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MY KENYA DIARY: IN QUEST OF EAGLES
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ancient cedars

2012-05-28 - 6:25 p.m.

About the other night: I'm pretty sure that I never had a guy grab the check before by waving his smart phone at the waiter. For that matter, I never rode in a Japanese cab before. I did not exactly cover myself in glory when the door popped open, and I thought I must have hit the wrong knob to cause that, and so I discreetly pulled it shut again, and then S. explained, Erm, this is where we get out. The cab drivers wear white gloves because they never have to actually get out of the cab and open any doors. They somehow pop open and closed by magic.

Anyway, S. was such a generous host that I was a little bit embarrassed. I felt as if I should have bought his drinks or something, but he never gave us the chance. I did bring some Louisiana seasonings as a gift, and I told him to let me know if he ever visits New Orleans.

The other two guys left on Monday morning. I decided to set out on my own to hike Mt. Takao. It's only 600 meters high so how hard can it be? Somehow I hopped on the wrong train -- twice -- so it was too late in the morning for any decent birding by the time I finally found the right mountain. Maybe too windy anyway. I did take the cable car partway up and then climbed the final 1,000 steps and 200 meters to the top. I don't know if it was 1,000 steps. I have the knees of a football player, so for some reason I decided I needed to cater to my inner masochism. Maybe it was 2,000 steps. I couldn't have made it look very easy, because when I finally reached the top, a Japanese man of about 70 gave me a high five. But I did make it. The knees actually seem to be working OK. I just have to go slowly. And it was safe enough, since as per usual, there were hordes of Japanese elders and entire first grade classrooms full of children who had just made the same hike. No wildlife really to speak of but very atmospheric, with an entire temple complex up there. At point some monks came out in different costumes beating their percussion instruments and generally marching around. There was the usual buying and selling of magical charms but I avoided being hustled by any more monks. They had more business than they could handle as it was.

I descended the mountain fairly easily, with only one wrong-turning before I reached the cable car. A small sign promised a waterfall in English if I continued to descend on foot, so why not? I very slowly climbed the rest of the way down, and I found not only the waterfall complete with shrine but also a great flowering of attractive white, yellow, and purple patterned forest iris. At last, I was not skunked by iris.

It rained around 3, so I hopped onto the train and headed back into town. I had a wave of deadly tiredness, and I fell asleep, but I awoke in time to hop off at Shinjuku. I walked around Kabukicho some more looking for freaks. On Monday, at rush hour, there were probably more people in suits than freaks, and it's even possible that some of the schoolgirls were schoolgirls as opposed to young ladies looking for action. There were several girls in the maid costumes hustling the maid cafes. I've fallen way behind on my pictures, but perhaps I'll find a decent picture in the folder somewhere. Who knew that so many maids carried stuffed animals?

For a big city, the people of Tokyo are awfully sweet. Not just sweet like New Yorkers who come over and try to give you all sorts of directions. Sweet in that, as I ascended up one flight of escalators and into the day, I saw a double rainbow -- and dozens upon dozens of Japanese people lifting their cell phones to snap photographs of the rainbow. Awwwww.

The air was fresh and delightful after the rain. Clear, cool, too pleasant to let me go. I walked and walked all over Shinjuku and then I remembered that somebody told me that I could see some freaks at Shinbuyu -- is that spelled right? It doesn't look right -- so I caught the subway over there. Here is the famous sculpture in honor of the faithful dog. For some reason, I pictured like, a bronze statue of a dog, but instead it's like a bas relief panel coming out of the wall of the subway station showing the dog in question in multiple poses. As for freaks, I don't know, since I don't know how you can tell chicks dressed as schoolgirls from actual schoolgirls. Well, if they were wearing the uniform with six inch stacked red scarlet heels (at one point, I saw two different girls, in view at the same time, so there were definitely two of them, in that costume), then I guess it's a costume rather than a uniform.

What with one thing and another, it was almost 10:30 before I got to my capsule at Haneda Airport. They were out of the first class cabins I had the first time, and so I had business class, essentially a room completely filled with the bed so that it wasn't in fact much bigger than if it had been business class on an actual airplane. I'd kept it to two glasses of wine but I was staggering with tiredness, and I was practically sleep-walking into the group showers. Then I collapsed and slept, oh, I dunno, all about four hours. Woke up and stared at the ceiling for a few more hours. It's going to be a long day.

Speaking of business class, C. somehow persuaded Delta to give him a business class upgrade on his international flight on a ticket for which he'd paid the fuel dump price. I guess he's my new hero. He's going to try to do it again on the way back, so I told J. to stick close and see if he can get upgraded as a companion, since they're both on the same flight. I await the thrilling conclusion to this story with baited breath.

later

Just got a note that they did not get the upgrade this time but it sounds like the flight was empty anyways so no worries. My HND-KIX flight dropped me at the airport around 11 A.M. and they didn't start printing boarding passes until 2:30 PM, so I ate some noodles in the noodle shop and snoozed on the public couches with no homeless bum arm-rests to prevent you from snoozing. Hey, Japanese people were doing it too. I have now gained the club-- NO showers, alas -- and I'm sipping the frosty beverage with a plan to try to catch up on some photo editing. Stay tuned.

later

EC was largely empty so I was able to snooze from time to time. The food KIX-SEA was not fit for human consumption so I had to survive on the calories from alcohol. Only one female shower in the Delta SkyClub but since no one knows it's there at all, I had immediate shower service. One Pinot Grigio later and I stumble to the gate to find out that our flight to JFK is delayed. Sigh.

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