Posts Tagged ‘obama

06
Mar
09

The Homogeneous versus The Homo Sapiens: Conversation 3/5/09

Student: I read your blog about the empty seat on the train. Is it fiction? I can’t believe it.

Me: Can’t believe what?

Student: Is it true?

Me: Well…I guess it does sound incredible. I’ve gotten used to it, though.

Student: You seem tired.

Me: Some days are rougher than others

Student: I really can’t believe it! I’m so sorry…

Me: No, no, don’t be sorry. It’s, uh…well, that’s just the way it is.

Student: I think it’s probably because of the media.

Me: Is it? I don’t watch the news here.

Student: The news always says black people are criminals.

Me: Yeah, I’ve heard about that.

Student: Especially soldiers. Like those soldiers in Okinawa, always doing crime.

Me: Always? What kind of crimes?

Student: Raping girls.

Me: There are a lot of rapes in Okinawa?

Student: Not a lot of rapes. But a lot of news though.

Me: That’s why Japanese people in Yokohama are afraid of me, you think?

Student: Probably. Japanese people believe the news.

Me: Do Japanese men think I’m going to rape them, too?

Student: (LOL) I don’t know…that’s funny.

Me: I guess so…Are Chikan (subway perverts) discussed on the news?

Student: Yes. Many stories about Chikan.

Me: 100% of them are Japanese men.  Why aren’t women afraid of  Japanese men?

Student: Ee! I don’t know. Never thought about that. Maybe they are.

Me: But they sit next to them and stand next to them…

Student: Yeah, well…

Me: And the media shows good images of black people too, don’t they? Sometimes?

Student: Good images?

Me: Yeah, you know, like…I don’t know, Barack Obama, Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey, what’s that Enka singing guy’s name Jello or something? People like that?

Student: Yes. Je-ro…He’s very popular. Stevie Wonder too…and of course Barack Obama…

Me: Then Japanese actually choose to trust the negative images over the positive ones?

Student: Well, I don’t know…seems so.

Me: Yeah, well, anyway, media in America isn’t so great, either.

Student: (looking perplexed) Also, we are homo…homo…

Me: Homogeneous

Student: Right! That’s right! Japan is a homogeneous country.

Me: Yep. Japan is homogeneous. I have a question? If we are all homo sapiens, what difference does homogeneous make?

Student: Homo sapien?

Me: Modern day human beings

Student: Oh.

Me: UnlessJapanese think that human beings are like dogs, with different breeds…like Japanese are Chihuahuas and blacks are pit bulls and whites are poodles, that kind of thing… or maybe they don’t consider other people human beings…onlly Japanese are human.

Student: Ee! Everybody is human, of course.

Me: Do you mean just biologically, or mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well?

Student:  All the same.

Me: Then Homogeneous means nothing. We all eat, drink, breathe, fart, rape, steal, kill, lie, cheat…We all, or at least most people love their children, want a good life, work hard and…well, you know what I mean…

Student: Yes.

Me: If I treated you like a leper would it bother you?

Student: Leper?

Me: Hmmm….like a diseased person. Someone to be avoided at all cost.

Student: It would bother me…

Me: So it’s safe to assume that if we are both human then it will bother me, too.

Student: Uhh…yes?

Me: So, if Japanese know that what they are doing will bother me they either aren’t aware of what they’re doing, trying to be offensive, or don’t give a damn how I feel. That’s my conclusion. And if they aren’t aware they need to be made aware. And if they’re trying to be offensive then…I really don’t know what to say to that. And if they don’t care about my feelings at all then,well….

Student: I understand. I can imagine how it must feel.

Me: Sorry, I don’t like to say such things but that’s what was on my mind.

Student: I think most of Japanese don’t know what they do.

Me: Really?

Student: I don’t know. I think so. We are…We’re not…

Me:…used to foreigners?

Student: Yes, that’s right.

Me:  Ok

Student: So…well…

Me: Are you used to foreigners?

Students: A little.

Me: Would you sit next to a foreigner on the train?

Student: Of course.

Me: So if you can do it, then it can be done.

Student: Yes, but most people are not like me…

Me: This is true. You are rare in Japan. You work for a foreign company and use English everyday…

Student: Sou desu ne

Me: Ok…well, syouganai ne. (nothing can be done about it) Let’s start the lesson.

Loco

20
Jan
09

All hail the Mutt!!!

I just want to take a second…just a brief moment out of my everything…to say, with a heart overflowing with thankfulness that I am American…that my birthright is a country that really is the greatest country in the world, bar none! (my opinion of course) (-:

Congratulations President Obama! Michelle and Family.

alg_obama-family

And good luck. You have my, and the majority of Americans, undying support!

Loco

28
Nov
08

Operation: Feet don’t fail me now…

It has been 10 years since my last rejection letter. I’d written my first and only novel, and once completed, found an agent, went under contract with her, and I was on my way…Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Micheal Crichton, Tom Clancy…make room for loco on that bookshelf, I’d told myself.

Then, I got my first rejection letter, from HarperCollins Books, forwarded to me with a note from my agent imploring me not to panic. I wondered if I gave off that vibe. Was I a panicker, that guy on an airplane that when the pilot announces that the plane may encounter some heavy turbulence but there’s nothing to be concerned about, everyone in the cabin will look at with a “that means you too!” look on their faces?

I didn’t think so, at the time. I was ok, I’d told her. And I was. How was I to know that it was the first of a dozen to follow? Far as I was concerned I had a reputable agent and a viable product and that meant I was two steps ahead in this publishing game. Little did I know that each kindly worded rejection would chip away at my already fragile confidence until there was nothing left to chip, like when you’re watching a great action movie while enjoying fresh hot buttered popcorn, and an intense action scene begins. You sit there feeling giddy as a child again until you unconsciously reach in the bucket to find there are just popcorn crumbs left. By the time Ballentine, WW Norton, Penguin Putnam, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and St. Martin’s Press (and some Independent publishers) were finished with my ego, I was chipping my molars crunching on un-popped buttery kernels.

It has taken me a solid 10 years to recover (assuming I have) from that debacle. I haven’t submitted a single thing to a publisher in that time. I’ve made excuse after ridiculous excuse to friends who inquired after the whereabouts of the my highly anticipated great American novel. Some had read my manuscript…the one that had been gutted by the big boys…and hailed it as great, suggested it was their loss (meaning the publishers), and recommended I self-publish. I was grateful for their support, but with a mouthful of kernels I told myself-via them-that I need to go back to scratch. Rewrite, Revise, Renew. Yeah…that happened. My novel is triple R’d alright, collecting cyber-dust in a folder on my laptop’s C:drive.

Sometimes I torture myself, and open and read it. I still think it’s good, though perhaps a little dated. Nothing a few minor changes couldn’t fix…change beepers to cellphones, Cd-Roms to memory sticks, Clinton to Bush, good economy to fucked economy, etc…No big deal.

Then came Obama…And that yes we can mantra of his. I adapted it. It moved me the same way it moved millions around the world. His positivity, optimism, confidence and audacity inspired me. I joined his cult of personality. Eventually, I started doing something I hadn’t done in a long time: I wrote. I started a blog…just fucking around mostly, following Obama stories and making quips about them. Then, my nature took over and i started doing it again, right there on my blog. I wrote an essay about a song Obama used at the Democratic Convention called “Ain’t no stopping us now”

Then I wrote another essay about Xenophobia called Xenophobes for McCain. Then, I wrote another essay, and another…and I could feel the old juices starting to flow. People were leaving comments, and sending emails saying they’d missed me.  I could feel the doubts I’d been nursing for years draining from me like pus from a cyst. That’s when I started this second blog about Japan. I figured it was time to tackle my experience here.

But, in all my excitement and enthusiasm about the return of the talent i thought I had at best lost and at worst had only been in my head all along, I may have jumped the gun a bit. I went ahead and pitched an idea to a magazine in Tokyo. A rather prominent English language one. I’m sure all of you living in Tokyo are familiar with it but I won’t drop the name. Anyway, the editor liked my pitch and, on spec, commissioned me to write the article. I did. I submitted it. He rejected it. Said (among other things) it was “Rudderless.”

But, then, I re-read my submission with his critique in mind. And, you know what? He was right on. I’d never had my writing called rudderless before. But, as i thought back to those letters I’d received from those publishers back before I’d run away from my failure all the way to Asia (I realize suddenly) the wording they’d used was along those lines. I pack so much into my writing that it kind of winds up being ineffective. Sure, it’s entertaining occasionally, intriguing, and possibly even engaging at times. But, instead of hitting my target with laser-guided proficiency, sometimes my writing is like one of those smooth-bore shotguns that spray bullets helter-skelter.

And, that’s fine for blogging, but, needless to say, that just isn’t what magazines are looking for usually. You can get away with anything once you’re established. I’ve read articles and magazines where the writer was all over the place but i still enjoyed the article immensely and came away feeling it was well worth the hour I’d given to it.

I think sometimes I get caught up in myself. I love to hear myself pontificate. Maybe I would have been a great preacher. But, hell, even sermons need rudders.

So, I took a pause for the cause. I stopped blogging (granted it’s only been 2 days but I feel like I’ve been writing continuously for 3 months.) The cause being I had to contemplate the ridiculous again, just for old time sakes. I questioned my ability, my talent. I asked myself those old haunting, taunting, disabling questions: Who the hell do you think you are? Do you really think people give a shit what you think? Enough to pay to read it? And I laughed. Then i stopped laughing. And I started writing again because, you know what? I’m a fucking writer!

So, I’ve decided to work on the rudder. All entries from now on will be rudder-driven. If you read a rudder-free, scatter shot post on my blog I want you (the reader) to give me an earful. Pimp-slap me with your comments.

Cuz, this time, I’m in it for the long run! Boom or bust! Feet don’t fail me now!

Lo (yes I can) co

18
Nov
08

Home Alterations Pt. 3

It took me about a year of living in Japan before I had my first dream that included Nihongo, and about 3 years for my dreams to take place in Japan. I had such a dream here on Ma’s couch in Brooklyn. I couldn’t remember all the details. All I remember is that I was at an Onsen in Nikko with girlfriend and she was laughing…I woke up to the SKYPE line’s ring.

“Hello.” I just knew it was my girlfriend.

“You coming?” it wasn’t. It was Sharlene.

“Oh shit, what time is it?”

“It’s after 7.”

“Aight, give me a sec…”

I bounced off the sofa Ma had allowed me to crash on and made my way upstairs into the empty apartment where I had lived for the 6 years before I moved to Japan, and took a shower in my old bathroom. It felt strange being in my last home in NY without any of my old furnishings. Memories rushed at me. I’d lived a good portion of my life in these rooms. Major events. Love affairs and crazy break-ups. The novel I wrote in my little home office space. The end of the Clinton years, where I did very well, and the first of the Bush years, when i abandoned ship. 9/11- from the roof above I watched the Twin Towers fall and the fighter jets darting by overhead. A grand party celebrating my independence from corporate America. An emotional farewell party before I left for Japan. All in these rooms.

My landlord had done some renovating, changed the tile in the kitchen, added a doorway, a new fridge, some lighting fixtures, and she’d gotten rid of my purple. I’d painted the whole living room 2 shades of purple. I loved it. I guess the tenants that followed me weren’t feeling it, though. The apartment was unheated and that reminded me of my duplex back home in Yokohama…

Back home?

15 minutes later I was at Sharlene’s door tapping the first few notes to shave and a haircut on the horn. I felt weird doing it, like I was disturbing the peace. I rarely hear horn blowing in Japan. A guy was standing on the corner near her house. He was looking my way. “Sorry about that” I said and nodded and smiled/grimaced. Then Sharlene and her daughter came out of her front door. Damn, i remember when she was born. Now she’s a teenager and filling out them jeans, and the guy standing on the corner turned out to be her boyfriend. I aged about 20 years with that knowledge.

“Hey you,” Sharlene chimed.

“Hey. What time is the train?”

“It leaves at 8:20. We won’t make it.”

“Hell we won’t.” It was about 7:50. From Bed-Stuy to Penn Station in midtown Manhattan, minus Traffic, is about a 20 minute bounce. I’ve done 42nd Street, where i used to work, in 20 minutes, if the bridges are clear. I raced that rental through Brooklyn to the bridges and crossed them no problem, green lights all the way up 6th Avenue to 34th Street and like clockwork the four of us got on the 8:20 train to Philly.

I’d never canvassed for a politician before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never cared that much about any particular candidate before. I’ve always been interested in politics, though and after 9/11 i became a political junkie. But, it never really made a big difference to me who the president was. And, local politics in NY is just fucked. I used to cover it for a local paper. You got a bunch of useless, untrustworthy black politicians in Bedford-Stuyvesant, from Assembly and Council all the way up to Congress…and as far as Senators are concerned, you got Hillary Clinton, the shameless carpetbagger extraordinaire.

But, Obama changed my opinion of Black Politicians. In fact he changed a lot about my outlook on things in general (more on the Obama Effect in a later post.) He was changing the game entirely. Pennsylvania is usually a Democratic state. But, the rough primary race with Hillary Clinton had made the state a little iffy. New York was steadfastly democratic, a shoo-in for Barack, so many New Yorkers had volunteered to take the 2-hour ride down to Pennsylvania and pull some PA coats get the PA votes. I’d been canvassing people in Indiana by phone from Japan (SKYPE made this possible) on my free time, but I was a little apprehensive about doing so face-to-face. I’d never even been  to Philly before.

Jill Scott

The Roots MFSB
And we weren’t exactly headed to Jill Scott’s, The Roots’ or MFSB’s Philly. Barack already had the African-American vote in Philly locked in. We were going to the lily white suburbs of Philly. These weren’t the same people that got angry at Barack because of an audio recording that surfaced after a fund raising event which caught his ill-advised statement about Pennsylvanians being bitter and clinging to guns and religion, and what not.
Thank God, cuz the last thing I needed to do today was take my black ass, best friend, her teenage daughter (and her friend) trick or treating for votes in Red Neckville, knocking on the doors of bitter, gun-toting, bible-loving, Obama-hating, so-called undecideds. That just wasn’t on my to-do list.
But, it was the same state, so I retained a little wariness.
That is, until i came to my very first door, nervous but determined to do my part.

“Good Morning…umm, well, uh…my name is Loco and I’m a volunteer for Obama/Biden 08 and, um, well, you know…” I stuttered to a pair of eyes peeking through a cracked open door.

“Did you say Obama?”

“Uh, yeah, I’m a volunteer for…”

“OH!” The door swung open, and I stepped back (prepared to breakout if necessary) as an elderly white woman strode out on to the porch. “Oh yes, me and my friends and my children and some of my grandchildren are all voting for Obama. He is a wonderful man, don’t you think?And…and he’s going to change this country for the better, by god. And it’s about time, isn’t it? Are you ok?”

“I’m fine…I’m just…well…”

“Where did you get your cap and t-shirt?” she asked “They’re really nice! Do all volunteers get them?

“Well, actually, I bought it from Obama’s campaign website.”

“Ohhh…well, it’s very nice.”

“Thanks…thanks a lot,” I stammered. I didn’t know why I was so rickety. I decided to stick to the checklist and script I had on the pad I was carrying. “Ok, so do you need a lift to the polls on Election day?”

“No thank you, kindly, that’s my car right behind you. I’m taking myself and all my friends…”

“Ok, do you know where your voting site is?”

“Why, yes, unless they changed it since the primaries…I voted for Hillary, then,” she smiled and winked a little. “The polls is a few blocks away. I may even walk there?”

“Ok…Will you be available to volunteer for the campaign on Election day?”

“Oh, no, I can’t on Election day. Sorry. I have to work, dear. I volunteer at the Senior Citizen center downtown. I’m a retired teacher, you know. But don’t you worry. I know these people in this area and they are going to support Obama. You mark my words. ”

“Ok…well, thank you so much for your time, and sorry to have disturbed you so early on a Saturday.”

“Oh, don’t be silly, you know old folks are early risers. I’ve been up since 5am, young man…” she said and smiled broadly. “Where are you from? Because I know you’re not from around here.”

“New York.”

“And you came all the way down here…that’s impressive! When you first came I thought you were Jehovah’s witnesses, that’s why I didn’t open the door. Anyway, you go ahead and wake up these other folks around here if you think you need to. But I know them and most of them are going to support Obama.”

Well, she was right on. Over the course of the day I knocked on about 80 doors and about 60 of them pledged their support for Barack, 10 for McCain and the rest were unanswered or undecided (wasn’t much difference between the two at this  point.) No one volunteered though. They were all white, working class, mostly of Jewish, Russian or Polish descent, some first generation American, most 2nd and 3rd generation. Some gave a short, kurt responses, some were long and talkative. And, no one was rude. No guns. No drama whatsoever. By the end of the day, I felt like I’d personally handed Pennsylvania to the senator.

When we got back to the campaign office to hand in our paper work it was as busy as a beehive. In an office suitable to hold a maximum of 50 there had to be 3 times that many. Even when we were leaving more volunteers were just arriving in droves. I overheard conversations of people who had been doing done what I’d done that day everyday for weeks…and the people coming and going, hustling and bustling, were predominantly white. I’m talking 90% white. It was absolutely remarkable, to me. This has never happened in American history. I’m certain of it. I almost started weeping right then and there as an overwhelming pride I’d truly never felt about America, and shame at the wasted prejudices I’d held for so long, swept through me, but I managed to keep it together.

Jet lag caught up with me on the train ride home and I slept all the way back to NY.

That night, I popped over to Myrtle Avenue again. This time, to my favorite hero shop, number two on food tour list. It’s called Farmer in the Deli. This is something I truly craved while I was in Japan. Japan has Subways but their sandwiches, comparatively, suck. Forget Subways…this deli is the ultimate hero shop and if you’re ever in Brooklyn, you MUST go there. They know how to make a manwich. The lines can get a little long and now that it’s catching on like the Soup Nazi’s soup kitchen back in the Seinfeld days, I’m sure the prices will go up too. I stood in line trying to figure out a way to smuggle a few back to Japan.

farmer in the Deli
farmer in the Deli
Farmer in the Deli is in Fort Green. I mentioned the fate of Fort Green in part 2.  Myrtle Avenue is trying to hold on, and has a pretty firm grip due to the existence of Fort Green Projects. Actually Fort Green Projects is two different housing projects: Walt Whitman Houses and Ingersoll Houses. Only Tenants and people who actually go there know this though. Farmer in the Deli is a block from Fort Green Projects.
There’s been a rumor circulating for years that the residents of both are being pushed out so that their homes can be turned into coops or condos. It’s a persistent rumor. These projects are in a precarious place, that’s for sure. Gentrification on two sides and Metrotech / Downtown Brooklyn on a third. It’s just begging for revitalization. Who knows what the future holds for Fort Green? Next time I come home maybe they won’t be there at all.
But, all and all it was wonderful day!                       Loco

Walt Whitman Houses Ingersoll Houses

12
Nov
08

Home Alterations pt.1

I’d built this trip home up in my mind to be just what my spiritual adviser would advise if I had one…an adviser, that is. I have a spirit, I think. Three years have passed since I’ve seen NY. Much too long. Long enough for home to become idealized, for NY to become a shining city on a hill, for America to become a beacon of diversity and open-mindedness cast on a rigid, small-minded world…I mean, Japan. I’ve built up Japan as, culturally, the Anti-America. And, thank god for that. If I had seen even a faint glimmer of a time in the near or distant future when Japan would become tolerant of foreigners, I would have given up my US passport years ago…and be disqualified from voting in this election. Yes, I’d be kicking my own ass all over Yokohama, regretting the worst, hastiest decision I’d ever made.

At least, that was what I thought prior to passing through customs at JFK and having that post 14-hour flight stogy that left me dizzy with a nicotine rush; a dizziness that didn’t subside until I landed back at Narita ten days later wondering why the hell was I glad to be back here.

Yes, what I learned quite cruelly this trip home is that Japan has a way of creeping up on you, and just when you least expect it…BANG! ZOOM! POW! Right in the kisser!

I spent weeks preparing for my trip. Made a to-do list, a to-buy list, a to-meet, and a to-see list; a comprehensive compilation of all those activities and things and people and places that for me make home home . Highlights included: canvassing door-to-door for Obama in North Philadelphia and a food tour of all my favorite spots all across NYC. I couldn’t have been any more excited.

But, ultimately, the purpose of the trip home was to take part in the most significant event in my country’s history: The election of Barack Obama. If any of you have had the chance to peruse my other two blogs ex-pat for obama or my latest start-up Hail to the Mutt, you know that I have been following his campaign very closely and passionately, as I intend to follow his presidency. So, of course I had to be there. Win or lose. I came prepared to shed tears, riot, protest, or celebrate. Fortunately, nothing untoward went down and all went as expected…

At least, nothing had gone awry with the election, that is. But, back in Loco’s world…

I’d called my mother a month prior, and told her she could expect to see me come Halloween and she was overjoyed…that is, until I stuck my foot in my mouth.

“Can I stay with you for a spell?” I asked

“Yeah, no problem,” she said a little tentatively.

“Don’t worry, I won’t get under your hair…I’ll probably be out most of the time anyway canvassing for Obama. Gonna run down to Philly and wake some undecideds up and I’m gonna be driving seniors to the polls and…”

“Are you coming here to see your mother, who, by the way, you haven’t seen in…what…almost 3 years, or are you coming for…”she yelped.

“Well, come on, Ma. We’re talking about history here! A black president! I mean, of course I’m gonna spend time with you but I gotta do what I can for the change I believe…”

“Jesus, you can’t get on a fucking plane for your mother, but for Obama you can?”

“Ummm…” Yes We Can, right? Fuck!

Anyway. that’s how it started. Me being insensitive to my mother’s ever increasingly fragile emotional state. Some son I am. By the time I was packed and ready to embark on my Obama mission, not a month after that ill-fated phone call, I get the news from her husband (not my father), who’s a real prick: “Your mother’s in an alcohol rehab drying out and…you can’t talk to her! She can’t get calls for 28 days.”

Thanks a lot motherfucker! “Well, I’m staying there so I’ll see you tomorrow?” I had to ask. It’s his house.

“Well…I don’t know about that…”

“What do you mean?” This motherfucker!

“I don’t know about that.”

“She didn’t tell you I was staying there?”

“I…I…” He’s an effete, feeble old fuck, did I mention?

“Listen, old man, I’ve had my fill of half-ass answers over here. Can I stay there? All I need is a yes or a no!”

“Well..I don’t know…”

Click!!! Fuck him!

It’s NY, so i didn’t sweat it. I got backups galore. I got people everywhere. I called my former landlord, who’s like a second mother- so much so that my primary mother, at 67, is still jealous of her- and she just happened to have room. Room…hell. She has a four-story brownstone in Bed-Stuy where she’s currently living alone. Though she can definitely use the money, she can only take but so much of her tenants’ bullshit. I was the only one she got along with. She just happens to be my best friend’s mother so she practically raised me. I even call her Ma.

“Sure you can stay here, but you gotta clean your shit out of the basement!” I’ve been storing a number of boxes down in her cellar ever since I set out for the Far East 5 years ago. Unfortunately, so have a number of her other former tenants, so she was feeling that her generosity wa being a bit abused. “Or at least hit me off for storage.”

“No problem, Ma. And, thanks! See you Halloween.” Did I mention she’s the coolest Mom in the world? Well, consider it mentioned.

I arrived at JFK International airport, American Airlines terminal. I don’t know if any of you have ever been there, but suffice it to say that by the time you get from the plane to the baggage rotary you know- without question- that you’re not in Kansas anymore. You walk about 12 miles through a twisting, drearily lit labyrinth of dingy carpet, droning smile-less staff, alongside 200 or so people who look like they’ve had the life sucked out of them. 14 hours in economy class will do that to most people. The line for Immigration is a mile long on account of the staff, God knows why, not being prepared for this International arrival, and though there are twenty or so booths, there are only 2 Immigration officers, who have the audacity to have a conversation with each other from their respective booths about how they’re supposed to be on their dinner breaks and how they hate this shit. Finally you get to one of the booths and the officer glances at your bona fides, notes that you haven’t been stateside in a spell and welcomes you back to America with as much warmth as the stewardess on the plane had explained what to do if, god forbid, your Boeing 777 took a nosedive over the Bering Strait.

“Thanks!”

Once you’re through Customs, a solid hour and a half after landing, you’re finally on American soil, so to speak, and are immediately accosted by cab drivers while a recorded announcement, in a language you can refreshingly understand entirely, informs you that, by no means, should you get into a taxi with a driver who is pandering in the Airport lobby. And you notice something else…something disturbing: After five worry-free years amid the harmless Japanese, living in an area where going to sleep without locking the door isn’t something you’ll be kicking yourself in the ass about the next day, where you are essentially the only threat to the serenity of the neighborhood, every American you pass looks like a threat to your belongings if not your life. You try to relax, tell yourself that this is home, goddammit, and these are the people you know all too well. You tell the third driver to get in your face, “No, sorry, but I won’t be needing a taxi this evening,” and he gives you an up-and-down and once-over. It takes a second for the reason to catch up with you. You glance down at yourself: Obama T-shirt, Abercrombie & Fitch hoodie, Old Navy down vest, Levi blue jeans, Timberland standard-issue construction boots, Kangol busket fishing hat sitting slightly crooked on your head. You’re ‘hood-friendly, well-camouflaged. What the fuck? Then it clicks. It’s your English: wayyyyy too formal. You should’ve said, “Nah, Bruh, I’m all set…I gotta rental,” or “back up off uh me, Yo! If I needed a cab I woulda got at you the first time you asked,” or something like that. You shake your head and wonder what the hell has happened to me???

The thing is, I’ve been teaching English to ESL students as well as living among English speakers from all over the globe for five years straight and over the course of that time, I managed to subdue my Brooklyn accent a bit and standardized my English substantially. Not to impress people so much as to ease comprehension. The result: my appearance doesn’t match my syntax. This is by no means a new issue for me. But, I’ve always been able to turn it on and off almost unconsciously depending on the environment I found myself in. This slip-up was a red flag.

Once I obtained my rental and was on the road, don’t you know I went East when I should have gone West. Was headed out to Long Island before I caught myself. This is a route I’ve taken so many times over the course of my life that this kind of error was jarring. For the second time in less than an hour, I felt like a tourist in my hometown. And, as I drove, something else dawned on me that I hadn’t considered while I was trying to go through the motions of being back in my element: I hadn’t driven a car in 3 years! The mechanics are pretty much like riding a bike. But, NY highway traffic takes some…let’s put it this way: for me, there’s something fatalistic about driving in NY. There’s a certain daring involved. No one gives you anything. Courtesy is rare. Decisiveness is mandatory. You wanna switch lanes, turn on your blinker and take it.  And, in taking it, you also kind of take your life in your hands. But, there’s a flow, a synchronicity and a rhythm to it that diminishes the danger a bit. Having been reared in it, I never had a problem with this road culture…

…until now. I felt wayyy out of sync. It was dark and I was tired and intimidated. I stayed in the right lane and still drew horns.

I arrived at Ma’s house, shaken and stirred. I gave her a big hug and a small wad of cash. She gave me a key and the skinny on what had gone down over the past five years. We shared a joint and I tried to shed my jet lag. But, it wasn’t working. I popped open my laptop and I had a voice-mail on the SKYPE line from Sharlene, one of my best friends. I called her back.

Right off, she hit me with, “I got laid off Wednesday and Wendy got laid off today.”

“Damn.”

“Yeah, this economy is fucked…Aaaanyway, we’re celebrating our independence…Come hang out with us.”

I heard “Ok…” come out of my mouth, but it must’ve been the weed talking.

I should’ve taken my ass to bed.

…to be continued




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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