Between Brisbane and Japan, some whimsy and Dan (All contents © 2013 by Dan Ryan, unless noted)

Archive for July, 2012

The Brisbane Retail Experience—A small vignette

I try to be a nice guy, most of the time. I sometimes succeed, and sometimes fail. But it is usually more interesting when the results are mixed.

This morning I went to Midtown Market, the only grocery store in Brisbane, for milk, Dr Pepper, popcorn and cigarettes. It’s a nice place and convenient, but a little pricey. On a normal weekday morning the Korean-American owner Mr. Choo or his wife would have been at the register. But this day their employee waited on me. She’s a nice Māori girl in her late twenties from New Zealand, whom I shall call Zena.

It took seconds for Zena to ring up my half gallon of milk, two-liter jug of Dr Pepper and two packets each of microwave popcorn and Fortuna light cigarettes. Zena isn’t dour, but she also doesn’t normally smile a hell of a lot. However, as she bagged my groceries, I noticed she actually seemed down.

“How are you doing?” I asked, “Everything okay?”

“Oh,” Zena said, “I can’t complain.”

“Heh, sure you can. Complaining is the right of every single human being. It gives some of us purpose.”

She shot me a look then, not an angry look but one that was a mixture of annoyance and exasperation.

“Well,” she said, “Thanks for asking.”

I said “You know, when someone says ‘I can’t complain’ that’s code for ‘I’m having a shit day but I really don’t feel like talking about it.’”

After I said this, her annoyed, exasperated look went away. Then she chuckled a little and her face broke into that wide smile for which most Pacific Islanders are justifiably famous. And as I left the store I thought to myself “Well, maybe I’ve actually managed to brighten someone’s day.”

Then I walked to my car, got in it, and drove home with my dangerous but delicious purchases.

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(Picture taken in the Life store near Nakano Broadway, Tokyo in April, 2012. It has nothing to do with the prose above, but does kind of share the spirit of the story.)


During And After The Ghosts—A small city blur

In Tokyo, the ghosts are more solid than they are on other planets.

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But they’re less likely to get in your way.

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The blurs of their swirls around you are delightful.

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But they can’t linger around while you play.

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And their movement is constant in most any color.

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But when you greet them please address them this way:

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(Photos taken in Tokyo in April, 2012, the first four in Kanda, the last two in Nakano Broadway. The words in the last photo are the slogan for the Mandarake toy and pop-culture store chain.)


I Sleep The Streets—A small service

I sleep the streets for you,

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I keep the coldness of your ancient city warm for you.

I am the raw unknown flesh that keeps Tokyo’s gutters from running red with affluent blood.

I am the hope that one day

you will wake me up and thank me

rather than

simply pity me as you pass me by and take nothing from me

but my photograph.

(Picture taken in Sanya, Minami-senju, Tokyo in April, 2012)


Cats Are Easy—A small bestiary

In theory, cats should be easy to photograph. They sleep a lot. They tend to seek out and stay in sunny spots. If properly cared for, cats just don’t want nor have to move very much.

Well, my cats are a pain in the ass to photograph and here are two examples of the best I could do under ideal circumstances. Enjoy the images. I won’t be making the effort again any time soon.

Harrison in attentive repose:

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Indy, covered in dust in an otherwise clean room:

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(Photos taken in Brisbane, California on July 19, 2012.)


Greetings From Television—A small channel surf

Hello, and welcome to Tokyo. My name is Television…

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…and I’ll be your host.

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It would be my honor to entertain you today. Would you like to start with the news…?

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You don’t even need to go outside, because I can show you the weather too…

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Tired of the weather? How about a movie?

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Or if you like I can show you cartoons to make you happy…

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And sometimes, when you’re happy, I can even show you…

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(Photos taken in 5-28-1 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo (about five minutes from the Life store) in April, 2012)

Footnote: Believe it or not, Japanese TV saved my sanity when I was very sick in Tokyo for nearly two weeks in April of this year. This is kind of an appreciation of that, and also an acknowledgement that you can start to feel like TV controls your life when you’re cooped up with it for too long. But I’m sure you got that. –DR


Interlude Of Time And Shape—A small Tokyo still life

I don’t know what these badges are but…..

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…they were on this old house in Nakano, Tokyo and are some of the most beautiful things I have ever photographed in Japan.

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(Photographs taken in April, 2012)


Laundromats Blue Tokyo—A small wash

No matter where you go in the world…

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…you can do some cleaning and good deep thinking in laundromats. Get yourself off into

mundane revelations.

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What I often think about is…

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…a song by The Pretenders and

how much life sucks in laundromats.

(First two photos taken in Nakano, Tokyo, the third in Minami-senju, Tokyo. From April 2012)


Renegade Youth—A small Roppongi memory

In Roppongi, in the late ‘80s, this was the place to go

if you wanted to see what cocaine could do to a 17-year-old Australian girl

who looked like Audrey Hepburn’s sister and partied like Tokyo was just

another delusional step closer to the cover of French Vogue.

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Such girls had nothing to do with me.

This was okay because I was twenty-three and, quite honestly,

too young and poor for them.

I actually swallowed live goldfish several times out of a proper Japanese glass ramen bowl

to gain admittance to Cleo Palazzi when what I had in my pockets was basically lint

and a need to wait until deep morning,

using the power of credit carded beer,

so I could catch the first Hibiya Line trains to the Chiyoda Line back to

Yushima on a legally codeine-soaked Sunday morning.

My favorite song during these times was Billy Idol singing

“Dancing With Myself” and

this has never changed.


Mount Fuji, 08/16/87—A small path to heaven

I don’t believe in god, but I believe in Mount Fuji. I hiked to the top of it once in 1987, with my Australian boss and another American guy who also worked for our American information services company.

Initially I regarded the trip to Mount Fuji as just something to do to get out of Tokyo on the weekend to avoid  a couple of sweltering city summer days. And to stay on my boss’s good side. But when I got to the top of the mountain sometime Sunday morning between 04:30 and 05:00  and looked toward the sunrise , I realized that I did not have to believe in god in order to believe that some things can be holy.

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The title of this photograph is “The Zen of Boredom”. You can call it what you like. I never wrote a poem to go with this picture. The picture itself is the poem, I always figured.


One Moves Happily Or Stands Curious—A small juxtapose

Days in Asakusa, Tokyo are marvelousness, the people watching is genius. The surroundings are frequently sensory feasts of color, glory, and majesty. And sometimes the people you watch are the ones watching you (make sure you click on the photo to get a close look).

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But that’s okay when you understand the irony sometimes in Japan is it’s the foreigners moving with blurry speed while the Japanese relax waiting on line and looking on. Well, at least I think it’s ironic, considering all the unusable pictures I’ve taken of frenetic, kinetic, fast-moving Tokyo folks during my two trips there in the last four years.

(Picture, featuring @tokyotimes, taken in Asakusa, Tokyo in April 2012)


The Sun Is Home—A small interlude

The skies give birth

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to ten thousand suns.

And one of them

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always shines on Brisbane, California.


Tokyo Face Time—A small pair of encounters

Part One:

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Mulling over the choices I’ve made in life

what it basically comes down to is:

I just happened to look into your camera

while you thought you secretly took a picture of me.

Then we pass each other

on this street in Shinjuku right after the death of all cherry blossoms

and we don’t speak and

we don’t ever see each other again…

Part Two:

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I walk like a champion

because this street is mine.

This tree I pass every day

is planted in earth which was once soaked

with the innovative blood of my ancestors

who died here keeping the secrets of Velcro

from the Shogun’s tax collectors.

We are an old clan,

we never married burakumin

like those butchers over in Sanya.

We are a proud clan,

and you need to keep out of my way.

(Photos taken on Otakibashi-dori in Shinjuku, Tokyo in April, 2012)