April 15, 2005

Turning Japanese

Posted by DaveSmith

Yakuza, white slavery and Auckland drug addicts.

Yes, I know I'm way behind. I still have Australian stuff to talk about, so now I'm 3 countries behind. This is just a quick note saying I'm still alive.

I'm in Kumamoto, Japan. I left Auckland and in the last 12 hours before my plane took off: my newly purchased cell phone died (couldn't return it because the plane was leaving), I sold my car at a loss (the reason I had to buy a cell phone), it got broken into and had a window smashed. They took my digital camera and my dvcamcorder. I'll miss the pictures I took. I have a sty in my eye and then the place I bought the plane ticket from, screwed up and didn't actually get my ticket. So I had to spend another night in Auckland so I could've taken the phone back if I didn't sell the car.

I'm only bummed about the lost pictures. I hope the kiwi drug addict that broke into my car enjoys the shots of Bob Brown's Ducati single race bike, the penguins I saw on the beach, the Britten bike I saw, Doug and Matt gutting the deer that Doug shot, Burt Monro's Velocette and Indian, Nigel's friendly cat, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's cars that I saw, the Horror Party pictures (Misfits influenced kiwi punk rock band), and the shots of the tattooed feet of Semp and Craig's feet.

I actually started taking way more pictures in New Zealand. I'll find another camera in Japan.

And speaking of Japan, yesterday I went with my friend Jay to the airport to pick up James, another friend of his. James flew in from England through Seoul, Korea. As we waited, yakuza started showing up.

I figured yakuza would keep a low profile like the mafia does in the US, but nope. They really stand out. There were 6 yakuza guys there spread out around the airport waiting for the international flights. I thought they were there to pick up a yakuza boss.

A couple of cute white girls walked through customs so I said hello. They laughed and talked in Russian then a yakuza came up and took them aside. He filled out visa stuff for them and Jay explained that it was Russian prostitutes coming into Japan and that the Korea mafia controlled a lot of the Japanese Yakuza (although the yakuza don't like to talk about that).

More cute Russian girls would get off the plane and more yakuza would greet them and take them aside to fill out paperwork. It was pretty crazy.

Other neat things about Japan is beer and sake vending machines. You can get sake sold in juice boxes complete with the straw. There's also porn vending machines I've heard, but I haven't seen those yet. And there's the wide-spread rumor of vending machines that sell used panties from high school girls. From what I've read, they used to exist but probably not anymore although there might be spots in Tokyo that have them.

When I saw Blade Runner, I thought the bleak future was someone's imagination. But it's not. Blade Runner is what Japan looks like. Tons of flashing neon signs and most building are super close and really tall. The streets are filled with salarymen in business suits who get drunk when they're off work instead of dying robots out looking to kill Harrison Ford.

Salarymen work 6 days a week and Saturday is supposed to be the big night. I can't wait to see that. There's tons of uniformed high school students around but some of the "high school girls" are hookers in their 20s and 30s who dress like school girls. I still haven't figured it out yet but Jay and Chikae can spot them and they point them out.

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Posted by DaveSmith at 11:57 AM | Comments (57)

April 01, 2005

The World Wars destroy my bowels.

Posted by DaveSmith

I knew a man, he was my chum,
but he grew blacker every day,
and would not brush the flies away,
nor blanch however fierce the hum
of passing shells; I used to read,
to rouse him, random things from Donne.

Part of a WWI poem by Edgell Rickword.

I went back to see what I wrote that pissed Pat off. It's not like he works with Phil -- Pat's one of the many who didn't flatter Phil. The only thing I saw was that I said Pat's wife Ang looked like, and reminded me of, my friend Kizzy only Ang isn't as stacked as Kizzy. Here's a picture of Kizzy and she's stacked. There was a better picture, but it's not available right now. Picture courtesy of Kizzy.

In Wellington, I pass by an empty curry place a couple times. That's a leading sentence if I've ever heard one. I found out why it's always empty by going in.

Bit of stomach rumbling the next day but nothing major. I find an Anarchist's bookstore with internet access (166 Cuba St, Wellington) meet up with some punks from punkas at Dan's punk rock potluck for the Aussie band Pure Evil Trio. I showed up with a 12 pack of Flame Beer.

Patch on the Sparkle Motion singer. I might be mistaken about the band.

I drink three beers and eat a bit and start feeling cold even though it wasn't cold. I'm not usually so quiet around punks but I wasn't saying much this night. I'm starting to shiver so I say I'll see people the next night when the bands play and make my way out to my car shaking in the mild rain probably looking like a junky.

I end up sleeping off and on for 34 hours in a cold sweat without drinking water and nothing but the rancid smells of my own constant farting to keep me company. Wondering if I was going to shit myself, but too sick to care. Luckily I didn't. I woke up at 8am and felt much better. Got my 3rd parking ticket on my 2nd day in Wellington when I was asleep too. A NZ$40 ticket, a NZ$112 ticket and a tow, and another NZ$40 ticket. When they tow cars here because you park among the other cars and don't see the sign that says "tow zone from 4pm-6pm" they just move your car a few blocks and you don't have to pay an impound fee. It would be weasily of me to leave the country in 2 weeks without paying the ticket. Much like not paying my ticket in Australia for having an unregistered California plate on my bike and not having my Australian plate.

Wake up and find a toilet and everything came out solid which was unexpected. I made it all around Australia drinking some pretty crappy water. Including water with cane toads that jump on sleeping heads. Plenty of water with signs saying "Don't Drink". Never got sick. When I was figuring out what to take from my bike I left the first aid kit packed full of anti-diarrhea pills. At Blenheim I could've used the kit when Mike & Hamish bled and in Wellington it was my turn to miss out on the missing kit.

So who's this Mike and Hamish who bled, you ask? Let me tell you.

I get an email from Carol Derbyshire, another travel happy guy with motorcycles. He's on the TE Lawrence of Arabia mailing list I was on. He knows I like bikes so he tells me about a WWI airplane show where a Brough Superior was going to race a Bristol fighter plane. A race that Lawrence had back when fast motorcycles were faster than fighter planes. Lawrence talks about it in his book The Mint.

I don't know when the fighter planes finally caught up. Although the latest suicide writer, Hunter S Thompson, described a Vincent Black Shadow as being as fast as a jet until the jet left the ground and the Vincent met The Sausage Creature. Thompson wrote the truth more often then Lawrence but probably not in this case.

At Nigel's house, I look into how much it is to get into the show. It's NZ$200 so I send an email to the show saying I don't have that much money and I offer to show up early and work for free to get in.

20 minutes later I notice that it's $200 for the Gold Pass or $40 a day and it's French themed! I figure I'll just wait for an answer and I ride south. Back in the day when I had a motorbike with a self-adjusting chain and tappets and that would rev to 15,000 grand in 5th gear at idle.

Fast-forwarding a bit past Nigel, Lee, April and the friendly cat named after a champagne. Past Magda and John the Brit. Past Matt and Doug, and Doug and Matt again. Past Hannah from Atlanta and the $500 car. Stories I'll get to later. I get messages from Dave Lochead saying show up and we'll put you to work. I show up a bit late because of minor bike problems that I think I've mentioned. Maybe I should be on a Quasar like Dave owns.

I make it up to Dave's house and was given a lunch by his wife Christine and driven off to the airfield in Dave's Lotus. Dave asks if I want to drive, so I do. In my usual grandmother style while Dave says don't be a coward and throw this thing around turns. I did and it corners like a slotcar.

I know that people who know me read "drive like a grandmother" and are hollering "bullshit on that!"

It's true when I'm in someone else's car or bike. My cars and rental cars often get thrown around. I'm not too kind on girlfriend's cars either. Other peoples stuff is safe by me except it's treated to granny mode.

The only time I've been in a wreck was right after I got my license and someone pulled out of a parking lot and hit me. His fault but I learned the lesson that just because someone is staring at you when they pull out, it doesn't mean they see you. Better learning that in a '64 Falcon Ranchero (complete with tappets I can adjust) than on a motorbike.

Which is to say, the Lotus put up with being babied by me when Dave's SAAB couldn't handle me as a passenger.

Dave was Chief Ground Guy and we ran around working until late, then I eat tea (dinner or supper in the US) with Dave, Christine and his Gothic Wicca daughter who will probably one day be embarrassed by that description. Or she'll grow up to be a computer programmer and fit in with most other programmers that I've worked with. I can't think of her name. Being sick has done a number on my memory of nouns.

Working on the Rocket Launcher

Eiffel Tower that I did no work on other than was impressed by the effort.

Dave had no room for me, so I poured a beer on his computer, as is commanded by The American Holy Trinity (John Wayne, George W. Bush and Jimmy Dean) as all Americans must do, and camped outside of town. I show up the next morning and we roam around doing more work. Another night of free dinner and beers and another spot of roadside camping. Since I had already poured a beer on Dave's computer, this time I salted his gardens and unleashed a Plague of Locusts (also known as rust) onto his vintage Ferraris.

This continues the third day. What sort of work is going on? Dave called up some stranger and basically said "Hi, May I borrow one of your Broughs and race a Bristol fighter on it?" Of course the other Kiwi said "Sure, not a problem. I've got one that Ken McIntosh just restored for me mixed in with the other Broughs and Vincents I have." So Dave was playing Lawrence of Arabia. Since riding a Brough doesn't take up all his time, we also helped Martin the Mortician paint a Mustang fighter.

Martin did most of the painting, but I did the yellow bits on the wings which you can't see in these pictures. My camera wasn't focusing this day, but I was hoping it was just the view screen. It wasn't. It didn't like the vibration of the 250cc single.

It's Thursday and there's nothing for me to do while Dave's in yet another meeting. I wander around helping out and staring at the great stuff and there's guys unloading a lot of really neat stuff. A First War tank called the Spring Chicken really gets my attention.

It's some of Peter Jackson's crew so I bug them for stuff to do. Hamish, the main guy; Brownie, the ammunition guy; Mike who'd been kicked out of the US twice after living there for years without overstaying his visa and wasn't an employee of Mr Jackson; and ? whose name I can't think of because I have a hole in my head that nouns escape from.

Brownie and another guy who's name I can't remember

I end up sleeping in Peter Jackson's hanger with the crew. Over by his Sopwith Camel and behind the Airco DH-5. Although some nights it was Sopwith and the Brough. You'd think that would be Tops, but Hamish's grandfather guarded Manfred von Richthofen 's plane (he has the pictures of him doing it he said) and he swiped his scarf from the Baron's dead body while shooting over the heads of the Aussie's who would grab parts of his plane. I'm sure there's a dozen dead body robbing stories like that but how many say they have newspaper pictures from the time? At least I saw the scarf. Friday was the day that Mike stabbed himself with his Leatherman and we couldn't find a first aid kit because I'm unprepared.

I drove a German Panther during the Second World War. I'd lean down and holler at the guy driving the Mazda it was built over and would yell, "Straight! Left! Right!" Darryl, the Indian motorcycle owning driver, would try to figure out what I meant when I'd yell, "Left! No, right!" at the same time because I couldn't see much so I was hollering what other people on the tank were yelling. It, being a re-inactment of a battle, went as well as a battle would. Mass confusion, but with no injuries on Saturday. No wait, on Saturday, Hamish was firing a German Tank Rifle (not the Panzerfaust but one that looks like a giant version of their standard rifle. Beercan Dick, you know what I'm talking about. What's it called?). And the round exploded and shot shrapnel into his face. It missed his eye by an inch in a couple spots, so it could've been much worse. Or maybe Hamish did that on Friday. Close call.

Panther view

We got strafed by the Mustang I helped paint and we exploded. We were supposed to fight some American vehicles, but battle confusion set in and they didn't make it back to the field.

On Saturday I was hanging out in the hanger pestering people for work to do and Peter Jackson stood next to me. I thought about patting him on the head and saying, "I saw Bad Taste on tv in 1989 and always wanted to see New Zealand after that because I thought it would be full of Morris Minors." But it seemed like it'd be ass-kissing so I shut up (and yes, that's a true story and NZ has some Morris Minors but it's no longer crowded with them). I probably should've at least thanked him for letting me sleep in his hanger and play with his toys. I didn't realize that a Sopwith ran full throttle and cut out cylinders to control speed. Much like my bike. Insert drum roll here.

Later that night, the guy who's name I can't remember, pissed off to Christchurch, so on Sunday, I rode in the Spring Chicken tank and fired the Bren machine gun into the dirt. That was great.

Hamish jumped in front of the tank and lobbed in a stick grenade. We ran over him and he played dead until he got bored. He jumped up on the tank again and tossed another grenade down the hatch. We needed a smoke bomb to go off.

The Spring Chicken is built around an old tractor and it ran on tracks. Pretty impressive. I can't wait for Peter Jackson's First War movie. After all, he bought the Blue Max from the George Peppard movie.

Then made my way back to the Panther for my second World War 2 event. That battle was more confusing than the first. And a German flung himself to the ground to look injured and broke his arm and went into shock. Two other guys were fighting over a .45 and the owner was yelling "hey, this is loaded, knock it off" but they didn't and it went off and gave the guy powder burns to his eye. Hopefully that'll turn out okay. Wars are good and fun but no one wants to lose an eye over it.

By the way, when I say "fire guns" I mean with blanks. No live rounds, but people don't understand that blanks are still powerful. TV actor Jon-Erik Hexum croaked himself with a blank.

Sunday night also meant inviting myself along with his crew into the fancy pants French dinner where I ate duck for the first time. It was pretty damned good, you betcha. People kept thanking me for my work and I'd say, "Hey, I'm just a mooch working to get in for free -- thank the Peter Jackson crew".

I leave Monday morning and make it up to Wellington on the ferry taking an airplane firefighter hitchhiker along for the ride.

So that's how I met Dave, Mike, Brownie, Hamish and a lot of other nice people who's names I can't remember. Some of the names were from meeting too many people at once and others are hiding in my brain waiting until 3am to wake me up.

So after sleeping the 34 hours and feeling fine but a little light headed, my belly starts howling later that night. I went into a few grocery stores looking for medication but I can't find any. Although asking people was fun. I couldn't find a chemist/pharmacy that was open but my belly was hollering pretty loud so I found a bathroom by cutting through a strip mall. At night. With no lights on. Couldn't find the lights and while I was in there, the night security guy came to lock the door. I said I was in there but I'd lock up after I left. The smell must've been horrible.

I'm wondering back to my car and there's a chemist that's putting in new carpets. I stick my head in the door and once again explain my problem to strangers, "Hi, I have the runs. I don't know what the medication is called in New Zealand but in the US Pepto Bismal is a common one".

"Pepto Bismal? That sounds like some kind of toilet!" Which was funny, but not the answer I was looking for. He brought out his wife who found some Immodium for me.

So today is April Fool's Day here and I went to Southwards Motor Museum and saw another couple of Brough Superiors with sidecars. One was built around an Austin 7 engine and it had shaft drive, water cooled, electric start, and two rear wheels. My only April Fools joke is, if this Immodium is playing a trick on me and it doesn't work, I'm going to be pissed.

I'll leave the internet cafe and will buy a pair of pants from the St. Paul's just in case.

Posted by DaveSmith at 02:38 PM | Comments (18)