Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Dungeon Master's Girlfriend

This blog post exists as a way for me to work though a specific and very nerdy sort of anxiety I am currently experiencing – that this weekend I will be leading a game of Dungeons and Dragons for my girlfriend Julia.

This isn’t to complain. By no means do I undervalue the incredible luck and miraculous turn of events that has allows both the statements “I play Dungeons and Dragons” and “I have a girlfriend” to be simultaneously true.

My girl friend is a classy lady – a classy nerdy lady. She is a fiercely beautiful girl who always keeps plenty of extra awesome in her pockets. Her hair regularly changes color based on her whims, her eyes regularly change color based on some strange genetic quirk, and she sports not one, but two enormous, beautiful breasts.

The only stuff in her apartment that doesn’t make you think you fell through a timewarp to 1965 are the things that make you think the timewarp actually led to 1981. She collects lunchboxes of ironic and non-ironic quality, displayed handsomely on a shelf above her kitchen, has 1 book shelf stuffed with all the good books you’ve ever read, 2 book shelves stuffed with 70’s era romantic pulp fiction / celebrity tell-alls, and 6 book shelves stuffed with VHS cassette tapes, arranged by color.

She has a TV that doesn’t work except to play the most amazingly bad cinema ever recorded by humans and/or sci-fi BBC TV series. She can beat the original Bubble Bobble without using a continue, dresses both retro and chic, and manages a revival movie theater in the heart of LA’s coolest district (the orthodox Jewish community off Melrose).

I am, in short, a very lucky man, and a very, very lucky nerd. Given the relentlessly awesome nature of my charming beau it perhaps should not have come as a shock to me when, one Saturday evening, she expressed an interest in playing DnD with me.

Apple Core

In transit. Sendai-city, Late September. Some bad language follows, sorry.

My backpack is unbearably heavy. Every time I lift it I try and tell myself it is, honestly, not that bad, but gravity is never fooled and it gets around to stating is case 15 - 20 minutes along.
What I really need to find is a bench, just here, on one of these street corners. I look around, but of course there are no benches.

Of course, I reason, Of course there aren't. Every city in Japan is just like New York City, not a lick of humanity in its design. People in New York would laugh in your face if you told them it would be a good idea to have somewhere to sit. Trendy standing bastards. Some day I'm going to a city with plenty of benches everywhere and the people will be nice and pleasantly apple-cheeked and I'm going to live there for the rest of my life.

Around the next corner are two benches, set quite nicely into some bushes and with a light over them. On one of the benches sits an old Japanese man, bald as a spring peach. He is sitting hunched over one of the benches, hurriedly eating a banana. I watch this with good natured interest as I stagger nearer under my load. As soon as he finishes he throws the empty peel to his feet and produces another banana from the great grocery sack of bananas next to him. At his feet are, like, five banana peels. About 15 feet away, right by the other empty bench, I can see a perfectly fine trash can.
"I hate you," I think loudly, "This I why New York City can't have nice benches - because of all the crazy banana eaters."
I briefly consider taking the other bench and teaching him a lesson in good manners by sitting there silently, eating no bananas at all, but he shows no signs of stopping his banana frenzy and I cross the street.

"What would happen if a bike courier came zipping around the corner and skid out on those banana peels all outrageously?" I ask myself in sage tones, "It would be hilarious, but ethically reprehensible."

The old man represents a form of madness I never want to fall to in my old age. The madness of forget-the-world,-this-shit-is-too-hard-anymore,-I'll-just-withdraw-into -my-skull-and-take-my-hate-out-by-not-giving-a-shit. Fucking bananas.

On the other side of the street, sure enough, is an identical set of benches, nice and empty.

"Predictable old city planners," I think, "Easy enough to figure them out."

I take a load off, which is very nice. I've been eating cheap on the road, and dinner didn't do the job, so I enjoy a delicious crisp apple from my bag of fresh Sansa apples, bought earlier that day. And as I reach into my bulging bag of apples I realize I am sitting exactly opposite the old man, eating from a bag of fruit, and that I too am bald as a spring peach. Two fucking bald men sitting on opposite street corners devouring their bags of fruit. What crazy conspiracy is this, the business men must think as they cross the intersection.

"Let them think what they want," I revel, freely, "There is a clear line between enjoying fruit and monstrosity."

Except that, contrary to all possibility, there is no trashcan on this corner. What the fuck? - the city only had money enough for the one trash can? I'm left with a dripping apple core in my hand, just sitting there, in front of those big bushes - where an apple core would serve as fine fertilizer - on the cusp of becoming everything I hate.

I devour the apple core, seeds and all, and tell myself I love it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Day in the Life (of a Japanese School Teacher)

It's Friday and I been thinkin' about this whole teaching experience. Like, there is stuff that is normal to me now, stuff that I accept as my day to day worklife, which is straight up caca-loco. Now, for the time being I only teach at junior highschools (7th, 8th and 9th grades) - but I got a lot of kids and, if you remember your own junior high experience, kids this age are out of their damn heads. Everybody's bodies are doing all sorts of crazy stuff that nobody prepared you for, I mean they told you about it sure, but that in no way prepares you for your own unique rollercoaster ride of hormones and body hair and bits of your body that start rebelling against your will. And to make matters worse they've gone and stuck you in this manic zoo of equally frenzied animals, some of which you desprately feel the need to look cool in front of.

So being taught manditory English is the least of any students concerns right now, which makes matters tricky for me, and on top of this I have to contend with the Japanese student's concept of humor.

Let me just say that as an English and Japanese major I am quite familiar with the ramifications of applying the word "inscrutable" to the Japanese, but man, that is some inscrutable crap they got going on.

On the day to day my job pretty much means putting up with the teasing, often literal, probes of my students. I mean, the kids are always messing with me in little ways because my existence is so incredible to them, and seeing as how I'm sort of this temporary, wacky foreigner whose sole duty is to "make English fun", they have licsence to.

Much of the time they just yammer at me in Japanese, yammer with mischevious intent - they often find this hilarious. E.G. They ask me something all quick like, or purposefully speak in difficult Japanese, and force me to deal with it. I've experimented with responding, not responding, laughingly responding, somberly responding - I still have no idea what to do. It all seems to delight them about equally, and they are undetered in their japes thanks to that twisted tenacity that only the junior high student and the moray eel possess.

Fortunately since I am basically deaf to their harrassment it doesn't put me out as much as all that. So no problem there, but then they'll do weird things like stroke my arms because my arm hair freaks them out. Or stroke my hairy chin. Or poke my pecs to see if I am as rock solid as I appear. Well, okay, I think, their curious, they come from a different culture, this is fine. But then they've got this crazy "humor" here that makes no sense like the girls, the girls especially, are always throwing bizarre jokes at me.

"Debitsu", they yell at me, never bothering too much over the pronunciation of my name, "Suzuki Ichiro is my father!"

Me: "Uh, oh. Okay."

"Debitsu - sensei is my father!"

"Debitsu - you are my father!"

In these situations I just sort of freeze... how do you come back to that one? Do I confirm it, deny it? How do I play to the joke? Is this just half of the joke, is she expecting some crazy come back from me like - "No, you are the Emperor, you are Godzilla!" and then I"m supposed to fling my arms out into some crazy position?
Fortunately, however, the kids are never actually looking for a response to this sort of thing - they just enjoy throwing it at me to see how it works on the wacky foreigner before scarpering off elsewhere

What is much worse is this thing they have called the "kocho", another priceless Japanese "joke". What happens is a kid will run up behind you and try and jab his index fingers up your butt, both his index fingers together. And we're not talking about jabbing just into my butt in general, or into the (pardon my french) butt crack, the goal is for actual anal penetration. Obviously you can only get so far through a pair of pants, but still. I'm serious about this - there is a kid who tries to do this to me. He's got me twice, this was just recently, and now I don't know how to come back at him for it. Do I sock the kid out? Do I return penetration? If I just play it off as a joke, like I've been doing, all the sudden its this big game.

"Whee! Ha ha! Look everyone, David doesn't like us sticking our fingers straight up his butt, now lets all do it!"

What sort of crazy country is this? I mean, if you were telling me a story about a fictional country where kids do that to people for amusment I would look at you gravely serious in the eye and tell you to get real. This is a nation-wide, acceptable game here. There must be court judges, steel magnates, high-ranking government officials, who have cherished memories of doing this in their youth. Perhaps Emperor Hirohito himself had at one time done his level best to violate the rectum of his own sensei, perhaps this something the Japanese respect about him.

But I digress. The integrity of my pants aside, my fear and apprehension over teaching these children has subsided into my daily routine - I walk the halls with an easy smile on my lips, a friendly wave in my hand, and a readiness to spring aside if I feel a scampish anal thrust. This concerns me from time to time, in the darker hours of the night.