So a couple days ago, which I think is like . . .tomorrow, for you people back home, my heart attack-inducingly loud doorbell rang. Twice. In a row. This is how the mail carriers always ring the bell, so naturally, I figured it was them, even though I’m not expecting any (more) packages (sidenote, Radiant Silvergun came in the mail the day before, but probably nobody knows what that is so I won’t get into it. Hint: not an actual gun).

So anyway, I got up and answered the door, only to discover that it wasn’t a mail carrier or carriers at all, but rather a dynamic (read: indistinguishable from one another) pair of old ladies. They were carrier slips of paper.

Upon realizing that I was different from them, they did the typical twitch-freeze combo, but they had a smoother recovery than most visitors.

Lady: “How’s your Japanese?”
Me: “Eh, it’s pretty so-so, I guess.”
Lady: “Ah, okay. YOU GO HOME . . .I . . .WHERE YOUR COUNTRY . . .FROM . . .GO TO SHOPPING . . .”
Me: “Y’know, actually my Japanese isn’t half bad. Let’s just use that.”
Lady: “Ah, that’s a relief.” ::hands me slip of paper, which is an add for inkan, which are little stamps you use to put your person seal on various official documents instead of a signature::
Me: ::wondering why two ladies had to ring to come all the way up and ring my doorbell just to hand me a slip of paper that I’d already received at least twice in the mail:: “Hey, thanks. You ladies have a nice d–”
Lady: “What part of America are you from?”
Me: “Oh, uh, I’m from near Washington, D.C.”
Lady: “Oh, I went there once. The black people there are unbelievable!”
Me: ” . . .Yeah.”
Lady: “Graffiti everywhere.”
Me: “Thanks.”
Lady: “It’s right near Vancouver, right?”
Me: “Uhhhh . . .”
Lady: “Right?”
Me: “Not Washington State, the other Washington.”
Lady: “Yeah, D.C., right? I’ve been there.”
Me: “Huh . . .”
Lady: “So do you believe in God? If you’re a foreigner, you must believe in God.”

Here we go.

Me: “Eh, well, I’ve sort of got my own thing going on.”
Lady: “Are you just American? You’re not like Russian or something like that?”
Me: “Nah, just American. I’m 100% Cherokee, in fact. No, actually I’m Jewish, if that counts for anything.”
Lady: “Ahh, Jewish. With Jesus and such, yes?”
Me: “No, without Jesus. You’re thinking Christianity.”
Lady: “Oh, are you Mormon?”
Me: “No, that’s something else . . .”
Lady: “Muslim?”
Me: ” . . .”
Other Lady: “Is he Muslim?”
Lady: “Oh, my stars, I thought you might be one of those Mormons you see on the bicycles.”
Me: “Oh yeah, I’ve seen those guys.” ::thinks about how those Mormons on bicycles have a better chance of converting a fish than a Japanese person, laughs::
Lady: “So I guess if you’re a gaijin, you don’t need a seal, huh?”
Me: “Yeah, they usually just have us smear some finger paint on an index card. You know, since we’re lower life forms and all.”

Somehow we ended up on the topic of self-segregation. These ladies had some pretty lofty ideals.

Lady: “If we just tear down these walls between different people, these language barriers, cultural barriers, racial barriers, it would end all the fighting.”
Me: ” . . .”
Lady: “You don’t think so?”
Me: “Oh, no, I do, it’s just that that’s definitely going to take some time.”
Lady: “No, no, very SOON.”
Me: “Soon? But I mean, even the language barriers? You can’t just pull those down like the Berlin Wall.”
Lady: “No, it’ll happen in no time. Like . . .2012.”
Me: ” . . .That’s pretty soon. And specific.”
Other lady: (peeks into my room several times) “Oh, he’s got some tea in there!”
Me: “Uhhh . . .”
Lady: “We just need to bring down the walls, and people will stop doing these terrible things to each other.”
Me: ::wishing I had a wristwatch on so I could look at it in an implicative way:: “So . . . .you ladies sell stamps, or what?”
Lady: “Well, stamps and health drinks.”
Me: “Again, very specific.”
Lady: “America’s amazing with the health supplements. I went there once. You have an amazing selection.”
Me: “Heh, yeah, I import my own, in fact. Say, uh, as long as I have no idea why we’re still talking, I’m gonna get back to work. Sorry.”

And that was the end of it. I was so puzzled by the whole encounter that I didn’t get back on track for another few hours.

Anyway, one day left of this, then I’m FREE. For awhile.

Dokutaa Waamu-sensei

I was just sitting with Yoko-cakes in a nearby cafe/restaurant-type place that we frequent and where they play MTV nonstop, when what video should come on but They Might Be Giants’ “Doctor Worm”. Holy shit! What’s that band/song/video doing in Japan? You’d never even see a video like that on American MTV!

Still, Japanese MTV sucks almost as much as American MTV. Sometimes much more, actually. But they do play music, in a manner of speaking, so at least there’s that.

Anyway, back into my time warp. Two hundred pages to go!

Why I Hate Phones Part 1

I just had the following phone conversation after a call came from an unknown number:

Me: Hello?
Caller: Hello, Greg?
Me: Yes.
Caller: This is Yamamoto calling from . . .
Me: (thinking I recognized the voice as my Swedish friend Mikael’s) OHHH SHIT, I know that voice!
Caller: Ahahaha. Are you okay to talk now?
Me: Huh?
Caller: Are you okay now?
Me: (realizing Mikael probably wouldn’t have asked that) Oh, uh . . .sure, Mr. Yamamoto.

So Mr. Yamamoto is the principal of the kindergarten where I work. He’s my dad’s age and has excellent English, and he’s probably not the kind of person you should address with “OHHH SHIT, I know that voice!” especially when you’ve guessed the voice wrong.

Luckily he didn’t seem phased, which is probably because of differing views on profanity, plus it not being his first language. But man, how embarrassing. I guess that’s a testament to his excellent English though.

The much bigger issue is that he asked me to give a speech in Japanese at Monday’s graduation ceremony. As much as I love giving Japanese speeches, I sure don’t have the time to make one this week.

Oh yeah, and I might be moving.

The Editing Process

So we’re in the editing process for the first book I translated, and it’s even more stupid and tedious than I expected. The manuscript is littered with comments like “There would have been more blood” and “She wouldn’t have said this. Someone else should say this line.” I mean I know the editor is trying to look at it objectively in order to filter out all the crap, but I just write what I see. If a particular line doesn’t suit the character, tell the author. I’m just a siphon. Heh, siphon filter. Who didn’t love that game?

I also received the comment, “Somehow I doubt a Yiddishism fits here.” Well excuse me if that’s how I talk. You know what else doesn’t fit in this story about Japanese people? English.