Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Recently I’ve been hearing some whining about the fact that I haven’t posted an entry in almost a third of a year.

Believe me, this is not my fault. How many times have I started to write and then stopped? How many times have I looked back upon the genius of my fifty-something previous posts and thought there is no way I can beat that? Many, my friends. Many, many times. And every time I shut my laptop in disgust.

Listen, blogs are fickle beasts. In order to write a blog, a lot of things have to come together. First, something interesting needs to happen to you. Now, while I clearly don’t live the rip roaring life I used to in Japan now that I’ve taken up semi-permanent residence on the second floor of Casa Griffith, I would be lying if I said I didn’t do interesting things every now and then. The problem I have is my lack of righteous indignation.

The righteous indignation is gone. Plain gone. I have nothing to be angry about. Instead of angry, I’m mostly sedentary and often tired. I’m kind of like a cow. Have you ever seen a pissed-off cow? Of course you haven’t. Hell, you can squeeze a cow’s boobs until junk comes out of them and they still won’t get pissed.

But recently I’ve done something I must write about, because in a roundabout way it involves Japan.

For reasons unknown to me, when you work for the Japanese and then cut and run on them, they give you back almost every tax dollar you paid them. Don’t ask me why. All I know is that I got a grand and change in the mail about four months ago. I then halved it, and put one half in savings. The remaining half I divided up again and put a portion of this in a long-term mutual fund, and another in a growth index fund. With what was left, I took my Grandmother out for a nice dinner.

Just kidding. I immediately purchased a ticket to Argentina to go get drunk. I left ten days ago, and now I’m back.

The thing about Argentina is this: It is awesome.

No offense to all you JETs, nor to my supervisor, because you were awesome people, but If I hadn’t signed up to go to “charming” Toyama back in the day and instead had found some sort of similar employment in Buenos Aires, man oh man, would I be sitting pretty right now. There is no way I would have left after a year. You couldn’t have paid me to go home. In fact, when I reached the three year time limit, you would have had to shoot me with some sort of sedative and locked me in a cage to get me out of that country.

Here’s the bottom line about Argentina: The food and wine are world class, for a third of the price. The weather is beautiful. The city of Buenos Aires is modern and hip and stays up all night. The clubs and bars are numerous, and also world class. And the overwhelming majority of people, both women and men, are beautiful.

Here was my average dinner for the last ten days: 1 fine top-shelf cocktail, one salad, one delicious appetizer, one generous portion of top-quality Argentinean beef tenderloin, one delicious dessert, one cup of coffee, one half-bottle of fabulous Argentinean Malbec wine.

The price? About 25 bucks.

I’m not kidding. I felt like I was robbing them. When I paid my bill I kept looking over my shoulder waiting for the other shoe to drop or for Candid Camera to jump out of the bushes. But they never did. The good times kept on coming. Four rounds, four rounds of shots at a hip nightclub? Twenty bucks. Cab ride across town? Four bucks. Cup of coffee and some ice-cream? Four bucks.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to wake up after a night of drinking and find that I’d spent an Argentinean King’s Ransom of 200 pesos, but that it had only really cost me about sixty bucks. I laughed all the way to the toilet.

Now, much has been made about the beauty of Argentinean women, and it’s mostly true; They are unfairly attractive as a peoples. But what’s strange about them is that they look just like us, basically. If an American tourist went down to Argentina, took off the stupid fucking Abercrombie baseball hat and the goofy white running shoes, traded in his cargo shorts for some slacks, and kept his damn mouth shut, there is a good chance he or she might pass for an Argentine baller moviestar because of all the money they’d spend.

The only real difference is that Argentine people have wavy or curly, dark brown hair, a predisposition to being thin, and are a golden tan all of the time. I know people that look like that in the US, but here they’re mobbed because the majority of us are chubby and pasty white. There, it’s standard.

Anyway, since I’m not expecting another thousand in the mail for no reason at all, I think my travels are at an end for a while. I’d like to tell you I’ll be writing again soon, but I probably won’t. Or I might. Who the hell knows? I’m a cow.

Meanwhile, I’ll be working on my Spanish. Next time I’m down there I want to be able to say, “I’d like four of your most expensive bottles of wine, please. One for me, and three to throw against that wall just because I can. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I’ve now resorted to working for free for anyone who will take me.

I suppose it’s the natural progression of things. Or regression. Four months into this whole job search operation and I have actually regressed. Or perhaps I have simply come to realize how little sway I have amongst people who don’t give a good goddamn about me one way or the other. The idea behind this whole “work for free” thing is to get in the door, work cleaning out the trashcans and collating the tax returns for Company X for a while, and then walk into the boss’s office a few months later, doff my cap, hold it in both hands in front of my chest, and with a sheepish look in my eye, I ask:

“Please Mister Boss! Can I have some money now?”

at which point I am totally and completely at their mercy, banking on the all too unlikely hope that he or she has a shred of decency within them and will go, “Ok you rascal, you’ve been a good trashcan cleaner-outer, why don’t we give you a few bucks an hour to keep up the good shit-cleanin’ work?”

To which I will go, “Thank you sir, I won’t let you down, really I won’t!” And then I go skipping down the office like a slaphappy idiot.

See, this, however, is the type of thinking that got me here in the first place, and it is wrong. The type of person who thinks that this will happen is the same type of poor soul who actually thinks that you can get considered for a job if you send in a resume, cover letter, and a few recommendation letters. This is the type of person who thinks that, while the working world may not owe them a lot, it does at least owe them the decency of giving their resume a fair shake.

This type of person, dear reader, is a jackass.

Because not only does the working world not owe you anything, if it can, the working world will in fact try to take things from you while you aren’t looking. Things like your self-respect and your faith in modern humanity. And you don’t even work for them yet! What you don’t realize is that the corporate world hates you without even knowing you yet.

You actually think you deserve to have potential employers give you a fair shake? HA! The working world scoffs at you and your naiveté. “Fuck that!” says The World. “I don’t even know you! Who are you? Can you make me millions of dollars like these other stiffs can? How are you going to get me more flashy cars and mounds of cocaine? You’re just a punk ass bitch! That’s what you are! You disgust me!”

The working world also wears designer clothes, silk suspenders, and thousand-dollar loafers without socks. Come to think of it, the working world looks a lot like Gordon Gekko.

Now that you know who you’re dealing with, let’s re-examine how the whole “working for free” scenario will really pan out.

So here you are, trashcan cleaner for free extraordinaire (also known as an internship), and after a few months you go into your boss’s office to pop the question:

“Please Mister Boss! Can I have some money now?”

The boss turns around in his leather lounger and puts his sockless feet up on his mahogany desk.

“Who are you again?” he asks.

“Well sir, my name is Brad, I’ve been an intern here for a while now, I was hoping…”

“…What, that I’d pay you?”

“Well, something like that sir.”

“Don’t make me laugh Biff.”

“It’s Brad, sir.”

“Listen Biff, what would you do if I don’t pay you?”

“Well, I might just leave!” I say.



“Leave!” he says, “No loss for me. It’s not like I’m paying you.”

“B, b, b, but I was hoping to move up to a paid position here!”

“Alright Biff, fine. What if I told you that if you keep working here for free, I might consider paying you in a few more months? Would that make you happy?”

“I suppose so sir, I’ll just have to work harder!”

“You sure will. For free. Now clean my trashcan.”

“Yes sir!”

And there you have it. That’s what would happen. The funniest part is, to date I have offered to work for free for two different businesses. Their responses?

"No thank you."


Thursday, October 12, 2006

People that still have John Kerry stickers on the back of their cars really bother me. Now bear with me here, this isn’t some political rant, it’s just common sense. Let me outline for you why it is that if you have a Kerry sticker on the back of your car, every single sane-thinking person on the road will immediately dislike you.

1: The people who voted for Bush and still support Bush straight up hate you. Granted, that’s not a whole lot of people anymore, but they still straight up hate you.

2. The people who voted for Bush but are now freaked out and no longer support Bush will hate you because they see you as a pious prick who glories over them.

3. The undecided voter will think you are an angry person who holds a grudge too long. Nobody wants to join a party that they see as full of bitter old biddies.

4. The hard line Democrat doesn’t like you because they’ll wonder why you haven’t gotten your head out of your ass long enough to scrape off that Kerry/Edwards sticker, start thinking about the future, and slap on an Obama ’08.

5. People who don’t care one way or the other about politics will just think you’re straight up lazy, or that you somehow didn’t get the memo.

6. Every other person with a Kerry bumper sticker will be pissed because you're stealing their righteous thunder.

So you see? How can you possibly win with a Kerry Sticker on the back of your car? What is going through your mind when you walk out to your Subaru and see that Kerry sticker? Are you proud? Are you proud that you still have that sticker on your car? Do you feel some sense of accomplishment because you haven’t done anything about it for going on three years now? Does that make you happy? Do you see it as a centerpiece, surrounded by Dog Is My Co-pilot, My Yorkshire Terrier Is Smarter Than Your Honor Student, and PRINCESS! bumper stickers? Do you like the way your little Darwin fish faces it?

People like you are a disservice to every political persuasion. Stop it. Right now. Go out into your garage, get a razor, and fix it. If you absolutely have to come across as a snob, you can put one of those If You Aren’t Outraged, You Aren’t Paying Attention! bumper stickers on your car. Everyone will still hate you for telling them what they should be thinking, you jackass, but at least you’re living in the now, man.

The other day I even saw a Gore/Lieberman sticker. Now that’s just insane. Just let it go. I know for an absolute fact that I do not want to meet the person driving that car. Neither should you.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I don’t do a whole lot here. Everybody I know is gone or actively employed. My parents even cut back on my drinking, which they can do because it’s their hooch I’m ganking. They got terrified at how piqued and sissy I had become in Japan and sent me to a personal trainer that kicked my ass to next week. I have no job, no apartment, and no car. Today, my parents both went off to their fancy-pants jobs in their fancy-pants cars and left me home alone without any food. I ate bread all day. Yes, this truly is a magical time in my life.

Last week the Taste of Colorado was held in downtown Denver. It’s a festival of Colorado food and drink, or so I thought. Since the one friend I have here was off deep-sea fishing in Mexico, I went alone. Shut up.

As advertised, the Taste of Colorado is supposed to offer tastes of Colorado. I was expecting Colorado specialties and small Colorado start up restaurants and businesses, etc. etc.

Well let me tell you, apparently the best Colorado has to offer is an assortment of greasy turkey legs, some corn on the cob, and Panda Express. Oh, and a lot of fat kids eating funnel cake, large women in tube tops, and large men in mesh shirts (or no shirts at all). Also, a lot of tattoos. I had no idea so many people in Denver had tattoos. Trust me on this, the last thing some of these people should have done was to tattoo up certain flappy parts of their bodies with thorns and roses. It only made things worse.

Now I did taste a lot of one particular Colorado product: Coors. A lot of Coors. I was on about my 45th ounce when I realized that the Taste of Colorado is really just a glorified carnival. Apparently, Colorado has quite a few “local businesses” that specialize in the selling of knock off Coach bags and fake Rolexes. I expected that shit in Thailand, but I didn’t think these people could just set up shop in a festival sponsored by the State.

Also, did you know that after Dale Earnhardt died and the transport truck was taking his car back home through North Carolina on the Interstate, not one car would pass his caravan? Every car taxied behind the transport truck for miles, out of respect. It’s ok, I didn’t know this either, that is, until I saw the whole story written out in one of hundreds of Dale Earnhardt memorial plaques. They were right next to the many life-like charcoal drawings of Tupac Shakur and Princess Diana. Real high quality stuff here.

And let me tell you what a strange juxtaposition it is to see a lobster-baked fat man with one of those absolutely asinine Bluetooth headsets in his ear. Who the hell could he possibly be talking to so often that it requires that damn thing to be in his ear at all times? Who? Only one man on earth should be allowed to have that stupid Bluetooth thing, and that's the President of the United States. Not even Jonny Hotshot Account Executive is talking to people all day long. I think those fucking Bluetooth headsets are a prime example of how American society is going to hell, but that’s a whole other story.

Four or so large beers later I decided it was time I left.

Needless to say, I had a damn fine time. And if the Coors Booth is back next year, well then I will be too.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Hey everyone! No, I am not dead! Although my soul feels like it is dead, because I am searching for a job right now. Searching for a job is right up there on par with a double procedure root canal/colonoscopy in terms of level of comfort. Its a whole lot less cleansing too.

The thing to remember when looking for a job is this: Nobody cares about you. And why should they? They’ve got their own problems. They have a job. As a matter of fact, talking to me is keeping them from doing their job. Having to take time out of their day to talk to some punk who just got back from dicking around overseas for a year and garnering absolutely no marketable skills while doing so, well that annoys them. It might even piss them right off. I hear it in their voices when I ask to meet them over the phone. I see it in their eyes whenever I do manage to get a meeting.

It’s a certain look that they all have when they meet me. It’s a look that says: Who the hell are you, Japan Boy, to take up my time? I’m only doing this as a favor to my boss, whom you managed to weasel yourself into favor with somehow. Look how good looking you are in your fancy-pants suit. You might even take my job away from me you’re so good looking. That’s it, now I hate you. At first you just annoyed me, but now I hate you.

And then there’s the whole Internet Job Search scene, the stuff, and the stuff, what a waste of time that is, am I right? If I went outside, blindfolded, on a random night in suburban Denver and started swinging a bat, I would have a better chance of hitting a porn-filled piñata than I would of catching a lead with these internet sites. They don’t even look at your resume; they just feed it through some keyword search program. Sometimes this technology generation shit really sucks.

Did you know you aren’t supposed to cross your legs during an interview? I bet you didn’t, but I did. Do you know why? Because I’ve read Knock ‘em Dead Interviewing. And boy would that little tidbit come in handy IF I EVER GOT A FUCKING INTERVIEW. Oh, I know all the tricky questions and the best ways to answer them; I got it all down pat except for the whole “getting an interview” thing. That, I need to work on.

But I tell you what: one year of no marketable skills looks a hell of a lot better than three years of no marketable skills. That’s right, Toyama. I’m talking to you. You remember what home looks like? Do you remember your families? Probably not. Soon you’re going to forget your last names, and then your nationalities. And stop drinking so goddamn much. Hippies.

I miss you all.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

And now, Part 2

Having said what I’ve said in the last blog (my Mr. Hyde blog) and in the fifty other blogs before it, you might be tempted to conclude that the experience I had here was not a good one. That would be wrong. My year in Japan with the JET program was undeniably worth it, and was one of the very best years of my life for one reason and one reason alone: The people. It’s true that in my year in Japan I have stumbled across moments of almost unbearable beauty, quick flashes of poignancy and ancient culture that have astounded me in their power, and, unfortunately, in their briefness. But in the end, the JET program, like so many other things in life, is made or broken by the people involved in it. For me, the people made it all worth it.

I’ll be honest, when I signed up for this gig almost two years ago, I was convinced that if I actually got in, I would be surrounded by wierdos. The bad kind of wierdos. The kind that dwell in the opposite extremes of personality types: They either make every conversation painfully awkward because they live completely under the radar, never making decisions and always lingering about like a barfly, contributing absolutely nothing to the social makeup of the group, or the other extreme, where they compensate for their insecurities by going way overboard, yelling all the time and jumping about like jackasses saying “look at me! Look at me! I’m sooooo drunk!” or some such nonsense that makes you just want to hit them so very, very hard.

To my complete delight, I found myself surrounded by the good kind of wierdos. The kind that know their limits, and that know the proper times in which to break them. The kind of people that are very aware of themselves and where they stand in life. The kind with super dry senses of humor, that know about timing, not just in comedy, but in life. Not even in college, where I was surrounded by literati, did I meet such a unique group of forward thinking, gutsy individuals. Every one of them had a serious pair of brass balls on ‘em (or brass fallopian tubes, whatever the case may be). I feel privileged to have lived and worked amongst such a diverse crowd of kickass people. That type of environment doesn’t come around a whole hell of a lot, and I tried to take advantage of it as I could. Time will tell if I got anything out of it, but I’m pretty sure I did.

I’d also like to say that I felt very blessed to have worked with the Koho High School Staff. Don’t get me started about the Japanese school system, but the staff I worked with and hung out with I was very happy with. I had heard nightmare stories about the Japanese workplace, and I am happy to say that Koho never lived up to any one of them. I didn’t think such a laid-back job existed in Japan, and aside from that one at Koho, I’m still not sure they do. The staff treated me with a type of deference and respect that was never aloof, and always welcoming and friendly, and for that, I thank them all (while praying that none of them ever get a hold of this blog to read that thanks)

Obata, my supervisor, saved my life in that country. I owe him every shred of sanity I managed to maintain, and can source him for my general state of wellbeing throughout the program. Good, honest, thoughtful, hilarious, selfless people like him are a rarity in life. I hope he gets out of that school before they kill him. He deserves much more general contentment than his current job can give him.

And that’s that, Dear Reader, we’ve come to the end of this chapter. It’s time to move on to the next. Whatever that may be, rest assured that should you feel the need, you can read up on my lack of progress right here.

Thanks for hangin’ with me.


Well, we’ve come to it at last. The Final Japan Blog. Or I should say Final Couple of Blogs. I was conflicted as to how I should approach this whole thing, and after much deliberation and drinking that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with said deliberation, I have decided to split my entry into two totally different voices in which I concentrate the bad and the good. Since I am of two minds about my Japanese experience, it is only natural that I give voice to both of those minds.

To that end, I give you the final entry of this chapter of my life. Since overall I viewed the experience as positive, I will give air to that mind last. It is only fitting. Enjoy.

Part 1:

Well, sure is easy to say I had a wonderful time in Japan whilst sitting here at home, watching television, drinking a freezing Fat Tire I got from my huge refrigerator, and eating no fewer than three medium Dominos Pizzas I got delivered right to my face for less than twenty dollars. Sure is easy now, isn’t it? Sure is easy to look at all the Oriental hooey I brought back and fondly reminisce, that’s for damn sure. Reeeeeaaal easy to flip through smiling pictures of me and my friends, drunk, laughing, and think “well hell, that was just one big peach of a time. A regular fucking cakewalk.” And when I pass all my smiling pictures about and people say “you got paid 30,000 dollars to do this?!?” It sure is easy to go “I know! What a lucky break! To get paid so well to live in another country and do practically nothing!”

But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? I did practically nothing for an entire year. No, that’s not totally true, I did drink a lot.

Bryan and I decided to do a whirlwind tour of red-light districts before we left town, we went from Toyama’s own not-at-all famous Sakura Gicho district to Tokyo’s very famous Roppongi district, and then over to Seoul’s equally famous Itaewon district, and after our 42nd straight hour of traveling/drinking Bryan turned to me and said “for the two years I’ve been here, my body has aged ten.”

I figure that’s about right. I read those sappy JET essay contest winners where some or other kid writes something like “I may have lived here for three years, but I have had experiences enough for a thousand.” Not this guy. I lived in Japan for one year and had experiences enough for one year. My body has had experience enough for five. That’s the bottom line.

The other day someone (maybe it was my Aunt) asked me “what did you learn in Japan?” I thought about this for a moment, scruffy, a tad dizzy from JET lag, and answered,

“I learned that I hate teaching.”

And if you are thinking, “Well Brad, if you didn’t go out and do anything else that’s your own fault, isn’t it? There was Judo, or Kendo, or Flower Arranging, or Archery, or you could have gotten involved in your school’s English club, or taken Japanese lessons, there were a million opportunities.”

I say this: No there weren’t. Not if you’re a normal dude there weren’t. I took Japanese for five years before I realized it was a lost cause, so that was never an option. And my kids would never, ever, ever, have an English club. God Bless ‘em, but they were just too stupid. And also, fuck you buddy, you’re not the kind of guy I want to talk to anyway.

Now that I am home here, and I look about myself at all the fat people and the huge cars and the fifty lane highways and the Taco Bells and the Mega Malls and the no-trash separating, I think one thing: The US is better than Japan.

Why anyone would want to move away from here and stay over there for the rest of their lives is just beyond my ability to comprehend. And there are a few of you out there. I can see you right now, with your complete Gundam Anime collection and your stacks of Manga, and your walls plastered with pictures of famous woodblock prints. You probably have that ridiculous little staff you got climbing Mt. Fuji propped up in the corner too, don’t you? That one that has all of those brands on it that cost you ten bucks a pop? Maybe you have your name written out in Kanji hanging above your bed, or even worse, somewhere on your own skin, and I’m sure you have a thousand other Kanji flash cards strewn about your bedroom so that should someone come in you can go, “oh, that? That means spirit,” and then smile knowingly. Every book you read is Murakami, and you’ve probably seen Lost in Translation a thousand times and make snooty little comments when watching it like “Oh, I’ve been there” or “I can read that sign,” and I’m sure you think you can “totally identify” with Bill Murray. You’re a Lifer in the Making. What the hell are you thinking? You have to realize that the Japanese will never let you in. You know what that means? That means that no matter what you do, no matter how fluent you are in the language, or how many banzai trees you clip up real pretty, or how much of a badass Judo Blackbelt master you are, they still will never trust you.

In the year 2000, the Japanese government granted citizenship to 15,000 people. That’s it. That’s a pretty good indicator right there of how little they want you there. You know how many people the US granted citizenship to? Almost 900,000. Now you might be saying, “The US is a much bigger country!” and you would be right, but France isn’t, and even France took in 150,000 people. France! Or how about this: Throughout the 90’s, the US took in 47% of all people seeking asylum. Japan? 9%. Real nice there guys. Nicely done. The consummate hosts.

How many non-native citizens have we here in the US? Well shit. I lost count. They almost outnumber the natives! Hell, I arrived here in LA and was directed to my baggage by a nice fellow whom I could barely understand. And you know what? That’s great. Fine with me! At least he spoke something, and provided he wasn’t here illegally, more power to him! More power to them all! Especially the Mexicans! They have great food and beer. Do you see what I am saying? Do you see how ridiculous it is in Japan?

And for a country that is so paranoid about foreigners, they certainly love foreign cultures. When I think about what I enjoyed doing in Japan, here is what I think of:

Sipping a Martini (western drink) at the Jazz Bar (western music) and smoking a cigar (from the Dominican Republic)

Drinking (Italian) wine at the (Italian) Fiorentina Restraunt.

Eating (Indian) food at Santoshi

Bowling (Western)

Ramen (Chinese)

Yakiniku (Korean)

I think you get the point. And now that I look at this list I made, I wonder how the hell I could have spent twenty thousand dollars on that.

I honestly think it’s the physical act of moving oneself that keeps many of the people in Toyama. I bet if it weren’t for the fact that it is a huge bitch to get up and go, a whole lot more people would have got up and went. The turnover rate of that ken would be like a McDonald’s.

So thank you Japan, really, thank you very much for something. I just haven’t figured out what yet.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Many of you back home still don't believe that some Japanese students can sleep right in your face and not care. It is with you doubters in mind that I present this montage, aptly entitled "Teaching at Koho"

Are you sleeping...

Are you sleeping...
Brother John?
Brother John?
Morning Bells Are Ringing...
Morning Bells Are Ringing...
Ding Dang Dong...

Ding Dang Dong...