“The Real English Shit”
i like to overthink things. not even to the point of it being a problem (anymore), just because it’s kind of fun. like testing the own dramatic ends of my brain, making things more interesting, eviscerating every thought for interpretation and speculation. where did that Frito on the floor come from? i don’t remember buying a bag of Fritos. did someone break into my house and drop a Frito on the way to stealing the grand piano? makes a better story than “oh shit maybe i DID buy fritos!!!”
that was just a pointless preface to mention that i’ve spent a lot of time overthinking this post, and that it both is and isn’t a problem (and also maybe i’m hungry, brb. okay back). problem, since it’s basically taken me fucking forever to gather up the words and thoughts to make a coherent statement. not a problem, since it’s more or less what i expected dealing with so many incoherent memories and emotions. i could try the best i could with this huge, inelegant burst of eloquence, but there’s no language in my lungs to really convey all that i’ve been considering about my past semester at Kansai Gaidai.
a very good friend of mine asked me during my stay if being abroad helped me “grow” as a “person” (her quotes). at first i was like “lol yah” because that was some funny shit she said, but over time i realized with great earnestness “i actually have grown a lot as a person!” not only can i now ride a bike with no hands, or divide large numbers by 80 in my head no sweat, or speak and understand japanese at an almost 3rd grade level probably, but my experience in japan has affected me so much that i wouldn’t hesitate to say that i’m now A Changed Man (TM).
“You don’t feed a cat dog food, son.”
whatever expectations i had for myself, the program, or japan were not entirely fulfilled. rather, i experienced something utterly different and greater than anything i could have expected. i didn’t find some marvelous eye opening cultural thing, or discover some fantastic new path in my life offered by a new global perspective. after just a month and a half, i realized what i actually found was much better: a new home. i don’t know if it was just everyone’s friendship and kindness, or actually getting a grip on the language, or whatever combination of all sorts of wonderful things, but i got the feeling that i could live the rest of my life in the greater Osaka area. even more, i got the feeling that i should live there. japanese life became natural, but it never became routine; coming home felt more alien than landing at kansai international for the first time. sure, i feel comfortable among familiar elements back in new york too, but at the same time i can’t shake that the natural order of things was forcibly truncated, interrupted.
it is very hard for me not to speak in hyperbole because my whole experience was so hyperbolic (see fig. 1 to the left). out of all of the people i’ve been so lucky to meet and get to know on this trip, 90% were such personable, fantastic, individualistic people that compiling a list of shout-outs to each of them would just be bloated and silly (stay tuned for my bloated, silly list of shout-outs at the end of this post!). every day and night — falling asleep by the pond at school, getting insulted by an Irish bartender in Shinsaibashi, or just shooting dice and listening to Juvenile at home — was an event and a memory. i could just be putting the past on a pedestal, but it isn’t hard to rank these last four months among the best in my life. carrying these memories around with me for the rest of my days justifies my continued existence.
with that big takeaway so inelegantly stated (“I had a really great time” pretty much covers it, practically speaking), i guess i should wrap this up before i descend into a weepy pile of blubbery crying tears crying like a little crying crybaby who just wants to cry about crying. living in japan did help me “grow” as a “person” in all sorts of wonderful bullshitty ways like widening perspective and strengthening skills and such, but my measure of a successful life is happiness. in that regard, i could not have possibly grown more than i did in the last 4 months. the great times, the endearingly befuddling times, the sober and ever-so-slightly-less-than-sober-i-swear-i-cant-drink-more-because-of-epilepsy-sorry-guys times, even the rare simply fucking terrible times, all of them were happy and fulfilling times.
i love you.
PS: I am going to do a whole bunch of lists and shout-outs now because I can’t help myself when it comes to making gigantic lists and showing ridiculous amounts of emotion for people I just met 4 months ago. First, a shout-out to all of the great places that defined my semester with their indelible location-ness:
- Yamadaike. Going back there every week, sometimes just for twenty minutes, sometimes for the whole night, and discovering something new and fantastic every time. In daylight or moonlight, it was the ichiban place to relax, collect my thoughts, chill with friends, and paint photographic murals with glowsticks and firecrackers.
- Seminar House 3, Flat 3231-4. Where the magic happened. Good luck living up to the legacy, mysterious next semester people.
- Cafe Istanbul and Seven Gods. The one-two punch of a guaranteed good night right by the East Gate. To study or hang out or full-out celebrate without having to spend an ichiman, there were no better places to go to. (Just a suggestion, Masako and Uncle Gene: become friends and start coordinating events with each other! lots of money to be made there!)
- Kyoto. Simply the most remarkable and unique city I have been to in my entire life. Futuristic urbanism on one side of the river, unparalleled mountainous beauty on the other. Take the Keihan to any stop in the greater area for the whole day and you won’t be disappointed, not one bit. Best bits: Uji and Arashiyama.
- Obaachans. The home away from home away from home, the staple of my KGU diet. Not sure what I’ll miss more: the donburi or the all-the-fuck-over-the-place radio playlist.
- Oiso beach. On the other end of the spectrum, by far the shittiest, most dirt awful “natural” location I have ever slogged through in my entire life. Made for one of the funniest days I can remember.
- Sukiya. Oh, if only half of American chains were as good as you.
- Best bathroom experience of my life, and in a convenience store no less. I open the door and the toilet cover flips open automatically, spraying some freshener into the air. Plus, the seat was warmed! Could not have asked for more… and then the auto-bidet kicked in. The world is a wonderful place.
- Kaiten sushi at Tsukiji was easily the best meal I ever had. I fully expect no meal I eat since then to come even remotely close, until I return to Tsukiji and try the other kaiten sushi place next door.
- Yakitori at Oiso Beach was one of the most memorable meals I ever had, even if it was almost incidental to the actual quality of the food (which, though terrific, could not match having a Japanese cougar buy us a bottle of wine and proceed to make some pretty aggressive moves, with varying degrees of success)
- Best Lunch Break Ever. An hour of patience and peace alone in a ramen shop in between a long morning and a longer afternoon of classes. The seventy-year-old chef/owner/O.G., sensing my desperation, put on Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues just as he brought out the big bowl of delicious. fleet foxes, it would seem, is perfect ramen music. more spiritually invigorating than a month of meditation with the buddha himself.
- Best Timed Joke, or among the best I’ve ever heard, occurred right after talking to the cute Asahi girl at the Hanshin tigers game. Charles knows what I’m talking about. Boy am I glad I didn’t go to Kyoto University.
- Best Friend While Writing a Paper All Night Long. Japanese television after the scheduled programming ends. Just pleasant muzak and videos of trains and nature for five hours. (Think I already mentioned this in a blog post! read the rest of this blog! i am very insightful)
- Best Moment of Fuck Yes Triumph. Realizing that I could bike with no hands and being able to throw both of my hands into the air to celebrate.
- Dan - You are my senpai. I don’t know how someone could master so much ignorance while simultaneously being one of the most fiercely intelligent people I’ve ever met, but… somehow, that is correct. Your life lessons will hopefully stick with me until the day I die. more words cannot express my gratitude, so just take this music video instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX5YzMhhAmw.
- Gabe - the third and not least member of the night crew, whose swarthy Cuban salsa maneuvers overshadowed his unfortunate ‘eediousness. thanks for speaking Japanese whenever I couldn’t. no amount of spontaneous lapdances could convey the amount of appreciation i have for your friendship. MINORITIES.
- Tim, le musician - always a good sport whenever we railed on your inferior caught-in-a-perpetual-state-of-surrender country, never turned off the music, and was the red to my purple. if surgeons meant anything, we’d both be at the top of our med school class. living in your messy, glorious presence has made me want to learn french again, and your addictive TV habits have made me want to JAKE. im gonna miss you bad :(
- Kyle - my fellow connoisseur of ignorance, my fellow uh-oh oreo. I am deeply depressed that I never got to see The King in his full royal glory. i’ve met angry white boys before, but none quite so angry or white or boy as you. get the hell out of iowa as fast as you can.
- Troy - who filled my Kentucky-bred Best Friends quota quite nicely, my brother in food and constant support in the struggle. one of the most insightful and unique individuals i’ve ever met, thanks for giving me perspective on my life that i could not have gotten from anywhere else. and also teaching me how to correctly assault a prisoner with a knife. BERRIES.
- Taylor, The Roommate, who needed to play more commercial music, christened Pride Rock in more ways than one, got a load of those cunts, and touched me in my sleep. it is also totally cool to play diablo 3 now, you sultry temptress! trick ass bitch! i’ll hit you up when ah do.
- Zaher, “the brown one,” gonna miss our discounted, spicy-limit defying meals at new dehli. keep albany warm for me will ya.
- Liz, Roos, Renka, Sophia, Helga, Darren, Sebastian, Ian, Miguel, Eric, Kelly, Jarkko, Starr, Nikol, Tyler, George, Eddie, Max: Hate to lump so many people into a single shout out, but each of you have affected my life with many, many of what Sebastian himself would coin “deathbed moments.” Every single one of you have done irreparable scarring on my soul in the form of great friendship and awesome memories. Thank you so much for enriching my days the way you did, and I hope I was able to do the very same for you.
- Chiako, Koki, Fabiano, Miki, Ryu, Kengo, Momoko, Aiko: Same as what I said above. I was going to try to translate it into Japanese, because I should know how to do that now, but no amount of grammatical structures could adequately translate my love for y’all. またね！
- Michael, Anthony - if i were dan i’d be all “USF! GO BULLS!” but most unfortunately I will never have the honor of attending the same school as you incredible gentlemen. A trip to Florida may be in the works soon - I’ll definitely keep you updated.
- Hillary - sorry for so constantly offending your fragile south carolinan sensibilities that i am sure exist but you’ve never demonstrated.
- Charles - i once joked that your smooth british accent is powerful enough to coax the steadfastest homophobe into a devil’s threesome. except that i wasn’t joking. Mazel tov, thanks for drinking that margarita when I couldn’t drink anymore and maybe I’ll see you in New York sometime soon!
- Tere - I don’t regret meeting you so late in the semester because you quickly became one of my closest friends, and each time we hung out was memorable and exceptional. Gonna miss your swarthy Catalonian charm. If I ever make it back to Spain one day, I’ll hella let you know!!
- MAIMU, Miwako, Kanako - our legendary triple dates were ones for the history books, incredible days I will never soon forget. be careful in texas, maimu!! they dont like your kind around there!!! motherfuckers!!!!!!!!!!
- Nathan “Dragon-San” - a big part of me always wanted to live in that even crazier alternate reality where you, like, totally stayed in our flat for the whole semester. I still have a picture of you as a fire-breathing mermaid with your name on it. Come to Boston to claim it, aight?
- Masako - I already gave Istanbul a tip of the hat above, but more absolutely needs to be said about the strong, elegant, lovely proprietor herself. thanks for keeping taylor off the streets and in a warm, smoke-filled home; best of luck with the business and family in the coming years, and never give up!
- Prostak-san, Stefan and Mizue - thanks for being “the normal people” in a sea of Otaku, making Monsters class a bearable place every monday and wednesday (well, that is, when we showed up).
- The flat next door - AKA “Little Paris,” our not-so-vicious rivals in the almost-entirely-one-sided Prank War of April 2012. gonna miss seeing yall shirtless in the laundry room from time to time. Nick and Stefan (again lol), hope your tour of our Crib didn’t leave any permanent scars. Best of luck on the rest of your awesome-sounding indeterminate stay in Japan, Stefan.
- Cindy, Keiichi - Besssssst RAaaaaas everrrrrrrr. Thanks for putting up with all of our shit all semester! And I really really really really mean that. Reeeeaaallly. Oh and Keiichi! Add me on dropbox so we can trade music! firstname.lastname@example.org
- Brian - you completely lived up to the myths and legends i heard about you from last semester. is this a good thing? a bad thing? only G-d can truly know.
- Timmy K - your guitar dirges into the wee hours guided my mental lullabies every night since you prematurely bounced from 3232. you will be dagly missed, indeed. (except, yknow, BOSTON)
- Natsumi, Narumi, Boomerang, and DANGER! thanks for the kyoto tour! the best introduction to the semester humanly possible. Yume, my only regret during my entire stay in japan is that you did not cook me udon. IT SOUNDED SO DELICIOUS, DAMN IT.
- Arisa, who helped bring millions of burgers, and therefore happiness, into this world. still gotta have a trio meetup with da big lank. Louisville January 2013???
- Jon Poli: the man, the myth, the legend. meeting up all the way around the world and drinking Oreos at The Lockup will definitely be one of the most surreal experiences of my life (shoulda thrown that on the list above, except we’ll always have oiso beach ;D). for sure. seeya stateside.
- Terry, the bastard who fairly won all my money in a devilishly fun game of poker. SEE YOU IN HELL.
- Shit! I knew I published this prematurely. Probably because I couldn’t decide whether to file him under Japanese or American, but I am completely ashamed to have not given a shoutout to the big ball of awesomeness known as Tatsuya Ogawa. Sharp, witty, generous, and always reliable. The kind of guy you look at and realize “Shit, this dude’s gonna be BIG one day.”
- Aaaaand lastly, Jay Romano for planting the seed of KGU in my head in the first place. this is for you! for you! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUOvnbCtnVQ