The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Friday, August 10, 2007

O Canada

I got back into Canada on Tuesday night. My flight was pretty uneventful, but I'm incredibly grateful that I got a good seat. The flight was looking quite full, and I was a bit worried that I would have to spend the entire time crammed into a tiny seat in economy class. (I have only had to do this once, and it was really, really awful.) But fortunately, I requested and was given one of the roomier seats behind the bulkhead between economy and business class. I could stretch my legs and everything. I felt a little bit guilty stretching out like that but ... well ... someone's gotta do it. (What kills me is when they put somebody who is about 5 feet tall into these extra-spacious seats. Meanwhile, someone like me is sitting behind them with his knees up around his ears. What a waste!)

On the way into and out of the plane, I walked through the first class section. The disparity between Economy and First Class, and the unashamed luxury of it all is getting absolutely ridiculous! The first class seats are placed diagonally on the plane so that the seat can recline fully into a bed, and each person has their own kind of ... well, I can only describe it as a "relaxation pod". They are almost fully enclosed by small walls on all sides, and they have their own little entertainment system and climate control ... crazy. At some point I am hoping that we will see a First Class section where the furniture is actually composed of Sub-Economy Class passengers. One person will be curled up into a ball to form an Ottoman; a couple of other people will be the seat; somebody else will have the First Class Passenger's tray on their head, and so on. Other Economy class passengers will be employed fanning them with huge fans made of peacock feathers, while others hold their drinks for them and feed them peeled grapes. Awesome! "Boy! Ready my bedpan!"

Anyway, my plan is to go to New Brunswick on Sunday, and spend a few weeks down there. I hope I will be able to go swimming a little bit; it was actually too cold last summer to do much of that.

In the meantime, I have to try and study Japanese, for the 2nd level of the Japanese Proficiency Test in December. I'll also have some work to do over the summer, which I'm not exactly looking forward to, but which will at least give me something to do. "All play and no work makes Jeff very lazy indeed."

I'm hoping to get jogging a little bit, too. We'll see how that goes.

Enough rambling. Hope to see you all soon!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Moving ... Again

Hey. No updates in a long time, sorry. I'm just about finished packing up in preparation for moving out. The semester is over, the grades are all in, the student parties are (almost) all finished (one more tonight, unless the typhoon makes it impossible) and now it only remains to do the last thing we have to do every fricking semester: pack up and move out.

Packing is a huge pain in the butt for obvious reasons: it's a disruption to your life, it's stressful, and it's a lot of effort. But in my case, there are two things I really hate.

The first is having to throw things away. At the end of every semester, I have a whole collection of daily-use items, most of which were bought at the 100-yen shop, that I can't keep, even though they are still perfectly useable. So, into the trash goes about 20 coathangers, half a bottle of shampoo, 3/4 of a bottle of conditioner, an almost full bottle of dish soap (because I ran out last week and had to buy a new bottle), detergent, my laundry line, plates, glasses, bowls, cutlery, a water jug, tupperware, cleaning supplies ... the list goes on and on. It pains me because, not only is it incredibly wasteful, but I'm going to have to buy all these same items again in 2 months, and I will end up throwing these items away, too. This is the 6th time I've done this now! In my mind, there is an ever-increasing pile of junk which is getting thrown out ... and goes who knows where in the end. To landfills? To be incinerated? To be transported by ocean-liner to the Philippines? And flying around this pile of garbage, like flies, are cartoon dollar bills (or 1000 yen bills maybe) with little wings ... symbols of the money I have to spend every semester to re-purchase the same items over and over again.

The other problem I have is the increasing amount of STUFF I have. Most teachers here are smart, and live a spartan lifestyle for the duration of their contracts. They buy a few trashy novels which they don't mind throwing away at the end; maybe they pick up a few souvenirs or knick-knacks to take home. But me ... I am compulsively buying CDs, books about martial arts, or Japanese language materials ... it's gotten to the point where, in addition to my 2 suitcases which contain the bulk of my possessions, I have about 10 boxes worth of "other stuff". Now, what am I supposed to do with this stuff while I am away? I end up storing it with friends, but understandably, these kinds of impositions wear thin after a while. I am always looking for new friends just so I don't have to approach the same old people and say, "Uh, so, do you mind if I keep about 10 boxes at your place ... again?" I did a pretty good job of spreading my stuff out this time. A box here, a few boxes there ... but one friend still ended up taking the bulk of my stuff.

I am a packrat, which I think is some sort of psychological adaptation to feeling deprived as a kid. (I don't think I was deprived as a kid, but I may have felt that way, greedy little bugger that I was/am.) If you feel like you don't have a lot of stuff, you tend to hold on to the stuff you have, even if you realize that you don't really need it or even want it anymore. (I'm not sure if this explanation is necessarily correct, but I can't imagine that Britney Spears, who has always had everything she ever wanted, has any trouble throwing away her old possessions.) Yesterday I threw a couple shirts in the trash and it was agony, despite the fact that they were full of holes and were fraying at the seams.

But my special weakness is for books. I can't throw a good book away, because of the mere possibility, however unlikely, that I might want to refer to it or re-read it at some point in the future. I have this principle, too, that books should be treasured, and that, if you don't want a book, you should always give it away or donate it to someone, rather than chuck it in the trash. Well, over here, that's pretty difficult to do with English books! So I hang onto them.

My other psychological hang-up with books is the idea of "value". I used to collect comics as a teenager, with the idea that someday, I would be able to sell them and make a fortune. Now I know that's not true, but I still can't bring myself to liquidate my comic collection, knowing that I would probably get about 5 cents for every dollar I put into it. The same goes for my novels and paperbacks. A used bookstore might pay me 25 cents for each paperback ... that's just an insult! And so I hang onto them, and they gather dust and take up space.

One of my most treasured dreams is that someday, in the distant future, I will actually have a house of my own; a house with plenty of bookshelves. And on those bookshelves will be arrayed, in some complicated system of my own devising, all of my books ... and sometimes I will just stare at them and think: "It was worth it!"


On a related note, I've been reading about a very interesting guy (now deceased) named Gustav Hasford who wrote the novel that "Full Metal Jacket" was based on. He was a very clever guy who dropped out of high school and eventually joined the Marines and went to Viet Nam where he was a combat correspondent. He was very widely read on just about any topic and collected books compulsively: he had a library of over 10,000 books which apparently occupied a huge volume of storage space. As he lived most of his life in poverty, the bulk of his books had to be stored with friends, so he never actually had access to his own things. In fact, he served a prison term for stealing ("liberating") a large number of books from various libraries across the US, and then moved to Greece after his release ... so he never got to fully enjoy his collection. I feel like he must have been the same way - always dreaming of the day when he would actually get to unpack all of his STUFF. Very, very sad. So, point to remember: um, what was my point again? Oh yeah. Don't be like that guy.


I'll be back in Canada on August 8th. I hope there's time to get together and see everybody.