Dec 29, 2006
Waking Up: Vindicated. . .Dashboard Confessional
First Day at School: Table for Two. . . Caedmon's Call
Falling In Love: In God's Country . . . U2
Fight Song: There's Only One (Holy One) . . . Caedmon's Call (guess this would be a holy war?)
Breaking Up: Walk On. . . U2 (finally a tune that "fits")
Prom: Butterfly. . . Mariah Carey
Breakdown: We Belong Together . . . Mariah Carey
Ballroom Blitz: O Praise Him (All This For A King). . . David Crowder Band
Wedding: Shifting Sand. . . Caedmon's Call
Birth of Child: A New Day. . . Caedomon's Call (another fit!)
Final Battle: Even Better than the Real Thing. . . U2
Death Scene: Do You Feel Loved . . . U2
Funeral Song: Pata Pata. . .Ten Feet (LOL!!!!!)
Credit: Good Enough. . . Bobby Brown
Okay. . .I didn't think I could be embarrassed but I'm a bit redfaced about that Bobby Brown song at the end. . .it's a stupid, stupid, forgettable song, but it was a song I liked a lot at a certain time in my life and it's on my ipod for strictly nostalgic reasons.
I'm not sure what's up with Caedmon's Call. I've only got three albums of theirs on my ipod but they qued up a LOT! Likewise with Mariah, I probably have a grand total of maybe five songs of hers and somehow TWO make the list! The ubiquity of U2 I understand as I have six albums of theirs on my nano.
Dec 15, 2006
Carol & Barbara
The Paez Tribe
Here in the climax of the play, Imogene (played by Tali Paez) the tough-talking, cigar smoking girl who insisted on playing Mary has her heart softened during the nativity scene. "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" tells the story of the Herdman's a band of poor, neglected, and trouble-making kids who muscle their way into the key roles in the churh's annual Christmas pagaent. As they encounter the love of a God who would come as a baby born in manager, they are changed. The play's concluding message: "Jesus didn't come for the good people. He came for you and for me. He came for the Herdmans."
Pre-school director Larene Delos Reyes and teacher Joielyn Verona lead the pre-schoolers
The K-4 choir, and soloist, ninth grader Ana Inos directed by Barbara
"But wait," you say. "This is just a picture of a small group of people and an even smaller amount of food. What does this have to do with travel?" The answer is everything! This was our church potluck this Sabbath, December 16. This is all the people who attended and all the food we had to eat. Okay, I'm exaggerating. About three more people came. And they brought one more dish. Maybe. So where is everyone? Traveling, of course. Our church choir, which comprises something like a third of our congregation, along with the Pastor and Mai Rhea went to Rota this weekend to perform. Jari and Heather are vacationing in the Philippines and Palau. Grant and Britni are home for Christmas (and not only in their dreams). Missy and Layla are still around but didn't make it to potluck and will soon be taking off on a backpacking adventure in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Dec 7, 2006
This is a short video I took during the concert during the song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" I'm reasonably certain I can assure you that the fellow singing along off-key is NOT me. He sounds kind of Japanese right? I hope. . .
Okay, here it is the full-on, full-length, "director's cut "recap of my first U2 concert ever. The following includes selections (indicated by the italics) written in my pen and paper journal during my journey home from Japan, starting with the train from Saitama to Narita, and finishing in the air. The pictures unfortunately are NOT very good. I tried to pick the best of the lot for this blog entry. Part of it was just that my camera is not that good, I guess, but it was also difficult because with the crowd constantly moving it was virtually impossible to hold the camera still.
2. Vertigo / She Loves You (snippet)
4. I Will Follow
5. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / In A Little While (snippet)
6. Beautiful Day / Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (snippet) / Blackbird (snippet)
7. Window In The Skies
8. Walk On/ You'll Never Walk Alone (snippet)
9. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
10. Bad / 40 (snippet)
11. Sunday Bloody Sunday / Rock The Casbah (snippet)
12. Bullet The Blue Sky / When Johnny Comes Marching Home (snippet) / The Hands That Built America (snippet)
13. Miss Sarajevo
14. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
15. Where The Streets Have No Name
17. The Fly/ Satisfaction (snippet)
18. Mysterious Ways
19. With Or Without You
20. The Saints Are Coming
21. Angel Of Harlem
22. One Tree Hill
"After a sublime afternoon at Omiya Park, I walked back to the Saitama Superarena. I felt calm, energized, and refreshed by my quiet afternoon in the park. Walking along the upper level of the arena I saw a crowd of people down on the ground level. On closer exmaination I realized it was Larry, signing autographs. I got one bad picture of him, but moved on, not knowing how to get down there and seeing that he was about to go back inside.I arrived at the will call box and after a few moments of list searching and explaining on my part, I had my ticket and my VIP pass.
Larry Mullen Jr signing autographs outside the Saitama Superarena. Had I known he was going to be there I would have been down on the ground level getting an autograph and a better photo.
Not long after I spotted Fer Castillo, [an Interference poster from Mexico City with whom I'd been communicating on the Tokyo tickets thread] or Fernando, in line to buy concert souvenirs. He was there with about half a dozen Mexicans who had somehow found each other despite the fact that most of them had no prior relationship to one another. There was Annie, a vivacious and spunky girl who was insanely jealous of my VIP status. She'd been to U2 concerts all over North America so really I think I had a LOT more to be jealous of. There was Leo and Lupita, a newlywed couple from Guadalajara now living in Japan for two years. Lupita was studying Japanese and Leo was studying economics. With them was a Bulgarian woman with a very Baltic sounding name that I would always immediately forget whenever she told it to me. I can't remember it now. There was this taller guy who is teaching in Okinawa with hiw wife but I can't remember his name. His wife was out shopping until just before the show and I only met her briefly after the concert.
.Anyhow there was nothing to do really if you weren't standing in the massive lines for the souvenir concessions. I'd wander off aimlessly for about 15 or 20 seconds, as if I had somewhere to go. But I didn't and I'd end up back hanging out with the Mexian crew. So I hung out with the Fernando & his pals for about an hour and a half. We went to a convenience store nearby and got food and drinks. We sat on benches in a shopping complex and and ate talked about songs we hoped they'd play (Fer really wanted "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses") and when we first started to like U2.
Fernando "Fer" Castillo, one of the Interference website members and me.
Me and the Mexican Crew. From L to R (the Bulgarian Girl Whose Name I Always Forgot), Leo, Lupita, Fer, Annie, and the Other Guy Whose Name I Can't Remember)
Mexican Crew plus Interferencer "4U2Play" (real name: Nick) on the far left
At 5:30, I left them with promises to use what little VIP clout I might have to try to get them into A block where I was (they all had B block tickets much to their frustration). At the VIP entrance I met two other ETS ticketholders, and it was thanks to them that I ended up right up front. Andrew, a Japanese-American from California living in Japan since 1998, and his pretty wife Nahoko spoke Japanese and were able to smooth the way. Andrew was the one who knew that we couldn't be spending time hobnobbing at the VIP party. We needed to get out on the floor so we could claim the best spots in the A block. I, being a total novice, would have been naively lurking about the VIP room for two hours awkwardly trying to act as if I belonged there if it hadn't been for Andrew!
They gave us a leather bound U2 Vertigo tour day planner as souvenir gift and invited us to "eat and drink" until 7:30. Sure. We raced through the red and blue lit lounge--very swank--and I managed to snap a quick photo of the stage below us through one of the windows. We followed a security guy through the warrens of the arena until we arrived at the ground floor just in time to hear the Edge ripping through "City of Blinding Lights." Had the concert begun? Far from it! This was soundcheck--an added bonus to our evening. We were instructed to stay in the back of the arena. From where we were Edge, Larry, and Adam and their techs were just tiny figures on the stage. We listened is they riffed through snatches of various tunes including the clarion notes of "Bad." We knew then this was going to be a GREAT show.
The U2 "Vertigo" stage as seen from the VIP room. The tiny dots on stage are the Edge, Adam, and Larry doing soundcheck.
Finally they left the stage and we were allowed closer. But we had to wait until the first groups of "regular" people were let in before we could stake out a position in the the ellipse itself. A little after six we saw the first bunch being led in, inching along, huddled in a roped-off group and hectored by attendants shouting instructions at them. At the moment they were cut loose, our security personnel let us go too and we raced, literally RAN for the front of the stage--the lucky ones, including me, colliding with ghe barricade and holding on for dear life. Within seconds every inch of the barricade all the way along the ellipse was claimed and everyone else had to be content with filling in behind us. I only kept my spot for about 15 minutes. There was a short-haired, demure and petite woman in maybe her forties right behind me. I knew she'd never be able to see over me and I could easily see over her. So I gave her my spot on the rail. I'm glad I did because I'm not sure how she'd have survived back there once the show began. As it was throughout the show she was jammed so tight against the rail it looked like it might have cut her in half, but she rode it out gamely, her quiet eyes shining at each familiar song. She seemed to be having the time of her life. It was her first show too.
This was how close I was during the concert. I'm leaning on the front railing and the stage is directly behind me. This was actually taken after the show. I had a photo from before the show began but this one came out better.
And so began the wait. Almost an hour and a half as the arena slowly filled as groups were let in. Within the first five few minutes all of the Mexican crew except for poor Annie--the most jealous one of the group-- were at the front too, just a yard two to my left. (I was basically just about in front of where Adam would stand. He was just a bit to my left). 4U2Play and his people were there too. During the wait I was unbelievably thirsty. I'd had nothing to drink all that morning except a Starbucks coffee that morning (which of course added to my dehydration). Fortunately, Fer had a full bottle in his bag which he gave to me.
Here's Fernando Castillo flashing the "love" sign. This was taken before the concert began which should be obvious since he's the only one excited.
This is what it looked like behind me. I also took this photo before the concert started. You can tell because everyone looks placid and there are no hands in the air. After the show, as you can tell from the video clip, it was too dark in the audience to get a good crowd shot.
Finally at 7:30 Arcade Fire blared over the speakers and the crowd exploded. I was jolted as everyone behind me surged forward, smashing me into those on the railing in front of me. Some even tried to elbow me out of the way to get closer to the front. I was not a little shocked at the quiet aggressiveness of the crowd. And so began the struggle that would last until the final notes of "One Tree Hill" echoed away. The fabled reserve and politesse of the Japanese audience--at least down front-- turned out to be exactly that: a fable. Within minutes I was drenched in sweat--both mine and that of other bodies pressing close. By the end of the show the entire left side of my shirt was literally soaked through. In order to keep my spot from being wrested from me, I had to plant my feet and resist forcefully the bolder efforts to supplant me. To be honest the constant crush of the mob took away from the enjoyment of the eveing a little bit for me. It was hard to really enjoy a U2 favorite when someone is constantly trying to push you out of the way and you're constantly thinking: "Do I still have my wallet; are the shirt and jacket (containing my passport) still tied around my waist; man, I should have taken my ipod back to the hotel before coming here" (it survived thankfully). I had put the souvenir planner on the floor so I'd have at least one hand free, which I think was a good decision. I stood on it for about half the show figuring I could live with a scuffed cover and loosened binding, but as the crowd heaved and swayed, I gradually began to lose my footing. I went from both feet on it, to one foot, and finally while Bono sang "let it go" during "Bad", I did just that. I never saw the planner again, and despite the fact that it was one of a precious few souvenirs of the concret for me (I was running critically short of cash and the t-shirt vendors didn't take credit cards), I was okay with it.
My first photo of the concert. This would have been several songs into the show because it took me that long to get the camera out of my pocket without getting shoved out of the way by my fellow concertgoers.
Seeing U2 live was not entirely what I expected. If there is one thing they were not, it was larger than life. They were very real, very human, and oh so familiar. You know how sometimes the famous somehow look "different" in real life? Well not these guys. They looked exactly as I imagined them. The Edge, cool as ever ripping it up on the guitar far down the stage from where I was, Adam right in front of us smiling his uniquely patrician smile as if he knows the joke and we're all in on it with him, Larry barely visible behind his wall of drums, and Bono, well,. . . being Bono--the consumate showman. This close--close enough that that without the music and the crowd I could have spoken to Bono or Adam without raising my voice--they were just four hard-working guys from Dublin playing their hearts out, jamming through some great, great songs. One gem after another after another.
Bono would sometimes go out on the walkways on either side of us to sing and the rest of the band would stay on the main stage. I think this may have been during "Walk On" (a song dedicated to the Burmese democracy activist Aung Su Kyii (sp?) who has been under house arrest for years, by the oppressive regime in Burma). But maybe it wasn't that song after all as Bono played acoustic guitar alone during that song. . .
I believe this picture of the walking man on the light curtain is during "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own", a song Bono wrote for his father after he passed away just a few years ago. It's a pretty song, and a sad one too. There's a line in the song that says "You're the reason why I sing, you're the reason the opera is in me." Bono's dad was a big fan of the opera and an amateur opera singer as well. Later on Bono sang a song called "Miss Sarajevo" (a song about a beauty contest held in war-torn Sarajevo) which was originally a duet with Luciano Pavarotti. Tonight Bono sang the entire song himself, including Pavarotti's opera part and did a fantastic job. I couldn't help thinking that Bono's dad would have enjoyed hearing that.
The Edge playing the guitar. I had the hardest time getting photos of him because he was the furtherest from me on the stage. This is the best one I got and as you can see it's not very good.
Bono just after his dancing-with-the girl-from-the-audience routine. He's looking back in her direction as he sings the closing lines of one of U2's biggest hits, "With or Without You." Bono's had a long tradition of audience interactions like this. During the Live Aid concert way back in 1994 their version of "Bad" stretched on and on as Bono disappeared into the audience a danced with an audience member for something like 10 minutes. The rest of the band was horrified at the time, as they were unable to play any other songs on their setlist, but it turned out to that this dramatic performance at Live Aid, including Bono's theatrics catapaulted the group to world-wide fame. In more recent years, Bono began to choose a random woman from the audience to dance during the U2 song "Mysterious Ways" and she would dance while he sang. That's what happened this evening, if I recall correctly with Bono segueing into "With or Without You" while the girl was still up there. There was one moment that was particularly memorable. After Bono had deposited the Japanese girl back in the audience, the spotlight stayed on her face. Her eyes shining with gratitude she brought her palms together and bowed in what seemed to be the traditional Japanese style, and he bowed back and somehow I found that very touching.
Oh and here's an interesting side note. I heard that during these same songs at the third and final U2 show in Japan this past Monday, they had three traditional Japanese geishas in full costume come out and dance during the song. I would have LOVED to have seen that!
During the final song, "One Tree Hill" I snapped this photo of myself. The idea was to get Bono in the boys in the background, and my upraised hand flashing the "love" sign, and me. Well, all I got was me. But it looks like I'm having fun, huh!
So the band was tight, no noticeable mistakes. Everyone seemed to be in better shape than what I saw on the Chicago DVD--no potbellies on Edge or Bono, Adam looking less geriatric despite his silver hair, and Larry once again short haired and clean shaven, ever the Basic Larry. And Bono's voice was in fine form. He ran it through its paces drawing out the "toooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooouch me" in "Beautiful Day" and nailing Pavarotti's part in "Miss Sarajevo" beautifully. There weren't many surprises for those of us who'd been studying the setlists in anticipation of the show. They kept "One Tree Hill" which I'd thought would be a New Zealand-only type thing [the song was dedicated to one of their road crew, a New Zealander named Greg Carroll, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1986. They sang it at his funeral and it later appeared on U2's seminal Joshua Tree album. So the song had a special resonance for the audiences at their performances in New Zealand two weeks ago. It's a beautiful song about saying goodbye. My favorite lyrics:"I'll see you again when the stars fall from the sky and the moon turns red over One Tree Hill."
Back at the hotel after an exciting night, I faced the harsh reality that I was just about out of money. After manfully resisting the temptation to buy souvenir t-shirts at 4000 yen a pop because I knew I needed my cash for the train ride back to Narita airport, I got weak after the concert, and ended up blowing 3200 yen on a DVD of U2 videos. The picture below was taken back at my hotel room that night and shows all my remaining money (totaling something like $6 USD) and the item that wrecked my budget).
I told myself if I could figure out how to get back to Narita I wouldn't regret having spent the money on the DVD. But if I didn't make it back and ended up stranded and penniless in the most expensive city in the world, then I'd regret buying that DVD as one of the worst decisions of the trip. Well, luckily for me the JR Railways took credit cards (one of my problems was discovering that many places in Japan do not. I also found that my ATM card is not compatible with any ATMs in Tokyo) and I was able to get back to the airport. So now my only regret is that I didn't blow my money on a concert t-shirt instead of the DVD!
Dec 3, 2006
The Musashi Ichinomiya Hikowa Shrine
A Tori gate in Omiya, Saitama, Japan
Fall colors in Omiya Park
More entries from my pen and paper Journal:
"[Approximately 8:30 A.M., Wednesday, November 29, 2006, Marroad Inn Omiya, Saitama, Japan]. The big day. This morning for devotions I spent some time wrestling with the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah. The goal is not to have faith enough to obey blindly and robotically, but faith enough to see God's heart and know it and trust it so well that I'm able to step out in faith even in the most daunting and impossible of situations. Such faith is about being to able to see, not about being blind. Help me see you more clearly today, Lord."
And sure enough, I did.
I took this shot using the camera timer during my morning devotions. Check out the cool Japanese robe they gave us to use!
Here's the view from my hotel room, as taken from the desk where I was having my devotions.
"It's a beautiful day, don't let it get away"
--U2, "Beautiful Day"
I didn't intend to. I set out to explore around ten in the morning. The day was gorgeous, bright sunshine, crisp autumn air. This photo was taken on the walk from my hotel to the neighborhood Starbucks. I picked up a mocha latte, and then went next door to the internet cafe to write Babs, and then went down the block to the train station to begin my day of adventures!
Me and John. I took this photo outside the John Lennon Museum, on the grounds of the Saitama SuperArena. I a took a train here first to get the lay of the land and see what sites might be nearby. It was only one stop away from the area where my hotel was, and I found I could just walk back up to the Omiya station--it was only about 20 minutes on foot, which I ended up doing since I soon figured out the things I wanted to see were actually located closer to where I was staying. I would walk back to the Superarena in the afternoon for the concert.
Random beauty in Japan
"2:08 P.M. Omiya Park, Saitama, Japan: Wow. I see the wonder of Your creation and I'm moved. I'm literally overwhelmed by beauty right now. I've tried to take pictures to capture it and they are pathetic. I'm trying to put it into words and failing at that too. All I can do is savor it now, fully experience this moment and store it in my memory. This is where I wish someone--Babs--was here to share it with me because I feel like no one will believe me otherwise, when I try to communicate the sublime beauty of this place.
I'm sitting on a bench in Omiya Park and it is the essence of what we think of when we think of "Old Japan"--beautifully landscaped gardens, crimson, orange, lemon-colored leaves mixed with greens.
I passed underneath a massive Tori gate. . .
. . . .walked down a long avenue, yellow leaves whispering dream-like to the ground around me. . .
. . .and through another gate and into this peaceful oasis.
I crossed a bright red bridge over a pond stocked with dull brown fish and the occasional orange or yellow koi splashing at the water's surface hungry for crumbs tossed by the people on the bridge. Then it was on to the Musashi Ichinomiya Hikowa shrine.
Me in front of the Musashi Ichinomiya Hikowa shrine
I entered it's ancient gates and walked into the grounds full of wooden Japanese structures. The shrine itself was unmistakable. People gathered outside, tossed coins into a small water-filled basin, clapped once or twice and and bowed. Inside the shrine itself were a few more worshipers and what would guess were Shinto priests engaged in some sort of ceremony. I wish I knew what it all meant.
Despite the fact that this was not a Christian ceremony, I saw God there too, sensed that somehow He must be near, that His heart must be touched by these people coming and asking for help, for healing, for something. I thought of the scripture in Acts that describes how people "seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." I pray that their prayers were heard.
The interior grounds of the shrine. I did not take pictures of the actual place of worship (which is directly behind this structure) or the worshipers as it felt a little crass to be snapping away, flash going off and all, as they worshipped. Imagine someone popping into our church on Sabbath morning camera around their neck and taking pictures of us and our church as we tried to worship!
These shots were taken from and near the bench where I sat and rested for about forty-five minutes. It was from this vantage point that I wrote the selections you are reading here.
This park is visited mostly by older folks (the young ones are hard at work in modern Japan, just outside this park). They're here with their professional looking cameras and tripods, focusing intently on details of beauty among the crimson leaves and in the still waters that I'm certainly missing.
Note the photographer in the bottom left corner of this photo
This was a large boat pond. . .it looked more a like a lake to me. A Japanese couple was feeding these large orange fish at the edge of the pond. I think they are koi?
Below is another shot of the boat pond.
"It's nice to see the sites and I'm glad I found this place, but much of the adventures has been in just walking the streets in their foreign ordinariness, imagining the lives of the regular people for whom this is home and regular "everyday" life. It's one of the things I love most about travel.
2:48 P.M.--Still wandering Omiya Park contentedly. [I had on that day something I rarely ever have in my hectic life. I wasn't in a hurry. I had plenty of time, and nothing to do but just explore whatever looked interesting. That was a very good feeling!]. I'm now on the other side of the boat pond, sitting on a bench again. To my left a white guy mabye my age or younger sits, writing in a small notebook. Just ahead and to my left, a young couple sits; the man stretched out on the bench, his head in the woman's lap. I can only see his lges. She has long, dark hair, is elegantly dressed in high-heeled leather boots.
To my right a group of older men gather. Six are sitting, shoes removed, on tatami mats playing some sort of game--a kind of dominoes, it seems. The oithers stand around looking on with interest, perhaps waiting their term. They watch with pleasant interest, the smoke from their cigarettes curling in the autumn air."
Walking back from Omiya I noticed a lot of small, but beautiful Japanese homes. It oftens that when Babs and I visit another country we find ourselves saying "We could live here! Let's move here after we leave Saipan!" (Sorry about that, moms!) The visit to Japan was no exception and after my glorious afternoon in Omiya Park I was ready to make the move to the Land of the Rising Sun! Anyhow, with those thoughts in mind I came across the quaint, unassuming yet very beautiful little place, and I thought "I could see Barbara and I living in this house." There seemed to be small garden inside the gate which I could imagine Barbara tending. I imagined peaceful Sabbath afternoon strolls in the park nearby and right then and there I decided: This is our house! (with apologies to the actual owners, I'm sure!) And I took the photo above to capture it for posterity!
It was a wonderful afternoon. . .
BUT, "I stiiiiiiilll hadn't fooooound what I came to Japan for." That was still to come!