Native Son, part 1: a letter from abroad

"Today was graduation day for the third-year students at the junior high. I know, I know, they are supposed to graduate in May, and I keep tellin' 'em that but they just don't want to listen. Anyway, lots of people talked and kids cried and overall the graduation was very similar to an American graduation, except afterwards we didn't all go to Ponderosa. Damn shame.

"Of even greater importance is that today I wore a suit, and looked damn good in it, except for the massive sunburn on my face. Many of you may wonder, "Why is it so important that Tom wore a suit today?"

"Well see, every day I go to work and I am the outcast--unsure of when to bow, or stand, and for how long, and wehn to drink or eat, and what to say before I eat and so on and so forth. I am pretty dumb in this culture and I think everyone knows that.

"The one thing that helps me through each day is that as I walk into any school or the office, a sweet reminder blows through my conscious like a gentle southern wind: "Hey, I'm 'bout the tallest man up in this place! And that ain't no bullshit!" Having a nice suit on makes that reminder even louder, and when they tell me for the millionth time that I am good with chopsticks, I say "Shit, you know tha's the truth man!" And they do.

anyway, here are the pics, in no particular order:

1. me in the suit at home, about to go impress the locals.

2. a pic of the flowers the kids at ichinari gave me. funny story about that early times bottle they are in. I found that on the street, and decided to keep it as a Kentucky nostalgia piece. Then I went to the Baptist church.

me in the suit with the Ichinari grads. All participated, except Kojiro who took the pic, also shorter than me, and I could tell pretty impressed by the suit. the lady next to me in the kimono is Kojiro's mom, who makes a damn fine tempura and kimchee. It's the shoes that make her look taller than me, and that one kid is standin on a box.


"I think that is it. Oh and dad, the figures on how impressed the Japanese were today are too high to calculate accurately, but I would say that overall they are almost as impressed as when I told them you were Colonel Sanders."



Native Son, part 2: a confession

The good Son's journey down the wicked path of sin, or- an apology to my parents

I lie restless in my futon tonight, tossing and turning. Finally I realize that I could not sleep until I came clean to you both, dear mother and father. How could I think that you would be deceived by my story that I found that Early Times bottle and kept it for nostalgic reasons. No, I come from fine stock--you both must have seen right through my facade before you finished reading the sentence.

Found the Early Times bottle? Yes, at the local Family Mart, I did find a FULL bottle of Early Times for 1300 Yen, and I did in fact buy it out of homesickness, resting it unopened on top of the refrigerator as a conversation piece.

"How did that bottle come to be emptied," you ask?

I will tell you now the shameful story of its consumption, and how it is completely the fault of your eldest son, my brother, Pen. A smart man whom I respect very much, yet, he has been tainted by the writings of such liberals and hooligans as Socrates, Goethe, and Hemingway.

It all started some weeks ago when my friends and colleagues, Chris and Christian, came to visit. Chris is from Canada, which makes him as foreign as my Japanese neighbors, but he has a good heart and I try to understand his strange native tongue. Christian is a fine upstanding American from the City of Brotherly Love, and a scholar of all things nostalgic. It was this interest of Christian's that sparked the initial conversation of the then full bottle of Early Times. Upon learning that my friends had never sampled the elixir of my homeland, I insisted that they try a taste, but to maintain control so that we could continue our sober discussion of our president's autobiography (Chris accepts America's unspoken rule over Canada with chagrin).

After we drank the stuff another conversation piece came to light. This is a piece I am not so proud of. Probably in some philosophy-induced craze, my brother Pen sent me a Christmas present, no doubt created by hippie revolutionaries, drug takers.

The device is a simple plastic handle with a long metal piece designed to hold something the size and shape of a poker chip. The misspelled and rambling directions of this device claim that it is a "seagull feeder." The operator is expected to load a tasty Ritz cracker, normally served at church functions with cheese, into the metal shaft. Then, with a flick of the wrist, one sends the snack food hurtling for parts unknown, all in hopes that a passing seagull might make a meal of it. Indeed.

I had only assembled the mischievous device and left it in my kitchen out of respect for my kin. Little did I know the trouble it would cause.

Chris, a godless Canadian, and Christian, a morally lacking Northerner, had taken more than just a taste of the brown elixir. Not only that, they had spiked my cola with more of the demonic brew, affecting my reasoning abilities and speech patterns.

They giggled with joy as they grabbed the device and seized my Ritz crackers (which I had intended to feed my Japanese students in the next lesson, in which we would perform a mock communion).

I tried to reason with them as they headed for the doorway, but Beelzebubs brew had a firm hold on my head. I asked myself "What would the president do?" Then I realized that driving a car in my inebriated state was not the wisest decision, so I asked myself, "What would my father do?" Unfortunately, my father had strategically censored all the stories of his youth involving alcohol, so I had little frame of reference other than a story about a man named Buckham.

I was asking myself "What Eleanor Roosevelt would do if she were alive, God rest her soul?" when I was dragged outside and forced to take part in a most despicable act of Liberal Communism. I protested loudly as the metal device was loaded with Nabisco's finest and the unsuspecting party treats were flung into the night sky.

There, a vessel for cream cheese and pimento, lost to the belly of the junior high swimming pool. And there, half of a peanut butter sandwich for after school munching, shattered against a telephone pole. Another, possibly a bearer of Gouda or Cheddar, lost to the soil of Nakayama-san's cucumber garden. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I took part in this dance of sin and immorality.

Had it not been for the glow of that metal device--and Canadian's love of shiny objects--we might have had a fine Christian evening, discussing the importance of neckties and character. But due to that evil mechanism of appetizer destruction, my evening turned into one of sin and waste.

After banishing the evil-doers from my apartment, I went about seeking salvation. I placed the flowers (given to me by the God-fearing graduates of Ichinari Chugakou) in the once-tainted vessel, in hopes that it would cleanse not only the glass, but in some metaphorical way, my soul. Obviously, it didn't work, and Satan's power of me showed clearly once again as I lied to my very own parents.

I write these lines with a painful sorrow in my gut. I humbly ask of you your forgiveness, and I only stop writing so that I can continue my reading of Leviticus.