: Summer Ends :

I know what I did this summer… I think

As I roam Xanga aimlessly and read the entries of others, I see that almost everyone is going back to school… and that includes me. I have a few more hours of relative freedom before summer comes to a close, and I will enjoy it with a song that reminds me of the summer before I went up to No. California to do my graduate studies… I spent the summer of ’86 in Japan, my last one as a true bachelor (as opposed to a divorced one). But before you think the worst, let me tell you I went to work part-time editing a catalog of Japanese universities for AIEJ, and spent my time on the train listening to Skipped Beat by The Kuwata Band…

: Allergies : Ragweed sucks major.

Yeah, ragweed really sucks. And I think I’m having a bad reaction to Claretin… My face starts to get numb, not a lot, but noticeably so. I thought it was something I ate, but I have not had any of the tell-tale GI track symptoms and more its been giving me a buzz for the past three days now, so its probably not the food. Its supposed to be a non-drowsy formula, so its kinda scary. I think I’ll forego my pill today, even though weather.com has forecast the
pollen index at 10.4

I’d stay at home, but I have a meeting at school… I must protect myself with what Masumi called my “Bosozoku” look, and suffer the stares and occasional questions from non-sufferers…


Not Living Up to Expectation
Installment seven. Originally posted on the JAJournal Saturday, August 23, 2003


I get in my car–did I mention its a midnight blue ’73 Chevy Camaro?–and drive the five minutes it takes for me to get there. I walk into the dark bar on this late-afternoon Sunday. The restaurant didn’t open until 6, but James an T are sitting at the bar, as the employees run around getting ready for business.

“N-san is on a business trip and can’t make it to the contest. I want you to represent the restaurant,” T said matter-of-factly.

“Huh? What happened?”

“The TV people were going to replace N-san with someone else, but I told them the replacement had to come from this establishment. And I want you.”

“Really.” I said, not knowing what else to say. It took a few minutes before what she said actually sunk in. “So what am I supposed to do?”

“Practice,” T replied.

And I did. Everynight for two weeks. The pianist at the bar, K, suggested I forget “Futari de osake wo” and sing another Asuza Michiyo song called “Melancholy.” I didn’t know the song and was hesitant at first, but relented after she convinced me that a newer song sung by fewer people at piano bars would have a greaster impact. I had to admit that “Futari” was a popular–and hence, tired–song at piano bars. But this also meant that I had to memorize the lyrics of a song I barely knew…

On the night of the contest, I was nervous as heck. I went to the contest with my sister, two high-school friends and one drinking buddy. My parents were somewhere in the Grand Canyon–“Do you think you really have a chance?” my dad chortled as he left the day before. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to see my uncle and two aunts there in the audience, as well as two ladies from the retail shop of the sweetshop.

The contest was held in the hall of Koyasan Temple in the middle of J-Town. When I got there, I found out I was 29th out of 32 contestants. My friends and sister entered the hall and I went backstage to wait my turn. The first few singers were pretty good, nothing spectacular, but passable. The thing that got me though was the fact that each contestant was on stage for a long time. It took thirty minutes to get through the first 4 to 5 singers, meaning it would take another hour and a half before I was called on stage. Nervous to begin with, the waiting made me all the more so. I went out the side door and headed toward a local sushi bar in Japanese Village Plaza. It had a small service bar where maybe four people could sit. Jim, the bartender, served me a couple of Cuttys as I played the lyrics in my head over and over.

Mickey CurtisAfter three belts, I returned to Koyasan Hall, no less nervous, but perhaps a bit braver. I went on stage on cue and sang “Melancholy”. I’m not sure if my experience with the band had anything to do with it, but once on stage I sang and walked around and always kept my eyes on the audience, looking at the judges–which included Mickey Curtis, (fading) star of film and music–looking toward the back of the hall, to the sides, trying to make eye contact, even though I couldn’t see anyone beyond the second row. It was like old times, sorta. I wasn’t sitting at the piano, but I was center stage… What a ham, my friends would tell me later, but at that moment, I was totally relaxed and confident.

After the requisite interview–Yes, I’m sansei. Yes, I work at the M sweetshop where I learned Japanese–I went off stage. I found one of the producers who informed me that after the last contestant, the judges would deliberate for a while and then announce the winner. I stepped outside to grab a smoke and found some of my friends out there, incuding JI. She told me that she thought I would win. The people she was with said the same thing. They thought I had a stage presence that the others lacked–yeah, Onigiriman, you looked like you’ve been there before.

I became nervous all over again, but with a different sense of anticipation. Did I sing that well? Did I nail it?

They announced that the judges had made their decision and we were to gather on stage. With great anticipation, I waited eagerly as they announced the names of the winners in reverse order. 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd…

“And 1st place goes to Sam F.”

I was stunned. I mean, I felt pretty good on stage, but everyone else also told me I performed well. Shit! I didn’t even place in the top five. I should have known better. I should have just ignored all these idiots and focused on selecting the proper courses to take at the community college. I mean, seriously, what am I doing here?!?






Photographic Evidence
Yes, that’s me in the center. Is this not the face of someone who is completely surprised?!?
I looked around the stage. Which is the fastest way off. I’m sure there’s an exit behind that curtain… When suddenly everyone applauds and cheers. I hear my name and some one grabs my arm and pulls me to the front. What’s happening?

“….plause for this year’s Grand Champion, Onigiriman, who sang….”

I was stunned. I thought I lost and was looking for a way off the stage. It never occured to me that Grand Champion did not equal first place? What? Oh, yeah, the prize.

“…a round trip ticket to Tokyo, Japan…”

Will someone please pinch me?

End of installment seven….

: Summer Ends :

I know what I did this summer… I think

As I roam Xanga aimlessly and read the entries of others, I see that almost everyone is going back to school… and that includes me. I have a few more hours of relative freedom before summer comes to a close, and I will enjoy it with a song that reminds me of the summer before I went up to No. California to do my graduate studies… I spent the summer of ’86 in Japan, my last one as a true bachelor (as opposed to a divorced one). But before you think the worst, let me tell you I went to work part-time editing a catalog of Japanese universities for AIEJ, and spent my time on the train listening to Skipped Beat by The Kuwata Band…

: Allergies : Ragweed sucks major.

Yeah, ragweed really sucks. And I think I’m having a bad reaction to Claretin… My face starts to get numb, not a lot, but noticeably so. I thought it was something I ate, but I have not had any of the tell-tale GI track symptoms and more its been giving me a buzz for the past three days now, so its probably not the food. Its supposed to be a non-drowsy formula, so its kinda scary. I think I’ll forego my pill today, even though weather.com has forecast the

pollen index at 10.4

I’d stay at home, but I have a meeting at school… I must protect myself with what Masumi called my “Bosozoku” look, and suffer the stares and occasional questions from non-sufferers…

Not Living Up to Expectation
Installment seven. Originally posted on the JAJournal Saturday, August 23, 2003

I get in my car–did I mention its a midnight blue ’73 Chevy Camaro?–and drive the five minutes it takes for me to get there. I walk into the dark bar on this late-afternoon Sunday. The restaurant didn’t open until 6, but James an T are sitting at the bar, as the employees run around getting ready for business.

“N-san is on a business trip and can’t make it to the contest. I want you to represent the restaurant,” T said matter-of-factly.

“Huh? What happened?”

“The TV people were going to replace N-san with someone else, but I told them the replacement had to come from this establishment. And I want you.”

“Really.” I said, not knowing what else to say. It took a few minutes before what she said actually sunk in. “So what am I supposed to do?”

“Practice,” T replied.

And I did. Everynight for two weeks. The pianist at the bar, K, suggested I forget “Futari de osake wo” and sing another Asuza Michiyo song called “Melancholy.” I didn’t know the song and was hesitant at first, but relented after she convinced me that a newer song sung by fewer people at piano bars would have a greaster impact. I had to admit that “Futari” was a popular–and hence, tired–song at piano bars. But this also meant that I had to memorize the lyrics of a song I barely knew…

On the night of the contest, I was nervous as heck. I went to the contest with my sister, two high-school friends and one drinking buddy. My parents were somewhere in the Grand Canyon–“Do you think you really have a chance?” my dad chortled as he left the day before. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to see my uncle and two aunts there in the audience, as well as two ladies from the retail shop of the sweetshop.

The contest was held in the hall of Koyasan Temple in the middle of J-Town. When I got there, I found out I was 29th out of 32 contestants. My friends and sister entered the hall and I went backstage to wait my turn. The first few singers were pretty good, nothing spectacular, but passable. The thing that got me though was the fact that each contestant was on stage for a long time. It took thirty minutes to get through the first 4 to 5 singers, meaning it would take another hour and a half before I was called on stage. Nervous to begin with, the waiting made me all the more so. I went out the side door and headed toward a local sushi bar in Japanese Village Plaza. It had a small service bar where maybe four people could sit. Jim, the bartender, served me a couple of Cuttys as I played the lyrics in my head over and over.

Mickey CurtisAfter three belts, I returned to Koyasan Hall, no less nervous, but perhaps a bit braver. I went on stage on cue and sang “Melancholy”. I’m not sure if my experience with the band had anything to do with it, but once on stage I sang and walked around and always kept my eyes on the audience, looking at the judges–which included Mickey Curtis, (fading) star of film and music–looking toward the back of the hall, to the sides, trying to make eye contact, even though I couldn’t see anyone beyond the second row. It was like old times, sorta. I wasn’t sitting at the piano, but I was center stage… What a ham, my friends would tell me later, but at that moment, I was totally relaxed and confident.

After the requisite interview–Yes, I’m sansei. Yes, I work at the M sweetshop where I learned Japanese–I went off stage. I found one of the producers who informed me that after the last contestant, the judges would deliberate for a while and then announce the winner. I stepped outside to grab a smoke and found some of my friends out there, incuding JI. She told me that she thought I would win. The people she was with said the same thing. They thought I had a stage presence that the others lacked–yeah, Onigiriman, you looked like you’ve been there before.

I became nervous all over again, but with a different sense of anticipation. Did I sing that well? Did I nail it?

They announced that the judges had made their decision and we were to gather on stage. With great anticipation, I waited eagerly as they announced the names of the winners in reverse order. 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd…

“And 1st place goes to Sam F.”

I was stunned. I mean, I felt pretty good on stage, but everyone else also told me I performed well. Shit! I didn’t even place in the top five. I should have known better. I should have just ignored all these idiots and focused on selecting the proper courses to take at the community college. I mean, seriously, what am I doing here?!?


Photographic Evidence
Yes, that’s me in the center. Is this not the face of someone who is completely surprised?!?

I looked around the stage. Which is the fastest way off. I’m sure there’s an exit behind that curtain… When suddenly everyone applauds and cheers. I hear my name and some one grabs my arm and pulls me to the front. What’s happening?

“….plause for this year’s Grand Champion, Onigiriman, who sang….”

I was stunned. I thought I lost and was looking for a way off the stage. It never occured to me that Grand Champion did not equal first place? What? Oh, yeah, the prize.

“…a round trip ticket to Tokyo, Japan…”

Will someone please pinch me?

End of installment seven….