Yesterday, for the first time in oh such a long time, I got together with some close friends whom I hadn’t seen in more than a year, to just spend the day talking and strolling. It was a molasses kind of day, waking up late, taking time to putter to the station, milling about while waiting for my friends at the meeting spot, and then just taking the rest of the day to put one foot in front of the other as we wandered around Kichijoji, an area in the western part, sort of outskirts, of Tokyo, where a distinct atmosphere of cosmopolitan creativity and traditional street markets mix in a quiet and stimulating labyrinth of tiny alleyways and stalls.
What was so surprising for me was how much I enjoyed just dilly-dallying around, shifting weight from one storefront to the next, mainly goggling at the mouthwatering food in each window or basket. Usually I get antsy when I have to stand in one place shopping for more than ten minutes, but it was delightful to be regaling each other with completely silly jokes, laughing till our eyes ran with tears, and not taking anything seriously. For lunch we ate a traditional Japanese meal of broiled mackerel and saury, boiled bamboo and radish, pickled vegetables, and brown rice. From there, at various stalls, we sampled fried pot stickers, Ghiradelli chocolate, dried Okinawan plums, and gazed at stall after stall of food that left us dizzy with all their aromas, fragrances, and odors. It was food, food, food, like happy dogs. We joked that if we were to eat at MacDonald’s there would have to be a temple or church built next door just to confess the feelings of guilt that eating anything other than food good for the body induces.
Feeling a little sluggish from the hours of walking, we decided to take in a movie, the totally forgettable “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. It was so bad that afterwards we spent probably less than ten minutes discussing it. Instead we headed for an Italian restaurant, where we sat for another three hours laughing and talking over cream minestrone soup, crab sauce fettucine, garlic and tomato spaghetti, garden vegetable salad, wine, and beer. As a diabetic I very rarely indulge in this kind of feasting, but by god does it do wonders for the soul when I let up the iron fist of abstinence!
A thoroughly satisfying and soul-sating day. Friendship fills the gaps that nothing else can, and even makes food taste better.