Free and Clean?

Townes Van Zandt sings from the tinny boombox: living on the road my friends, is gonna keep you free and clean. I laugh. Since when has anyone stayed clean on the road. Still, Townes was part right, I was free. Free of Mr. Charming, free of everything that entailed. I thought I was free of Japan, but the fact was in years to come I’d find myself never free, like I had somehow absorbed some of the country’s yamato spirit into my own bloodstream. Great Harmony: 大和. Yamato damashii: the Japanese spirit of valor and honor and harmoniousness, as opposed to foreign influences was at war with my own more Abrahamic angels. I would find myself thinking of Nara or Kyoto, or the sweet park in Tokyo called Inokashira which feels like you fell into a Ghibli movie. I guess Studio Ghibli agrees with that – he put his museum there….Grandpa would take us there, buying ice creams and enjoying the day with me and the children, just the four of us. I loved Inokashira Koen. There is a squirrel enclosure, a small but kind zoo, in which the animals are mostly small and local, and beautiful cherry trees to sit under. We would pull up in his huge van, and take the children out when they were tiny, to teeter totter and once, to look at visiting panda bears.

We would go to the temple there, or look at animals. We never made it to the Ghibli museum. The areas around this place – Kichijoji and Ochanomizu ( Lucky Omen Temple and Tea Water Place respectively) are truly lovely places to live, one of the few areas in Tokyo to have some trees and green around. I always wished I lived in Kichijoji. There is a photo I no longer have, it just lives in my memory, of Girl walking up steps in Inogashira Koen, she is about three, and wearing little tan slacks and a pink and blue sweater, over her arm is a small purse in which she has placed her toy dog, a husky with blue eyes. She carries him everywhere. The stairs are almost as big as she is. The photo is taken from behind. It struck me as so sweet, so lovely, that I had to snap it. Who knows where it is now. Charming might have it, if he cared enough. He probably threw it away. I put myself back there, and run up to her panting, desperate: baby baby baby! I scoop her up and hold her close and squeeze her telling her I am never letting her go again. I go back and live in those few seconds in Kitchijoji, and drag her to the future with me all over again.

Except life doesn’t work like that. Time in linier and what is done is done, what is past is past, and I can’t change any of it.

The road saved me. I wish things had gone better for us all.


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