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This is how I study Japanese....

I coached at the Dodge Y this morning. Nine swimmers, one new to the team after not swimming for 30 years. Yay!

Machimasu.
3800 yards later and clocked out on the timecard, I headed down into the bowels of the subway. The nekopod was blasting some music suitable for the deaf, but I saw a violinist and other people are listening, so I turned off the noise. Gorgeous and sad and in tune. This is rare for the subway musician. He eyes were closed. I leaned against one of the column on the platform and listened. The G and F trains stop at Bergen St. Except today, the F train was dead somewhere off deeper in Brooklyn. A G train passed. And then another. I listened to the violin. Waiting. Another G train. The platform was getting crowded with impatient commuters. The violin was blotted out by talking and the passing trains on the other side. I turned up the volume on the nekopod. Finally, an F train.

Oshimasu.
I squeezed on as the announcer garbled “Stand clear closing doors!”. And just then, shove! This woman must have played football in college. I went flying forward and turned around to see a little tiny female shoulder-pushing her way into the car. “Sorry!” I said loudly to everyone I slammed into..loudly enough so I could hear myself over my blasting nekopod. A few people looked at me and I made some “it’s not my fault!” face. I looked behind me again at the woman, her back pressed to mine, her front pressed on the doors and her head bent down, looking at the floor.

Tachimasu.
I looked around the car: people in sunglasses, people with closed eyes, a woman with a bible in one hand, one on a pole jamming as best she could in tight quarters to what I rather assumed was gospel music on her MP3 player. She was wearing a red fishnet fabric beret. The tassel swung back and forth merrily as she swayed with the Holy Ghost.

Okoranai.
Tokyo would love this. Every time we stopped, the doors opened and more people tried to get on than were attempting to get off. This left annoyed MTA customers stuck on the platform to wait for the next train. Yelling. Growling. Pushing. Giving up. “There is a train directly behind this one!” boomed the speakers. I turned up the Nekopod. It’s the best way to stay calm. Block it out. I finally got a seat at West 4th.

Urusai-shizuka.
Max and mute are at the same point on the bliss circle. Well, I think about it like this. I imagine that the volume bar of my nekopod as a circle instead of a straight line. So the muted and maximum meet at one point. Now think of this max volume as maximum noise instead of volume (like a loud Silversun Pickups song). For me in NYC, this point is bliss. When I can find the quiet moments in my garden when the dog is not barking and the construction workers are not hammering. When the wind is lightly blowing tree leaves and the birds are only slightly aggressive…this is the mute. Peaceful. A place to zone out. But when on the go, the nekopod volume goes up, on something noisy noisy noisy. So that I can’t hear anything around me at all. Just the music and the thoughts in my heart as the taxis and people pass by in a strange dream. Bliss. Opposite ends meeting for the same effect. Random thoughts while walking down 57th street this morning listening to Lazy Eye by the Silversun Pickups. Right before snapping picks of the Union rat out in front of my building.