One of my nephews arrived in Japan last week and stayed with me for several days before moving on to Okayama, where he will spend the next eight months as an assistant language teacher. His visit reminded me of the days when I myself first came to this country, back in the spring of ’92. Let me tell you, things couldn’t be more different today. Read More at Metropolis
An excerpt from my latest novella, A Woman's Hand, due out eventually. Funny how even fiction has a way of getting to the truth of things.
The women were a distraction.
From the loneliness that was gnawing at me.
I’ve always been a lonely person. Many people think that because I often spend time alone, I’m a loner, but nothing could be further from the truth: I crave to be with people. I don’t necessarily need to be the center of attention, but I do like to be surrounded by people.
Why do you think so?
I think it has something to do with growing up in a large family and being at the bottom of the totem pole, so to speak. I was called the “Baby of the Family” as if I were babied, but the fact of the matter is, the lower you are on that totem pole the less of your parents’ tender loving care you receive.
Listen: when the first child trips and falls, the parents scoop the child up into their arms and comfort it. The second child gets a hug and some encouragement. The third, a pat on the head. The fourth is told to walk it off. The fifth gets scolded for making so much goddamn noise.
And the sixth?
He’s told he’ll be given something to really cry about if he doesn’t stop crying right this second.
It must be terrible to be the seventh child.
Oh, the seventh child has it easy: the parents are so tired of raising children by then that he usually gets forgotten or neglected. Neglect would have been like a walk in the park on a sunny afternoon compared to what I had to contend with as a child.
Older brothers showing their fraternal affection through the administration of the daily Wedgie, Titty-twister, Wet Willy, and other indignities. So, as a consequence of the mild neglect of my parents and quotidian physical and emotional abuse by siblings I developed this inclination for melancholy and loneliness.
Has sleeping around ever helped?
Tame that gnawing loneliness.
Gabriel García Márquez wrote that . . .
His is the Maestro. He wrote that there was no place in life sadder than an empty bed.
Oh? I can think of places that are worse.
A tad hyperbolic, perhaps, but true, nonetheless. My bed today is far from empty—three young boys sleeping between my wife and me, tangled limbs and leaking diapers and I’m constantly rolling over onto Tomica die-cast cars, Lego blocks, and Kamen Rider blasters—and I couldn’t be happier. When my second son woke the other night to find his younger brother sleeping on my chest he cried, “No! No! No! My Daddy! My Daddy!” Now that I think about it, I haven’t felt lonely or sad since I became a father five years ago. Am I tired? Yes. Woozy from sleep deprivation? Yes! But lonely or sad? No, not at all. As for the sleeping around helping, I would have to say, no, it did not help.
 The original quote is “Ninguin lugar en la vida más triste que una cama vacía.” Another good one from El Coronel ne tiene quién le escriba is “No hay medicina que cure lo que no cura la felicidad.” (There is no medicine that cures what happiness cannot.)
My fingers come to a rest on the keyboard.
Is this really writing?
So calculated. Each sentence is.
Back space. Correct. Rewrite. Save. Tappity-tap.
Back space. Correct. Rewrite. Save. Tappity-tap.
Spontaneity has been lost, the flow of words dammed up. Tappity-tap. Back space. Correct. Rewrite.
How long did it take me to write a grammatically correct, yet insipid and meaningless sentence?
Oh, the joy of being an American citizen!
I am finally getting around registering my second son as a Yank, three years after his birth. (Sorry, son.) For those American expats, who are soon to become parents this can be an exasperating, time-consuming process, which entails, in addition to a stiff drink for the patience you’ll find in it, completing the following forms:
DS-2029, Consular Report of Birth Application.
DS-11, Passport application.
SS-5, Social Security application.
The original birth certificate which requires a visit to the Ministry of Justice if the child is a “half”, something I learned only after getting into an altercation with a senior employee at the local Ward Office. (This is so unlike me, but those SOBs at the Ward Office have a way of bringing out the worst in a person.) This, of course, needs to be translated into the blessed Mother Tongue: ‘Murrican.
An affidavit of the child’s name. (Now, one thing nice about the U.S., is that they allow you to choose a name different than the one on the Japanese birth certificate if you like. Your daughter can, for example, be named Hanako Yamada in Japan and Bianca X. Witherspoon in the U.S.)
The original, plus one photocopy, of the parents’ marriage certificate, which in my case will require going back to the ward office, and apologizing for the misunderstanding the other day. (Sigh.) Oh, yes, this needs to be translated into English, too.
Original plus one photocopy of proof of termination of all prior marriages. (As if going through with the divorce wasn’t painful enough, now I have to beg the Ward Office to provide proof that I am a scoundrel. They’re on to me.)
Evidence of parents’ citizenship, original plus one photocopy.
Evidence of physical presence, such as high school and/or college transcripts (which I actually do have and like to whip out from time to time to prove what a marvelous student I was. No one believes me. The impudence!), wage statements (Wages? Y’gotta be kidding. Why do you think I came to Japan in the first place, silly?), credit card bills, former passports, etc.
Both parents’ IDs. Originals and copies, but of course.
The application fee. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Mug shots of the child for the passport.
One self-addressed, “LetterPack Plus” envelope.
Two days in and I’m just scratching the surface of paperwork. Fortunately, the Tokyo Embassy’s website (see Citizen’s services) does an outstanding job in walking you through the process. They also provide templates for translating the necessary Japanese documents.
Now, back to the paperwork. Better fortify myself with another gin and tonic before I take that next step.
The day is coming to an end.
The wind stills and the street below my balcony grows quiet.
A week has come and gone. Time passes too quickly.
One moment there is a phone call from a familiar voice and a visit by a woman I have come to love.
But, the next moment, I am saying good-bye, and am alone again,
My skin can feel it: time and love waits for no one.
I sometimes think that the only reason we have memories is that we might recall in bad times those times when we were happier. And with those memories, we are accoutred for our journey on,
Through the desert.
Small drops of water on a parched tongue.
I can get so thirsty at times.
But all I can do is press on,
One step at a time,
Each step sinking in the sand as I,
Search for the next oasis,
That is you.
I came across this earlier today:
"Grants of up to $2,500 each are given twice yearly by the Leeway Foundation to women and transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, or otherwise gender-nonconforming poets, fiction writers, and . . ."
Now, I'm all for gender equality, but I must say the above poses something of a dilemma.
See, writers, by profession, are liars. They just make shit up. They cannot be trusted to tell the truth.
Take Gabriel García Márquez. The shameless liar, wrote in his Memoria de mis putas tristes about a beautiful fourteen-year-old virgin falling in love with a ninety-year-old man. Yeah, right, Gabo! In your dreams, you dirty old man!
So tell me, how are you supposed to take one of these lying bastards (or bastardettes) at his (or her) word, when he (or she) says that he (or she) is "genderqueer", whatever that means.