Archive for May, 2009

30
May
09

The Most Interesting Man in the World!!! (updated)

…and he bench presses Japanese nurses!

What a hilariously brilliant Beer ad campaign!

I’ve been watching the NBA Playoffs on NBA Broadband and they show the commercials so I’ve been able to catch a whiff of what’s cooking in the US through the commercials. Well, we’re still creative as hell, that’s for sure, as evidenced in this commercial campaign.

Though it has no relation to anything Loco, I thought I’d share it with my readers who, like myself, reside abroad and are a bit disconnected from what’s going on in the US media-wise.

Enjoy, and Stay thirsty, my friends!

He’s like a cross between Chuck Norris (especially in the flashback scenes to when he is a young “interesting” man) and that Mexican pimp who raised Bill, named Esteban, from Kill Bill Part 2, right? From the quotes I’m pretty sure the creators were inspired by the Chuck Norris “facts” site (which has had me ROTFLMAO many a time.)

Damn, I wonder if they have Dos Equis in Tokyo…anyone know? Damn commercials make me thirsty!

Dos Loco Equis

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26
May
09

NYC vs Tokyo / Yokohama part 1

Another of my very responsive readers, XO-san, made the following request of me: …How about something on how the design of cities/transportation systems impacts life in Japan and how that compares to NYC?

I’ll give it a shot…anything for my loyal readers…

Well, the most conspicuous difference in design is this: NY was designed with a grid in mind and so getting around NYC is really simple. For example, the Avenues go north and south and the streets east and west. So finding 42nd Street and 8th Avenue on a map is like finding a point on a globe using longitude and latitude.

Manhattan2

Impact: If you ask most any New Yorker how to get to a place or where a place is whether you have an exact address or not, they can pretty much lead you in the right direction or give you directions with laser accuracy.

Try that in Tokyo.

Manhattan has to be one of the simplest cities to navigate (I should say north of Canal Street…to be honest. Below Canal Street, as the island narrows, can get a bit confusing if you’re from out of town.) Almost every street has a N-S-E-W  designation and, at minimum, a name and fairly easily discerned numbered buildings.

However this NY grid design mainly applies to Manhattan which is a rather small part of NYC. Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx, which make up the bulk of NYC, I’m afraid, are not on a grid…The Bronx is a goddamn maze, Queens, though grid-like in areas, has the most fucked number system ever, and some of the major thoroughfares in Brooklyn were at one time Native American trails and the European ‘settlers’ pretty much stuck with them. Some of these trails skirted obstacles like hills and swamps, and though the hills and swamps are mostly long gone or hardly obstacles to motorized vehicles, these roads still wind and stagger their way around the borough.

For example: in Brooklyn, one of the major thoroughfares across the borough is called Kings Highway. It has a fascinating history which explains why its design is rather unique.

Tokyo, unlike Manhattan but similar of the other NY boroughs, is also very difficult to navigate unless you know exactly where you’re going. To put it mildly, it’s a challenge to the natives and a rather significant challenge to foreigners…sometimes impossible. And maps only ease this marginally. Though the main streets are pretty clear cut, which eases trips between neighborhoods, inner-neighborhood streets are ridiculously pointless sometimes, starting from nowhere and going nowhere yet containing important institutions. Usually there are no visible street names and building numbers are also a mystery to the less than savvy of us. And this is in the commercial areas. The densely populated residential areas are almost an impossibility to navigate. I wouldn’t be surprised if the mail carriers get lost. Taxi Drivers, those guys and gals who should have a working knowledge of such places are sometimes at a lost to find an address even a few minutes from their taxi stand (and charge an arm and a leg in the meantime).

For comparison, in NY, a Middle Eastern Taxi driver with a limited English vocabulary could take you to anywhere on the Manhattan grid without your even having to repeat yourself. (However if you mention a Brooklyn or Queens address – and since Manhattan drivers are not fond of making trips to outer boroughs or above 11oth Street (Harlem) he might invite you to get out of his car or claim ignorance, and if you’re black or latino he might not even stop for you in first place.) In Japan, I’ve never had a driver refuse me or blatantly bypass me…a disturbingly normal occurence in the NY I grew up in!

Another thing about NY is that…well at least it used to have character. Each area of Manhattan had a distinct flavor…If you went to, say, Times Square you could expect to see bright lights, pimps, hoes, drug dealers, Kung-Fu and porno movies (and all the other vices ubiquitous of for human civilized and uncivilizations since time immemorial…hehe). Now it’s Starbucks Barnes & Nobles the Gap banana republic Old Navy Dunkin Donuts Baskin Robbins..oh and ESPN Zone, NBA Store and Disney on Broadway (as if we didn’t get enough of it in the movie theatres.) If you went  to Downtown Brooklyn you could expect to see African Americans peddling their wares on the streets, sneaker shops, barber shops, jewelery stores, discount clothing stores… now more often than not, that flavor is Starbucks, Barnes & Nobles the Gap banana republic Old Navy, Dunkin Donuts Baskin Robbins…In fact the above can be said about almost any neighborhood in NY.  You don’t have to go to any particular area to experience anything because the franchises have bottled the experience and brought it to you.

It seems the same thing is underway in Japan currently and it’s a shame, but currently neighborhoods in Japan still retain a little characters. If you blindfolded me and took me to Akihabara I would know I wasn’t in Shinjuku or Shibuya or Harajuku. Though the architecture mostly looks the same…unavoidable I guess- cheap and simple is the order of the day and there’s little innovation or creativity done on the cheap in Japan (or NY for that matter)- the vibe is definitely different. Though these places are still thriving on the rapidly emptying tank of what they once were NY is running on the vapors of what I feel to be its glorious past.

The impact this shift in NY had on me was that I lost all pride in being a New Yorker. Frank Sinatra once said “If I can make it here I ‘d make it anywhere…” Well, NY has become just like anywhere. So the song’s lyrics would have to be changes to “If I can make it anywhere I can make here!” NY is much…softer now. Warm and fuzzy and tourist friendly and manages to retain it’s rep only because of Hollywood and HipHop. If you B.A.’d me and stuck me in a Mall in Santa Monica or even Las Vegas (though the slot machines might give Vegas away) I might have a hard time distinguishing it from NY. (For all of you non A-Team fans, B.A. (Mr. T) had to be drugged or knocked out before he got on a plane because he was afraid of flying)

I pity the fool that didn’t know that! (-:

Loco lite as a feather

…to be continued (more to come on impact of city and design)

21
May
09

黄人 Kijin (Yellow People) conversation 5/21/09

(The following excerpt from a conversation took place in Japanese)

“You’re having fruit for dinner??”
“Yeah…I love fruit in the summer…”
“Do all black people like fruit?” she asked.
“Do, what? What kinda….? I don’t know. I guess so…I don’t know. Do all Yellow People like rice?”
“Yellow People?”
“Yeah. Like yourself.”
She looked at her skin like it was first time she’d ever seen it and scratched her head.

Loco

21
May
09

On fear, and being feared…part 2

Cockroaches, honestly, scare the shit out of me. I am seriously afraid that one may very well cause my death someday. I will be minding my business and walk into a bathroom, turn on the light and there will be one right before me on the wall and, startled by my sudden entrance and lightening of the room, will alight and land squarely on my person or, god forbid, my face or skin, and I will beat myself senseless trying to kill it, or have a heart attack right there in the toilet.

It is, seriously, one of my biggest fears. So much so that every time I enter a room, especially in this old ass house I presently reside in (and by old I mean by Japanese standards which means about 20 or 30 years…the brownstone I lived in back in NY was over a hundred) I enter cautiously with that horrific scenario in the back if not the front of my mind.It’s an irrational fear. That bug can do me no harm. I’m not ignorant of that fact, either. I KNOW it cannot harm me, only cause me to do harm to myself, and yet and still I am terrified.

Best case scenario: This is how many people (including Japanese) feel about black people. A fear and /or hatred that they have no conscious control of…like a rabid dog.

Worst case scenario: The belief that dark is truly evil and light is ultimately good and so the closer one is to white the better one’s humanity and the closer one is to black the more inclined to evil one is, justifying and rationalizing the fear and or hatred.

Yes, it’s beyond ridiculous…

Even among black people this phenomenon of skin color/tone connoting goodness or wickedness exists. Due to some very serious psychological damage (beginning during slavery days no doubt and persisting even to this day) even some black people unconsciously gravitate towards lighter skinned black people (or white people)…and consider darker skinned black folks to be…let’s just say less. Less something. Less cultured, less civilized, less educated…less trustworthy.

And definitely more fearful.

Maybe it’s just some aspect of human psychology, dating back to primitive man, that associates black with night, and night with fright and danger…maybe it’s just that simple.

I don’t know. But it persists like a motherfucker, and it’s maddening. Maddening to see people unable to do the one thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom and compels us to do things that animals would never do to each other. We have this intelligence, and this will power, and this culture and memory and sense of history and historical significance, and we still, many of us, choose to be afraid.

Sometimes when I see a cockroach, I stop myself, and I take a deep breath, and I catch a whiff of the fear-sweat spewing from my pores…and I can hear Frank Herbert’s Litany against Fear in my head…Fear is the mind killer… And then I see those long antennae and those many hairy legs, and the wings that want to spread, and the intelligent way it appears to be scanning the room for danger or food…yes, I imbue it with an intelligence that makes it even more fearful…I create the monster with the power of my mind. I create my nemesis. Meanwhile Herbert is still pissing in my ear, pleading, trying to reach me…I will permit it to pass over me and through me…But, I block it out again because, well, because I hate that cockroach now! I hate it because it has made me so goddamn afraid that I stink with fear funk. I hate it because it has exposed my weakness as a human being. I want to kill it! I feel a blood lust! Does it matter if the blood is red or green or white? No! I want to overcome my fear just enough to utterly destroy it and in doing so I will feel some sense of accomplishment…I will convince myself afterwards that I have overcome my fear of it because instead of taking flight from something that bore me no ill will or in any way could do me harm, I killed it.

And sometimes when I see the Japanese fear of me it reminds me of my fear of the cockroach…in all of it’s irrationality and insanity. And I think of what I did to that roach once I was able to muster up the courage to do so.

I wonder if they are doing the same thing…creating monsters in their minds. Creating a nemesis to challenge them so that they can feel courageous.

And maybe they’ve made me out as that monster. Now that scares me.

Loco

20
May
09

Anti-Acts of Retaliation #2: I thought he was a chikan…

…but I was wrong.

She was cute! I’d noticed her before the train had even arrived. She was wearing a mini-skirt, not so short, not so tight, 2-inch pumps and no pantyhose. She was a looker, but no more than the thousand lookers I see everyday here (Yes I still suffer periodically from the so-called Yellow Fever, especially in the summer.)

I had gone to Tokyo to meet a friend so I was on the Yamanote line headed for Shinjuku. The Yamanote riders are little harder to freak out than those train lines I frequent in Yokohama. What that means is, generally, the so called Gaijin perimeter is much smaller and sometimes even non-existent when riding the Yamanote.

The crowded train arrived, the doors opened and a few people got off. Then, unlike the organization I’m accustomed to in Yokohama, the crowd surged forward …These Tokyo city slickers at Shibuya Station stand in line really only until the train arrives. Then it’s every swinging dick and tit for his or her self.  To be honest, it’s kind of reminiscent of NY I hate to admit. I was pushed into the car. and found myself awfully close to the aforementioned Looker with the mini. In fact, my hand was mashed against her rear, wedged in by another passenger. “Sumimasen,” I whispered. She didn’t hear me. She had an I-Pod on and was texting away on cell phone…oblivious. Nevertheless I un-wedged my hand as quickly as I could.

There was an elbow against my ribcage. I turned to face the owner. He was a young guy, late 20’s dressed casually, hip even, and wearing dark shades. I rarely see guys wearing dark shades so I was surprised. He had a tote bag in his hand, I noticed. I would have written off the elbow as incidental if he had been doing what Japanese guys usually do around me (which is pretend I don’t exist, while all of their focus aside from their eyes is on me.) But, I could see clearly his focus was not on me…

It was on her!

Though he wore shades, his eye sockets were cast down towards her ass. One thing you notice when you live here about most Japanese guys is that they rarely if ever reveal lascivious thoughts  in public. No whistling or ass watching or “Hey Baby”s  or blown kisses or any of that stuff I grew up thinking was normal. Don’t get me wrong…I see them checking out girls, but it ‘s on the looooowwww! Only the bad boys do it conspicuously. So, I pegged him a bad boy. A little young to be a Chikan, I thought, and a little too cool, too. I mean, I see Chikan all the time and they usually look…I don’t know…uptight, frustrated, old.

So, I could easily block him but I actually hadn’t seen him reach for the ass yet. So, I just waited expectantly. I had shifted my position so that I could see what he did with his hands without his knowing I was watching. He was using his shoulder to angle himself for something but I could see his hand, and though it was angling towards her ass, it was being done in a way I had never seen any other Chikan do it. Was this some new Chikan technique? It intrigued me.

He could easily get his rub on. Clearly that wasn’t his objective. He was using the tote bag for cover,  as I’ve seen done many times but…

That’s when I realized what he was doing. I inched closer and looked down at his tote bag. He had worked it between her legs, and in the corner of it, there was something thin and cylindrical, with a lens, like a pocket flashlight turned off, and it was aimed right up her mini skirt!

Oh Shit! This fucker was making a movie! What a set of balls he had!

I can’t front. I love porno. And, minus the mosaic-shit they use, I really love Japanese porn. And I’ve seen these upskirt movies before. Usually these guys follow girls up escalators and shoot them from behind…but, I actually thought it was all staged. or mostly staged…I didn’t really believe these guys were out here. I was in shock. I felt like the time I literally ran into Spike Lee around my way…he was shooting a music video or a commercial or something.

By the time my shock wore off the train had pulled into Harajuku and the girl got off…he followed.

I wonder if they were together. Guess I’ll never know …

Loco

PS: Maybe this should be an almost Anti-Acts of Retaliation….

19
May
09

On fear, and being feared…part 1

Perhaps all of the issues I have with Japan can be reduced two denominators: Fear and ignorance. Both are extremely troubling and diminish the quality of my life here something terrible but for the purposes of this entry I will focus on the former: fear.

I think one of my favorite writers, Frank Herbert, said it best in one of my favorite books, DUNE:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Not to suggest that fear is a Japanese issue. That would be asinine. It’s indeed a human issue and we all suffer from it. Yes, even I. Every day, in fact. And this is why I’ve decided to write about this.

I fear fear. Let me say that again. I’m afraid of fear. They say there’s nothing to fear but fear itself…well, that’s what I fear: Fear itself!

A patrol car, patrolling the streets of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, one evening receives an alert over the radio that two black youths have held up a  bodega at gunpoint, pistol-whipped the owner and made off with a everything in the till. The cops race to the scene, as per their job descriptions. When they arrive they see two black kids running.  Both cops are a little edgy. A cop was killed a year ago just around the corner near the projects and several have been wounded in gunfights with teenage drug dealers over the course of the past summer…

I don’t even have to finish this scenario, do I? Y’all already know what happened. This kind of thing happened way too often where I grew up. The cops are scared. The kids are scared. And the streets are watching. Not that I have it in for cops. I don’t. I truly believe that most of them are good people trying to make the community safer. But, a good number of them are afraid, too afraid to do their jobs effectively, to think clearly in a crisis, to make critical decisions, and their fear causes mistakes to happen.

I’d never been feared, at least not directly…not until I came here.

I remember in one my favorite movies, The Godfather, Don Corleone tells an Undertaker who comes to him for help: “…And if by chance an honest man like yourself should make enemies then they would become my enemies. And then, they would fear you.

Yeah, The Don ruled by fear, and I admired the hell out of him. So did my older brothers. They were both feared in the ‘hood where I grew up. Fear was always easier to achieve than respect. My oldest bother used unpredictability and sociopathic tendencies to achieve fear. My other brother utilized devious cleverness and ferocious prowess to achieve it. People feared his mind and his hands. No one was afraid of me. I was just protected because the fear of them placed me and anyone with me withing a sphere of safety. In the Godfather, I  would have been Micheal before The Don got shot. The college boy, soldier boy, lover boy, good boy…

Then I came to Japan!

I must admit, at first it was an  exhilarating experience, awesome and corrupting…fear is power, a power I had only known vicariously until I came here. Nor had I ever sought it really. I was aways  more of a  ‘you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar’ kind of person. I would much rather have people respect me than fear me.  But, without my consent or complicity, I’m suddenly notorious. I’ve got a rep. I’ve got a gun. I sell drugs. I assault people at random. I rob people. I’m a bad boy! (at least that’s the impression I get from the Japanese based on their behavior) Only, I’m none of these things.

The idea of being feared is a delicious one and my brothers savored it…But, I have always been a little if not very afraid of  it. Even within that so called sphere I grew up in I felt the fear of those around me. I feared that the enemies my brothers were making would eventually find their weak point-me- to retaliate against. The fear they generated could have very well made me a target. Fortunately everyone knew I was a “civilian” so to speak, and my brothers went out of their way to make it clear to all that I was not in the game.

But the fear I generate here scares me. Being on a train with Japanese people is like being in a cage with rabid poodles, insanely convinced that I am a threat, only they have no teeth or paws or eyes…it’s their sheer number that scares me. They can’t bite me or maw me or even see the real me but they can smother me or…I don’t know, lick me to death. Of course this is all metaphorical. Sometimes I’m afraid the smothering and death by licking is occurring mentally.

To be continued…

19
May
09

Strange Relationship

Bored in Kanagawa, one of my faithful readers, has given me the assignment of talking about a strange relationship I’ve had in Japan.

Hmmm…let’s see now.

Ah, here’s one:

I was sitting in a Doutor’s coffee shop in Yokohama studying Japanese, puffing a stogie and sipping some of their rather bland but cheap Blend Coffee when I noticed a girl noticing me. The thing about Japanese people is you can tell the ones who are comfortable with foreigners instantly. They’re the ones who’d look at you when you’re looking at them.

I smiled and went back to me book. It was a great book: Jim Thompson’s “The Killer in me” I read it periodically even though it makes me feel more Loco for that fucker (the main character) is decidedly gone but I can see eye to eye with him on many things. It’s not as disturbing as, say, American Psycho,which I’ve yet to finish reading though I’ve made several attempts at it. Bret Easton Ellis just created a character too unsettling to let sit in my mind for too long a period.

While I was pondering such things I look up to see her standing before me.

“Do you like Obama?” She asked like we had been introduced and were amid a conversation about our likes and dislikes.

When a Japanese person starts a conversation with me I immediately think they are insane  it’s so untypical. But, I’ve been wrong several times. Everyone in the smoking area looks up at the sound of English. English and those who speak it cause most Japanese to experience Iwakan (違和感) which is a feeling of incompatibility or malaise or general awkwardness and discomfort. To the undiscerning eye the resulting behavior can be misconstrued as racism or xenophobia, and perhaps it is in some cases, but i have learned that I have misread this behavior so often I hardly know what to make of it anymore.

So, yes, upon the sound of English, some people decided it was time to leave and did so. Which opened up a seat next to me.

“Uhhh, well, yeah I love him, actually,” I replied though I detested the question. It’s one of those “Yappari” questions Japanese love to ask…questions that confirm there ideas about the world. He’s black so he probably likes Obama.The same thing occurs in America, though. Ignorant white people would ask me questions like do you like basketball and Hip Hop, and what not. You want to say “No” but the truth I do love Hip Hop and Basketball, and Obama. This Japanese girl though probably saw it as a nice ice breaker. A way to show me that she was thinking globally and not locked mentally into what takes place within this tiny island group known as Japan…like most of her brethren.

“Me too…” she shrieked like this was the oddest and most surprising coincidence that had ever occurred in her life. I thought, oh no, a crazy! I smiled and contemplated my escape.

“Yes we can, ne!” she said…her eyes were pin-balling around her sockets, magnified by her glasses. She was half-cute, the other side of 40, holding up pretty well though, shapely and whatnot. Her face was a little pot-marked but not too badly. She had a yaeba but it didn’t protrude from her mouth too much. All in all not entirely undo-able…if I were drunk. I almost said, ‘no the hell we can’t, sorry!’

She took the empty seat beside me presuming my smile was one of welcome and pleasure. It wasn’t.

“Are you christian?” she asked.

“No I’m not. Are you?”

She laughed like it was a ridiculous question. She laughed loud! “No, no, oh no, not christian.”

She began to tell me about her religion. Her English was halting and jumbled and barely comprehensible, obviously the product of a scattered brain and even though I told her Japanese was ok she continued to use her English, inserting Japanese only when she got stuck for a word. The closest I can come to explaining her religion would be it’s a cross between Wicca and Buddhism. I don’t know how she knew but she had pegged me correctly. I am very interested in the occult. My mother is a Yoruba Priestess as I’ve mentioned before and I was now fascinated to hear about a Japanese version of it.

It’s a small, strange world after all.

Sometimes we meet for drinks and I tell her about Yoruba and all the strange things I’ve witnessed, possessions and animal sacrifices and whatnot. And she tells me about her travels. She travels around to different areas of Japan where there are temples and retreats for people in her sect. While there she participates in various ceremonies…some of them are quite fascinating. Most recently she went to one where her spiritual IQ is divined through a medium and she informed me that hers is very high. I believed her. She doesn’t seem to be all here so it’s easy to believe that she might be co-existing on several planes of reality at once. (-:

I look forward to meeting her…we’ve become friends.

Japan just keeps surprising me…

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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