Tim Myers:  Nonfiction excerpts

"But this isn't the Shinjuku you usually see in photographs.  And when you emerge on the far side of the train station to the east, the contrast couldn't be more instantaneous or more complete.  Here the roar of commerce becomes, not a huge and staid Niagara, but ten thousand smaller leaping cascades.  Here you're suddenly in bustling, endlessly streaming crowds, always elbow-to-elbow though almost never jostled.  Here the close streets are overhung with blazing fields of neon in primary colors and constant flashing motion.  Here you can get whatever you're after, in a contemporary version of the historical Japanese 'floating world' that 'Limousine Town Watch Limousine Viewer,' again, refers to as 'a must-visit place for entertainment fans.'  Here are endless restaurants, ranging from the large-and-fancy to alleyway sections (with walking space no wider than five feet) where speciality mom-and-pop places serve fried eel or chicken or squid or various types of noodle or sushi to only four or five customers at a time; the 'dining areas' are about the size of a small walk-in closet, and the air is thick with irresistible smells of soy, wasabi, teriyaki, various tantalizing broths or sauces, and grilled meat or fish.  Here you can see theater and musical performances or go to the latest movies--here you can drink to your heart's and stomach's content and belt out karaoke in the land of its origin--here you find bales of newspapers, magazines, and the often lurid comic books called manga--electronic gadgetry of every description laid out under blazing white lights--the latest computers, cell-phones, hand-held devices, CD's, videos, musical instruments, liquor, groceries, snacks.  Here the streets are lined with fashion boutiques, book stores, huge and glitzy department stores, and you rarely escape the rattling roar of pachinko parlors.  Here I see my first fugu restaurant, with a stylized painting on its door of the highly toxic pufferfish, whose incredibly expensive flesh is cut and arranged into rose-like whorls that kill a number of its aficionados every year--and a second, in whose window sits a tank with twenty or so of the innocent puffers paddling despondently about (Betty Reynolds writes that Buddhist priests pray to 'console their spirits').  Here when it rains you have to keep a serious weather eye out, constantly dodging approaching umbrella points.  Here the crashing of a hundred kinds of recorded music in close quarters adds up to something like endlessly banged cymbals, and the shop people keep shouting Irasshaimase!--Welcome!  Welcome!--in a time-honored attempt to separate you from your yen.  And here, especially in Kabuki-cho, an area just north of the main commercial district, you can find casually commodified sex in any number of forms."

                                                                                                             --"Glimpsing Tokyo"--Kyoto Journal (nominated for a Pushcart Prize)

"Yes, I think.  Yes.  The way those leaves move, the sway of those branches in wind just after the sun sets.  Yes.

     It can happen here.

     My spirit begins to take its ease.  It has its own great animal faith in eventuality, even concerning that which seems, by its very radiance, impossible.  And now it feels this place, begins to let itself seep into everything here, the slope of the roof, the dirt of the empty flowerbeds, the worn wood of the back fence, the stuccoed walls, each blade of newly-sodded grass.  It greets passing breezes, neighborhood smells, little rainbows in the sprinkler arcs.

     I begin to wait."

                                                                                                                                                     --"Learning the New House" (essay)

"A bunch of lit classes I have to take (because they make you take them if you're a communications major, even though I don't see what literature has to do with communication) have books in them talking about all the irony we have in modern life.  And even though some guy said 9-11 was the Death of Irony I noticed there's still plenty of it around, especially in college.  And since my high school counselor Mrs. Gebbershotz said your suppose to make connections between you and the material to be learned, I noticed I have a whole shitload of irony in my life right now, because of breaking up with my girlfriend.

     But I should try to establish a historical context--well, not about my girlfriend.  I met her at a kegger and she was so drunk she was slurring her words like she just got back from the dentist, and her friends started calling her Spring Break.  But we had this deep conversation, and I boned her, so we were really close after that, since we'd been through a lot together. What I said about historical context I meant for irony in modern life.  Because now we're in the Age of Irony; lots of people say so, like my professors and some dot-commers I know who were heinous rich for a while but then lost all their money and had to buy regular cars and houses again.  Which was ironic, because they weren't expecting that.

     Because before the Age of Irony we had the Age of Anxiety.  Dr. Shropton in Brit Lit said it all started in a poem by W. A. Auden.  But we got over the Age of Anxiety, mainly probably because drug companies invented Valium and Riddalin.  Even jello-shots are good if you have anxiety, so they probably helped too."

                                                                                                                                     --"Robbie Gruder Considers the Irony of Modern Life"

All text copyright Tim Myers 2008