Archive for October, 2008

27
Oct
08

Ducking and Bobbing

“Kyou Ji-mu ni ikanai no?” Aren’t you going to the gym today? Kana asked. I opened my eyes, carefully rolled over to the side of the bed and checked the time on my cell phone. Shit, it was 9:00am already. I felt like I’d just gone to sleep. I’d told Kana last night that I was going to play ball today and I had every intention of doing so. I was about to hop out of the bed like I usually would but thought better of it and clawed and crawled from under the quilt and two comforters and climbed out cautiously.

“Daijoubu?” you ok? she asked, probably noticing the difference. “Ojii-san mitai.” You look like an old man.

I grunted an ambiguous affirmative. Minimally, an OK morning requires a warm bedroom. Our bedroom was freezing, and it was only going to get worse once I stepped out of it. I could literally see my breath, thick enough to blow smoke rings. And I blame her! I blame her for a number of irrational reasons that seem fair game when I wake up in the morning, emerge from three layers of wool and down, dressed in sweat pants, a hoodie and tube socks, and suddenly feel like I’m roughing it the Adirondacks in the middle of January. She chose this fucking igloo posing as an apartment that we live in and I pay for. Moreover, it’s her country that compels us to conserve energy by making oil, gas and electricity practically luxuries. The oscillating space heater at the foot of the bed tempted me to sit in front of it and dawdle a bit but I thought better of that, too. If I sat back down, chances were I’d lay back down and the next time I opened my eyes it would’ve been noon. And that small window I’ve allotted myself for a weekly workout would slam shut once again. I slid the door open, ducked through the doorway.

The gym opens at 10am on Sundays and I planned to be there when it did. On Sundays I have 4 private students, each an hour long, so every Sunday from 2pm until 8pm I am busy teaching English. In fact, every damn day of the week I’m busy teaching English. I work Monday through Friday, 8-4 at a Junior High School, with at least 1 and sometimes 2 private students in the evening, and on Saturday I also have 4 private students for a grand total of 15. At 3500 yen a pop it’s not a bad deal, and it keeps me out of the kind of trouble I used to get into when I had free time up the wazoo. You’d think I’d have used that time to set to paper the great American novel I’d been writing in my head since I was 17, but nope. I’d had better things to do then. Now I have no time and ideas up the wazoo. Seems me and my wazoo can never get on the same page.

Generally on Sunday mornings at the gym, I meet up with a couple of other players. The reason I joined the gym was because they offered basketball -a rarity in health clubs in Japan- so I considered it a bonanza not only to find one with, albeit, a lonely half-court, but for it to be only one station away from my crib at that.

I stepped through the doorway to the staircase, ducking the top edge of the door. I have to be especially careful when I enter and exit rooms because of the low-clearance. At least twice a week I drop my guards and WHAM, temporary drain bamage. Or worse, I recover from a bend a little early and it’s the give-less doorway versus the top of my head  which leaves me feeling like my neck should be broken. So, moving about the house requires a series of bows and bobs, stoops and dodges. I make my way downstairs to the bathroom for the morning whiz and brace myself for the Frigidaire.

I wouldn’t say our duplex is drafty but there must be leaks somewhere. I just can’t seem to find them. It’s like the cold comes in through the walls, windows and up through the spaces between the parquet wooden floors. I tried that old ghetto insulation, putting blankets and what not at the foot of doors and sliding windows, but that hasn’t helped. And the bathroom…that fucking bathroom is the worse! It called for some drastic action so I went out and bought a miniature space heater just for the bathroom. I have a number of pet peeves and a cold bathroom is in the upper echelon. I want to keep it on at all times but every time Kana uses the bathroom she shuts it off.

Yeah, it’s easy to point the finger at her.

“Why is this house so fucking cold???” I screamed out in exasperation as I do every so often. I wanted to take a dump but I’d be damned if I was going to do it then. I stooped through the doorway- this one lower than the others in the house- and turned on the toilet space heater. Then I went and made a pot of coffee while I waited for the toilet room to get warm enough to consider sitting in it. In Japan, the bathroom and the “toilet room are in separate places, sometimes on opposite sides of a hallway, sometimes next to each other, but generally separated by at least one door. It makes sense to me. I mean, I think of the many times when I had girls staying with me in my brownstone apartment in NY and if I was taking a bath and they had to take a shit, either I’d have to be inconvenienced by having to vacate the tub until she was done or have the artificial bouquet of my dish-washing liquid derived bubble bath invaded by the aromatic yet perfumy odor of a girl’s number two. However intimate it may be, the 2nd room idea is a cinch as an improvement.

The sink has last night’s dishes in it. Kana is against dishwashing. She loves cooking but cleaning the kitchen afterwards fucks up her high. And even if she does deign to do it she does such a half-assed job that I lose my mind. Also on my list of peeves are half-cleaned dishes. I think this peeve is derived from an episode my Moms had when I was young. There were six of us and my mother was doing all the cooking and, like Kana, she’d be damned if she was going to clean up after us. So, we did it in rotation according to a duty roster. My older brothers found a roster laughable and they were away half the time anyway, and my older sister had moved away, so they weren’t a part of the rotation, thus it fell to me and my younger sister, Iisha. Anyway, disgruntled at being forced to do what television had shown me time and time again was a woman, specifically a Mother’s duty, I probably did them half-assed from time to time, and I know Iisha was a half-asser. She really hated doing them. Then, one day, my mother got sick. So sick that she had to be hospitalized. It was a very scary thing not to have someone you depended on for everything around for an indefinite amount of time. And a terrifying thing to see this force of nature in a hospital bed looking like there’s no tomorrow. I blamed myself, with some help from my mother. She laid on the guilt pretty strongly as mothers are apt to and adept at doing. Hepatitis, the doctor had informed her, was behind her illness, and he suggested it might have been contracted as a result of half-ass cleaned dishes. He must have been a quack or maybe my mother misunderstood what she’d been told. But, I didn’t know shit about Hepatitis at the time and neither did my mother. I don’t even know what alphabet it was A, B, C, D, or E. But she bought the doctor’s quakery hook, line and sinker, and blamed us, and since my little sister and I were doing most of the cleaning anyway, I blamed myself and ever since have been a little on the anal side when it comes to clean dishes. I don’t mind cleaning dishes. I just don’t like to be told or asked to do them. If I don’t do them for some reason just accept it and wait for me to get around to them, or do them yourself. Nor do I want to be told thanks for washing the dishes, like Kana has a habit of doing. I guess she feels compelled to because of the disparity between the way she does it and the way I do. I’m like a human bottle of bleach. I clean dishes and silverware with a Brillo Pad or at least a soapy scouring pad. I scrub the black off of cast iron frying pans. I don’t release a pot into the drainer until it squeaks. My metal sink shines, my stove gleans, and I put dishwashers to shame.

I aimed the gas-powered space heater in the living room at the kitchen and knocked out the dishes. The sinks in Japan, due to the height of the people I guess, are much lower than the sinks in the US, so I have to bend over quite a bit to wash them. While the coffee brewed and the toilet room warmed, I bathed in the warmth wafting from the heater.

A typical wintry Sunday morning in Yokohama.

That is, until I bent over even further to put the knives in the knife rack under the sink and I felt a twinge. And froze. There was nothing abnormal or unusual about the movement, no strain, nothing awkward, and no unusual exertion to warrant its arrival. It just came. Slowly, painfully slow, I returned to an upright position. The twinge…actually I can hardly call it a twinge, too premature, but it was something. It was not painful. It was just there, ominously so.

I decided to stretch…stretching was the ticket. It was all I could do not to panic.

A couple of weeks ago, on the last day of school before the winter holiday, I didn’t have any classes to teach so I went to the school gym to shoot the ball around. While I was there some of my 3rd year students came in the gym to practice. When they saw me with a basketball they were ecstatic. I’d been working there for about 3 months but they’d never had an opportunity to play ball with me. It’s a given that they’d never seen a black man play ball except on TV so this was an incredibly rare opportunity for them. Something they’d probably tell their kids and grandkids about it’s such an anomaly. In their minds Black People are the authority on a couple of things, and one of them is sports. I hate this kind of thinking, as you might expect, but they’re just kids and it’s hard to get angry at them the way I get vexed at their parents for reaching adulthood and maintaining that level of ignorance. In fact, when the kids start in on me, I actually got excited about showing them a little of the playground legend shit I used to do not so long ago. If only I’d been wearing sneakers. In Japanese schools, as in Japanese homes, outdoor shoes are not allowed, and gym shoes are to be used in the gym, so actually I was already breaking the rules by shooting around in the sandals I wear around the school.

“Danku shite,” dunk it, one kid said, like dunking was in the repertoire of all black people.

“Dekinaiyo,” I can’t, I said. He looked bewildered, like I’d said I can’t read. Once he realized I was serious his disappointment was plain.

I shot a jumper, and since I was already warmed up a bit by the time they’d arrived, it looked pretty good as it swished in, snapping the net a little.

Ohhhs and ahhhs all around.

I passed one of them the ball. He proceeded to shoot with the kind of form any coach in the US or even Argentina for that matter, would be would be proud of. He effortlessly knocked down the jumper from about 20 feet. Like this was something he did everyday all day. Another grabbed the rebound and a third, about the same height- 5’9 or so, gave him a little defense. The ball carrier did a wicked crossover, shaking the defense loose, and cut for the basket while the other regained his composure just in time to block the shot by smacking it against the backboard. Watching them I had a vision of the Olympics in the not too distant future and the so-called American Dream Team capturing the Bronze metal in Basketball, Kobe Bryant shaking hands with Takeshi Tanaka, point guard of the Japanese team who just triple-doubled him to the tune of 47 points, 15 assist, 10 rebounds and 3 block shots.

And that’s when stupidity got the best of me and I decided to defend this guy. His intimidation of my height and weight advantage lasted for about 6 dribbles of the ball. I could see the change in his eyes. He was going to show this black guy how well he’d been studying the NBA. He was fast and clever and had some moves I’ve rarely seen in the flesh in his repertoire. His 15 year old legs were strong, coordinated, with an elasticity I’ve never had even when I was his age. He had a handle and was prepared to be defended the way Kobe might defend him. He expected me to try and out athleticize his ass. But, I’ve been a cagey veteran for a while now, so I pretended I intended to do that, but hung back a deceptive distance. I wasn’t even going to attempt to defend a drive to the boards but indicated I was expecting one with my body language. So, when he tried his jumper he was surprised to find me right in his face. Surprised, but not dissuaded. He pump faked and I faked a block and then when he released it I really didn’t have to jump to swat his jumper across the gym.

Ohhhhhs and ahhhs all around.

His intimidation returned with a vengeance and it felt damn good to be the source. Here I was: a good 20 plus years on him and wearing sandals at that. I could imagine what they must’ve been thinking. With great deference the ball was given to me and another guy who had been chomping at the bit for a go at me stepped up. I slid over to him and showed him some of my wary moves. Not fast or fancy, just time-honored and well-honed. I carried on like this for about 30 minutes or so and had worked up a nice sweat so I called it quits. Before I left, they all lined up and bowed to me. Not because of my game…they couldn’t have been that impressed. My game is streaky at best and straight suspect at worst. The bowing thing is just something that Japanese cats do. They bow for everybody and everything. They bow at the ATM and on the cell phone. After a while you just get used to seeing it; took me about 2 years.

I was feeling pretty good and went to bed that night feeling young and spry. I’d put it on those young whipper snappers but good, and I wasn’t even in my Nikes. I’d decided to meet with them weekly and get some games going. I’d told Kana about it. She was impressed.

“Ojii-san,” old man, she said, “Wakazukuri suru neso you’re trying to be young, and proceeded to give me another task to prove my vitality, which I did with flying colors.

The next morning I’d awakened with a twinge. I ignored it. Usually I ignore it and it goes away. But, later that evening, en route to meet my second student at a café in Jiyugaoka, it came back with a vengeance. I’d just gotten off the train and was about to take on a long steep set of stairs when the pain stabbed me in the lower back area so forcefully that I thought it was in my chest and I was experiencing the first of what will be several heart attacks I’m likely to have over the course of my middle age.

I froze, my vision blurred by pain and dizziness, and the staircase began to look like an obstacle I wouldn’t ever consider tackling again. For a second I thought of how fucked I’d be if I collapsed or needed help. But, the anger that thought generated only increased the pain. The pain was humbling. I was at everyone’s mercy. I was about to unload my broken Japanese on the station staff who were watching me curiously.

The pain was paralyzing me. I stood there, helpless, frozen, alone, with thousands of rush hour eyes raking me as they passed. I felt afraid, like a child that had gotten separated from his parents in the subway, surrounded and being eyed by thousands of people who looked like the kind of strangers that his parents had warned him to beware of, and they were somehow aware of his predicament.

I had to get out of there. I had to get home. After all, I wasn’t really paralyzed. And if I was really having a heart attack, the way Richard Pryor had described his episode, I would have definitely known it by then. So, I tested the range of motion available to me without eliciting excruciating pain. This testing process almost cost me consciousness. My vision actually blurred and I felt the diminished capacity in the normal use of my mental faculties. For a couple of seconds panic had me because I really didn’t know what I could do. I had momentarily lost the ability to save myself, like a fly caught in a web.

Then it leveled off, the pain did, all of a sudden, or maybe I just realized that my fear of the pain was the only reason I hadn’t moved and if I wasn’t going to suck it up and move on then I might as well had died then and there. And, move on I did. I was walking like Frankenstein with a knife in his back, but I was walking, and that was progress. The staircase before me became traversable. Slowly I began the climb, one step at a time, like a puppy taking on his first staircase, fearful yet determined. And as I climbed I remembered that this was not the first time this had happened.

I remembered the first time I had been stricken so. I was working as a consultant at a housing organization back in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, having the time of my life. I was writing for a local newspaper, volunteering at several community organizations, corresponding regularly with my literary agent while preparing a final draft that she had confidence would find a home in a publishing house. I had a girlfriend who was beautiful and intelligent and liked to get high as much as I did. I was surrounded my friends and family and a community that supported me and I had started my own home improvement business which I was thoroughly convinced would make me entirely self sufficient. I’d quit my 9-5 a year earlier and had changed my life so dramatically that I was almost unrecognizable. I was on such a high, then. I was on the verge of living the life I’d always wanted to live and I felt invincible, indestructible.

Then, one hot summer day, there was a lull, a slow day at the office where I did my consulting work, so I leaned back in my chair, threw my feet up on my desk and took a power nap, the Air Conditioning cooling my body glistening with the sweat I’d worked up that morning breezing around the community on my Specialized Mountain Bike coordinating the installation of yard lights, dreaming of living the life I had already begun to live. When I awoke, I felt refreshed and ready to continue the day. I stood up to go to the bathroom and take a power leak. On the way to the bathroom I abruptly sneezed and maybe I’d tried to contain it a little for my co-worker was headed in my direction and I didn’t want to spray her, but that’s when it began…I felt something happen. I couldn’t be sure until I returned to an erect position, the violence of the sneeze having caused me to lunge forward and bend over. And once erect I felt like someone had taken a steel rod and shoved it up my ass, through my spine, up to the base of my neck. I hollered in agony and my co-workers rushed to my aid.

I was in the throes of agony so I can’t remember exactly what happened, only that everyone had all kinds of advice, chiropractors and hot baths and tiger balm and the likes. Eventually I was able to move and I made my way home, fortunately walking distance from the office, and climbed into my tub, sat there for a few hours and then climbed into bed, feeling helpless, deflated, and defeated. I thought my life was over. If I had to endure this kind of pain, this kind of immobility, even occasionally, I didn’t want to live. The toll it would have on the lifestyle I had mapped out for myself would be too severe. A lifestyle that included daily excursions on my bike, tri-weekly trips to the basketball court, summers at the beach, evenings in my home office, seated at my desk writing the great American novel. In the pain I was in, even rolling over in the bed would be a crucible.

Fortunately, the pain went away, but it had been so agonizing that I remained traumatized.

Till this day…

And when I felt that twinge at the kitchen sink I had a flashback that was almost as terrible as the actual pain. While I stretched I decided that I wasn’t about to go to the gym today and play Jeopardy with my back. I was really disappointed that I couldn’t go. As I made my way to the bathroom I thought about how much I really love playing basketball, how much i really needed to play. It’s the only real stress relieving exercise I do. My only chance to blow off the steam I build up over the course of a week. On the court I can really release myself and that way I can…WHAM! I slam my head in the doorway to the bathroom!

“I FUCKING HATE THIS HOUSE!!!” I screamed.

I sat on the toilet, rubbing my head, thinking about the seven foot doorways of home.

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26
Oct
08

A japanese plant that blogs?

Japanese engineers say they’ve found a way to communicate the thoughts and emotions of plants…

And you wonder why I’m going loco here.

Midorisandwich’s blog

October 23rd 10am: Today it rained! I’m so jealous of those trees in the yard outside. My owner waters me once a friggin’ week. I wish I had deadly spores. I would kill them before putting myself out of my misery. Someone spit on me, please!!!

Oh, and check out Zeitgeist...he’s hilarious!

loco

26
Oct
08

How I learned to bow

I was on the way to work my first week in Japan, when I saw this gorgeous girl giving me the eye. I mean really beautiful. In America she wouldn’t need a stick to beat them off, she’d need Chuck Norris.

I was reading a Japanese textbook…ok, I’m lying. I was reading a book on pick up lines to use on Japanese girls, Nanpa it’s called, and when I looked up, she was across the car from me ogling me. I gave her a little smile of acknowledgment, kept my cool, though my heart and brain were racing. I scanned the book quickly, trying to find just the right phrase, but the book must have been written by some corny-ass, no pussy-getting-ass Canadian or something cuz the closest phrase I could get to what I had in mind to say was, my, what a beautiful handbag. I like your style, when what I really wanted to say was more in the spirit of “players wanna play, ballers wanna ball, rollers wanna roll…” Maybe I should write one of these books. Once I learned the language I’d certainly think about it.

When I looked up again, there were those eyes again.

They were heavily made up, like a porn star’s and they made me want her even more. I’d been a big fan of Japanese porn for as long as I could remember. I can attribute the broadness of my triceps to them. Her skin was tanned like Malibu Barbie. She smiled this time and her teeth, a little crooked and one seemed to protrude from her gum a little, but the smile took about 5 years off of her so that she looked about 13. Her blue jeans hugged her curves like latex and even seated I could tell she had a body. The Tim boots and the Yankee baseball cap on her head reminded me of how a girl back home might run out to the store on the spur of the moment to get some grits for breakfast on a bad hair day. Only her hair was unmistakably done, and her look was plainly on purpose. She was a Hip Hop chick, I realized…minus all the glam of the excessive make up and perfect hair and the cubic-zirconia studded crucifix dangling from a faux-platinum chain over her miniscule cleavage, she was trying to impersonate a black girl…even her fingernails were an attempt at ghetto glam. She looked like Lil’Mo in a music video.

Maybe she was trying to find herself a FabOlous.

It didn’t really matter though because if I knew me, and there are some things I know about me, I wasn’t going to say a word to her. My MO is to gas myself up then drive around aimlessly and hope to God I crash into something interesting. The book was just for entertainment purposes, mostly. So, as the train pulled into Yokohama Station, I shoved my little passport to Asian booty, replete with useless information and whack ass lines, and queued with everyone else to get off the train. I glanced at my cellphone and saw that I was about 20 minutes early for work. When I glanced up I noticed that she had worked her way to the space beside me. To look at her you would think it was purely coincidental. She was eying me peripherally with a knowing smile on her face. She just knew she was about to be hit on, and to me the smile meant Green Light. This time I inclined my head in a bow she returned it. Wow, this bowing shit works, I thought.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hello,” she replied a little too eagerly…she’d lost all of her coyness so abruptly that I didn’t know what to make of it.

“What’s your name?”

“Atashi?” She asked, pointing at her nose.

“Your name is Atashi…that’s pretty…” she looked unsettled. “Atashi,” I repeated because I didn’t want to forget it. She giggled for some reason. “My name is Kevin,” I said, pointing at myself.

“Ke-bean?” she asked, still giggling and blushing, all of her coyness returning just as suddenly as it had left. “Ke-bin! Ah, sou desuka. Nice to meet you, Ke-bean-san, Atashi wa Natsumi desu. Anooo…my-namu ee zu Natsumi.” And, she smiled some more, and brushed a couple of stray strands of hair from her the edge of her face to the side of her head with a stroke of a cluttered fingernail.

I’d learn in my class that the Japanese have trouble with the pronunciation of certain sounds like Vee so I wasn’t surprised by the distortion of my name. And, I didn’t care anyway because she was so fucking cute and had a banging ass and I didn’t care what I had to do, I was going to get me some of that…WHAM! My head versus the doorway! It lost! She turned to look, as did everyone, and guffawed, covering her mouth, as I stood there rubbing my head like a Aladdin’s lamp and going through the motions of “it’s not that bad…” for my ego’s sake when what I was really feeling was a needle-sharp agonizing stab of hurt. The ledge I’d walked into was metal and sharp and there was a strong chance there was going to be some bleeding, but my desire to make a move on her countermanded any idea I had about immediately seeking medical attention, she was that fine!

I could tell by the “how do I convey concern?” face she was making that she was English-free. She kind of pantomimed “are you ok?” and I nodded, feeling as far from ok as Marselis Wallace was in Pulp Fiction after getting raped by Zed. I checked my palm for blood, there was none, but, my god, there should have been. This much pain without the accompaniment of blood is almost an obscenity.

I couldn’t think, much less think in Japanese, so I just stood there. “Kimi no kabin ga totemo kawaii desune…” That Canadian’s words were the distraction I needed to clear my head. We had an awkward moment of silence while the train announcements said incomprehensible shit and thousands of people raced around and between and nearly over us. And then she looked around and her body language was like, well, it was nice almost meeting you, and sorry about your head but I gotta go… And I thought: hell maybe this happened for a reason. Maybe I should just let her go. Maybe this was the Creator’s way of telling me that she was a no-go. Maybe she’s a transvestite, or has herpes or AIDS or something, and the Creator is trying to look out for me.

One of the first things I learned to do was bow. You would think that learning the language would place prominently in the hierarchy of things to get out of the way, right? So did I. I tackled Japanese for 3 months before my departure; got all that Konnichiwa-ing and Sayonara-ing out of the way, and I was ready for the show…or so I thought. But, right out of the gate, bowing bogarted its way to the front of the queue like a gorilla on meth. I know what you must be thinking: Does Japan have some sort of roving Courtesy Patrol enforcing their customs? Up against the wall, punk! -Gut punch- Oh, now you know how to bow!

No, nothing like that.

It would be unnecessary anyway. From what I’ve seen so far, bowing is as instinctual here as it is for my boy, Darryl, back in NY, to critique every ass that passes by. Some people even bow when their talking on the phone. No, Japan has other ways of commanding your capitulation, and trust me you learn them right quick if you’re 6 ft tall or more. Now, 6 foot ain’t shit back in my neighborhood. It’s average. If you got a wicked crossover and hops like Spud Webb maybe you can make point guard on a junior varsity squad in high school. Don’t get me wrong; no one’s going to call me Shorty but I ain’t raising any roofs, either.

Saying I had to learn how to bow is a little facetious. Tongue in cheek aside, I had to learn how to not get a concussion on a daily basis. I had to pay careful attention to where I was going and what I was doing, at all times, even more so than when I was home in Brooklyn. Why? Because many of the things I took for granted back home- from complicated ideas like the general direction danger comes at you from (primarily from the left, check me if I’m wrong),  to simple ideas like the height of doorways- could not be taken for granted here. And so upon entering restaurants, trains, homes, anywhere with a doorway, I often have a Gandolf at Bilbo’s crib, Lord of the Rings type experience. Like most things in Tokyo, the price for not staying alert is high, and the scar tissue on my head can attest to that.

Even if a Japanese person is cursed with the height of a foreigner, by the time they’re adults they are so accustomed to bowing that low clearance is a non-issue. But, I’ve never bowed, except as a joke or in mock humility. I can see myself as a child performing before an imaginary audience, strumming, blowing or hammering the keys of some imaginary instrument, singing a song so heartfelt, so lovely that the crowd in my mind roars and applauds their gratitude. I’d bow low and thank them. “You’re too kind!” I’d say.

But, the doorways here in Japan are not kind, and too frequently I find myself on the losing side of a clash: the forehead of my 6 foot person versus a doorway an inch or two shy of my height. It is remarkable how deceptively adequate a 5’11 doorway looks. Your brain tells you, it’s a doorway, by God, designed for care-free entry and exit. And you trust your brain, don’t you? That 30-something year old bundle of pink and gray matter you’ve grown to trust and distrust, adore and despise, who, along with your heart, has conspired to bamboozle you into believing you are at the helm, and that you make of your life whatever you set your mind to and put your heart into. Equipped with this consummate hard drive of veins and nerves, slow to acclimate and accustomed to rooms that offer, at least, minimum clearance and virtually unfettered access to subway cars, you rush head long into a collision so painful that it’s all you can do not to scream murder.

A pain as merciless as sitting on a ripe boil on your ass that’s dying to be lanced, as ruthless as the scolding spray of your own shower if someone flushes the toilet depriving your perfect mixture of cold and hot water of the cold in a brownstone. It’s the kind of pain that clears your mind of everything, aside from the pain. First there’s a paralytic silence for an incalculably brief moment during which you try to will the synaptic responses of your nerves to take a coffee break- just this once, PLEEEEEZE- and not perform their sworn duty to alert your brain to any and all sensations…this moment is just long enough to wish you were Paul Maud’dib, the Kwisatz Haderach, with your hand in that box of pain, chanting the Bene Gesseritt litany against fear, opening your mind, expanding your consciousness, and sometimes, yes, sometimes, enabling your often disabled link to the Creator…yes, suddenly, your spiritual inbox has one unread message, you’ve got mail from the almighty himself: Call it what you will, a sign, a signal, an overactive imagination…

And its timing is often impeccable. Don’t let me be planning to do something of dubious morality, or in the middle of doing something that my conscience had been pinging me about. For instance, like that booty-call I’d just made and succeeded in setting up, and while rushing around my bedroom getting dressed to go do the deed, wondering if I should do at all, knowing that my girlfriend would not approve at all, and this is just the kind of thing that has lead to the lost of most of my previous girlfriends, one of which attempted suicide as a result of my betrayal, and that’s when I would stub my corned pinky-toe on the razor-sharp wooden foot of my bed frame, or bang my knee-cap on the solid oak TV stand, the one with as much give as the IRS. Well, while I’m gritting my teeth and my eyes are popping out of my head, and I’m kneeling– prostrate in this temple of mind-numbing pain, searing, throbbing agony, tears threatening if not streaming, so alive, too alive, mind cleared of all delusions—at this, of all times, clarity makes a rare appearance, like a message from the Creator. Actually I shouldn’t say appear…I should say that’s when I tell myself that whatever dastardly deed I was about to embark on, or whatever mischief I was involved in was something I ought not to, for there’s no evidence whatsoever of any other intelligence involved. And, sometimes, depending on the severity of the pain, or the clarity that follows the pain, I would postpone or even refrain from the act I was about to commit.

Yes, my private little superstitious practice; to hell with black cats, broken mirrors and ladders. I couldn’t care less about them. Pain was my primary prognosticator.

This clarity had saved my ass on many an occasion so it’s infallibility and perhaps its divinity is rarely questioned.

That is, not until I moved to Japan. Now I question every goddamn thing.

Here in the land of all that is Meek and Humble, the kind of pain I attributed to clarity happens regularly, so my superstition has subsided some. It wasn’t easy, I tell you. I still connect that omniscient pain with future events, but just as often I connect it with the failure of my brain to adapt to the challenges of a new environment and remain alert at all times.

Case and point: my home, full of doorways and furniture and appliances which require a bit of stooping, kneeling and bending on my part which means, basically, that I have to genuflect before entering my apartment and any room within. Just a little bow for the toilet bowl, show some respect for the shower room, a little obeisance for the bedroom, a little curtsy for the contents of my closet; the kitchen sink is lower so I have to defer to the dishes; the table is about a foot from the floor so I have to be meek to eat, humbled by hamburgers, show humility before hanging light fixtures… I don’t have a problem with the cultural differences…well not a big problem and, I guess, what must be the worst kept secret is that I want to fit in here and be respectful, as well. I have this idea about other cultures: They are to be shown the same respect that you would expect your culture to be shown.

And I want to learn…Though all I’ve known throughout my life is the Eurocentric idea of civilization I’m not convinced that theirs is the best (and not for lack of their trying either.). In fact, knowing historically that my people were forced to adapt to these Eurocentric ideas, and that it’s unlikely I’ll ever learn my actual ancestor’s ideas, I’m extremely open to other ideas, if for no other reason then to spite the ideas that were forced on Great grandma and grandpa. I grew up in a household that held these ideas in contempt, as much as one can do so in a Eurocentric society. My mother was as African as an African American separated from the bosom of her ancestry hundreds of years ago, living in a Europeanized culture that equated Africa with primitive, savagery, barbarism, and cannibalism can be. We didn’t eat with our hands or anything but you better believe I was wearing Dashikis and speaking Swahili at home.

And, from her I learned not to judge to harshly another’s culture for that’s exactly what was done to ours. Yet and still, my relationship with my Creator or my superstition, was mine, and not easily discarded. So, with the pain in my head acting as my guide, I bowed good bye to Natsumi.

 

24
Oct
08

…every panda that wouldn’t screw to save its species!

I remember the first time I saw a chikan (subway pervert) performing the dirty deed.

I was on the train, standing near the door reading a book, ignoring the stare-less stares…the usual. Then we pull into Akabane station and the train, crowded already, became twice as crowded…also the usual. One girl boarded, and something about her jumped out at me: she had these bodacious breast. They stood out among the flat-chested masses like two mountains in a desert. I hadn’t seen much in the way of big breasts since I’d arrived here (not that I’m a breast man) so they caught my full attention momentarily. Long enough for me to notice that she was apparently not alone. A man was closer to her than two strangers should be. I presumed they were together.

Something going on down below caught my eye,I pulling them away from the twin peaks. She was dressed in a puffy polka dot mini-skirt cut just below pantie level and the Japanese man standing behind her had his hand up under the skirt and was groping and plugging away. WHAT THE HELL! I looked at her face and if she were disgusted or turned-on it was her secret. She wore an expression of slightly nervous tranquility. Also the usual.

I was thinking, “They ought to get a goddamn room!” I looked around for other reactions…No one else seemed to notice.

There was a Middle-Eastern guy near her, too. Our eyes met and made a face like, “Gotta love these Japanese chicks!” I looked away. A third man was also close to the action like he was in on it too. I looked again at the Middle Eastern cat and he made the face again, desperately seeking my approval or something. I got the impression that he’d either been watching the two of them since before they’d boarded or that he was a party to this commuter orgy too. The man behind the girl was lost in lust, oblivious to what was going on around him. A man nearby, with his two little kids, inched away indiscreetly as much as he could in the crowd, his children in tow. I returned my attention to her face. Still no reaction, but I could barely discern an effort to subtly inch away.

Wait a fucking minute, I’d thought. But I still couldn’t say definitively that she wasn’t a party to what was going on. Or maybe I was a little taken aback, shocked, that this could go on in broad day light, on a crowded commuter train, with a car full of Japanese men and women standing around pretending not to be fully aware of the goings on. My mind couldn’t wrap around that.

When we pull into Shinjuku Station, my stop, it was the moment of truth, I thought. Are they a couple or not?
She turned to leave and moved away from them, hastily…shit! What kind of crazy culture is this, anyway, I wondered.

They don’t follow her.  We wound up beside one another…she walked with that awkward Japanese gya-ru (Girl) gait, kind of pigeon toed, knock-kneed and prissy and drunken at the same time. If I hadn’t seen what she’d just been through, I wouldn’t have had a clue. It was almost as if it had never happened. Not even a glance back to see if they were following. Her expression- that same preoccupied tranquility she had on the train.

I remember when I first saw those “Women Only” signs. They reminded me of “Jim Crow” signs that segregated and discriminated against blacks in the 20th century. It never occurred to me to think about a culture that needs to designate train cars for women. That it suggests a tolerance for what I witnessed that day…

Well, I wasn’t in America anymore was I?

My American sensibilities made me feel anger and pity for that girl. I’ve been surrounded by strong women all my life. I’ve never met a woman who would have stood still for that shit. Even the mildest mannered woman I know would have elbowed the fucker or at least shrieked. And the worst case scenario (you know who you are) would have maced, keyed, cut or shot his ass, depending on which weapon was available at the time. And even strangers in NY, male or female, would have jumped in if they saw the woman was too timid to say something herself.

But another part of me was totally unsympathetic, maybe even aroused. Being a product of a misogynistic culture myself, I’m disgusted but not surprised to find that a great deal of misogyny is in me, too. Even so, I would have jumped in if she had indicated in a less than subtle way that she was being molested…but the fact that she hadn’t, nor had anyone else, made me wonder what should my role had been. Was the onus on me to show the superiority of my upbringing by interfering in something that the culture and people have decided not to interfere with?

Honestly, as an American, who the fuck am I to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong? Who gave me the moral authority? That’s their business. Let them handle it the Japanese way, I say. If they can’t resolve their own sociological side effects, then so be it. If they feel that “Women Only” cars is the solution then more power to them. I know America hasn’t resolved its issues either, that’s for damn sure. A society has to work it out amongst itself. And if it can’t well, it will suffer the consequences.

It reminded me of a line from “Fight Club” (of all the movies…):

“I felt like putting a bullet between the eyes of every Panda that wouldn’t screw to save its species!”

24
Oct
08

A little about me and Japan: Part 1- Aiko

Aiko

We first met in Spring, 2003. I was riding my mamachari around Urawa City, mainly exploring and looking for some trouble to get into, when I rode passed this hostess bar. I can’t remember the name, but standing in front were 3 girls, all kawaii to the fullest. At least I thought so then. Two of them had that Harajuku gya-ru look: tanned, sparkly, streaked hair and heavy makeup, and what not. The third one was a beauty minus the adornments and transfiguring. She was dressed in a Yukata, a light summer kimono, and her hair was pinned up revealing her lovely neck and cheeks. Not the one of them looked over 20.

As I passed, I gave them a little smile of acknowledgment, and they being business girls, gave me open, welcoming yet perfunctory cheese. I was half a block away when I heard their voices call after me. I almost crashed in my haste to acknowledge them. I turned and cruised back trying to look less eager than I felt. I had been in Japan about two months by then, and suffice it to say I was open to Japanese girls. Wide Open! So open, that I hadn’t even noticed that I was being hailed in English! Fairly good English at that. The kind of English acquired living abroad for a short time or through regular association with gai-jin.

It was the un-tanned girl that was doing the talking. I rolled beside her and she began to pitch the business. “Only 5000 yen and you can sit and drink with me!” I told her straight out she must be mad. Back in the states, we rarely pay that much without a guaranteed happy ending. She laughed out loud. “This is not America!” The banter continued, she saying that a roll in the hay, with another girl of course, not her, would cost about $5000 US, and it was my turn to laugh out loud. The ice was broken between us, and after we’d established that I was not a potential client and she was not going to be serving me for cash, the conversation shifted to something typical of what would take place between two people who are attracted to one another. She’d initially given me her stage name “Reira” but after the biz talk had ceased, she confided her name was Aiko.

“I’m a university student, studying psychology,” she said.

I wasn’t surprised, I told her. Many college students, even in the US, do similar jobs to make ends meet. “Maximizing your assets” I said and she laughed. It was so refreshing to have someone Japanese laugh at my jokes…usually they would giggle at how entertaining and unusual the foreigners were. But humor was totally missed; a cultural and language gap that for many would never be filled. But. Aiko was right there in the gap with me.  Raking up cool points. We talked until it became clear to the others standing around, including her Yakuza boss and what-not, that it wasn’t business. Before I left we exchanged text message addresses and promises to keep in touch. I rode away with such a high that I sang all the home.

Now, at the time, I was seeing this girl, Rico. She too could speak English a bit, but, to put it mildly, was too bland for me. I’d met her my first night in Japan- at a club in Roppongi, no less. We connected and a couple of days later we fornicated and for my first taste of true Asian loving, it was incredible…mentally anyway. Otherwise, it wasn’t much different than the tastes of home.  After that mental charge wore off, which took all of a month, my eyes were roving. The week after I met Aiko, I broke it off with Rico.

I met up with Aiko again that week and we went for a stroll around my neighborhood. A tree-lined path I hadn’t really explored well, lead to a park with a lake, surrounded by a path. We walked along it, in the darkness, talking. She talked about her hobby, singing.aiko-singing2 A jazz singer, at that. I was and still am a great connoisseur of jazz so we had a lot to talk about. I told about the history of jazz. She knew bits and pieces and I knew a bit more than she did. She listened with eyes that devoured my words. We also shared admiration for Chomsky and discussed some of his ideas…and movies! We both loved film. She knew director names and filmographies and what not and we could talk endlessly about them. It was well after 11pm by then, and she’d ought to have been headed home, for the last train to her home was around midnight, but she didn’t stop. Neither of us wanted to. We took a seat and sat hand-in-hand, and talked all night. I was annoyed by the bugs and she was afraid of the bats, and we were both taken aback by sounds and motion seemingly coming out of the darker places in the park, but we didn’t vacate until sunrise.

A couple of weeks later I convinced her to be my girlfriend. I didn’t know it then, but girlfriend/boyfriend selection is a bit more complicated in Japan than in the US. The thought process is very different. For me, it was just assurance that we would be having sex soon and that I would have the companionship of the most interesting person I’d met since I’d been in Japan. But, for her, well…it was absolutely crucial, for the boyfriend title is taken very, very seriously. Maybe it’s the same in the US and all these years I just hadn’t noticed, because I never took it too seriously. In my young days, it was just about sex for me. If I asked you to be my girl, it meant I wanted to fuck you. And, if we were having sex on a regular basis, without our status having been discussed, then we were just seeing each other, but I might let you tell others I’m your man and on occasion I might tell others you were my girl…of sorts. But, if I made it official, that is, actually saying the words “be my girl” it meant that I was seriously considering fucking you and only you…

Aiko and I hadn’t had sex yet when I sprung the question on her. And she resisted, put up quite a fight as I recall. I told her that I wanted to have fun, and isn’t that what being bf & gf is all about? But, though Aiko was a college student, she was 24 years old already, and in Japan, that’s approaching old maid status, so, many things had to be considered before saying yes. And she considered them all. I know! Maybe not aloud (in English anyway) but she had the kind of intelligence and mental engine that molded her face into a mask of beautiful brilliance. I hadn’t known it then, but that was when I fell in love with her. The time  period between the walk in the park and  her simply saying “yes” to me. I mean, she used language, primary language, which is the only way we could communicate initially, but my mind, my native dictionary, gave her words the depth I’m certain they would have had in her native tongue.

After she said Yes, that’s when things started getting rocky. She quit her hostess job and got a regular job and I got complacent. Unaccustomed to the amount of attention I was getting from women, I became something of a predator. I had girls lined up. At the rather late age of 38,  I was finally sowing my oats the way I never had in America. I was regressing into an almost adolescent mindset of  conquest nearly without remorse. But, Aiko, poor Aiko, was always home to me. We fought and argued as couples do, about “where were you” and “your friends are more important than me” and “Are you seeing another girl,” etc…And also about some new (to me) issues that I believe (but I could be wrong, and probably am) resulted from our totally different cultures like, “you are so rude” and “why don’t you keep your promises” and “you don’t have any respect for me or my culture,” etc…

But, otherwise, we were very good together. We had so much in common. We both wanted to travel and study. Her particular branch of psychology explored the psychological impact of cultural differences. In other words, she was fascinated, and borderline obsessed with her people’s fixation with Western Culture. She was totally disgusted by her brethren inability to see the individuality of foreigners, their tendency to overlook the gaijin’s glaring issues in favor of their unusualness in what has to be one of the most homogeneous cultures remaining in existence. She called these people “Gaijin Freaks” and she had decided to make a documentary exploring this national phenomenon. But, before she could do that, she had to explore it on a personal basis, I believe. I think that’s where I came in. Also, I told her I was writing a book about my experiences in Tokyo, comparing and contrasting the differences in culture with that of NY. She loved the idea and we decided to work together to accomplish each others goals. We bonded in this way, and so our discussions on the matter, which were often heated, were also enlightening and educational for both of us.

We went on like this for many months, seeing each other a couple of times a week, talking, fighting, loving, and learning from each other. She helped me with my Japanese and I helped her, when requested, with her English. However, most often my assistance was not sought directly. She resisted for some reason I always had  difficulty putting a finger on. Perhaps it had something to do with the stigma that girls in Japan live under…that they fuck with foreign guys in order to get free English lessons, or for their dick-size, or for some kind of status symbol (English ability and capacity to interact with foreigners being a sign of a “globalized” mentality or merely cool) or just a kind of Jungle fever, being that most foreign cultural ideas are considered at best unusual  and at worst bizarre and uncivilized by most Japanese. But, in any event,  she resisted.

At the same time, I was still notching my belt,  so to speak. I’m not exactly proud of my behavior, but I had some good times, and I was definitely in that state of mind from the time of my arrival here. Having a good time was high on my priority list. Aiko was a still a university student, working part time, and living with her parents, so I couldn’t see her whenever I wanted to. I guess I could’ve seen her more than I did, but I used her restraints to rationalize my exploits.

One day I told her, out of the blue, that I needed a break. That I had some serious concerns about our relationship, which I did, but not enough to refuse to see her the way I did. She didn’t know it at the time but it wasn’t because of her but because I had a fever blister on my mouth and I was ashamed to see her or even go to work. I don’t know why I get that way about cold sores. There shouldn’t be any shame but maybe it’s because of it’s placement on the lip, in the most conspicuous and intimate of places, making it the bane of my existence on this planet. My vanity, or my self-consciousness, projected into the minds of others…and oh how I am concerned with what other people think of me!  Once or twice a year, an outbreak occurs, and that is the source of my anguish. Depending on the size of the blister, I can either weather it or cower in my house for days, avoiding contact with all humans I know, whose judgment I worry about. I hate the power it has over me, the fear it induces in me, but I’ve  allowed it to happen for over 20 years now. How could I expose this to Aiko, I wondered. I wasn’t prepared to do that, yet. I needed more time,  I said to myself, so I went into hiding. I guess I could’ve come up with a better excuse than I need some time to think about our relationship, but I get so emotionally unwound when an outbreak occurs that I just lose it and the feelings of others take a backseat to my own. She simply couldn’t make sense of this sudden flip.

A week later my lip had healed up and I tried to resume relations with Aiko, but, as I should’ve expected, my behavior had changed her outlook on our relationship as well.  She was very much in love with me, I knew, but now she was leerier. She became much more independent. Hanging out with her friends, looking for work. She started teaching private lessons, too.  She wanted to do research to better understand foreigners, I guess, and make some extra money, so she started teaching Japanese. She placed an ad on a website frequented by ex-pats and the responses came in. One student, in particular, she began to have unusual conversations with. At the time, I thought she was losing her goddamn mind, holding lengthy, giggly conversations, in my house with this guy. I didn’t fully realize she was crying out for attention by making me jealous. I’m so blind to shit like that some times. I was utterly clueless.  Meanwhile, I was beginning to believe that I couldn’t possibly love her if I was capable of doing the things I did on the side. How can you see other women if you are in love? I wasn’t raised that way. The culture I was reared in certainly didn’t encourage that kind of behavior.

So, I broke up with her in my typically cruel fashion, the combination of jealousy and guilt propelling me,  using words like “I can’t stop you from fucking anybody. All I can do is trust that you don’t.” At the time, I didn’t think these words were particularly harsh, but she found them to be devastatingly indicative of my lack of emotional investment in our relationship. And, with a thud, we broke up. I took on another girlfriend, a girl that I had been cheating on Aiko with, one who’d shown promise as far as a future together was concerned…We began to see each other more regularly…I proceeded to try to replace Aiko with her, transfer my feelings for Aiko to this new entity. In my mind, at the time, Japanese women had become that transitive. They basically behaved the same, thought the same, felt the same, looked the same, fucked the same…I thought it didn’t matter. In other words, I was slowly dehumanizing them, again, in my efforts to rationalize my exploits. And, it worked…for about  4 weeks. During which I began to feel, see, taste, hear, and smell the difference between this other girl and Aiko. Between ALL other girls and Aiko.

Meanwhile, Aiko had taken up with some other guy, too, (the same student she had been all giggly with on the phone) and I would learn later, was experiencing something akin to what I had.  I began to communicate with her again. I wanted to be friends, I told her. What I really wanted was to feel her energy, her vitality, her gentleness and kindness, and anger, and fury, again. She was unique! So, we became friends, of sorts. We talked, and argued, especially when she talked about how happy she was with her new beau. I was jealous, I tried to subtly undermine their relationship, then soon progressing to not so subtle attempts. In my heart I wanted to stalk, to prey, to take what I believed to be mine! But, Aiko, stubborn as she was, resisted, with a calmness, a nonchalantness, that only fanned my anger. Eventually,  I gave up, at least with  the aggressive stuff. And, we really became friends. I told her “feel free to talk to me about anything, even him.” And, she did, to a certain extent. I became calm, resolute. I figured, it’s all for the best. I will probably fuck it up if we were to ever get back together anyway, I told myself.

Not two days after I came to this resolution did Aiko call me to say she missed me and that she did not feel about her boyfriend the way she felt about me, and indicated, for the first time, that she wanted to re-conciliate. I was walking back from the 7-11 when I got the call. I was half-way home, a bagful of junk food, ready to couch potato the night away, when I received her call. I stopped there in the street and we talked. I fell in love with her again that night. or maybe it just deepened a bit.

But, still, it was not love like I had known before. Maybe love is different with every person, every relationship. Or, maybe I have some serious emotional issues that make me incapable or hard-pressed to feel and behave the way I’ve been taught that you’re supposed to when you’re in love. I really don’t have the answers. All I know is that night I felt more satisfied with myself than I had in a long time. Maybe it was as simple as she had chosen me over him. Simply a victory over an adversary. Victory feels good doesn’t it? I felt great! I was perfect…I contained my glee, I didn’t beat my chest, although I felt like it, I did a little end-zone dance in my heart and mind, while I said words like “I’m glad you feel like you can come to me when you’re unhappy…that’s all I wanted.”

A couple of weeks of negotiation later, we were back together, with a renewed resolve to make it work. I cut down considerably with my philandering and focused more on studying and making money.  And we had some good times. It had been over a year since we’d met. Our routines were basic but very nice. On Saturdays, she’d meet  me at Starbucks and we’d have some coffee and talk about various things, or we’d help each other with language stuff. Or, we’d go to an izakaya and have dinner, and smoke and joke, or fight and argue, but we were together. Then, we’d go to my house and make love and talk until it was time for her to go home. Sometimes she’d stay, but most often that would cause problems at home. Arguments and fights with her parents…which she didn’t want to get into. Sometimes we’d go to the movies, or to a restaurant in Ebisu or Shinjuku or Shibuya or Omiya. She loved good food and coffee as much as I did.

I used to give her coupons when I fucked up. A coupon which entitled the bearer to something like: For one week, I will or will not do something she liked or disliked, and she loved it!  And I’d always keep the promise, conspicuously. She loved promises to be kept. She was a very simple girl on many levels. Just that she was involved with a much simpler man, me. I could never be like her father…not entirely. He was a descendant of samurai, and had what she called the Bushido spirit, which I think she had, too. My spirit is derived from my mother, which is more of a motherly, nurturing, emotional spirit. But, somehow, she was able to see and embrace the best in me. When we fought, it was her fire, her stubbornness, her pride, that borne her. She was not passive, not weak, not angelic or baby doll like, and yet she was soft, and pliable, and sweet and tender and delicate.

In the summer of 2004 she had asked me to feel something growing under her skin. It was a tumor. She went to the hospital and they tried to remove it but could only remove part of it. She spent a couple days in there and all of her friends came to see her. She was a little depressed about being in the hospital, and I spent as much time as I could with her. She had to go back and forth to the hospital throughout the summer and she’d hated it, while the doctors tried to ascertain what was causing the tumor, and whether it was malignant or not. They never did find out.

Summer 2005, a new tumor came, in her back, followed soon by a third in her leg. But, she did not want to spend another summer in the hospital, so she decided to spend it with her friends and with me. But once the summer was over, she could no longer put it off. There was pain. She called them her children, like little fetuses springing up all over body. By winter,  I had lost count. 10 or 15 tumors…she had to be hospitalized repeatedly. Test after test neither confirmed nor denied their malignancy. But the doctors treated them like malignancies and gave her anti-cancer drugs and pain medication…

February 27th 2006 Aiko passed away from complications due to these malignancies.

I loved her very much and I still miss her. She was Japan to me.me-and-aiko

Loco

More on Aiko

24
Oct
08

The J-Factor

During my first months in Japan, I met Tomomi. She was cute, like most of the girls here. But, unlike most, she had great breast. I was never a breast man in the US, but here, they’re something of a novelty. And, to make sure everyone knew she was special, she wore low-cut sweaters and liked to lean over the table when you had a “man-to-man” lesson with her. The only things you couldn’t see were the nipples. Tomomi also had this unusual, apparently unconscious habit of crossing her arms and cupping her breast when she concentrated.

Needless to say, I liked teaching Tomomi.

In the teacher’s office, we often swapped students. According to the rules we weren’t supposed to, but everybody had a type of student or a particular student they didn’t want anything to do with. So, we’d make trades. “Dude, I’d take Satomi off your hands if you take Yoshi. He fucking makes me want to put my head through the wall.” “Oh, Fuck! I got Yoko again! Please, teach her for me! I’ll buy you lunch!” “Damn! A junior’s kid class! And that little fuck Hideaki is here, isn’t he? You know, he shoved his fingers in my ass again last week…I was this close to getting deported!” My nemeses were kids- any and all kids. It’s not that I don’t like kids. It’s just that, well, they are difficult to control at times and, with the language barrier, impossible to verbally discipline effectively. Unfortunately, it was also against the rules to pop them upside the head or put your foot in their asses when they got out of line. Fortunately, my boy, Andrew, didn’t mind kids. They got a kick out of his crazy ass and he got to practice his Japanese. So he was usually more than happy to swap. Rarely did anyone swap because they wanted to teach a student, unless it was crystal clear that it was not out of sexual interest. The day’s teaching schedule was a mystery until your arrival at work the day of, so this kind of bantering and bartering was part of the daily routine.

When I arrive, the first thing I do is scan the schedule, hoping for an un-booked lesson which meant free time, or at least some eye-candy to teach. When I saw I was to have a man-to-man lesson with Tomomi, I thought, today I’m going to break the rules and give her my email address. Breaking this rule was dangerous. Of course, the penalty was a possible discharge, so you had to be very careful and selective. You were risking your livelihood on this student. Most teachers never did it, under any circumstances. Some, only if it was a sure thing, like if the student asked for it. Then, there were the guys like me who threw caution to the wind, say “fuck it!” and went for it. After all, you had to trust that the student was also interested in this kind of breach of the student-teacher relationship.

Some of the students, indeed, were there only to study English, and a rendezvous with a teacher after hours was the furthest thing from their minds. Unfortunately, usually, there was no way to absolutely ascertain if a student was there strictly for study or open to a little extra-curricular activity. That student sitting across from you with a look in her eyes and a smile on her face that, in the US, would mean, “you are the most exciting person I’ve ever met in my entire life…I want you to fuck me, hard, here, now!” or, “This shy routine is just a cover for the unbridled, uninhibited freak I am all night, every night…and I’m all yours!” could actually be thinking about her TOEIC exam next week and whether or not her score will improve as a result of the $3000 she’d invested in this school, or imagining how embarrassed or useless she would be living in a country like the US where all the girls have huge breast and big mouths and aren’t afraid to speak their minds, the expression on her face signifying nothing. In fact, many of the students have some variation of that smile. There’s also the “I’ve never been fucked by a foreigner before, but you look like you’d be a great subject for my sexual experimentation,” and the “Sure, I’m a high school student, but I’d love to show my friends my cool ass foreign boyfriend and you certainly fit the bill, in spades!” and the “I’d do just about anything to score high on my TOEIC exam and, like you, speak English fluently. Anything!” This smile is standard, especially in customer service. You go to the convenience store, the cleaners, the bank, everywhere, and you see these various smiles. High school girls, Co-eds, office ladies, housewives, even some of the older ones…they all have a look. I used to think it was just the result of living in a new environment. I was unaccustomed to seeing Asian faces outside of a Chinese Restaurant, Fruit Market, Nail Salon or Liquor Store. Back in Bedford-Stuyvesant, those were the only places where Asians were seen. Or they were so “American” in behavior and personality that, aside from the eyes, you couldn’t distinguish them from any other “American.” So, I figured that, in time, I would grow accustomed to this look and my daily lust would cease and desist.

Well, it’s been a couple of years and I can say this…I know it doesn’t necessarily mean they want to fuck me, but my libido is a little slow on the uptake.

Tomomi arrived at the school 20 minutes before her class and paraded her pair around the waiting area. She was wearing a mini-skirt that would make a homosexual reconsider his preference. She walked with that pigeon-toed, knock-kneed sashay that is popular with the high school girls, college co-eds and hostesses. It’s kind of awkward and clumsy looking, conveys drunkenness or helplessness, but I think that’s the point; and, somehow, it works! Maybe Japanese guys see a beautiful girl stumbling around and they yearn to support her, to be someone she can lean on, depend on. Maybe, it’s like the Japanese equivalent of the old European chivalry thing; girls dropping their handkerchiefs, and that kind of foolishness. Anyway, when she noticed me, she stumbled a bit on her heels, and gave me a smile that would put a dent, from the inside out, in any knight’s armor.

When the bell rang, I strode into the class, and there they were.
“What’s up?” I said, since she was alone and we had dropped the formalities weeks ago.
“Hello” she sang- a little giggle in her talk, like Chantilly Lace.
“How’s it going?”
“I’m Fine. And you?”
“Now, what did I tell you before?”
“Oh, sou ne,” she blushed. “It’ssu goinguu…you?”
“It’s going. Try it again.”
“It’s su going.”
“One more time. It’s going.”
“It’s going,” she gasped and laughed at her achievement. And you?”
“Like a native,” I said, and winked at her. “I’m chillin'”
“Really? Like a native?”
“Ok, maybe not a native,” I said. I had poured it on a little thick. “Maybe like someone who’s lived in New York for a couple of years.”
“Thanks,” she said, but she wasn’t buying it I could read in her voice. Her face, however, remained the same as when she’d walked in the door. “That’s a pretty necktie…kakkoii.” (cool!)
“Thanks,” I said, and froze. She was leaning in and her partners in crime were all but exposed, and cupped in her palms. I let my eyes linger a little longer than usual, than professionally advisable, just to see her reaction. Her face hadn’t changed. She still wanted to fuck me right there on the table.
“Nice sweater,” I said, since she’d opened the door for personal comments.
“Thank you,” she said and glanced down like she hadn’t known what she’d worn today, and noticed her breast sort of splayed on the desk. She leaned back and her partners ducked back into their hiding place in a pink flowery bra. When she looked back my way she smiled kind of coyly and bore that fang of hers; an extra tooth kind of protruding from her gums. I couldn’t figure out its purpose. Maybe, like an appendix, or like my boy, who had a kind of sixth finger sticking out the side of his left hand, it might have served a purpose in primitive man, but now it’s just there. She wasn’t embarrassed by it at all. It was there and it had long since been accepted, like a birthmark on your lip or a mole on your nose. I wish I could be so brave about my little defects.
After a little small talk about the weekend’s activities, which I used to ascertain that she had once again gone to Roppongi to shake her ass at some nightclub frequented by foreigners and thus was in the market for some foreign dick, I decided to forego the textbook lesson and offered her a free conversation lesson. She accepted readily.
“Okay, what shall we talk about?” I asked, giving her another opportunity to keep the lesson strictly business-like or get a little personal.
“Do you like Japanese girls?” she asked, un-rhetorically, and I knew I was in.

Two nights later we met surreptitiously at the train station. This was also dangerous. I couldn’t be spotted by the school’s Japanese staff, other students or other teachers. Any of the above could cost me my job. And, trust me when I say, I stand out here like a cockroach in a bowl of rice. Still, I waited, anxiously; visions of those creamy breasts dancing in my mind. I’ve always allowed lust to take me places where I oughtn’t to be. Even money is a weaker motivator than some new pussy. When I was teenager, I used to be crazy about this girl, Sharon, who lived in the Pink Houses, a housing project in Brooklyn, infamous for its treatment of non-residential visitors. Its reputation had a body count. Sharon wasn’t even all that cute, and she’d warned me of the dangers of coming, and the likelihood of my getting some was nil to none, but just for the slim possibility of a notch in my belt, for the variety, I walked through a posse of niggers ganged up in front of her building, agitated by my strangeness. At the end of the evening not even a kiss was offered for my efforts.

But, I had a feeling that Tomomi was going to be more than worth the effort.

It took some time to figure out why, and I think I’ve locked down the reasons…The school I work for specializes in teaching English conversation. The students are from all walks of life but have one thing in common, an interest in communicating with foreigners. How far they want to go varies. Some just want to be able to state their business and understand what’s being said to them on vacations, by hotel staff and taxi drivers and whatnot. Then, there are the students who need English for their business. They often have to travel around the world to attend conferences and meet clients face-to-face, and lack the ability and confidence to do so. Then, there are those others…I call them, the iroiro. Iroiro means various. They want to understand movies and music, or make foreign friends, or are curious about foreign habits, personalities and culture, or they are bored to death with everything Japanese or just plain crazy. Among this group, there are a lot of females.
Enter Tomomi:
The day we met, my first question was: Why are you studying English?
For me, it’s easier to lie in a foreign language. Translating the truth, something backed by emotional sincerity, is difficult- I learned this the hard way- so usually if and when I lie to Japanese, I lie in Japanese. But for Japanese it seems it’s the opposite.
“Well, I want to make foreigner friends and be a stewardess.”
Translation: “I want to travel to be in an environment where I can meet a rich foreigner to take me away from this boring ass country.”
“What are you studying at University?”
“I study in Psychology.”
“You’re studying psychology and you’re ambition is to serve drinks and give out extra pillows on a 747?”
“Eeeto, ne…”
“Anyway,” I said, because no response was forthcoming, “I hope I can help. Let’s get started!’
She was cupping her breast and smiling like she’d been longing her entire life to have a black man inside her; deep inside her, if the stereotypes she’d subscribed to were true. From that moment on I wanted her bad.

15 minutes late, she arrived, teetering dangerously on 5-inch long pumps, some kind of faux fur on her back, V-neck cardigan barely restraining her breast, silk mini skirt clinging to her hips and thighs, Louis Vitton bag in the crease of her elbows, and a face so twisted with anguish, Meryl Streep would’ve given her a standing ovation.
“Honto ni gomen nasai.” I’m soooo sorry.
I just glanced at my watch and said, “I was worried you’d gotten hurt…maybe took a spill off those heels.”
“Eeee?”
“It’s not important…doko ni ikou?” Where shall we go?
“Doko demo ii yo.” Anywhere is fine with me.
So, we went to a coffee shop in Shinjuku, a little out of the main traffic areas. We sat there for 45 minutes…me doing most of the talking in my broken Japanese while she sat there admiring me. I was wondering how to broach the subject of a Love Hotel. She seemed like she was game but I was a still a little leery about trusting her with my future employment. Even though I had already done enough to get myself fired, now my concern was not giving her reason to use the power I’d given her in a bad way. Maybe if I waited and let her make the suggestion it would be better, I decided.
“So, do you have a big family?” Another stereotype. Most of her questions were of this nature. She had many stereotypical ideas about foreigners, so here was her opportunity to have them confirmed or denied. I confirmed this one with flying colors.
“Six??? Sugoi!” she said. The average in Japan is two. “Are you the oldest?”
“No, I’m in the middle…3 older and 2 younger.”
“Shashin ga aru?”
“No pictures on me, but I have them on my web page.”
“Honto? Mitai yo!” Then, she pressed her finger to her chin pensively. “Manboo ni ikimasyouka?”
Manboo? Now why didn’t I think of that? Manboo is a 24hr internet cafe / Manga reading room franchise. I’d gone there a couple of times before. When I’d first arrived in Japan, before I was able to arrange an Internet service provider, Manboo was recommended. I’d gone there expecting to see your typical Internet café scene but it was far from that. You walk in and there’s a reception desk, where you’re offered the reading room or a private Internet room. There were even rooms for two if you had a companion. In these rooms, there’s a computer of course as well as a television, DVD / VCR and a Playstation 2. You can borrow movies (though the selection is limited), Manga, or games from the counter. There are also refreshments included and snacks you can buy. The rooms are compact, carpeted, and come with a leather recliner or a love seat for two. There’s even a shower room if you wound up staying for a while as I later learned people did because they’d missed the last train and needed a place to chill out for a few hours until the first train around 5 or 6am. While I was there checking emails, trying to work my way around the Japanese keyboard, I could just make out slurping and moaning sounds from the booth next door. I’d thought to myself I gotta make use of this place someday but had no idea how I would do it.

Thanks to Tomomi that problem was solved.

We arrived at Manboo and I let Tomomi do all the talking to the staff, though she tried to defer to me. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying and I hated to pretend I did. I’d gotten fucked a few times nodding my head to shit I didn’t need nor want. But, traditionally, this was a man’s job- ordering shit, taking command, and so forth- so I decided that I’d learn the lingo before my next visit with a companion. Tomomi got us a booth for two in the back and I grabbed a couple of cups of tea. We sat on the couch and made eyes at each other before I showed her the pictures of my fairly estranged family in happier times. My mother’s wedding pictures, my sister’s graduation pictures, some of the handful of pictures I have of my brothers, my sister’s return to NY from California that represented the closest my clan has come to being in the same state together since the early 80’s. While I was feeling a bit nostalgic and homesick, Tomomi was glowing in what had to be a rare opportunity to see real New Yorkers in their natural habitat.
“That’s New York?” She asked a couple of times. Of course, the only NY most Japanese know and see is Manhattan. The NY you’ll find in Woody Allen movies and on “Friends.” Icons like the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, Wall Street, The Statue of Liberty, and Broadway, have to be seen or mentioned in anything having to do with NYC. And because of baseballs popularity, and the recruitment of several Japanese players over the years, the Mets and Yankees are known. But, they are the NY teams. The Bronx and Queens are unknown. And, Brooklyn is hardly on the radar in Japan. It’s just a word, a label on clothes, a symbol, and a place where things that are virtually incomprehensible to most Japanese occur. But, NY is, quite simply, that city that used to be a cesspool of drugs and crime but, thanks to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, that ingenious crime fighter, is now safe for the gentle, peace and safety-loving people of Japan to visit without fear of being targeted by taxi drivers, street hustlers and other riff-raff. This was the general consensus and the general consensus, I’d learned, is almighty in Japan. “I heard NY is safety place now…is it true? She asked.
“Sure,” I said. “If you have a lot of money and a little common sense, it’s always been relatively safe. But, now it’s even safer, so even Japanese would be ok.”
“Yokatta ne,” she smiled. “Ikitai yo.” (That’s good news. I want to go there!)
“Really? Well, maybe I’ll take you home with me one day,” I said. “If you’re good.” I winked. She giggled.
Before I knew it, I was rubbing my face in those tits I’d been drooling over for weeks. And to make great greater, she took to her knees and quite aptly made this the best first date of my life, three times over. I’m sure the folks in the next booth could hear the sound effects but if she didn’t care, I wasn’t about to care. I didn’t even get to show her my blog. We stayed at Manboo until first train, she snoring in my arms and me, too satisfied to sleep. I kind of fell in love with her that night. Not love-love. But, I had always dreamed of the super-freak and she was clearly it. Not only did she have the enthusiasm, the skill, and the technique I relish, but she also had something that none of the other freaks I’ve had the pleasure of doing ever had.

I call it the J-Factor.

Before I came to Japan, I’d had my share of women. And some of them could clearly be classified as freaks. And I lusted after them most dearly as well. I’ve had a few white chicks, and a couple of Latinas. But, the vast majority was black women. They were my bread and butter, but they were generally missing something. At least I imagined they were which is just as real to me. Physically, they were great, but there was always a drawback Either they were too freaky for one guy so they took their freak show on the road too often or they were a little on the dilly side, and managed to bore me silly which is quite a feat. Or something else would get under my skin: Breath, pungent fishy aroma, funky odor, too much sass and lip…something was always amiss…

But, ah, the J-factor!

The J-factor is able to cancel out several of those drawbacks. What’s a little Natto-halitosis? (Eating Natto, which is basically fermented soybeans that smell and look like those navy beans you forgot on the stove when you went to Savannah for Fourth of July weekend, is a Japanese custom) She’s practically a Geisha in a mini skirt! So what she snores! She’s erotica incarnate! So what she just lies there and squeals and does little else. She’s squealing in an altogether foreign language. So what she’s just average looking. She’d be highly coveted back home. Any guy from where I’m from would give his left nut to be where I am.

Yes, the J-factor rules. It gives Japanese girls an edge. I’d take a 40 year old Japanese woman over a 20 year old black, white or Latino girl any day.

But, I don’t know why I find them so fascinating. It can’t be simply because they were unavailable in the old neighborhood, can it? I mean, I can’t be that simple, can I?
For instance, take Tomomi…she’s no beauty queen. Quite average as far as Japanese girls go…maybe even a little below average, with that wayward tooth of hers. But the average is about an 8, on a scale of 1-10. Because of the J-factor, cuties are everywhere in Japan. Tomomi is everywhere. But most are culturally, linguistically and thus virtually inaccessible.

Tomomi is not the typical Japanese girl, though. She can speak English somewhat and is inclined, and indeed, motivated to go outside of her cultural and racial boundaries to find dick; the penalty for doing so being something akin to outcast status. It’s kind of a demerit to tell you the truth. The thrill is diminished somewhat when you flip someone that has already decided to flip. It’s like stealing a Honda Accord with the keys in the ignition, a full tank of gas, and your name already on the registration. But, ah, the J-factor! The J-factor makes that Honda feel like a fully-loaded Escalade.
The J-factor is strictly a psychological factor. There’s very little physical difference. Pussy is pussy and varies little physically from woman to woman. So, the major distinction has to be psychological. Eddie Murphy said it best…if you give a starving person a cracker, he’s going to love it. It’s going to taste like a Ritz cracker or the greatest cracker ever baked. I guess I just didn’t know that I was starving.
Tomomi and I only lasted a short time. Three day after our first date, I was so excited I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer so I told my boy Peter, a colleague I’d been cool with.
“You mean, the Tomomi with the tits?” He confirmed. Tomomi’s a popular name.
“Yeah,” I said nonchalantly. I didn’t want too much of my pride to show because something in his voice told me the bubble was about to burst.
He looked like he wasn’t sure what emotion to show me.
“Wait here a second.” He went and came back, with Andrew. “Tell him what you told me.”
“I went out with Tomomi last night,” Andrew said. He was looking a bit chagrined.
“Word?” I couldn’t hide the shock. I don’t know why I was shocked. Maybe because I’d believed at the time that I was the only teacher in our branch who was from the “fuck the risk, I’m going for it!” school of thought. Or, maybe it was because Andrew is such an odd guy. Funny as hell, but strange, in a recently released from a sanitarium kind of way. He was a fellow New Yorker, however, so I should have known. There are so few of us to go around. Most of the teachers are Aussies, Brits and Canucks. Americans are in the minority and New Yorkers are a rare species. My competitiveness got the best of me and I said, “I hope you didn’t kiss her.”

I still couldn’t believe it, though. That is, until he imitated what was to become her signature slurpee sound effects. It was her, alright. Tomomi was flipping him too. I continued to pretend to be unaffected, let on like my ego wasn’t bruised at all. And I never told Tomomi I knew she was doing him. But, every time we met, I did her like I was going to begin a 25-year prison term the following day and she was responsible; with a vengeance. I actually tried to damage that thing, but to no avail. She was as pliant as a Geisha and as compliant as a Samurai. She was built for abuse, and serving, as far as I knew, two masters. I tried to find solace in the fact that at least I was first, but what’s worst: sloppy seconds or the idea that I wasn’t masterly enough so she needed to do someone I worked alongside, too. How wicked!
When I saw Andrew, after greetings I would eventually ask, “How’s our girl treating you?”
“I haven’t seen her in a couple days,” he’d say, with a little slurp.

Everyday I had to watch Andrew, strutting and slurping around the office, looking thoroughly pleased with himself. After all, by virtue of vicinity, he got to see her much more often than I did. He lived in Tokyo, a couple of stops on the train from her, while I lived in Saitama, a good 40 minutes away. She was spending nights with him on the regular while I got to see her maybe once every other week or so. And, everyday I got more and more disgusted with Tomomi. She’d put on the most innocent act. Not that she pledged her fidelity or even hinted at it. Fidelity never came up. After all, I had a girlfriend out in Saitama, so I didn’t want to have that conversation, either. But, the longing hinted at in her emails, her eagerness to be together, her enthusiasm when we did meet, her thoroughness and utter inexhaustibleness all but screamed monogamous. She was a slut, but I was still crazy about her. I’d never been crazy about a slut before. I always fell like a brick for the demure type, but in Tomomi, I had a demure slut. She was something new. Any fantasies I’d entertained about making her my girl were long gone, but my lust never dwindled.

I think the demure slut is part of the J-factor. Most of the girls I’ve met here seem so wholesome and honest and totally incapable of the level of deception I’ve come to expect from girls back home. Of course, they are capable, as Tomomi illustrated in the most startling way, but at least I can entertain the fantasy, which is exactly what the J-factor amounts to.

Now, several years later, and Tomomi is long gone. I haven’t spoken to her in over a year. Maybe she’d gotten tired of me and moved on to greener pasture. But, I still see her face, and unfortunately, her tits- in my imagination- everywhere I go. She’s that girl in the convenience store, the café, the bar, and on the train. She still smiles at me from other faces. She still looks at me like I’m the cracker and she’s the starving person.

Loco

23
Oct
08

The Dance

Maybe the problem is I’m too sensitive and wayyyy too observant to live stress and anger free in Japan. I mean, I have a tendency to notice almost everything. Great for writing – terrible for living.

The one thing that vexes me the most about Japanese people is something I’m sure many foreigners living here don’t notice. Or, if they do, it simply doesn’t get under their skin the way it gets under mine. Because, if it did, I wouldn’t be reading so many weblogs from foreigners living in Japan gushing about how great their lives in Japan are and how wonderful the people are, in general. Maybe they’ve found some way to ignore this thing. I, decidedly, have not!

Japanese call it shyness, but it certainly looks more like terror. It’s not only that they avoid contact with me but the incredibly insensitive ways they go about this tactless task.

Case and point: Today, I was walking from the station to my job. A ten minute walk I take the same time every Monday through Friday. On this walk I must pass a couple hundred people going the way I’ve come. The sidewalks are pretty narrow on certain streets. Barely enough room for two people to pass one another without one giving a little way. And If I were Japanese that’s exactly what would happen. A little way would be given by either myself or both of us in the spirit of keeping it moving. I know this because I observe this daily. I wish I didn’t but I do. But, I am not Japanese.

So, daily, I have to watch a couple hundred people do variations on the same dance I’ll call for the sake of this article, The Xenophobic Waltz. Picture one of those waltz scenes from a movie where the dancers have blank faces and they bow, join, turn, step and twirl and everyone is just as tranquil and syncopated as syncopated swimmers. Synchronization is so important here, as is predictability. The salaryman bullying through two office ladies in a mad dash is as expected and accepted as the schoolgirl paying more attention to her cellphone than the car, though in the right, waiting for her to cross the street without even touching his horn. That’s Japan. You can almost hear the waltz playing in the background. Everyone doesn’t do it the same way, but it’s the rare person who doesn’t participate in this dance at all. The essential elements to this dance are the facial expressions and the accompanying body language. It’s all about attitude. Ask any dance instructor or choreographer.

I can’t dance, by the way.

Now, imagine something totally incongruous entering that ballroom. Something scary yet… Man, it’s not easy to explain this. I mean, if a wolf was in the ballroom, then people would run. That would be the logical reaction. Rarely do people actually run from me. It’s more like if there were a deaf, dumb, clumsy, mentally-challenged dancer among them that no one knows but everyone believes or has heard is prone to do something stupid, unexpected, or in some cases even violent, and this is horrifying for it is a distraction and ruins the syncopation that generations of rehearsal have honed into a rhythm most know by rote. At best he is representative of that which is strange and potentially dangerous, like two left feet or the weak link. At worst, he is the anti-Shinto, and goes totally against Natural Law.

So, as a salaryman approaches me, and I’m in observant mode, like some kind of glutton for confirmation of my long since confirmed belief that the Japanese people are cowardly xenophobes and racists, I watch his every move. I watch as he passes people ahead of me, confidently in stride and uneventfully. I watch as he finally notices me. The recognition of “the other” in his eyes is plain to see. He glances across the street, considers crossing, checks me to see if I’m watching him and on seeing that he has my undivided attention puts his hand up to pick something out of his eye, turns sharply and crosses the street without checking for traffic and causes a car to have to stop a little short. The driver of the car notices me and glides his car as far away from where I’m walking – on the sidewalk mind you- as possible. I guess the suddenness and carelessness of the the other guy’s crossing made the driver sense a danger about. And upon seeing me decided I was that danger. His glide away from me causes the oncoming traffic from the opposite direction to slow, and the driver at its lead looks around to see what caused the other driver to perform such a dangerous detour, sees me, and nearly pulls on to the sidewalk.

I shake my head and keep moving. This kind of shit goes on daily, I swear.

A woman further up the road, missed all of that and is still coming towards me, she notices me and suddenly has a intense desire to check her cellphone for text messages. She whips it out, stops, turns her back to the area where I was to pass, and fish-eyes me until I reach her. Exactly as I pass, like if she were facing me, her body arches forward in order to avoid any possible contact and her head turns to confirm that I had passed. Once I’m pass, and the danger I represented to her has passed, the message she had to see suddenly wasn’t so important anymore, at least not as important as making up for the few seconds she’d lost by stopping, and she ran to catch up to where she ought to have been if it weren’t for, well, me.

Another man is approaching. He notices me and places his back against the wall and aims his head at the sky, while at the same time craning away from me like if I had a chainsaw sticking out the side of my head with the blade aimed at his neck. All of this while he is somehow still moving forward. He never stopped, like one of Spike Lee’s signature shots in his films where characters appear to be moving without walking,  kind of floating down the street.

A woman approaches with her child. I brace myself, emotionally. I can almosttolerate the older people and their ignorance, but when they impress it upon the next generation, like it’s some kind of common sense, that really hits me where it hurts. I can almost hear them spewing ignorance. “Be careful of gaijin,  Hiro! They are dangerous!” I really hate this stuff, when the kids are purposely infected with this disease. She picks up the toddler, at least he appeared to be a toddler, and steps off the sidewalk, walking along the gutter with her head thrust towards the opposite side of the street until she’d passed me, and then gets back on the sidewalk, places her son back on the ground, glances back at me, sees me watching her behavior and shifts her glance to the cloudless sky, then turns back around to continue on her way. Her child never noticed me, thank god.

Another woman is coming towards me. She is texting on her cellphone. I wondered if she’d seen me while I was looking around at the previous woman. I hoped so. I hate to come upon people without notice. It’s almost worse than than coming upon them when they have preparation. She’s dressed in a black pants suit, thin, short, pretty cute, pushing her mid-thirties. Pretty typical looking Office Lady. A couple of feet from me she glances up and her our eyes meet. I register. Her eyes wander around in her head as she tries to figure out what to do…has to do something…what can she do…life flashes by her eyes…two steps away…will he kill me…rob me…touch me…help me, Buddha! She stiffens, braces for the pending assault….passes without incident. I turn around to see if she shows sign of shame for clearly overreacting, an inkling of the offense she’d just committed against a relatively innocent man. Nothing. Just relief. She regains her composure with a deep breath, not slowing her pace at all, glances back at me, meets my eyes again and turns head back to face what lies before her.

I can just hear her telling her co-workers later about her terrifying encounter with a foreigner on the way to work, and how she was lucky to escape with her life!

By the time I get to the school, each day, I’m in no mood to deal with the foolishness I have to with the people I see everyday.

But, here in Japan, the foolishness never ceases.




Copyright © 2010 Loco in Yokohama / All Rights Reserved

Please know that this blog is my original writing and may not be reproduced in any way without the expressed written permission of the author (that's me!) Thanks!

Words I love…

Everybody is a star
I can feel it when you shine on me
I love you for who you are
Not the one you feel you need to be
Ever catch a falling star
Ain't no stopping 'til it's in the ground
Everybody is a star
One big circle going round and round

Words by: Sly Stone

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