I’ve been having horrible writers block recently. But reading Gibson’s Zero History motivated me a bit to start something more postmodern/cyberpunk-ish. Here’s what I have thus far:
Keith arrived in the monthly mansion lobby in Akasaka around 9pm, the Airport Limosine having dropped him off about half an hour prior and Keith dragging his luggage through the slick frost build up from the incoming onslaught of a Tokyo winter. The monthly mansion was lodged in a nondescript alley, but then again everything in Tokyo looked like an alley for most gaijin. Of course, Keith wasn’t necessarily your typical gaijin, having Japanese ethnicity but the natives still had issues digesting that he grew up elsewhere. That said, his familiarity with Tokyo was uncanny but the details of alleys with the city’s purposefully illogical street structure still could deter an expert like him from locating his destination. Hence the additional 20 minutes.
The register greeted him in Japanese compared to the other few foreigners in the lobby. His Japanese was somewhat lacking lately having spent the past 4 years in America. So the clerks switched to broken English (or Engrish) to accommodate his recovering language skills. As the clerk examined his passport, he noted Keith’s Japanese ancestry. “Ah, you are Japanese.”
Impatient. “I grew up in the states. Been out for a few years now.”
“I am sorry. My English not that good. Could you please speak slowly?”
It was a common encounter, even in zones that proclaimed to be foreign friendly. Keith accepted this and in fact expected it most of the time. However, that didn’t mean he wasn’t annoyed through all of this.
Keith finished the registration process, eager to get to his room. It was on the 9th floor, supposedly a non-smoking room. When he arrived on the floor, he noted that the hallway looked like the interior for a mental institution rather than a comfy living space, the almost greenish fluorescent lights flickering from lack of maintenance, the monotonous white walls, almost stainless floors and metal doors. He sniffed the air detecting smoke. Figures.
Went to his door. 914. Ugly number without any symbolic reference. Opened it with an ancient lengthy key. Inside, he was greeted with a musty odor, possibly the former residents recent eviction. Not sure if the hotel might’ve tossed the person out or if they were flat out giving him false advertisement. Keith’s standard paranoia inclined him for both reasons given that this was Japan. Probably a sever kick out too. If it was a foreigner, they might’ve been a partier.
Tossed down his belongings and switched on the bland lighting. Place was probably twice as big as most American’s bathrooms. Tiny bed next to a nightstand. Desk with an archaic ethernet cable (glad he brought his wiring), non-LCD TV. Opened the window in the back to see more buildings. Shuttered the blinds realizing that unless you were some ex-pat getting a mansion over in Naka-Meguro or some high rise, you’d only be seeing the outlines of other buildings. It didn’t matter to him though since he wasn’t here for sight seeing this time.
Quickly, set himself up, connecting his Macbook Air to the ethernet to get himself re-connected with the world. Immediately, hit Facebook and announced on his status:
Left his Macbook Air open and lied on the stiff bed pondering the past few weeks’ worth of events. Mother finally passing away after brain hemorrhaging from a late night stroke. The funeral service that he wasn’t invited to but received a bill and pictures from family members that discarded him through the past year after his mom experienced her first major stroke. Then the phone call from his mentor in Japan for another position with Morgan Stanley. Afterwards, selling the house and moving his stuff into storage. He was going to hate dealing with taxes the following year, but he had more long term plans now.
The important thing was the phone call from his friend, Mike. Both worked together in two other financial institutions. However, both also hopped around a bit when the heat turned up. And both had similar family issues. So there was an odd bond that kept both in contact with each other.
Keith normally was heavily reluctant to re-enter the finance world. The stress of working in tech already had destroyed him physically if not mentally from the long hours, the bad posture, pointless arguments, and other frustrations. Finance was a whole level on top of all that since as the tech worker, you had no power whatsoever. You had accountants and other MBA types running the show so you were just a grunt, a glorified janitor at best.
However, his mother’s death and the opportunity, perhaps the last, to work in Japan with a nice salary and decent title enticed him back into the trenches. He had other motives for returning but wanted to keep his expectations down initially. Still, he was nervous. There was the health check up which he absolutely abhorred, remembering the vampiric nurse who stabbed him with a needle to draw blood and missing, causing his arm to swell up and turn purple. Mike joked how his arm would fall off, which was a gruesome thought despite Keith realizing that Mike was just being a typically obnoxious American. Fortunately though, Keith wasn’t scheduled for the health check up for a while and the clinic was at a more reputable one.
Beyond that, there were just a ton of tasks for him to take care of. He knew the routine. All the forms that Japanese loved needed to be filled out. The training courses. The familiarization with all the new systems. Then later finding his own place and moving out of the company paid for mansion. Maybe as a bonus he’ll get another humorous misplaced attempt at a anti-sexual harassment training course.
As his mind and body relaxed, he started to force himself awake. Jetlag was particularly cruel especially when his employment would begin in two days. It was just 9:30 pm JST but he was certain to wake up at an odd time then fall into poor sleeping habits just before starting his new job.
Fortunately, Tokyo only died around 5 am and around the New Years period. The rest of the time it was awake probably far worse than he would’ve liked at times. Merely got his shoes back on, threw on a leather jacket from his luggage, packed up his Macbook Air into his leather case then hit the streets.
Roppongi was just around the corner, maybe an estimated 7 minute walk (9 considering he was far more out of shape than before) and the perfect spot to lunk around. Once he hit the street level of
Higashigaendori, he increased his momentum as the energy of the city seemed to revive him and disperse the jetlag. More than that there was a pragmatic intuition that stepped up every time he hit Roppongi as hostess girls, Nigerian pimps, yakuza, foreigners and puking salarimen blocked his paths. But he guessed that was part of the whole energy that made him thrive in Tokyo.
Eventually, made his way to the Excelsior wannabe-Starbucks cafe. He hated the place because it allowed for smoking, but was far cheaper and less crowded than Starbucks. Ordered a non-dairy product since he was lactose intolerant, allowing him to survive for a few more hours than he normally would be able to, taking up a corner farthest from the dense fog perpetuating one segment of the cafe and hooked him up. No free WiFi, something he’d have to fix soon. However, a brief scan of local open networks detected several open segments. Figured as long as he wasn’t transmitting data he wanted encrypted, the network would be fine.
Spent about an hour in the cafe before it started to close down. 10:30 pm. Odd number but figured the operators needed to head home and probably lived far in some place like Saitama or Chiba. Didn’t want to head into a bar at this point in time, especially on a Friday night. Decided to check out Roppongi Hills, in which the upper deck was open 24/7. It was a good 10 minute walk through more crowds, less as ferocious as he took the main street with the wider sidewalk. Headphones connected to his iPod Mini, he adopted an anonymous persona, blending into the crowds, observing everyone. With it being a Friday night, you had a huge variety of people from bankers, to IT engineers, to salarimen attempting to snag deals, to people who could’ve been celebrities. However, he was no connoisseur of fashion and figured that most celebrities would probably be either underdressed or far underdressed, leading him to believe that the people here were simply clones miming their idols or whatever magazine pumped out the latest endeavor for the month that was a copy of some Western fad that ended up in reality being an identical copy of their supposed Japanese copy. Again, he felt extremely fortunate to be completely ignorant of that world.
When he got to the escalator, he noticed a significant crowd lying around at the base. Mostly reporters. He felt somewhat intrigued in case it was one of the idols he used to worship. However, that was in a different lifetime compared to now as a five year span away from Japan and it’s entertainment industry negated everything you formerly knew. Most of the women he liked married and had children, some of who worked on their second. Kinda like the other girls he knew and at one time felt partial to in that separate eon.
As he reached the top, he noticed that the main entrance to the Roppongi Hills tower was entrenched with reporters. They almost acted like the barricade that was barring them from flooding inside. Curiously, Keith sat nearby at a bench and watched the scene from a distance. Other groups of people passed by with similar inquisitiveness but with no further drama presenting itself, they simply went back to their business and trotted away.
Around 30 minutes in, Keith grew bored himself. Felt sufficiently satisfied that by the time he returned to his tiny room in Akasaka, he could sleep off the jetlag and get into a normal schedule. Got up and went back to his new residence, again taking even more care to avoid the increasing orange river of debauchery spreading around.
Plugged his laptop into the wall and decided to give his semi-rusty Japanese reading skills some abuse. Went to Sanspo and Yahoo Japan discovering that an executive of a huge internet company was being investigated for securities fraud. A picture of a rotund figure, overly well fed gleamed arrogantly. He was certain that the guy wouldn’t be smiling once he entered the Japanese prison system.