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The Hammering Heart

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November 2011

Hon’né and Tatémaé – Two Things You Have

A thing you’ll see a lot in Japan:

Guy X, in the presence of Guy Y, does something not so much rude as marginally acknowledging of his own needs as a living organism. For example, he might sit down. Perhaps he will gently move aside an object that is in his way. Perhaps he will go away so as to make it in time for a separate engagement.

Depending (but only marginally) on the relationship between Guy X and Guy Y, Guy X will bow–perhaps profusely–at this juncture, apologizing–perhaps profusely–for doing that thing.

Guy Y, in return, will bow and wave his hand in front of his face–perhaps profusely, perhaps even simultaneously, causing him to slap himself in the protruding face several times–and say something like “Tondemonai,” which can mean either “Think nothing of it” or “Unspeakably horrible,” for you see, being apologized to for something trifling is most certainly that.

Continue reading “Hon’né and Tatémaé – Two Things You Have”

My Worst Nightmares Part One of Question Mark

It’s a funny term to just throw around. In theory, there can only be one worst. But I submit that all of these are equally worst. Please add to my list in the comments!

1. Dropping a baby – Though I spent three-and-a-half years working closely with children, I’ve still never mustered the courage to hold a baby, because it’s impossible for me to imagine it going successfully. Many people can be passed a baby, hold it briefly, then pass it back. Mission accomplished: Baby held. Not me. As soon as I’m approached with the notion, my imagination immediately floods with images of me dropping it to the sound of a life-altering thud. Oh no, not the corner of our glass coffee table. Oh no, not the hot coffee. Oh no, those were her best footie-jam-jams and also now she’s dead.

2. Creature crawling up the toilet, around or into anus – Not to be vulgar, but then, who among us can say he or she hasn’t deliberated obsessively over this dark fantasy at some point. There are probably a half-dozen good reasons that, growing up, I only used a public restroom about as many times (a half-dozen, that is). But one of them was most certainly the fear that, just as I got comfortable, a very giant and very poisonous tarantula would emerge from its second-favorite hang-out–the disgusting inner lip of the public toilet–and nestle itself into its first-favorite hang-out, my quivering Aaaaaa-hole.

3. A long, drawn-out plane crash – Chances are slim that you’ll die in a plane crash. There are all sorts of ridiculous statistics out there claiming as much. Did you know you’re more likely to die in a car crash after losing control because your car was struck twice by lightning than you are to die in a plane crash? You’re more likely to find yourself straddling two zebras with identical stripes, one of them holding a T206 Honus Wagner baseball card in its toothy craw.

And hey, even if you do die in a plane crash, it’s likely to be a near-instant, midair explosion that ends before you realize it’s begun. Not a great way to go, but hey, at least you won’t have to suffer through chemo. (That’s another nightmare altogether, and one that I’ve all but shut out of my mind for sanity’s sake.)

Still, what concerns me is that, insofar as we can, in fact, fly through the air, and that this is dependent on the proper automatic and manual operation of a machine with lots of vital moving parts, there is still a sliver of a chance that the electricity will fail altogether, that the pilot won’t even be able to use the thing as a glider, and that we will immediately start plummeting into the sea from 30,000 feet above it. Needless to say, this would be a very long plummet–about forty-five straight seconds of “OH MY GOD I’M TOTALLY DYING RIGHT NOW”–and much more than I could bear emotionally.

I guess the good news is that, once it’s done being unbearable, it’s over and you won’t be around to be permanently traumatized by its unbearableness, so, in that sense I suppose it’s better than being raped horribly or having your arm axed off by a rabid ex-girlfriend or guy in clown makeup, but I still can’t board a plane without saying a little prayer: “Lord, if I gotta die, please Lord make it quick.”

4. Car brakes go out – Shit would suck so bad. I don’t like trusting my life to a machine.

5. Teeth falling out – Many of us have felt that helpless sensation of putting extra effort into our dental hygiene only to see our dental health decline anyway. Additionally, many of us are haunted by dreams of our teeth falling out or shattering to bits whilst still in their teeth sockets. I, too, have this recurring nightmare, and yes, it’s the worst one. Pretty much neck-and-neck with. . . .

6. The apocalypse – I also have recurring dreams of the apocalypse. By this, I mean the end of society as we know it on Earth. This is particularly displeasurable because Earth society is the only one I even know of. Also because these dreams tend to involve lots of airplanes plummeting to the ground or my teeth falling out or nuclear explosions causing people’s car brakes to go out and drop their babies all over the place. Fuck me!

7. Sea monsters – Now look, I. . . I mean I’m a pretty open-minded guy. I generally exercise a “live and let live” policy. But this shit needs to never, ever happen.

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