On our way back to the hotel after the shoot at the Karaoke club, Richard spontaneously has our driver pull the gigantic van over, right in the middle of Shibuya Square, the famed, neon-crazy crossing in the heart of Tokyo, through which nearly a million people pass every day.
We hop out into the mob scene on the sidewalk, shooting pictures and video and gaping at thecrowds. Randy climbs the built-in ladder on the gigantic van to a flat platform on the roof and shoots the huge video billboards, ads for pop stars, flashing lights, car traffic, and human flow with his Sony EX3.
We remain parked there for at least half an hour, with no permission, no permits, no pesky police presence threatening us, issuing citations, or even politely asking us to move. Imagine doing that in Times Square! That night Richard takes us out for Japanese pub food, mostly finger food and beer in a congenial setting.
The next morning, while Randy, Lori and Jim go shopping at a Japanese crafts place, I finally get to meet with my friend Tommy Oshima, a Tokyo-based director-producer-editor-special-effects guy, whom I met years before on a corporate comedy shoot in the Bay Area. Weâ€™ve been planning to get together all week, but he is sick with the flu, so we keep putting off our meet.
Finally he texts me on our last shoot day that he is feeling better and can swing by my hotel the next morning before our departure. He promises to wear an anti-viral facemask (lots of folks in Japan wear surgical masks to protect themselves against allergens and air pollution and protect others from their germs), but he warns me I will have to disinfect after our meeting.
â€œHow do I do that?â€ I text back.
â€œShave off all your body hair and immerse your body in sake,â€ he replies.
Our meeting is brief but lots of fun. Over coffee in the lobby of the Hilton, I babble on about our shoot and he tells me of his recent work creating Augmented Reality applications for devices like the iPhone. We marvel over recent apps like WordLens, which translates (or claims to translate) any text at which you point the iPhone (Only Spanish-English and English-Spanish are available, so far, and my results with WordLens to date have been mixed).
I eschew Tommyâ€™s disinfection advice. We load all our gear onto the gigantic vanagain for the long drive to the airport. The rest of the ritual is uneventful and routine: arrival at Narita, Customs and carnet process, United check-in, a short stay in the Red Carpet Club lounge (where no one finds a boarding pass with sorta my name on it). Iâ€™ve almost adapted to the time change, now five nights since we left London. But Iâ€™m facing nine more hours in a tin can, this time in an exit row middle seat. Lots of legroom, silent seat partners on both sides. I watch â€œThe Social Networkâ€ my view of several screens blocked variously by people standing, waiting for the rest room.
We leave Tokyo at 5 pm Friday, fly east (again) for 5000 miles, crossing seven more time zones. Because we cross the International Date Line, we land at SFO at 9 am Friday, arriving before we left. Around the world in 254 hours, a lucky number, Iâ€™m sure, since I grew up at 254 Archer Street in my hometown on Long Island.
US Customs clears us quickly and we emerge into Real Air. The low, warm winter sun slants in on the four of us as we shuffle our gear on the curb at San Francisco Airport, just back from Japan and England.
I find my ride home, and I am in my living room by 11 am. I shower, change, and wake my son Danny (who has that day off from work), and we go bowling â€“ anything to keep moving at that point, to reset my body clock to the new time in the Bay Area. Five humiliating games later, during which I bowl my worst and Danny his best, we grab burritos from Gordo Taqueria and head home for a rest. I sleep soundly that night, with my wife and my CPAP, on the new-old schedule. I was only gone 11 days â€“ despite traveling 16,000 miles across 24 time zones â€“ so itâ€™s pretty easy to get back on Pacific time.
Itâ€™s great to be back. I survived Airline World.
Truly, there is no place like home.