Destination: Tokyo! But first… a bit of hell.

Buddha at Kiyomizu-deraThis week I’m headed to Tokyo, and boy are my arms tired.

I’d probably be more excited about leaving if I weren’t already spent. When I was stuck at the airport back in Orlando, I bought a guide book for Tokyo and read it on the plane. Once I learned that there’s a single district in the city that has both a tanuki museum and a taiko museum, I metaphorically blew my wad, excitement-wise. I’m just not as young as I used to be, and I can’t keep the giddy anticipation going for that long.

Speaking of not being as young as I used to be: I want to know what the hell happened over the past four years. I had to dig up my passport, which I’d gotten right before my first trip to Japan in 2002, and I did a double-take once I saw the picture. Sometime over the past four years, I went from Blackbeard to Skunkface. Can just telling people over and over again, “Hey, did I tell you about that time I went to Japan?” for four years really turn you that gray that quickly?

Also speaking of getting old and ornery: tonight I had to go shopping for clothes. One of my overriding memories of being in Tokyo was that I felt conspicuously under-dressed the whole time. No matter what station, what part of town, what time of day, everyone around me was dressed right out of a Banana Republic.co.jp ad, while I was dressed like an ad for Gamasutra.com. When the people weren’t sneering at my antiquated digital camera, they were mocking my jeans and clever videogame- and comic book-related T-shirts. Even knowing that my apartment was much bigger than theirs couldn’t salve the knowledge that I had shamed my country.

So I resolved to go to the mall and left feeling like I’d been assaulted. Somehow I got the gene that makes you self-conscious about your clothes but didn’t get the gene that makes you enjoy buying clothes. I hung out at the Borders and Apple Store for as long as I could, but I knew I was only delaying the inevitable.

Now that I’m straddling demographics, it’s even more difficult — the department stores have “young men’s” and “men’s” sections, but no “graying man-children” section. At least I no longer have to buy pants sized “husky,” but I still can’t get my head wrapped around the idea of paying fifty bucks for a shirt. Especially one that looks like something a 28-year-old dot-commer would wear to an Italian wedding reception to try and get laid with the bridesmaids.

I tried venturing out into the rest of the mall, a mistake I won’t make again. There you’ve got to pay eighty bucks for a poorly-made shirt, the mannequins are dressed like the WB network threw up on them before it died, and if you go into the Gap (shudder) you get 10-foot-tall close-up pictures of douchebag Jeremy Piven staring at you from around every corner.

After about two hours, I finally managed to escape with a pair of pants and a shirt that were probably in style a couple of years ago. The entire time, I kept thinking “I wish they’d turn that damn music down” and “is this wrinkle-free?” I should’ve picked up some of those black socks with the little garters, but I had to get home to watch my stories.

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