Friday, March 26, 2010

Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

Back on July 13, 2009 - my second ever blog on It's A Wonderful Rife, I made mention of a pretty young lady by the name of Kristine South. You can re-read about our initial meeting HERE.

I've been asked a bunch of times to write more about Kristine, as people seem to think she's fascinating. Those people would be correct.

When I first met her, my heart skipped a beat. She was sexy, intelligent and sassy--three things I have always found very attractive. She also talked to me, which made her even more sexy to this impressionable young boy.

Coming from Toronto where guys had to approach a woman (and in my case get rejected for it), it was titillating to have a woman strike up a conversation with me first. Did I mention I brought along three boxes of condoms with me on this trip to Japan?

Even after meeting Kristine and then ignoring her for the rest of my time in Tokyo during our disorientation for the JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) Programme, I knew we'd talk and meet again. Kristine was smart enough to get my phone number from a JET guidebook, I was not.

Now... let me just make sure we are all on the same page here. I never slept with or got to first base with Kristine. A hug or a kiss on the cheek perhaps, but no more. Believe me, I would have fired a high, hard one into her catcher's mitt, but I had no idea how to get in the batter's box, let alone stop using baseball analogies.

A couple of months ago in 2010, she told me she had no clue that I was infatuated with her back in Japan. No clue at all. I don't want to embarrass her too much, but d'uh! Perhaps memory fades with time, but I have a written daily record of everything, so it must be more or less true.

We would call each other perhaps once a week or once every two weeks. It couldn't have been my imagination, but all of our chats were more than tinged with sexual innuendo--and not just from me. I'm sure she would start it!--we did talk to each other with a bit of a sexual edge. It wasn't down and dirty, but it was... charged. Why would she call me up and talk to me like that? Why the hell did I never suggest I come over to her place and spend a weekend or until the three boxes of condoms were spent--which ever came first?

Kristine, unfortunately lived a heck of a distance away from me. Maybe five hours (500 kilometers) by train in Shiga prefecture. I had a girlfriend in Ashley who was a 20 minute bicycle ride away in the town of Nishinasuno. Stupid me, or perhaps sensible me, took what looks like 20 years later to have been the path of convenience.

I'm not saying that Kristine would have slept with me--as mentioned, she denies knowing I had any interest in her. Check out the photos of her that SHE sent me. She sent me photos of herself--one was for my birthday. It was an awesome present that I used a few times. Every week for years.

The Kristine of 1990 probably didn't know what to do with me. When she and I talked, she either seemed to know of my problems with Ashley--because I told her, or she sensed them. Why the heck would she want to get in the middle of a guy too stupid to dump the cause of his angst? On more than one occasion, Kristine suggested, nay urged me, to dump Ashley and to move on. I think Kristine realized how sad I was when I had problems with Ashley.

In Japan, Kristine was my confidante. A friend with a great big bosom and brown eyes you could get lost in for days at a time. But with the looks, like I said, she was very intelligent. In fact, she's now a lawyer and is married to a great guy, and I believe (without checking the facts), is living in the D.C. area. In our last correspondence a month ago, she's still beautiful, smart and sassy, but she didn't mention Ashley.

Psychoanalyzing myself 20 years later: since I had waited 25 years to finally get a woman, I was reluctant to let go in case it (love/sex/love of sex) never came my way again. Of course hindsight is 20-20, but I'm pretty sure I missed out on a good thing.


Somewhere wishing I had a Lovin' Spoonful (they gave us today's title),
Andrew Joseph

PS - what a great looking chair!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You've Made Me So Very Happy

An interlude from the daily diatribe.

Let's talk about sex baby, or rather protection from sex. Like the Who sang, "I'm t-t-t-talkin' 'bout my c-c-c-contraceptive". Sorry, my keyboard is sticky.

Not sure what the kiddies do nowadays, but I can only hope that when ready to get down and jungle boogie with a significant or non-significant other, that proper precautions are still taken. For you, oh gentile reader, here's something I pulled out for you - HERE. While I'm sure that was amusing for those of you who are still reading, today's topic is about condoms. What the heck did you think that was in the photo to the left? Blown glass? ... No... some jokes are too easy. See below.

As mentioned, prior to arriving in Japan, I had never been with a woman in that, you know, way. And I'd never had sex with a woman before, either, though I did have a lot of practice. Those of you who are able to, may ask me to flex my right forearm - it is incredibly muscular, probably from all those years of playing the accordian. Geez, I seem to have a lack of blood flowing to my brain while I write this with one hand. I hurt the other one playing pool. Chalk up another bizarre accident for Andrew.

Anyhow, in the hopes of finally scoring in Japan, I brought with me three boxes of condoms figuring it would last me the one year I was then planning on staying. However, after finding a girlfriend - Ashley - sleeping with another Japanese girl in Osaka while Ashley and I had broken up for a week (ahhh, you didn't hear that story yet), and a lack of proper coordination in applying said condom to the anatomy resulting in a few unusable prophylactics, the box was becoming empty, so to speak.

Thank goodness dear old mom sent me five more boxes, probably silently praying it would keep her from becoming a grandmother anytime soon. I know... my mom sent me condoms. Although since passed on, my mom, Lynda Hyacinth Joseph was very cool. I'm unsure I could ever do wrong in her eyes, though she'd probably be rolling them at some of the lame-o jokes in this here blog.

So, why would I have to have condoms sent over from Toronto to help sate my urges? Actually, the condoms did nothing to sate my urges... but was merely a means to an end. Huh? Come again? Probably. Y'see, there's a size difference between Japanese men and North American men, even though this Canadian was born in England and is of India-n heritage. That's the dot, not the feather. I'm Canadian now and reaping all the glory that comes with it.

I once read in a Penthouse magazine that the average U.S. man is endowed with between five to seven inches, while the average Canadian had between six and eight inches. Let's just say I'm proud to be an average Canadian. My wife isn't readying this, is she? Didn't think so. Anyhow, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Check out the photo above of the two condoms I blew up in three breaths apiece and tied up and placed onto my green velour winter jacket. I didn't realize that there was some spermacide on the damn things, and added an oily stain to the coat, which I hid in this photo. As for the size difference in the balloons, well the difference in condom size may not seem like that great a difference to you, but it was to me. Let me explain by going back in time two weeks before that special delivery from my mom.

Realizing that I was running out of rubbers, I thought maybe I could buy some from a local pharmacy, though someone told me--might have been Matthew, might not have been Matthew--that Japanese contraceptives were smaller than our Western ones. I didn't care about that... I just figured a pharmacy would have condoms - Western ones, too.

Mr. Maniwa, who owned a popular pharmacy in downtown Ohtawara was whom I visited to purchase said contraceptives. Maniwa-san was a member of the Ohtawara International Friendship Association. He was also a bit of a tippler, a leech who once squeezed Ashley's bum and tried to grab her breast, but was still very kind and generous to a fault to Matthew and myself. He was also a very funny man with a wacky Three Stooges sense of humour - minus the monkey wrench of course.

So... I went up to him and asked him in English if he had any Western-sized condoms. Maniwa-san understood English quite well, and spoke it like he was drunk (which was a possibility). He told me that he didn't have any "Western" condoms, but suggested I try a Japanese condom "ribbed for her pleasure". I figured I could invert it so that it would be ribbed for my pleasure. Why should Ashley or whomever have all the fun? Just kidding, they were plain condoms - i just wanted to do the joke. So I bought a box of 10 Japanese condoms, took them home and waited until Ashley came over. That was three days later, but it did afford me time to practice.

So... raging with lust and armed with a Japanese condom and standing in the kitchen of my apartment, I attempted to place the condom onto myself. No bragging here (at this time), but it was a very tight fit... so much so that I could only unroll it past the head before a twitch sent it flying directly at Ashley's face hitting her smack in the nose. I'm talking about the condom hitting her, okay? Well worth the 3,500 yen (US$35) for the five minute laugh it afforded Ashley and myself, but we were now left unprotected. Thus ended the ball game. Sort of. This isn't porn people. I'm trying to turn a phrase.

So... this is the third paragraph in a row I've begun like this... it's why I called my mom and asked for some help. I also went back to Maniwa-san and told him that the condoms he had sold me were too small, and related the story back to him. Sorry Ashley, I told the lecherous old man about you getting a shot in the nose. Ooops... I did it again. Anyhow, he didn't believe the size of my tale, but still offered me a full refund. I told him to forget it - we're friends - just don't tell anyone about the condom shot heard round the world.

Friendship aside, he didn't believe me. It's why after the package from my mother arrived, I took the photos. See below for the close-up. I'm unsure what that orange junk is on the junk protector - but my Japanese photos did go thru a fire a couple of years ago (real time). Could it be hair dye?

Two more stories... when I went to Iseya to pick up my film, the cute early 20's slender girl with red dye in her hair to indicate she was rebellious and who works there did one of those whistles where you put a couple of fingers in your mouth. Anyhow, that whistle brought five other pretty young 20-something slender girls with red dye in their hair to indicate they are rebellious running over to the photo counter as I arrived simultaneously. The six of them smiled at me in unison (which was a very sexy trick), while the one actual photo counter girl found my envelope of photos. Now, as per Japanese custom, they open up the photos and pull out a photo for you so that you can ensure that it is indeed your set of photographs.

Not missing a beat, she rifled through the deck of 36 photos and pulled out the photo of the two condoms and then looked up at me. I smiled, said 'hai' (yes), she handed the photos to me and said "big-gu, big-gu" and then they all giggled behind hand-covered mouths. I should have taken names and numbers, but I had a feeling they knew where I lived.

In a similar vein, I've had Japanese junior high school boys point to their crotch (wearing pants, okay) and say in English: "smal-lu, smal-lu" then point to me and mine and ask: "An-do-ryu big-gu?" I nod in the affirmative and friendly backslapping ensues, as I now have become cool enough to answer such a stupid question. Hell, I'm a guy... of course I answered their question. We're all egomaniacs who believe that six inches looks a helluva lot like nine inches.

Somewhere, a Sheik(h) and a Trojan walk into a bar...
Andrew Joseph
I wonder what happened to that coat? Oh yeah... the stain.
Today's title brought to you by Blood, Sweat and Tears... which sounds alot like how I lost my virginity. Just kidding.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Paranoia

My friend Rob recently asked me if there was ever a time when I wasn't ticked off at Ashley - of course there were... but just like the nightly news, don't we want to hear about the train wreck? Ugh. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, November 14, 1990.

I'm up at 7:10AM. The neighbour dog is up at 7AM. Bastard. I do some dishes and head for the office (Ohtawara Board of Education - it's actually situated right beside City Hall, in a kind of out of the way spot in downtown Ohtawara).

It's a nice day - kindda like a Toronto September rather than a Japan November. Beats me how I'd know that. I have no frame of reference except that it's a nice day. I know. I already said that. Anyhow, I'm late for work, and I don't care.

I've brought along a whole bunch of letters from friends so that I know who to write back to. I've said it before but letters from home... it helps emotionally. It's how you know you still matter to people back home.

I also bring with me a slip of paper that I think indicates I have a package at the post office - and, lo and behold, Kanemaru-san confirms that very fact. Dropping everything, he gets Hashimoto-san (the driver!) to take us to the post office. If you've ever seen an episode of Little House On The Prairie, you may know that post offices are very small, cozy places where everyone knows everyone - it's kind of like a place to gather, except you aren't allowed to mill about.

While milling about awaiting my turn to be served, I notice the Wanted posters placed up on the wall. Yes, these things still exist. Now, I don't have a racist bone in my body - I hate everyone equally - but dammit, looking at the guys in the posters had me wondering how Japan ever solves a crime. I'm looking for a male, Asian. brown eyes, black rimmed plastic glasses, black hair with a Moe haircut. Last seen wearing a blue pin stripped suit carrying a black attache. Okay, but FYI, there doesn't seem to be much crime in Japan - at least not too much violent stuff. (Although I did know that the JET Programme discouraged hosts--cities and Board of Education offices--from placing female AETs on the first floor for safety reasons like privacy from Peeping Tom's. I could see that. It didn't stop them from placing Ashley on the first floor.

At the Post Office, I run into Jeanne Mance Blanc, a fellow junior high AET who lives a floor above Ashley in Nishinasuno-machi (town). Jeanne is from la belle province, Quebec and seems mature enough to realize I'm a dink. Still, I chat with her and invite her over for dinner next Tuesday hoping everyone else I have yet to invite can come. Man, have I become the social butterfly. Back home, I prefer to company of my own solitude in the basement of my parent's house.

Picking up my package, I'm driven home to drop it off--inside are letters from my wacky brother Ben and mom, birthday cards, microwave popcorn packs, condoms (when I find the photo, I'll explain the ins and outs of condoms to you with an amusing story or two. Promise.), and a couple of shirts. Now I'm very happy!

I spend the afternoon creating the fumetti pasting photos of myself and Ashley onto a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.

(Here's the original cartoon... the fumetti exists somewhere, but damned if I know where it is - I've seen it recently as a bookmark, but where?)

I also study some Kanji, and am now up to over 150 symbols now. Apparently one needs to memorize 1,942 of them by the time a student graduates grade 12.

After work, I head over to Iseya for milk and a few food stuffs--the reason I go shopping so often is that my fridge is only 3-feet high, so I can't store a lot of stuff in it - see photo at top... the fridge sits below the microwave - for scale, my head was about an inch or two above the base of the cabinets over the nuker). I head home knowing there's no kyudo (archery) today because Kanemaru-san says he has to work.

Ashley and I are enjoying our kissing (see, we're not fighting!), when the doorbell rings. It's Kanemaru-san saying he finished his work so lets go to kyudo. Let me tell ya, I'm sporting a lot more than a a bow and arrow at this time and really am not interested in anything else.

Whether it's psychosomatic or not, I couldn't tell you, but I no longer feel right. I feel scared now, and reluctantly go to kyudo. I don't practice however, as my shoulder hurts when I pull on the bow, though my ribs have stopped hurting (bike meets car accidents). I grouch for awhile, as I'd like to play pain-free, but I'd also rather be hitting a different target in my bedroom.

Ashley has progressed to the real kyudo target today, and on her second shot she hits the target! Unfortunately, it's her only hit, but she's light-years ahead of me.

After kyudo, we ride back to her place so she can get the package Jeanne is holding for her, but unfortunately she's not home. Ashley makes some really bad cheeseburgers with charred bacon - ensuring that I remain the cook in this relationship.  At least the Kalula is good.

As I'm about to leave at 9:45, her phone rings. It's Rod Coover, a dwarf of an AET that likes Ashley, and whom I'm convinced she likes back. This is me having zip confidence in myself back in 1990. I had a feeling he was going to call. Apparently he and Ashley are going to dinner in Utsonomiya (where he lives) tomorrow night. She wasn't going to tell me because she thought I'd freak out like I'm doing now. She tries to make up for her faux pas by giving me a really nice good-bye kiss. I enjoy it, but I'm not buying it. Coupled with kyudo, my mood is destroyed. God damn Paranoia.

I'm also ticked that she has been invited to Utsonomiya for a junior high school speech contest tomorrow - that should be my job, not hers, regardless of the fact that Matthew, Jeanne and I hated our inclusion at one last week - see HERE.

I go home mad, but continue to work on the fumetti. It looks good as I hit the hay at 12:30. 

Somewhere starting to self-destruct,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title courtesy of The Kinks.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Crying

I thought about skipping these daily glimpses into my life to get back to the wacky writing I did describing Japanese culture versus myself - and I will - but indulge me a bit longer so that you can get a better feel for the day-to-day existence of life in Japan for a gaijin. Some of this crapola is eye-opening to me now.

Tuesday, November 13, 1990.

I'm up at 6:30AM and get ready to go to Wakakusa Junior High School. Tomura-sensei, if you will recall, is the Christian gent who had me over to his house a few weeks earlier - see HERE. He's a great guy and an excellent English speaker, and I swear that every time see him I immediately think of George Takei of Mister Sulu fame. He picks me up at 7:30 and we have a pleasant drive to school in his white car.

Before classes start, I think I have all the katakana alphabets memorized. I'm sure Matthew had them memorized two days after arriving--but then one of us was busy getting biz-zay, if ya know what I mean.

I teach two classes  - one with Mrs. Onuma and one with Tomoura-sensei discussing the cultural differences between Canada and Japan (which is what this blog is all about. d'uh). The students mention that they all want o come to school in Canada. 

I ate lunch with the teachers - finally I get to sit at the grown-up table; after I memorize nine new kanji (the Chinese style letters) taught to me by the two English teachers who take the time to show me the correct order to draw the Kanji. Thanks.

In the afternoon, Onuma-sensi and I play a Q&A game with the students, and we all have a lot of fun as it gets quite silly--to me it's important that the students have fun... it's a foreign language and it can be a difficult subject... making it fun will make it less of a bother to want to learn.

Tomura-san drops me off at home at 4:30 - early, because of a teacher's meeting. I go to Iseya and pick up my film, buy some food, go home and begin making some chili.

Matthew arrives at 5:30, Ashley 10 minutes later. Matthew presents me with my belated birthday gift - a Gameboy!!! Dammit, that was a lot of money and very thoughtful of the boy. It broke my heart to tell him that I bought one for myself a week previous. He told me he bought it last week for me while he was in Tokyo. Aaargh. At least it's not a complete waste, as I insist he keep it for himself.

Tim Mould from Kuroiso arrives at 6:45 and immediately hook him on Max Headroom and Star Trek: The Next Generation. We relax, eat dinner, eat popcorn and cookies (the latter two courtesy of Matthew's girlfriend, Takako - please let me be right about this!). Ashley and I finally make up as we sit under the kotatsu (blanket covered heater/table) with our legs pressed up against each other, and holding hands. Because we're under the kotatsu's quilt, Matthew and Tim fail to get the message to split and stick around til 10PM. We make up some more before leaving on our bikes for her place at 11:30. We ride out, kiss and I leave.

Prior to that at my place, Ashley told me that she had been very sad the entire weekend. So... I guess she did notice how angry I was at her (Believe me folks, I left out the real nasty stuff I wrote in my diary - call it 20-year-too-late wisdom). She knew I was angry because of this past Saturday and my "date" with Takako's sister Kaoru Kurita. She said she didn't eat anything on Sunday or Monday and cried herself to sleep the last three nights. Hunh.Did I really have that much of an effect on her? Is she in love with me? I am with her but dare not say so. I did once before - a month ago - but she stated to my face that she was not in love with me.

I don't know what to think or do.

Somewhere playing with a Gameboy,
Andrew Joseph
Lyrical title by Roy Orbison

Don't Let It Bring You Down

Monday, November 12, 1990.

I’ll admit, I’m no longer sure why I have this day off, or even why Naoko has this day off, or why Ashley suggested Monday for us to travel.

So… if it’s Monday, Ashley and I must be back together again.

We’re going to visit a castle somewhere. I have no idea where, but I’m sure it will be spectacular.

I’m up at 7:30AM, and phone Ashley and tell her she has an hour to get ready and be at my place.

Naoko comes by at 8:30, and I meet her boyfriend named… why do hey say their name so quickly? I have no idea what his name is, but he looks like a nice guy – kind of Clark Kent-ish, good-looking, and is taller than me. Screw the Japanese stereotype of them all being midgets, okay?

He’s driving a tiny white car called a Honda Windy Automatic. All Japanese cars have English names – some make sense, and others… well, Windy.

Ashley and I sit in the backseat. I’m quiet and don’t say much. Naoko even notices. I’m pissed off at Ashley because this morning when she saw me, she didn’t want to kiss me ‘hello’. Why, I ask her. I just don’t want to. She’s so stupid she’s probably wondering why I’m grouchy. Well, it’s her fault. (Years later, I see my role in all of this).

The ride is long. Apparently, we’re heading to a northern prefecture (province) called Fukushima to visit Tsuruga-jo (Tsuraga castle). The scenery is beautiful outside, and I wonder what the hell I am doing here – in Japan and in this car. The trees were all magnificent in their regal multi-coloured splendour. Some pine trees had even turned orange?! That can’t be good. Probably some sort of beetle infestation. The rivers cutting through the valleys of hues were beautiful, but we didn’t slow down or stop for a better look.

Keeping with the beautiful motif, the weather was also beautiful – an odd occurrence considering it always rains when I travel… maybe my mood is full of rain clouds today.

Cutting through the mountains, the car windows began to fog up as a testament to the chill around us. But, as we finally arrived at Tsuruga-jo, I’m relieved to find that my penchent for bringing the rain hasn’t left me—the sky became overcast, and with every footstep away from the dry interior of the Windy, the clouds overhead threatened to open up and spill its icy cold contents… wait for it…. Wait for it… ahhhh, a nice cold rain with winds wafting down from the north at about a thousand miles an hour.

Armed with umbrellas—the Japanese are generally pretty good at having an umbrella handy in the car, and Naoko and her boyfriend are no exception. So we begin to moodily take in the sights.

The castle is five-stories high, with two mini moats placed around it. Externally, it’s painted a nice bright white, but inside it lacked decoration. Naoko told me it was originally used as a ware castle, meaning it was more practical in design than pretty as a palace. I found the interior to be a lot like Osaka-jo (something I haven’t shared yet with you – but three weeks prior to all this I travelled to Osaka by myself to visit some friend of a friend back in Toronto and then slept with her. For those keeping track… that’s two – not that I’d ever stoop to keeping track). This castle’s interior was a museum. I walked up the five flights of stairs to look out the top, and unlike Osaka-jo where I saw a city surrounding me, here there was a more serene park. It was okay… I guess I was spoiled after seeing the view of the past immersed with the present in Osaka.

Again, the four of us head to Mosburger for lunch. I swear I should by stock in this company so I can get a discount.

Later, we visit a samurai army camp beside the castle. This is cool. The life-sized mannequins are all done up (covered) in flowers called kiku (chrysanthemums).

We leave at 3:30PM in an effort to beat the traffic, but of course, we hit the rush hour. If I was homesick, this appeased me. We didn’t get home until 7PM, which left me enough time to race to Iseya to drop off my film and go grocery shopping. By that, I mean I got dropped off at my place with Ashley who rides home.

I play with my GameBoy at home, talk to Matthew and invite him over for dinner the next night. I clean up and am in bed by 10:30, mentally and emotionally exhausted.

Oh… today the new Japanese emperor was enthroned. Some bombs went off, but it seemed like a pretty low-key event to me.

If you'd like to see some more photos... click HERE

Somewhere grouching,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is brought to you by Neil Young.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Like An Arrow

I'm continuing the diary for another few days just to show you all what my life was actually like back then. Sure seems like I didn't want a girlfriend - or at least the one I had...
AJ


Sunday, November 11, 1990

Today, we’re taking in a kyudo (Japanese archery) competition.

I’m up at 6:15AM, and miracle of miracles, Ashley is over by 7AM. Kanemaru-san arrives at my door at 7:05AM – exactly on time to drive us to the city of Oyama (Oyama-shi), in the southern part of the Province of Tochigi (Tochigi-ken).
In his van waiting for us are six very sleepy school students – girls – from Kuroiso Chu Gakko (Kuroiso Junior High School) in the northern city of Kuroiso (Kurosio-shi) where I had my ‘date’ with Kaoru yesterday evening, and two from Dai Go Ko (aka Ohtawra Girls Senior High School).
The two-hour trip is long and cramped in Kanemaru-san’s van. I sit up front in the middle, next to Kanemaru (right-hand drive in Japan!) and have the rearview mirror staring me in the face. It’s not my pretty visage I get to stare at, it’s Kanemaru’s face. Two hours.
Ashley sits to my left and is quiet. Probably thinking up reasons why she hates me today.
Arriving in Oyama, we watch a game where the junior high participants try to hit a target 60 feet away that has six pie shaped divisions, and a central bulls-eye to gain the most points from three shots. The bulls-eye is worth 10 points, with the pies worth from clockwise: three-seven-five-three-five-seven.
The real competition where the high school shooters try to get as close to the bulls-eye as possible is kind of boring as no one comes close—in fact, only two or three managed to hit the target at all, causing Kanemaru-san to lament that all of the girls in competition have a very bad form. He said that in English. I’m so proud of him.
Ashley and I leave the competition at 10:30AM for brunch at Mosburger – a Japanese hamburger joint that has the best burgers ever.
When we get back to the competition, I snap at Ashley. It may have been the events of last night played heavily on my mind combined with her quiet, aloof demeanor this morning, but I flipped out on her wondering why all she can ever talk about is Austria (where she lived for a year), SMU (Southern Methodist University) where she went for three years, and about her cat, Samson.
I also said she’s only called me ‘Andrew’ once, as she usually just calls me ‘man’. For the rest of the day, I notice she calls me Andrew – often. I’m still pissed off from last night, and I know I’m going to be for a long time.
The competition lasts from 9:30AM to 3:30PM, and despite my snapping, Ashley and I head back to Mosburger for lunch – Kanemaru and the girls were smart enough to bring their own bento box lunches.
We leave for home almost exactly at 3:30 and arrive home almost exactly at 5:30PM. Every girl (Ashley too), is asleep. Kanemaru and I are the only ones awake, which is good because one of us needed to make sure Kanemaru-san didn’t doze off at the wheel.
I had apologized to Ashley earlier, but I knew I didn’t really mean it. I made up some crap about my back spasms clouding my better judgment. Although I didn’t really have spasm, my back did hurt—in fact I have been wearing a Velcro back strap around my lower back since I arrived. I think the futon on the ground is making a back destroyed by soccer and weights even worse.
Ashley leaves my place as soon as we arrive, wanting to call our friend Naoko to see when she’ll be arriving tomorrow to take us on a trip to a castle somewhere. As you can see, I have no clue WHERE exactly I’m going… I’m kinda just along for the ride.
Ashley keeps calling me up to tell me that she hasn’t been able to get through to Naoko – and that she’s going to sleep now - but Naoko does call me at 9:30PM to tell me that she’ll be over to pick us up at 8:30AM tomorrow.
I don’t bother to call Ashley up. She’s asleep. So why wake her up?
I call Tim Mould in Kuroiso and ask him how his first month in Japan has been (Tim arrived two months late due to some illness). I invite him over for dinner on Tuesday.
I do some ironing, finishing at 12:30AM, and crash soon after.

Somewhere, arrows are flying,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Don’t Stand So Close To Me

Saturday, November 10, 1990

I’m up at 7AM. Good thing, too because that dog was up at 7:05AM.

If you dream it, it will be done. I start doing a lot of laundry and again clean up the apartment.

I forgo the bicycle and walk out to Iseya and give in some photos for copying and buy a Nintendo Gameboy along with a Super Marioland cartridge and battery pack before heading over top the nearby petshop beside the police station where everybody knows my name—gaijin sensei—as they come out to bow and say konichiwa (hello/good afternoon). I buy three new goldfish and some real aquarium plants to keep my festival-won goldfish company.

Did you know that the sidewalk blocks in Ohtawara are about 18-inches wide and two feet-long and are used to cover up the sewer system? While it was a little ripe in August, it wasn’t as bad as I’ve smelled it here in Toronto sometimes. As well, there is no curb separating the sidewalk from the road.

I walk home, do some ironing and get a phone call from Kaoru who asks if I want to go to a concert with her tonight. At first I say “no”, but relent after she says she and her father will pick me up at 6PM. The word “father” rings a bell, as I finally realize who it is I am talking too. Kaoru Kurita is the daughter of Kurita-san, one of the local politicians. She’s also 16 years-old, incredibly beautiful and sexy, and once played “footsie” with me at a local Ohtawara International Friendship Association shindig. For further reference, she’s the little sister of the beautiful and sexy Takako who – SPOILER ALERT – is married to the beautiful and sexy Matthew Hall. Trust me… Matthew would be angry if I DIDN’T write that.

After that scintillating phone call, I walk back to Iseya and pick up my copied photos. For Ashley’s upcoming birthday next month, I’m going to make a fummeti of Ashley and Hobbes, with me as Hobbes. Basically, it involves using cartoon word balloons with photographic images.

I get home and do more ironing and get ready for my date. When she arrives to pick me up, you’ll forgive me for this, I hope, but she looks stunning. She’s wearing black silk socks that come up to her knees, brown cord shorts and if she hasn’t just shaved her legs, then I have no idea how to explain the sheen. How special. Yum. Cripes. She’s 16 and I’m 26. No.

Her father drives us 20 minutes north to the town of Kuroiso… and then leaves??!! Are you kidding me? Geez. He must really trust Kaoru and myself. Bless him.

As we walk into the cultural center, we run into the Nozaki Junior High School music teacher who announces in perfect English (where did that come from?) that my girlfriend is here. Aww crap. I forgot about that. This should be good.

We go in and sit down and watch the amateur singers perform. The singing is good, but the section on “Americana” used the term ‘darkies’ a tad too much for my liking… still, that was the way Stephen Foster wrote his pieces, so I can’t in all good faith be upset about the Japanese singing it.

At the intermission, a lady walks up to me (and Kaoru) and asks me why I didn’t want to go with her, but I show up here with this girl. I’m too flabbergasted to say anything.

Next, Kathy Samuela who’s an AET (Assistant English Teacher) from a town a lot further south than Ohtawara, and isn’t part of our northern collection comes up and jokes with Kaoru about how she has to watch out for me. Poor Kaoru. Poor Andrew. Screw with me if you must, but don’t embarrass this poor girl.

Ashley then saunters over and gives me the same question as that lady—whomever the heck that is—except she’s really ticked! I don’t say anything. What the heck am I supposed to say? I don’t recall Ashley asking me to join her for this. She probably doesn’t know who my “date” is. They should all be jealous.

With the intermission over, Kaoru and I head back to our seats. She tells me she heard everyone say that Ashley is my girlfriend. She says that Ashley always says she doesn’t have a boyfriend.

Ashley, along with teaching at the Ohtawara Senior Boys High School, also teaches at the girl’s high school. I have volunteered to teach there on more than one occasion, but the OBOE has wisely smacked me on the back of the head and sucked air through their collective teeth, which is what they do when they don’t want to be impolite and say “No, you idiot!”

Kaoru looks downcast—even her perky breasts don’t seem as perky (Folks… I wrote this 20 years ago, okay?). I’m fuming about being accused of lying—especially when I didn’t lie.

After the show (I barely notice the music in the second half, except that there wasn’t a trumpet or a clarinet involved, but there was a breathy, nasally oboe, which spoiled things), I was still mad—mad for myself, but really mad on behalf of Kaoru.

I stomped over to that lady and was about to explain things to her when Ashley interrupted to say she had already explained it all to her. No apologies. From anyone. Am I the only man here at this concert?

Here’s the backstory:
Last Saturday, this 50-ish lady—whom I don’t know—asked me if I wanted to go with her to this music event. I said “No” because I was going to be visiting a castle with Naoko and Ashley that day, and couldn’t guarantee I’d be back on time. Apparently this lady calls up Ashley to ask if she wanted to go to this music event. Ashley says “Yes” but forgot she was going with Naoko and myself to see the castle.

Once Ashley realized her mistake, she made Naoko and I change our travel plans to this upcoming Monday so that she could go to this concert. Great. She now gets to go to a concert that I turned down because I was responsible enough to remember a prior commitment. It makes me look bad. Plus, this lady took Ashley to a festival in another town before coming to the concert, which I missed out on. I stayed home and got to do ironing.

It’s only by luck that Kaoru was nice enough to ask me to join her this evening, and now, everyone else is being stupid about it. And people wonder why I have a bad temper! Do people actually wonder about that?

I apologize to Kaoru for the way the evening has gone. Good person that she is, she brushes it aside. I can’t, however. This treatment of Kaoru and myself is eating me up inside, and I don’t know how to let it out.

I’m sure people are talking to me as we leave, but I don’t hear them. The blood is pulsing loudly in my skull. I’m really pissed off. Reads like it too, don’t it?!

The car ride home is interesting, as Kaoru sits in the back seat with me pressed up as close as she dares and occasionally touches me on my chest in those “you’re kidding me” gestures, and peppers me with questions of my girlfriend. While I answer as politely as I can, I feel like I don’t want one anymore.

I’m home by 9:30PM and asleep an hour later, emotionally drained.

Somewhere wishing I was 17 – but, no… I was a complete nerd then,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Norweigan Wood

Friday, November 9, 1990

Up at 6AM, me and the girlfriend kiss and snuggle, morning breath be damned. I dress and leave Ashley’s for home. I didn’t even lock my bicycle last night because I figured I’d only be there a few minutes. But, this being Japan… and small-town Ohtawara, no one is going to steal the over-sized bicycle of a gaijin.

It’s a dull, cool morning. I ride home in a brisk 10 minutes and quickly get ready for school.

I do some dishes and swear I’ll do laundry tomorrow.

At school, there’s a bunch of flowers waiting for me and another Christmas cactus. I still don’t know why it’s blooming now. (In 2010, I have a Christmas cactus that supposed to be over 70 years old - it hasn't bloomed in three years!)

Class at Chickasono Junior High School is again kind of boring, but I do get to explain all sorts of cultural differences between Canada and Japan. I almost think I’d prefer to explain all of the cultural similarities.
Sasanuma-sensei drops me off at home at 2:30PM. Instead of going to the OBOE office like I’m supposed to, I go shopping at the local Iseya—a combination department store-grocery store. It’s fairly big, and honestly, it pretty much satisfies 99 per cent of my shopping needs.

By the time I head to the office at 3:30 (detouring back home first), Tomura-sensei, the head English teacher of Wakakusa Junior High School is waiting for me. He and Kanemaru-san proceed over the next half-hour to give me proper directions to Saitama prefecture where there will be a conference for all AETs in Japan—apparently I’ve been suckered into giving a speech on how to team-teach (More on that later). The event isn’t for another three weeks, but I appreciate the due diligence of the OBOE and Kanemaru-san to have Tomura-sensei proffer travel directions. I suppose my reputation as a dunderhead with no sense of direction has proceeded ahead of me.

Afterwards, the two of them read and translate a letter that was sent to them from that boy at Nozaki Junior High School (Nozaki Chu Gakko) who keeps phoning me. I’ve been to Nozaki, but I still have no idea who that kid is. Kanemaru-san is having a difficult time reading the letter, as apparently the kid’s Japanese is as good as my own. He asks if I will meet his English teacher on November 25 – that’s a Sunday! Anyhow, there’s also a nice photograph of myself and three No-chu (short version of Nozaki Chu Gakko) girls at Nikko--Syoichi Matuo (the girl immediately to my left) gave me the photo of herself and two buds - the back of the photo reads: "Good morning, Andrew!" I think she's making fun of the only line I understood of the phone calls from the boy at Nozaki who calls every night. Brilliant.

That done, Tomura-sensei tells me my schedule at Wakakusa next week. Oh the horror of horrors! I have ONE more self-introduction to make! Apparently this one class was absent the last time I visited. I’m unsure how an entire class can be absent.

This intro will make 73. Nuts.

I go home, relax and clean-up. I call Ashley at 6PM from me. She’s in bed. I guess I tired her out. Hee-hee. I know she’ll be asleep by 8PM. I make it to 10:30PM before crashing.

Somewhere dreaming about dirty laundry,
Andrew Joseph
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