diarrhea happens

9.30 a.m. – My sister and her girlfriend leave for the airport after two weeks of eating their way through Tokyo. [Pictured: my sister. She eats dessert multiple times a day. I cannot believe the bitch is like 95lbs soaking wet.]

11.00 a.m. – My Mom is holed up in her room with the door closed. Email my sister: “Thanks for visiting. Mom is now in some depressed stupor.”
2.00 p.m. – Map out how to get to a new [to me] bike shop to pick up some gloves. Realize that it’s right in the middle of Ameyoko [short for America yokocho, which literally translates into “America alley.” Post WWII, the area beneath the Okachimachi train tracks served as a black market for American products. By the time my mother was in elementary school, the area was no longer limited to illegal products and she has fond memories of getting chocolate and exotic, Western candy there. The area has expanded since then, turning into an open air market encompassing three streets, all selling cheap clothes, dried fruit, herbs, canned goods, fresh fish, and candy. ]. Wander around in denial that I’m kind of lost.

2.15 p.m. – Corner a middle-aged man locking up a pretty Look and ask for directions. He gives me what sound like decent directions.
2.20 p.m. – That guy was totally wrong because I find the store – Art Sports Annex – on the way to wherever he was telling me to go. Or maybe he was right. In any case, success!

2.23 p.m. – Scamper up three flights of stairs. Find and buy gloves. Look around the store. Holy shit, this is roadie heaven…and this is only one floor...!
2.30 p.m. – Mid-lusting after some new [white!] Sidis, start talking about ride routes with the super nice sales guy. I’m still bundled up in a jacket and scarf; upper lip starts sweating [gross, I know]. Wonder about protocol on this one while trying to speak in Japanese and think in English [this doesn't help the sweat situation].

2.45 p.m. – Am told that not many people go looking for mountain passes to climb, women even less so. This makes my day, despite the fact that I’ve been too busy eating to ride my bike for the past two—okay, okay, three weeks. Reluctantly leave because I have no money to spend.
3.45 p.m. – Home again, my Mom is still in her darkened room. Feel slightly bitter because hi, I’m her daughter too.
5.00 p.m. – Find out my Mom has Norovirus, not depression. Email my sister: “Never mind, she just has diarrhea!”
6.30 p.m. – My Dad comes home, goes to check on my Mom.

6.32 p.m. – My Dad steps in dog pee. Walk into the room to find my Dad flailing around with one foot planted in place. Imagine a 60-something Japanese man in a suit and black wool overcoat playing Twister and it’s a pretty accurate mental image.
6.35 p.m. – Clean up dog pee.
6.45 p.m. – Start heating up random stuff for dinner. Promptly drop a plateful of food and watch it shatter all over the kitchen floor.
6.46 p.m. – Clean up bits of glass and food while trying to keep my dog away from both. This is accomplished mostly by staying in Bird Dog Pose.
7.10 p.m. – Eat dinner.
8.30 p.m. – Eat too many prunes [I love prunes, okay? Love. Even if my intestines don’t].
11.00 p.m. – It’s been a long day. PTFO [“pass the fuck out”].

guiding the way to cycle salon uehara

“Are you a good guide?”
The question came after I casually mentioned a friend should visit me in Tokyo. I automatically replied that I was, going so far as to say, “yeah, of course.” Upon five seconds of reflection, I realized that I am, in fact, quite the opposite. I backtracked a little, gave about a thousand qualifying statements, and finished off with something lame along the lines of, “well, I’ll be a good guide by the time you visit.” Small wonder that particular friend has yet to make any plans to come to Tokyo.
But ignorant of my ignorance, Kyle dropped me an email a few months ago informing me of a visit. A definite one. And with no time to actually become a “good guide,” I compiled a list of places that I’d been meaning to check out but never got around to, put my faith in Google Maps, and told Kyle that yes, yes, I could take him on a tour of Tokyo.
He quickly found out that other than my usual coffee haunts, I am terrible at taking people around my own hometown. And secretly aware of my lack of direction and knowledge, I attempted to make up for it by directing Kyle first to a bike shop whose website I had stumbled on months ago. A uniquely Japanese one with piles and piles of vintage parts. I decided I would alter/completely overhaul the planned itinerary depending on Kyle’s reaction to Cycle Salon Uehara.

Given that I was involved in the process, we got as turned as the map we passed back and forth between us before finally finding our way to this hidden collector’s gem of a bike shop. Nestled in among lunch spots colorfully advertising deals of the day was a smart, old-fashioned store front, a red heart-shaped sign contrasting sharply against the worn wooden doors. Two cyclists – one road, one track – heads down and suffering, adorned the simple door. We had arrived.

It’s the kind of place where the owner lives upstairs and the sliding door makes that satisfying dry rolling sound [with a slightly squeak] that you thought was near obsolete in modern day Tokyo. And typically, it’s also the kind of place where you roll back the door and call out a hello, which rouses feet to descend a close staircase. A small, elderly man peered at us around the corner, as we stepped inside, and gaped.

Primarily selling custom bikes [made domestically], the shop is cramped and tight. But the display of derailleurs, brakes, quill stems, pedals, hubs, seatposts, and other components is simply amazing. 90% of the display is part of a personal collection [and thus not for sale], but the history in that small space is overwhelming. Pictures hang near the ceiling, pressed against the wall where frames and wheels aren’t likely to scratch them, and their dated appearance reinforced my naiveté. There’s a lot packed into that shop, and I realized I couldn’t even pretend to comprehend half of what I saw there.

We gasped and pointed as the owner looked on. I managed to ask some simple questions as he kindly nodded his thanks at our combined astonishment. After going shutter happy on every bike-related item in the shop, we thanked the owner for his time and walked out of that sliding wooden door, back into the busy street quickly filling with office workers hunting down their respective lunches. Back to 2011 and reality.
“Wow,” Kyle said. I could only wholeheartedly agree.
[Better pictures here.]


The first day on my new job, I sat next to a woman who heaved an exasperated sigh before starting work. Seconds later, her headset in place, she chirped out a cheerful yet courteous hello into the receiver. The ease with which she flipped the switch was slightly terrifying, her darker mood immediately returning once she hung up. It was my welcome into the weird world of telemarketing.
Currently temping at a small language services company as a glorified telemarketer, I spend seven hours of my day immersed in the constant din of high-pitched chatter. We cajole, encourage, and placate, gesticulating into the air or bowing in front of our computers as we say goodbye, as if, despite the telephone’s long history, we still can’t shed the desire to interact in person. Our unconscious movements imply that the distance is something that shouldn’t be, even if the invention of the telephone has made possible the mere existence of the exchange. Communication seems a distant dream as we cock our heads at our screens or shrug helplessly at whosever eye we happen to catch. We talk and giggle, suck on cough drops by mid-afternoon, and nurse sore throats on the commute home.

And as the falsity of my current telephonic interactions threatens to permeate reality, I’ve taken to glancing in that narrow space between my computer screen and the phone. Nestled there, blending into the unremarkable cubicle wall, sits my gray Ride.Studio.Cafe water bottle, scarred black in places by my bottle cage. It gets refilled, swigged from, and picked up several times a day, its weight and shape a comforting reminder. But it is its simple slogan, to “Ride. Rest. Repeat.,” that has been my saving grace of late.
Because raised in a Japanese family, my parents had always insisted that I take whatever task I endeavor, seriously. “We don’t care what you choose to do [except we really do], just as long as you take it seriously,” they said. And though this primarily applied to grades and other external measures of success, the attitude left me with a tendency to throw my everything into the things I undertake. But when too many hours of my day are spent at a job, which, if taken seriously, could only lead to dementia, I hunger for a spark, a sign, some indication that dreams don’t all die at underemployment’s door.

So my mornings, which start before the sun rises to squeeze in whatever time I can on the bike, have become more desperately meditative than their initial purpose to simply “stay fit.” I push the pedals as if chasing down ambition’s escaping wheel, despite the irony of remaining stationary on the rollers. And even on my “easy” days, I will too easily drive my legs into painful exhaustion, knowing I can relish the burn in my thighs later, when I’m trapped in a chair, counting down the minutes until the end of the day. Because for now, there is nothing I’d rather do, than “ride. Rest. Repeat.”
Viewed objectively, my stubborn focus on riding seems almost silly: the world is on the brink of a global recession, I’m probably drinking radioactive water, and Mitt Romney could be the next President. But it reminds me, too, that I am extremely lucky in having found a passion that I am not willing to compromise. It makes me more selfish and more anti-social than I probably should be, but torn away from friends and [bike] family, I eagerly exit the doors every day to return to two bicycles with some dangerously worn down parts, and a pair of chamois shorts I pray will get me through the winter.

The resulting sense of purpose – of something to go home to, I suppose – also suggests that perhaps my life is not so dispensable. That I am not defined, in any way, by the title of my current position of employment. And when the next day, and the next, and the one after that, only brings with it a mind-numbing, menial job, where the petty politics of the workplace seem to rule, that feeling is a priceless asset.

“You know, when I saw you carrying that, I realized, I haven’t seen a bike water bottle in so long, “my co-worker said as he lay, sprawled across one of the couches in the break room.
“Oh, cool,” I said, before changing the subject, reluctant to discuss cycling. I looked at my bottle again after he left, and traced the words with my eyes for the rest of the day until I scooted out the automatic doors, and exhaled.
I pointed my feet towards a train station and home, to ride, rest, repeat, again.

superbly packed

Apologies for the radio silence...the job hunt has been all-consuming but I'll be back soon!
Especially because I did this this past weekend...

Thanks to Tom at Superb for packing my track baby with so much care!