lunes, 22 de agosto de 2011

Home Sweet Home Yoyogi-Koen

My first night slumming in Tokyo's parks didn't go so well. I chose to lay my blanket in a
picturesque spot underneath a flowering tree in a grassy nook of the small Shinjuku park;
but no sooner than an hour's time and I am rudely awaken by a scourge of ants waging a
battle in every nook and cranny of my sleep-deprivated body. Evidently I picked one of their
barraks or superhighways to lay my bedding and warrior ants retaliate, crawling inside my
clothes, initiating a concerted attack. Like a crazy man I jump to feet, tear off my clothes, and
with flailing arms I desperately brush off my assailants to a torrent of profanities. Fumbling
belongings with bicycle, I stumble in the dark and seek refuge on a bench safely floating in a
river of concrete pavers. Shortly thereafter, I am once again forced into wakefulness by the
scorching heat of a brutal summer sun. I gather my things yet again in search of shelter, this
time a shaded stairwell, in which I somehow manage to make myself comfortable on narrow
steps. By this time the park is filled with dogwalkers, athelites, and the jubilant laughter of
school children at play. How I must appear to these people, who step over me without the
slightest objection, a stark contrast from the other homeless men and women in tattered rags
asleep on beds of cardboard; myself, an oversized whitey, hairsuit with the exception of a
cleanly shaven balding cranium, I rest soundly beneath a startched woolen blanket I nabbed
from the Indian Airlines jet on which I arrived to this country, my loaded tourbike resting on the
ground beside me. I am too tired to budge and allow myself to return to a deep slumber until
late morning; and the Japanese parkgoers are gracious enough to allow it.

After a long day exploring Tokyo by bike, I meet up with Michi for drinks and a bite to eat
at a yakatori bar. Michi then shows me to a park she thinks I will find more comfortable than
Shinjuku koen. I can live forever in Yoyogi koen! With its secluded pastures, live oaks, and
elegant flower beds, it's a haven in metropolitan Tokyo. There is even bathroom facilities in
which I can sinkshower, having been properly trained in the art of bucket bathing in India.
The bathroom sink is located outside the toylette facilities in plain view of the park and I
attract strange looks as I strip to my underwear, using my waterbottle to rinse soapsuds from
my nearly naked body. I am soon approached by a young man who chats me up during my
cleaning ritual; he is greatly amused by me and before he departs he asks for my contact
information, inviting to treat me to dinner sometime. I can't tell if he is hitting on me or not, but
I am flattered by his interest and it is in good spirits I head off to sleep on a picnic table.

I am awaken early in the morning by a police officer on a bike. I sit upright to watch as he
makes his rounds to the other sleeping vagrants around me. Unlike myself, the others don't
budge and make no effort to appease the officer who is rudely distrubing their slumber, and I,
following their example, lie back down for a few more hours of shut-eye.

I am enjoying my life as a vagrant of Yoyogi Koen. A sound sleep, with only a mild disruption
by the park police, followed by a sinkshower, then tea at the park cafe and back to my picnic
table, which serves me as dinning table, office, and sleeping quarters. Here I spend the
better part of a day drawing, writing, and studying Japanese. It is late afternoon by the time
pangs of hunger force me from my park refuge in search of sustenance. Leaving the park I
notice a blue tent community nestled in a heavily wooden area; neat paths lead to make-shift
dwellings, which have been creatively decorated with found materials. How is it homeless
communities such as this one are permitted to occupy a public park so blatently? Are they refugees
from Fukushima and Miyagi-ken, which were so recently devestated by the earthquake?

I continue out of the park and cycle past a few supermarkets on a reconnaissance of their
dumpsters - surely they cannot sell all those neatly packed box lunches and day old bread,
even on discount. To my dismay, the supermarkets lock away or hides their trash and I am
forced to pay for my supper like everybody else.

Rain. Just as vagrancy begins to turn sour, my couch surfing connect finally responds to
my inquiry. He was away from Tokyo visiting family when I arrived to Japan and took some
days to respond to my request, the only one of which I sent out on the cs network before
arriving from India. I meet up with Yama around ten and we head to a bar for a couple of
drinks. Yama lived in Brazil for two years and traveled extensively throughout Latin America,
but these days he works for a large import export company and has little time for socializing
during the work week. The little free time he does have is spent recording music and playing
gigs. Over beers, I regal him with tales of India and share with him my sketchbook from
that country and he shares with me his experienes of living abroad in Brazil. It is two in the
morning by the time we leave the bar and when we arrive to his house, he gives me a key,
inviting me to stay my few remaining days in Tokyo.

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