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Monday, February 10, 2014

How Andrew Got His Groove Back

With a few story ideas being fleshed out, and with the missus sitting in the computer room all day long studying for an exam, I now only have a couple of hours to try and write something.

Rather than speed through one of the stories I'm already working on, let's see if I can come up with something else in the mean time.

Since this blog is about Japan, how about we start at the beginning... like with my first day in Japan... and one of the the very first things I ever did in Japan way back in August of 1990.

That was before there was a thing called a blog, but back then, I wrote about Japan for the Tatami Times, an JET newsletter for Tochigi-ken.

Buddha only knows how long that newsletter had been published before I arrived, but the editor/publisher at the time had asked for anyone wanting to write about anything could indeed do so, because they were always looking for something interesting to write.

I had just arrived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken from Toronto where I was just coming off from working as a newspaper reporter for the Toronto Star, one of North America's biggest dailies.

The Toronto Star was also the basis for the newspaper where Clark Kent worked when not flying around as Superman - at least at the very beginning of the comic book! Hemingway had worked there, too.  

I had been working for the paper since April of 1990 when I actually left my last year of journalism a few months early - prior to graduating - for the opportunity to join the prestigious Toronto Star Summer Internship Program.

Don't worry... the program was so prestigious that that Humber College graduated me anyway, as the whole goal was to get its students prepared for a job in the industry. Working for the Star right out of school... that was a coup for the school.

It was a huge coup actually, as I became the first community college journalism student in Canada to ever be accepted in the newspaper Internship... it was something that Humber realized would bring instant cred to the school - proving that you didn't have to be a university student in journalism to become a good enough reporter to get in with the big boys like the Star.

Clark Kent. Ernest Hemingway. Andrew Joseph. (Fiction - non-fiction - me)

The fact that I already had a university degree was unimportant, because it was all about what Humber College had taught me that got me into the program - and because of my association with the Star had also got me into the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme to teach English in Japan.

Two birds - one fugging huge stone.

I had no idea that I could write fiction when I decided to do so for the less prestigious, but still cool Tatami Times, but if there was one thing I had after being selected to the JET Programme and being the first student from a community college getting into the Star internship - well, it was that I now had a huge ego.

No.

Strike that.

I had a lot of fricking CONFIDENCE.

There is a difference. You might think I have an ego, but I might think I am merely confident.

The only way I had an ego was that I was a journalist (not yet a writer) and nothing yanked my crank more (still a virgin) than seeing my name in print (yes, print) and knowing that a hundred thousand or more people might be seeing my words and my name on a daily basis.

Yes... at the Star, I had to write three 10-inch articles a day, plus work on another story I wanted to write. It's because of this that I can spit out a blog here, plus work at my day job as a magazine writer in 2014, and maybe even toss out another blog or two for this or the other two or three blogs I write.

Anyhow... Japan.

Do you know how I know I didn't have an ego? It's because I was afraid when I arrived in Japan. Scared out of my shorts.

My first night in Tokyo, I was watching the US attack Iraq in the Desert Storm action on CNN while in my hotel room.

I'm not sure, but it was a sign that I should get up off my bed and take action myself... to go boldly out into the city and grab some gusto for myself!


I bravely walked out of the Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo all by my lonesome... stepped out those sliding glass doors... looked up at the 9PM night sky of Tokyo and couldn't see a single star... all I saw was some place I did not recognize.

Everywhere I looked, people spoke a language I had never heard before. Loudly, or so it seemed...

Cars everywhere... driving on the wrong side of the freaking road! Fast, or so it seemed...

A city that looked as large as Toronto, but bigger... I knew that for a fact.

Neon lights every where. Billboards atop and in front of every single building with words that I couldn't read or understand.

It was 9PM  and it was still over 33C outside. I was sweating... but it wasn't only from the heat and humidity.

I was going to go for a walk and look around - check out the sights, the sounds, the smells... maybe get something to eat... maybe buy a few souvenirs...

So... I took a right turn after exiting the hotel... walked to the corner where the street lights were... waited until the light turned green and was about to cross the street... and then I looked out in front of me... and god damn it... it scared me.

It. Scared. Me.

I hadn't been scared in two years - since I joined the journalism program at Humber College... there, and in Toronto... I came into my own.

It got me to where I was right now in Japan... standing on a corner watching all the headlights speeding towards me... the brake lights flashing red in my face... the crush of people pouring all around me... and...

... and... every single bit of that self confidence left me.

Rather than look the fool in case everyone was watching me come and go at the hotel (that's called paranoia, folks), I turned right at the corner I was on... and continued to walk along the side of the hotel.

At the next corner, I again thought about crossing the street, but again... my brain said 'no fricking way, Jose-ph', so I turned right again and continued to walk along the back of the hotel...

I came to the third corner... and this time there was no hesitation on my part... I didn't even consider crossing the street and quickly made a right turn... and another right turn, and then a right turn into the hotel.

Twenty minutes of non-exploration in Japan.

The only think I had explored was my own inner psyche, and I didn't like what I discovered.

Japan had scared the crap out of me.

As I walked back in through the hotel lobby, I proceeded to march slowly - gotta look cool in case some one was watching - back to the elevators to get to my hotel room where I could hide from the world for the night.

But I didn't quite make it.

A very, very beautiful brunette stopped me to say hello.

She literally stopped me in my tracks. 

That had never, ever happened before in my life.

Yes... I had dated back in Toronto, but not a hell of a lot. And truthfully, every woman I had dated, I had to chase and chase long and hard, if you know what I mean (I did say I was still a virgin at that time, right - 15 and never been touched).

Now granted, at this point in time at the hotel, all I had was a beautiful woman saying hello to me... but that had never happened before.

What could she possibly want with a fraidy cat like me?

So... throwing caution to the wind, I said hello back and introduced myself to the American woman of Japanese descent named Kristine South.

Intelligent, witty, sexy and armed with a crutch to support a broken ankle, I believe, the brown-haired Kristine charmed the pants of me - which was easy to do, as her smile had me ready to rip my pants off - and asked me to join her and her fellow Saga-ken AETs on a trip about the town to see the sights.

I looked down into Kristine's deep brown eyes, glanced quickly at her big, round breasts and thought: "Yeah... Japan... I think I'm going to like it here."

Ha! Japan had quickly sucked away my self confidence during a quick 20 minute walk, and 20 seconds later Japan had quickly re-inflated my self confidence thanks to one pretty woman's single word: "Hi."

Hi? Hai! I certainly was high now!

And that, my friends, is how Andrew got his groove back.  

Somewhere needing to get his groove back,
Andrew Joseph
PS: 46 minutes.
PPS: Yes... Kristine once sent me the above 'dirty' post card. I'd like to think I knew what was on her mind. That's self-confidence.
But, in truth, I did not know what was on her mind. That's ego. As in 'I didn't have one.' 
PPPS: Kristine does not know how much she meant to me in Japan, and why I think fondly of her (and her lucky bastard of a husband) right now.

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