Chronicles of Summer: ….Get Set…..

Time begins to slow down and the seconds tick by a bit lower, then slower still untill finally it all seems to stop and for this instant I’m in mid-stride looking over at the  cross walk and the flood of high school girls flowing across it and the heat is weighing me down, leaning on me, forcing me to carry it.  Snap; and time is moving fast again and in an instant we’re all on the train and beers are distributed and I suck at the cold Heineken greedily as this metal tube rockets us toward the Mecca of faces with names you’ll never know, Shinjuku.

Paulo, 3rdLeisch and I all make a fairly impressive bee-line to the san chome area and to the only real bastion of tolerable Italian food in this  city, Cookin.  This place is awesome like finding out your unicorn shits magic items is awesome.  Simply devastating in its fantasticness.  I make the mistake of going to an ATM first, and letting the two of them go ahead.  By the time I’ve arrived Paulo has ordered beers despite the plan having been wine, and he is sweating, grinding his teeth and pumping his arms all in rhythm while chanting “foodmatefoodmatefoodmate”.

We are the only ones in Cookin at this time and we order a sensible spread; Insalata Caprese, Peperoni ripieni and salami with good prosciutto.  Talk covers many topics but is made slightly awkward due to Paulo’s near Lycanthropic state of mania caused by, I can only assume, insatiable hunger?  He explains…

“See mate, my metabolism right, it’s just so fast.  I have to eat every three hours or I feel like I’m going to pass out. ”

I nod understandingly and so does 3rdLeisch and she lights another cigarette and tells the table that she is going to quit drinking beer for a month starting tomorrow.  Her call sign, 3rdLeisch is a fun funny fun play on words involving her name, her absolutely Aryan appearance and the fact that she too, is a phenomenon that stands alone.  Nobody rock N’ rolls like 3rdLeisch and there are complete teams of Swedish snowboarders that have fallen before her in the depths of a cheap beer and cheaper vodka fueled standoff in that pit of hell Filipino Karaoke bar near the shrine next to Kabukicho.   I know it as hells 8th level; 3rdLeisch considers it a fun Wednesday night.

Pizza is ordered, Quattro Formaggio and as soon as it hits the table Paulo rips a quarter of it off and demolishes it.

“Man, next time, I’ll take to you the 7/11 and get you a sandwich or something first.  Jesus.” I say as I stare in awe and disgust.

I haven’t seen a man devour food like this since a friend and I mistakenly took ourselves on our own version of the Bataan death march after making some orienteering errors back in 99.

Famous last words- “Fuck man of course I’m sure, look, it’s right here on the map!”

Paulo will not be deterred.

“No mate this is fabulous. Sometimes it’s just time to eat, have to put the feed-bag on and drop all pretenses.” He grunts. Wipes cheese from his chin.

I shrug my shoulders and finish the beer, a hoegarden, then cut the pizza up properly.

Time moves forward and 3rdLeisch leaves to meet other people and although there is time before Paulo and I have to meet TheRock and his compatriot Subway,  there isn’t too much time so we decide to get a bottle of red wine and enjoy the tables in front of Barney’s New York for a bit which we do and it’s so hot I consider tears, then I get over it and enjoy the good wine we picked up at Isetan even though we’re drinking it from plastic cups.

A text arrives.  “Meet at the 6th floor hub.” TheRock and Subway have arrived.  It takes a moment to mobilize ourselves due to the heat which is brutal yet we manage to get going and at the Hub the boys are nowhere to be found.  It turns out that we are late, they got bored and they left.  Mails occur in blitzkrieg fashion and just before they arrive back at the bar Paulo nearly passes out with heat exhaustion and delicately bows out.

“If I drink another ounce of alcohol I’m gonna fuckin have a heart attack mate. ”

And like that he’s gone.

The bar fills up quickly with anyone and all of us trying to escape the heat and rinse off work’s stench with booze and the fellowship that often facilitates.  TheRock and Subway show up, we toast, it turns out they have also brought Rosstaman who at one point in highschool benched 450 lbs.  We all agree that this is impressive and I talk to a hundred people in the bar I will probably never see again and people comment on my black tie, blue Hawaiian shirt and black jacket and I just explain that this is the summer of Hawaiian shirts and that’s really the  end of it.

TheRock and I talk to two women sitting near the bar while we wait to order.  One girl leans into TheRock and says “Well, I have to ask, are you aware that your friend has a mullet?”

TheRock, always socially responsible- until he’s not- answers.  “Yes, yes he does have one.  Is that a problem?”  He smiles gently and synergizes.  The girl tilts her head slightly and then wide-eyed says “No. Not a problem at all. It’s just very 80’s, that’s all.”

According to a panel of experts, I officially have “street cred” due to my having of a profoundly pea-cocky full-tilt Christian mullet.  My unicorn does in fact shit magic items.

"These nuts Frodo. These nuts."

We open a hole in the ether and before I can control the situation we’re all tumbling down a dark, dark tunnel and we stop at a place we probably shouldn’t be, an all you can drink Izakaya with a menacing collection of erratically colored Umeshu’s that line the wall near the entrance.  In our already well hammered state the options seem clear.  Garlic french fries, chicken and some kind of dubious cucumber disaster brought to the table by a waiter with orange hair and a smile that tells me he would kill a man for pennies.

Drinks abound and so does the imminent trouble.  At 0330, a dangerous time for drunkards to be set loose on hot city streets full of other villains in a town that never turns the lights out, the orange headed assassin of a waiter tells us to get the hell out and we oblige him.  He was giving us bad vibes.  My mind goes to dark places imagining his hobbies and the collections he meticulously maintains.

At a convenience store by some sick twist of fate we encounter three Russians.  This simple fact alone should have sent us off screaming and running toward the hills as anyone that knows can attest to the following: Never drink with Russians at 4AM.  If anyone tells you differently then they have clearly never been Itaewon.

TheRock nearly gets into a brawl with the  leader of this Soviet bunch but Subway manages to whisk  him away just in time.  Where they went and what went on  is clearly known by no one although conspiracy theories abound.  Porn on the T.V. seemingly of it’s own accord, a homemade pipe comprised completely of tin foil and a half empty bottle of cheap Vodka lying on the floor.

In their absence I do what I think is my duty as an expatriate American and I befriend these rowdy commies in order to A: collect information to prove once and forever that the Iron curtain never fell, it’s all an elaborate ruse and B: hopefully learn some bad words and crude phrases in their barbaric mother tongue.

I come to a few conclusion while consuming profuse amounts of whiskey with these young men on a side street in Ikebukuro.  First and foremost is that Russian Folk music is awesome.  That is, apparently, what these guys are doing in Tokyo.  They are on some kind of hip pocket/seat of your pants tour and the three  of them comprise a Russian Folk group.  Perhaps it’s my upbringing and being a horrific military brat during the last days of the Cold War but I have a real hard on for anything Soviet.  It just pumps me up.  Hanging out with these guys while they croon Russian folk tunes into the first lights of a blazing hot Saturday morning sun is like starring in Rocky 4 but it being filmed on board the Red October, and all the while I have  Zangief as my personal assistant.

"I asked you to get me a Latte Zangief, not a fucking cappucino. Jesus."

I also learn that prostitutes in yukatta’s really enjoy Russian youths belting out amazing folk songs on filthy side streets.  We collect quite an impressive crowd for such a drunken little impromptu effort and I am mistaken for their manager by a girl who gives me her business card and introduces herself as “Fukayuki”.  Her yukatta is yellow and light blue and it’s dazzling and the wide high belt around her waist is intricately embroidered.  The pattern on her business card matches the pattern of her yukatta.  She drinks a sloppily mixed whiskey coke with practiced ease and thinks the Russians are really talented.

As the sun finally peaks and the lead singer for this KGB chorus vomits onto his friends shoes I feel like a vampire as the blazing lights pierce me and rip at my eyes making it difficult to find a taxi at first.  When I finally flag one down I dive into the back and hunch down to escape the light and tell the driver where I’m going and he accelerates and if I didn’t have a notebook here full of scribbled notes in English and Russian, our only actual method of communication as the folk stars don’t speak English or Japanese and my Russian could use some polishing up, I would possibly doubt that the whole act actually had  occurred but here I am, trying to figure out how I can transfer these Russian scribbles onto the computer to figure out what they mean, as if they could mean anything other than “Die weak Capitalist”?

Russians. Prostitutes. Umeshu and pizza.  Summer is simple insanity unleashed on the deserving and undeserving a like.  Hold Fast to some point of reference which is beyond it’s waters or you’ll be drug out to sea.  Or let go and take the ride if that’s more your style.  Either way be prepared for the potentiality of the unexpected.

Buy the ticket, take the Ride.

Read Chronicles of Summer 1 here

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