Night, the Sixth

Recently I turned 27, and the biologically installed aging awareness is at an all time high. Several harbingers came along. Mostly the usual suspects: the ever sly Thinning Hair, the wickedly joyous Wrinkles, and shameless Fatigue – all showing up whenever they feel like it. Granted, these demons have long been with me and we’re admittedly getting along much better than we used to. However there’s a new fear inspiring beacon of age. A pride in my students’ efforts, and a worry for both their progress as well as general happiness becomes stronger every month. It’s getting serious, boys and girls – I’m gettin’ old.

So many hours in the classroom not only instilled a great emotional investment but also certain consequenceless-error radar. Since the Japanese did not grow up in an environment where the words, “Bake off” or “Cook off” signaled a friendly competition which ends in everyone giving away goods, I cannot seriously take objection to seeing an advertisement that exclaims in all caps, “CLIMAX OFF.” The meaning, is clear: SALE. Well, for anyone who didn’t grow up in Japan where OFF is associated with deals and bargains, they can’t seriously blame us for having a misunderstanding about the various goods we’re going to receive, and how we’re going to get them. Then there’s the ever unnerving, “CREAP”. CREAP is, as the label describes, a creamy powder. CREA from creamy and P from powder. It makes absolute sense, from a Japanese perspective – that’s how they make many words here in their own language. It’s just that all I read is, “CREEP”, and further the idea of a creamy powder is in itself creepy.

Pointing out these things as errors is inevitably me not taking their upbringing into account. Therefore I try not to make a big deal when I see what, by all appearances, are horrendously unfortunate uses of the English language. However, recently I felt more compelled than ever to take action. I didn’t, of course, but the temptation was strong. You see, I live in Nakano. Nakano is a town well known for a certain shopping center named Broadway where many an Otaku and SABU-KALU-CHAA folk go for fun shoppin’. Logically, the area has a few Maid Cafés to suit the fancies of this crowd that frequents Nakano. If I told you that the waitresses at Black Cat Maid Café wore cat ears, I’m confident you’ll simply be unsurprised. This is Japan, after all – so we react not {relish} when our long accepted stereotypes ring true. Many people outside Japan view Maid Cafés as a certain fetishized institution. Another stereotype that became one letter away from reality the other day…

I walked past the café called Maid Dreaming. A dolled up girl was handing out flyers outside the door and adjacent to her was a stylish chalkboard with the café’s name, Maid Dreaming, written in a carefully stylized bubble-rainbow font. It must have taken at least an hour to accomplish.

How sad, then, to think that one such dreamy maiden writing the sign forgot to put the D in Dreaming.

These sorts of mistakes are too awkward not to point out. A fairly innocent name can, in d’s absence, suddenly become sexually aggressive. Then again, it’s hard to know in Japan where to draw the line between my business and none of my business. The more time I spend here, the more it seems to be the later.


Ladder. The heat has been a real stair master lately. It just keeps rising to the next challenge. Unconditional summer heat. Like the love of the family dog. Unconditional, and unconditionally there to wake you up with its hot, sticky, smelly breath every fucking morning. That’s Tokyo right now. A big, stinky, hot air piping puppy dog. Don’t let it’s cuteness fool you.

This week I succumbed to heat fatigue: ocular migraine, awful neck pains, and frequent consultations with the mirror-mirror in the porcelain bowl. “Mirror-Mirror, who’s the sickest of them all? Not me? Ok, so can I go lay down again? Great” went many a conversation with the toilet. It only lasted for two and a half days so I can’t say it was too bad. While it forced me to lie in bed though, I was able to take care of some long overdue reflection, meditation, listening, contemplating and dreaming. People I need to contact, house-hold chores on deck, my belly’s newfound beer and ice cream inspired softness, plans for the future, my motivations and inspirations, past efforts and achievements, current efforts: these things came out of the cages.

Since becoming an old man at the young age of 27, the following day I started taking Japanese classes again – the first time in four years. Between taking four classes per day of Japanese five days a week and teaching 6 English classes per day the other five days a week, I apparently put a lot of people, tasks, and feelings on hold.

As I lay in bed, curtained and air-conditioned, the promises I’ve both fulfilled and yet to achieve came up. Among them a truly inspiring  friend without whom I may have never made it back on track to pursue personal happiness. She was the kind of person who understood what it meant to have dreams, to work hard towards achieving them, and not taking the great privileges of opportunity for granted. She called me out for not honoring myself, and for that very important conversation I’ll be forever grateful.

As an {misnomered}“American”, as a white-cisgendered-middle-class-male, I am living proof that the global civilization we cultivate is savagely unfair. Likewise, I’ve never been given a number from the hospital, or a chronic surname like, “Andrew John Grimm, Manic Depressive,” or “Andrew John Grimm, Lung Cancer,” or “Andrew John Grimm, Cerebral Palsy.”

Polly was given a surname in this fashion, and a numbered record. Her options and opportunities were continually cut, pruned, and sterilized – to protect her. So, for someone like me to not go out and make the best of my opportunities was rather insulting and possibly betraying, you see, to our friendship. In the wake of Polly’s life and death coming to mind I wept profoundly, and then – further exhausted than I already was – I slept.

The next day I regained domain over my head and vision, as well as my stomach. I’m grateful for this summer heat induced sickness interruption, as it reminded me of my hopes, dreams, inspirations, and motivations. Overall, it was just another of innumerable everyday reminders all around us not to take our lives for granted. Such trite reminders may seem annoyingly incessant, but perhaps that’s because barely anyone takes it to heart.


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