October 23, 2012

Waking up

[W]hen I waked,
I cried to dream again.  - Caliban

I am with Caliban on this.  Waking up is generally a rude shock, although there are whole religious traditions  based on it.  I had a friend who spent a lot of time at meditation retreats, and spent many hours dozing off and coming to.  The teacher didn't mind.  Waking up was the point, she said.

I seem to recall that 20 years ago the Laird would wake up by blasting Public Enemy while showering, and would then complete the project by storming off to work on his motorcycle.  It was a bit annoying  if you were trying, as I was, to sleep in his house without paying rent or doing any work.  But it seemed to work for him.

I don't wake up well, with one exception.  The one time in my life when I can wake up decisively is when I have severe jet lag, and having been in Tokyo for about 36 hours, now is clearly one of those times. After a poor and fitful sleep my eyes snap uncompromisingly open at 5 a.m. I try to force myself to think.


That sensation of having no idea where you are.

Oh yeah, Japan.

No further sleep possible. What does a person do at 5 in the morning in Japan?  Going to the bathroom might be a good idea (this turns out to be confusing).  Then, unbidden, lists of random tasks present themselves.  Find a clean shirt somewhere.  Get food.  E-mail an apology for whiffing on a project task.  Get back to that guy in Tilburg.  Do your exercises.

Oh yes, the exercises. I’ve gotten pretty good about my morning exercises. Nothing too elaborate – just the Eight Pieces of Brocade, as taught on the David Dorian Ross DVD, plus little warmup and warmdown routines. I have no idea why this DVD has worked me while others sit on the shelf. I know some are too showy or advanced, some too distracting…but the David Dorian Ross stuff is spot on.  The exercises are simple, effective, and clearly described.  The AM/PM format is invaluable when you are trying to function in the wrong time zone. Nothing signals to your body that it is time to wake up and work like doing your morning exercises with the sun in your face. The ganglia may protest, but they will come around…at least until early afternoon when stronger measures are generally required.

Friendly staff open the health club early for the jet-lagged gaijin.  There's a nice view of the city.  I position myself and look out to a point on the horizon, somewhere between the still brightly-lit Ginza and the sun - burnt orange through the haze - off to my right. I am stiff as a board. I begin the proceedings like a retired circus bear dimly trying to recall its act. Gradually the creaking ligaments and balky nerves bend to their assigned duties, and for a hushed moment I am…listening to Beastie Boys?

The pretty young woman behind the counter has apparently checked her schedule and determined that it is time, in accordance with longstanding hotel procedure, to begin playing loud, upbeat music in the health club, even though the sole occupant is a quintagenarian tai chi practitioner.  Or perhaps there is a deeper message.

This is how we wake up in Tokyo

Challenge accepted.

Now I just need to ask the concierge where to get a motorcycle....


Blogger First Sea Lord said...

I have forgotten the nature of other lands, other than what clearly must be true about them.

October 25, 2012 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger The Other Front said...

Let me clear: I was not in a foreign country... I was in a hotel looking at a foreign country.

For a sense of how hard you can work and still not know anything about an alien land, here is an interesting essay on Hawaii by Paul Theroux.

October 25, 2012 at 11:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plus points for "retired circus bear."

October 28, 2012 at 4:41 PM  

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