Saturday, August 07, 2004

It's Weird the Things You Miss

This entry is also cross-posted at Rox Populi.

roxpornIn addition to being a Rox Populi blog anniversary, it's also my two year anniversary of being back in America.

When I left Los Angeles at the end of the 20th, the United States was loud, proud, fat and happy -- a prosperous country, whose inhabitants, I learned only after returning home once on a Christmas holiday, smell like butter.

Japan was my destination, a country on the slide (at the time) that smells of shoyu. A country, as my experience corroborated, that was grossly over-mythologized for its worker productivity, hospitality, and innovation. That was my personal experience in Tokyo anyway.

That is not to say that the Japanese are bad people or that Japan is a bad country. It’s just that, in my view, Japan ain’t quite the bill of goods we were sold in the 80s.

As many accidental expats do, I used the pretext of a job overseas to escape, to temporarily circumvent dealing with my life. Like a lot of expats, a great deal of time in Japan was spent intoxicated, too. And I don't mean “intoxicated” in the romantic, literary, quixotic sense.

When you live overseas, events -- both world and personal – can take on a surreal, detached quality. I passed many a milestone in the Land of the Rising Sun, including my mother’s death, the 2000 election, 9/11, and marriage. Of course, 9/11 was particularly peculiar.

America changed a great deal during my Tokyo years. I changed, too. But, I don’t mean that in the schmaltzy “the world will never be the same” way. It’s little things you only notice if you’ve been away for a while, like flavored mayo and Swifters, reality television, and Humvees lining the streets of San Francisco, that make you feel like you’ve been living in a time-warp.

And, now that I’ve been back home for a couple of years, I’m starting to miss Japan. I miss polite taxi drivers, even though they don’t know where they're going or how to get there. I miss being able to walk down the street at 3am without worrying about my safety. I miss going to the theater and not having to listen to you talk to your girlfriend about what you have to pick up at the grocery store on the way home in the middle of the fucking movie. I miss the little ironies, the constant reminders that even though they have just as many Starbucks, KFCs, and McDonald's, you know that you're in Japan and not Kansas. I miss the Coffee Boss.

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