Sunday, August 01, 2004

Back in Tsugaru

Well, it looks like I can automatically upload the photos again. Don't know if it's something to do with my location, but that's the only setting that has been changed. Oh yeah baby, I'm back in the seat of Japanese civilisation again, the one that folks round here call Tsugaru. Went out last night to this Italian restaurant and briefly met some of the new JETs. I was too tired to do much talking and there wasn't enough room at the communal table so Aki and I set at the table next to them and kept to ourselves most the time. They all seem nice enough though. There are no obvious hardcore skiers among them, but with time they might bend.

Anyway, here's a shot that I took when I was on a bike ride with R kid in the frills of old Berkhamsted:

Wooooo, scary woods. Or at least that's what it's supposed to look like. Anyway, when I got back to Tokyo it took nearly two hours for me to get to my hotel, an adventure that would have dragged on even longer if it wasn't for me luckily bumping into a girl who spoke fluent English and who seemed determined to get me to my destination. She found the place and I got there and crashed immediately. The next day I got up, washed and went out into the little market under the railway at Ueno. Has it occurred to anyone else that most of the good places in Tokyo are underneath railway lines? They are, you should take note next time you're in town. Aki told me the name of the market last night, but I can't remember for the life of me what she said. (Did you know Aki spent two years at college in Tokyo? I often forget; she's such a bumpkin, you'd never have thought it.) Here is a photo from that little market though:

There's a big difference between a tramp and your everday homeless person. The person in this shot was a tramp; you could see by the glint in his eyes that he was a seasoned man of the streets, with very little scope for resocialisation. He had the heavily frayed cuffs and the nascent dreadlocks that all given tramps wear. In fact, if you think about it, tramps don't beg all so much as the homeless. Rather, they look for food in refuse tanks and in the loading bays of supermarkets at night and when they find something they stick it into their inside coat pocket for later. You could never offer food to a homeless peron, not in my hometown at least. They all just want booze, or money for booze. Homeless people, they are just disorganised folk without homes to live in. They were never meant for the streets and only through pure sociological misfortune do they wind up without a roof over their heads. Often they are unable to think of the consequences of what they're doing sticking needles into their own arms, and staying at home drinking extra strength lager. But tramphood is a pathology. Tramps are there because that is what they were born to do. You can see in the convicted eyes of a tramp a sense of purpose and being, without dislocation or lack. They don't need charity, they just need us to accept them as who they are. Whereas for the homeless, they need a bit of encouragement. I care about the plight of both, but I'd never overlook this distinction. I know this is all very non-politically correct and all that jazz, but it's the truth. The next time you see a man wearing a huge great overcoat on a hot summer's day, walking along a street with plastic bags spouting from his pockets and with an ecstatic and dirty grin across his cheeks, hair stuck to his temples and a greasy hat on his head, just ask him whether or not he's 'homeless' and see what he has to say.

Well, tomorrow is the first day of the summer teachers seminar for me. Hugh and Steve both did it last week and they said last night that it was a boring, sweaty, miserable experience, and they were the ones presenting the damn thing! I'm a presenter as well so I'm not looking forward to my week of boredom, sweat and misery. Till the next time.