Japan, Random Rambles, USA
Comments 12

Disco is Dead, the Potter Said

Tokyo was a trip. I’m still recovering: my calves are sore, I’m rundown and cranky — and waking from a dream adventure to find yours is the only discernible pulse in a classroom full of dead-eyed rag dolls is the cruelest of reality crashes.

What I really need, though, is a post-holiday holiday to grab some sleep. I spent one night in a wet sleeping bag on a 1,364m mountaintop harassed by God’s searchlight, a Chuseok full moon (just as I was a year ago on the third-highest peak in Korea). The following night, my last in Tokyo, was likewise far from restful. Bedding down in the bushes in a buzzing megalopolitan park seldom is.

Autumn begins, my final season in Korea. So why will the draining temperatures of this endless Summer not play along? I’d give anything to be back in Japan — there’s a sentence I never imagined myself saying — even in that wet down bag, lying there with a Chu-Hi buzz watching that blinding moon sail overhead, listening to the deer yelping in the midnight woods. Even negotiating the countless connections and untold hours of train journeying between the mountains and parks I’d missed so much.

I’m tempted to start posting about the trip right now, but this blog is littered with interrupted sagas as it is, so I’ll harness some uncharacteristic discipline and continue with the series about my trip to Upstate New York in August…

*          *          *          *          *

The quiet roads around Schuylerville. Corn country:


Corn Conossieur

I heard, more than once, some impassioned discussions within Kate’s family about which local farm stand offered the most delicious product. I won’t name names; I’d hate to spark another corn stoush. But suggesting Kate stop so we could pick up a few extra cobs for dinner led to some serious soul searching.

“But it’s not ________’s corn. Nobody will like it.”

A few days later, we still hadn’t tried the corn. I have a feeling those four cobs are still rolling around under Kate’s driver seat.

Kate’s sister Kristen and brother-in-law Doug live near here. Cornfields and apple orchards, a nice, pointy war memorial and a sprinkling of time-weathered cemeteries adorn the countryside:


Saratoga Battlefield Monument — & corn


A neighbouring property


Roadside Colour

Doug’s a potter and a drummer. Kristen “catches babies”. There’s been a bumper crop of late; she’s often out harvesting.

We dropped in a few times in the week I was in town. There were usually kids running around: theirs, Kate’s, a friend’s. This was the evening of that battlefield walk a few miles down the road:


Embrace the Americana!


They wind the chair up as tight as they can & let it spin. Much hysterical laughter. Repeat until chair breaks.

It’s a very peaceful rural scene (even with the shrieking kids). They grow vegetables, and Kristen’s a poultry freak. I can see myself getting into rare poultry one day. Once, many years ago, during my permaculture mania when I lived in northern New South Wales, I attended a chicken show. That was just about the highlight of my social calendar in that town and that period.

Sadly, Kate’s not so keen on birds. That’s okay, though. For me, some of those old breeds are more like reptiles.


Guardian Owl




Ella, Camille — and is that one “Little Ella”? They have about a hundred, so I get ’em mixed up.

In the country, you have to make your own fun. After that walk through Prospect Hill Cemetery, right there beneath the Monument, we had time to check out another, smaller version down the road. Kate got all excited. She doesn’t get out much, so she got her friend Robyn to spruce her up with one of the dinner plate-sized hibiscus flowers thriving in front of her sister’s place:


Steppin’ Out, Schuylerville-Style

Doug said with a smile that we’d enjoy this graveyard, as disco, a long-gone and unlamented music form, was interred within. So that’s where it ended up! We were about to start down one road at the junction when Doug called out, “Oh, you want the graveyard with disco in it? It’s down that road!” Disco may be long gone, but graveyards are thriving in that neck of the woods.

We had another idyllic stroll through the marble orchard, pausing here and there to nod to the locals…


She Kinda Freaks Me Out

..and dig out our French dictionaries:


In the International Section

It was a beautiful, mild late-Summer afternoon. The graveyard was shady, sparsely populated and lushly carpeted in cool, green grass.


We made slow progress. Every few steps, Kate would beg me to stop and take her picture…


“How about this angle?”

..and we had our hearts set on finding the last resting place of disco.

Well, I did, anyway. I am a child of the punk rock generation. We helped bring disco down — one of our finest achievements. I was hoping to find it right next to Nashville country, a few rows down from Beyonce-style (oh, please!) “R’n’B”.


At last, just as we were thinking this was some mischievous prank of The Potter’s, pay dirt:


It was a sombre but satisfying moment. I broke into a little jig, and then we moved on, pausing for one more shot of the most adorable couple ever…


Another Graveyard Portrait to Treasure

..and back down the lonesome road to the freakish hibiscus bush with the garage-come-studio not far beyond:


A fresh batch of earthenware straight from the kiln:


Saratoga souvenirs & a dragonfly


Saratoga = Horses

One afternoon while visiting we were treated to a demonstration of the art of raku.

Wikipedia: Raku ware (楽焼 raku-yaki) is a type of Japanese pottery that is traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony, most often in the form of tea bowls. It is traditionally characterised by being hand shaped rather than thrown; fairly porous vessels, which result from low firing temperatures; lead glazes; and the removal of pieces from the kiln while still glowing hot. In the traditional Japanese process, the fired raku piece is removed from the hot kiln and is allowed to cool in the open air or in a container filled with combustible material.

(I love it when this blog becomes unintentionally educational. Better savour it while you can.)

Doug had some students there learning the techniques. We were lucky to witness the “unveiling”, outside his studio, of the new creations. It was fiery and physical and quite dramatic:


Doug moving the fresh pottery from the outside kiln to…the trash!


Behold! From Flames & Sawdust New Wonders are Born!


Excellent Tongmanship

Strands of horsehair held against the super-heated article scorch beautiful and idiosyncratic patterns in a puff of fragrant smoke:


A finished creation. If memory serves, this was an urn intended (some years, hopefully, down the track) for the remains of the artist and her husband. It pays to plan ahead:


Then again, I might have mixed up my recollections. Maybe it’s a nice vase, or a jug for sipping moonshine on the porch. Whatever, it was a fascinating process to observe.


Cooling off — so hot, the slate tile underneath cracked

So there you are. I started with a Japan flashback and finished, appropriately enough, on another oriental note. Life is so circular. Well, yours might be. Mine is certainly bent.

Doug Klein is the name of my friend the backwoods potter. You can see his website and some of his work here.


~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. Thank you for this interesting post.The photographs are a joy to see. Loved the Hibiscus on Kate’s hair.The color is so bright.Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.

  2. Classic Goat. Loved this post, a lot. Right from the title. Graveyards have been a bit ruined for me by Dr Who (weeping angels, anyone?) but our graveyards here are infinitely more creepy than graveyards I have visited in the States. Maybe it’s because they are so much older. BTW, did I tell you I have a friend in New Jersey who gives lecturers on graveyard art?
    PS that hibiscus is freaky. What are they feeding the thing?

    • Cheers, Rachael. No, you haven’t told me that. Sounds like a nice gig.

      That hibiscus is indeed a freak of nature. I’ll try to find out what variety it is. As for its diet, there’s a graveyard next door. Perhaps it’s better not to ask…

  3. Great rural idyll.. I specially loved Dougs potting.. I spent some time in Mooloolah doing Raku.. absolutely adored it.. such unexpected results!I will check out his website now..

  4. Nice post Goat. As a long time fan of the dead, you’re again giving me cemetery envy. We just can’t match names like this latest one! Thanks for the informative write-up, plus tongmanship. There’s a word you don’t see every day!

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