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Thursday, September 29, 2011

He's Dead Jim

Andrew (left) and Jim do a little B&E.
I thought I would share with you 'some fan mail from some flounder', to quote Bullwinkle the Moose. Actually, this e-mail was written and posted on one of my blogs about a week ago by Jim Paliouras in Melbourne, Australia.

Jim was an assistant English teacher (AET) who was on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme with me. While I was there in Japan (living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken) between 1990 and 1993, Jim arrived either in July of 1991 or July of 1992. I believe it was the former.

Jim was maybe 6'-3", lanky, brown eyes and hair and had an infectious smile that I believe life has found a cure for, but hopefully he is immune to its effects. Goofy-looking in a handsome way, Jim was also very intelligent, but not so intelligent that it got in the way of him enjoying life, and was very funny. Not only could he tell a great story, he could enjoy one as well.

Andrew, I love your blogs! I've been a huge fan of, 'It's a wonderful rife' from its inception and looked forward to the Tatami Times every month. Andrew, you wrote some hilarious pieces which helped keep me sane and extremely entertained. You were one of the funniest, extraordinary and craziest people I had the pleasure of meeting in Japan. In amongst all the pretentious, phoney, cultured and elitist JETS, there was you. Real, out there and yourself. One of the funniest stories I still tell all my friends was a night you and I went nuts whilst heavily intoxicated at a conference. Lets just say, I would have loved to have seen peoples faces when they developed their photos. Thank god there was no CCTV footage of our escapades that night. Do you remember what we got up to?

Deer Jim (the spelling is correct... I don't know how to spell Jim any other way, except Gym, and I'm pretty sure that's not it, despite him being a Greek from Australia)... if you read this - and you better because I'm re-telling this tale for YOU, buddy - drop me a line at the e-mail located above or on this blog, and remind me where in Japan you lived and how long you were there for and tell me what you are up to now. And don't say 6'-3".

(Actually... I found this 2004 article featuring Jim and family! That bandit bought a house from money saved while teaching in Japan??!! I walked away with $10,000 after I managed to save that doing a lot of extra English teaching - in my final three months of my three year stay!)

I'm already pretty sure Jim was a junior high school teacher like myself, because he did organize a football (soccer) match between his junior high school kids versus a bunch of overweight, out-of-shape, over-the-hill AETs.... and I'm actually just talking about myself. It was amazing how in six short years I had lost the ability to slide tackle my opponents into submission. First off, I couldn't catch them... even though I still had that fire inside me which said 'if you are going to try and get by me, I'm going to take the ball away and take you out'. Jim had played semi-pro soccer in ... I want to say Malaysia, though Indonesia is now coming to mind. Let's say Malaysia.  

But... regardless... despite having sucked a lot of wind and sucked a lot of suckiness, that was the last time I ever played soccer. I knew when I was licked and sucked. (Why does my writing turn me on?)

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for drinking in Japan. Although a relative novice to the non-professional sport of competitive drinking, having started when I was about 23 in my first year of journalism school, I found that in three short years I had developed quite the knack for drinking, getting drunk, keeping it in me, and not being an angry obnoxious jerk. I also never got hangovers. Still haven't at the age of 46.

Perhaps because I had an internationally renowned uncle (he was a famous conductor of music back in India, and has been dead for maybe 25 years - despite the booze, like for myself, it never seemed to affect him in his day-to-day activities) who liked to hit the bottle and also never suffered fools or hangovers, I also have that ability to never, ever learn my lesson about drinking too much. Although... I do want to state that I do not drink to excess any more, and pretty much stopped that after I became engaged to a very pretty lady while in Japan.

Fortunately for you, dear reader, this adventure with Jim occurred BEFORE I became domesticated.

Jim asks... do you remember what we got up to? Yes. More or less. You can correct me with any inconsistencies you find in this epic saga. I am offended by the fact you said I wrote "some hilarious pieces". Jim, you bandit! They were all hilarious. Jim taught me the term 'bandit' back then... something that Aussies everywhere seemed to use with affection.

So... what the hell is Jim talking about? What did he and Andrew do that bears repeating by himself to his friends, and by Andrew to his friends in situations not related to this blog? It's true... I do tell this story to my friends quite often, too.

Here we go:

Once upon a time in Japan, Andrew (that's me!) left his sleepy-little city of Ohtawara, Japan to go to a renewers's conference for the JET Programme. Or maybe it was just an AET conference for teachers in the northern Tohoku area of Japan.

I'm unsure. But, trust me... I remember everything else. I think. 

For some reason I was a reasonably popular guy amongst the Japanese, and amongst the non-elitist bastard AETS. Jim is correct, there were quite a few elitist bastards on the JET Programme... people who were there to teach the English language to the Japanese. It was never like that for me. It was all about internationalization. It was to share my life with the Japanese, and they with me, so each could learn that despite our differences culturally, we are still the same social animal. I'm sure when Jim reads this, he would agree. (I hope).

In Japan - when I did drink, which was only in a social gathering, I preferred Kirin beer or hot or cold sake (rice wine). I seemed to have a lot of social gatherings, however.

Perhaps because I felt like I needed to prove to the Japanese - and to the elitist JETs that I could do anything better than they, I drank. In Japan, drinking is a socially acceptable Olympic-level sport. It's okay to come to work with a hang-over... but just don't come in smelling like a vat of booze. And don't let it affect your work.

I fit in perfectly in Japan.

Back to the story: At the reception, after picking lightly at the meals being walked around to us, someone said we should have a drinking contest. There were four of us, and so help me, I only have memory of three of the participants: One was a big American guy (the guy I can't remember visually at all); one was a smallish American dude of Japanese descent; one was myself; and the last competitor was Mister Arakawa, who was, I believe, one of the Japanese bosses of the Tochigi-ken AETs who taught at the high schools (like my ex-girlfriend-slash-sleeping partner Ashley did in Ohtawara).

Our drink du jour was sake - fermented rice wine - because when in Rome...

I am pretty sure there was no wagering involved amongst ourselves - but who knows what the observers were doing.

We had about 30 six-inch tall slender glasses that were each about 2/3's full with sake.

At the count of three, we each yelled kanpai (Cheers)! and downed our drink, turning the glass over.

We looked at each other and laughed. The first drink or two is always easy, because sake tends to taste a lot like water - until it hits you, and you become drunk very quickly.

We upturned seven more drinks... and that's when I noticed the American dude of Japanese extraction being carried away... apparently he had passed out.

The remaining three of us pointed and laughed. More drinks were ordered, and we continued. At around the 25 mark apiece, we lost the American. I never saw him leave, I never saw him fall -- and I'll be honest, I only think this guy was part of our competition because, by this time, I was wasted.

I looked over at Arakawa-san, who held up his glass and saluted me before downing it. Bugger! He was red as a lobster, and probably looked as tired as I was, but he didn't seem to be tiring.

At around the 35-drink mark, Arakawa-san and I were huffing for breath, but still standing unaided... by that I mean we stood straight ??!! and didn't lean, although I seem to recall that the walls were bent at a strange obtuse angle involving elliptic Cyclopean forms.

People... we got to our 45th drink apiece, sucked it down and grinned at each other. Arakawa-san - whose English was better than mine at this point of the evening--checked his watch and said he had to stop because he had to go to a meeting... it was 9:55 PM, so who was I to doubt him? He shook my hand, and stumbled off.

That man is my hero.

Me? I could still hang out with my girlfriend Ashley - or at least someone whom I was sleeping with whenever the mood struck as as friends-with-benefits, and I'm pretty sure that hot, sexy, little Kristine was around somewhere... so I wobbled off to the local disco in the hotel to find either of them. Would you believe it? Apparently I was so inebriated that they wouldn't let me into the disco.

I'm pretty sure I swore at a lot of people, but I decided to go look around the hotel.

That's when Jim found me. We staggered around for awhile looking at girls wishing they had the guts to come and talk to us - but perhaps the waves of alcohol being emitted by our suddenly buff bodies was acting as some sort of female repellent - I have no idea. 

Since it was obvious that none of the gaijin honeys were ever going to Oz to find some courage, Jim and I decided to follow our own yellow brick road down the path of sobriety... or whatever the word is for being inebriated.

At some point in the evening, we each had to take the mother-of-all-whizzes. Me, because of 45 shots of sake and maybe a beer... and Jim because he is Australian and born inebriated or he had joined the competition from the sidelines as an unofficial participant. I'm just guessing at that. I have no idea how Jim got drunk, or if perhaps he and I went and got more booze to drink from somewhere. That seems likely. All I know is that he was still funny and could understand me. I could understand him too - which is strange because I usually have a hard time understanding the Australian accent. Beeee-ya. Apparently that's how they pronounce the word 'beer'.

In that men's room, that was spotless despite there being an AET convention with a lot of very drunk men, Jim and I found a camera. Someone had left it there, and walked off. We began taking pictures. In those days of the early 1990s, it was all film. This one had a roll of 36 in it, with about 31 remaining.... that is until we began to point and click at everything and anything.

I am pretty sure each of us took photos of our own stream of urine hitting the blue urinal cake - which, by the way, is not an actual cake.

Then, when we had finally finished peeing some 4-and-a-half minutes later, we pitched out of the doorless men's room only to espy a large taxidermy exhibit in this quiet little area of the hotel and bumped into it. Glass! Owtch!

It was a forest scene. It was maybe 60 feet wide and 20 feet deep and had a plethora of green-leafed trees, logs, rocks, bushes, underbrush... and animals. Rabbits. Wolves. A Bear. And other furry, blurry critters I can no longer ever recall being able to focus my bleary eyes on. How the heck did we miss this place before the pee break?

There was also a large glass door in the middle of the exhibit.

We tried to open it, but it was locked.

Now here I'm a little vague, but we somehow broke the lock (not the glass). I'm guessing I did it, but it might have been Jim.

Shocked by how easy it was to open, I bade Jim to enter first. He said no way, and bade me to enter first. Like Alphonse and Gaston, we continued to politely ask the other to go first. 

Eventually, Jim called me a bandit and and entered into Eden--though neither Jim or I were naked or pretending we were Adam and Eve. We were just drunk on Japanese sake and beeee-ya with two tickets to Paradise.

I recall Jim prancing around and talking to me in his usual excited voice. Jim was touching all of the animals - and I think taking pictures of me inside the exhibit, and then giving the camera to me, I took pictures of Jim inside the exhibit. We weren't doing anything gross to the animals - I can tell you that - but we were trying to ride the deer and hug the bear. The rabbit was too fast to catch... even though it was dead. What can I say... I'm getting flashbacks of little snippets of us inside the exhibit as I type this out. 

I'm also pretty sure I fell asleep under a large tree and woke moments later in shock as a deer stood over me. Where the hell am I? And then I heard Jim continuing some conversation we had apparently been having with each other while I was asleep.  

Finally having had enough - and actually running out of film, we decided to leave our deer friends behind. You'll notice I said 'deer friends behind', rather than 'deer friend's behind', because we were happily drunk... not happily drunk perverts.

We then staggered back to the main area of the hotel lobby and found our way to the elevators, got off at our respective floors and then passed out asleep.  

According to my roomie, Matthew Hall, he got up twice during the night to smack me to make me stop snoring. While I saw Jim the next morning looking like something a bear used to wipe its behind, he was still functional, didn't seem to have a hangover and didn't smell like a distillery. He, too, fit perfectly in Japan.

I was bright and cheerful that morning (no hangover) when I saw Arakawa-san and shouted out an ohio gozaimasu (good morning)! to him. He cradled his head in his hands, whispered "itai" (pain) and begged me to be quiet.

I laughed and marched off to listen to the conference's opening address.
Somewhere wishing I knew how to break a lock, as that could be a handy and profitable skill to have,
Andrew Joseph
While today's blog title is NOT a rock and roll song, it is a famous line from Star Trek, the original series, repeated nearly every single episode by Dr. Leonard (Bones) McCoy to Capatin James (Jim) Tiberius Kirk. The title and statement, in this case, is in reference to the dead animals we played with. God, I wish I had said that to Jim while we were in that taxidermy exhibit.
PS: Jim, old buddy, old pal... I have my nearly six-year-old son Hudson in soccer, and I play by myself with a soccer ball during his practice. Both of my knees have turned slightly arthritic this past year, making any sort of shot a painful experience. But I still do it, anyways. Since I don't drink much anymore, a man's gotta have some fun some time.
PPS: And Jim... maybe you should tell me what really happened that night. Despite the length of this blog, it still seems rather vague. I wrote it down that morning during the conference... but I was probably still drunk when I did so.
PPPS: I can only hope for both our sakes, that whatever photos we took weren't in focus and thus there is no physical evidence to embarrass us... unlike our penchant for telling everybody what we did. 

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