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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Andrew Goes Dark In Japan - Being Lonely In Japan

Because one never knows the future, allow me to present for the first time anywhere a scholocky bit of poetry I wrote in June of 1992 when I was sitting in my apartment in Japan depressed... not in the clinical, suicidal sense, but rather down with damn near everyone in Japan.

Actually, that's an over statement. I wasn't down because of Matthew, my good friend who lived nearby, but the dear boy was becoming ultra serious with his soon-to-be wife Takako, so he wasn't around as much... and besides, I wasn't the communicative type back then - at least not about crap bothering me.

As well, the Japanese folk around me weren't bothering me. I was probably more down on my self for an inability to communicate effectively with them except for the women who would walk through the revolving door on my bedroom in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken.

No... I was rather upset with my fellow AETs (assistant English teachers) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

I was upset because I had been snubbed for an invite to an AET party.

Me... the funny guy... snubbed... that type of sh!t wouldn't bother me too much nowadays (I lie), but back then it really pissed me off.

Background: I'm a brown guy... a Canadian born in London, England to parents born in India. I have been living in Canada since I was four and in order to fit in, I have always tried to be more Canadian than the next guy, short of snorting maple syrup up my nose.

I had always wanted people to look beyond the color and see me. Andrew. That nice, funny, sort of okay looking guy. But... not everyone could do... seeing color first.

Growing up where I did in central Etobicoke (where I live now), it has always been a pretty white neighborhood. My family was and remains the only ethnic minority family on the very long block. I'm cool with that now... but even in school, there weren't that many minorities... and for me... in high school... there weren't that many kids who were nearly two years younger than everyone else... or shorter... or with glasses... or without any friends.

I had friends, I tell myself now, but I ate lunch every day in Grade 9 by myself. Such was the luck of scheduling. One of my better friends was Dave Foley... he's the comedian/actor from Kids In The Hall, News Radio and I think host of some Poker show (that must suck).

But... that all stuck with me... in my head... I let it all define who I was... which was my mistake. It's why I didn't date anyone until I was 22, or get laid until I was nearly 26 - one month into my stay in Japan.

I basically reinvented myself in 1988... and became more outgoing... less shy... bigger, stronger, faster... more aggressive... good enough to become a newspaper reporter with the Toronto Star and good enough to be able to quit that job to go and be a junior high school English teacher in Japan.

I was the gregarious, out-there, wild and crazy gaijin (foreigner) who always had a smile on his face, could do no wrong, was helpful to all Japanese and gaijin and mindful of Japanese culture. I was able to talk my way into the panties of any gaijin woman I wanted - pretty much...

So... by June of 1992, after nearly completing my second year in Japan, after being snubbed for a stupid party I wouldn't even have gone too... I was pissed off... going on about four plus months.

Pissed off because I would have appreciated the invite, and disappointed that all of this was a bad reminder of all the loneliness crap I endured in high school. Back then... I didn't count. Back then, I was a nobody... and the snub was the last straw at reminding me that I hated my teenaged years and would not stand for it.

To combat that, I decided to say 'Eff You" to everyone on the JET Programme. I quit my position as editor of The Tatami Times (Tochigi JET newsletter), respectfully declined the offer from AJET Japanese senior officials to take over the then-vacant position of leader of Tochigi's JETs, unplugged my phone and quietly ignored the gaijin world. Actually, I would unplug it after 6PM every night.

My sourness had actually begun back in February of 1992... my cat died back in Toronto, followed by my grandfather a week later.

It was when I began drinking heavily. Not for social experience, but rather just to get drunk. And a few times a week to get laid, as news spread amongst the female population of my small city that I was hanging out nightly at the 4C bar in Ohtawara. My morose-ness was apparently good for business. I constantly had Japanese women come up to chat with me all the time. Sad but true. I know... boo-hoo.

Even without knowing what the hell they were saying half the time, local women would come back to my place for a little bouncy-bouncy. I have no idea who most of them were, but I was counting each one in my little black book of fame. I think I even had sex with a few of them on more than one occasion.

Believe it or not... I was still a very functional AET during the day... part of the blessing of never getting a hangover, plus having a cool enough mother to send me over boxes of condoms without asking questions.

By June of 1992, however, after pretty much not having had a relationship last past four hours, I was growing wearing of my self-absorbed sniffling, and judging from the poem, I was about to come back out of my self-imposed exile.

Japan... the country that shut itself off from the rest of the world for 250 years, and Andrew Joseph, the gaijin who kept getting laid did the same for about five months.

In a fit of narcissism, however, I wrote a poem. A poem without a title, and proof positive that I am not a poet. I have also since come to the conclusion that I am not a writer so much as I am a story-teller. I don't believe either are rich.

I do mention the party snub, however, in passing, so you can tell that months later I'm still angry.

That's me... I never seem to be able to forget a slight. Even now. Hey... at least I know who I am. Then as now. 

Anyhow... I call this "The Poem With No Name". No I don't. I'm sorry... it never had a name back then and doesn't need one now.

The soundless noises reverberate
My heart begins to palpitate.
Sight grows weary and my mind begins to swim
As I ponder the deep dark mysteries within.

All alone I doth travel
By passing the circuits too complex to unravel
I burrow down deep ere like a mole
To find out what indeed may be my role.

To be a leader I do dream.
Personal problems seem to take out steam.
Perhaps a writer is what I’ll be.
I’ve got a head start, can’t you see.

Down many roads I will tread,
Until my circuits say I’m dead.
Will I be remembered? Will I be great?
It’s up to me or is it Heaven’s fate?

All alone with everyone.
Having a party with just one.
Time to come back out I’m told.
If I stay too long, I’ll never grow old.   

June 1992
I guess I discovered Comics Sans Script on my computer in Japan... the one at the Ohtawara Board of Education Office... that I used every Friday. Gawds... such simple meter in this poetry. Like I said... I'm not a poet. I'm a story-teller. You can tell, because originally, I had only planned a three-line intro to this blog.

Andrew Joseph             


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