Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Comeback Has Been Thwarted - November 21st

Dear Sir/Madame,

First of all, thank you so much for all your emails/phone calls/dropped in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai's Casting Offices.
We are very sorry to announced the Close Down of "Pinkville" Production due to the ongoing labor action by the Writers Guild of American, Mr. Oliver Stone, whom is member of the WGA, can not work on the script revisions needed to get the film ready for production.
Anyway for all your info and applications, we will still keep in our system, just in case and for any other production that may arise in the very near future. Thank you again for your understanding.

Casting Thailand

Saturday, November 17, 2007

You look like Harry Potter, again - November 17th

The family came and went, leaving Lane in their wake. Tomorrow he leaves for a monastery in Ubon Ratchatani before traveling to Laos and Vietnam. It was a good 10 day run we had together – dancing, redecorating my room in a postmodern vein, and watching the television series “Heroes” – and he was by my side when I won the grand prize a week ago at Payap’s international night (the Christian university in Chiang Mai): a roundtrip airline ticket from Bangkok to Singapore on Cathay Pacific. He wasn’t by my side the other day though when somebody stole my crappy ass helmet sitting in the basket of my motorbike in front of the English department at school. It’s silly because there’s a bike lot not 5 meters away brimming with much fancier (not to mention safer) helmets begging to be stolen, but for some unknown reason, they decided to steal mine – the soup helmet with that tacky lightning bolt running down the backside.
Lane was at my side the night we walked past 7-11 a few days ago and witnessed for the first time Thais being violent. While heading back from the dance club, we were shocked to find a group of Thai guys brawling in the street with beer bottles and bats, clubbing one another while others stood aloof nursing various wounds. They even smashed the front windows of the 7-11. I heard later on that it took the police several hours before arriving on the scene. You won’t find the police anywhere in Chiang Mai except needlessly directing traffic during rush hour at intersections which already have lights.
Rewind back to Halloween, I myself had a minor brush with violence, but not with a Thai. Instead it was some random British guy in Chiang Mai to train Muay Thai. I was dressed up as a Thai university student for the occasion, standing at the restaurant adjacent from the gym and across from my friends’ apartment. I’m chatting with two friends when he approaches and I assume they all know each other.
"You look like Harry Potter” he says. “You hear that often?"
So I respond, "Only right before bar brawls break out" obviously joking.
“What do you know about bar brawls?” he asks. “Don’t talk to a crazy British guy with a glass in his hands about bar brawls.” He delivers this line while holding up the glass in his hand for added emphasis. The tone of the conversation seems completely harmless. I mean, I’m dressed up as a Thai schoolboy and the Muay Thai guys at our gym tend to have a sense of camaraderie. “You don’t wanna mess with this guy” one of my friends says, carrying on the seemingly amiable tone. “He’s got over 5 years of Muay Thai experience.”
“Oh yeah, well I’ve got 5 weeks experience” I rebuttal jokingly. “Take that.”
The next thing I know, the British guy open hand slaps me real hard across the face and breaks my glasses, then shoves me and starts smacking himself and calling me out to fight him right there. He was absolutely 100% fucking looney toons. So I did what any logical modern cowboy would do, I un-holstered my pistol and shot him three times in the chest. Or, I stood there completely in shock, looked at my friends and asked if he was for real, then was on my way before even waiting for the answer. The next day I went in to audition for Oliver Stone’s new movie being shot in Chiang Mai, Pinkville, about the My Lai massacre. Fingers crossed, for me, and also for Lane on his travels East.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Little Tale About Tokyo - Oct. 18 - Oct. 23

After a few cups of coffee, I’m starting to really feel the excitement of being in Tokyo, or maybe it’s just a nostalgic sensation for when I used to accompany mom or dad to work as a young boy, being that I’m with Rino at her office right now. Her work deals with opening up Betsy Johnson stores in Japan. For all you ignoramuses out there, Betsy Johnson is a posh designer back in the States (and elsewhere now thanks to people like Rino).
Accompanying Rino to work seemed like a safer alternative to braving the city by myself, plus what do people do in big cities anyway other than check out museums (in the case of Tokyo, shrines) and go shopping – neither of which are particularly my cup of tea. I can feel overwhelmed in NYC, which is even smaller than Tokyo, and they also speak my language there. It’s particularly frustrating for me having once studied Japanese and now since forgotten 99.9% of it, because I feel like I should know more, which makes me all the more intimidated to even attempt mere utterances out of fear of deceiving innocent Japanese people into thinking I know anything at all, to which they’ll respond with protracted rapid-fire responses that will soar over my head like an F-22 high above the clouds; and then we’ll really be in a bind. I don’t understand how anyone ever picks up languages. How lucky and unlucky I am to have been born into a world where English won out as the dominant global language. In coming to work with Rino as opposed to exploring the city on my own, one could argue that this is in fact a more culturally representative and informative experience of ‘authentic’ Japanese life in frenetic and overwhelming Tokyo. It makes it manageable, I’m interacting with her Japanese coworkers, and I’ll even put myself to use helping move boxes around and whatnot. There’s definitely an underlying feeling of being babysat here, but most girls have some kind of maternal instinct need-to-take-care-of-somebody thing going on, so what the hell, right?
Man. That initial pique of the coffee high is starting to wane and I’m wondering if I should make a run for it. What the hell am I doing in Tokyo? After helping rearrange the office, I go out to lunch with Rino and her coworkers for Thai food, ironically enough. In the afternoon I leave the nest and head for the Meiji-jingu shrine – a nice traditional juxtaposition alongside the hustle and bustle of modern Harajuku with all of its hip shopping and envelope-pushing Japanese schoolgirls. The hours are passed snapping pictures, meandering, and swiveling my head like Linda Blair in the Exorcist to take in the multifarious sensory overload. At 7pm I meet back up with Rino, now joined by her international adviser, Aaron, from years yonder during a 4 year stint at Macalester College in Minneapolis. Aaron is in his early 40’s and making his annual rounds through Asia recruiting for Macalester. While maybe a little less horny than the average 23 year old, the guy still has an appetite for a good night out on the town, so the three of us – Rino, myself, & Aaron – make for a heroic trio. We go out for finger food and drinks, later to be joined by more Macalester alumni, plus an old friend of mine from my days in Australia, Kazuhiro Shimizu. Though only 26, a fresh marriage and 6 months of working for the premier consulting firm McKinsey have sprouted some gray hairs on good ole’ Hiro’s head. Capping off the night with some karaoke in a private room amongst friends proves a good elixir in taking wandering minds off aging and other existential hullabaloo.
It’s not until the next night, though, that I hit my stride in karaoke with a little known ditty by the name of “Jump Around”. On this particular Saturday, we don’t make it out of the apartment until 4:30 in the afternoon, just lounging around and such as the sun runs its course over the eastern sky. Linner (that lunch/dinner hybrid) is had at the train station noodle shop. Over my bowl of udon, I splatter soup everywhere – on shirt, on glasses, and even on Rino. It’s quite a struggle managing to simultaneously get both the noodles and broth into my mouth.
By the time we make it downtown, night has managed to squash every last lick of daylight. It was already getting dark when we first left the apartment, because in Japan, there’s no such thing as daylight savings time. Rino tells me “It’s because the farmers get no love here.” I still don’t know what that means.
We proceed to grab a mighty expensive drink somewhere with another Macalester alum, then it’s off to an Italian feast with even more Macalester alumni – they’re taking over the world, or at the very least Japan. Hiro makes it too, and after the dinner, we gallivant over to some hole in the wall bar for yet another alumni’s birthday party – an Indian guy raised in Japan, fluent in the language, attended school at Macalester, then came back here for a career in I-banking. For the sake of this story, we’ll call him Vorin. As it quickly becomes evident, on the cusp of 24, the kid has some serious issues with drunken belligerence and dealing with the opposite sex, let alone his own sex, as he makes death threats on my life to Aaron and company throughout the evening, enraged that I lie at one point about being Rino’s boyfriend to keep him from molesting her. Somewhere along the line, Hiro departs, but not before delivering an offer to recommend me at McKinsey if I ever want a job. While it’s fun to toy around with the idea, ultimately I don’t think a big bucks consulting gig requiring 70hr work weeks and Jared Robbins are very compatible. So we bounce around various places before winding back up with Vorin and his posse in a Karaoke room overflowing with drunken idiocy. It’s quite the surreal experience bearing my soul – during spot-on renditions of George Michael’s “Faith” and House of Pain’s “Jump Around” – to a bunch of twentysomethings I don’t know, all of whom were educated together at international school.
The party then transports to some small club owned by Nigerians and packed with hookers in another part of town where we get the VIP hookup because Vorin’s a regular there, throwing around his hard-earned I-banking bucks like rice on Vodka Redbulls and god knows what else. Maybe time in Tokyo ticks differently, or maybe I just never glanced at my watch, but by the time we make our exit, daylight has supplanted the night and it’s almost 8am. Weird experience.
“You look like Harry Potter” one of the Nigerians compliments me on the way out. Snippets of dialogue transpire, I ask him where he’s from, he gets defensive, then asks me where I’m from. “Detroit” I say. That seems to impress him.
On the subway back to Chiba, everyone on the car is out cold. It’s 8:45am by the time I finally crawl into my makeshift bed on the couch, in the crevices of which I swear vicious bed bugs lay and wait to exploit my sleeping vulnerability. Good morning.

Aaron & Rino modeling on the subway

Waking up to a setting sun can be equally as disorienting as falling asleep to a rising one. That night Rino and I went to the hot springs/bathhouse. When you walk in, there’s a sign at the entrance which reads something along the lines of “No Tattoos”.
“Is that to keep out the Yakuza?” I ask.
“Yeah.” she responds.
“What about the rest of the world with tattoos.”
“I guess they just have to find another bathhouse.” The decision to not get “BINZ” tattooed in block lettering across my back had proven to be a shrewd decision afterall.
The plan was to go into the co-ed baths, but it was too late by the time we finally hopped into Rino’s Prius (decked out with GPS and a rear-view camera for parking) and made it to our destination. My excitement quickly plummeted upon finding out that I would instead be sharing baths with a bunch of naked Japanese men. I thanked my lucky stars that Aaron had opted to stay behind. I’m tellin’ ya, if you’re a gay man in Japan, there’s no better place to go than the bathhouses.
Rino and I parted ways and agreed to meet back outside in thirty minutes. I walked into my side with bag in tote containing a hand towel (for god knows what because it doesn’t cover up anything and it’s sole purpose is merely to rest on top of your head while you sit in the water), a regular towel for post-bath drying off (not to be worn into the baths otherwise be cast off as a total pariah), and a traditional robe for lounging around in the main outside area if one desires a break for some tea, arcade games, or those picture booths that yield crazily designed photo strips which can’t possibly be geared for anyone but 10 year old girls and perverts (and then me, but only as a one time ‘cultural’ experience). Before you enter the actual hot springs, you’re supposed to wash off in a semi-open row of showers with dividers that only come up to waist-height (not that you still can’t see everyone doing their business). There’s a wooden stool to sit on and wash yourself, and while everyone else was crouched down on it, there was no way I was putting my bare ass on that thing – definitely not sanitary. So I opted to be the only one standing while everyone else washed themselves sitting down on those stools most likely designed for 8 year olds put in timeout. When it came time to rinse off my crotch with the shower head spitting out water at greater pressure than the fire hoses used to suppress protesters during the 60’s, I shifted my body in surprise at how bad it hurt and accidentally shot the man directly behind me. He looked at me, and I looked at him apologetically, and for a moment we were two naked guys just staring at each other.
It must’ve been “bring your toddler to hot springs” night, because while Rino had the women’s side to herself, there were at least ten father-son pairs on my side. I was overwhelmed by the number of baths to choose from and wound up selecting one of the few uninhabited spots off in a corner, for which I remained during my entire bathing experience. I watched as the other bathers hopped from one bath to the next, but thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until after we were leaving the premises did Rino finally give me the rundown.
“Why do I smell like chlorine?” I wondered aloud.
“Because one of the baths is chlorinated. It’s just like a hot tub.”
“Well that’s the only bath I sat in the entire time.”
She shot me a funny look. “You mean you didn’t go from bath to bath?”
“No, I didn’t realize there was any difference” I dumbly responded.
“All the baths have medicinal benefits except for that one. You’re supposed to go from bath to bath and experience the various effects of each.”
“How was I supposed to know that?”
“Didn’t you see everyone else going from bath to bath?”
“Yeah” I said, “but I just thought they had ADD.” I really did.

And that’s how I would like to end my tale about Tokyo. I don’t really feel like going into detail about accompanying Aaron to the international school college fair, nor my experience with Okonomiyaki, and not even my peculiar borrowing of Rino’s copy of “Kicking & Screaming” (the Noah Baumbach film from 1995) that could very easily be misconstrued for stealing. I’m done with Tokyo, at least for now.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I’ve forgotten more than you know: the end of home and the beginning of Tokyo - October 17

Planes would be the perfect setting for limbo. I’m on one again, this time headed for Tokyo. I went home for the semester break and spent most of it with Emily in East Lansing. Actually, most of the time I wasn’t with her because she was either studying or in class. It wasn’t very fortuitous that she had a midterm on my departure date, so I extended my ticket two more days so that we could spend a little bit of time together when she wouldn’t be so stressed. It wasn’t meant to be, though, as she had another test to prepare for, and as they usually tend to do in law school, the professors just piled on more work. Last night I decided to go to Red Robin (the casual dining restaurant best known for its gourmet burgers and bottomless steak fries) because I had a free burger coupon to use that my aunt got me for my birthday by signing up for their online burger club or something. Emily was busy stressing, which in turn was stressing me out considering it was my last night and all, so I grabbed my book and set off for Red Robin by myself around 9:15pm in pursuit of a burger, cherry coke, bottomless fries, and some good ole’ peppy Americana atmosphere. Sporting the same dirty sweatpants I’d worn to the gym several hours earlier, I hopped into the borrowed Lexus from dad and made off into the night with my trusty mapquest directions. The trip should’ve only taken 15 minutes, but the directions weren’t as trusty as I’d hoped, and when faced with either getting onto N. Creyts Rd. to make a right onto S. Creyts, or to just get off at S. Creyts, it gets a little hairy, and the next thing I knew I was lost. It was a challenge working up the motivation to go to Red Robin in the first place since it’s a lonely experience eating out by yourself, it wasn’t exactly around the block, and most of all, I’m lazy, which is ironically what prompted the decision in the first place since it seemed like an easier alternative to cooking for myself. The trip wasn’t 15 minutes at all, and as the clock clicked towards 10, Red Robin’s bedtime, I started to get nervous I wouldn’t make it and that all would be in vain. Somehow I wound up in the boonies, doubled back to civilization, but accidentally turned the wrong way onto a poorly labeled Saginaw Rd, and when unbeknownst to me I was a mere one block away, I called up the restaurant to check my coordinates. By this time it was 9:46pm, and to my devastation, a callow male voice on the other end of the line informed me they’d already broken down the kitchen since nobody had been in the restaurant for the previous half hour. It didn’t help matters that my gas needle was now resting on empty, gas for under 3 bucks a gallon is impossible to find in Lansing, and I was too cheap to eat anywhere else.
Back on the plane, I attempt to doze off, but my body and mind are periodically overcome with sensations of acute awareness that I could die at any moment. This plane is but a man-made creation and therefore fallible like man himself. My sense of smell becomes strikingly clear, there’s a tingling in the bridge; my ears get lighter and capture sounds ordinarily beyond the sensory, and my heart rises a few millimeters in my chest. What kind of life would mine turn out to be if it were to end now? How would I stack up? Clamoring through the clouds as close to heaven as I’m ever gonna get in this material body of mine, my thoughts at times transcend a capacity for words, hovering around abstract unfathomables like the infinite - too great for my humble brain – before plunging back down into the reality of the paltry; things like Red Robin, gas prices, and 8 more hours to go on this stinkin’ plane.
I’m sitting next to a married couple in their mid-70’s also from Michigan, but the western part of the state. Sure enough, they’re conservative, Catholic, and somehow I’ve got them convinced I’m a good Christian boy – maybe it was my innocent question about the saint who stands guard at the gates of heaven (I knew it was Nicholas, I just couldn’t remember at the time). The man pats my leg whenever I say something that amuses him so, or maybe it’s when he thinks of something funny to tell me. At 76, he still works part-time as a dentist and doesn’t look as old as a 76 year old would through my eyes just a few years ago. Funny how as my parents age – they’re only in their very early 60’s – it makes older people not seem so old anymore. The man’s wife refers to her profession as “executive homemaker”. At some point she says to me, “And I’ll tell you what I say to my grandsons, I say, ‘I’ve forgotten more than you know.’” Then her husband chimes in, “I don’t think that’s the case with this boy, he seems like a rather intelligent young man.” Maybe a bit of an overstatement, but he’s probably right in this instance.
At some point after the hours have already been melding together for quite some time, I start to crack. My grip on reality loosens to the point of severe discomfort. Unable to sleep, my mind starts obsessively swirling in thoughts of death and other such unappetizing topics: the fear of never truly being happy, the inevitability of aging, and how anything with an end can be viewed as short when stacked up against eternity. Still, why does the slow motion button for life always get pushed during the most undesirable moments while something like ejaculating lasts only for a few fleeting seconds.
The plane eventually touches down, but not before the cabin crew serves us a final meal of what seems like reheated sausage egg mcmuffins from McDonalds. I’m not sure why they’re serving breakfast at 4 in the afternoon, and my internal clock gets all the more confused after I deplane, make it through customs in a snap, and step out into the afternoon light which gives off an early morning feel by the way the sun is oddly hanging in the sky. It gets dark soon afterwards as I ride the airport limousine bus to the Shinjuku Hilton where I rendezvous with Rino and Alexis. Rino treats us to a nice dinner before we set off for her parents’ apartment (or more like 3 apartments joined together) in Chiba near Disneyland.