click here for pt 1
Yep, I was still a hater.
But, lucky for me, I went home to Joe and Greg, (the Aussie and Kiwi I wrote about earlier this year in my Black and White in Japan series) and often I’d find them hammered, sprawled out on the sofa or floor, living-room littered with beer and liquor bottles…or they’d be preparing to tie one on and just waiting for me to come home and join in. They were just what a therapist would have prescribed as an antidote for any racist symptoms I might have been suffering from… at least against white folks
As I mentioned in that series, it had been a little hairy at first, living with two guys from entirely different cultures from mine. We had to work through a number of issues, race among them. The minor racial wrinkles had gotten ironed out pretty quickly…nipped in the bud in the first couple of months, in fact. Before long I hardly saw them as white guys. They were just guys…cool ass guys!
But, the envy was another story. And when I’d turn green, they’d turn white!
I also told you guys in that series that Joe and Greg used to have a posse of Aussies and Kiwis (all white of course…I’ve never seen an Aborigine or Maori) coming through on a regular basis…drinking, laughing, and fucking off til dawn. Just having the time of their lives. You wouldn’t even have known they weren’t back home Down Under if it weren’t for the complaining Japanese neighbors and the threatening phone calls from our employer, Nova.
But often, though I was invited to join in, I’d pass. I wasn’t much of a drinker back home and didn’t long to do it here in Japan, either. They’d be disappointed, of course. Couldn’t figure me out, those two, nor could their friends. Whenever I did hang out with them we’d all have a great time, so they couldn’t make heads or tails out of why I passed on it so often. And, I couldn’t rightly explain either at the time. I’d just make up some excuse they never bought and they’d just shake their heads and go, “uh huh…”
Maybe they even thought it was racial. That I had some reservations about being the only black guy in a posse of whites, carousing in the streets of Saitama to the wee hours of the night, getting into all kinds of misadventures. I sincerely hope not, though, cuz it was nothing like that. Over the course of my lifetime I’ve been the solitary or one of a couple of chocolate chips on an vanilla ice cream cone a number of times and had developed a measure of comfortability with it.
What was really fucking with me was the camaraderie among them. I’d watch their Fellowship of the Bottle, or listen to them through the thin walls of my bedroom, all together, a circle of friendship, kinship, and support through the tough patches here in Kawaii-land. And I’d be seething with envy. I mean, to them, it made perfect sense to find a group of like-minded, similarly oriented individuals and make the best of the challenges they face here.
But for me, and for the other African Americans here, it seemed: not so much.
I simply didn’t feel that way about Americans…especially African Americans. And, I got the distinct impression that the feeling was mutual.
The African cats were the complete opposite. They were more like the Down Under posse and the Japanese. They have their own version of “We”. They congregate all the time. And when they see me, it’s nothing but love. They’d holler “my brother!” across a Boulevard, blow their horns when they pass in a car, or even walk through a crowded train from the opposite end just to shake my hand and make my acquaintance. I mean, they’d totally go out of their way to show some love.
If I ran into an African American guy however (and I can usually tell at a glance) fuhgeddaboudit. We’d nod at each other and maybe mutter a few words if we found ourselves in a situation where it would be too blatantly rude to not engage in some kind of conversation. And, for the most part, it never went beyond that. If emails or phone numbers were somehow exchanged, there’d be no follow up. Sometimes, I’d get a vibe from the person…a feeling like maybe they were on the run from the American authorities, hiding out here in Japan, afraid I might ID them and text John Walsh. Or, that they’d felt I was a saboteur looking to fuck up whatever scheme they had going over here…something sweet and fragile, and the last thing they needed was Homie the Clown fucking up the works. Either that or they were so friggin’ clueless or geeky I’d see no common ground aside from race and nationality.
There was, often, absolutely no love in the air. And, I couldn’t understand why. All I knew is I wasn’t sending any love and I wasn’t receiving any. And, actually, to be honest, I didn’t feel bad about it. I felt like I was on my own private adventure…not to be shared, particularly not with other black guys. I rationalized it to myself this way: I didn’t come to a foreign country to hang out with cats from around the way.
As for the handful of African-American women you might run into…well, I’d wager cockroaches get a warmer reception at the dinner table. The hostility is so potent, so open, you feel like the reason for it is obvious and personal. Like they were saying, “you can front all you want! You might have all these Japanese bozos fooled but I know you and I know why you’re here, so don’t even think about getting in my face!”
I spend a lot of time writing and this is an activity done on one’s lonesome usually. But, I’m not a loner, per se. I didn’t shun the company of others. I was definitely in the market for some cool companionship that I could speak in complete sentences with. Just not American. And definitely not African-American.
Occasionally I’d make exceptions, though. I’ve taken on a few black running mates during my stint here in Japan.
Damon was the first.
It was my second year here when I met Damon, a fellow Nova instructor. He was Canadian, straight outta Toronto, but he had “peeps” in Detroit, a three-hour drive away, across the US border. This was his ghetto pass, this connection to the Motor City, dubious as it was. But, hell, who was I to challenge it, anyway? Aside from being from a notoriously tough community, my Street Cred is suspect itself. Fairly clean cut college kid, straight outta corporate New York with a blemish-less criminal record like I was when I arrived here. Aside from an affinity for stuff grown hydroponically, I was a single mother’s wet dream. But, if I’m around people who don’t know me I know how to play the role. All I do is channel one of the older brothers or any number of characters I ran with back in the days. I can be pretty convincing if I need to be.
Damon was one of them pretty mocha-complected cats and could sang like R.Kelly. He was pretty intelligent, could turn his “ghetto” on and off like a light switch- transforming from a Motor City pimp into damn near Ivy League whenever he wanted to, and could dress either part. He was a little overly concerned with personal grooming for my taste but, all and all, aside from his ego, which was certifiable, he was pretty cool. Reminded me of some of the cats I knew back home.
There was, however, something about him I didn’t like.
Aside from his singing, which he hoped to do professionally some day, his hobby was baggin’ Japanese girls. He was crazy about them. It consumed his thinking. His M.O. was to get them into a karaoke booth (or his apartment) and sing their panties off. Worked like a charm. In fact, this so-called Yellow Fever was one of the few things we had in common. We were similarly afflicted.
We’d spend our downtime at Nova comparing notes on conquest. I’d tell him about some jukujo I’d tapped the night before, on a humble, while stopping for a drink in a bar, and he’d weave a tale of how he’d mesmerized two J-babes from The Hub to his crib with his pimped-out nampa but, since they uncharacteristically weren’t down for a three-some, he’d called up his homeboy (another black cat he hung out with. Damon lived in Tokyo while I lived out in Saitama in the boonies so he hadn’t bothered to call me) offering him the second girl. But his boy wound up almost fucking up the whole extravaganza by being a dick and treating the girl like she was supposed to do him, no game required.
“You can’t treat a bitch like a hoe, even if she is one!” he’d explained, imparting his wisdom to me. “I hate hooking up niggas like him…got no fuckin’ class!”
I understood the moral of his story: “Being a magnanimous pimp with triflin’ friends aint easy.”
I even understood his compulsive one-upmanship. It’s endemic where I come from.
What I didn’t understand was why it seemed every black guy I ran into fit this or a similar M.O..
…to be continued