my stops was in Deadwood, the hometown of Wild Bill Hickok. (There are several beautiful old buildings with modern slot machines inside, as gambling is legal there.) On a hill overlooking the town, there is an old cemetery with the first pioneers of the land, Civil War veterans, and Wild Bill himself. I decided to stop by - photographing old cemeteries is kind of a hobby of mine. The cemetery was fairly interesting, and I took a lot of photographs. There was another very steep hill above it, where the guidebook said just one man was buried, Seth Bullock, the big dog of old Deadwood. Feeling adventurous, I climbed up. I could tell I was the only person who'd been up there for days. The plot of land around Seth Bullock's grave was surrounded by a small black wrought-iron fence with a stone base. On the left wall of the base was a sealed white envelope under a rock. I picked it up to look at it, thought about opening it, and decided otherwise. I put it back, took a photograph, and left.
When I finally returned home to Chicago, I transferred the pictures to my computer, and was surprised to notice that some of them were at a lower resolution than others. Somehow, the camera resolution had been changed (which requires pushing at least six different buttons in sequence). I put the pictures in order of when they were taken and realized that all of the pictures I'd taken at and after Seth Bullock's grave were at the lower resolution.
Spooky! Sort of.
A crazy old codger saw me lining up the Deadwood photo and called out, in that way that only crazy old codgers can, "Make sure they smile for you, sonny!" I took the photo and replied, "Somehow, they're resisting my charms, sir." He cackled.
It feels like that was ten years ago, although I've only been here on Earth-J for two and a half months or so. The only reminders of the first 25 years of my life come through the internet (and grateful I am for it). Everything is strange and different, except for bowling, which is much the same, but louder. This place cheats you and allows you to pull scams on it in equal measure. I support economic sanctions against any country whose fast food joints double the prices of milkshakes once the hot season begins...but I bowled seven games yesterday for 700 yen (roughly $6.40), with several games of pop-a-shot and some skiing video game thrown in as well. It's bewildering. If grad school is a sequel to college, then teaching English in Japan is a three-decades-later remake, amped up with rapid jump-cuts and unnecessary special effects. Everyone's still fucking and drinking, but the townies get a more prominent role, because focus groups liked them in the original.
I get such mixed signals from this place. Some days they love you...