Archive for October, 2009

26
Oct
09

Playing for keeps

I must apologize. The On The Couch series has been postponed.

My intention was to give a blow by blow account of my sessions with my…well, with myself. I have not actually gone to a therapist in Japan…not yet. I didn’t write that post especially for entertainment purposes, though. It was an earnest attempt to self-analyze  through writing. My therapist persona is an amalgam of all the therapists I’ve ever seen, including the real therapist I went to for a brief period back in NY, as well as the ones in Woody Allen (IMHO the cleverest, funniest, most astute screenwriter alive today) movies, TV shows, books I’ve read, and  comments I’ve received from readers that I have found useful. Oh, and of course, a whole lot of me.

I was really getting into it, having a ball writing it, when I ran into a few snags. What happened was, as I was writing parts 2 and 3 (both are nearly complete) I realized something I thought ought to be addressed before I continue. So you can think of this post as a prelude or introduction to the On the couch series (should I resume it.).

At the risk of being redundant and over-stating what might be obvious, let me say this: When your life consists of hundreds of people a day looking at you as if prudence dictates that you should be watched carefully (not with curiosity-which would be annoying but, here in Japan, well within reason- but, with suspicion and fear-unreasonable and unacceptable under normal conditions, which these are not), when virtually no one (Japanese, that is) can relax in your vicinity nor can ignore you whatsoever, and engage in the most bizarre behavior as a result of this inability, or, though you haven’t caused them nor intend to cause them any harm, they behave as if you have indeed previously caused them harm and intend to do so again, or move away and/or evade coming near you in a manner that suggests they believe you carry a contagion that would render them dead or dying if direct or even indirect contact was made, and this fictional infection has been known to even take to the air, so it’s best to not even breathe the miasma you release when you exhale…when some variation of the above responses to your presence occur on a daily basis, it’s bound to have some effect.

What do you imagine that effect could be?

Before I go there, let me go here. And  please bear with me…

For me, rationalization of Japanese behavior has been a priority, a daily requirement. In order to do it effectively it requires a certain amount of desensitization. I have to close my mind and heart to the world around me and lock them away soundly several times a day or risk serious damage.

For example, when I see that empty seat beside me or the Japanese-free bubble around me on the crowded train I must rationalize it. I must tell myself convincingly something that doesn’t cast my Japanese hosts in a dark light. I must tell myself, “That’s just the way they are…it has nothing to do with me personally or racially. They’re completely unaware of any offense I might feel. They don’t mean anything by it. I just look strange to them, like a circus freak. Hell, I wouldn’t want to be near a man with 3 heads, either.” And I read my book, or play Tetris, and try to luxuriate in the bonanza of leg or breathing room on a Japanese rush hour train. Or, I tell myself, “Every society has its good points and bad points, highs and lows. Here I have some very high highs and some very low lows…and that’s balance, therefore my life here is for the most part pretty good.” Or, I tell myself, “this behavior of theirs is like a social tax, a levy on the quality of  life, and like they say nothing is certain but death and taxes!”

I rarely rationalize the  way most Japanese I know (and surprisingly a good number of foreigners as well ) persistently suggest I do. That is, to tell myself that they are a homogeneous people unaccustomed to foreigners, or that they can’t speak English thus they freak out when they see someone who they presume cannot speak Japanese…these types of rationalizations always leave me wanting.

Depending on my mood, I might tread on dangerous ground and ask myself if what I’m seeing is real or imagined. Am I paranoid? Am I delusional? Have I created a nemesis that does not really exist because interesting stories require genuine conflict? Is my perception of what I see distorted by my sensitivity?

Truly dangerous ground.

Sometimes I can’t help but enter the danger zone and tell myself, “they’re just ignorant.  It’s perfectly natural for them.” Or, “Grandma would be so disappointed at me for getting all worked up and bent outta shape over this foolishness. At least they’re not trying to throw a rope around my neck and string me up on a tree. Just ignore these…people…and live your life.”  When I catch a whiff of something foul in the air, something not so innocent, not so naive, something proudly ignorant, flagrantly insensitive, almost aggressively so. Something seemingly intended to offend. That’s when I get all bent and I may slip and stumble into the danger zone .  At these times I really have to batten down the hatches and steel my soul…These are the really perilous moments. The moments that make or break a person.

It’s funny. There was a time when I thought of my life here as ultimately inconsequential, at least  in the long run. Just a collection of memories and experiences…something to impress friends and thrill (or bore to tears) grandchildren with someday. I thought my essential self was safe from Japan because I truly don’t get to be me that often here anyway. I felt like my essential self  was back in NY waiting for my adventure abroad to come to its inevitable end and upon my return home I’d be back to my regularly scheduled programming. But, somewhere along the line…maybe on that third trip to NY for a visit, I realized that the essential me hadn’t wanted to be left behind. It would not endure neglect any longer. It would not be forgotten and abandoned. It realized that significant changes were occurring and it would be part of this change, for better or for worse. It wanted to be with me, so it had stowed away and made the trip back to Asia with me…

Not good.

So, whatever mental, emotional or spiritual damage I may incur as a result of my life here will be permanent, now, I realized while I was putting together that On the couch series. I realized with a certain amount of alarm that I’m playing for keeps and so I had better proceed with due caution and diligence.

My soul is truly on the line.

Those thoughts, like the ones I described on the train, aren’t perilous in and of themselves but because of what lurks  in and around and between the words. That’s where the peril resides. If I, for example, think of Japanese people as ignorant, then aren’t I, in effect, raising myself above them, condescending to them? And by thinking of them as a them, as an entity with little variation,wouldn’t I be guilty of the same thing I feel is being done to me unfairly? And, if I evaluate Japanese people’s behavior in comparison with the behavior of the racist whites my grandmother endured in Savannah Georgia in the 1940s and 1950s, wouldn’t that allow me to transfer some of the feelings I have held about those white people who abused and humiliated grandma to Japanese people, whether or not they deserve it?

VERY perilous territory, indeed.

And that was just the shallow shit! I hadn’t even gotten deep into the side effects of rationalizing the irrational, yet.

…to be continued.

Loco

14
Oct
09

A quick one while my heart’s away…

Yesterday, suddenly, I remembered why I quit my job in NY and eventually came to live in Japan. And how I learned about my heart’s wayward behavior.

I remembered that one day I was at my desk in Midtown Manhattan, looking around at the people I spent day after day for 7 years looking at, and suddenly I realized I didn’t really know any of them.

It might have been a reaction from the sensimilla I’d smoked that morning while I was getting dressed, but I didn’t think so. Sometimes I took a few totes before work to take the edge off.

I do however remember that I felt like I existed but I wasn’t alive, just watching my life through my eyes, experiencing it vicariously through some stranger who was using me for some purpose, neither good nor evil, light nor dark…in fact, it seemed quite normal. Like this was the way it was supposed to be. And everyone around me was in on the fix or similarly had front row seats to their own lives, unwilling or unable to affect change.

It scared the shit outta me, it did.

I wanted to live again. I would put in my 2-weeks notice the next day.

That night, while I was typing my notice up, trying to find just the right way to kiss off a job while I was on top of my game (I was one of the top salesmen, definitely being groomed for management), I panicked. I had been procrastinating about making such a move for the past couple of years. A five-figure bonus for an outstanding year was due the following week. I’d saved up a nest egg in anticipation of finding the huevos to do it. And if that weren’t enough of an incentive, I’d even written a novel and found an agent of some notoriety with an outstanding track record. By all appearances I was not making a mistake, I was not about to undertake something I would spend years regretting. I was making a change the way wise people make changes: with forethought and preparation.

But, apparently, my heart hadn’t gotten the memo because it was racing like I’d just pulled a Tony Montana and hoovered up a mound of cocaine, reminding me of how stable I currently was, how comfortable I had become with a steady income, toys at my disposal, a circle of support filled with friends and family nearby, a girl or two poised to make a commitment to accompany me on my path to greatness. I snapped aloud, “What the fuck am I doing???” fell to my knees and prayed.

My christian roots tend to find their way to the surface when I have a crisis though I’ve rarely found my way to a church.

I knelled before my queen-sized cherry sleigh bed with the posture-pedic mattress, fingers clasped, head bowed, mind and soul open to answers from the powers that be, from the Creator I wholeheartedly believe was looking out for me, and waited.

He (or She) didn’t answer.

Someone once told me that coincidence is the The Creator’s way of remaining incognito. I waited for a coincidence.

There was silence in my bedroom. Nothing but the buzz of the fluorescent light above and groans of the century old Brownstone I lived in and my heart. I broke the silence:

“If I’m doing the right thing, Lord, don’t say anything. ”

The Creator, in his consummate wisdom, said nothing. No coincidences occurred either. I didn’t suddenly receive an email. The phone didn’t ring with some caller bearing an ominous message vaguely connected to my plight. The door bell didn’t ring prompted by a visitor with a message of ye or nay, little to his or her knowledge. Not even a bird budged outside the window, or called out in that Avian language of theirs that I seem to understand at moments like these. It was the kind of silence that only the Creator could produce, I told myself as I rose, sat at my computer and completed the notice.

Flash forward to today.

I woke up this morning feeling lonely. Friends and family are far away, literally, emotionally, physically…I hardly know them anymore. Actually I’ve been waking feeling this way quite a bit lately.

It’s a phase, I know. I’ve been here before. It’s not homesickness. I hold no more illusions about where and what home is. The cliche is true. Home is where your heart is. The problem is, where’s my heart? It’s not in NY. It’s not in Yokohama. And, most surprisingly, it’s not inside of me where it ought to be. It’s on a walkabout perhaps. Left me to my own devices for a spell. It does this from time to time. A little heart appreciation period I presume. And during these periods I am quite inconsolable. Unreachable. I survive on heart memory. I go through the motions of having a heart, which is unfortunately enough for the people I know here in Japan. They don’t know me. maybe some of the more perceptive of them can see through the amiability and passivity I display during these heart-free periods, but most adore me nonetheless.

They don’t know me. Nobody knows me. But, it’s ok. Who really knows anybody anyway?

My heart has been MIA for a few weeks now. I really don’t mind him taking off like this. Only, when he does, the major drawback is: Writing becomes a chore because I write from my heart. When I can’t write I feel useless. It’s hard to forgive my heart (and myself) for putting me through this.

So, I spend my days alone going through the motions with my Japanese friends and colleagues; watching them. Everything appears to be on the surface. Hon’ne and Tatamae aside, there’s an artlessness about them that I’ve only experienced with real friends and yet these are people I don’t really even know. There’s an openness and a vulnerability that I feel totally undeserving of. I have never experienced such artlessness. I am always crafty, tricksy. I always feel the need to be careful, to secure my heart. But, when my heart is on one of its walkabouts I am worse. I have no heart to share with my friends. I only have platitudes and the verbal equivalent of flatulence.

It’s enough to make you afraid. Sometimes, if you let it, if you’re weak or vulnerable or predisposed, it’s enough to make you hate.

It was enough to make me think about those co-workers I deserted 6 years ago back in NY. And the feelings that prompted my flight to Asia.

Someone once told me, “You can’t run from yourself. Cuz, everywhere you go, there you are.”

They never told me my heart could run from me, though.

While my hearts away, I spend my time occupying my mind with mind-numbing stuff…reading novels, watching TV, overeating, overdrinking, over-smoking and over-analyzing everything to the point when the point of the analysis becomes moot or exaggerated beyond recognition. Colds feel like cancer. Hangovers feel like Leukemia. The city feels like a Jungle. Home feels like a cave or a sanctuary or a monastery. Nothing I think or feel is worthy of being recorded in any way, especially in writing.  Not while I’m going through the motions of being a real person.

But, I’ve been down this road before, and I know when my heart will be back. It’s waiting for my call. It comes when I really need it or rather when I demand it through action. Its obedience is absolute. Its allegiance is unquestionable. It only leaves because I want it to go. When I need time away from it; time to see the world without feeling the world. Time to collect myself, my thoughts, my energy. Time to appreciate time, to remind myself of the gift each day is…

And then, one morning, I’ll be walking down the street, and an idea will pop into my head…not a brilliant idea, just an idea, one with promise. And, I won’t lay it to the side to be addressed later, I’ll stop wherever I might be and whip out my handy pen & pad, or rush into the nearest cafe to grab a seat, a cup of Joe, and jot it down, or, like today, upon reaching my office, head directly to the computer and begin writing a text message (in the form of this post) to my heart telling him it’s time that he came home, with utter certainty that he would soon be here.

Welcome back. You are forgiven!

Loco

09
Oct
09

President Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize!!!!

Slightly off topic, but this is incredible news!

He was the surprise winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize beating out French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The committee cited his work on nuclear disarmament.

Congratulations President Obama, Michelle and family.

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09
Oct
09

Yet another

(found the following short story I wrote last year…it made me smile which means more to me right now than it sounds)

Yet another

Lisa had dropped by. She’d do that sometimes, out of the blue, and we’d watch movies and have sex. We didn’t have much of a relationship aside from that. I liked the movies a lot more than the sex. She used to be a great movie partner, but now, well…she’d prefer to get right to the sex. She didn’t even watch movies with me anymore. She endured them. That’s why I stopped inviting her over. Any woman who can’t appreciate film, or appreciate my appreciation of film, was not a keeper. She never made the connection, the leap of imagination, that my film watching was fetish. That my enjoyment in the bed was directly connected to the foreplay of watching and enjoying a fine film together. And I never made it an issue, at least not verbally.

Nowadays, she just pops over on a whim. Not even the courtesy of a booty call, or booty text, no nothing. She just knows I won’t be entertaining and, nine times out of ten, she`s right. Disrespectful, but on point.

The other night we were watching “Beaches.” Barbara Hershey was learning about her terminal condition and Bette Midler’s version of “I think it’s gonna rain today,” was playing in the background. I was mouthing the lyrics, tears rolling down my cheeks. I didn’t bother wiping them. My T-shirt clung to my chest where the tears had landed. I could feel Lisa’s eyes on me.

“I bet you cry every time you watch this movie,” she said.

“So,” I sniffled. “It’s tragic and beautiful…true friendship.”

“You got issues!”

“And you’re issue-free,” I retorted. “Lucky you.”

She sucked her teeth. One of those seething, West Indian teeth sucks.

“Haven’t you ever lost a friend?” I cried. I didn’t even look at her.

Later on, we were doing the deed, her payoff for sitting through yet another tear-jerker with me. She was on top of me whooping and hollering and what not. Breaking my concentration. I was trying to recall the name of the disease that killed Barbara Hershey. Chronic something or other. I’d watched the movie at least 20 times… And then I blurted out, uncontrollably, “That’s it! I’m quitting smoking!”

She stopped her grunting to shout, “what!”

“Nothing.”

“No,” she demanded. “What did you say?”

“If I were to catch cancer, would you even care?”

“That’s not what you said!”

“Nevermind.”

Loco (-:

PS: Off topic, I know, but my mind wanders and I stalk it.

08
Oct
09

The Speech Contest pt.2

As promised in part 1 of this post, here is the speech my student gave.

Is he great or what?

Unfortunately, in order to move on to the Prefecture championship round, you have to be one of the top 5 of this group of 55 students. My student was number 6. Chyo Yabai!!! But he took it well.

I’d rather he were 20th than 6th. To be that close to something you’ve worked so hard for, to have the prize within your grasp and watch it handed to someone else… Sometimes it can have an adverse affect on the candidate. But, he rolled with it and I’m awfully proud of him

Loco

06
Oct
09

On the couch #1

Me: First off, I want to say thank you for seeing me on such short notice…

Doc: No need to thank me, Mr….Loco, is it?

Me: Yeah, but without the Mister…

Doc: Is that your real name?

Me: Why? You think Loco is a crazy name?

Doc: Do you?

Me: I thought it was just kinda cool cause it rhymed with Yoko as in Yokohama. That’s why I chose it initially. But,no, it’s not my real name…I mean, what difference does it make, whether you know my name or not?

Doc: Well, I…

Me: …but I’ll let you decide what’s relevant or not, I mean, you’re the Doc, right? Maybe my name is relevant. Maybe everything is….

Doc: Mr. Loco…

Me: Just Loco. No “mister”… I hate the word mister. I don’t know why. Actually, I hate a lot of  shit so if we’re going to be meeting regularly than we had better get to know one another, right? Well, the first thing you should know is something you probably already figured out cuz you have that sharp, intuitive look  and an air or competence about you…yeah, yeah, you’ve probably figured out I have a lot to say…

Doc: Mr. Loco, I think…

Me: Seriously, Doc. The customer is God is he not? And I really, REALLY, hate the word Mister, so please, even if it’s against everything you believe in, even if it pains you to drop formalities, please please PLEASE call me Loco.

Doc: ok, Loco.

Me: Thanks doc…I can see we’re gonna get along just swell.

Doc: Can I ask you a question?

Me: By all means, doc…ask away. I mean, that’s why I’m here. I want you to probe the abyss of my mind. I want you to plumb out the crap that’s clogging me up. I want you to…

Doc: Why are you here?

Me: …What? What do you mean why am I here? I need help, Doc. Geez, isn’t it obvious? Do I have to start smashing shit in your office? Drooling on your couch? Put my head through that wall? I’m a sick man! I’m…wait a minute…You are doctor Ono, right?

Doc: Yes, I am Dr. Ono.

Me: Then I’m here to see you…you were recommended by a friend of mine. He told me  you made him feel like a new man, helped him understand why…why, um…

Doc: Something wrong?

Me: No.

Doc: Why did you stop?

Me: You asked me why was I here?

Doc: Yes.

Me: Well, I was just pondering the metaphysical answers to that question…

Doc: Which are?

Me: propagate the species, feed worms and maggots and fertilize flowers, maybe entertain a few people with my stories before I go if I’m lucky. 

Doc: Interesting…

Me: Dark? Cynical?

Doc: No, just interesting…

Me: But, you really don’t know why I’m here in your office today?

Doc: I think I Know but I’d like to hear you say it in your own words.

Me: Ok. Well, I think I’m going crazy.

Doc: Really? That’s not what I expected to hear.

Me: That’s not what I expected to say.  I was just going to sit around here yapping it up a while and let you tell me what my issues were.

Doc: Why did you change your mind?

Me: I don’t know. You just seem like a man who doesn’t waste time.

Doc: Was that a compliment? Thanks. 

Me: Not really. It’s just something i picked up living here in Japan…a little apple-polishing to get us off on the right  foot. It’s means nothing.

Doc: I…ok, thanks for your honesty.

Me: That was a real compliment!

Doc: I know. Thanks.

Me: I never used to bullshit people. Now…I do it without even thinking about it too much.

Doc: Why?

Me: Hell if I know. What did you expect me say before?

Doc: I expected you to say you were addicted to Japanese women.

Me: Really??? Why?

Doc: Half my male patients are.

Me: Is that a fact? Shit! Maybe I am too, then. Is that bad?

Doc: Well, Loco, that remains to be seen.

 

to be continued…

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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