February 24th, 2013

ortega feelthy peeg


I didn't bother watching the Oscars this year, for the same reason I give them a miss every year: I don't give three-sixteenth of a rat's ass about the Oscars. I did hear over Twitter, however, that Dame Shirley Bassey proved once and for all that vocal training and talent will always beat auto-tune.

I managed to get everything done on my list for today. My research paper is all done, my Japanese homework is done and the exam studied for, and my Statistics work is as caught up as it's gonna get. Now I'm watching Thunderball and relaxing a bit before bed. There will probably be some guitar played as well.

- - -

Kyoto is a great city for walking, because it's nice and flat and has wide streets. There's also a great big river running through the middle of town with paths on both sides, which works like a big freeway to get from north to south while avoiding cars.

It's an even better city for riding bicycles. After Fuzzy bought himself a custom-built mountain bike from a shop in the north end of town, I thought I might buy one as well.

I spent about six hundred dollars and had a really nice bike made, a 24-speed hardtail with disc brakes front and rear, a custom saddle, and really nice Shimano trigger shifters.

I rode that thing everywhere. At first, I was just using it for exercise. I would get on and ride as far north as I could along the river, for fifteen or twenty minutes. Then I would turn around and ride back. As I got better at it, I kept riding farther and farther. Before I knew it, after twenty minutes, I would be up in the hills around northern Kyoto. It was a great workout.

One day, I was tooling around the little roads north of town in the hills, and I saw a sign for Kurama. I had heard of Kurama, and I knew they had a great onsen up there, so I pointed myself that way and set out.

Of course, I had no maps, and this was in the days just before smartphones, so I was relying mostly on guesswork, a basic sense of direction, and the simple expedient of stopping and asking people, Sumimasen. Kurama onsen wa douchira desu ka?"

It turned out that Kurama Onsen is about ten or fifteen miles well up the side of a mountain from my apartment in town, up narrow, winding switchbacks and up roads with no shoulder and no guardrails to prevent a lovely plummet back most of that ten or fifteen miles down to the Kamogawa plateau.

Finally, I made it to Kurama, a very little town with a shrine and a temple and, just past all that, the onsen. It was, I think, two thousand yen for an all-day pass, or twelve hundred for access to just the outdoor bath. I just went for the outdoor bath.

And it was awesome. I sat in the bath and soaked up some spring sunshine while I looked back at the tree-covered hills, my clothes drying on a hook nearby. I chatted with some tourists, took a break to have a smoke and drink some water, then soaked some more.

After about an hour or so, I finally put my clothes back on, walked back out to my bike, and coasted all the way back into town for a well-deserved beer.

I miss riding my bike.