Thanks to Everyone

for chiming in on the Xanga Premium stuff. I may end up paying for it, if only to support the people who provide this service, and it IS service, especially for guy like me who keeps spewing words out, as well as providing me the opportunity to meet cool, new people online: Taku, Sleetse, Fooky, Nefarious, Tigger, Hanzo (I just love to PR!) as well as allow me to keep in touch with my kids, which are too many to list here…

Not Living Up to Expectation
This is a second installment, the continuation of yesterday’s entry.

Yes, it was a new, cool lifestyle, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I worked part-time at a Manju shop in LA’s J-Town–officially known as Lil’ Tokyo. It’s there I first learned to speak Japanese. I had heard it most of my life and even “studied” it in elementary school, but I never really understood it until I worked at the sweet shop, where both the full-time workers and the majority of the customers spoke nothing but Japanese. The first few weeks were a fiasco.

A customer would walk in, look at the sweets in the showcase, and say, “Eeto, kore to kore to kore wo kudasai.Give me this and this and this.

With a face that begged for understanding, I stumbled over my own tongue as I tried to fulfill his request using my index finger.

“Uh, kore, ichi? Um, kore, ichi? Er, kore, ni?” Uh, this, one? Um, this, one? Er, this, two?

Whew! Fortunately for me, I understood more than I could speak and the owner did not fire me. Even more fortunate, however was the weekend. I worked 5 to 10 on Friday and Saturdays and 5 to 8 on Sundays. I guess the hours weren’t so fortunate. I was puzzled why the store was open so late. I mean, who would buy manju at 9pm? Well, J-Town was the place where many JAs gathered, especially on weekends, when they came to do their weekly shopping of Japanese goods. At night, however, it was the men who came to town to spend there money. First, there was Frank’s pool hall in the basemeng of the Taul Building on the corner of 1st and San Pedro. It looked incredibly seedy… no, I take that back, it WAS incredibly seedy, with old men and young toughs shooting pool with cigarettes hanging out of there mouths at 45 degree angles. Weenies like me, who couldn’t shoot straight, had to play short games, like nine-ball, so we could actually finish a game in decent time. But the regulars played straight pool, calling out numbers, “13 in the corner”, then slide over the beads strung around the tables with each shot made. To these 17 year-old eyes, it was so cool to see these guys shooting for the money they had splayed on the table before each game. I would suck on a Coke as I watched the regulars play rack after rack of pool.

But pool wasn’t the main form of entertainment then. What everyone did was drink and bullshit of hours. There were a number of places. Some of the tonier people would go to the bar in the Horikawa Restaurant for wine or Chivas Regal. The hard core drinkers went to a couple of the dark, nameless bars on the northside 1st Street to drown themselves with dollar shots of cheap whiskey or $2 tokkuri of sake. But the real action was at Eigiku Restaurant, where there was a form of entertainment that preceded karaoke: Namaoke, or a piano bar where the customers sat around and sang all night. My elder senpais would go and sit for hours, to sing, to BS, and to flirt with the waitresses.

“Hey, Onigiriman, lets get a drink.”

“Uh, I’m only 17,” I would confess.

“Whatchu worried about, man. You with us. No one’s gonna ask.” And they were right, the confession was needless.

Well, all these men who went to shoot pool and drink for hours, had to go home to wives. But they couldn’t go home empty handed. They had to take an omiage to appease the missus. So there actually was a demand for manju–or sushi–at 9 in the evening on weekends. These men, often slurring there words, would come in to purchase their peace offerings, as I struggled to complete there orders, all the while secretly wishing they would hurry up so I could close the store and go out.

So the weekend hours were not ideal for a young, eager man like me, the presence of my seekend co-workers alleviated the situation: they were all girls from Roosevelt High School, a public high school… ooooh… lucky me. Why? Because all the hot girls who spoke Japanese worked in J-town. And I got to chat with–and even stand next to–them…m(><)m. Of course, this was just my perception, which was actually blown out of proportion, because I was coming from a cloistered life in parochial school. I mean, for me–a dork–any girl was like a gift from God.

“Oh, thank you God, for giving me this opportunity before I die….”

Well, maybe I wasn’t that hard up, but it was close….

Besides, I was soon to find out that Eastside girls looked hot, but Westside girls WERE hot. My metamorphoses into an anti-Glob began one New Years season, Shogatsu. In the sweet shop business, this period began the day after Christmas as everyone began to buy there stock of mochi, the rice cakes everyone eats on January 1….

More tomorrow….