My friend Bryan moved to Tokyo, when middle America finally became too small and he felt that choking in his throat again. He cashed his chips at the local casino and borrowed the rest, then jumped a flight heading east, leaving behind a DUI and little hope for salvation amongst the cornfields.
The journey to the other end of the world wrecked havoc on his nerves, and he stopped in Istanbul to share his panic with anyone who would listen. When he arrived in Tokyo, nearly two days later, he found himself in a swarming, scrambling jumble of concrete, billboards and bodies.
His conquest of the local markets took up much of his time in the first few weeks; a daring expedition that moved from duck blood and stinky tofu to German pig feet, fried and frizzled on an open grill, all washed down by pineapple and ginseng beers. And enough slight, young female bodies to just about satisfy his insatiable palette.
But it isn’t just the small-towness which is prone to trigger such restrictions of the gullet. Because sooner or later the familiar tightness crept back in and settled insidiously around his neck, clenching and constricting, stiffening the swallowing motion so that no more Asian delights could pass.
The vast urban tundra, navigational only by high speed train tunnels, once evoked a foreign sense of thrill. Its grand scale at odds with the suburban grass patches of the homeland. Now, its cataclysmic depth is impenetrable, a network of infinite possibilities fanning out like mirages on the horizon. Now, he wants to quit, the toils of the market baring too much pain and confusion for a day’s commute.
Why can’t we spend our days like yesterday?
Photograph: Daido Moriyama