Zushi is a small fishing and flower growing village at the end of a railway line an hour or two out of Tokyo.
I had moved out of the city to try and escape a heartbreak. I tended to try and escape myself by moving away from nodes of my life’s pain. Every mirror I met tattooed the pointlessness of this gambit on my withered soul but stubbornly I stuck to the only flawed gambit I possessed.
Japan sold Beer and Whiskey out of vending machines that had internal timers turning them on and off, usually off by midnight and on again sometime of a morning. I had found a local malfunctioning unit permanently on. That and the slew of self help books I'd bought was my solace as, is my wont, I marinated in my self pity, devouring good advice until I lost the capacity to focus.
This desperate foundation had its small advantages. I had one good NZ friend in Japan, Rob MacLaren, a fellow clown I'd shared years of imaginative misadventures with. He was more or less an adult while I was an arrested child. He's set me up in the beachside apartment and would visit and try not to smile too ruefully at the scattered “How to be happy” paperbacks that were scattered about the place with the empty bottles. Rob was one of the first of many to curse me with the unwanted responsibly of being a 'comic genius'. His love for me eclipsed the frustration he and others had felt of my effortlessness talent wasted. My love for him meant I would jump at any mad suggestion he offered. He had suggested I come to Japan in the first place. We went back to our mid teens.
We'd both been in Stalker stilt theater, a dark pretentious romantically masochistic stilt company that had lasted a couple of years and a couple of national tours before imploding under it's own catholic residue. It took all and gave nothing. We were all on unemployment apart from the director and eventually the collective generosity expired.
But we had stilt skills out the yin-yang, and we had trained in cultural isolation such that our methods and movement vocabularies and skill-sets were unique. We had copied no-one.
Rob and I had scaled a Cathedral on stilts for a photo-shoot, visited an abandoned mental hospital atop a hill on a pitch black night where you could not see the ground and the driveway dropped off sheer on one side, we had walked through the deserted capital city Wellington [The Windy City] during a ferocious gale, wrestling each step forward so when he visited me in Zushi and we saw the quarter mile sea-break with the lamp-post at it's end we knew we had the afternoon covered.
There was a drop-off either side, twenty foot down to a service road on the inside and a fifteen-foot drop down to rocks on the outside. The top was only three foot wide with one dogleg kink at the halfway point. Any mistake would mean physical disaster.
Taking small deliberate steps we set out, staggered so one wouldn't take the other out if anything went sideways. The wind was brisk and gusty and the lone lamppost seemed impossibly far away. The concentration and focus required to not put a foot wrong while keeping balance and keeping forward momentum to avoid stepping over the sides was of an unknown quantity as there was no going back once committed.
We each screamed with excitement and fear and mutual joy as we tottered under grey gusty skies towards our objective. It took a good twenty minutes to make it out. First one, then the other, made it to the lamppost where we clung ecstatic. The best of friends celebrating our common madness.
The occasional fishing boat would re-enter the harbor and the crews would gawk at us. Two twelve foot long legged anomalies waving happily from a seemingly impossible position. Pan-cultural oddities.
We both made it back safely, it took longer and our reserves of adrenalin were fully exhausted by journeys end. We took our stilts off, looked back at the wall we'd conquered and shared a profound grin, packed up and slinging our gear over our shoulders casually swaggered back home, another youthful danger milestone invented and past.
Testing yourself is a muscular reflex of youth. Most survive but there are always, among your generation’s youthful peers, those who serve as a warning. Dead or maimed, early suicides, youthful misadventures, diving off bridges, overdoses, paralyzed trying to get in the girlfriends window, falling out of a helicopter deer-hunting. Youth means it's only in those last
seconds, if that, a fleeting truth manifests.
“I'm not special.”
For some, exceptionism never wanes. Hey ho.