The internet has always been something I've taken for granted, there always seemed to be some free internet connection lying around somewhere, work, housemates or libraries opening me to a wide world of international pornography. I've been wandering around plucking email access like some kind of 21st garden of eden, but this all came to a screeching halt when my housemates moved out abruptly, taking the internet with them.
Looking for public internet access is a great way to see just how capitalism is manifesting itself in the town you happen to find yourself in. Wandering as I am in the wilderness of central Urawa, where the internet seems to be locked into people’s homes, the library computers only search for books (the hubris!) and I can’t even find an internet café, I realize my long run of internetting without a computer may be numbered. I’m uploading this previously typed essay from the tiny computer at the English school I work part time at, in a brief 15 minute interval while the boss is out. Shhh.
In my old town there were three standup internet terminals plopped right in the middle of a video rental store, no explanation given for why, just a note asking you to keep use to 15 minutes a person. “The fools!” I thought, conducting my international correspondence amid rows of Kill Bill Vol.2 and to a relentless soundtrack of 50’s pop hits. For any of you who care, there is a fascinating sequel to the song “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To”, where our hapless narrator has found her boyfriend Bobby stolen by her “best friend” Judy. In the second installment of the series the undeserving Bobby is back with our narrator, who gleefully croons in the chorus: “and now it’s/ Judy’s turn to cry, Judy’s turn to cry/ Judy’s turn to cr-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-i-i.” I wonder why that doesn’t get more airplay on oldies radio in the states. Maybe I haven’t been listening enough.
I thought I was cleverly duping the rubes at the 24 hour Popeye video rental store, but then I noticed that, even though I had spent over a year and a half in Japan without renting a single video, suddenly I found myself picking up that copy of Goodfellas from the staff picks shelf, or realizing I’d always wanted to see Magnolia...
It was right around that time that all the Virgin Megastores in Tokyo started inexplicably closing, and taking their unlimited free internet café’s with them. While Popeye could sucker me into giving up a dollar to rent a video, I wasn’t exactly going to throw around the $30 a disc piracy that passes for music retail in Japan. That slick looking night manager at Popeye with his wet looking helmet of gelled hair may have gotten the better of me, but I’ll be damned if I’ll say uncle to that cocky mofo Richard Branson.
I was saved by the fortuitous arrival of a free internet spot in the local Seibu owned department store in my local station. Thanks to Popeye video rental’s tutelage, I can make the apt comparison to a Kubrick set; a wide and flatly lit room backed by broad glass windows, an excess of purely aesthetic unused space, the three slender monitors set up on a high counter against the gleaming white walls, punctuated only by the bright orange of the stools. Placed as it was right in my local train station building it was often crowded with elementary schoolers who blatantly ignored the “15 minutes a person” signs, coming down on rainy days played racing games online for hours at a time. I was also a bit amused to see some dorky looking 20 year old playing erotic anime games: he would transfixed, bouncing a little ball around the screen that would chip away at some busty anime girl's clothing.
The biggest drawback was being subjected to the music broadcast in the department store. The Pepe department store, along with the Seibu train line, was owned by the Seibu company, one of the largest privately owned companies in the world. I read somewhere that the owner of Seibu was at one time the wealthiest individual in the entire world; amid all his other investments, it was all based from the network of trains and department stores that spread over Western Saitama and Tokyo. Seibu also owns a baseball team, The Lions, which had the gall to win the Japanese national penant last year, which meant that the Lions’ three fight songs were played at deafeningly loud volumes on repeat for the opening of the season, playoffs, the championship... My price of free internet was to have those three songs playing on repeat in my head for the rest of the day, and they are still permanently seared onto my memory. “The passion/ the challenge!/ the excitement!/ Whoa whoa whoa Lions!/ Whoa whoa whoa Lions!/ Li-ONS!!”
Two weeks or so after the pennant victory some higher-up in the company finally gave the ok to cut the 24-7 Lions songs. I, along with every single employee of the department store, breathed a massive sigh of relief when the music turned over to the slick smooth sounds of R&B crooning played at more reasonable volumes: R. Kelly earnestly wailing his soul’s redemption after weathering those statutory rape charges was a much more appropriate soundtrack to my email writing. I did, however, keep my ears cocked for a long awaited third installment to the saga of Judy, Bobby and Anonymous. Since it never came, I have decided to write it myself. If there are any up and coming music producers out there who are interested in producing the following tune in a 50’s bubble-gum pop style, please contact me.
Had a party just the other da-ay-ay/
Dumped Bobby ‘cause he’s in my way./
In a second, dropped him flat,/
Drinking all my beer and chasing a-a-ass./
Talked to Judy sitting in the co-er-ner,/
Said she never really liked that boy either./
Just wanted me to look her way,/
Says I’m the brightest part of her da-ay-ay./
So now it’s/
Judy and I, [clap-clap] Bump and Gri-ai-aind/
Judy and I, [clap-clap] Bump and Gri-ai-aind/
Fuck that sexist prick. [don-don-don-don-don-don]