Thursday, November 29, 2012

When Japanese People Ruminate: Pt. 2

Welcome back to the segment that endorses the behind-the-back hectoring + humiliation of Japanese children. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please refer to my previous, similarly titled post. Again, these are all authentic quotes provided by actual Japanese students. And again, in italics, I’ve included the rejoinders I always thought but never said.

1)      Classroom Assignment: Explain something you wish someone else would do, using the first-person conjugation of the verb-phrase: to want (D.O.) to…”

“I want my mother to buy clothes.”
(So many things, Yuto. So many things. Firstly; you’re lucky that you, as a 13yr old boy, have already seen a woman naked. The illusion is shattered. Not that big of a deal, right? Flesh and fat and other shadowy, anti-glamorous stuff. You know what I’m talking about and you probably resent that. But don’t. You’re ahead of the proverbial game. The obsession and dumb reverence society feels for the female body is, like, totally snuffed-out. You’ve seen your mother naked. Many times. It doesn’t get any more real than that. Now you can get on with the truly messy part: considering women actual people and figuring out how the hell to deal with them. Secondly; stop being so selfish. Of course you want your own mother to be clothed. Her skin embarrasses you. But have you ever stopped and asked yourself: why doesn’t my mother have any clothes? No, you have not. Which is fine because you’re barely a teenager and very unpopular at school and your naked mom is disturbing and unseemly. The thing is, this isn’t about you. Maybe your mom doesn’t have clothes because she has a grave, irreconcilable personal problem that prevents her from having the sufficient funds to buy clothes. Drugs, online gambling, prostitution, a pagan cult, who knows. I’m just saying. Use some logic. Your mom knows she shouldn’t always be naked. She obviously can’t help it. So maybe you should her help her out. (Apparently your father never did.) Then maybe she can get her life on track and buy some clothes and wear them. Thirdly, you sound like a good person. Whatever your motives, more than anything in the world, you want the woman who birthed you to stay warm forever. Good man. On par with all those dumb, honorable athletes who use their first paycheck to buy moms a mansion. Lastly, I’m really sorry you grew up seeing your own mother nude on the regular. That sucks. I know what it’s like. My mom has been towing me along to her skinny-dipping escapades for as long as I can remember. Stay strong.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Whether or not Team is Spelled with an I and Other Misconceptions

Right now I’m sitting on a swivel-chair in a room in Northwestern CT, USA. I’ve spent the past week refurbishing and aesthetically updating this particular room. It is my bedroom. I haven’t been - much less lived - here at my dad’s house since I don’t even remember when. But after four years at college and two years in Japan, it didn’t really feel like my room anymore. The photographs were of ex-girlfriends. The toys were mostly plastic model dinosaurs. The decorative baseball-bat was signed by some ballplayer who took steroids. My bed-sheets and down-comforter had at some point been assaulted/modified by my father’s girlfriend; the revised linen-theme one of double-digit pillows and diaphanous, baby-blue frills.

Eight of ten bed-pillows are now stored in the basement and my gaze keeps returning to the collage of new photographs I diligently festooned just this week. Most of them are from Japan. Lots of them are of the Toyooka JHS basketball team. These basketball team photos evoke a pinpoint and visceral brand of nostalgia. They summon up a series of very tangible memories. Recollections that should be recorded before they too dissolve into past-tense, freeze-frame memorabilia. These snapshots remind me of the really good stuff. The stuff we, The Toyooka Basketball Team As A Unit, said and accomplished and overcame and fucked-up and failed at. These were my boys. My students, my disciples, my professors, my best friends and my little brothers. For two years, this was my family.

We have shared water-bottles and sweat-drenched headbands and loads of beef curry. We have watched TV in total silence. We have scrubbed vats and pots and pans and plates. We have collided into each other. We have farted on each other. We have been beaten annihilated by pretty much every team we played. We have traded hardcore wedgies until we were all doubled over in agreement that this nonsense has to stop. We have weeded the school lawn. When no one was watching, we have quit weeding and launched into frenzied four-leaf-clover-finding contests. We have performed choreographed hip-hop dance routines. We have been unable to communicate. We have communicated with gestures and without words. We have argued about the physical cuteness of Japanese girls vs. all-other girls. We have stopped talking for a few days. We have started laughing and not been able to stop. We have avoided each other. We have collapsed into a single pile of writhing bodies. We have given each other haircuts. We have grilled meat and when the meat caught fire we sat there blaming each other, refusing to extinguish the conflagration. We have punched a hole in the wall. We have cursed each other’s countries and languages and cultures and friends and parents. We have raced on zip-lines while kick-punch-battling to the death. We have felt earthquakes. We have exchanged romantic counsel. We have slapped each other across the face.

I have woken up hung-over and gone directly to basketball practice in my pajamas. I have contemplated quitting this stupid job that doesn’t even pay a dime. I have made a lifelong friend. I have met sixteen boys I will never forget and five boys I’m not sure I can live without, each of them possessing a litany of insufferable, tortured, exquisite imperfections. I have revealed the most bighearted, dim-witted, inspired, flawed facets of myself. I have sat in total darkness and wept and wondered if This Is What It’s All About.

And always, after all that, we played basketball.