Running on Empty

One more night of the hotel room just wasn’t going to do it, so I asked Travis to scan the net for what might be happening in Tokyo tonight.  I thought about trying to find Avatar in Imax, as that would be fun (would the subtitles be 3D?) but settled for a concert instead.  Kaori-san – already hoarse and clearly tired from four straight days of following my twisting verbal path – sweetly wanted to take me there, but Travis wanted her home: “He’s a big boy,” tactfully not mentioning my age, “I think he can make it to Tokyo International Forum.”  And indeed, it was a quick cab ride through the brightly lit canyons of Tokyo, though the expo was so big it took me a bit to find the hall.

What with all the questions at the end of the seminar (Can you tell me what to do with my knee?…  I have a client… What about hemiplegia?… Yesterday you said braces were damaging, but I have to have them… And one poor physio with a terribly bothersome hypermobile SI joint who lived so far from help in Hokkaido that I had to spend some time treating and educating her) and the inevitable photos, I was late for the first few numbers of Jackson Browne.  I don’t know whether he had done my new temporary favorite number (Live Nude Cabaret – specifically the lines: “I’ve heard ‘form follows function’, and I think that must be true – especially when you think of what the female form will do” – thanks to friend Ron for turning me on to this album, and thanks to Quan, because those lines, the whole song makes me ache for her a half a world away – my eager senses love Japan, but it’s enough now, my deeper senses need to be fed by the touch that only people who have been in love for a long time know.  No trophy wife for me – the trophy can be seen deep in the crinkly eyes of those who have cultivated love through the ups and downs, let it sink its roots, and bear its fruit, not all of which is sweet, and the outer bark can be a little rough, but the heartwood is smooth, the xylem pulses, and step back and the whole tree glows with beauty – like the Soul Tree in Avatar, I suppose, to get me out of this sentence and back to real time)

But Jackson did do enough of the old and the new in the remaining part of his set.  He’s one year older than me, but he and Joni have often been my heart’s voice.  Having never seen him live, I was impressed with the crispness of his playing – the band was good, but without David Linley, he just couldn’t reach the aorta-bursting highs in Running on Empty.  It was fun to watch him struggle with rudimentary Japanese as I am between the songs – Ohio go-sigh-mass – and to watch the audience’s struggle between wanting to get up and shout and wave their arms vs the cultural abjuration not to disturb your neighbor or block the view of the person behind you.

Culture won for Jackson’s quiet and cerebral songwriting, but when Sheryl Crow hit the stage running, we were all up and dancing in the aisles of the auditorium.  Never really followed Miss Crow, but her band was tuned to boom-vibrate just below your diaphragm (acoustics were fab, and of course her story is great – first child after winning over breast cancer, listen to Detours – so I stayed for most of it – Change Would Do You Good, Cat Steven’s First Cut Is The Deepest, Every Day is a Winding Road, Strong Enough, and my absolute favorite, as it makes me think of my daughter, my wife, and my career: You’re My Favorite Mistake.

Fatigue overcame intrigue and I left before the end.  The streets of Yurakucho district still flowed with business-y looking people purposefully going to and from the train even at 10:30 pm on a Tuesday.  I walked around in the fluorescent cold mist of Japanese winter for a while to work my legs.  I’d had no time for dinner, so I stopped into a little hole-in-the-wall sushi joint and had a few nigiri to stave off the pangs – these are places where my limited Japanese comes to the fore – and grabbed a little Toyota which sped – not uncontrollably, however – home.

(The Japanese, by the way, think Toyota is being unfairly targeted by the US government – conspiracy is everywhere.)


2 Responses to “Running on Empty”

  1. Carrie Gaynor Says:

    Tom, brilliant writing.
    Jackson Brown has always had a way with words – thanks for posting.

  2. Joe Lubow Says:

    Yes, beautiful writing. I stopped following Jackson Browne’s music after “Lives in the Balance.” The lyrics and politics were spot-on, but the music had lost the magic his 70’s stuff had. I’m glad to hear he’s back, and I’ll check out the new album.

    Tom, that sentence that you zig- zagged your way out of is as perfect an expression of mature intimacy as I have ever heard.

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