Kiss this One Goodbye

Looking forward to a much needed new year though I bet that next year around this time I’ll be writing the same words.

It was a tumultuous year, as we all know, and although the pre-trial Bill Cosby said wisely never to say, “it could be worse,” it could be worse.

2018 will bring out the best in people, and it will bring out the worst.  It’s likely to be a year of extremes, and, as Isaac Bashevis Singer once wrote, “If you can imagine it happened, it happened.”  But how does one prepare?

In the world of food, writers will continue to collude with industry and ignore the realities of one of the last unregulated industries based primarily on servitude and a military model of relatedness.  There’s a reason why the front of the house in restaurants are called servers–it’s a nice way of saying, “servants.”  And in the back of the house, cooks work in, “brigades.”

The big trends in 2017, put forward by industry and outsiders, are little things like eating out more, eating at home more, more Asian cuisines, smaller plates, fermentation, etc.

But the real trends, consistent with servitude and the military, are, first, the increasing takeover of the industry by private equity and hedge funds. The biggest profit margins are in bread, coffee, pizza, noodles, and baked goods–you’ll see more investment in each of these.  You’ll also see greater uniformity in overall dining–business plans–and a huge push to sell alcohol, which is where more profitability exists than in food.

You’ll also see more chefs and restaurateurs toppled by women coming forward to report the sexual harassment and abuse that takes place in their establishments.

And then, in 2019…

@ Narita

@ Narita, once again, after 8 nights in Japan on a trip that took me from Tokyo to Kyoto and back to Tokyo.  Not much between meeting people and taking notes and observing except for really delicious food, from eggs to noodles to broths to chicken to beef to pork.

Late last night, solo @ LAPIN, a subterranean bar in an alley in Ginza. Something out of a movie.  Originally from 1928, habituated by several famous writers, like Dazai, banned during the fascist era, reopened as a coffee salon during the American occupation when liquor was scarce or illegal, moved, reshaped, back to what it was supposed to have looked like nearly a century ago.

It was like being in a movie, from the ancient, doddering, serious staff to the idiosyncratic, outgoing guests, to the low ceilings to the small wooden stools facing the bar.

Now heading to the States.

Couldn’t decide between kaarage, gyu, or yakitori for airplane picnic so bought all three.

“OK, Time to Fly!”

“OK, time to fly!” was a slogan of the state airline of Czechoslovakia back in the day, around 1981, when I made my second visit to Prague before the whole Soviet collapse.

Today in Tokyo, it’s time to fly once again, back to the States, returning to Battleship Amerika.  People here in Japan with whom I’ve spoken, friends I’ve known for well over a decade, nearly two, have pushed aside their usual reticence about shortcomings of the States they perceive.  Long conversations laced with fear and anger and sadness.

All this over delicious grilled beef or grilled chicken, fresh vegetables, eggs, soba, udon, and broths.

Returning soon.

Saturday Morning in Kyoto

The house I’m in is new, not open yet to the public, and it is in a small compound that belongs to a late nineteenth century mansion within which are numerous artifacts and art from various sources, including Zen temples shut down during the Meiji Restoration.

The house faces an enormous private garden of deciduous and pine trees, lined on one side by a canal and a narrow street, on the other side there is a busy, four lane city street.

I’ve been in Japan nearly a week.  Lots of meetings concerning writing and projects, each evening with friends, mostly old friends though some new, and great people watching day and night.

Long walks through the downtown area and also the Eastern hills.  Kyoto is one of my three favorite cities: Manageable scale, extraordinary mix of architecture, people reserved but pleasant, a wide river lined on one side by an elevated bank and little cafes.

I’ve been enjoying udon and soba, yakitori and beef, beautiful apples and persimmons, delicious young ginger.

I’ve read two novels by Mishima in the past few days, and the morbid fascination with decay and self-loathing make clear why he appealed to me in junior high school when I seem to have shared some of his doubts with similar intensity.  Now I can still appreciate the ferocity of the writing, his commitment to what he is writing.  He is more like a sculptor than a painter.  But I’m lost when his fantasies turn from reality rather than observe what is around us.