Monday, January 14, 2008

Two Beers, Please

(I found this draft from April of 2007 in my blog archives.)

Lately it feels like my Japan memories are slipping away just a little bit. I think it might have something to do with getting more and more used to my new job. Going to work at a bank is something I've done almost everyday since I was 22 (14 years.) I think the normalcy and familiarity of my day-to-day routine is making me feel more a part of American society again. I don't really like it - I have the normal fears that anyone feels when something important starts to slip away. But it is making things easier, in a way. I don't feel so conflicted all the time. I don't have to struggle with whether I should answer questions in Japanese or English; it's just English now.

I woke up on Saturday and saw the sunshine peeking through my blinds. I laid in bed and thought, I wish I knew a park in this area so I could go enjoy the weather. A few minutes later I remembered that I live in the States and I have a back yard. In Japan there are no yards, no green spaces. So for the past two days I've been sitting out back enjoying the sun, listening to my iPod, and remembering different parts of my time in Japan with each song.

John Denver - Leaving on a Jet Plane. The one time I went to karaoke with Americans it was a group of employees from my bank. They smuggled in alcohol; I preferred to buy it there, even though it was more expensive, so I could use the phone in the room that went directly to the front desk. "Ni biru, onegaishimasu." (Two beers, please. Improper grammar, but they got the point.) You called them and five minutes later they brought a tray of beers upstairs. Gotta love the beer phone. Karaoke with Americans was infinitely more fun than karaoke with the Japanese, just because I could understand and sing along with the songs. We sang for two hours and then everyone got ready to leave. I begged the group to stay another hour, and we did. At the end someone chose this song, and it felt horrible to sing it. I'd already figured out that military families get so used to moving around that goodbyes are routine. It was much harder for me. "All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go."

Dido - Sand in my Shoes. I listened to this entire CD over and over and over for ten days in Thailand one year. I laid on a chaise lounge on an island in the middle of a private pool and got fried (last year without sunscreen.) I had lunch and dinner delivered to the chaise lounge. At night I would shower and then walk on Patong Beach, at the exact spot that was later shown a thousand, million times on tsunami footage. "Two weeks away, feels like the whole world should have changed but I'm home now and things still look the same."

Ben Folds - Landed (String Version). I was TDY to Mis.awa (northern Japan) off and on for eight months during my last year. It was really hard to be away from my home, and the BOH (bachelor office housing) in Mis.awa is SHITTY. I'm not sure I slept one night during those months, but I would play this on my iPod every night to help me at least rest. Strings always calm me down. "I'm just now finding out what it was all about."

Jonatha Brooke - Linger. I listened to all things Jonatha while living in my second house in Hachi.gamine. That was the one where about twenty kids would come over to play every day after work, and leave loves notes for me on my porch in the morning. If I could live anywhere in the world, it would probably be in Hachi.gamine in Japan. "I am leaving 'cause I love you, I am leaving 'cause I don't."

Lazlo Bane - Superman. I stumbled on this song. It's the theme for a television show, but on the show they don't play the best part. I used to listen to this while driving to work, past the firemen doing calisthenics. I'd just started wondering if I was willing to quit my job without having another job. I couldn't imagine doing that. One day I was driving and listening to this song for the 1,000th time and something clicked. I quit the next day. "You've crossed the finish line, won the race but lost your mind. Was it worth it after all?"

Maria Mena - Fragile, Free. I listened to this album on constant repeat while driving around Artia looking for rice terraces and pottery villages over a period of about two years. I think my favorite times in Japan were in Arita. It's an amazingly beautiful area. "I've been walking around all day thinking. I think I have a problem, I think I think too much . . . I am fragile, I am hopeless, I'm not perfect, but I'm free."

REO Speedwagon - Roll With the Changes. I would listen to REO (despite terrible junior high school flashbacks) on the 4.5-hour drive between Iwa.kuni and Sas.ebo. (I can finally say those cities! Kind of.) I would listen to this album when I was feeling like crap and needed to stay positive, which means almost all the time. "So if you're tired of the same old story, turn some pages."

Shawn Mullins - Twin Rocks, Oregon. I don't know why, but I always listened to this when I went to Fukuoka. I would drive around looking for my favorite museum and singing this song at the top of the lungs. I think I was listening to this in Fuk when I got my car stuck in between two buildings on a very skinny street. I don't think I ever blogged about it because I was so embarrassed. Anyway, I got my car stuck in between two buildings on a very skinny street once. I had to leave it there and find someone to help me back it out. "I'm gonna sit right here, I'm gonna watch the sun disappear into the ocean because it's been years, it's been years . . . I don't know what I've been looking for. Maybe me."

Blue - Signed, Sealed, Delivered. I needed something perky to listen to between the Holiday Inn and the branch in Sas.ebo on the way to work each morning. I was TDY so often, they got to know me at the Holiday Inn. And when I would drive up, the entire staff would run out from behind the front desk, line up in a row, and bow in unision when I entered the lobby. "Seen a lot of things in this old world . . ."

U2 - Walk On. I listened to U2 constantly in Japan. This song was written for the Burmese activist who has been on house arrest forever, and I always felt a little shitty for finding solace in it - me and my little problems borrowing peace of mind from a song written for a Burmese activist. But I listened to it anyways, usually on the drive home for work, somewhere between 1 and 3 AM, wondering what in the world I was doing working a job I hated on the other side of the globe. "And if your glass heart should crack and for a second you turn back, oh no, be strong. Walk on."


  1. I love this post. It will gave an interesting insight into some of your time in Japan. I mean, we heard a lot of that back then : ) but it was nice to be reminded again. Thanks!

    (and I'll have to check out some of these songs. Like, what is this REO Speedwagon you speak of? : )

  2. Loved reading this! Isn't it amazing how music can transport us to another time and place in our lives along with all that wistful nostalgia?

  3. REO Speedwagon-You can tuna piano but you can't tuna a fish. Favorite album('cause I'm when I was young. Roll with the changes great song! And John Denver, bless you-so misunderstood, so easily poked at by so many, and here-some creedence. Hope all is well, good air here, always clear.
    Take care-