Nov 19, 2006

In Which I Drink, Think, and Sing a Sex Pistols Song

You know, a tie makes a great sleeping mask in a pinch. I can hardly sleep in the light, but tying up my fashionable neckware into something useful allowed me to actually sleep until 11:30 this morning.
I woke up in Kurashiki in British Girl's guest room feeling something between groggy and unconcious, the result of a sudden pull out of R.E.M. sleep. I wondered what the noise was, and realized that it was the South Park theme music. I pulled on my various garments, and stepped into a living room larger than my whole apartment where British Girl was watching cartoons.
"Thanks for letting me crash here."
"No problem. It's what having a huge place is for." British Girl's apartment is huge. She had a very rich student who moved to England for a while but didn't want to sell her place. So, instead, the student agreed to rent it to her favorite teacher for next to nothing. I thought that British Girl was kidding when she said, "don't worry about missing the train, you can crash in my guest room." Nope. She honestly has a guest room. And a wine closet. And two balconies. I seethe with envy. (And yes, I just crashed at her place. That was it. Now wash your dirty minds.)
"How are you?" I asked.
"I shouldn't have bragged about how I never get hung over," she was curled up in a chair clutching a blanket, "because I've got a bad one now."
"Ha-ha," I said, "I'm fine."
"Well, that's because you cheated."
"Yes. Pacing oneself is cheating. I wasn't going to get trashed after what happened with the night before last. Which South Park is this?'
"The one where the elephant makes love to the pig."
"Cool. Mind if I watch?"
"Go ahead." I hadn't seen South Park in years. Not since I was a sophomore in college and had cable, actually. It's still funny.
I left and made my way to the train station, the rain coming down in a way that made me feel oddly at home. I was still in my suit, and I could feel rivulets of moisture seep into my open collar. I quite liked it, actually. It reminded me of the countless other times in Oregon that I'd been stuck somewhere without an umbrella. The rain was a sort of balm, and I realized as I walked to the now-familiar stairways of Kurashiki Station, that I no longer felt "threatened," so to speak, by Japan. Even though it is decidedly an alien environment in which I do not speak the language, I suddenly realized that I had momentarily lost my anxiety about my situation, that I was suddenly comfortable being in a strange place.
I stepped on the train, and went home.

Two nights prior I had a horrible and embarassing experience. Mr. Ecaudor, who seems to have a very "gambatte" personality, wanted to introduce me to another gaijin bar here in town, this one a sort of Latin-themed affair. He mentioned that they were having "Retro Night" that night, and asked if I liked 80s music. Of course I like 80s music. 80s music is the universal guiltiy pleasure that everyone has, whereby it's kind-of-sort-of not a guilty pleasure anymore.
We got there around eleven or so, and began mingling nicely. I didn't really know what to expect, and spent the first hour or so sipping gin and tonics (my drink of choice) and talking to whomever walked in. "Hi, I'm new in Japan!" etc., etc. You know, bar banter.
The music was somewhat disappointed. Apparently the D.J.'s idea of "Retro Night" was playing the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. I longed for extended New Order remixes, but, alas, it was not to be.
After about an hour more people showed up, and the proprietor (a huge Japanese guy in a leather coat and tiger-stripe t-shirt) began walking about with a bottle of tequila in one hand and a double shot glass in the other.
You can probably see where this is going.
He began working the floor, and eventually came to me, pouring me a shot. "What is this?" I asked.
"Tequila," he said. The glass was substantial. I looked into its seemingly harmless transparent depths, glass and liquid bending the light. I should not drink this, I thought. Every single time I've ever had tequila, bad things have happened. A single shot is unpleasant enough. A double shot after two g&ts could make me puke. I knew this.
And I threw it back anyway.
In addition to the burning pain of Jose Curevo's rapier-like stabbling through my throat, I immediately felt my bodily system's approbations of my lack of reason. I began to feel all the wheels and workings of human digestion suddenly screeching into a dramatic reverse. The one upshot is that I was able to exert enough will actually swallow most of the vomit, forcing my noontime yakisoba back down into my guts where it belonged. However, during the process of swallowing, a small quantity of vom managed to escape into my mouth proper. It was too large a quanitity for me to retain in my mouth, and I was already engaged in the process of swallowing, so I ended up spraying it onto the dance floor like a chunky plant mister. (Two days prior I'd told two of my friends that I would never puke in Japan. They both said "yeah, right.)
The proprietor thought this was hilarious.
He grabbed a towel, cleaned stuff up, and directed me to the bathroom. When I got out, he was still laughing. He put his arm around me, ordered the bartender to get me another gin and tonic.
"Don't worry," he said, "that happens here all the time."
But I did worry. Even though no one seemed to care, even though everyone seemed to forget about it, I felt like a complete loser for the rest of the evening. Later, while we sobered up whilst eating pork fried rice, Mr. Ecaudor tried to cheer me up by telling me about all the stupid stuff he's done. It worked a little, but I still felt like a fool well into the next day.

The next day, fortunately, I didn't have a class until 1:00, and a fairly light schedule. I actually had time to go home in the middle of the day and have a nap, which was highly useful. British Girl mentioned that a bunch of people were getting together in Kurashiki for dinner and karaoke that night, and asked me if I wanted to come. I said yes. We went to the station straight from work, and met at a restaurant with thickly carved wooden benches. It was a substantial crowd. My manager (whom I'll refer to as Manager) was there, as well as his girlfriend British Girl Factor Two, Ghost Face (but no Catgirl), and another company worker whom I'll call Innocent for reasons I'm not going to go into here. There was also a flock of other people who worked for various schools around the area crammed into the place.
I ordered oolong. There would be no puking on this night. I also ordered Curry, which was delicious. We finished up, and made our way to a karaoke parlour where there turned out to be quite the wait for a box. I began to talk with a few people I didn't know. There were two other teachers who'd only been in Japan for a short time, and we started chatting.
"One thing that I wanted to do here," said a hipster-looking girl in a trucker hat, "is take some time to read cool books while I'm here, since I figured that I'm going to have a limited access to English language stuff." This was cool. This is the exact same thing that I'm doing. "So right now I'm reading the Iliad," she said.
"That's awesome, I said, I'm doing the same thing. I just started on A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."
"I love James Joyce! That's so cool! You need to tell me what you think of it, when you're done."
"I'll do that."
"You know what's funny," said Ghost Face, "is that you can actually get English Language stuff here really easily." We just sort of looked at him.
"Yeah," I said, "but it's expensive."
"Yeah," he replied, "but you can still get whatever you want. And shipping from Amazon isn't that bad." We continued to just sort of look at him. I don't care, I'm still reading James Joyce and Laurence Sterne and stuff while I'm here, despite the easy access to other things.
We got a booth, and proceeded to sing our hearts out. I continued to order oolong. Ok, so I had two beers, but I stayed obstinantely sober whilst everyone else got trashed. I belted out Bullet With Butterfly Wings and Anarchy in the U.K. (with some backing vocals from the actual Brish people), tried my best to sing Fake Plastic Trees, and joined in a rousing rendition of Like a Prayer. At some point, someone decided that Mr. Roboto would be a good idea. They were wrong, though. Mr. Roboto is never a good idea, not even during karaoke. Fortunately, Love Shack is always a good idea.
While I sipped tea and listened to gleeful mutilations of pop music, I realized that a lot of these people were remarkably similar to myself. It seemed that lots of them had a sort of "quarterlife crisis" and thought "Well, why not go to a foreign country?" It was a room full of twentysomethings who had all almost impulsively shipped themselves to another country, with little clear idea as to why they wanted to abandon the familar for a time. Knowing this, I was much more at ease. The night before, I'd felt like quite the idiot and social failure, but all the foreigners here seemed to be in the same "place" as me. I'll only be here for a year, so I doubt that I'm going to make any lasting friendships (yes, I'm cynical about things like that) but I don't have any anxiety about finding people that I can at least temporarily connect with.

I missed the last train, of course, and hence had to stay in British Girl's guest room. When I got back to what I suppose is called "home" I took a shower and cracked open Portrait of the Artist. It's odd, getting comfortable without becoming familiar.


Joseph said...

Hah! Told you so!

Eric said...

At least you didn't puke on your own doorstep. Not that I would know anything about that. Just stay away from the mead.

Keep reading the good books. I'm telling you, give Dante another try, and this time read the whole thing. Paradiso is quite lovely.

Joseph said...

Much as I respect your taste in general, Eric, here I must register dissent. Paradiso is awful and boring. The Inferno and Purgatorio are good, though.

Eric said...

Should I respond? Hmmm. Apparently everything falls apart for Dante once Beatrice shows up. He stops describing all the different ways to torture people and just wants to snuggle up next to that booty. Can you blame him? Dude, she was hot!

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that Beatrice was, in fact, all that. I'm just saying that moving from graphic, queeze-inducing torture scenes to weird rambling about the beauty of spheres and mash notes for some girl he barely knew is a bit of a let-down. That's all.

Joseph said...

WTF? Why the hell did it use /that/ display name? Something screwy is happening in the merger of blogger and google, is all I know. In case it does it again, this (and the previous post) is Joseph.