I’m not an expert on dreams. I’m not really even that interested in the subject except in a limited way that might help me eventually understand the strange adventures my brain often creates within the confines of my skull. I bet hundreds of years ago, before human beings began to understand dreams are natural and have biological origins, that dreams were interpreted with fear and suspicion, violations of whatever spiritual or religious norms to which a given primitive society adhered. I bet hundreds of years ago a lot of people were shunned, exorcised, or even killed for revealing their dreams and seeking to understand them. I’m glad most human societies have outgrown that now.
I bring this up because I’ve been having the same dream for the past three or four months. It’s more of a nightmare, really, because of the darkness and the beasts it contains. But to be honest, the building and the landscape in my dream have become familiar to me, even though I’m still afraid of the things that repeatedly occur there. The intensity of the darkness and the menace of the beasts don’t vary, but I have become almost adjusted to these. And though it may sound perverse, I sometimes look forward to the horrors of the dream each night. I think it is better to dream of horror and know one is alive.
Here’s how the dream typically plays out…
My eyes open and I am standing on asphalt. I can smell fresh and salty sea air. It takes a few moments for my eyes to adjust to nighttime darkness. There is always a full moon off to my right, a full moon in a cloudless sky with fewer stars than there should. The moon and stars reflect off the surprisingly calm waters of a the Pacific Ocean. The asphalt I stand on is a road, which runs along the edge of a seawall, which in turn runs along the edge of the shoreline.
On top of the seawall is a meter-wide sign fixed to two stout and square wooden legs. In the usual mixture of kanji, hiragana and katakana the sign says “DANGER: Strong undertows! Swimming prohibited for persons 13 and under. Swimmers over 13 strongly cautioned.” And this text is signed ‘Minamisōma City Government’. So I’m certain where I am in my dream is that little piece of the Japanese coast where my parents and sisters and I used to spend several weeks in the summer until I was 13. I never got to swim in the ocean I always see in this dream, but my sisters did because they were old enough. In the dream I always, always, think how bitterly I resented that and how much I hated summers in Minamisōma because of it.
Still standing on the asphalt road, I look away from the seawall sign and hard to my left. Here is an empty lot filled with scattered clumps of natural local weeds and long grasses, growing from the soil and in many places up through small piles of rock that look like chunks of granite. The lot is about 25 meters deep, and there is a blood-brownish six-story building on the other side of the lot from the road. In the nighttime of my dream the building looks dark and menacing, even though I can see light from some of its windows and in what looks like a hotel lobby entry on the ground floor.
It is in this vacant lot that I see the first of the beasts. It is the size of an Asian elephant, but is the shape of a dark grey Siamese house cat. On top of the cat-beast’s head is a bright orange reptilian crest that runs down its neck and back and ends just before where the tail protrudes from its backside. The beast also has large wings that resemble those of a bat, but also remind me of the wings on that movie monster Ghidorah, the three-headed thing that used to fight Gojira in those movies I loved when I was a kid. This cat beast also has eyes, many eyes, forty or fifty of them, red-orange lumps distributed symmetrically on its giant cat face the way the eyes appear on the head of a tarantula spider.
This first beast I encounter is always standing still in the middle of the vacant lot on its four feline legs. It growls but never makes a threatening move towards me. This is a constant in my dream. Its numerous spider eyes pulsate a bit with a dull orange glow while looking at me intently, and the beast always opens its mouth wide enough for me to see two rows of ten-centimeter-long fang-teeth protruding from the top and bottom of its large mouth.
By this time I have been in my dark dreamland long enough for the full moon to have shifted in the sky a few degrees and for a faint but rosy pre-dawn glow to have appeared on the horizon over the nearby ocean. This lights the landscape and constructs around me enough so that I can see more clearly; but overall the surrounding vegetation I see in the rest of this dream remain covered with darkness and hidden from a distance in deep shadow.
I am still on the road near the seawall, looking at the cat-beast. Sometimes the beast is alone in the vacant lot, but this time, and I have seen this before, another of the creatures swoops down nearly soundlessly from the moonlit sky and lands about ten meters away from the first beast. The second beast stares at me, then looks to the first beast, and finally fixes its gaze at the six-story building.
I always walk towards the building from the road. Always. There is nowhere else to go. Thick vegetation blocks the seawall road going north and south away from the vacant lot, so the dream never gives me any choice. The distance from the seawall to the building is about 40 meters, not a huge distance but a distance I travel with dread. I can still see lights in the windows, and I cover the distance to the building in less than 30 seconds.
I realize the building is a hotel each time I reach it. The entrance to the place is at street level, with a smoothly-finished segment of concrete connecting the hotel to the asphalt road I traversed to get there. The hotel itself has many small windows, some of them still glowing with light, in a grid pattern along its upper exterior. Each window is about a meter or so square. It reminds me of a business hotel I have used many times over the years in Akasaka in Tokyo. Like that remembered hotel, the doors of this one are beautiful clear glass. But when I approach these doors they don’t automatically slide open the way they should. The dream never lets me actually enter the hotel. I am always stuck outside looking in.
And each time I am there looking in, I see a brightly-lit lobby decorated in a vaguely English Victorian style. It has wood walls of a dark brown, tables with bronze metal legs and white marble tops, burgundy leather wing chairs, Persian-style carpets, and several of those odd curved-back chaise longues upon which Victorian ladies would faint in old black-and-white movies. In the center of the lobby is a large oak table, upon which there are foods of a typical afternoon tea, cucumber sandwiches and the like, and a samovar for beverage service.
On one of the chaise longue, I always see my children. They are dressed in the proper uniforms of the schools they attend where we live in a suburb of Tokyo. They sit quietly reading English lesson books. And their mouths are sewn shut with thick black thread. Almost the very instant I see my children, a boy of 10 and a girl of 13, they look up from their books and stare at me. They are beautiful, except for the constrictions on their mouths. But their mouths are turned upward into strained, contorted smiles while red drops of blood run down their cheeks from the bright eyes I have stared into so many times. It is as if, I always think, they want to show me their love despite the pain. There is always pain, and I look away from them at this point.
It is then that the dream always shows me the long oak and brass-railed bar near where my children sit. My wife is always standing next to it, serving drinks from an expensive bottle of Suntory Hibiki whiskey to four gaikokujin men who wear clothing just like Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone in some old Sherlock Holmes movie. My wife, however, is dressed like a traditional Tokyo geisha, the kind of true courtesan I used to see in Akasaka when I was a young university man.
My wife bows and is perfectly demure as she serves the men their whiskey. The men in turn seem gracious towards my wife, but return to talking amongst themselves after their glasses are full. It is then I always notice that the talking men are bleeding from holes torn in their Norfolk jackets and tweed sport coats. When I look at my wife, who by this time has stopped pouring whiskey and is looking directly at me, I see that the traditional ornaments in her carefully-coiffed geisha hairdo are long, thin knives that appear to be crusted with dried blood. I see further that her mouth was also sewn shut with thick, black thread at some point, but the stiches are now cut and her mouth is drawn into a broad smile which reveals numerous needle-sharp teeth similar to the larger fangs of the cat beasts.
At this point in the dream I always feel a strange mixture of attraction and dread. My wife keeps staring at me, she is more beautiful than I have ever seen her, and her mouth starts to move. She must be speaking to me, but I cannot hear her through the hotel’s immovable glass doors. And her eyes don’t run with blood as my children’s do, but start to glow hot and orange as she continues to look at me. The glow from her eyes becomes so intense that I can see the orange light from them illuminating her entire skull.
She is not smiling now. Her mouth closes. Although she still stares at me, she reaches to her hair and removes the thin knives from it. My wife then turns to the foreign men and starts stabbing them furiously and faster than my eyes can follow. The men express shock and pain, but cannot defend against my wife’s attack. They drop their whiskey glasses and all collapse to the lobby floor, dead upon Persian carpets. Then my wife turns at starts walking towards me, knives in each hand. She isn’t smiling now, and I am truly terrified.
I back away from the glass doors, and as I do I hear growling. I look to my right and see one of the cat beasts staring at me with its fangs exposed and all of its spider eyes glowing the same intense orange as my wife’s. It is always my assumption that the murderous wife creature within the hotel is unable to leave it, and the cat beast manifests itself outside where it can do me the harm my dream wife seems intent upon doing me.
I back away from the hotel and the beast. I turn around, and in the end I am running with the beast now screeching behind me. It never catches me, but in the end I am always running back up the asphalt road towards the seawall. When I reach it, I climb up over it and dive into the waters off Minamisōma.
And that’s always when I awake, jittery and a quite terrified. Fortunately, my real wife is always next to me in bed. All I have to do is look over at her and I know where I am and that she is no monster and that everything will be alright. After the dream, I never disturb her. I let her rest while I get up and go to the kitchen to get coffee and clear my head a bit. When I’m fully awake, I always go back to the bedroom to make sure she is safe where I left her.
She always is, of course, resting as still and beautifully as the first day I placed her on our bed six months ago. She is showing signs of wear, though, and I fear I may not have embalmed her as well and as permanently as I hoped. But it’s okay. If she starts to sag and decompose too much, I can bury her out in the back yard under the plum tree next to the children. And they will all still be near me and we will still be a close and happy family.
On the streets of Shinjuku today, a character of unknown disposition, purpose, or origin. But pretty damned colorful and determined-looking…
(Picture taken in Tokyo on September 24th, 2013)
Just a weird photo I took by accident at 3:30 this morning in Nakano City through a haze of my own cigarette smoke. I was up going to Mini Stop for more smokes. This reminds me of images from old film negatives that were accidentally exposed to light or x-rays before getting developed. Strange picture, but I like it. So there you go…
(Picture taken in Nakano-ku near Hydrangea Park in Tokyo on September 13th, 2013)
Every picture tells a story, and with me the story is usually boredom.
I’ve been shooting photographs of varying interest and quality since 1975. That was the year my father brought two brand-new Olympus SLR cameras to our home in Richardson, Texas, after one of his first business trips to Tokyo, Japan. The cameras, an OM-1 and an OM-2, were for him, of course. The best toys always were. But he let me use the OM-1, since it was a less complicated and costly device because it only had manual light-meter reading. After we moved to Singapore in 1978 and my passion for photographing that city became demonstrable, dad let me have the OM-1. He eventually let me have the OM-2 as well, after he upgraded to a Nikon F3 High-Point in 1980, when that camera was first available in Singapore and Southeast Asia. And some years later, right before I moved to California in 1989, my dad gave me the F3 too, since his interest in photography had begun to wane as the years passed and the stacks of fully-loaded Kodak Kodachrome and Ektachrome slide carousels grew larger and less manageable.
Anyway, enough of that. The point is that when I take a break from my work, or have some down time, or get distracted by something shiny, I grab one of my current cameras and try to produce something interesting or useful from the distracting stuff I hyperactively perceive all around me all the time. As I said, I get bored, basically, and use the camera as an excuse to fuck off.
So that’s it. Take your time, have a look around, enjoy.
For the sake of a faster loading time in your browser, I’ve left the images on this page small. Click on each one to see it in its original size. You will notice that the original images are of two sizes. This is because some were taken with an older Canon PowerShot S330 set at a medium resolution, while others were taken with a recently-acquired Canon PowerShot A110 IS set at a higher resolution.
Descriptive captions precede each photo.
In vino veritas at PJ’s, a now-defunct San Francisco Cajun-Creole restaurant.
Shiny things, in this case chunks of glass left in my street by careless garbage collectors.
Toys in my office, ever vigilant, ever watchful.
I monitor San Francisco very closely.
Joaquim de Almeida is a favorite actor of mine, particularly when he’s holding a gun.
It looked to me like an escape pod from an odd alien spacecraft, landed gently before my house.
A haphazard and (to me) contrived-looking shot, playing with depth of field and color.
This Devilrobots To-fu Oyako unhappy Santa Claus Christmas plush toy seems to say “Merry Fucking Christmas!!”
I don’t really have an explanation for this. I was bored, and was throwing out the razor anyway.
The toy, named Sumo, looks like it is about to be enveloped by atomic fire.
This is Clive, a pewter hedgehog. A gift from my mother, who collects elephant icons.
I love Omodaka, but can’t remember why I shot this image of my iPod. Roll with it.
Harrison, one of the beloved cats I share with my wife.
Daffy is my idol. Daffy is my muse. Daffy is god. And god comes in different sizes.
Medicom Toy be@rbricks of Spock and Iron Man.
Just a healthy part of any nutritious breakfast. Actually, it was for ramen, I think.
Just more toys, but in an oddly dramatic light.
California Department of Forestry chopper, buzzing my neighborhood looking for fire hazards.
A Tony Tony Chopper pin from Japan. Chopperman is another of my animated cartoon heroes.
The telephone/cable TV/electric/street light pole next to my house.
Like I said, I get bored. When I do, flowers sometimes suffer.
A hanging metal lamp outside my front door.
I have no idea why the chair armrest is the only thing in focus, but the result is perfect.
The Chopperman pin, again. And part of a ramune bottle.
Vinyl Disney toys, presents from my wife, in a light I had heretofore not seen them.
Indy, the other beloved cat I share with my wife. Indy sometimes literally gets right in my face.
Fish sticks. That is, edible sticks made of fish. We like them.
This made me think of that Toto song.
A dead part of a plant, throwing a familiarly-shaped shadow. The best still-life photos are never staged at all.
(And that’s the end. For now. This may be an ongoing series. Thanks for looking around.)
As usual, my buddy and I weren’t red carpet paparazzi, we were security.
It was the only time I could ever see her, ever get close to her.
She had her new beau on her arm tonight. It was my sworn duty to ensure their safety.
I’d lay down my life for her. I always would. I wanted her, would never again have her, and that’s just how it was.
I keep an archive on my computer of all the photos I have taken with my current cell phone. And I probably shouldn’t save as many as I do. Too many of them are, like the photos below, on the ragged edge between garbage and art. Oh well, no one hates my work as much as I do. Short descriptions follow each image.
Really annoying Japanese actress from Wasabi, starring Jean Reno.
I sorta, kinda collect World War 2 propaganda cartoons. This is from one of my favorites, Daffy the Commando.
Walken, on my iPod. ‘Nuff said.
An actually very beautiful, sad and scary Halloween puppet I made for my wife a couple of decades ago.
The greatest actor of my generation, saying one of his greatest lines. From the film Into the Sun (which I am not ashamed to say I have on DVD).
Science! with Doc Brown in the form of a Medicom Toy kubrick.
In San Francisco, we are very progressive. And….a bit arrogant. In terms of space travel, we’re arrogant because in the Star Trek fictions, Starfleet is headquartered here.
We’re pretty proud of that, seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and the Transamerica Building on the big screen with starships and ray guns.
And the difference between that fiction and our fact is…..our fact gets a little bit closer to fiction every day……