Party Time

One time I was at a little backyard fire pit party thrown by this Japanese pot fiend in Vancouver. One of the guests was a Russian pseudo-gangster (maybe a real G, it’s hard to tell sometimes). The Japanese guy was friends with the Russian because he couldn’t understand what a total douche the guy was, due to language barriers and other cultural interference.

After some time, the Russian decided the wee party was lame and he stood up to go. He announced: “Any bitches wanna give me a blowjob for $50 before I go?”

I was so high that I got my subject and object mixed up in his sentence’s meaning. I thought he was offering to give someone a blowjob and pay them fifty bucks.

“Wow!” I thought, “this dood’s a lot cooler than I thought!” Then, I almost put my hand up for the blowjob. I realized just in time that I didn’t want a blowjob from the Russian gangsterling. I started laughing really, really hard because I thought it was so funny that I almost volunteered to get blown by this guy. At this point, I still really believed that he was offering to pay a guy at the party $50 to let him blow them. (In my own defence here, I have been to plenty of parties where that kind of deal would definitely not be offside.)

I kept killing myself laughing, and I guess this defused some of the tension everyone was feeling. I suppose they all thought I was laughing at the Russian. The guy left without saying much else.

It took me until much later on in the night to realize that the guy was actually propositioning the women at the party. I did wonder what they must’ve thought about my amusement, but it can’t have been too negative, since they were awfully friendly towards me. One cute hippy girl almost half my age kept pressing her tits into me for the rest of the night. I’m married, so I didn’t let that go anywhere. But the attention was nice, as were her tits. I just let her do her thing as I kept rolling blunts for that Japanese cat. Man, did he ever have some heavy shit.

It was a good night.

Papa on Tickling

Papa. My grandfather.

He was full-on German. And by full-on, I mean full-fucking-ON.

Born and bred Prussian aristocracy: a real Von from Berlin. I’m not bragging, it just is what it is, and very relevant to who he was. Unless you’ve been pinned under the gaze of a man who’s had that kind of upbringing, you can’t really understand what all comes with that.

He was fearsome. The most terrifying eyes I’ve ever beheld. A thunderstorm controlled and housed in the frame of man. Always correct, especially when he was horrifyingly wrong. Absolute in his will.

In his world there was a crushing system of cruelty and trauma, so-called discipline, applied to children. To create men: the psychotics of the ruling class that were to wield privilege and power for the state. This is how the Europeans dominated, and the Prussian system was their template.

At the age of sixteen, Papa had gone to war to fight for Germany in World War Two. Captured by Americans, he spent a few years in a POW camp in England. He said the camp wasn’t as bad as I might have heard (the fake Nazis in today’s lockups have nothing on the real ones that were in those camps); since he was Luftwaffe and a Von, the hero fighter-pilot aristocrats took him under their wing.

When he was released, he returned to Germany to find his family dead and their properties clamped down behind what would later become the iron curtain. Nothing left. Riches to rags. A while later, he met and knocked up my grandmother, moved in with her family (also displaced persons, DPs, from what is now Poland), and sold newspapers and radios he built from scratch to get the money to move to Canada with his (then) three kids.

Luckily for me, Canada and age had mellowed him by the time I came around as his eldest grandchild, because I spent a lot of time with him when I was little. I really worshiped him. My parents were typical hippy types with very few consistent boundaries, and he quickly became the authoritarian in my life that I looked to for stability.

In so many ways, I am as he made me.

I miss him very much. I loved him deeply. He taught me chess and how to communicate with silence.

Later, I would hear about how he used to be from my mother and aunts. About the terrible, regular beatings he would lay out as a matter of principle. But he was forbidden from laying a hand on my sister and me, upon my mother’s threat of his being banished from our lives, and he never did. His voice, however, that vehicle of his displeasure, was all he ever needed to reign me in.

There was no fucking around with this man. Even so, he loved us deeply and taught us what he could. He was a giant in my formative years.

Now, as I just mentioned, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ “farm:” a small cattle ranch in northern Alberta. There were always a lot of relatives there too. My grandparents had five kids and both of my grandmother’s surviving sisters followed her to Edmonton. I was the eldest grandkid, so as I aged there were always cousins underfoot, like noisy, mobile pylons.

There were two uncles, Nick and Dave, both in the family by marriage (although at that time, I suppose, they were just boyfriends), who dominated my early life at the farm. One in a good sense, and another not so much. Both were macho, 70s, hairy, manly men, and very physical.

Uncle Nick was, and is, one of my favorite uncles. He was around a lot, dating my youngest aunt who was probably about eighteen when all this happened. Some of my earliest memories are of great fun with Uncle Nick on the big sofa in my grandmother’s living room. He’d read to me and also do that snuggle-wrestling that toddlers and young kids love so well. He was great at it too; a big bear of a man who was both strong and gentle.

He did, however, discover that I am insanely ticklish. He never pushed it too far, but he did throw a good tickle into his repertoire. As I got older, there was less snuggling and cuddling, and more serious wrestling. That was a lot of fun, but he never failed to give me a good tickle as the finish to a pin. I didn’t like that part of it, to be honest, but it also wasn’t too bad. Definitely worth suffering through as a price for the wrestling.

Then there was Uncle Dave. He was different. He started dating one of my mom’s cousins, and was more of a toxic masculinity type. I was about four or five years old at this point, and I guess he observed how ticklish I was during one of my wrastles with Uncle Nick. This seems to have piqued a predatory impulse in Uncle Dave.

Uncle Dave was never around so much, but when he was, he would track me down and forcibly tickle me to that point where I would want to die. For way too long. It was sadistic and horrible. There was never any pretense of fun as a lead in to it either. It was always just a straight up, dominating physical assault right from the second he got his hands on me.

The big problem with Uncle Dave’s tickling was that it ruined the fun time I would have with Uncle Nick. Now there was trauma connected to tickling. After Dave’s treatment, when Nick tickled me, gentle as he was, I went straight back into the same place where I wanted to die.

It was now intolerable.

So I bit Uncle Nick.

I remember pretty clearly that I felt safe with Nick, and made the conscious choice to practice biting as a defense I thought might work against Uncle Dave. I figured out pretty quick that there was no way to stop me curling up into a ball around some part of a leg to get my face into position to attack.

I don’t think I bit Nick hard, but he got the message. He looked a bit wounded, but he stopped tickling me after that and didn’t hold it against me. He’s a good man.

The next time Uncle Dave came to the farm, I was ready. I didn’t avoid him like I had been before (he always cornered me anyway): I sat down on the living room tickle sofa and waited for him. I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking, but I was fiercely determined that this was going to be the last day he tickled me without paying a price for it.

Sure enough, Dave zeroed right in on me and got to work. His big, strong hands pinned me down as his fingers drilled into my armpits and ribs. I didn’t hesitate either. I turned into him and turtled; sliding my chest and head down his leg until I reached his calf. Then I got a good hold around his leg and bit his calf as hard as I could, for as long as I could.

I don’t think I actually bit him for long, since he yelled really loudly and wrenched his leg free of me. If I recall correctly, my teeth rather hurt from his flesh getting yanked out from between them. I don’t know if he was bleeding, but he probably was. Reared on good, tough, German sourdough bread, I was. Strong jaw.

I look up at Uncle Dave and he is white with rage, his fist clenched and raised up. I don’t think I even had time to get afraid before Papa, my grandfather, was in the room. He had been at the dining room table in the adjacent room, doing his paperwork.

“Vas is zis?” he asked in his normal, quiet, terrifying way.

“Your grandson bit me!” yelled uncle Dave.

Papa gave this a measured think, with his usual inscrutable expression.

“Did he?” Papa finally said, turning his gaze to me.

I met his gaze, thinking the equivalent of, “well, fuck it, at least it was worth it.” But there was just the slightest twinkle in Papa’s eye that let me know everything was going to be okay. And something new, that hadn’t ever been there before. Respect.

Papa turned his gaze back to “Uncle” Dave, and I’m sure there was no twinkle there for him. Probably something closer to what Bob Dylan referred to as, “steel-eyed death.”

“And vat were you doing ven he bit you?” Papa asked.

“Tickling him.”

This earned another thoughtful, pregnant pause. This time with a slow nod of judgment at its finish. The Patriarch had reached his decision.

“Vell, if he bites you ven you tickle him, maybe you shouldn’t tickle him.”

Dave did not like that one bit, there was no doubting that. But he only met Papa’s eye for a second before he deflated and got the fuck out of there (while he still had the legs to carry him).

Papa just gave me another quiet look, this time with a friendly little nod, and went back to his seat at the head of the table to return to his paperwork. He had not said another word.

Now that I think about it, I do believe that shortly after that he started teaching me the game of chess.

In thinking about this whole exchange now, as a father myself, I wonder at my grandfather’s approach. He was always right there. He saw everything. And he never stopped it.

As a child in that position of being victimized, it never occurred to me that some adult might be looking out for me. That someone would come to my aid. I just assumed that to be victimized in that way was my role. Because, clearly, it was.

That is, until I figured out a way to protect myself.

Then, and only then, my grandfather extended his protection. I was never beneath his notice; he had simply made the decision not to intervene.

So what was his lesson to me?

You’re on your own. When it comes right down to it, you can only rely on yourself. And if you’re going to let someone treat you this way, then that is how you are going to be treated. But, when you figure out the right lever to protect yourself; when you’ve finally had enough and make that proverbial prison shank; at that point I’ll have your back.

Maybe it wasn’t a good lesson, in certain senses of the word. But it was definitely an important one.

Oh, yeah, and Dave never tickled me again either.

Rest in peace, Papa.

Party Time With the Cool Kids

At the first drinking party I went to in high school, everyone was going on about how great the last party was because some chick blew some guy, threw up all over herself, passed out in a bathtub, and then shit her pants.

“And you know what? She’s coming to the party later! Her brother got her more schnapps!”

I remember thinking: These are the fucking cretins that are all freaked out by me and my friends because we like to smoke weed and listen to Led Zeppelin all night. Maybe play some guitar and take a walk in the ravine. And we’re the ones fucking up our lives?

It wasn’t until more than ten years later that I became a raging alcoholic myself and discovered just what I had been missing back in those days. Although, to my knowledge, I have never blown anyone or shit myself in a bathtub. So I suppose there still are some stones left unturned in my life.

Diner

In Edmonton, I love 24 hour diners at four in the morning.

It’s got to be four in the morning. In Edmonton, last call is 1 AM, and closing time is two. If you go to that diner at three, there’s just too many drunks. It’s like being inside a pen during feeding time. Not good.

But four, now that’s a different story. Any drunks here have killed a whole hour in order to grace us with their presence. Up past your bed time, liquored up, stretching things out for an hour is a fucking marathon. You can’t buy booze at a convenience store in Canada.

Last call don’t fuck around up there.

Too-bright lights illuminating vinyl and fake wood decor. The empty streets outside watching you back. Who’s going to slide out of their shadows to come and join us? Islands of patrons, spread out, mostly ignoring each other, but sharing the bond of being up and wanting to eat greasy food at the extreme edge of human scheduling.

Always that titillating edge of menace. Is someone here crazy? Are the drunks at that table going to get in a fight with each other?

Is the double date over there going to resolve itself? The cute girl wants to fuck and her surly friend is white-knuckling it; not taking the hint that it’s time for her to get a cab home alone. The pussy blocking girl’s male counterpart is sleeping on the table; a good wingman to the end, holding on for as long as it takes so that his man can get his dick wet.

The alchemy of human chemistry playing out. Is there any gold to be had here?

My cheeseburger with a side of curly fries and gravy has arrived. Sure, warm that coffee up for me. I can’t get enough of you calling me “hon.”

Time to tuck in. Nothing’s ever going to taste better.

Artist

Late teens or early twenties.

Out with a few people. Wind up at the apartment of a hot girl en route to somewhere else with a number of other people.

Want to fuck her.

She’s got her art all over the place. Really terrible acrylics. Close-ups of eyes; mystical crystal light refraction; and various other “I’m not only popular because I’m an incredible piece of ass, I’m a deep and meaningful soul,” themes that seem significant to people who are anything but.

Can tell she really wants to engage about her art. Wants to be fed more lies about her talent and worth.

Stare at the woman with cats’ eyes painting. (Self-portrait?)

Can’t fuckin do it. Say nothing.

Rest of the evening goes nowhere. Go home and try to beat off to thoughts of her. Can’t even finish.

Switch thoughts to the waitress of the bar.

Success. Sleep.

An Edmonton Stroll

Every time I return home to Edmonton, I make a point of walking Whyte Avenue from 99th Street to 109th Street.

Whyte is a shopping and bar strip near the university that’s the closest thing passing for culture in Edmonton. It has some of the city’s oldest buildings (about 120 years old), and, depending on the time of day, is a reliable place to find suburban yoga moms doing coffee, hipsters looking down on their betters, breeder yahoos getting in vomitous fights, and lurking inner-city urban poor (mostly First Nations).

Walking from 109th  to 99th takes one from the more upscale residential university side of things, across the tracks to the light industrial, more inner-city, crack-ridden, stabby parts. I grew up just off Whyte, and worked for ten years on Whyte’s dodgy side; pumping gas and fixing tires at a full-service gas station and automotive shop (Edmonton’s last in operation, in fact).

So while I’m no street-hustling hard-case, Whyte Ave is one of those places that I can walk and a feel the pulse of through the soles of my feet. It was my hood, and when I get home I like to poke around and see what’s what.

Not all that much has changed, really. The station where I worked is now just a chain-link fence enclosing a heap of contaminated dirt, and there’s been a couple of new horrid, yuppie condo/retail developments. But that’s all window dressing; the pulse and vibration of the place is just the same as always.

At Joy’s Lucky 7 Food Store on 101st (where, along with your regular convenience store fare, you can get Chinese kitsch, crack pipes, pepper spray, swords, telescoping batons, and flickknives), I noted that the Somalis were now managing the retail crack business in the parking lot. Interesting! That used to be strictly a Native street gang deal. Now, those same cats seem to be slinging for young, willowy Africans with exquisite bone structure. I suppose that refugees with real AK47 time in a civil war can carry more water than the local talent when it comes to taking care of business for the 1%ers.

Good to know.

On we go, down to the center of the commercial foolishness: the Calgary Trails (North and South). Oh so many breeders and yuppies and suburban duds wandering around slack jawed looking for a reason to keep breathing. Let’s get a Starbucks and listen to a busker! Oh yes, lets. How does Dave like his new truck? Oh yeah? No doubt, eh?

It was around here that my old street sense perked up, and I pulled my gaze from the Lululemon encased ass bobbing all around me to a shady doorstep for an upstairs property. Sure enough, there was one of Whyte’s many homeless occupying the prime real estate. This was no poseur, neither. A real career professional.

Dood was about my age, white, and looked healthy enough. He was decked out in rugged, well-worn bush gear, with a rucksack and all the rough camping stuff you’d expect. He had a big dog tethered to his thick, shoulder-high walking stick. Also, dood was sporting a head full of dreds and his face was covered with a badly done, full-on, “Maori” face tattoo.

So, a real unique, beautiful mess. Which was staring right at me.

I make a point of making eye-contact with the homeless. That way, with simple body language and stink-eye I can get right out in front of letting them know to fuck off. And I will talk to them, sure, but their approach had best be fucking correct.

Now, this guy was not just looking right at me. He was taking me in. I’ve been around enough to know that when a homeless person starts such a personal interaction, they have probably decided that you represent something for them right now. This is never good. When it happens, it’s time to get your feet under you in preparation for fight or flight, and reorientate yourself with your pocket knife’s location.

But Guy didn’t make a move on me, so I gave him the jail-house, reserved, respectful, “I see you man” nod before breaking eye-contact and moving on down the street. A couple of shoulder checks over the next bit to make sure he wasn’t tailing me, and I was on with my day.

At this point it is relevant to mention that I was pretty high on this walk. The kind of high you can only get from smoking a bong of hash and weed salad when you’re totally jet lagged and have been completely sober for two years previous. So as I kept walking, I went into an emotional deep dive on my five second interaction with the homeless man.

The kick off was a quick indulgence in schadenfreude. Basically, an exploration on the theme of, “well, I can see that face tattoo is really working out well for you!”

I have to say, the interaction remains satisfying to me on this level. With one foolish and egregious cultural appropriation, our dipshit hero managed to completely burn through his reservoir of white privilege.

“You know what I want? I wanna have the visible minority experience of the 1950s. You know, where the vast majority of people who first meet me assume I am some mixture of criminal, moron, lunatic, wastrel, and pervert. But I want that without the benefit of any real community of my own. This is gonna be tits!”

The next stage of my dive was one of self-congratulation. There I am, high as a kite, walking a semi-dangerous environment for the first time in years, and I spot the potential danger and deal with it correctly. The scary homeless dood with a weapon in hand and a big dog as backup tried eyeballing me and I backed him off with a look.

There’s no question the guy tried to intimidate me. Skillful beggars will usually blend eliciting sympathy with intimidation. They’ll start with the sob story, but if that doesn’t get traction, they’ll build up the threat level as the interaction continues. The goal is basically to achieve a non-criminal mugging, where the target winds up paying a fee for the privilege of being left alone. This means there’s nothing strictly criminal taking place to get the beggar in trouble, and the target also has the face-saving measure of engaging in charity to alleviate any wounded pride at having been extorted.

When the guy noticed me looking at him, he looked back. What with his whole deal, probably only about one in a hundred passersby ever send anything more than a peripheral glance his way, so he’d have to take advantage of every interaction he gets. But he read my look and posture and saw it was a nonstarter, so he let me drift by without pushing it.

However, there was some pensive element to his look as he disengaged that stuck with me. It wasn’t shame, and it certainly wasn’t fear (I have no illusion that I’m capable of eliciting fear from a tough homeless guy like that; I was simply able to communicate that I’m more trouble than I’m worth). It was more exhausted embarrassment.

It was a couple of blocks later that I became pretty sure I went to high school with the guy. Not someone I ever spoke to, but a person that I was in a number of classes with. His was a face I had spent many a bored moment glancing at.

Then I realized that all of that confrontational and tough guy thinking was possibly bullshit. The guy probably recognized me and was trying to place my face. And, all posturing aside, I was scared of him, so I thought his attention was an intentional attempt to intimidate. (The visible minority experience indeed!)

But I didn’t recognize him, and treated him just as so many others had. He didn’t blame me (how could he), he just took it on, along with so many other small, troubled moments. Just a bit more weight to carry. Because yeah, it’s all his own doing. It’s his mistake playing out yet again, keeping him on the path he can’t escape.

I wonder what he saw in me in that moment. Did I represent to him some road not travelled? What might have been if he hadn’t fucked up his face in a willful expression of self-vandalism?

Probably not. Probably he thought, “fuck that guy.”

But I did think on it.

Hey, look! I’ve looped back around and we’re at the Second Cup coffee shop. I think I’ll pick up a brew to take back to my dad’s house. Maybe I’ll walk by Old Strathcona school on the way; I’d like to see that again.

And so it goes…

The Kraft Champagne Incident

Today I was driving my wife, mother-in-law, and daughter to a nearby village to buy basashi (horse meat eaten raw like sashimi [awesome, by the way]). While driving I had an out-of-the-blue recollection of one of my last alcoholic binges, about ten years ago.

At that time, I was trying to sober up a bit, so had resolved to stop drinking for a while. However I was feeling really shaky and upset that night. Really high on weed, I cooked and gobbled a whole box of Kraft Dinner macaroni and cheese right out of the cooking pot. Then I smoked more weed and without even thinking cracked open a magnum of really cheap champagne that my sister had left in my fridge for some reason.

I drank that whole magnum in under ten minutes; chugging it straight from the bottle. Then I smoked more weed and suffered one of those epic coughing fits. This caused me to gag and I barely made it to the bathroom for the next phase.

All that champagne and Kraft Dinner came exploding out my throat in a frothy orange torrent. High pressure stuff. It was like I was some kind of cartoon plague victim, or birthing an alien being in a B movie. Watching that orange foam rolling down my arms and the sides of the toilet, the absurdity of it struck me hard and I started laughing even as more of the stuff surged from my mouth.

Then it was over and I sat on the shitter floor in my mess and laughed and laughed.

Good times.

Recollecting this today with my family in the car, I also started laughing. Driving along and just started laughing out of nowhere. My wife now knows better than to ask me what’s funny in these instances.

The Giraffe Schoolgirl

Way back in my first English conversation class for Japanese high school girls, we were talking about “free time” and how we like to spend it.

One of my students announced quite boldly that she liked to go to the school library, get a book on giraffes, and then sit there looking at the book while pretending she was a giraffe. The other girls gave her looks ranging from bemusement to contempt. Meanwhile, the girl had zoned out with a happy grin on her face, and we all realized she was pretending to be a giraffe at that very moment.

She kinda looked a bit like a baby giraffe too.

I pretty much fell in love with her that day.

Over a decade later, I like to think that she’s out there somewhere, still giraffing it up like a gangly motherfucker.

Mama’s Story

I recall a Sunday family dinner at my German grandparents house, back when I was about four or five. There was a good amount of family there: I would guess about a dozen people, or so.

As she was prone to do, my grandmother (who my sister and I called Mama) came out of the blue with a story for all of us.

Mama told us about a friend of hers who had committed suicide. She hanged herself in the basement with her preschool kids in the house with her. The woman’s sister came by the house later that day and was greeted by her upset niece who told her:

“Mommy’s sick! She’s in the basement and her face is all purple.”

At this point, if I recall correctly, my youngest aunt (who would have been about eighteen at the time) got very emotional and began screaming at Mama about her story. My aunt is prone to emotional outbursts like that. Embarrassing.

Looking back, as anecdotes for family mealtime go, this one is hit and miss. It definitely gets points for originality: this is no humdrum, time-of-day, suburban bullshit. It lands, and it hits hard when it does. It utilizes powerful, if somewhat lurid, imagery. The purple face as rendered through the eyes of the child is like a lead hammer, delivered to full effect.

However, it has to be said that the setting was perhaps not the best venue for the performance. You know, a family dinner with preschool kids in attendance. Not to be overly sensitive and all, but that might have been a touch over the line.

Incidentally, at that time my sister and I were spending a lot of time alone with my grandmother at her house. But I am quite sure that her story was in no way intended as some kind of terroristic threat towards the family. It was just a quirky moment in a colorful family.

So ignore your aunt weeping in the kitchen and eat up the rest of your potatoes, kids. Then we’ll all have coffee and cake after a nap. Mama made streusel kuchen!

Man, her streusel kuchen is just the best!

A Visit With Nancy and Endi

I was recently watching sumo with my Canadian friend, Nancy, and her Japanese cop husband, Endi, at their place. They’re in their sixties and have just built their retirement home on Endi’s family property to replace the house that was bust up in the big earthquake.

Nancy’s from Nova Scotia and is one of those lapsed church ladies that can be incredibly hilarious and crass without ever saying a bad word. She was my original teaching superior at my first job in eikaiwa in Japan (English conversations school). Since then she’s become something of a surrogate mom for me.

Her husband, Endi, is an odd duck. For example, Nancy was complaining that while she was on her last solo trip to Canada, he rearranged the living room furniture so that all the chairs and sofa were facing a blank wall.

“He likes to sit and stare at the wall,” Nancy said. “He’s says it’s ‘berry nice.’”

He also collects rocks, which for some reason drives Nancy crazy. Not crystals or geodes, mind you. Rocks.

Endi used to handle the dead body inspection wherever he was stationed. He’d be the cop that would decide whether to have an autopsy or start a murder investigation when a corpse was found. With us being in basically rural Japan, it was generally a lot of suicides and solitary oldster decomps. He was also busy after the Great Tohoku Earthquake dealing with all the tsunami bodies. That got rough, he said. Not just the ocean water victims with the crabs and everything (although he said that was causing the military boys a lot of psychological trouble), but also dealing with families fighting over remains in the hopes of having something to have a funeral with.

Endi has all kinds of interesting dead body stories. He can be pretty callous, as is to be expected, so he can be fun to talk to about that kind of stuff. He never says much about active police work though. People for him tend to fall into two categories: “Nice Guy/Lady” or “Berry Stupid Guy/Lady.”

Endi’s also pretty intimidating in his way. He’s totally chill, but he’s got a face like one of those Japanese Buddhist guardian angels, and has black belts in kyokushin karate (hardcore full contact) and judo. Even in his sixties, he looks like he’s been carved out of wood like one of those temple guardian statues.



The first outing I had with Nancy and Endi was with my wife. We went to a Buddhist temple that had two really fine guardian statues inside the entrance gate, flanking the portal. Endi kept sticking his head into their space and smiling up at them saying, “guard. Guaaaaaaard. Guuuuuaaaaaaard,” in a really low, guttural tone, like a growl. Then he looked at me with basically the same smile that the statue had. Message received.

Not that I was too worried; Nancy had already told me that Endi said I was a nice guy.

He’s semi-retired now, which means he got transferred to his home town and will be driving a desk at headquarters until he’s 65. To prevent corruption, Japanese cops get transferred every few years from town to town within their prefecture. This has given me cause to see much of Fukushima that I wouldn’t have otherwise, since my wife and I tend go to visit Nancy and Endi every couple months.

At their house last weekend, in breaks between sumo bouts, I was asking Endi what work’s been like. Apparently, guys in his position are used to handle the “problem customers” that police face. Endi’s regulars are old ladies with dementia who live alone and use filing police reports as a form of entertainment. One in particular is a widow whose husband used to be police. Every week she comes in and tries to file one of two reports: either her home has been burgled and her money’s been stolen; or, her home has been burgled and she has been raped. Endi says his duty is to listen gravely to the old ladies, take notes with all his years of report taking experience, assure them that all investigative measures will be taken, and then throw away the notes as soon as they leave.

Endi loves sumo, so it was interesting to watch it with him. Between bouts he was happy to tell me all about the personalities, rivalries, nuances, and conventions. He’s very impressed with sumo wrestlers. One time he was at an onsen (hot spring spa) and there was a pro sumo wrestler in there with him. Endi offered to wash his back for him, and was allowed to do so. It seems that this was his proudest moment in life.

From Endi I learned that it is true that sumos have subordinates wipe their ass and wash their hind parts for them. This is an honorable and useful endeavor for the youngsters, I was assured (”Berry good, yes. Berry berry nice for them.”).

It was also fun watching sumo with Nancy, since she likes having me around to crack jokes with. She’ll trot out her English master’s degree grammar to say wickedly funny shit over her husband’s head. They both liked it when I referred to one sumo move as “the titty grab.”

It was a fun visit.