Around the World in 11 Days: Epilogue

Shibuya Square Crossing

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.

Lori gets a better vantage point in Shibuya Square

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. We’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.

“How do I do that?” I text back.

“Shave off all your body hair and immerse your body in sake,” he replies.

Contemplating the Crossing

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 Tommy’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). I’ve almost adapted to the time change, now five nights since we left London. But I’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 “The Social Network,” 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, I’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 — 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 —  despite traveling 16,000 miles across 24 time zones — so it’s pretty easy to get back on Pacific time.

It’s great to be back. I survived Airline World.

Truly, there is no place like home.

1 thought on “Around the World in 11 Days: Epilogue”

  1. I just finished reading the entire “Around the World in 11 Days” and as always, I immensely enjoyed it or is it I enjoyed it immensely? I learn so much from your articles. That was a beautiful sunset picture from the plane.

    I really enjoyed learning about carnet. It was very interesting reading.

    What are the chances that a William Zachary would lose his United Boarding Pass in the Red Carpet Club at SFO at the same time that you were there?

    It’s unbelievable that it took you 3 hours to clear passport control and customs at Heathrow. Why didn’t you fly all the way into Manchester? I like the idea of turning the neck pillow around and I’ll try it the next chance I get.

    I understand about the Magliner luggage cart being oversized but why would two pizzas box laid end to end be an oversized large flat box?

    I can’t remember the name of the restaurant in the Radisson Edwardian. Was it Altoaltoaltoalto etc? That’s very funny.

    The story about Tim is amazing and the fact of Andrew pulling the drunk out of the canal is also amazing. You certainly meet some fascinating people and have great stories that I love to read.

    The sunroom was beautiful. I liked the picture of you with the stub but since you had written that it was cold, I don’t understand why you weren’t wearing your hood (This is your Mother speaking). The pub looked mighty small (very narrow) unless it was real long on the inside.

    I continue to be amazed at the fabulous places you find to dine at. That was some picture of the naan hanging down. It seems in most of your articles, you have a picture of paella. I guess when you are far away from home, the one comforting factor is eating good food even if you don’t know what you are eating (like horse or whale in Japan).

    I noticed the young man wearing a mask and I’m glad you explained why.

    It’s a small world when in a city the size of Tokyo, Jim meets a young Japanese woman whom he met as a hand model in CA. What a coincidence!

    Was that a picture of Tommy Lee Jones with the “Boss” cans?

    It took the death of a friend’s son to awaken you (double meaning?) to your sleep apnea problem. I’m glad you are doing so well and that the CPAP works for you.

    I don’t eat sushi but I thought it was a novel idea for the plates to rotate past you on a moving belt.

    Your Japanese Google translation skills need a lot of work. At least in the Karaoke room the words were in English and I enjoyed singing them to myself.

    The van pulled over in the middle of Shibuya Square and no one bothered you. Then you said: “Imagine doing that in Times Square.” That’s my neighborhood you were talking about and I know for a fact that with all the police surrounding the van that no one would bother it.

    So you end your 254 hour trip by bowling 5 games and didn’t do well. I wonder why?

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