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I went for a walk today in Buena Vista Park and as I walked by a relatively-but-not-really secluded area, I saw a blond woman straight-up fellating her boyfriend, right in the middle of the park, as he sat on a tree stump getting splinters in his bare ass.  Just doing it, right there out in the open, in the middle of the day.  Ya gotta love San Francisco.  Anyhow, this intro paragraph was added just now on Sunday, before posting.  I originally started writing this post in the air on Saturday…

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Greetings from 30,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean!  I’ve just finished watching two movies (The Artist and Hugo—both quite wonderful) and now it appears that everybody else on the plane is going to sleep, but I’m an insomniac as always so I may as well start a blog post, doncha think?  The 5:30 Tokyo to San Francisco flight is a real bitch.  For one thing, it’s from Narita airport, which is far from the city and a real pain to get to.  It leaves at 5:30 PM JST and arrives in SFO at 10:45 AM PST, which is 2:45 AM back in Japan.  This usually means that just as I’m starting to fall asleep, the plan lands, and then I need to stay awake for at least 10 or 11 hours if I want any chance of avoiding jetlag.  Of course, if I succeed in staying awake that long, then my body clock gets all screwed up and it’s nearly impossible to fall asleep at night in San Francisco without sleeping pills for the next couple of days.

Nonetheless, although I am not stoked about the imminent jetlag and I’m less-than-excited about going to work on Monday, I am tingly all over at the thought of getting back to San Francisco.  I’ve had a little experience with long distance love, and I can tell you it comes in two flavors: “out of sight, out of mind” (a.k.a. “how it is for her”), and “distance makes the heart grow fonder.”  There are a number of factors that help determine which variety of far-away love you’ll encounter, but I’ve found that if you spend a long period of time away from the city you love in another city where you are locked in a windowless office and forced to eat nothing but bentos from the 7-11 on the 9th floor, you’re going to really long for the Golden Gate Bridge and a Mission burrito.

Then again, looking back, I can’t think of a time I haven’t been happy to fly back to SFO.  Flying back home became a fairly regular thing for me starting in high school, when I was very involved in my Jewish youth group and used to fly to various places across the country for board meetings and conventions.  Then there were the trips home from college, from various places abroad, and of course from Japan.  Before I actually lived in the city, “coming home” usually meant going to Marin, either to stay (when I was still in high school), or for a relatively short visit.  My parents were pretty busy, so the general rule was that I would look for my dad at baggage claim, and if I didn’t see him, that meant I was taking the airport bus home.  On a trip home from NY I didn’t mind so much but coming home from Japan and having to take the bus was never fun.  Fortunately, my dad is now retired so he’ll pick me up at the airport in a few hours.

Going home always entails a number of phases.  The first is saying goodbye to everybody in whatever place I’m leaving.  I usually throw myself at least one party (I had two this time around, as I mentioned last week). Goodbyes are never too easy, and this time around was no exception.  I already had a fair number of friends in Japan before this trip, and I’m leaving with a few more; for what it’s worth, the hell that I went through last month and the months before was conducive to really bonding with my coworkers.  I don’t know when I’ll see these friends again.  On the one hand, I feel like Japan will always be a part of me and I’ll return back soon enough.  On the other hand, as I noted last week, this trip really fucked me up and I have little desire to return in a working capacity.  Maybe I’ll go back when one of my friends gets married…I still haven’t been to a Japanese wedding.

After saying goodbye comes packing.  I actually got an early start this time, by shipping all of my winter clothing home.  I took the slow option for shipping it home, not because it’s cheaper (my firm pays for the shipping so cost doesn’t matter), but because I don’t want to think about unpacking all of that crap for at least a couple of weeks.  I planned on packing yesterday after I got back from Seoul, but I had to see a couple of more friends who hadn’t made it to my going away party, so I didn’t start until late last night.  Fortunately, it doesn’t take me long to pack—I’ve moved so many times (at least 20 times since I was 18, probably more) so packing my whole life into a couple of suitcases is second nature to me.  Here are my secrets: (a) roll, don’t fold; (b) when it doubt, throw it out; and (c) you’re going to forget something—that’s just how it goes—so just make sure you don’t forget your passport.  I always forget something.  In the past, it was often my Mach III razor, but now I’m more weary because they don’t make the Mach III razor itself anymore, only the cartridges.  It’s a real shame—the Mach III is the pinnacle of razor technology.  I’ve tried the “Quattro” and the “Magnum 5”, but neither compare to the closeness and comfort of the Mach III.  When it comes to razors, to quote De La Soul and Schoolhouse Rock, “three is the magic number.”

When I was wrapping up my packing minutes before the taxi arrived to take me to the airport bus, I was unable to find my key for my apartment in SF.  I just realized where it is—it’s in a zipped-up pocket of a bag I shipped home in that box with my winter clothes, the one that will be arriving in a couple of weeks.  Crap.

After packing comes my final meal wherever I am.  Naturally, I had sushi one last time.  In NY, I usually had pizza, in Israel, falafel.  You always gotta go for the cliché meal that you simply can’t get made as well at home.  We have good sushi in SF, but even so, I’m not going to have any desire to eat it for a month or two at least.  It’s just that good in Japan.

Then comes the trip to the airport.  Sometimes it’s a bus, or a taxi, or a train, or a ride if I’m lucky.  When it’s not the latter, I usually like to listen to something on my iPod that’s kind of chill and introspective.  Today I went with Thievery Corporation, as I’ve been on a trip-hop kick lately.  The classical phase I mentioned in post #3 ended when I gave up on finishing The Glass Bead Game.  Admittedly, it was kind of boring.  As I rode, I tried to think of what it is I forgot in my hotel room.  I was pretty sure it wasn’t my razor.

Then there’s the airport.  This is my first time ever flying home on business class (after what they put me through, they’d better damn be flying me home business class), and I gotta say that they really take care of you for the extra $3000.  First you get to skip the long line at check-in.  Then they put a red “priority” tag on your luggage.  I’m not sure what that means, but it’s pretty cool that somebody is making me a “priority.”  They also let you skip the whole security procedure—as we all know, terrorists don’t fly business class.  Finally, you get to relax in the business lounge, where they give you free sushi, free sake, comfy chairs, and massage chairs that give you happy endings (if you use them in a certain way).

You often see couples make out in airports, by the security gate.  Even for those of you who don’t like PDA, you gotta admit that there’s something beautiful and romantic about two people enjoying a final smooch before one leaves the other behind (and it’s much easier to be the leaver than the leavee, believe you me).  The Japanese are not much for PDA, but I did see an American couple—I’m guessing that he was military and she was visiting—go at it before the young woman (who was smoking hot, might I add) left for her plane home.   I myself have had a few romantic goodbye kisses in airports—Newark, Atlanta, Dulles, Sydney, and SFO all come to mind—but this time there was no kiss for me.  I can safely say that I am not leaving behind any broken hearts in Japan, except maybe for Michiko, one of the women who worked at the front desk in my hotel.  I think she had a crush on me.  Another person in my firm staying in the hotel even told me that when I was in Seoul, Michiko had told her how much she was going to miss me.  Aww.

Note: After I wrote that last paragraph, I took a break.  I am now back safely in my apartment.  This is important, as it will change the verb tenses.

The airplane ride back to SFO is never too fun—let’s face it, air travel sucks, especially now that they don’t give you meals in the cattle car for domestic flights.  Such bullshit.  Of course, I didn’t ride cattle car this time around, as I mentioned before, and it was an international flight so I had meals.  Good meals too!  Steak, champagne, mocha parfait, a little table cloth for my tray…they know how to do it in business class.  I mean, it was still disgusting, but there was the illusion that they tried, and that’s what counts.  The movies are also better, and the seat is much more comfortable, but I still didn’t sleep.  Stupid insomnia.

As noted above, my dad was waiting to pick me up, and he drove me to my apartment where my mom met us.  I love that first drive back from the airport—getting reacquainted with the Bay Area or California or America, depending on where I’m returning home from.  There’s always that feeling of “did I ever even leave?” as the environs is so familiar, but then you start to notice little differences.  For example, since I left 7 months ago, all of the billboards on the highway south of the city are now for websites.  I mean all of them.  Was it like that before I left?  Probably, but I remember seeing at least one McDonald’s billboard before I left that said, “Good time, great taste, that’s why this is our place.”  Christ, I’m old.

Then comes the first meal back.  I had envisioned that it would be a burrito, but there are no Mexican places in the immediate vicinity of my apartment so instead I took my parents to the cute little sandwich café on the corner and got my favorite, the caprese.  After lunch, I decided to stay outside as much as possible to convince my body that it was daytime.  This is the next key phase in coming home (at least if you come home from abroad): fighting jetlag.  It was a beautiful day in SF, which apparently has been pretty common this year.  As a friend of mine in DC once stated, it appears that global warming is actually a convenient truth.  I decided to walk to Amoeba Records and had made it only one block when a young, surfer-looking guy ran up to me and asked if I wanted to earn a quick $10.  I told him, “I don’t have to suck your dick, do I?”  Yeah, I know, 2 blow job references in one post.  What do you expect—I’m back in SF.  Anyhow, it ends up he wanted me to help move his girlfriend’s armoire up 3 flights of stairs.  Although I was jetlagged and exhausted, I helped out, and afterwards his girlfriend and a friend came over and we went onto the roof and had a beer.  I regaled them with tales of Japan; as usual, my description of Japanese porno and sex shops proved a hit.  It was so nice to be able to chat with strangers without awkward linguistic and cultural barriers.

My walk up and down Haight street was very helpful.  If you ever come to SF from Tokyo and are worried about (reverse) culture shock, just take a quick stroll on Haight Street—going from weird to weird makes it easy.

I stayed up until 9, then it was time to sleep.  That’s when I figured out what I forgot in my hotel room in Tokyo: my sleeping pills.  They’re behind the mirror in the bathroom—the one place I forgot to check.  Ugh.  And that’s why I’m writing this sentence at 4:30 AM.

But I’m back!  See you soon?