Z, an Unknown Variable

Dear Friends,

It’s often said that before one dies an entire life will flash in quick succession before one’s eyes. (You know it, you’ve seen it in movies a million times.) While teaching my student Y, this morning, fragments of my life flashed before my eyes. He had me in a zone of tuning-outdom. He’s been taking English for five years, but seems to have retained little, and since I don’t speak or understand Japanese, and he doesn’t take correction, we didn’t have much to talk about. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to need more than an occasional nod here and there, and the requisite English word. He didn’t perceive my “Could you please repeat that?” as a sure-fire sign of inattention.

While nodding in seeming agreement with Y, I was thinking of many things, and this post will be a flash of my life before your eyes:

Long time, we no have no nice time. – Bob Marley (Nice Time)

1) On a cool summer evening many years ago, my mother took my friend Janine L. and I to Broadway to see Lend Me A Tenor. We were giddy to drive into the city from Long Island, from trees to lights– a play and dinner. I can see clearly what I wore, and how I styled my hair– high on top, down in the back. Janine and I had taken tie-dying classes at the Smithtown Public Library that summer, and we both wore our tie-dyed tee-shirt creations with white pants to the play (which made me laugh, but now I can’t remember even one line). Maybe then, we thought we could be designers; we thought we could meet Kirk Cameron; we thought Now-n-Laters could solve all sadness. I hear Janine is now a mother of two living in Arizona, and I’m where I never imagined I’d be. (I’d like some Tropical Punch Now-n-Laters). New York City was everything to me then.

2) At my corner convenience store, Family Mart, in a state of hunger, I decided to try the fried chicken behind the counter. It happens to be ridiculously delicious fried chicken. No joke. Yes, friends have repeatedly said that my palate is undiscerning and too “easy,” but this chicken is well-seasoned, not overly crispy, and moist– all for 120 yen ($1!). In an extremely short time, I’ve eaten more fried chicken than is good for a healthy heart, or a healthy waistline, and I’ve asked the girl behind the counter not to sell me any tomorrow. Sadly, her only English words are “I don’t speak English,” so naturally she looked at me like a straight up nutcase. (What does she care how much fried chicken I eat?) The Japanese know a thing or two about frying chicken.

3) Why don’t you practice what you preach? That’s what everybody keeps telling me. I tried to occupy my mind, keep myself busy all the time. – Candi Staton (Victim)

 The other day, I was reading Chronicles of Some Jamaican Chick‘s blog post, where she speaks of keeping herself very busy to avoid unpleasant thoughts. (I don’t know how to do the hyperlink thing, so please check out the blogroll on the side). Her post inspired me, because why can’t that tactic work as well as any other? Why do we need to examine and delve into every feeling and emotion, no matter how putrid and messy, until the “air has been cleared?” From now, I’m going to be a big advocate of avoidance, and try to keep myself a lot busier.

4) I must tell you that one way I won’t be keeping myself busy is with online dating. I just couldn’t do it, and had to delete my account. There are nice guys online, (I’ve been told), but my mind couldn’t get into the idea of meeting any strangers (unseen) at Starbucks. I’ll just have to “occupy my mind, keep myself busy all the time.” It would’ve been better to have started initial contact with voicemail messages, and not the written word. (Why don’t people use capital letters anymore?)

Life should be simpler, shouldn’t it? When, I was eight I was sure it would be.

5) In the latest issue of Oz magazine, a young Japanese woman cafe hops from Meguro to Daikanyama to Jimbocho to Asakusa to Hiroo to Ebisu… you get the picture. The magazine showcases new and old, trendy and staid, conservative and bold cafes and restaurants in Tokyo and Chiba. My friend S and I have decided to patronize a new cafe every Sunday. Lonely Planet: Japan states of Tokyo that “there are more cafes, and bars in this pulsing megalopolis than in any other city in the world.” We started our tour today at the Aoyama Flower Market Tea Shop.The tea shop, a large space in the back of the flower shop, features a different flower each day. It’s possible to sit there with a cup of tea for hours, listen to jazz or classical music, inhale the aromas of mingled flowers and scented teas and forget the hectic streets of Omote-Sando. We’re not supposed to repeat cafes, but I’d love to go back there soon.

6) Those pretty faces always make you stand out in a crowd. But someone picked you from the bunch, one look is all it took. – The Jackson 5 (I Want You Back)

This life hasn’t been anything I’ve expected, any step of the way. It’s been wonderful, and depressing at times. Sometimes now, I fear getting old and dying in a foreign country. (I fear many things). They hit me late at night. Then, on days like today, I walk in the drizzle and the damp of this Tokyo summer, to a flower shop, and my spirits lift incredibly. There’s nothing an anthurium can’t fix.

* I had an anthurium in NY in 2003; his name was Harry. This red one will join the pink one I bought earlier this week. (They’re both still unnamed).



6 thoughts on “Z, an Unknown Variable

  1. It seems that like your doing awesome. It seems like your doing a great job at keeping busy, so the blue times that you experience are not blue for a long period of time. I just want to say, Ms. Val, I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for coming up with new ways to keep yourself refreshed. I’m proud of you for sharing when it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate and try again. I won’t use “adventure” in this reply. I will say thanks for allowing me to keep my front row seat as I read how your progressing in your life’s journey. Go. Ms. Val!!!!!

  2. Dear Indigo, thank you for your wonderful (as always) comment. After I published the original post, I took a step back, reflected (re-read), and revised. I was wrong. This life is nothing but an adventure, and I’m therefore, indeed, an adventurer. (Story to come later).

    Tell me when I’ve shared too much, but it’s great to hear that you’re sharing a similar journey (at least on the inside).🙂


  3. Im so excited when I see “letters from Val”, I don’t think your adventures could ever be to much. Im taking all your adventurous moments in and enjoying the ride. Im also getting some “oops don’t do that” suggestions as an added bonus. As you would say “Good stuff”. Until next Ms. Val, continue to have a blast.

  4. Woohoo…thanks for the shout out, glad my mutterings inspired something (anything). Sorry to hear that your foray into online dating ended so quickly, but you’re right…it should be much easier. As for dying in a foreign country? At this point Japan is more foriegn to us than it is to you…and thanks to you that becomes less true with each post. Fret not, drink tequila in the afternoon and tea at night 😉

  5. Indigo, if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear you knew you my mother, Sounds like her, from the Ms. Val to the encouragement. Thank you! (And, I really do always say “Good stuff”).

  6. You’re so right Krys, about many things, but especially about the tea at night. Chamomile. I’m not sure what my bout of panic was that night, but thankfully, it went away quickly. (Whew). Next plan, try to remember how to do the hyperlink thing.

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