The Emerald Fish of Toto Jinja

The Emerald Fish Of Togo JinjaIn the middle of Harajuku in the center of Tokyo, there is a public park called Togo Jinja and it is a lovely green in the middle of a consumerist barrage.  Every Sunday afternoon there is a flea market with all manner of paper ephemera and other curiosities.  Naturally, I spent a fortune here, being a paper fetishist.  I was over the moon with envy for all of the amazing and lovely things that were here and bought as much as I could to make my Tokyo pieces.

It is a gorgeous small park with a shrine in the middle of it and all kinds of small koi and goldfish ponds, some only 10 to 15 feet wide with little bridges over them.  It also has a winding path that takes one in and out of the shade.  Watching the bargaining that goes on is all kinds of fun.  I never dicker and the price they ask is the price I give.  The Japanese bargain hard.  I watched some contentious contests of will that I swore would maybe come to blows, only to be concluded with a hearty “hai” and some laughter and then, perhaps, some sharing of tea.

I like to think about that place now that I am sack-deep in a Chicago winter.  These are getting old for me and the 10 degree days of gray skies and almost no sunlight are grim and depressing.  The temperament of the town sometimes doesn’t help.  It is election season in Illinois and every slack-jawed hand-job in the village is running for something.  Of particular interest is the Governor’s race, with a bunch of haircuts promising to clean up politics.  Yeah.  The one decent guy seems to be Quinn, the sitting Governor, who seems like a boy scout and a decent guy, but I fear he has all of the political charisma of a vanilla milkshake.

There is so much to love about Chicago–its diversity and color and boundless energy. . . its proud architecture and grand theatrical and literary history.  It is a great city worth fighting for.  I often watch movies that are shot here, whether they are any good or not, just to look at the city and marvel at its raw physicality; its brick and steel and wires, its boundless grace and tempestuous history.  It is one of the great cities of this world.  But winter?  Fuck me.

It makes me miss all of the warm places I go; Japan in September, New Orleans in winter, New Mexico and Arizona in autumn.  It is 15 degrees as I write this.  You can’t walk five blocks without your crank turning into a popsicle.

I miss TogoJinja and feeding Big Macs to the koi, drinking green tea and walking foreign streets and parks.  It’s the wanderlust . . . it’s got me bad.

Published in: on January 30, 2010 at 4:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Crow Dog

The Crow DogI kind of used my dog, Chooch, for the head of this piece.  He is a handsome motherfucker and if he wasn’t fixed he’d get more pussy than Sinatra.  Whenever I walk him people “ooh” and “aah” over him.  He is a tough little bastard.  Don’t get between him and his food or he’ll fuck you up.  He is vigilant about keeping squirrels out of my yard and the squirrels give him a wide berth.  There was one who insisted on hanging out on the back porch and taunting Chooch, talking all kinds of rodent-smack.  One day, Chooch caught his ass in the middle of the yard and settled his hash for good.  That day a fuzzy-tailed rat got to meet Jesus.  Since then, word has gotten around the squirrel and rodent community that my yard is off limits.  Fuck around with Chooch and he will stack asses.

Mexican Indians are big believers in the Shapeshifters, as in a big black bird landing on the ground and then turning into a black wolf.  Nature is a trickster capable of adapting and changing shape.  The Mestizo make figures that imply many species of birds and animals cobbled together with interchangeable features suggesting magic and that nature itself is the almighty.  Hopi prophesy also speaks to this.

I’ve always loved mythical creatures like harpies and griffons with their lion bodies and bird wings.  When I was a kid, I had a habit of drawing people with bird heads and birds with dog heads, and I was delighted by making these things.  It used to freak out the nuns and they were forever sending me to the school shrink, who was a dandruff laden dip-shit who spit when he talked.  I thought he was a putz and I would make up shit to make him think I was a head-case.  I remember leaving a bag of dog shit on his desk once with jelly beans in the top half so he would reach in and when he grabbed a handful . . .

I hated when they wouldn’t just leave me the fuck alone in Tony-land, I was happy there.

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 4:54 am  Leave a Comment  

The Dog of Winter (For Ten Bears)

The Dog Of Winter (For Ten Bears)Driving back from California through the desert, one is always cognizant of the hungry world that surrounds you.  The desert may seem still, but beyond what you can see it is teeming with life . . . coyotes, owls, hawks, vultures and some genuinely scary-ass reptiles, thick western diamondbacks, prairie rattlers, gila monsters and sidewinders.

There are small boars called javelinas; ugly little fuckers who love-you-not.  There are roadrunners who tear along the desert until they find a lizard to peck to death and devour.  They are psycho-looking sons-of-bitches who remind us that for all of the cute photos of baby seals and shit like that, that nature is around-the-clock murder.

There are prairie dogs who all of the predators rely on for food.  They are reliable because they are dumb motherfuckers with a brain the size of a marble and just about as sharp.  They are forever getting picked off by everything that flies, walks or crawls.  They’re like a more stupid version of rabbits, without the dork-ears.

There are packs of dogs everywhere.  Dogs domesticate easier than any other animal; they also go feral faster than any other animal.  Die on “Fido” and see what his ass is eating three days later.

Months ago I made some scarecrows and I’ve missed making them.  In many Native American stories, wolves and coyotes are tricksters invested with a ferocious spiritual presence.  This piece is called, “The Dog of Winter.”

Published in: on January 2, 2010 at 9:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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