It got me thinking about myself as a foreigner teaching in Japan between 1990-1993, and how I suppose I must have been a bit of a rebel.
Yet, at the same time, I was pretty straight... a toe-the-line kindda guy... the rebel who would toe the line.
By the way... that's me - the kid, my dad on the right, and my dog Tin-Tin, a blue roan English cocker spaniel. She was the best present I ever got. I believe my tee-shirt reads: "The Moon Is Made Of Canadian Cheese." At least that's what I heard. The photo may be from either 1969 or 1970. I'll go with the summer of 1970 - after Apollo 11 and the moon landing.
Tin-Tin, by the way, is pronounced as 'chin-chin' in Japanese... which means penis.
Okay... back to 2014 for a moment.
Let's start off with one of my favorite non-bands: If you are looking for theme music to listen to while reading this, may I suggest Clint Eastwood by Gorrilaz.
Here's how I was a rebellious gaijin rebel and how I was a toe-the-line kind of guy.
- I was a rebel: the ponytail, later the earring... the big smiles.. the gaijin.
- Toe-the-line: the suit... took having the kids learn seriously.
- Rebel: would joke with students and tech them the bad words.
- Toe-the line: wore long sleeve shirts after Labor Day.
- Rebel: would help the students clean the school.Toe-the-line: had indoor and outdoor shoes.
- Rebel: Sometimes didn't shave when I went to work.
- Toe-the-line: Always bowed and said good morning to the principal and vice-principal first.
- Rebel: Never spoke Japanese to other teachers even though I could.
- Toe-the-line: I won't lie to you - I can't speak Japanese.
- Rebel: Never participated in any teacher's meetings often falling asleep snoring loudly.
- Toe-the line: Studied Japanese when I wasn't sleeping in those teacher's meetings.
- Rebel: Drooled.
- Toe the line: would have seven cups of green tea in the morning.
- Rebel: I didn't have to pee.
- Toe-the-line: Took my role as a role model seriously.
- Rebel: taught the kids bad words between classes.
- Toe-the-line: Used chopsticks as well as the Japanese.
- Rebel: Learned Japanese bad words from students between classes.
- Toe-the-line: Ate lunch every day with a class.
- Rebel: Would try to make students laugh while drinking milk to have it spray out their nose.
- Toe-the-line: Would help them clean up and apologize to them.
- Rebel: Would do it again when next they drank more milk.
- Toe-the-line: Played with the students at lunch time every time I was asked.
- Rebel: Secretly enjoyed the students giving me a neck massage in the teacher's office between classes.
- Toe-the-line: Made English classes fun.
- Rebel: Made English classes fun.
- Toe-the-line: Stuck around after school and did club activities - all of them.
- Rebel: except I never did an English club!
- Toe-the-line: Always said good night to the principal and vice-principal.
- Rebel: Never worked late and left before the Japanese bosses. Always.
- Toe-the-line: Never faked an illness.
- Rebel: Thought about it.
- Toe-the-line: Never visited an adult or after-hours club.
- Rebel: Got blasted at local bar.
- Toe-the-line: Never got so drunk I said something stupid.
- Rebel: Maybe just once when I broke into a section of a hotel and awoke in a diorama of a Japanese forest - still not sure how I popped the lock.
- Toe-the-line: Learned Japanese.
- Rebel: Learned enough Japanese to get my face slapped nine out of 10 times - but that tenth time, it was always magic.
- Toe-the-line: Went and visited all over Japan.
- Rebel: Never brought back omiyage (presents) for the bosses.
- Toe-the-line: Kept my apartment clean.
- Rebel: Never wore the toilet slippers.
- Toe-the-line: Invited bosses for dinner every once in a while.
- Rebel: Destroyed my tatami mats because I didn't roll up my futon in the morning.
- Toe-the-line: Ate Japanese food and used chopsticks.
- Rebel: Would sometimes stick my chopsticks upright in the rice (something only done at a funeral).
- Toe-the-line: Convinced bosses to get me a bug spray to kill the spiders on my balcony by noting that despite the fact that the Buddha will one day be reincarnated as a spider, he would never bother coming back to an unbeliever's place - or a gaijin's. I got my spider spray.
- Rebel: Slept with over 30 women in three years.
- Toe-the-line: But in 17 months of that time I had a girlfriend and never stepped out on them.
- Rebel: Didn't care who I slept with.
- Toe-the-line: Wore a condom.
- Rebel: Sometimes slept with two women in a night.
- Toe-the-line: Not usually at the same time.
- Rebel: Didn't care what anyone thought of me.
- Toe-the-line: Secretly cared what everyone thought of me.
If you know your music, you might have a chance to know - for better or for worse.
Because 25 years have almost passed y since I first set foot in Japan, I don't make any excuses for who I was.
The me of now is probably a more stable person, though I doubt I smile as much as I used to. I'd like to smile as much as I used to.
The old me wanted to be a writer, and initially created a column entitled It's A Wonderful Rife for the Tochigi-ken monthly newsletter.
The current-me... he writes all day at work, and when he wants to relax at home he writes this blog or another blog or another one under an alias. If he's not writing, he is reading or watching sports or going through one of his many collections wondering if he dare sell it to patch a leaky roof. Decisions, decisions.