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Sunday, November 8, 2015

It's My Blog, I'll Pry If I Want To

First off...  a big thank-you to my friend Julien. On Saturday he came over and risked his life and limb to fix a hole in my roof because I'm a chicken (the ladder says it can only hold 200lbs, and I've been more than that since 1999), and because all the roofing people I called are only interested in doing a new roof over the entire building rather than just fixing a hole where the rain gets in (Beatles song in there). Julien is a very good friend, and I am so lucky to know him.

Secondly, today is my birthday. No big whoop. I haven't celebrated it in any grand style in decades - if ever... though I did have a party when I turned 18, and before that when I turned nine. Both in this house, back when the roof was not leaky - as it is now.

But thanks to Julien (and all you other readers who drop in on my life from time to time), I will celebrate...

So allow me to present another chapter in the story of my life in Japan.

It's a long one. (That's what she said.)

Since it is my birthday, and none of you got me anything - that's cool, I didn't get you anything for your un-birthday, either—I thought it might be interesting to have a story about Ashley, the woman whole stole my virginity and never gave it back.

By the way, just a few days ago my wife commented about how often I used to mention her name, in the early days of our dating. Apparently the missus seems to think they look similar. Whatever. I don't talk about her at all nowadays, except here.

The following story is not really about Ashley, though she figures prominently. It's not even about me, and I figure in it a hell of a lot.

It's all about the Japanese... societal, cultural, and work relationships, and friendships, and how everyone seems to know everything about you - except when you are out standing in a field of excellence.


Chapter 15
The Wander-err After that second day in Ohtawara—being driven around to Ohtawara Chu Gakko (Ohtawara Junior High School) and having to kill a spider that was thwarting my so-called love-life by perching near my telephone—I was finally able to call Ashley and make arrangements to ride over to her place in Nishinasuno-machi (Nishinasuno Town) the next afternoon.
I had no clue how to get there, but I figured someone at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) would be able to direct me.
I was expected to go into work the next day – but only until noon. Apparently they had a surprise for me.
Kanemaru-san came and picked me up at 7:50AM and we headed for the office for 8AM. There was no surprise waiting for me there, so I quite naturally thought I had made a mistake—a language-related one. I sat at my desk and practiced my new Japanese lessons of simple conversational Japanese.
At 11AM, Kanemaru-san woke me up and led me to his car. We drove back to Zuiko Haitsu (the name of my apartment complex which I later learned was well-known in the city for its towering eight-stories and opulence – well, it was the tallest building in the city, and was quite nice; but opulent? Maybe for Ohtawara… ).
I was about to say sayanora (goodbye), but Kanemaru-san followed me up and into the place and grabbed the Ohtawara map I had over my phone.
He looked at me and said: “You go A-sha-ree’s?”
Is my phone being tapped?
How does everyone know what I’m doing or whom I’m trying to do? Still, I realized the man was offering to drive me to her apartment so that I could make my own map with notes. This guy was fast becoming my best friend.
We set off. But here’s the kicker. Ohtawara, like many rural Japanese cities, towns or villages does not have signs designating street names. None. Sure there are stop signs, bus signs and speed limit signs (conveniently painted onto the road) but no signs designating the name of the street.
How did people know where they were going? Was this some innate ability the Nihonjin (Japanese person) were born with?

Fun Tip: Traveling and I go together about as well as Alien versus Predator
... see? Amusing, but a bloody mess. I have very little sense of direction, and am completely screwed if the sun isn’t visible.
So there I am… riding in the left-side of Kanemaru’s white kuruma (car) looking for non-existent external landmarks and jotting them down on the 1m x 1m (3’x3’) map hand-drawn by my predecessor, Cheryl who apparently has some keen cartography skills that could have been useful to many an explorer in the past 1,00 years.
For me, however, it was difficult to plot the path to Ashley's:
Let’s see… we’re going straight past the rice field.
… and another rice field,
… and another rice field,
… and another rice field,
... oh god, and another rice field,
... oh, wait! There’s a house with a yellow-tiled American-style roof!
... There’s a fork in the road? Really? Crap! Okay, turn left at the fork in the road that is past the rice field.
... Turn right at the 3rd intersection where there’s a rice field… and then it got confusing.
The roadway we drove through was nicely paved for the most part (no complaints here). It was exactly two cars wide in many places, but usually it was only just one and a half car’s wide, so passing an oncoming vehicle was an adventure in itself.
The roadway was surrounded on each side by thick, wet fields of rice paddies. Ohtawara – Big-Rice Field-Field – that's what it translates to! Did you think I was kidding?
Ten minutes later, we arrived at Ashley’s building. Before I could open up the door and visit the woman I was so horny to see, Kanemaru-san laughed and said “Zuiko Haitsu” and off we went through the streets and rice fields with no name to arrive back at my place.
Instead of his usual parking job of straddling three spots (not an easy thing to do), he managed to park up on the steps by the apartment’s main entrance. Great guy, decent driver, terrible parker.
Getting out, he led me over to the covered bike rack and pointed proudly to a rebuilt bicycle. That was my real surprise!
Built for a giant (me), it was obviously cobbled together from a few other bikes, but it was an 18-speed! Awesome! Back home, an 18-speed was usually only seen on mountain bikes and even then, those were not often seen on the streets. It’s 1990, remember?
The seat was a large padded one—better even than my sofa and that annoying spring. The frame was a men’s frame (with a bar to crush your gonads) and was freshly painted a lovely metallic navy blue.
There was a basket, bell and light on it—and before you laugh at the basket-thing, I found it quite useful during my time in Japan, and the same with the light. But not the bell. Ever... except to annoy other gaijin I was riding with.
It was now about 1PM. I went upstairs and called Ashley and told her I was leaving and with a good tailwind behind my new bike that I should be back at her place within 20 minutes. She laughed at my syntax, because she knew she had heard me at her place 10 minutes earlier.
I was lonely and a virgin, and when a pretty woman asks you to come over and see her, you do it.
What’s Ashley like? She was 5’-3” and 21 going on 22. A Sagittarius to my Scorpio (I was 25 going on 26). She has what is known as white skin, with a bit of ruddiness to it—didn’t notice that in the dark of Java Jive, but it was hardly detracting from her overall cuteness.

Although a few pounds above the ‘norm’ – whatever that is, no one would accuse her of being fat. She had straight mousey brown hair down to an inch above her shoulders, squinty brown eyes with pupils spaced evenly, a nose of fairly normal size and shape, unadorned lips that usually possessed a wry smile upon them…
Ashley was very sweet and was quite intelligent, and it beats me why she wanted to hang out with an idiot like me. I might as well take advantage of whatever that reason is…
I got on my bike and began sweating immediately, as Japan must be the most humid place on Earth.
If you are wondering about the title of this chapter, it is related to the old Dion & The Belmonts tune, The Wanderer.
‘Wander’ is an anagram for Andrew (as is ‘warden’ and ‘raw end’ and even ‘end war’).
It seems like a perfect time to describe my bicycle adventure via song, so let’s sing along to the opening theme from the 1960s television show, Gilligan’s Island:
“Now, just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale.
A tale of a fateful trip.
That started from this rice paddy, aboard this mighty bike.
The rider was a mostly fearless man, the directions incomplete.
He set forth on the wrong side of the road for a three-hour tour.
A three-hour tour.
The weather started getting hotter—the rider he was lost.
If not for the courage of the Ohtawara police (and a stranger in a van who dropped me off at the police station—don’t sing the bracketed part!), he still would be lost.
He still would be lost.”

Alright, Keats it ain’t and there’s still more to the Gilligan song, but you get the point, but allow me to fill in the blanks.
I left my apartment at 1PM, which I thought would be a great idea, because although the hottest part of the day and I would sweat buckets, it was also… uh, I got nothing. I left as soon as I could.
It was hotter than what I assumed Hell was like (I have never been to Cleveland), and wetter with humidity than the ocean (I’m guessing, because I have never been in an ocean).
I began to sweat immediately. I also hadn't been on a bike in five years, but that quickly came back as I began doing wheelies as I rode down the street nearly oblivious to the "Hora! Gaijin-da!" (Look! A foreigner!) catcalls from the locals.
It's cool. I must have been quite the sight for people as I, a big, hairy man on a giant of an 18-speed bike tried to do wheelies while bowing and then waving at them!
Forget about being insular! If I was going to look stupid, I was going to make sure everyone had a good time with my stupidity.
I rode north through town, and then turned west into what looked like a more rural area. By that I mean there was a road surrounded by rice fields. Rice fields for as far as the eye could see. And me on a goat path that doubled as a 1-1/2 lane roadway for cars. There was no sidewalk, unless you counted the wet rice fields as one.
I rode... confident... and then I came to a fork in the road. My map said to turn left. So I did. Ten minutes later there was another fork in the road. That wasn't on my map. Since I was supposed to be going northwest, I turned right.... and still there were rice fields around me.... and then... up ahead.... a town. I raced towards it knowing that this was where I wanted to be—Ashley's place in Nishinasuno-machi.
Arriving at the busy street, I noticed the kanji that said Ohtawara. Crap! Still in my city.
I'm hot, wet, dehydrated and horny. And confused, too. But mostly horny. God she was cute! And waiting for me! I don't want to die a virgin!
So... I turned around and went back into the rice fields... saw another fork in the road, went right... then another fork in the road, turned right (I had always learned that when in a maze, pick one direction to turn and keep to it)… and ended up at a dead-end. Why would someone put a dead-end here?
Don't follow my amazing maze advice.
I rode in a direction and after a while saw a couple of people, so I got off my bicycle to ask for directions. Now... recall that after five days in Japan, I have zero ability to ask for directions, but I could say my name.
Thing is… these people weren’t near the road. They were rice farmers, so I had to slosh through the drenched rice fields in my shoes before I could pull out my handwritten kanji address denoting Ashley’s place. Smart, right?
The farmers began talking to me in Japanese... and not the formal Japanese I had heard and not understood while in Tokyo being addressed by the education ministry—no, this was rural Japanese.
"Daijobu-da!"
"Da?" What the hell does that mean? That wasn't in the language books I had studied for six minutes on the toilet one day?
He pointed to what I assume was a direction and handed back my directions and bowed, directing me that our conversation was over. That was pretty direct.
Okay... but where's the road to that direction? From where I stood in the rice field, a short way off there was a road going off in every conceivable direction except to where I wanted to go.
Uh... I'll just choose one closest to it... but wasn't that where I had just come from when I made my u-turn? Yes... I'm sure of it. I recall passing that vending machine in the middle of the rice fields.
I did not question why there was a vending machine in the middle of a rice field, but dammit! I was dying of horniness. And thirst. Do you know how tough it is to ride a bicycle in the middle of the summer in rural Japan when you've been out in the hot sun for nearly three hours and are completely and utterly lost? And horny? I kept poking myself in my stomach with a part of my body that had more blood in it than my brain—which was a good thing at least the blood around my brain wasn't going to boil.
Searching through my fireproof, eel-skin wallet (Good! That way when they find my fried body, my wallet will remain intact from the sun's rays and they can identify me), I found three 100 yen coins that would help me slake my thirst.
I looked at the vending machine to make my selection.
Cigarettes. Are you effing kidding me?!
I thought about buying a pack to have after having sex with Ashley, but aside from using the sun to light one, I had no lighter or matches, and I really didn't feel like taking up smoking in this heat.
I got back onto my bike and rode 20 feet around a bend in the rice field/road and saw another vending machine! This one had cans in it! I'm saved!
I look at the cans through the plexiglass window while rolling the coins in my hand. I tried to lick my lips in anticipation, but a piece of skin flaked off from my lower lip.
What the hell type of drinks are these? Georgia Coffee? Pocari Sweat? Suntory Whiskey? For real? Alcohol will dehydrate me... so the Suntory is out. Pocari Sweat? What the hell sort of animal is 'pocari'? Is the sweat good for you? No! I don't care—would you drink anything with the word sweat in it? Georgia Coffee? Ashley is from Georgia. I don't care for coffee, but thinking about Georgia makes me think about Ashley, which makes me think about doing things to Ashley. Hot and sweaty things. Gods I am horny. Or I'm hallucinating.
So I drop my 100 yen coin into the machine and press the button for my Georgia Coffee. It tumbles down, and I pick it, wet with anticipation.
Hot! What the fug?! Is the refrigeration out on this machine?! No! It's hotter than the outside temperature! It's hot like a cup of coffee that I've never had before.
A hot can of coffee in this mid-30s Celsius heat? Okay... I've heard that it's actually better to drink something hot rather than cold, as the heat will make you feel cooler.
Maybe that's correct, but all I know is that I burned my tongue and the back of my throat as I poured it down! Now in too much pain to worry about dying of thirst... I did actually feel cooler... still horny, though...
According to my then five-year-old Seiko watch—the same one I’m wearing in 2015—another 20 minutes passed and I haven't seen a fork in the road, people, or cars... which sucks, because I had made up my mind 19 minutes ago to go home. To admit defeat and maintain my dignity and virginity. And while I have tried to take matters in my hands and gotten hopelessly lost, I would at least be able to take matters in my hand and get hopelessly lost in thoughts of Ashley, who by now must be completely worried over my safety.
So... when I saw a small white passenger van approach me, I stopped my bike and stood with my legs straddling it. It was a giant of a bike, and I'm tall, but not quite a giant, so I actually squashed my nuts against the bar that bike companies stupidly place there for men to squash their nuts against.
Waving and smiling emphatically, I made the van stop, which it did because I was actually blocking his path on this goat path cutting through the rice fields.
He got out of his vehicle—something I'm pretty sure NO ONE is going to do in the U.S. or Canada for someone of a different ethnicity that they come across in the middle of a freaking field out in the boondocks... not to mention a stranger hefting a hard-on! Anyone remember Deliverance?
He bowed to me and says something in a language I barely understand: "Herro".
Was... was that... English? Omigawd! I love English! This man speaks English!

I quickly jabber that I am lost and that I want to go to my girlfriend's apartment in Nishinasuno.
"Eigo zenzen wakaranai," he said while having his hand in front of his face like someone had just farted.
Hmmm. I've seen this before. Eigo is English. And I have no idea what zenzen wakaranai is, so either his English stinks, or he doesn't understand it.
Fair enough. I'm in his country, not the other way around.
I pull out my directions... he looks at it closely, bowing slightly as he takes it from my hand, and walks back to his van to pull out a map from his glove compartment.
It looks just like the one on my wall - just smaller.... no wait... he unfolds it - it's the exact same three-foot x three-foot map, less the English clues penciled in by a former AET.
He looks at the map and at my directions... I say "Nishinasuno-machi?”
He understands "Ahhhh soka".
He looks at the address on my sheet and seems confused... he can't find it on the map. Did I write it down wrong? Probably.
He looks at me and points to his van and says in perfect English: "Let's go."
I bow and say: "Okayyyyy?" Do I trust a guy I just met in the middle of a rice field who wants me to get in a van with him? He seems nice. He even picks up my bike and places it gently into the back of his van.
He then does the most elaborate three-point turn I have ever seen, doing it in 14-points. It is, after all, a tiny goat path of a road surrounded by rice fields and vending machines.
We drove for a long while as he talks to me in Japanese accentuated with him smiling at me and ending every sentence with the word "okay."
I look at my watch as we burst through the rice fields onto the main streets of Ohtawara. Apparently I was four minutes away from not being lost, locked in a maze of rice fields straight out of some Otherworld.
We drove for another minute or so and pulled into the city’s main police station. We got out of the van, him pulling my bicycle out, and leaving me outside while he went in to talk. Thirty seconds later, four policemen came out—one to talk, and the others to gawk.
No one spoke English, but when one asked for my nay-mu, I realized he asked who I was. Even now I find it hard to believe that no one knew who I was, even though I had already been in this 'city' for three days. Doesn't everybody know who I am?
I handed him my Alien Registration Card that I had picked up yesterday. He bowed, tipped his white cap and then moved inside the station beckoning me to follow. 
Okay... his beckoning was screwy. Rather than hold his hand open, palm-side up and then curl his fingers up and down, he held his hand up beside his face, palm facing me and curled his fingers down and up and down and up as though he was a great big cat washing his face.
Inside the air-conditioned office, the cool breeze made my nipples erect, but sadly I noticed I was no longer suffering from blood loss to the brain, though I still thought I was horny.
The policeman bade me to sit... and someone came over with a cup of green tea that was piping hot! What the fug! Doesn't anyone in this town drink cold drinks?!
About 20 minutes later, my bosses Hanazaki-san and Kanemaru-san from the OBOE office came. Holy crap. The cops called my dads!
No wait! This is Japan! They called my homeroom teachers!
Hanazaki-san asked if I was okay? A tough question for me to answer even when I've not been out riding around in the hot sun for three hours with a hard-on.
They took me home, smiled and asked me in slow, but very clear English "Where do you go - Ashuree's apartomento?"
"Yes," I smile weakly.
"Is she your gurrfriend?" ask Hanazaki-san with his better English diction.
Before I can provide any answer, Hanazaki-san punches me in the side of the shoulder. "She is very pretty girl. I hope you will be happy together."
What the hell? How did he know? She could just as easily have been dating Matthew, for all he knew...
"Thank-you... but she is not my girlfriend, yet."
"That's not what we heard."
And then he laughed. He laughed the dirtiest laugh I have ever heard since I told my garbage man a joke.
The smirking Kanemaru-san adds, “No baby."
My eyes grew as large as soy sauce dishes as I looked at him in shock and awe. I punched him in the shoulder and we all laughed our asses off.
After they left, I got on the telephone and called Ashley. As she listened to my tale less the horniness, and my apology for making her waste such a beautiful afternoon, she told me I needn't apologize.
She took a nap and was only awoken when her boss called a few minutes before I did to ask her if I, Andrew, was okay.
Man… everybody seems to care about me here… at least the Japanese do.
After hanging up, I noticed it was 4PM, and decided I had had enough adventure for the day and decided to relax with a quick shower and a chance visit with the Incredible Hulk in Japanese overdubs on television.
The doorbell rang at 4:20PM. It was Ashley.


Good ending, eh? Although still virginal after that, the point is she easily navigated the pathways to get to my place in less than 20 minutes.

She may have done it quicker and best, but I had the more interesting and sweaty time.

I love that she came over. She wanted to see me, as much as I wanted to see her. The Japanese folk all seemed to care if I was alive or dead or a father-to-be.

Japan was immediately offering me a sense of belonging.

I hear I got very lucky. Matthew, too. Maybe even Ashley.

I have heard and read horror stories on some of the JET bulletin boards about how AETs and their bosses were continually at loggerheads... how it was boring, not fun, treated like a child, wasn't allowed to teach. Sucks. Sorry.

The best part is that nearly everything I did in Japan was weird and fascinating in some way. Japan... it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and it was the sweatiest of times.

I'm still horny, though.  

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

6 comments:

  1. It's late and I have to work in the morning so I shall have to read the no doubt riveting account of your deflowerment tomorrow. In the mean time -

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

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    1. Not what i expected but likely a better story. ;)

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  2. Thanks for the thank you note. That means more to me than anything. Me and the wife both thought it was really nice for you to write about it. Although I am extremely sore today. Your roof made me use muscles that I think are new to science itself. I do have a nice surprise for your b-day planned out.

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    1. For those of you who like to read comments, Julien brought in a birthday cake for me on Monday, as well as a swathe of lottery scratch tickets (I didn't win anything in keeping my lucky streak intact). The boy is crazy nice. I think he read that I never have celebrated my birthday less those two times mentioned, so he gave it a shot. Sigh. Thanks, Julien.

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  3. By the way... although this was a very long tale, it's always been one of my favorite days in Japan. It's 100% real and unedited. It was the basis for me starting "It's A Wonderful Rife" as a column for the Tochigi-ken JET newsletter. It was decidedly shorter in it's original form - maybe I'll publish that again soon - and lacked all the hornyness and notes about how lost I was, but it was indeed the very first column I ever wrote about Japan - 25 effing years ago.

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    1. its original form, not it's original form. It's a pity I only edit AFTER I publish.

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