Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Previously Published: Nerd in Japan (Part II of II)

Continued from Part I

More months pass, more of the same, you feel like you could be anywhere in the world. You are tired of spending so much on books. You fantasize about second hand bookshops. You believe in karma, all the Toronto libraries you avoided so carefully as a smoking teenager, now in a land where even the big ole library by your apartment doesn't carry a single English novel. You dream of a vacation – a break from your routine. Your little collection of things you have not yet read is running low, so is money. 'The Brothers Karamazov' still sits - all of it - on your shelf and hard as you vacuum your tatami mat the dust on that great book doesn't move. You realize you don’t know how to remove dust from a book. Reading it is not an option either since you haven't yet gained the drive to endure all the people, all the struggle and all the weather of Russia.

In the sliding paper doors of your current bedroom world, the winter gets right inside your room and your mind. You realize the weather frames your thoughts.

Then late December, your parents come to visit. The dreamed of break in the routine. Suddenly it feels less cold inside (though not, ironically, to your Canadian parents, fresh from their insulated centrally heated world).

Your father has brought you some used books. Your brother has sent a stack of New Yorkers. You read little and travel lots. Your nose runs and your parents do too. You try and keep up. You see much of the country, enjoying what remains foreign to you. You train it most of the way until you need a cable car to get up a mountain. You are on top of the pines. It is cold and quiet and you wake up at 6 am with the monks and then eat what they would eat, seaweed and soggy tofu for breakfast. Your father dreams of bacon and eggs. You pretend not to. Your parents go back home. You miss home.

Near the end of winter vacation the great big bookstore downtown has one of their biannual English book sales. Like a starving child with a golden ticket you run into the marvelous factory to take all you can get. Books for five and eight dollars, books that would cost double and triple that at home. Good books too, like a Hemingway, or a John Irving when you feel like watching a movie in book form.

You get home to find a friend has sent you some short stories by post. You're desk is not enough. You're whole room is a library and it's growing and it doesn't seem to matter as much that it's cold outside. You're not sure you are reading any faster but you are certainly reading more, trying to dent the pile at the same time as you rev up to teach and write and rent videos all over again.

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