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Thursday, November 12, 2009

memories (for Ray Charles, a fellow Georgian)

(blog entry published in the Dec 09 issue of RAN Magazine)

Suddenly, walking down a street, be it real or be it a dream, one realizes for the first time that the years have flown; that all this has passed forever & will live on only in memory.*

I'm in a dream & she's there, sitting at the other end of the table at this nomikai (“the let’s get drunk & meet party”), maybe five couples separating us. I shout hi & yell my first words to her in Japanese:

Do you want to get married?!

It was supposed to be a joke, yeah, but it still made an impression & that joke led to another & yet another, a little of this & that, then this, that & the other. What was meant to be a one-year adventure in this land of rising sun had become something like a safari to nowhere. And somehow our blood, sweat & tears lasted longer than five years, up until this latest Feb 14th, when in place of a gift she told me on the phone: It was indeed finished.

Our dreams finished, my dream deferred.

I had a woman, way over town (in Komaki), that was good to me, oh yeah.

She saved her loving, for early in the morning,
(Ooh la la) just for me.**

(Thanks, Ray. These memories are a bitch.)

But hold on. This here that I'm writing is not about her. This is not about her. Not about her at all. It's about me. This is about me. I'm writing all of this for me. So,

Should I stay or should I go?

I don't know. I look back at my six years here, & remember when BabyFace told me he was leaving. I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were both lifers. I said,

Why in the hell are you leaving, BabyFace? And you're leaving your beautiful girlfriend behind! Can't you see the love in her eyes? She loves you man.

BabyFace looked into the distance, then smiled his blue eyes at me. He said, "I don't know, I don't know what I'm going to do. I’m just going to go back to Indy & see what happens."

That was over a year ago. BabyFace is now in law school. I heard his beautiful girl is coming to live with him.


(I mean, BabyFace was a rolling stone, man. I guess we all eventually gather moss.)

And I remember how Zee did it. I'll never forget him, his long Osama beard that summer, his infatuation with 70's music & killing zombies on Xbox. Zee bought a one-way ticket then went into hiding three months prior to departure. He didn’t want anybody talking him out of it. That was over two years ago. I saw him when he came back to visit last spring. He had shaved his beard & joined the Marines. He had become a real Officer straight out of Platoon.


And there was that blonde from Ohayo who liked poetry & water. She lasted five years on this rock. She said the party's over. It has been over three years since that day we recited,

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.***

I heard she’s living underwater somewhere in the Pacific, wearing a mask, strapped to an oxygen tank, chasing fish.

From what I’ve tasted of desire, I hold with those who favor fire.***


There are more. There are too many memories of people leaving, of farewell parties, of me getting their stuff, like blenders, kotatsu (“the heated & blanketed table”), desks, beds, kitchen utensils, even barbells & squat racks, & cramming all of it into my tiny apartment with paper walls. I would then see my friends off to the station, us saying sayonaras & sharing hugs.

This has happened way too many times.

Where are they, the departed ones? Some are back home living in houses with harder walls, some working at insurance companies with weekly staff meetings, staring at computers, etc etc. It sounds so boring. But some are in Uni, others rampaging through the jungles of Southeast Asia, some living lives as expats elsewhere, writing books, learning how to write books. But all of them pursuing dreams.

What about those who didn't leave? Why did they stay?

I remember the sax player from California. We met on the Meitetsu line to Utsumi, the beach. Both drinking Asahi's on the train, naturally we gravitated toward one other. He was telling me about his beach pub crawl, how he did it every summer Sunday. I asked him how long he'd been at it.

"Twenty years," he said. "I came here on vacation & got stuck."


And then there are the multitudes of us who come here & get stuck living with Japanese in-laws. My friend SpaceMan found himself in this predicament, but he eventually escaped.

And of course there are those Japanophiles who love everything manga, everything Japanese drama, everything kanji, katakana & hiragana, they love everything Tokyo & Roppongi & Fukuoka ramen & Nagoya Yama-chan, tebasaki (“the chicken wing”) & & ad infinitum.

Those Japanophiles want to be stuck. I know cause I used to be one. Yet I’m thinking I'm not one now.

I had a woman, way over town, who was good to me (she left me). Oh yeah.**

(Thanks again, Ray. I think I just became unstuck.)

Sure, I like Japan. I like the food. I love the chicken wing! I like the sexy clothes, the J-girl thing. I even like the kanji & the terrible singing at karaoke.

But this ain't my home. These are not my people. This is not my country. And she’s no longer my woman, Ray.

I want to go home. And I want to go home now. Back to Georgia, where moonlight shines through the pines. This road leads back to you. (And the party's over.)

... suddenly, these memories intrude, rise up like ghosts & permeate every fiber of one's being.*

It’s all just a dream. Wake up.

*Henry Miller, from Black Spring
**Ray Charles, from I Got a Woman
***Robert Frost, from Fire and Ice


  1. Great read mate and a well needed shot of reality to the eyeballs when I’m doing absolutely all that I can in order to get back there….

  2. Great insight to one who has also left home long ago, and never went back but never that far - the other side of the world - huh !

    More, let's have some more....

  3. V,
    It's all there. Just keep looking you'll find it.
    Good lines.