At the beach

My thanks to everybody who commented on my last post…! I’m happy to report that I’m still alive and (apparently) none-the-worse for the wear, though any potential mental defects as a result of my head striking the hood/pavement may not have have bubbled up to the surface yet :) . Actually, the father of the girl who struck me with her car called me later that night to check up on me, which was quite nice. I’m supposed to meet them later on today to collect the money for my poor beleaugered two wheeled panda peddler, which, after extensive time in the shop, is back in full health, sporting a shiney new front wheel and several other repaired parts which actually makes it perform even better than before (i.e. all the gears work super smoothly now, instead of sporadically skipping from like 1st to 7th to 15th, etc., which needless to say, made for a pretty jarring ride at times :) ).
Waves washing in and out of the Sea of Japan
The small amount left over after the repairs went into the perpetually-empty coffers of the House of Panda, which has led me to conclude that this whole getting run-over-thing could actually be turned into a profitable enterprise, if i could just figure out some way to ensure I wouldn’t get permanently injured/run over in the process. Hmmm… *muses on this and rubs chin thoughtfully*
While I try not to be an “eprop whore” as (poor sick, over-exerted-at-the-gym) Kittah lovingly refers to it, I do enjoy receiving and reading comments on my post, just like all of us. So it sort of amused me that when I spent several hours going on and on about my brush with mortality in the bath the other day I only got a few comments, but when I write that I nearly got run over by a car, I get twice the number of comments, and the ol’ panda blog blasts past 30 and almost makes it all the way to the 40 eprop mark, which here on Xanga, is generally the exclusive domain of smoking hot women (who liberally pepper their blogs with pictures of themselves in various states of undress), people with a “sites I read” list that occasionally runs into the triple digits (and who apparently have nothing better to do than sit at their computer and randomly prop others all day) and Th0sE SUpEr KEwL aZiaN PrIdE PeePLes who obsessively link to each other in some gigantic sort of incestuous quasi-asian-recursive-jumble, the epicenter of which is invariably located in some place referred to (with much thugged-out hand gesturing) as either “NorCal” or “SoCal” (northern or southern california, for the uninitiated).
From a distance, the concrete almost looks serene…
Given that I don’t fall into any of the above categories (those of us in the “Japan” or “JETs in Japan” rings tend to be a pretty lethargic bunch when it comes to commenting) it’s quite a feat for panda to enter such stratospheric heights, and the message is not wasted on me, gentle readers – less introspection and more brutally painful tales of panda trauma and near-death (accompanied by animated recreations :) ) is what the people demand! Given that I have always harbored secret populist leanings anyway, if this is what the people demand from the House of Panda, then this is what the House of Panda will give them! Friends, romans, country men, lend me your ears! Bread and circuses for the masses! *trails off in random mishmash of confused literary ramblings*
I don’t really have anything interesting to write about today, so I thought that instead I’d post some pictures from a quick bike ride I took down to the ocean the other day. The “hood”, as I’ll be referring to my lovely city from now on, is actually located right on the ocean, though often during the grind of the everyday, it’s hard to lose sight of that. Add to this the fact that Japan, despite being an island surrounded by ocean on all sides has somehow managed to ruin just about every single beach to be found, sometimes to the surrealist point of insanity wherein one can find entire stretches of otherwise pristine coastland lined with thousands of gigantic pre-cast concrete “breakwaters” which seem to serve no purpose other than to just look ugly…! and you find that living next to the ocean in this hood doesn’t hold quite the same romantic appeal as it might if it were say, Sydney or San Francisco.
Nonetheless, the weather was amazingly good a few days ago, so Panda decided to go for a nice bike ride along one of the two main rivers that cut their way through town and see where it would lead him, as it were. The majority of the ride was uneventful – standard concrete slab buildings and omnipresent tangle of power lines flying by on either side – and the river itself nondescript. Given that I have stood on the banks of the mighty Mississippi river before (itself paling in comparison to other, mightier rivers in the macho alpha-river hierarchy), I generally have to voice a faint sigh of disappointment whenever I encounter a Japanese “river” or one of their proud bank-dwelling denzins, as most of the rivers in this country (save one) are not only dammed, but also lined with concrete on both sides (and occasionally in the middle) and generally are more of a “trickle” that might be more favorably compared to a “stream” or “storm drain run-off” than a river proper. Nonetheless, I did see some relatively nice stretches along the way, and (even) some grassy expanses, upon which people were frolicking (for want of a better word), walking their dogs or having picnics. I even saw some boys playing in the water under a bridge, which brought a hint of nostalgia to my mind, though it was bittersweet, for though I remember playing down by a grassy freshwater stream trying to catch frogs in jars and poking fish with sticks picked off of nearby trees as crickets chirped away in the background, these boys were splashing around in a concrete lined bend of the “river” through which the filthy, muddy water ran, wending its way through concrete breakwaters, rusting pieces of metal and piles of discarded plastic pet bottles and and other assorted pieces of litter, and given that there was nothing alive in this river, they instead seemed to be tossing pieces of broken concrete in and watching the splashes. Of course, before this could sink in anymore, I whizzed by on my bike and the scene was gone.
A typical litter-filled Japanese beach.
The actual “ocean” itself (more properly “the sea of japan”) wasn’t much more climactic. The bike trail abruptly terminates (after a sudden rough stretch of gravel and broken concrete that is certain to have caught more than one cyclist unawares) in the junction of an asphalt T-intersection, dumping you off in a little no-name city subdivision filled with construction equipment and corrugated steel warehouses with no explanation as to where you are or where to go next.
Utilising my panda senses, I sort of meandered off in the general vicinity of where the river was going (following along the actual river bank being impossible, as massive construction vehicles sealed off the area, forcing one to choose an alternate winding route) until finally I reached a bend in the road along which stood incredibly tall corrugated steel walls blocking off all further progress westward, and festooned with large signs proclaiming entry to be off-limits.
I was about to give up and turn around when out of the corner of my eye, I spied two young boys slipping behind a previously unnoticed crack in the imposing wall of rusting steel, and curious, I followed them, ducking underneath a weathered and frayed nylon rope, from which dangled a stained, battered sign covered in obscure kanji I couldn’t read.
Emerging on the other side, I came across an entire swath of beach – sand in a sort of off-brown-tannish color, bits of burnt-umber mixed all about – concrete breakwaters piled up in orderly rows on either side awaiting deployment to some unlucky stretch of ocean, a far off concrete pier forming a sort of harbor for what I can only presume was boats owned by whatever construction company claimed with particular stretch of coastline. Leaving my bike leaning by the pitted piles of iron rebar propping up the steel wall, I trekked my way across the expanse, kicking aside litter and bits of rotting food, my shoes slipping under the shifting sand until I finally reached the edge of the water.
Why are panda’s paws bare? Read on to find out!
The thing about that interface between land and sea is that in the microcosm, it is beautiful no matter where it is located. I wonder if this might be true about a lot of things in life? Set your paradigm just right – narrow your viewing window enough – and the true beauty of the physical world shines through whatever asthetic sense of discordance might affix itself in the macroscale. There’s an entire realm of hobbyists and academics that dedicate themselves to the pursuit of finding beauty in the underlying order of the microscale, whether it be chaos theorists with their infinite mandelbrot sets and computer generated fractal tessellations, or amateur photographers with their expensive specialized setups capable of discerning individual scales on a fly wing, or even a 15 year old panda sitting in his HS freshman biology class discovering the joy of examining the ridges of his thumbprint under a dissecting microscope for the first time.
Standing on the smooth wet sandy edge between the beach behind me and the ocean before me, I realized that the undulating motions and blemish-free slate constantly washed clean by the tide every few seconds were as beautiful here as they would be in the most pristine beaches I have ever been to. The piles of netting, litter and garbage behind me seemed to fade away and I sort of found that if I stared long enough at the certain spot where the tide kept washing in and out around this small rock sticking out of the sand, the flow of the sand – individual grains flowing in rippling sheets like photons of light inexplicably moving in wave patterns – the discrete translated into the realm of the continuous – around the rock ebbed and surged with the tide in curling, lacksadaisicle feathers – fluid motion, suddenly frozen as the water underneath seeped out with the receding tide and then seemingly aging before my very eyes – cracks appearing in the frozen curly-q patterns as the integrity gives way in the absence of the watery medium – and then suddenly, rejuvinated – flowing around the rock once again in incredibly mesmerizing patterns as the waves wash back up onto the shores.
I was inspired to put my hand in the sand like a little kid – watching it for a second before the waves came and wash it clean, leaving only a sandy smooth surface in their wake.
Of course, reality intrudes on even the most quasi-serene of scenes – for a brief moment I though it would be such a shame to go all the way to the ocean without bothering to wade in, so I chucked off my shoes and socks and put them over by what I thought would be a safe distance – rolling up my jeans, I waded in …
and quickly discovered a few things:
1) The water was incredibly, numbingly cold and I needed to get out of there as soon as possible while I could still feel my feet
2) The tide can reach a deceptively far distance
3) Misjudging how far the tide can reach when you choose to lay your shoes down somewhere is not good
4) Nike “All Conditions Gear” (ACG) shoes, despite the claims on the box, are not waterproof.
My poor shoes and socks drying in the sand…
Only through a miracle of providence did I manage to wrangle my hapless shoes and socks before they were washed out all the way to the icy embrace of the ocean (it would have been a loooong bike ride back…), but I did have to wait a while for them to dry out (actually, in typical panda fashion, I was pretty impatient and ended up riding back with soaking wet socks and shoes on, which is sort of less than pleasant. :) ), much to the amusement of the two old ladies sitting on a nearby piece of driftwood laughing at the foreigner.
Anyway, that was my trip to the ocean.
Now listening to: “2Pac – Old School”

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