Archive for December, 2008

31
Dec
08

Home Alterations Part 6

I had planned to do some more canvassing in Pennsylvania for Obama on Monday, but Sunday was such a drain.  I was emotionally spent.  So, I couch-potatoed half the day away. I didn’t want to see anyone. The phone was ringing, my friends were reaching out, but I wasn’t in the mood to be reached.

Every evening before my trip home had been spent devouring every thing available on the net about this election, and blogging. But, since my arrival in NY I had been trying not to think about it. I didn’t want to ponder the most pressing of questions: “what does it mean if he wins?”

Well, it was time to ponder.

An Obama win was the unthinkable not a year ago. Not unthinkable in “he’ll never raise enough money,” or “his position on abortion is too controversial,” kind of way. Unthinkable in the I WAS NOT BORN IN A COUNTRY THAT IS CAPABLE OF ELECTING A BLACK MAN AS ITS LEADER kind of way. I mean, it went against everything I thought I knew about the US. It seemed almost un-American to toy with the idea. Extraordinarily cruel and fiendishly wicked to dangle the impossibility as they have, I thought.

Visions of a handful of old white power brokers smoking cigars and drinking pricey liquor deciding the next president dominated my thinking, not unlike these guys from one of my favorite movies, Being There:

And I never believed in a million years that any of these guys would say, “How about this Hawaiian mutt with the Islamic name and exotic background? He seems pretty, I don’t know, electable. Let’s give him a shot.”

But, everything that had happened during the campaign pointed towards a Barack landslide. McCain’s only chance of victory was if a whole lot of white people decided to stay home and sit this one out or suddenly got behind that curtain, looked at that ballot and said, “Oh, Hellll no! What the fuck was I thinking?”  And if those were the only two ways McCain could win, then this thing was over. Because if the people I’d canvassed in Pennsylvania were any indication of the people across America pledging their support for Obama, no way would this so-called Bradley Effect occur. I think the predominant vibe I got from the Pennsylvanians was that they were of the mind “If Barack loses it won’t be because of us.”

So, what would it mean?

To me, an Obama victory would mean everything, EVERYTHING, I ever thought I knew about my country was mostly bullshit. That the country I thought I understood I really didn’t understand at all. I liked to think of New York as the ideal America, and I knew NY would support Obama. When I say America, I always mean those people who supported Bush the second time. These people I couldn’t believe really existed. I could understand them putting him in office in 2000 what with all the nonsense generated by the Clinton administration (and if you set aside the whole Florida thing) but the 2004 election established these people as beyond…well, beyond my understanding.

But, even before then I thought I knew America. I had experienced America vicariously through my parents and teachers and their experiences were mostly horrible. Even the evidence before my eyes couldn’t invalidate the impression they instilled in me. As an adult, I could look around me and see that America wasn’t necessary black and white, but green. Clearly America was about the money. Money and ability and belief in one’s self…and a little bit of luck doesn’t hurt, either. It was about those who have these and those who do not, and aside from a few ignorant people here and there, trapped behind the color line, these were the deciding factors in how one progressed in America. And, I actually lived my life according to what I experienced more so that what my parents and teachers had. Of course, white privilege was and still is a reality. But, I could attribute that to just bad cultural habits more than some organized agenda by the man to keep the people in their place.

But, from time to time, especially when a crisis would arrive, I’d feel that lowest common denominator pulling me down. This damn race thing. Rodney King, James Byrd Jr., just to name a couple. These types of incidents reminded me of just how how close we were as a country to our dark past. But, on the other hand, I could look at Vernon Jordan, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice. And I knew that progress was being made.

And, that’s exactly what an Obama victory would mean, I decided. That America had truly progressed…no more, no less…ok, perhaps a bit more. (-:

In my apartment in Yokohama I have an American flag. It’s about the size you might find oncimg0015 a front porch or in a flowerpot. I keep it on my desk. I don’t know why. At least I didn’t until today.

I didn’t realize that although I did not feel that America was all that she had claimed to be or had the potential to be, that I had been harboring all along a secret desire to be proud of my country; a secret I even kept from myself. And, I have the Japanese to thank, partially, for revealing this secret longing to me. Though they’d never admit it, the Japanese are nationalist. They’d deny it on a stack of whatever texts are sacred to them, but I watch them. i watch them at the bars during a World Cup soccer match or an Olympic event with a Japanese contestant. They’d say it’s niwaka aikokusya (にわか愛国者) or instant nationalism, but it shines through and it’s extreme. I see it when there’s a sumo tournament and they must yet again watch a Mongolian Rikishi walk away with the Emperor’s Cup. I hear it in how often they use the word Japanese as an adjective to distinguish their country’s products and ideas from others…from rice to dogs to plastic bags.  The equivalent would be like an American saying, “do you like American rice?” or “Do you know how to use American can openers?” Yes, they might be a few generations removed from the loyalty the Imperialism of earlier times mandated but Japan and all things Japanese hold a prominent place in the hearts and minds of most the people here. And, they ain’t ashamed to show it. And, living among them and among this nationalistic energy tampered with my harbored desires.

For example, in Japan I often find myself in the awkward position of defending American products and ideas that I honestly never really thought twice about or felt any particular allegiance to, like Coca-Cola or Disney.

“I’ve never been to Tokyo Disneyland…” I responded to a one of the teachers in the office one day who asked did I like it. Shock swept across all their faces. “Uso!” stop lying! some gasped.

“Nande???” Why not? one asked.

“Well, I don’t really like Mickey Mouse. When I was a kid there were 3 famous cartoon mice. Mighty, Jerry and Mickey, and of the three, Mickey was the corniest. ”

2005_08_09_mightymouse

jerry-mouse-ozartmickey-mouse-c

(By the way I was a HUGE Tom and Jerry fan! Not to mention Itchy and Scratchy!)

“How can you not like Disney??? You’re American, right?” It was like they were offended. To them, it was almost the equivalent of a Japanese person not speaking Japanese or bashing the emperor. Which, I suspect, brought them to the ridiculous conclusion that I was not an “average” American, and since I represent all African Americans in their eyes, it meant that African Americans were not “average” Americans, something to add to their Yappari arsenal. They actually questioned my nationalism based on whether or not I held affection for an outdated icon and an amusement park.

“I like Coca-cola, though” I said in my defense, taking a sip from mine and giving them an “ahh, now that’s American refreshment” face. But, the damage was done.

“Cola is poison,” the vice-principal blurted out. “It melts bones! Japanese Green tea is healthy. That’s why Japanese are healthy people and live long lives.”

“It’s what???” I responded, a little shocked myself. “Poison?”

Of course I knew Coke wasn’t exactly a health tonic, but I took it personally the way he’d called it poison. It seemed to me like an indirect way of saying America is poisoning the world and by virtue of being American I was a representative of a nation dead set on melting the bones of Japanese and any other race I could get to suck on my poison…

“Deshou?” he said, like everyone knows what you guys over there are up to.

“Well,” I said, “Green tea is high in caffeine!” I wanted to add: no wonder you guys can work 12 hours a day 6 days a week, but I didn’t.

They all looked around as if they were seeking confirmation of my claim in the one another’s faces.

“Deshou?” I added. “And caffeine is a drug. An addictive drug!” I wanted to say: all of you guys are junkies, but again I didn’t. Though I’m sure they could hear it in my tone. Japanese drink green tea like the rest of the world drinks coffee.

I’m terribly defensive sometimes. The things I do for America. Scenes like the one above occur quite frequently here in the land of products that start with the word, “Japanese.” And, after five years, I now have an arsenal of brain-stumping and/or sarcastic comebacks for most of their nationalistic assaults. Especially the ones that attack America.

Yes, it’s a strange feeling defending a country you abandoned.

That night I went to the next place on my list of must eats: Juniors, in downtown Brooklyn. 26_juniors_lglJunior’s is actually located across the street from the University I attended, LIU Brooklyn campus. It brought back a lot of memories being there. Junior’s is famous for Cheesecake. Once you’ve had a slice of their cheese cake it’s pretty difficult to ever call another cheese cake cheese cake. You’d sooner call it imitation cheese cake. I stood in the line…there’s almost always a line for cheesecake…and through the window I could see my alma mater. It had grown in the years since I graduated. Two new buildings had been erected and a great deal of renovation had been done.

liuOriginally, my school had been a movie palace and theater. paramount1Really. It was called the Brooklyn Paramount, and hosted many famous performers from Duke Ellington to The Beatles.

I wonder what the people who lived at that time in Brooklyn, would think of Brooklyn now. Maybe the same way I was starting to feel about Brooklyn: like it was ever-changing and will never be or feel the same again. I guess there are worst things a theater could be turned into, though. There was another famous Movie Palace in downtown Brooklyn: The Albee. It should have been a landmark but they tore it down when I was a kid and built a shopping mall. I guess Joni Mitchell said it best: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

But, Junior’s cheese cake is still the same: delicious. I ate it while I watched an old Peter Sellers movie…I didn’t know it then but the next day my country who I’ve defended to the Japanese so vigilantly would reward my unsung efforts by electing the first African American president.

You’re probably thinking I could have experienced this all from Japan being that I was just laying on my landlord’s couch eating cheesecake and watching old movies…but tomorrow I would learn there’s nothing quite like being there.

Loco

Here’s the hilarious final scene from the film, Being There

PS: I’ve written, and am in the process of revising, a novel. It’s unrelated to my experiences in Japan. If you enjoy my writing and have a little free time please check out: Real Gods require Blood. I’ll be posting it chapter by chapter.

Thanks in advance

29
Dec
08

Acts of retaliation #2: Joystick

A while back, in my efforts to maintain my sanity, I’d taken to avoiding looking at Japanese people by walking through the streets of Yokohama with my head down.

Sounds ridiculous, I know, but I’m dead-ass serious! I still do it, sometimes.

Enter, or sometimes even approach, a space currently occupied by Japanese and the atmosphere palpably changes. The Japanese body language of uneasiness ensues everywhere you look.  If I enter a confined space like a train car or an elevator, at best, the atmosphere becomes something akin to the atmosphere of a room where everyone is catching everyone else up on the latest bit of nasty gossip and it’s about me. I enter and the people around me transform into stiff and self-conscious caricatures of themselves. Faces turn from joyous to grim, or freeze into a plasticity that is painful to watch. That’s on a very good day. Typically, though, the space becomes a classroom and I’m a notoriously strict teacher who has been known to occasionally behead students in his immediate vicinity with no provocation; a mortified hush comes over the trembling student body as they silently pray to exit the classroom in the same condition they entered: with their heads intact.

The overall effect is it leaves me feeling like such a ruiner; the rain on the Japanese parade, the fog creeping over the hanabi, the typhoon threatening the hanami season. It’s a disheartening feeling because you’d like to ideally have just the opposite effect or, after you’ve been here a while, just to be ignored. It’s also a sickening feeling because you know it really has nothing to do with you personally. It’s spawned from an ignorance you have very little hope of addressing and there’s  little or no recourse. It’s an unavoidable aspect of  life in Japan. One of those syouganai things that require patience to the Nth degree.

That’s why I resorted to keeping my head down as often as I could. And, you know what? It actually helped a lot!

Back in NY, people who walk with their heads down or avoid looking at people are flagged as shady, dodgy, and potential evil-doers. Or suffering from some kind of mental derailment. But, here it’s quite the opposite. People tend to avoid eye-contact as well as any kind of confrontation or conflict as a matter of course.

I found that keeping my head down served two purposes. One, it impacted the behavior of Japanese people significantly.  A good number of Japanese people, it seems, feel better if they believe that they are flying below or above my radar; invisible as ostriches with their heads in the sand. The difference between those whose presence I acknowledge with even the merest glance and those I go out of my way to avoid acknowledging whatsoever is measurable. The behavior I mentioned above is reduced by at least half. They can walk past me with a reduced concern for their well-being.

The second purpose walking around looking like a mental patient (from my perspective) serves is if I’m not paying attention to them, then, if I really try hard, it is unlikely I’ll see the actions  they are almost certain to take to indicate their discomfort with both being seen by me and being in my vicinity and, consequently, I feel a lot less like a pariah and a killjoy on a daily basis.

It works like a charm usually!

However, walking around like this did not come natural to me at all. I mean, I’m not a confrontational person per se, but I don’t shy from it, either. And, conflict…well, it’s my belief that the best stories are derived from conflict (at least that’s what my writing teacher used to say) so why in the hell would I avoid it when I’m endeavoring to be a solid writer?

As I walked around, looking like I’d lost my winning lottery ticket somewhere, I’d ask myself questions like if they’re ignorant and xenophobic then why should I care what they think and do? I’d have arguments in my head. Part of me defending them, echoing the excuses they always spew in my ear like: our culture is homogeneous and we are shy and we can’t speak English etc, etc. And another part of me would argue on behalf of my creative self reducing Japanese, by virtue of overwhelming evidence, to simple statements like: If it slithers and hisses and sheds its skin like a snake, then it’s a snake.

But, whenever I could stop playing the blame game and take a recess from the courtroom drama playing out in my head, I’d think seriously, and rather selfishly, about my life here and the impact it was having on my character. I’m a fairly proud person and a really observant one. So, I had to make a decision: shall I keep my head held high and endure, or keep my head hung low and evade?

The idea of keeping my head down, thereby denying myself the visual stimulation that spurs my creativity, in order to appease ignorant people, was not only stupid, I’d concluded, but worse: counterproductive and counter-creative. Like a paparazzi photographer scared to take pictures of people without their consent. So, little by little, I started lifting my head again, and every time I did I told myself, “you can handle this. This is nothing. grandma went through worse. Take it like a man!”

The bombardment of offenses would still disturb me, somewhat, but the knowledge that I was going to use these emotions to spur creativity soothed me. Yes, it took a bit of soul searching but eventually I decided that this kind of ignorance I would not encourage nor reward, nor would I let it mold me into a bitter, cynical person. I decided I would face it head-on. They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (god, I love cliches) so I started working on ways to keep my head up, to not let them beat me.

It was at this time that I stumbled upon something that made keeping my head up a little more fun.

I realized, quite accidentally, that I had the power to manipulate Japanese people into performing some pretty bizarre behavior simply by being near them.

One day, I was walking through Yokohama Station on my way to work, with my head held purposely up, exposing my chin, hoping it was not made of glass. A man was coming towards me. Our eyes met for a moment. I could see the recognition and the fear, the desire to evade, seize him. My temper flared a little. On his current path we wouldn’t walk into each other but he would pass dangerously close to making physical contact with me (our arms might brush or maybe our briefcases would brush one another’s) and this was apparently too close for his comfort. He suddenly stopped, looked around as if to non-verbally say ‘now, how the hell did I get here?’ Like he’d been beamed to his current location without his knowledge.  Then, just as suddenly, he displayed the body language of  “oh, I know where I am now! I need to go that way!” That way was out of my path…he darted that direction. I see this behavior at least 5-10 times a day so, though it vexes me, it hardly surprises me. However, in his hasty detour, he ran smack into a woman, dislodging her purse from her arm and almost knocking her over. I laughed out loud. This was something that happens occasionally but I never used to get much of a kick out of it. That day I found it hilarious, though. It felt like instant karma.

He apologized to her and kept moving. I tracked him visually, watched him make a another sharp turn back onto the path he’d detoured from a few feet past me. The woman had continued on her way, too.

That got me to wondering…if I shifted directions at just the right time could I cause the person trying to avoid coming near me to crash into another person? Could I actually cause a collision? Certain conditions had to be met for it to be possible, of course. First of all, it had to be a fairly crowded space. Secondly, the person had to be headed towards me at a fairly rapid clip. Thirdly, the person had to be of a mind to avoid me, as opposed to one of over a dozen other ways Japanese display their discomfort at the potential impending graze against me.

And, there had to be a third person…so the timing had to be impeccable.

I decided to give it a shot. The next day, as expected, I met eyes with an approaching salaryman…but he turned before I could find a third person. He only turned slightly, and not very abruptly, like if he were avoiding a puddle. A couple of days later a woman was coming my way and our eyes met. Fear. She stopped, and spun around slowly, timing her spin perfectly with my passing  so that our eyes would never meet again yet she could confirm I had passed at the tail end of her spin, and that she was once again safe to go about her business in the gaijin-free world that existed only in her warped mind. It’s a pretty drastic maneuver I unfortunately know all to well. I get it at least 10 times a day, but that day I did the unexpected. Just as I was passing her I stopped. When her eyes came around to confirm that I had passed, there I was behind her. She liked to have jumped out of her skin! I looked off as if I had stopped to see something off to the left. I didn’t even acknowledge her alarm. Then I continued walking.

This was going to be harder than I had anticipated.

It was a week of practice and failures before I was able to get to the next level in this game I had created. Nintendo, step aside. It’s Ningendo! (ningen means human) A man was coming my way. Our eyes met. He becomes a mask of utter disgust.  I looked for a crash dummy. Another man was approaching from his left…I veered right abruptly placing myself on a line that would take me to a kiosk and would make our passing that much closer. The disgusted man veered left suddenly and bumped squarely into the third man. I think their foreheads collided! Yatta ze! (I’d done it!)

I’d become a human joystick in a not-so virtual reality game!

Though I got a kick out of turning their xenophobia against them I didn’t like the idea of  involving an innocent person. So, I wondered  if I could make the offending person walk into an obstacle like a wall, or even stumble and fall, or something like that?

Well, it’s only been a a year or so since I started my game and I don’t play too often. Only when I need to release a little steam. And I’ve yet to make anyone walk into a wall or stumble or fall. I haven’t reached that level, yet. There have been several unintentional collisions, though.

And I relish each one.

Loco

(-:

PS: I’ve written, and am in the process of revising, a novel. It’s unrelated to my experiences in Japan. If you enjoy my writing and have a little free time please check out: Real Gods require Blood. I’ll be posting it chapter by chapter.

Thanks in advance

22
Dec
08

10 ways NOT to go loco in Yokohama #10: Be You and have fun!

For my final tip I’ve decided to bring this series full-circle. I know I said in tip #1: Don’t be you, and I truly believe by discarding some of those things that you thought were so essential to being you you can enhance your experience here. Japan will surprise you and maybe even broaden your horizon if you stay here long enough and give her half a chance. But, in the end, you will never be Japanese, no matter how hard you try (even if you become a Naturalized Citizen). You will ultimately still #10 be you. So, just relax and have fun!


It’s Christmas time in Japan, y’all. Nobody does Christmas like the Japanese do Christmas. The above video captures Xmas here so well I had to share it with you guys. I’m not Christian and neither are the Japanese, so Christmas is just another work day after which you go eat chicken and cake…and if you like Xmas lights (like I do) you can go check out some cool illuminations (that’s what they call them anyway.)

Field of lights in Roppongi

The above is this year’s Illumination Show in Roppongi Hills. It’s a field of lights! Makes the certain constellations, and even a shooting star…Cool, ne. Like if the Hayden Planetarium light show were on the Great Lawn in Central Park. The Japanese go all out with their lighting. On my block back in Brooklyn, my neighbors were very competitive with their Xmas lighting schemes and designs. And, I loved it. People used to drive through my street slowly to admire their labor. It seems the Japanese are competing with Manhattan and Paris…and holding their own in many cases. It ain’t as garishly clever as Santa scaling down the side of a house like a burglar while all of the reindeer (full-sized) and the sleigh sit on a roof looking like their ready to speed off as soon as Santa returns with a sack of loot (my neighbor did that theme one year) but it’s kawaii (cute) and that’s the Japanese aim.

Anyway, back to business…

It can get a bit stressful adjusting to life in Japan (the biggest understatement of this entire series) especially during the holidays. So foreigners here, in their efforts to maintain their sanities, are known to do a lot of things the Japanese sometimes object to. Yep, in order to blow off a little steam sometimes you gotta rock the boat a little…or in this case the train.

Most Japanese people do not approve of steam releases like the Yamanote Halloween Party Train. The Japanese rarely if ever break the law, or rules, or guidelines, or even approach the appearance of breaking them. Mainly because the penalty for crimes in Japan are very severe and social penalties are stiff, too! And they always have been, so it’s ingrained in the culture now (the penalty for any crime back in Japan’s good old days was death.) The Japanese even go out of their way not to do anything that would disturb anyone else (anyone Japanese that is.) Thus Japan is an extremely rigid, anal, yet safe country. However, most Japanese believe that foreigners do not share the same respect for the law, and rules and guidelines as they do (thus jeopardize the safety and security and status quo of their country) so they are very afraid of foreigners. Especially if a large group of foreigners decide to get drunk and raucous in public.

And even some  foreigners here believe that such events are a blight and go against their endeavors to live here in peace. These events also make their efforts to assimilate more difficult. They believe, with good reason, that if Japanese see or hear about such behavior they will use it as an excuse to further ostracize foreigners, themselves included. They feel that their fellow foreigners here need to live by, at minimum, the same standard or up to a higher standard than they did back home. Some feel that we should, ideally, aspire to an even higher standard than the Japanese in order to make strides towards equal treatment and social acceptance.

I think it’s reminiscent of the African American struggle for civil and equal rights in America. The way African Americans initial inroads into acceptance were through over-achievement in education and overly puritanical and pious behavior in order to show whites that they were worthy of social acceptance by even white standards (which is ironic, since their former enslavers standards became their aspiration.) Followed by over achievement in entertainment and sports to show their artistic and athletic prowess as well as their marketability and profitability. In other words, to prove we were equally human. Because of this similarity I don’t blow off the disapproving foreigner’s concerns as simply puritanical nonsense. Maybe they’re on to something. Maybe there are some Japanese people sitting on the fence trying to decide if  foreigners should be respected and treated as human beings with the same foibles and need to release (sometimes even in public) their rage against the machine (so to speak,) same as Japanese people are, and, if so, events like the Yamanote Halloween Train push them off the fence into the decidedly, “no, they are baka kimoi gaijin” (no, they are stupid disgusting foreigners) yard. It’s very possible.

But, I suspect, that’s what makes it more fun for the party people. I’ve never done it…a little lame for me, but I understand the desire and need for it entirely. It’s a chance to be anti-establishment thereby releasing some steam and having a little fun at the Japanese

The First Breath of Tengan Rei

The First Breath of Tengan Rei

expense. If their behavior comes off as a little obnoxious by Japanese standards, like they say, syouganai jyan. Besides, if foreigners only did things Japanese approve of, personally, I don’t think it would make any difference. Most Japanese currently hold me responsible for something a couple of soldiers did on Okinawa to some little girl a few years back (there’s actually a new revenge movie out about it called “The First Breath of Tengan Rei”) and my being a model citizen (recently anyway) has not changed public opinion much.

So, I’ve decided to be myself (as much as I can). And if I was the kind of person that partied on trains back home, or the equivalent, I might join the party on Halloween, but that’s not my style at all.

Individually, the possibilities are great. I have met Japanese individuals here who are totally capable of tolerance, and then some. But, in general, I personally believe Japan will probably never be gaijin-friendly enough to satisfy gaijin and foreigners will likely never be Japanese enough to satisfy Japanese people. Their need for predictability, their style of intuitive communication, and their propensity to stereotype (among other issues) precludes the likeliness of Japanese ever becoming tolerant of those from a different background. I think the best that can be expected, at least for a long while, is what we have now: A small number of open-minded people who are so wonderful that they make a good number of foreigners’ stay here amazing experiences despite the treatment they receive from the public at-large.

But, maybe I’m being a little pessimistic…I’m a work in progress. (-:

I mean, if you asked an African American even 30 years ago if there’d ever be a black president they would have laughed at you the same way my Japanese student laughed at me when I asked him did he think there would ever be a Half-Chinese Japan-born Prime Minister in Japan.

I used to blow off steam by making Japanese people feel as uncomfortable as they made me feel. Kind of ridiculous, I know, but I wanted to teach them a lesson, and not an English lesson. A morals lesson; A you reap what you sow lesson…Something about the people here had unleashed something in me.  Something that had been dormant for years. I’m usually pretty rational. I am the type of person more likely to try to resolve problems with words than with violence. I really believe the pen is mightier than the sword. But, I know that there is also a self-righteous rage inside of me, angry and sensitive, impatient and intolerant, and I have to take care of it, like some vicious dog kept chained in a basement., with absolute loyalty to it’s owner and absolute contempt for people who it feels has wronged its owner.  It kind of scares me.

I’ve always managed to leash him myself. Occasionally, he’d peek his head out of my soul’s basement and let people get a glimpse of him and that would be enough. They’d back down or scurry away. So I guess you can say I’ve had a pretty blessed life. My sense of right and wrong is rarely spat at. At least not in person. Not until I came here.

But, living here, I’ve been fortunate enough to learn how I had been able to keep myself in check. In NY I had a circle of friends around me that supported me. I could talk to them and sort out complicated issues like right and wrong and all that gray in-between. Also, I had fun in NY. I had an assortment of ways to release. My anger is fed and empowered by self-righteous pressure built up without release. This pressure kind of pushes it out like a contraction pushes a baby out into the world. It needs release periodically. And harassing Japanese doesn’t quite do it. Nor did my sexual conquest in Japan. Nor did my sitting, drinking and complaining in Gaijin bars. Nor would drinking and gallivanting on Halloween do it.

I needed to really have fun!

My favorite ways to have fun are: writing, reading, studying, watching movies, playing basketball, going to Onsens and hanging out with friends. Pretty simple, huh? Staying sane in Japan is just a balancing act. The most important thing is to know yourself and be true to yourself and that’s difficult in any country. I’ve only found that here in Japan who I am is thrown into even starker relief, and thus I am able to appreciate and get more in touch with who I am and what makes me tick than at any other time in my life.

I can be me and have fun and that’s how I keep it together.

Well, that’s my top 10 list. I hope you’ve found it a useful and entertaining read. It was a lot of fun to write. And, sharing my thoughts and feelings with you guys is the ultimate way I keep loco at bay.

…so thanks a bunch! (-:

And, oh, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Xmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hanukkah,

Yoi Otoshi wo 良いお年を,

Akemashite Omedetto Gozaimasu あけましておめでっとございます,

and all that good stuff… (-:

If you want to read my previous tips, here are the links: Preface/Disclaimer, #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, and #9

Loco

PS: Here’s a little something that always makes me smile, from those two comic geniuses Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy

20
Dec
08

10 ways NOT to go loco in Yokohama #9: Be patient

The Christians  say, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, … See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient.” (James 5:7-11)

The Jews say, “The patient man shows much good sense, but the quick-tempered man displays folly at its height.” (Proverbs 14:29)

The Muslims say, “Verily man is in loss, except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual enjoining of truth, and of patience and constancy.” (103:2-3)

The Chinese say, “In the struggle between the stone and the water, in time, the water wins.”

In Buddhism patience is essential to realize perfect enlightenment (bodhi) and in Hinduism patience is recognized by the Sri Krishna in the Bhagavd Gita ( Sanskrit Hindu Scripture)

Nietzsche said, “Passion will not wait. The tragedy in the lives of great men often lies not in their conflict with the times and the baseness of their fellow men, but rather in their inability to postpone their work for a year or two. They cannot wait.”

And maybe my favorite: Thomas Edison said, “I never failed once. It just happened to be a 2000-step process.”

I used to go to church on New Year’s Day. Which church didn’t matter. I love to bring in the new year listening to a great Gospel choir and an uplifting sermon. As the hour approached midnight, I would sit there in the pew, hands clasped, head bowed, eyes closed and pray for good health and prosperity for friends and family. Yet, I am not Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim, nor Buddhist, nor Hindu, nor even Shinto for that matter (though I ain’t above tossing a few coins, clapping, bowing and giving some kamisama a shout out at a Shinto shrine). I’m not a Nietzche disciple, either. I’m just your friendly neighborhood agnostic, who loves to read and write and learn new things. One of the things I’ve learned in Japan is that the Japanese have turned #9 Being patient into practically a religion in and of itself. The whole society is a church founded on patience. And my tip to you is if you’re gonna live here, whether you have a religious background or not, and if you are serious about remaining sane: consider converting.

In the US many people say Patience is a virtue. It’s been hammered into the collective American skull alongside other dubious tenets like distance makes the heart grow fonder (tell that to the girl I was seeing when I left NY…umm whatshername again? Starts with a K, I think,) two wrongs don’t make a right (but revenge is sooooo sweet,) and communism and Socialism are evil (I think the French, the Spanish and the Cubans might take issue with that though). Whether people believe it or not is another story. But, to the Japanese, it is beyond a virtue. The Japanese call patience, Gaman 我慢which basically means they endeavor to endure what seems to be unbearable or adverse circumstances beyond their control  and somehow manage to retain an expression of calm forbearance in the face of it.

In other words, Patience 5.0

I know I said tip #1: Don’t be you is the most difficult. But, being patient is the most difficult part of not being me. I was shamelessly impatient before I came to Japan and therefore I was not being me when I was trying to be patient with the Japanese. I was lying through my teeth. I was the biggest fraud on this tiny island and felt so every breathing moment. In fact, I felt that way up until relatively recently.

I also briefly mentioned Honne and Tatamae in an earlier posting. I have no problem with Honne…Honne is my forte. But, Tatamae arguably, requires a great deal of patience to attain. Well, I realized recently that I had basically acquired, through the ins and outs of life here, a modified Western version of tatamae. I think the Japanese (those who bother to even notice) can see right through my tatamae but, like they must do for one another from time to time, they pretend not to see the seething impatience beneath my plastic smile, and they send me some plastic cheese in return. God love ’em! 9-:

They say the first step to solving a problem is knowing of its existence (another one of those Western maxims reeking of l’air du cliche.) Well, the biggest problem for me was acknowledging that impatience is indeed a problem. In my life, impatience had been rewarded almost as often as patience; at least enough so that I knew it was often useful and not to be discarded out of hand. I was reared in an environment where in order to get ahead you needed to not only adapt yourself to the chaos around you but thrive within it. And, if you were able to feign patience, that feint was often enough to achieve whatever goals your impatience would have proven inexpedient in achieving. In other words, breaking rules was in the rule book much to an honest person’s chagrin. Cleverly breaking the rules was praised. Flagrantly breaking the rules was respected.

Patience was an ideal. Something people admired and when they happen to stumble across it within themselves say to themselves, “wow, it’s nice to know I’m capable of both.”

I guess I should make it clear what I mean when I talk about patience. After all, there are several senses of the word, aren’t there? The first definition that comes to mind is the ability and willingness to tolerate delay. Tolerate delay, hrmph. I don’t tolerate delay well. Not at all. At least I didn’t until after I’d been here for a spell . For instance, here in Japan, when there’s an announcement on the train platform that the train that would have gotten me to a time sensitive appointment in a timely fashion will be delayed because someone decided to take his revenge out on his family, and the society at-large that had made his life a living hell, by jumping in front of MY train. I know I should take a deep breath, call ahead to inform my party I will be delayed unavoidably and apologize profusely (though I’m not responsible at all) and then resume playing Tetris on my cellphone. And, nowadays I am likely to do just that. But up until recently that has not been the case. I would immediately audibly disparage this psychotic tendency of suicidal Japanese people to splatter their fellow commuters with their guts and brain matter into the ears of every Japanese person within earshot, while trying to figure out if there is an alternative route that will get me where I need to be when I need to be there. (This might seem like a strange scenario to use as an example but only to those of you who don’t live here. What I call Splattercide, or suicide by leaping in front of a speeding locomotive, may not be the number one method of doing oneself in in Japan but it is definitely the most sensational and in my experience the most common cause of rail delays on what is reputed to be the most efficient rail system in the world. The reason it is a way to take revenge out on one’s family is, believe it or not, the family must compensate the rail company, sometimes as much as a million dollars, as a delay fee.)

In NY, we try to make everything happen ASAP. There are whole industries built around ASAP. Delay is not expected nor is it in many cases tolerated. It either has to be there ASAP or it doesn’t matter when it happens. For example, the product my client just ordered either has to be there, like Paulie said to Adrian in Rocky, instamatically (via teleportation/beaming), by that day Close Of Business  (via Bike messenger), the following day first thing (via Fed-Ex), or it isn’t important so whenever it gets there it gets there (via USPS/Snail Mail).

Even suggesting to a client that they need to be patient is the equivalent of telling them that their business is not important to you and better left in the hands of someone who shares their impetuous values. Telling a customer outright to be patient is like telling them to shut the hell up! (“Sir, please be patient.” “Who you think you talking to like that? I wanna see the manager! Be patient. I got your patience right here!”) Telling someone patience is a virtue is an insult. (Patience is a what?? Yo’ Mama’s a virtue!) Telling someone good things come to those who wait begs for a sarcastic response.  (“Listen…what’s this? Our second date? I’ve been patient enough. When you get ready to part with summadat good thing, you give me a call, alright? Cuz I ain’t about to spend another dime on wine and dine! I’m out, peace!”)

Moreover, I was easily provoked, easily annoyed, misfortune or pain were only tolerated if necessary and always with complaint, my temper was short, I could become irritable at the drop of a hat, etc, etc…I was a goddamn case study in impatience. I had worked out some of it before I came to Japan. At least I thought I had. But, life here exposed the truth about me. I realized that I came to Gaman-Land with very little Gaman and was unaccustomed to and fairly intolerant of Gaman from others as well.

But, what do I encounter here: perhaps the most patient people I’ve ever metcomet_hale-bopp in my entire life. Eerily patient. Creeped me out, actually. They’d give that bible guy, Job, a run for his money. So, naturally, I found it confounding and a little freightening. Patient people scare me. They can endure what I can’t for some secret reason. Maybe they’re aliens or part of some Cult of Patrience waiting for Hale-Bopp to come around again cuz their mothership is hiding in its tail. Patience is borderline foolishness in my neck of the woods, so I felt like I had arrived in the land of Suckers. Why wait for a green light when the coast is clear for blocks? Why stand on line on a train platform when the odds of your boarding the next jam-packed train that arrives improve considerably if you rush the door? Why not elbow that asshole who pushes you on the train? Why smile when your English teacher is clearly trying to provoke you with his line of questioning?

Why ask why? The answer is simple: They are Japanese and that’s how they get down and if you’re gonna live here I suggest you forego your own way of getting down in favor of their way. Why, you ask? because the only thing you’ll accomplish with your impatience is more frustration on your part.

I’ll try to illustrate this using computer terminology (though I know squat about computers, I have enough general knowledge to make this modest analogy.) Think of Japan as an operating system. An OS written in the Gaman language. Sure, their OS was inspired by Western operating systems, so on the surface it might look a lot like your own OS. Has many of the same features and principles, like the difference between a MAC and a PC, or a Toyota Camry and a Ford Taurus. But, when you come to Japan and try to run your software in their OS, forget it! You’ll get all kinds of system errors. Keep it up and at some point you’ll get that Blue Screen of Death error and you’ll know you really fucked up! I know. I’ve gotten it at least once!

So, that leaves you with two options, metaphorically: Bring your own software and  live defiantly among others who refuse to switch OS and exist virtually outside the Gaman system by choice (There really is no complete escape from it but I certainly don’t fault the people who try…the Japanese level of patience is not for everyone, and besides there’s a whole industry in Japan waiting to cater to you if you do, but you had better be rich cause it can get pretty expensive to live in Japan that way,) or you can replace your Western OS with the Gaman Operating System.

I chose the latter.

I mentioned in #3 Learn that Japanese some words and phrases I think any foreigner living in Japan should be familiar with. But, I neglected to mention a very important one, and what an oversight!!! The phrase is: Syouganai. I guess the best English equivalents of this is: Whatchagonnado. Life’s a bitch! Can’t catch a break! It’s in the cards! My Mama told me there’d be days like this. Gotta take the bad with the good. It’s useless to complain about it, etc, etc… Only, in Japan, syouganai is almost a spiritual proclamation of hopelessness and an utter acceptance of the issue before them. It is a phrase born out of Japanese patience. Like a mantra against impatience that fuels the spirit and keeps their tolerance strong.

I found a post on the net written by a British bloat a couple of years back that captures syouganai so well I’m gonna refer you guys to him. SYOUGANAI! After you read his posts you will understand the level  of patience Syouganai captures and the necessity of patience if a foreigner wants to survive here.

I’m still not a whole hearted convert. Japanese society proselytizes about patience and yet I’ve still managed to retain my impatience.  Patience avoids me way too often to claim myself to be converted. I’m not even sure I want to be cured. I have to go home at some point and if at that time I’ve taken to being patient I’m afraid I might not be able to adjust back to life in the impatient city I call home. I have a hard time believing that patience would behoove me there. I suspect the spirit of Syouganai will turn me into a pinata in New York.

One of the most important things I learned through my interaction with Japanese culture  that I think will benefit me wherever I might find myself in the future (as well as those of you who live here or intend to live here) is that the reason Syouganai is so prevalent is because it consummately compliments Ganbaru or ganbatte (which I also discussed in #3 Learn that Japanese.) In other words, in theory, you can find solace in accepting the things that are out of your control if you are constantly doing your very best. You attain a certain amount of solace in knowing that there’s absolutely nothing you could have done to change the results or that the result is directly related to some flaw in your effort. It’s usually when you don’t strive for, at a minimum, competence and, at best, perfection that you feel intolerant of incompetence or imperfection. In Japan, the vast majority of the people around you are pouring their life’s blood into accomplishing something they deem valuable to their society and to the quality of their lives. And in this they feel (I suspect) a certain camaraderie with one another which binds them in a way you might find in groups and cliques in NY but rarely in the culture at-large.  It warrants and supports the respect for and patience with one another they all seem to possess. This is virtually impossible not to admire or at least stand in awe of. And, of all the things I’ve learned about Japanese people, this is the quality I wish to emulate and partake of the most.

Accepting Japanese tenets like Ganbatte and Syouganai and converting to the The Church of Japanese Patience feels like you’ve joined AA. Like that serenity prayer says:

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, (syouganai)
courage to change the things we can, (ganbatte)
and wisdom to know the difference.” (Gaman)

God help me stay on the wagon.

Next up, last but not least, #10 ?????????

Loco

16
Dec
08

日本人外人さん、分け隔てなく、席につくべし。

Translated it means:  Don’t distinguish between Japanese and foreigners, just sit down like a well-mannered samurai! (It’s kind of a Japanese joke to make light of the serious subject)

Something interesting happened today. I discovered a Japanese blogger had linked to my blog post:  An empty seat on a crowded train.

What he said I found quite interesting, as were the comments left to his post. It’s in Japanese of course but what it amounts to is that he feels it is very rude to treat foreigners in such a way, and he imagines how he would feel if for example he were to go to NY and New Yorkers treated him the same way (as if). He would feel sad and angry and a little like Frankenstein.

He welcomed comments no matter how rude and the comments ALL, initially, suggested that:

1- Gaijin smell (ie, perfume or cologne or our carnivorous nature emanating through our skin and clothes contrasting harshly with the odors they’re accustomed to) or,

2-Gaijin have fat asses (take up more space than nihonjin)

LMAO !  What do you think? (let me know below)

…anyway, I thought I’d share this with you guys. If you can read Japanese well (unlike myself, I needed help) it’s interesting inside dope. Here’s the link:

(It’s pronounced sora or ku and it means sky or empty -depending on the situation- for all of you tattoo enthusiasts)

By the way, I want to give a big shout out to Sora-san / Ku-san for his kind words. Arigato Gozaimasu!!!

Loco

PS:  If you need a translater just cut and paste them into Excite but it will probably give you some really weird results…but even the results are good for a giggle! (-:

15
Dec
08

10 ways NOT to go loco in Yokohama #8: Find a role model

For me, there was no preparation for the challenges I would face as a foreigner living in Japan. This country has tried me in so many different ways. It has forced me to come to terms with aspects of my character I hadn’t even known were there as well as confront demons that had been deviling me long before I decided to move here. In some battles I’ve been victorious, and did my Rod Tidwell dance in the end-zone.

In others, I lost, and found myself crying on the sidelines, towel over my head. Some battles are still waging.

I believe it’s been a blessing I may not truly appreciate fully until much later in life. Living in Japan, with its specific issues that have specifically provoked my specific demons, has been a trial I will never forget. And one I wouldn’t have had a dream of someday prevailing over if I hadn’t gone out and done #8: find a role model.

My role model was a long time coming…

I had already been here several years before I first encountered the man who would first convince me that change was possible and then show me by example how to bring about the changes I needed to make to improve the quality of my life. I was filled with misdirected anger and bitter frustration, with no end nor  escape in sight. I had to make a change, or loco was my destination for sure.

Everyone says, why don’t you go home if you don’t like it here. Sounds simple enough. But, these feelings were a part of me, so I knew no matter where I’d go these feeling would be there already, sitting and waiting, plotting yet more setbacks, wondering what had delayed me. I could no more run from them then I could run from my shadow. So, I decided to draw the line in the metaphysical sand right here in Japan.

I learned what ailed me, despite the scapegoating I’d done, was not initiated by nor was it tied to Japan. It was tied to me. America protected me by giving my ailment a multicultural environment where it could be practically ignored, I could pretend it didn’t exist. I could even argue its existence away if I felt like it. In japan that argument does not exist. In fact its imagined justification is most prevalent. My ailment did not lay dormant here, it was fully exposed for what it is: a tumor on my soul.

My role model taught me that this tumor was not necessarily malignant. It was only as malignant as I wanted it to be. It could also be benign and operable. So, I’d decided that I will go home a healthier person than I left or I wouldn’t go home. What good would I be anyhow, to anyone anywhere, if I couldn’t get it together? I knew what waited back home for me. The same person I’d seen in the mirror every day.

I used the above clip from Jerry Maguire for another purpose as well. Jerry Maguire (a movie I happen to love) to me was about inspiration and role models and the effect that role models can have on one’s life. Jerry had two. The first was the original sports agent Dicky Fox, who in Jerry’s darkest hour reminded him of why he’d become a Sports Agent in the first place and that the line between being a successful human being and a successful sports agent who can look at himself in the mirror without getting nauseous did not exist. They were one and the same.

The other was Rod Tidwell. He counseled Jerry on how to love and, not just with words but with actions, taught Jerry how to love his wife and how to love his life.

I still well-up when I watch this movie.

Initially I thought my role model for life in Japan had to be Japan specific, but my selection was a little faulty. Unrealistic actually is a better description of it. I chose as my role model (don’t laugh) a fictional character: Anjin-san from the Clavell novel, Shogun. I have to admit that part of the image I had of Japan before coming here was molded by Clavell’s imagination. He painted a picture, in damn near 1000 pages, of a world where the right man with the right mindset could achieve great and wonderful things on this tiny island. I’ve read the book a half-dozen times. Each time I learned something new, some idea I had missed in the previous reading; another clue to understanding Japanese people and unlocking Japan.

Yes, I know, the flaw in my thinking is a glaring one. Actually there were several glaring errors (assuming you, like me, suspended disbelief when reading his books.) Two jump off the page:

1-It was fiction, loosely based on historical records of that time period.

2- Assuming he did channel some long dead Shogun or British sailor and the hearts and souls of a dozen other Japanese people, the Japanese in the novel lived in a time period before western infiltration so they would be totally different from today’s Japanese.

Nonetheless, I loved the book so much and wanted so much to believe that the Japanese people of today living in a culture derived from the Japan Clavell described in loving detail, couldn’t be that different.  Well, this might come as a shocking revelation to some of you but they are.

However, what I realized when I arrived here was that Clavell wasn’t describing Japanese people. He was just describing people. And the characteristics that he imbued his characters with are characteristics found in people from all walks of life. What I had loved about Clavell’s Japan was the depth of feeling, and the integrity and honor of the people he created. But, his characterizations were based as much on historical documents as it was on the people he met and the culture he encountered while he was researching the book. And those people and that culture still persists, as much as it did then (in that fictional time period.)

But that wasn’t the part that dissuaded me from using Anjin-san as a role model. The discouragement came when I realized that I had little in common with Anjin-san. He had a great deal of advantages that I did not. He was respected initially because he could do somethings that neither the Japanese nor the foreigners in the book could do: he could pilot as well as build ships. That made him extremely useful to powerful people. People in a position to enhance his experience in Japan. Also, he knew things about the world that they didn’t. So, the Japanese could learn something of value from him.

I came here with an English degree and…well…an English degree. Sure, I had quite a bit more life experience than the majority of the foreigners I worked with for they were mostly recent college grads while I  graduated over a decade ago, had already done time in the Army, gone to several countries, been a salaryman in NY, a journalist in Brooklyn, a novelist, a hedonist, a junkie, etc… But, of what use was my experience to the Japanese? I was only useful here because I could speak and teach English. At least that’s what I thought before I met my role model.

So, I soon discarded Anjin-san as a candidate for role model. And, went role model free for a while, feeling and groping my way around. At one point I met a Nigerian guy in Harajuku. I can’t remember his real name (for he never used it so I never used it) but he called himself Billy. He had a Hip-Hop clothing store- actually several- and was a wealth of information and opinions. Smart, clever, successful, a little arrogant but direct and from what I could tell honest. Especially once I’d established that there was no way in hell I was going to buy any of the “authentic” hip hop fashion he was peddling, for that wasn’t my style and his prices were out of control.

The day we met, we stood in front of his shop and talked for about 5 hours. In 5 hours he’d pretty much handed me the keys to his success in Japan:

1-Come here with a goal and prepared to work hard for it,

2-learn the language thoroughly,

3-Marry a Japanese woman (preferably one on the same page as you and understands her role; love is optional) to ease any immigration issues and to facilitate the business ownership issues,

4-Network like hell,

5- Stay focused on the money! Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by anything (girls, prejudice, girls, discrimination, and oh yeah girls, etc…)

And that was pretty much it. He was happy to share all the above with me. He said he’d been hoping to have an extended conversation with an African-American someday (he’d said nigger, though) that wasn’t all about Japanese girls. He theorized that African Americans didn’t come to Japan to make money and most were lazy or stupid and not all that interested in anything but getting laid. That they (I) were totally oblivious to the advantages they (I) had over Africans, as far as business is concerned, and that if he were American he would have been a millionaire by then, a la Antonio Montana- though I don’t think he knew the reference.

I listened to him disparage African Americans but I didn’t take it personally because, well, he also bashed Nigerians as well. He said a good number of them just come to Japan and expect everything to be easy. They want to be given a business and not work hard, like he had, for it. He said mostly the younger Nigerians were like this. Getting spoiled and lazy, he explained, like niggers.

I watched him almost all day, ordering his Japanese staff around. If he saw one of his ‘grabbers’ loafing off a little he’d tongue lash him (in perfect Japanese of course.) He could spot a potential customer in a crowd at 50 yards, much faster than his nihonjin staff. And he’d bark at him, ‘Go get that!’ (in perfect Japanese.) And when his people would pass by he’d kick it with them for a few minutes in their native tongue, then introduce me in standard English. (He mentioned humbly that he could speak a couple of Nigerian dialects, French, Japanese and of course English) And once they’d left he’d give me their MO and background. That one…He owns 3 stores. That one…he owns a bar. That one..he’s a lazy, useless fucking oaf.

By the time I’d gotten ready to go I felt like I’d come to Japan from Nigeria. We still meet occasionally, but Billy only gets off on talking humbly about his business I’ve learned, and aggrandizes himself in this way. My business is my life and thus I am successful. I respect his accomplishments but I don’t want to have them thrown in my face, ever so humbly, every time I see him. As a representative of the possibilities if one focuses on making money in Japan, he is a great case study, but as a role model he left something to be desired. For me, he is more intimidating than inspiring. Besides, I love money but I’ve never fully focused on getting rich. Making money was something I usually did because I had to.

Time passed. Time spent studying Japanese language and people and to an extent wasted pissing and moaning internally and externally about them.

Then, something happened in January 2008. I had checked my email and someone had forwarded me a link to a speech:

Before I came to japan I used to be a news junkie. But, after most of the American press became the ‘Embedded’ press (feels like ‘in bed with’ press) and went to war in Iraq with Bush, they lost all credibility with me so I turned my back on them, moved to Japan, and didn’t look back until 2008. But after I watched the above speech, no pun intended, everything changed.

I’d found my role model.

How powerful is the message, “Yes we can”? At first, it only made me sit back and say, oh my God, is he for real? So, I backtracked his career back to the Democratic convention in 2004 and I listened to that speech.

And I listened to all the speeches  between then and the New Hampshire primary. And, I decided, he is for real! My god, he could really win!

When Hillary Clinton and company said he was successful solely because he was black, he said nothing. When Hillary said I wouldn’t have sat in the pews and listened to Rev Wright’s hatefulness for twenty years he said:

and I cried like a child…I wondered how could I have missed all this? Had I forgotten that I was a citizen of a country that could produce people like this? Had I ever known? Am I not cut from the same cloth?

Whenever Hillary or the Press said anything to undermine his efforts he never took it to heart. He stood strong, with a vision more powerful than they could withstand. When McCain tried the same thing, Obama did the same thing…he believed in the people and the people believed in him.

So, I talked to him…in my mind of course (he’s not that accessible) I said, “Senator Obama. You face a significant amount of adversity everyday. You deal with ignorance and bias on a daily basis on a level I have never experienced, and I applaud you for the incredible amount of tolerance and perseverance you’ve exhibited throughout your campaign. My name is Loco and I live in Japan. It’s a beautiful country and the people here are for the most part good people…the salt of the earth. But, a good number are, to put it mildly, pretty close-minded and fairly intolerant. I know it’s not personal. They don’t know me. They only think they do. My problem is I really like it here and I want to live here for a while longer but I don’t want to go nuts in the meantime. I know running for the presidency is a little different but some of the principles are the same. How would you face this intolerance and keep your wits about you? What would you do to balance your life so that you could find solace and peace of mind?

He answered me, believe it or not. He said:

I said: Really? Don’t you think you’re oversimplifying it a little? I mean the Japanese are not Americans. And, I’m not you. I don’t know if I can do that. Maybe I’m not as strong as you or as confident and self-assured. Sure, you always say “Yes we can” but those are just words. People always talk about change, and that’s OK for the easy surface stuff, but can people really change? How can I make the major changes in myself that I need to keep on keeping on?

He said:

Every time I had a question Barack answered me with words that inspired me. And that’s just what I needed in a role model.

Find yourself a role model, or you’re welcome to mine. The majority of my nation would endorse your decision.

And once you do find one, you must #9 Be Patient, (coming soon) and good things will follow!

Loco

11
Dec
08

Conversation (12/10/08)

Loco: How are you doing today?
Private Student: …I’m…I’m chotto, wakannai…
Loco: Are you ok? You seem troubled. How was work? Tough day, ne. Otsukaresama desu.
PS: No, I was not busy. It was quiet day.
Loco: That’s good, ne.
PS: Demo, saa…this morning on the train…
Loco: Ohhh no! Mata? Another chikan?
PS: Oh no no no! Chigau chigau…
Loko: What happened? Another suicide?
PS: No, not suicide. Chotto matteite. I want to say story in English.
Loco: Ok, ganbatte!
PS: On the train, it was crowded. And there was a black guy.
Loco: Uh huh.
PS: He was sitting anoo muko…across to where I was sitting?
Loco: Across from where you were sitting…
PS: Yes…across from me. Nobody sit next to him.
Loco: Sou da ne. So, what happened?
PS: That’s all. That happened.
Loco: Oh. Oh? Did it upset you?
PS: Hai! Yes it upset me very much. You have told me this happen to you but…eetooo…
Loco: But what? You didn’t believe me?
PS: I believe you. I just didn’t want to believe.            

Loco




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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