I should have known Sunday would be an interesting day when I went to Shibuya for a bit and saw a bunch of little old Japanese ladies in purple T-shirts that said “I am a Raelian” handing out literature. I didn’t know they had made it to Japan yet — rock on. I wanted to hug them all, then clone them.

Ended up at an “Irish” pub in Shinjuku drinking and writing by myself. Sometimes cool things happen when you’re a foreigner drinking alone in Tokyo … Japanese people just come up and start talking to you, either to practice their English or because you’re a freak and they are curious. I lately had forgotten how fun it can be just to meet random people.

I first was approached by a woman who asked if she could sit and talk to me while she waited for someone. I said “sure.” She’s studying English, just joined a running club and is way into scuba diving. Like most people I meet here, she thinks her English is terrible but I understand everything she says. Her brother, who speaks better English, eventually joins us and we have a great conversation peppered with him making fun of her whenever she forgot English words. They were strangely fascinated with the American age of consent.

After they left a middle-age, Beat-looking Japanese man asked if he could sit at my table. He introduces himself as Asano, mumbling something about travel and Singapore and poetry. Tells me he’s a homeless writer who’s been all over Asia, Europe and America. Warns me not to be fooled by the politeness of Japanese society. Says he just needs to raise some cash to get out of the country as he opens his bag and pulls out some photocopied books he’s selling. One is titled “Poems,” the other “Haiku,” both by Hideo Asano. He wants 2,000 yen for the poetry “book” and 1,000 yen for the little haiku collection. The poems look interesting so I want to get that, but then I look at the haiku book. On the bottom left of the front page is the phrase “lovers sit on dung.” I must have it.

“Can I give you 2,000 yen for both?”

He accepts the deal and we continue shooting the shit. We talk about possible political reasons for the Civil War, which country might be best in terms of visa leniency for him to visit next, why the Department of Homeland Security is a total sham and if Jean Charles de Menezes should have stopped when a bunch of regular-clothes-wearin’ guys with guns yelled at him in London.

The haiku referenced on the cover is a good one, by the way:

  Sweet tongues rob hearts
Tree of love grows on quarrel
    Lovers sit on dung

After Asano-san left a girl who took the table of the siblings who had been watching us asked if the man was my friend. I said he was just some nice guy who talked to me. She then confided that she was studying English — and true to Japanese form apologized for her “bad” skills — then told me about how she was taking cooking classes in English, was learning to sing Handel’s “Messiah” and really loved scuba diving. The place closed soon after we started talking, and I headed home with my new poetry collection.

Turns out Asano-san has a Web site, and even some published books. Now I’m jealous. He’s a homeless writer who never wants to stop traveling, which doesn’t seem that far of a stretch from what I might be when I’m 59. I think if given the choice between a fairly sheltered, boring life that offers consistent job security and the chance to have lived in as many places as he has, with all the wild adventures, and be published but still end up living on the streets, I’ll pick his route.

One of my biggest fears is wasting my life — something I often fear I’m doing now by taking the easy, safe path. Of course, it’s fear that leads people down the easy, safe path to mediocrity, something Asano-san hits on the head with my favorite haiku of his:

    Fear makes one half-dead
Eat well and drink well to fight
       To die is to live