On Net Neutrality

I don’t think I’m needed for this one, but…

FUCK Ajit V. Pai.

There will be a fight on the grounds that these proposed actions are an attack on three of the freedoms granted by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. If that process fails, it’s all over; get out of Dodge, because the fire will have jumped the river and reached town.

Just…

Why aren’t people this hot about health care?

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The Night before Game 7

My maternal grandfather William was a brave soldier and a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Officer. He went to Cathedral High School, which stands to this day, but has a new next door neighbor: Dodger Stadium.

My paternal grandfather Edward was also a brave solider who stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day. He was from Massachusetts, and lived for the Boston Red Sox. He was born in the spring of 1918, the last year his Sox won the World Series (he was too young to remember at age 0), and he passed away in 2000, having lived over 80 years without really seeing his Sox win it all. They did Papa the favor in 2004, less than five years later.

I loved and respected both of my grandfathers, and as I grow up and learn more and more about them from candid conversations, I love and respect them even more. However, I do not want to carry on the legacy of my father’s father, at least not by taking a grenade to the ass for the people or never celebrating my team winning the World Series.

Sometime in the late 80s: Something happened and my parents were happy. They came to pick us up at the home of Grandpa (William, LA guy) and Grandma (Barbara, LA gal). I was happy too, but not really sure what was going on.

Also in the late 80s: I got an autograph from Mike Marshall, framed with his picture and a message. I kept it around for a long time, despite not really remembering the guy.

Late 80s: I went to my first games at the stadium. I started playing T-ball, or at least playing catch in the back yard.

1990ish: I was collecting baseball cards, and I started finding the periodic Ted Williams. Not knowing they were valueless, I saved them for my grandfather Ed, because Ted was his guy. This may have been the first selfless or considerate habit I developed. When Ted Williams came up, I tucked him away for the next time I saw Papa.

Early 90s: I was definitely playing T-ball, and probably already afraid of the ball, an affliction that ended my career prematurely.

Early 90s: I started remembering the lineup and the names and positions of players; I never really cared much about jersey numbers.

Early 90s: The event about which I spoke in my co-best man speech at my brother’s wedding took place. We watched a game from the stands, and I bugged my family relentlessly by talking, prodding, and whining, I’m sure. Dad took the boys to the bathroom, came back down to Mom and said, “We have to go. Jim hit Steve.” The guy behind our seats asked, “Which one is Steve?” My dad said, “The little one.” The man said, “Good.”

Early 90s: I started planning for Halloween a month or so in advance. My number one idea was “Mikey P.” That’s Mike Piazza.

1995: I was obsessed with Hideo Nomo and his weird name, interesting look, and wild delivery. By this time I was a fanatic about a Dodger winning Rookie of the Year every year for the rest of time.

Sometime in the 1990s: Joel, Jim, and I finish throwing the ball around and come in to watch the game. Some sort of altercation occurs, and my mom threatens to turn off the game. Somehow holding the power, I stubbornly refuse to budge, and sacrifice the afternoon’s entertainment for my pride. We watch SportsCenter later and find out that immediately after the game was shut off, the Dodgers turned a rare triple play.

September, 1996: We’re going to the playoffs, but shit, I don’t want to play the Braves. All the Dodgers have to do is take one of three from the Padres, and the Dads will have to lay on the tracks as the flaming hot Atlanta club comes rolling through. Needless to say, Trevor Hoffman got the save in all three, and the Braves ran over Dodgers in a sweep. Still no playoff wins since 1988.

July 23, 1998: The Dodgers score 6 in the top of the first. My mom asks me and Sean if we want to go to Chilli’s. I think it was just the three of us. Maybe Jim was there too. My dad and Erin were camping on Catalina. Chilli’s sounded so good, and the Dodgers were stomping their opponent, so I said, “What the hell, there’s no school tomorrow,” so we turned off the game and went for beans and stuff. The Houston Astros sealed their legacy in my mind forever by scoring a run in the third, 5 in the eighth, and two in the tenth to win 8-6, after the Dodgers led 6-0 through one. I have never forgotten that, and it has always been one of my go-to examples of Dodger futility.

Summary:
Back-to-back-to-back-to-back solo home runs to tie a game in the 9th, another home run to win in the 10th. I immediately called all my best Dodger fan friends and we screamed to each other over the phone. I was watching at the bar at Linbrook Lanes in Anaheim.
I was present for the first playoff win in nearly 25 years, watching the late Jose Lima shut down one of the best lineups in ages for an almost perfect game.
I was present for Alex Cora’s 18-pitch at bat that ended with a home run.
I was present for a Russel Martin walk-off 10th-inning grand slam.
I was there with Joel (huge Braves fan) when Mark Teixeira broke up Hiroki Kuroda’s perfect game in the 8th (he shut down the next six Braves in order).

I was there when Juan Uribe brought us back to life against the Braves just a few years ago.

I was there for Todd Helton’s final at bat. He was not a Dodger, but it was a moment.

I have gone to games solo, eating peanuts and keeping score.

I have had a beer on opening day at 5:00 a.m. before work because I lived in Japan.

I have a Delino DeShields jersey t-shirt.

I took my girlfriend to her first game (on her first in-season visit to the US) this year, and we watched Kyle Farmer slap a walk-off hit against the hated Giants in his first career plate appearance.

I want to say I have watched the team in person at the ravine 100 times, but I’m sure it’s closer to 50. I’ve definitely eaten 100 Dodger Dogs.

I fucking bleed Dodger Blue and every time someone says, “Yay, sports! Woo,” in an attempt to make me feel bad about it or at the very least express their own opinion while neglecting an inadvertent attack at my identity as just collateral damage, I think to myself, “I am a Dodger fan.”

I don’t just like the Dodgers. I don’t just love the Dodgers.

There have been times when I really tried to believe in a God, but there was never a time when I tried to change my baseball allegiance. I have never thought about it for even a moment.

My view of the meaning of life is far more fluid than my baseball devotion.
There was one time I rooted for a player to hit a home run against the Dodgers, but it was because I was at the stadium with a cute girl, and I didn’t want the night to end.

I have never known life without the Dodgers. My family loves the Dodgers. I grew up in a Dodger house. The pace of baseball is not relevant. The idea of athletics as a recreation of strictly physical glory that takes the place of raping and pillaging an enemy, a benevolent yet brute representation of all that is primal and nonintellectual about mankind is not relevant.

Every time someone smart brings me down for watching baseball, I imagine them appraising a Renoir and me walking up behind them and screaming, “Look at all the pretty colors! Oooooooo. How profound! Look at you looking at it! Oooooooooh. The paint is so dry!”

I didn’t watch a Dodger game and think, “Oh this is cool! Who are these guys? I like that shade of blue. That was fun!”

I slowly gained cognitive awareness and agency in a Blue house amid a Blue world. I came into being around my fandom, not the other way around.

I am as much a Dodger fan as I am a man.

I know they’re going to lose tomorrow, but for the first time since I became aware, the Dodgers are taking the field with the intent of bringing home the trophy.

Tomorrow will be one of the most memorable days of my life, no matter what happens. I have been waiting thirty years for this.

I’m not going to work. Da ba dee, da ba die.

Noise Logic

“Part of the problem with Obamacare is that it was pushed through by one party.”

– Senator Jeff Flake (R, Arizona), 2017

“Part of the problem with vegetables is that my parents didn’t even ask me if I wanted them.”

– Steve Corbett (I, California), 1993

Who Said It? Part XI

Who said it?

On civil rights in “not multi-racial”, but “biracial” America as a form of affirmative action in response to slavery and Jim Crow laws:
“Civil rights are for African Americans. They are not for people who arrived yesterday, or last week; we didn’t do anything to you.

“Republicans didn’t do anything to anybody.”

Interview with the Deity

Two months ago, I got the opportunity to sit down with God. We discussed his personal life, science, philosophy, and hockey, among other things.

When I walked into Toro Sushi in Genoa, Italy on March 15th, God was standing awkwardly at a table for two, trying to stay on his feet without having to step out from behind the table. When he confirmed that I had spotted him, he fell back onto the vinyl booth and slid his rear end back to meet the backrest.

A waiter arrived to greet me as I reached my seat, holding a Californian IPA, one of my favorites from home. I had asked God to meet me there at 2:00, and it was 1:35 when I sat down.

“Have you been here long?”

“Nope,” God shook his head. “Just rolled in right before you. I figured you’d be showing up early, and I like to catch people off guard so I can sort of set the tone of the interview.”

“But it’s been a while since you did one of these.”

“Yes,” God told me. “I like to lay low, but shit has been pretty tense lately, so I thought I’d speak up.”

“With Trump and Brexit?”

“That’s a pretty white-ass question. But, well, among other things,” God hesitated, “Yeah.”

He asked that we eat first, because he had the sushi all coming up right then. I asked how he had placed the order if he’d just arrived. He told me he called it in ahead of time.

“You have a phone?”

“Haha, no I just tapped in to their—come on. Seriously?”

“But you speak Italian.”

“About as well as I speak English,” God said. “None of these joke languages are my native tongue, but I can get by with most of them.”

Fair enough. It was my first time speaking to God in person. We chatted a bit when I was in elementary school, and had exchanged several e-mails at the beginning of the year to coordinate schedules.

We had California rolls and a bunch of other stuff. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was not a fan of sushi, but I got the feeling he just liked the stuff too much to care anyway. We went through all the food, and I had to choke down some of the apparently more obscure things he gave me only the Japanese words for, so I was diving in blind for the most part. It was fine, though. I made sure the staff connected our bill to my reservation. I had taken down two heavy brews and received a third before we got down to business.

I started with a little bit of personal history… before it all went south. The following is the full transcript of our conversation.

So you have been doing this for a while, now?

And boy, is it tiring. I’ve been taking some time off lately, but man…

Are you currently based here in Italy?

Haha, no; you’d think, though, right? Nono. I live in Indy these days.

Indy?

Indianapolis.

Are you serious?

Dead serious, yeah.

Why Indianapolis?

I moved there because I like the way the government is run, and I started taking some classes at Butler to pass the time. Have some cool professors. Got used to the life there. I dig it.

Butler? Not Notre Dame?

Notre Dame?

I’m doing my best here. You are pretty guarded with personal information.

Yeah that’s fair. No. I’m a Bulldog. More into basketball than football, and I moved there in 2010, right after we lost to Duke in the finals.

I see. I like Indy well enough. Very different from California where I was born and Florida where I went to school. Believe it or not, I went to Indy every year for a while to cover the race for the Sentinel.

I know. So random. Out of the ordinary for you, eh?

So why here in Genoa?

What, you don’t like Genoa?

First time here.

I’m sorry?

It’s my first time in Italy, actually.

Well, I was in town for a conference and I’m starting a tour of Africa on Friday evening, so I didn’t want to fly all the way back to the states.

What will you be doing in Africa?

Just assessment. I haven’t been there in so long that I thought I’d get reacquainted with how things are shaping up. Be there about six weeks. Going all around. Well, not ALL around, but you know.

I noticed you’re drinking a Budweiser.

Astute.

But you ordered me a Stone.

I hate IPAs.

Didn’t you create them?

Lufe can’t always… (God pronounces “life” incorrectly) What is that? Loof? LIFE. Life can’t always be fair. I needed to make it interesting. If it was all almond milk, hammocks, and Turkish women, it would be pretty monotonous, wouldn’t it?

A lot there. I’m going to take the safe road. Almond milk. You’re… kind of a vegetarian. Is that right? Pisc—

Pescetarian. I’m not just going to not eat sushi. You ever go to Jiro’s restaurant in Tokyo station?

Not yet.

Fool. Get there ASAP. It’s a religious experience.

I’m going to dodge that one too. Good sushi in Indy?

Brad, I have to be honest… no. I mean. I get out of town enough to where it’s not a huge issue, but I don’t have a go-to there.

So Indy is a cool enough city to outweigh the lack of good sushi…

Well again. Don’t want life too easy. A little adversity—

Not having easy access to good sushi is your adversity?

Haha yeah. I guess. Lack of sushi is my adversity.

Anyway, thank you for the invitation, and of course, thank you for getting in touch with me of all people.

I liked your work. The Obama interview was astounding. You think you have a guy figured out…

Yeah. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to untie my name or my legacy from—

From a US President? Not to be cocky, but…

Touché… Mr. God? Your holiness?

Just God is fine.

OK, God. If you don’t mind, I’d like to get to five questions from subscribers, and I think some subscribers’ kids, and then everything I’ve decided to ask you.

Shoot.

Question 1, from Tarik in Asheville, NC. Tarik is a fourth-grader at Greenlake Elementary, but this might be the heaviest of all of them: Which religion is right?

You mean a hundred percent right? None of them. Haha. Sorry. I can’t really go deeper than that. Well… not Scientology. I’ll give you that. (God let out a pretty good belly laugh and bumped his Manhattan enough for a bit to just breach the rim.)

2. Xiao in Harbin wants to know: Are there intelligent beings on any other planets?

Other intelligent beings in the solar system?

I think Xiao means the universe.

UNI-verse?

Anywhere.

Ohh, probably.

That’s all you’re going to give Xiao?

Ohh, probably.

Sorry Xiao. Well, no, I guess we can read into that a bit. Next. 3. I’m going to butcher this…

Little D sound. Wah. Lay. aDWAlay.

Thanks. Adewale from Lagos wants to know: What should I study in college?

Mechanical engineering or some kind of computer programming.

Just like that?

Just like that. Another beer?

I don’t know if I can take it. I want to make sure not to stray from the script too—

(God orders another round) You’ll be fine.

4. Here’s an exciting one. Former US President George W. Bush wants to know if the current turmoil around Israel will be resolved in his lifetime.

Pretty self-important, isn’t that? Anyway… nope.

Direct. 5. This was good, and it was from an anonymous subscriber, or perhaps someone who stole the entry form from a subscriber, but we liked it. How do you justify the amount – they mean the number – of infants who die before they make it out of infancy?

Alright, Brad. That’s kind of a cheap shot. Obviously, babies dying before maturity is not ideal. Let’s move on.

Nothing?

Let’s move on, guy.

Bonus fan question: My mom wants to know next week’s Powerball numbers.

2, 9, 27, 29, 42, 9

Haha. Seriously?

Get on with the shit you want to ask me.

[Note: Obviously, he was serious. Obviously, I told my mom and she did buy the ticket. I’m sure you heard about what happened.]

Yes sir.

Just so you know, I’m not too pleased about that. I’ve got my guard up now.

Understood. I apologize. This is a fair question. So, we have a lot of religions and a ton of religious history in human civilization. A lot has been done in your name, or in the name of some interpretation of your existence. Do you see this stuff, the good included, and how does it make you feel?

Look. I have had a policy of non-intervention since the games in ’80…

Lake Placid?

…and it has served me well. I don’t have the attention, energy, or patience to get involved in everything, and as much bad news as has come out, the world is doing OK. The nukes happened in the 50s—

The 40s?

Whatever. Did you see any more?

We saw a second one.

Listen Brad, can we get back to the—I told you we’d talk hockey, my music, and some philosophy. I’m not going to sit for an ambush.

I’m sorry. How about hockey, then. Who do you like in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year?

Well the regular season isn’t over, but I like Anaheim if they can get past Nashville, and Ottawa otherwise.

Who’s the playoff MVP?

It’s going to be a good year for goalies, but I like a kid named Rickard Rakell. Ducks. It helps that I’ve known his family for a while, but he’s pretty good.

You know his family? Is that why you’re going with the Ducks?

Well, they can play, too.

OK. You’ve knocked me off track a bit with the beers. I don’t typically drink when I do these, but you’re persuasive. I’ll try to pull myself together. There are a lot of very smart atheists around. People like Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. Their books are hugely successful. They get around the internet. What do you think?

It’s fair. I put a lot of work into this. These guys and ladies are not stupid. I just didn’t reveal myself, really. They use the information available, and that’s commendable. Those two you named are some of my absolute brightest ever.

Who is the smartest?

You wouldn’t recognize her name.

I guess that makes sense. Lot of people in the running.

Right. But those people are not wrong to deny me given the lack of evidence, but I find their lack of faith disturbing.

Darth Vader quote?

Haha yeah.

You a Star Wars guy?

Well, yes, but… and you should know, I’m not a guy, per se.

OK. I’d like to get back to the bigger questions.

Let’s do it. I only have until 4:00, by the way. Another 45 minutes.

Sounds good. So there has been a lot of talk about Mars lately. SpaceX wants to go there. Elon Musk. It comes up in science fiction every 30 seconds. People think it’s humanity’s destiny, or at least an existential imperative to get there and become an interplanetary race. What are your thoughts on that?

I think it is a wildly exciting goal. I, personally, would love to see it happen. I think great progress is being made, but anybody alive now who thinks they are going to eventually live on Mars, let alone comfortably, is going to be disappointed if they put any sort of emotional stock into the idea. It’s cool. I want it to happen. I am confident it will. But I want you to take better care of Earth first.

I’ve heard that last part before.

Yeah from people who are thinking. You have a planet right here that is millennia ahead of Mars in terms of habitability.

Millennia?

Well it’s only been around for six of them.

OK…

OK…

So, I guess the next question. So many people live in despair, and many of them turn to you for help.

Brad…

Hang on. This world has so much to offer, and so many people who don’t benefit from those offerings.

Brad, I’m warning you. We had an agreement.

No. You sit there in your living room in Indianapolis while people sing your name as they tear apart with fire and shrapnel others who had been singing your name hours… minutes prior—

Fuck this shit. Thanks for the shitty sushi.

… and you watch hockey and— you picked the restaurant, your holiness. I don’t know Genoa.

Thanks for lunch you fucking piece of shit.

Yeah. No problem… God. Thank The New Yorker.

FUCK THE NEW YORKER, ASSHOLE.

[End of tape]

I would like to note at this point that I have a signed and notarized contract with God in which permission for the publication of this interview transcript is explicitly given. All audio files were deleted, as per contract.

All content property of The New Yorker.

Who Said It? Part X

Who said it?

On the social welfare programs:
“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Who Said It? Part IX

Who said it?

On the reactions of American people:
“So on one hand, you have Bill O’Reilly, who is celebrated for perpetuating the most antiquated racist stereotypes, and rewarded with an 18-million-dollar salary, and on the other hand, you have a young, black American athlete who is vilified for silently and civilly protesting against racial injustice…

You can call Kaepernick a shitty quarterback all you want — and I’m not going to argue that — but to celebrate his unemployment and not speak up against oppressive assholes like Bill O’Reilly makes you a racist.”

8,025,600 Minutes

I manage no longer the energy or spirit required for eloquence, so here I will beat around no bush and plant no literary seeds to be sown down the road.

I predict that in the not-too-distant future, buying a home will be something most Americans don’t even have on their radar. American investors will stockpile real estate for the sake of selling to corporations and foreign investors. Those corporations and foreign investors will, along with some of the American investors, stockpile it for the sake of stockpiling a bunch of American real estate. Regular people will almost exclusively rent.

I will at that time argue that rental contracts for all (or certain) houses or condominiums (home types typically designated for individual-unit ownership) be legally required to include a buyout plan. Basically, any renter of a house (not apartments, for example) would be on a rent-to-own contract. It would be illegal to offer a single-family home to someone as a pure rental.

Think about the pros and cons for yourself. One variation of this could be a limit of one rental property (of the single-family variety as per above) per person (including corporate people).

This is a long way away, and probably crazy now, but talk to me in 2032.

Who Said It? Part VIII

Who said it?

On the current “regime”/administration:
“…because now, instead of progress being driven, to some extent, from the top — encouragement for that progress — we’re instead going to have roadblocks set up by people like Jeff Sessions, and they’re going to be doing whatever they can to keep things exactly the same. And this is why letting someone like Donald Trump become President is such a goddamn disappointment — because we were seeing progress; we were seeing it every year, and we just set that back… bigly. “

Lord of Weddings

The height of my magnificence was an autumn Saturday in 2011. To date (2014), I’ve only been to one Japanese wedding. Ryo Tamayama is my oldest friend in Tokyo. I first met him in 2005, when he and a friend came to visit Yuki, their schoolmate. Yuki and I had been close friends since his family moved to Irvine from Minami Gyotoku in Chiba. He and Ryo were school buddies back then.

Ryo’s summer visit coincided with my second first semester of Japanese. In the fall of 2004, I took JAPN 180, Elementary Japanese. This was the first class in the program at Orange Coast College. We learned the basics of pronunciation, vocabulary, simple sentence structure, as well as the Hiragana and Katakana writing systems. It was a five unit course, and I got a D.

The problem wasn’t with my knowledge, because by the end of the term, classmates were sneaking peeks at my test papers. The bookstore ran out of the workbook at the beginning of the term, and I missed some assignments. I got way behind on the writing systems, and that basically sunk me in terms of points.

I caught up, but I couldn’t make up the assignments I missed, and I couldn’t do anything about failing the first test or two. I ended up with very high marks on the final exam, and I pleaded with the teacher to understand my situation. Nope.

I went on to JAPN 185 anyway, even though I fell short of the C requisite for advancement. I lied to the teacher and said that I passed the prior term. It was a cocky move, but not much of a risk. I passed 185 with a B. Suck it, OCC!

In a meeting with one of the school’s counselors, when talking about my grades and my prospects for transferring to a university, she noticed my eccentric history with the language program. She pointed to it as a scar on my transcript. I asked what I should do. I thought that passing the higher class with a B would somehow overrule the D. She disagreed, and suggested I retake the class.

I walked back into Ito-sensei’s 180 class with Kagawa-sensei’s 185 skin on my wall. She recognized me and called me up to her desk. I told her that I had gotten a D and was trying to correct my grade. She was fine with it, until I started acing quizzes and turning in flawless assignments. I told her what was up, and she wasn’t too happy. I made it clear that I was doing it at the insistence of my counselor. I got an A. Retaking that five unit course added fifteen grade points to my GPA numerator over zero new units to the denominator. That’s two touchdowns.

I was excited when Ryo showed up. He didn’t speak much English, but I was equipped with my preschool level Japanese, so we were good. We also had Yuki to keep things going smoothly. Ryo’s trip was about a week long, and we hung out almost every day. Yuki and I introduced him and his friend to the American house party. It was a blast, and we became good buddies.

I booked a trip for January of 2006, four or five months later. When I arrived at Narita Airport for the first time, Ryo and his girlfriend were waiting for me. After almost an hour of standing around looking for them, I got on a bus to Shinjuku Station, and a nice young lady helped me get into a taxi for my hotel. Ryo had been at the wrong terminal, probably at my fault. I hadn’t even known there were two.

He found me at my hotel, and he, his girlfriend, and I went out to my first Japanese meal. The place was Mysterious, a psychedelic izakaya on Yasukuni Dori in Kabukicho. We ate chicken, sushi, and fried potatoes, among other things. I drank a Corona.

He went all over Tokyo with me in my week and a half in country. He was a college student then, so he was able to spend a good amount of his time out and about. He introduced me to a lot of his friends at a drinking party near his university, way out west in Hachioji. I spent the night at his apartment and returned to central Tokyo the next day.

One of the last nights I was there, Ryo and I went out to dinner with Yumiko, his ex-girlfriend. I had a magical vacation in Japan, and I knew that I wanted to try living there. I was hooked. I returned to America and applied to Temple University, Japan Campus. Temple in Philadelphia established their Tokyo campus in 1982. In 2005, it was fully recognized by the Japanese government as an official Japan campus of a foreign university. There is a beer vending machine just outside the administrative office. I was accepted.

In the one-year period between my vacation and enrollment, Ryo Tamayama was in Vancouver, British Columbia. He went to study English, and returned home fluent in Korean. He learned English too, though. We became even closer friends in 2007 and 2008 while I was in Tokyo, and have a lot of great memories together.

When I arrived in 2009 on the JET Programme assignment, we had many more opportunities to hang out. He visited me in Ogatsu, Ishinomaki in my first few months there. We went all around eastern Miyagi Prefecture, and he and our friends Hiro and Mari spent the night with me at my house, which was swept into the sea a little over a year later. Ryo and the girls almost got me my first ticket in the country when we pulled through a tollbooth, and the operator noticed that the two in the back seat weren’t wearing seatbelts. Ryo told the officer that I wasn’t at fault, and we were let go with a warning. I just assumed that everyone wore seatbelts. I got that elusive first ticket a few weeks later for “dangerous” “speeding” on a country road.

On October 1st, 2011, Ryo married Yumiko, that once-ex-girlfriend who (according to Ryo) saw how international he was becoming, and found it really attractive. You’re welcome. I was invited to the ceremony. Being Ryo’s close friend, I set up the UCLA game to record for later viewing, and made my way from Ishinomaki to Tokyo.

I won the wedding.

I took the train down on Friday night. I met a friend in Omotesando, a very fashionable neighborhood in the center of Tokyo, and we had some drinks. I woke up in time for the wedding, but my taxi driver couldn’t find the chapel. I barely made it on time, and sat in the back with the high school friends of the bride and groom (same high school). One of my old friends was in the group, and so was a white girl. She went to their high school, and had grown up in Japan. I later asked if she could speak English, and her friends said, “She can when she’s drunk!” We were all drunk, and she spoke decently, but was legitimately not fluent. I think her name was Miriam.

The wedding was very nice. It was Western style. We took pictures at the chapel, then moved to the reception room where there was assigned seating. I was with my good friend Mari, and some of Ryo’s cousins. It was a fun reception with singing and dancing. Early in the reception, Ryo and Yumiko left so they could change into their ball attire. When they came back, the energetic Master of Ceremonies announced that there would be some audience participation.

The bride and groom stood in the center of the ballroom, and my table watched enthusiastically. The emcee was talking, and I wasn’t paying strict enough attention to pick up what he said, until I felt his eyes on me and heard, “Mr. Steve!”

Everyone in the room, the families, the co-workers, the classmates, the bosses, and the friends looked over at me, the one foreigner at the reception.  I was startled, and terrified that I would misunderstand the question or not know how to respond.

“What’s different from before about the bride and the groom?” he asked. I kept the seating chart and program from the ceremony, so I know that there were a hundred sixty eyes on me, if you don’t include the host and staff.

“Uh. Yumi’s… hat changed.”

“Is he correct?” the emcee shouted into the microphone.

There was an overwhelmingly positive response, so the guy threw me a bag of kaki-pi, my favorite snack. I obediently showed it off to the rest of the reception, and got a hearty laugh. I really wanted to summon the host back over to ask him for some milk, but the show had moved on.

I met Ryo’s parents for the first time on the way out. Mari and I headed to the place where we’d have the “afterparty”. The bar was extremely classy, and offered a really special view of some of the city. This part of a Japanese wedding is convenient for keeping numbers down at the formal ceremonies. Friends of the bride and groom who are of similar age are invited to a bash in the evening. The honored couple are fashionable, popular, and genuinely nice people, so the masses were out for the event.

I had my hands full remembering the names of all my new friends, and was excited to see some people with whom I hadn’t gotten together in years. I couldn’t believe the fact that I was saying, “It’s been more than five years!” to people who lived in Tokyo. I kept busy by posing for pictures and winking at girls.

Attention was called to center stage for some question and answer with the newlyweds. After thoroughly humiliating the couple, the friend who was in charge of the party games somehow split the hundred or so people into about ten teams very quickly. The only person on my team that I knew was me, and I don’t even know him that well.

I was with some of Ryo’s elementary school buddies, and they were pretty excited. We talked for a bit about how we all knew him, and then we posed for some pictures. The host turned on a projector to use for the trivia contest, but the first order of business was to show some embarrassing pictures of Ryo. It was then explained that the team with the most correct answers would get to choose prizes from a hat. There were some real good prizes, so my team decided to play hard.

In a room full of friends who had known Ryo and Yumiko for any number of years, in a trivia contest conducted in their native and my second language, I led my team to a victory. There were ten questions. We got eight correct, and on a couple occasions, I intervened in the discussion, saying something like, “No. Trust me. It’s B.” When the results were announced, I popped out of my seat, pointed to the ceiling, gave and received some pats on the back, and shook hands with my teammates as we were being called to the front.

We were the champs of a gaggle of fashionable, successful, young Tokyoites, and out came the bag from which we’d draw prize tickets. When the host called for the first team member, I was tossed onto the block. In a nod to the overall attention I had been receiving that night, the man with the microphone went off-script and asked for me to do a small self introduction for the people.

I smiled and said, “I humbly refer to myself as Steve.”

“Ikemen!” came from a number of regions of the crowd.

After telling them a short tale of my friendship with Ryo, I put my hand in the bag. I settled on one ticket, and drew it out. Without looking, I handed it to the fellow with the mic. He looked at the prize, lowered the ticket, and raised the microphone. In a gradually escalating Michael Buffer-like proclamation, he roared, “Roooooooooooooooombaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!” I knew what a Roomba was, but it didn’t occur to me that that’s what he was saying, so when it was explained to me, “robot vacuum cleaner,” I rejoiced.

The thing was shipped to me a couple weeks after the wedding, and retailed for more than I spent on the trip. I was pretty pumped up. I immediately signaled the barman for another cold one, as I was firing on all cylinders and didn’t want to overheat.

Eventually the party started to die down. I had been quietly invited to a third party, though, so I was staying close to Ryo. This last party was strictly for hometown kids, the friends from all the way back. Being Acting Lord of Weddings, I was invited. A close friend of mine was not invited, so parting was awkward. She was sort of distraught, because she wanted to be with her friends. I had to comfort her by saying, “I think he just feels guilty that I came all the way from Miyagi, so he is letting me stay the whole night.”

The setting was a smart restaurant near Shibuya, I think. The first floor consisted of a few tables and the kitchen. The second floor had one large table and a ladder. Our table was in an enclosure up in the corner. It was technically the third floor, but we had to crawl through a hole at the top of the ladder, and the ceiling was four or five feet off the floor. It was dark. I had recently become obsessed with accessibility. I had gone through a phase in which I avoided basements. I didn’t like elevators, and I avoided standing under suspended things. Magnitude nine earthquakes will do that to a fella.

Luckily, I was drunk as hell and riding the natural high that comes with winning Best Supporting Actor of somebody else’s big day. This little roost in the rafters was where I tried to get the white girl to speak English. In a crafty move, we were seated together in the corner, next to Ryo and Yumiko, so it was only natural to bring it up. Every once in a while, I’d go down the ladder to use the restroom, walking by the other parties, prompting a “Check it out. Who’s this guy?” or two.

After we stumbled out of the chic little place, I began thinking of how I was going to get back to my hotel. I was ready for a bowing contest and some big hugs when Ryo said the magic word.

“Karaoke?”

I asked if he was serious, and he told me that we were all going to the center of Shibuya to get loud. We slid over by taxi and walked into one of the big chains. There was a bit of a wait, so we sat in the lobby. Yumiko was starting to fade, and she said she wasn’t feeling well. We got some water, but it didn’t help. She walked outside and knelt down by the curb. We stood around for support, and she heaved.

Maroon. On the dress.

Luckily, she had changed after the nuptials, so it wasn’t her wedding gown, and again before the afterparty, so it wasn’t even her reception dress. It was still a classy, white frock, though. I stood by in my cheap suit and offered up my twenty dollar coat, but Ryo had beaten me to it. Thousands of people, including several groups of foreigners walked past us on that sidewalk. It was very clear that we were a wedding party, and I was conversing normally with the other members. I got a hundred more of those looks. Mystique was my middle name that night.

We concluded that bridebarf is when civilized folk conclude a wedding night. We all had hugs and took pictures, then the party dissolved. Back to anonymity for me. I walked through the intersection in front of Shibuya Station, dodging revelers in the scramble crosswalk as they looked at me and said, “Check out the sad, white drunk.”

The sun was shining on the sea in the middle of the night, and I could have turned up the street instead of crossing. Life was behind me, and stupidly, I left it there. I only had about ten months left in Japan, but that night I was the walrus. The opportunities seemed limitless, like I’d relive it all the next weekend. I could hear the music and the laughter, but I opted for the pillow. The jubilance trailed off, or maybe Steve did.

I was defeated by my blood alcohol level: utterly lost. Knowing I was close, I stubbornly walked up and down the block in search of a memory. There weren’t any, and my phone was dead. I gave in and hailed a cab. Driving on the left side, he came up on my right. I sat in the back, and gave the driver the name of the hotel. He made the short left turn onto the main street, drove half a block, and stopped. “Here you are. Seven hundred ten yen, please.” Seventy cents a second.

I awoke having reverted to my oyster form. Washington was beating Utah. If I wanted to watch UCLA lose to Stanford and still have time to go read in the café at AEON, I needed to get on a train. The only tangible evidence of my fifteen hours of fame is a vacuum sitting in its box two feet to my left. I’ll use it when I have a bigger place.