HAVOC is here!

The future starts today...

Author: jhlucas (page 3 of 5)

Harajuku freakshow!

Harajuku Station is the destination if you want to see what the kids are into…


Especially down Takeshita street… and yes, I know what that looks like it says…


Photobombing the Harajuku jumbotron!


Checking out the fashion…


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Even the older folks are stylin’…


And, uh, there’s this thing…


Watch your step!


That’s a quick stroll down Harajuku way. Sayonara for now!

Shrine on, you crazy diamond…

Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine, in a large park, in the middle of Tokyo.


Not that Tokyo really has a “middle” but the effect is the same – one minute you’re walking past Harajuku Station where all the freaky fashion kids hang out, and the next minute you’re standing in front of a giant wooden gate in a forest. Like this guy…


The gate is called a torii, which means birdhouse. It’s a passageway from the mundane to the sacred. Coming straight from Tokyo’s teen fashion hub, the effect is stunning. Time to leave it all behind and get your zen on.


A wide pebbled path leads through a lush forest filled with Japanese maples. There’s a guy who rakes the rocks, and another guy who sweeps the leaves off the path. Constantly. I don’t know what they call him in Japanese but I call him “Leafman” and he has mad skills.


On one side of the path is a huge collection of sake barrels. Sake is called wine but it’s actually brewed like beer. Go figure.


You keep going down the path and come to a place where you wash your hands and mouth, cleansing yourself and focusing. Then you walk on to the shrine. The outside has huge wooden doors…


Through the doorway you see the shrine itself…


It’s actually a collection of buildings…


And a prayer wall, to which you can add your prayer…


Pictures are forbidden at the main shrine itself. There’s a giant taiko drum on the right, and a place to stand near the middle. You drop some coins into the collection crate (today it was for the Kyushu earthquake victims). Then you bow twice, clap your hands twice, and bow once more. If you close your eyes you can feel the world turning. At least, that’s what happened to me. There’s a lot of mojo in Meiji. And even the occasional Japanese wedding…


Walking out, I was struck with just how hard it has been for Tokyo to keep this part of its culture. The shrine was destroyed in World War II and they rebuilt it. Since then, Tokyo has become a fast-paced city, a crazy mix of cultures from all over the world. Many aspects of the West have been embraced, and in many ways the Western style is overtaking their culture. Signs of American and European cultural adoption and imitation are everywhere. But authentic places like Meiji Jingu survive as a testament to the old ways of this proud island people.


Heading back out of the forest, you can see tall buildings framed in the gateway. Back into the world of the mundane…


First night in Tokyo…

So we dropped off our stuff at the Cerulean Tower hotel and hit the streets. This is the famous Shibuya Crossing…


You’ve probably seen it in every movie that ever had a Tokyo scene. Shibuya was hopping. We walked all over that mama-san, checking out all the wackness, crazy stores and bars everywhere…





Eventually we stopped at a tiny ramen bar called Afuri. You order on a vending machine inside the front door…


How it works is, you pick the ramen you want, then put your money in and press the button. The machine spits out a ticket and you take that to the counter and hand it to one of the cooks. They made me a vegan ramen and it was oishii!


Tokyo exists on many levels. Roadways over roadways, tall buildings with rooftop bars and basement shops too. And there are cranes everywhere, construction everywhere. It’s overwhelming. Especially at the end of a long day of travel. We made it back to the hotel bar before our feet melted, for some Suntory times…


So… after a 15 hours of travel and another 7 hours bopping around Shibuya, I fell into bed at 10PM. Which was still yesterday back home. Good times!



I’m 36,000 feet above the Pacific, crossing the dateline into the future. Tokyo, baby!

Looooong non-stop flight to Narita, Japan (10 hours!) but I had the whole row to myself so I got to lay down like a jet-set hobo. This is a business trip with two colleagues. We’re going to do businessy things. You know, cos I’m all business.

Getting off the plane, I was mobbed by Japanese teenagers. I’m big in Japan! Alas, they weren’t looking for me, they were chasing some Japanese TV star who looked like an Asian Harry Potter.


My first trip to Asia, I’m stoked! The three of us took different flights so we met up in the airport bar for Suntory time…


I think those are flight attendants behind me but it might be some weird fetish. They’re into kinky stuff over here. So we got out of there before they started their preversions and hopped a train to Tokyo.

It’s about a 40 minute ride through the cuts to Tokyo. Rice paddies and power plants and run-down houses by the tracks. Just like the train out of New York City. Except for the rice paddies. And the houses are Japanese. And Godzilla, of course…


After barely escaping in our bullet train, we finally we get into Tokyo…


We check into the hotel, the Cerulean Tower Hotel in Shibuya. Sha-BOO-YAH! I get a suite with two twin beds (one for each of my split personalities)…


And the wackiest hotel bathroom I’ve ever had, with a deluxe shower and a toilet that pees back at me and a jacuzzi tub with a spectacular view of Tokyo…


I unpack my stuff and head out. Are the things I’ve heard about Tokyo true? Will the ramen bring me back to my college days? Do they really have vending machines that sell used panties? Will I figure out how to use the computerized toilet?

Tune in for the next episode to find out…

Five Years with David Bowie


DO YOU REMEMBER WHERE YOU WERE the first time you heard a Bowie song? Sitting here today, the day of his death, I can still remember that moment. Like it was yesterday, so many yesterdays ago.

The first time I heard a Bowie song, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a convertible Karmann-Ghia. I was riding with the editor of the high school yearbook, a brown-eyed girl whose name escapes me now. She pushed a cassette tape into the deck and turned it up.

Pushing through the market square,
So many mothers sighing.
News had just come over,
We had five years left to cry in…

”What’s this?” I asked.

She looked at me like I was from another planet. Usually she just looked at me like I was a sophomore. She was a senior so the look was pretty close to the same thing.

“Ziggy Stardust,” she said. “David Bowie.”

She gripped the wheel tighter and sped down the road, barely making the yellow light. We were in a hurry to get back to her place. Not for the reason every other guy in Jordan High wanted to get back to her place, but because we had run out of rubber cement at the yearbook office. It was a classroom during the day but after 3:30 it became our office. She was the senior editor, in charge of a staff of about a dozen students. I was the illustrator, compositor, and pretty much anything else she felt like bossing me around at. I didn’t mind.

News guy wept and told us:
Earth was really dying.
Cried so much his face was wet,
Then I knew he was not lying…

“You don’t really get this music, do you?” she asked.

I didn’t. But I wasn’t going to tell her that. I didn’t know much about girls but I knew if you didn’t know the answer to their questions it was better to shut up, on the off chance they might mistake you for being “mysterious.”

We drove down Hope Valley Road, past towering pines choked in kudzu. Late spring in North Carolina can bring some hot days, and this was one of them. The back of my shirt stuck to the seat but with the top down and the wind racing by it wasn’t so bad. I heard cicadas buzzing, that Doppler effect as one swarm faded out and another faded in. A kid on a riding mower waved at us. The earthy, syrupy smell of fresh cut grass as we passed by.

I heard telephones, opera house, favorite melodies,
I saw boys, toys electric irons and T.V.’s…

Hope Valley was the upscale suburb where the rich kids lived. I had been there a few times, in baseball games on better ball fields against kids with better uniforms, better gloves, better coaches. They even had real Gatorade, not the powdered stuff the coach of our team—the Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department—gave us. Whenever we beat the Valley kids, which wasn’t often enough, we spat in our hands before the obligatory “good game” handshake line. Then we piled back into the coach’s van and drove out of their manicured paradise, back to our middle-class suburb off Highway 54.

Becca was her name, I think. But I could be mistaken. That ride in the Karmann-Ghia was a long time ago.

My brain hurt like a warehouse,
It had no room to spare.
I had to cram so many things to store
Everything in there…

We passed the Hope Valley Country Club and wound down a couple side streets. She didn’t stop at the stop signs, just slowed down enough to make sure we weren’t about to crash into anyone.

And all the fat-skinny people,
And all the tall-short people,
And all the nobody people,
And all the somebody people…

We took another corner and lurched into her driveway. Her house was easily twice as big as mine. Her yard was smaller though. Not that that was any great thing, having to mow a half-acre full of pine cones—and trying to rake pine needles!—was nothing to brag about. She turned off the engine. Far away, someone was cutting grass, the buzz of the lawnmower round and echoey.

I never thought I’d need so many people…

I figured I would wait in the car. That seemed like the cool thing to do. Unless she invited me in, then I’d act cool about it, like maybe shrug and follow her in. I had been working on this plan for about a mile. It seemed like a good plan.

She cut the engine and the music stopped. She got out of the car and walked to the door. Reached in her purse and got out her key. She had her own key! My mom was usually home so I didn’t need my own key.

“Hey!” Becca shouted, and gave me a what are you waiting for look.

I shrugged my coolest shrug and peeled my back from the seat and walked up the drive. Now that we weren’t moving it was really hot. I wondered if the heat had melted the condom I kept in my wallet “just in case.” My friends and I always kept one “just in case.” But so far there had been no cases. Would this be one?

Oh god, was that what this was about? Of course! It didn’t take two people to go get a jar of rubber cement. Why hadn’t I figured it out before? Why is it so hot today?

She stood at the door humming Five Years. She waited until I was right beside her before inserting the key.

“Don’t touch anything,” she said, and opened the door.

A blast of cold air hit me. They kept their air conditioning on high, all day! A fool and his money, I could hear my dad say, and I shut the door quickly.

“It’s in my room,” she said, motioning down the hall. “Want a coke?”

“Sure,” I said, and she popped off into the kitchen.

I walked down the hall. There were pictures on the walls, same as my house. There in the pictures their family looked pretty much the same as mine. The same shots of Christmas morning, same unrecognizable aunts and uncles. Same yearly family portrait from the mall, same painted-on smiles waiting for the flash to go off. Her parents looked pretty much the same as mine. I guess in two dimensions all parents look pretty much the same.

I got to the door of her room. It was open a bit but I didn’t dare go in. Not until she got there, anyway. I didn’t want to seem like a creep. I shivered, the sweat on my back cold from the air conditioning.

“Here ya go,” she said, handing me a Coke.

In North Carolina every soda was a “coke.” But this was a real Coke, not the store brand. In a bottle, even. That classic bumpy bottle, the ridges cold in my hand.

“Thanks,” I said. “Nice room.”

“Oh brother,” she said and took a swig of hers.

She walked into her room and I followed. Everything was neat inside, her trinkets squared away, her bed made.

“If my boyfriend asks, tell him we weren’t doing anything.”

“So, uh… what are we doing?”

She laughed and pushed me onto the bed. She stood there, looking down at me, Coke in hand. I took a nervous sip.

“What do they say about me?” she asked. “At school?”

The kids said a lot of things. That she was kind of a fox, not the foxiest in our school, but maybe the smartest. Maybe the craziest, too.

“Nothing,” I lied.

“Thanks a lot,” she muttered.

“No, I mean, I don’t know. The usual?”

I sipped at my Coke. The fizz burned on my tongue, the sweet sting of liquid sugar. A drop of cold sweat slid down the bottle and trickled between my fingers. The Coke was the same dark brown as her eyes. I wanted to never leave that room.

She looked at me for a long minute. She hummed the whole time, that same song from the car, Five Years. I sipped my Coke and tried to pretend it was no biggie, crazy foxy chicks were always humming songs to me. Then she went to her closet and opened the door. I could hear her singing:

A girl my age went off her head,
Hit some tiny children…

Maybe she was crazy. Maybe staying in that room wasn’t such a good idea after all.

“I gotta pee,” I said, and walked out.

I found the bathroom, put the Coke on the counter. Splashed some water on my face. Checked my wallet. How long had that condom been in there? Freshman year? I threw it in the garbage. Then I thought of her parents finding it and I fished it out and put it back in my wallet. I flushed the toilet for effect.

When I got out of the bathroom I heard a car horn: beep, then beep beep! I went outside and there she was, back behind the wheel, the engine running. She held up the can of rubber cement. It was time to go. I got in and she turned up the tape. The song was half over.

I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlor,
Drinking milkshakes cold and long

“He probably won’t ask,” she said as she put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway.

Smiling and waving and looking so fine,
Don’t think you knew you were in this song…

The Karmann-Ghia raced back through the Carolina heat. Back from her upscale neighborhood, past the country club and gas stations and apartment complexes, back to our school. She pulled into the parking lot and found a spot. She stopped the car but didn’t turn it off.

“You have to listen to the end,” she said.

And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor
And I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there.
Your face, your race, the way that you talk
I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to walk…

“You still don’t understand, do you?” she asked.

I shrugged. I didn’t care if it was the cool thing to do or not. She was someone from another planet, speaking words I couldn’t yet understand.

“This time. For us. All of us. This time, right now…” she said, and turned it up.

We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes.
Five years, what a surprise.
We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot.
Five years, that’s all we’ve got…

We listened to the song until the very end. Five years, five years, five years… it seemed to go on forever. By the time it was over she was crying. Then she dried her eyes and we got out of her car and went back to the classroom to work on the yearbook.

Five years later my life would be different. I transferred from Jordan High to the School of the Arts—the live-in art school like on that show Fame—where I graduated, only to drop out of college. I would go to New York, hang out with the wrong crowd and leave one desperate midnight, on a plane bound for San Francisco. There I would meet another brown-eyed girl, and we would have a daughter together. All in five years.

Five years, what a surprise…

David Bowie called it. Turns out I was in the song after all. And, most likely, so were you. Do you remember?

NERD ALERT: king who?


Everybody knows Princess Leia Organa but what about her dad, King Organa? Where the hell was he when his daughter was dealing with all that shit? I mean, jeez, she got grabbed by Darth Vader! C’mon, dad, show a little love!

Also: Queen Organa must’ve been quite the interstellar hottie. Just sayin’…

NERD ALERT: Who you calling scruffy-looking?


When I was a kid I  wished I could be like Han Solo—tough, cynical, devil-may-care… Now that I’m an adult(ish) I’m pretty good with the cynical part, but as for the rest? Sadly, I’m more or less just a “nice guy”. I mean, I was in rock bands and punk bands and all that, but I was the nice guy punk. Which is maybe a nice way of saying poser? Ouch! Whatever.

Even when I was a kid, I knew I wasn’t the tough guy type. My dad had the Beatles’ Let It Be and I thought John Lennon was just the coolest. But somehow I knew I was always more on the McCartney end of the spectrum. Or maybe Ringo.

The point is, we can’t all be Han Solo. Maybe that’s just how it works—there’s only so much bad-assery to go around, and the rest of us have to be the guy in the band who doesn’t bang the groupies. You are what you are. Even if you don’t wanna be.

But damn, I always wished I was a bit scruffier.

“Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf-herder…”

So here’s to all the nerf herders… May you be as scruffy as you can.

NERD ALERT: Revenge of the Sixth!

See what I did there? Recycled that whole thing. If you’re ever stuck in a trash compactor on the detention level, I’m your man! Or droid. Or whatever.

The droids were one of the most awesome awesomenesses (yes, that is a word) of the whole STAR WARS nerdiverse (also a word, thank you). I’m gonna reserve judgement on that new BB-8 guy, to me he looks like half a mochi riding on a soccer ball. But I loves me some mochi, and soccer balls are okay I guess, so we’ll see.

I guess I just have a special place in my heart for the original Dysfunctional Duo, the Frick & Frack of the Force, C-3PO & R2-D2…



BTW, I’m at the beach now, for real, and it is awesome. But if I see any sharks or Jawas, someone’s gonna get a throat-punch!

NERD ALERT: Revenge of the 5th!

Yeah, OK, so I’m gonna see how long I can keep this STAR WARS fascination going. Maybe until the new movie! Or maybe just until the next sentence falls out of my face. I never really know what’s coming out…

Which reminds me: we don’t really know anything R2D2 ever said, do we? I mean, it’s C-3PO who’s always translating.  Which puts Threepio in a curious position of power…


I’m not saying Threepio would, you know, lie or anything. But let’s face it, the dude is an emotional wreck. He’s one oil-bath away from sucking the tailpipe of Luke’s Landspeeder. Or making sweet love to a trash compactor. Or whatever it is that droids do when we’re not looking.

Which reminds me, I better go check on that Roomba…

NERD ALERT! Farce Friday!

Er, I mean, Force Friday. A day when all the nerds gather around their interwebs to ogle the sci-fi porn that was, and is, and is to come, STAR WARS. Nerds like me…

Like every nerdy kid, I had a big thing for STAR WARS. Having the last name Lucas made me a minor celebrity with everyone I met. Because not only did I have the lauded director’s last name, I had the equally famous NERD-HAIR required of all heroes…


Think about it…
Luke had the short version of Farrah Fawcett’s mop on a bad day.
Han rocked the Scott Baio way before Chachi even knew Joanie existed.
Leia had  those ear-muff hair-barnacles stuck to her head.
And Chewie? That dude was all hair!

I’ll spare you a picture of my nerd-hair at the time STAR WARS came out. Suffice it to say, it was more feathered than Kristy McNichol’s pubes. Yeah, I said that.

Nerd-hair is powerful. Nerd-hair is the Follicle Force. May that force be with you!

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