They call it the Skyliner. It’s a train that takes you from Ueno station to Narita airport in 56 minutes. And for most of the ride, you’re suspended above the city. Not at a ridiculous height, mind you; just high enough to let you know that you’re not on the ground. It’s like standing on the roof of a garage. No, it’s like being on a ferris wheel. I fucking hate ferris wheels, and I wanted to ride one so badly this weekend. It was in Chiba. Oh yeah, the train. I had only slept for 45 minutes out of the last 28 hours, and was determined to see the sunny, sickening, unfathomable outline of every building I passed on my last morning in Tokyo. I turned my iRiver MP3 player way up.
It was Saturday — the first of two Saturdays I would experience that Saturday. As the Honey and Clover soundtrack shook my ears, I clutched my suitcase and began to cry. Silly, right? Embarrassing, even. I mean, now it is. Then, it wasn’t so bad. It was what-I-was-doing-that-moment.
I really love Tokyo.
The first Saturday morning that Saturday, I was sitting on a green guide rail near a 7-11 at some unfamiliar intersection. A caged-in Tabby cat was freaking out in the window above me. To my left was a new friend. He ate yogurt, and told me that it was good. After tasting it at the airport, I’d have to disagree. Maybe he had bad taste in yogurt — or I do. The point is, we disagreed. Not at the time, though. At the time, it was his yogurt, and the cat watched him eat it. I watched the cat.
The second Saturday morning was in Los Angeles. My boyfriend picked me up from the airport at 10am, after I had already lived through the entire day, earlier. I’ll tell you what right now: The Saturday in Japan was better. Los Angeles Saturdays in September start cold and end colder. I got really stuck that Saturday night. Like brick-bashed. The guilty part of me says I deserved it. I don’t even know what I feel guilty about. Like, I shouldn’t have been watching a cat while somebody ate yogurt? That’s unreasonable. No, Heather, your guilt is born of confusion.
Sorry if this is so obtuse. I’m writing for myself, here.
So much has happened since I wrote last that it seems impossible to recall all of it. I’m finishing up my first six months at The Groundlings. During that time, I’ve been called up by SNL, NBC, CBS, and some Emo-Rock Musical. I haven’t had any success on TV; I continue to claw at the edges of comedic validation. As for the musical — I haven’t auditioned for it, yet.
Rocket Magazine has shut down. I’ve been hired to write for Geek Monthly. Play Magazine continues, steadily. I’ve had and lost a job writing for TBS’ Superdeluxe series, FarkTV.
As the Skyliner streaked over Tokyo, I asked myself: What The Hell Am I Doing? When am I going to feel satisfied by this life, and what will it take to get a little composure? Why am I happier on the platform in Minowa than I am anywhere else in the world?
You know the platform. It’s at the top of the page. Yeah, the subway station in Minowa is the most perfect place in the world. It’s never as crowded or desperate as the other platforms, but you can still feel the heat of so much focused attention. Everyone’s going to work. Or whatever. Mostly, people are just going to Ueno. Then, they’re going to work.
Back on first Saturday, the Skyliner pierced a cloud and shot out the other side. Train couldn’t be that high — the clouds were low. I wiped my tears away and told myself that I was over-tired. I owed a lot of time to sleep, and it was making me crazy. Focus? No way. Couldn’t happen. Don’t blame yourself. But please, stop crying. The Japanese people are looking at you. I locked my jaw, and watched the sky-scrapers dissolve into farm-fields.
Tonight was the last Last Day of School show. For almost two years, my team at UCB has rolled through Monday nights, picking up people and gathering momentum. Our final show was O-K. Nothing special. That’s often how last episodes go. How many of us cite the final episode of an anime series as our favorite? Usually, it’s like, episode 16 or something. Never the final episode.
After the show, the team congregated at Birds — the bar next door. My heart hurt. Too many endings for one day. I chewed on a Maker’s, and had shallow conversation that masqueraded as something more. Jim said to me, “You’ve got to figure out what makes you happy, and surround yourself with it. Not what you think you want; what you actually enjoy. And then wrestle it into your everyday world.”
That’s the thing, Jim. Very few people know exactly what they want. Those that do, can’t get it. What’s worse: knowing what you want, or not knowing what it is?
For years, I’ve flirted with the idea of moving to Japan. If somebody had walked up to me on that train and said, “You have a tiny apartment waiting for you here in Tokyo. Your things are sold on Ebay, and here’s a check for the total. You can either grab onto this, or let it go and everything will return to how it was.”
Do you know what I would have done? Gotten off the Skyliner at Narita, and taken its mirror back into Tokyo. I would have enrolled in Japanese classes to accelerate my re-education. I would have said goodbye to LA, and lept off the train with a giddy grin.
I would have bought a lot of rice.
Instead, I finished the ride and got off at the airport. Bought my now ex-boyfriend a gift (the only thing I purchased in Tokyo), and found a free internet cafe sponsored by Yahoo. Checked my email, deleted 50 or 60 things, and reluctantly boarded my lonely flight. No, wait. First, I bought some yogurt. I threw it out without finishing it. That yogurt isn’t very good.
Maybe it’s because I had Strawberry.
You know, I don’t have a degree in Journalism. I owe my job in Videogame Writing to the fact that I Am A Girl. We all know that, right? I mean, sure, I’ve written stuff before. Had a screenplay optioned before I moved to Amsterdam for those unbearable years. When I was in college, a professor walked me back to my dorm, telling me that he wanted to send my work out to his agent, if-only-I-would-write-a-novel. I even did that, mostly.
But I write for Geek and Play because I’ve got blond hair and tits. I believe that, for the most part, I’m more deserving of these jobs than most girls. (After all, I still have my SegaCD — that has to count for something.) But my job is not genuine. Same talent with a dick dangling between my legs? I’d be goggling Kotaku just like everyone else.
I’ve studied FILM, not GAMES. I’ve written SCREENPLAYS, not STORIES. I don’t even know what journalism IS. It’s writing about an event, right? That’s about all I know. Hell, I don’t really know anything. I’m a good improviser, which is how I managed to deal with my interview with the cinematographer from Children of Men. What would a journalist ask here, I thought … and then asked it. That’s how I’ve gotten through almost everything in the last year and a half. What would a games journalist do here? I guess the silver lining is … thankfully, eventually I’ll actually be one.
As the Skyliner shot through a sun (It was the stars — not the train. It was the stars that were low), I resolved to take a break from LA this spring. If I don’t get renewed for The Groundlings, it may be sooner. I don’t know what else I can give to this city. I’ve poured a lot into her over the span of five years. We had Industry Night at the melrose theatre on last monday. For fuck’s sake, if an agent isn’t interested in the tiny cast of actors that are tearing up that stage every week, I don’t know what it will take. It’s The GROUNDLINGS. The prime reason to work at that theatre is that the INDUSTRY TAKES NOTICE.
I guess I did get a musical audition out of it. 36 bars of Emo-Rock. I think I’ll sing Mr. Brightside.
Anyway, it may be time to “make myself happy.” Do something that most of my actor/comedian/writer friends would consider stupid. When you don’t have any close friends who are into anime, it’s hard to discuss life in broad, idealistic terms. But that’s what the internet is for.
So yeah, I’m single. It may be time to go.