13 March 2011 ~ 29 Comments

From 9/11/2001 to 3/11/2011 pt.2

8 years living on this island, among these people, had already rocked my world, in a slow incremental way. So much so that I took on a new moniker, Loco. (That, and it had a nice ring to it.) So much so that I didn’t think it could be rocked much more.

I’ve confronted, endured and in some cases overcome all manner of challenges. In some cases, doing so has changed me for the better, and in others, well, not so much.

For example, one change I’m particularly pleased with is that I’ve learned how to channel much of my frustration, resentment and anger into my writing, transforming those powerful emotions into creativity, like converting a hot serving of shit into a five-course dinner at a four-star hotel.

An example of a change I’m not so proud of is the habit I’ve embraced of not looking at Japanese people when I’m out and about. I’ve found that the less I see of them and their sickening behavior (not all but more than enough of them) the less I have to restrain myself from acting on the thoughts (some violent) triggered by their actions, which would likely result in my doing something regrettable. Not looking helps me achieve my version of patience and tolerance, of keeping my temper in check and reducing stress.

Definitely nothing to be proud of.

Which is what I just happened to be doing at the time the earth decided to make a few ultimately minor alterations somewhere in the Pacific ocean off the coast of Japan.

This is where I was standing when it happened!

I was walking toward Kikuna station. The closer I got to the station the more populated the streets became. Being in the populace is no fun for the reasons I stated above. As soon as I entered the ekimae (area in front of the station) the Japanese shifted into “Oh no” mode. I received a number of gaijin salutes from people suffering from the tic. Several people gave me the perimeter or made the gaijin detour, leaping from the sidewalk into the street to make way for me.  You know, the usual Japanese foolishness. I shifted into tolerance mode, put my head down, gritted my teeth and carried on…thinking hateful shit.

It was about at that moment that the Earth, as if reflecting the rumbling vexation within me, started doing likewise. I didn’t notice, I was so busy doing battle with my lesser angels.

Until I saw two cops running towards me.

Great! The Thought Police. They’re gonna burn me at a community pyre all the homicidal scenarios that go through my mind!

But, they weren’t looking at me, they were looking up! I followed their eyes and saw that the power lines were swinging, and so were the poles they were connected to. Wait! Everything was swinging and shaking!

That’s when my legs got wobbly, like someone had given me a charlie horse. But I was cool. Eight years in Japan and you get used to the terrestrial hiccups that occur here almost daily. The tremors have their NY equivalents in my mind so I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with them. Like an underground subway train rumbling beneath your feet, or an 18-wheeled tractor trailer whizzing by your window, the vacuum sometimes strong enough to rattle them. And these tremors are usually pretty short. You can forget they even happened in a matter of moments.

But, as I looked around, my hands stretched out before me like a blind man, trying to keep my balance, I realized this was not a tremor! Watching power lines and even poles sway and swing is one thing, but watching train stations and buildings sway is another. I heard loud noises, rattling, clinging, banging metal and glass, like a thousand chandeliers shaking. Sounds I’d never heard before were coming from all over, like the street was screaming. And the people all around me who were, just a few moments ago, “saluting” and making detours around me, were now at a lost for what to do, just looking around at one another, waiting for the end, whether it be in death, injury or other.

I was, too. Looking at people, that is. Maybe the last people I would ever see, the tachycardia in my chest informed me.

I staggered out of the street onto the sidewalk cuz traffic was still moving- some motorist were perhaps unaware of what was happening- and I groped for a building. I looked above my head. a sign was swinging on flimsy hinges. I moved away into the path of a building what looked like a lean-to, made of wood. Surely it would fall in seconds. To my left and right were things that could kill me, structures had became lethal. The dry cleaners was a two-story tall brick executioner on the Creator’s payroll. Yoshinoya (the fast food joint) was a ninja, armed with secret weapons, ready to kill anyone who came near.

So, I stopped trying to out think God. And God acknowledged my acquiesence by exploding a window near the area I had thought about running to for safety.

No screams. There would be screaming in NY. There were none in Yokohama.

I looked around into the faces of these people, these strangers I usually hold in such contempt, truth be told, and felt no spite, no disgust, no animosity, and no contempt whatsoever for them nor from them.

This, for the first time in years!

We were one and the same! They looked at me and saw a human scared shit-less, and so did I, only I wasn’t the object of their fear. In actuality, we were looking at each other but, to borrow the words of the late, great Zora Neale Hurston, our “eyes were watching God!”

It was a lovely moment.

Then, like an old car engine, with rumbling fits, the quake subsided. Nobody moved for a solid 15 seconds. If they were like me they were trying to hold on to that precious and rare view of eternity we’d all been given, that ethereal glimpse of the inner workings of the Universe, and our place in it. Just for a moment longer. Savoring our smallness, our triviality, while at the same time silently extolling the bonanza life is.

My first step was Armstrong’s first step on the moon.

I followed it with another and another and before I knew it I was walking among the stunned masses without being noticed, feeling our equality. Everyone was my kin. We’d shared something that no one- at least not immediately- wanted to discard.

Trains were out, naturally,so I went to a cafe next to the station, and took a table, amazed at how the staff were hardly behaving like they’d just experienced the worst earthquake in their lifetimes. I ordered coffee. Others, realizing the cafe was open for business, came in and before long the cafe was full. The table nearest mine was not the last to be taken I noticed because it was so jarring an aberration from the norm.

Some of the older patrons were reading newspapers or chatting with friends. When the first aftershock hit, a pretty big one, the light fixtures started swinging like pendulums and from my window I could see flimsy buildings waving like metronomes. Some dishes fell behind the counter, crashing to the floor. The staff apologized for the disturbance like there wasn’t a clear excuse for it, like there wasn’t death in the air. And everyone else also had “the worst is over” prayerful nonchalance. Still reading, still chatting. It was creepy to watch, but in a beautiful way.

It was about then that I thought about 9/11.

How at that time I had been so focused on my fear, so young, that I didn’t take a moment to see the beauty of fear…I was so afraid that I’d gone blind.

I’ve changed in the 9 and a half years since 9/11, most of which I’ve spent here in Asia. Being the object of fear for so many years has slightly altered my relationship with fear, the same way the earth had slightly altered its position just moments ago. Changing that relationship in ways I had been too busy writing to notice.

I remember thinking (an epiphanous thought really) that my writing is the earthquake resulting from this alteration; every story a tremor.

It’s the most profound and inspiring thought I’ve had since 9/11.

It took me back to the time I described in part 1 of this essay, in the days before 9/11, when I was so beautiful, so unstoppable, unflappable I could do ANYTHING!

And it informed me, in no uncertain terms, that that beauty was still there, in me, and in everything and everyone around me.

It took an earthquake to shake me awake, but now I’m up, baby.

And I can see it!

On 9/11/2001 I closed my eyes.

On 3/11/2011 I re-opened them.

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29 Responses to “From 9/11/2001 to 3/11/2011 pt.2”

  1. Warren Antiola 13 March 2011 at 3:51 pm Permalink

    Only you can tell it straight – no chaser. Excellent piece dude!

  2. Don "Kangol&quo 13 March 2011 at 4:06 pm Permalink

    Glad to hear your safe. I wouldn't trade places with you for the world, but you experienced something rare that day.

    • Locohama 13 March 2011 at 11:28 pm Permalink

      Thanks Don! You sure? What if I throw in some Season Tickets to the Garden to see the knicks? You know they got Carmelo Anthony now…come on…you know you want them! lol
      Thanks fir the shout!!!

  3. Andy Arnott 13 March 2011 at 6:06 pm Permalink

    "The dry cleaners was a two-story tall brick executioner on the Creator’s payroll".

    Best line I think I've ever heard, good read dude, glad to hear safe and back in form.

    • Locohama 13 March 2011 at 11:27 pm Permalink

      Thanks Yo! Yeah I kinda got a kick outta thinking and writing that too. LOL Writing is more fun than it looks!

  4. Cara 13 March 2011 at 6:46 pm Permalink

    Nice. Glad to hear you're ok.

  5. amyous 13 March 2011 at 9:03 pm Permalink

    It´s great to hear that you were recognised as a human by all. I just hope that recognition doesn´t fade away as things cool down.

    • Locohama 13 March 2011 at 11:25 pm Permalink

      Too late…they've already reverted to form. But it was sweet while it lasted. i don't care though. I've seen them without their iwakan mask on and they are beautiful so I'll try to hold on to that thought/image for as log as i can. Thanks for the shout Amy!

  6. Andy 13 March 2011 at 10:12 pm Permalink

    I was on the 4th floor of my office building in Chiyoda and for a few moments thought that it was curtains for me. My wife works in a high-rise up the street and I was worried sick – the only way I could keep in touch with her was through the office internet.

    Events like this make you realise how short life really is, that's for sure.

    • Locohama 13 March 2011 at 11:23 pm Permalink

      Damn! i would have totally died if I was in any building above the first floor…I'm glad you and your wife are well Andy and thanks for stopping through. Life is something aint it?

  7. Missrainey 13 March 2011 at 11:40 pm Permalink

    Great read. It's interesting to see a non Japanese point of view. You gave a great way with words. Yoshinoya as a ninja assassin… 🙂

    • Locohama 13 March 2011 at 11:57 pm Permalink

      Thank you Miss Rainey! Yeah, but the longer I stay here the harder it gets to give a truly unjapanized POV. Like i said, its slow and incremental, but living here has definitely changed me, and part of those changes could certainly be classified as Japanization.
      Gladd you dug that analogy
      Thanks again for the shout!

  8. Twash0519 14 March 2011 at 1:03 am Permalink

    I love this piece. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, so keep the strength.

    • Locohama 14 March 2011 at 1:17 am Permalink

      Thanks T. That really means a lot to me. I hope all is well back in NY. Holla at me on FB have a achande

  9. Franziska Kasch 14 March 2011 at 6:52 am Permalink

    Very inspiring post, Loco. My feelings after this earthquake are very similar to what I felt after 9/11. It's so surreal. This can't be true…… Reading your post gives a little bit of hope. Thank you.

    • Locohama 14 March 2011 at 6:56 am Permalink

      Thanks Franey! yeah i def. felt the connection between the two. I'm glad it gives you hope. gave me hope too. Gotta hold on to it now lol

    • Ame Otoko 15 March 2011 at 6:59 am Permalink

      The fuck is wrong with you people wanking on Loco's head?

      'Inspiring writing'? Really – 'Japanese people and their sickening behaviour' is – inspiring fucking writing?

      Loco, you're the only fuck with a blog out there who rather than being somber, manages to thread his bitch insecurity and utter paranoia in a post about the Tohoku quake. Not to mention, disparging Japanese people too – something only Paul Watson has managed. With his 'Quake as Neptune's Revenge on Japan' poem.

      Oh, wait – there's Shari Custer, too. The bitch who claims she has 'PTSD' after the quake – and the very next day is blogging about snacks again while over 10,000 are dead in Miyagi alone.

      9/11? Oh fuck no. This is a natural tragedy that the 'Japanese with sickening behaviour' have managed more humanely – and humanly, and decently – than any other nation on earth would have. Not least of all your bloodthirsty America and its bloodthirsty reaction and complete destruction of two countries in its braying for blood after 9/11. Loving the 'Aghani-parents-who-roast-their-kids-alive-to-fake-them-as-killed-by-Yanks' bullshit. Priceless.

      Even in America, Japanese-Americans are the only ones with sense. They as a group are the only ones condemning the McCarthy Returns harings – while black Americans like you piss all over the Civil Rights movement and what life was like as a despised minority and don't give a fuck.

      The MLK Returns episode of The Boondocks. Watch that, bitch, and maybe grow some fucking sense.

      • Locohama 15 March 2011 at 9:07 am Permalink

        geez, you dislike america (americans?) as much as I used to (and still kinda) dislike Japanese people. (I mean, they have returned to form post eartquake) Insecurites and Paranoia? perhaps. As I've stated in many a post. But I call it like I see it instead of being artificially somber. Acts of God happen. In the US as well. We have our share of floods (mississippi) Tornadoes, Hurricaines, Noreasters, Heat waves, and yes earthquakes. And lives are lost all the time. Not to mention the Unnatural Disasters like stret crime/murders soldiers killed in unnecessary wars and cancer clusters around Nuke Plants and the thousands of other hazards of living in the world that will never go away. So, while God is doing his "Mysterious Ways" thing I try to keep on living my life until it's my turn, and writing what I feel and think..
        And, you know, I was actually surprised to see Japanese behavior change as a result of our shared near death experience. And I tried to capture that surprise and its impact on me as clearly as possible. some readers caught it and were inspired. Some didn't, like yourself, and only saw what they wanted to see. I mean sure, the msg between the lines is that it takes a friggin' natural disaster to reveal the truth of human equality to some Japanese. But, also I was saying that it revealed to me that I too had ceased to see them as merely human and in that precious moment I realized the self debilitating power of my own propensity to focus on their inhumanity, missing the big picture..being the man upstairs. At least I tried to convey that.
        And again if people are inspired by that I'm pleased. if not, doesn't matter. I WAS. And this is my personal experience I've shared with my readers. It's a friggin blog, I'm not starting a cult.

        And my connection between 9/11 and 3/11 was personal. It was my thoughts on fear and the effect it has had on ME, Are you so stuck on protecting the image of your precious Japanese (and spitting on the US)that you don't even read before you respond?

        And I'm the last one to compare America to Japan, in as much as the evil that either has wrought on the world. Every country has dirt on its hands (at the risk of overstating the obvious) whether recently or historically. And my beefs with the US far outnumber those I have with Japan. So, don't group me in with assholes who think the US is some superwonderiffical place. You're pissing on the wrong tree.

        Oh and Ame?…fuck you (-:.
        Thanks for the shout!

  10. ELSN 14 March 2011 at 3:37 pm Permalink

    Loco that was some incredible writing.

    • Locohama 14 March 2011 at 7:47 pm Permalink

      Thanks a bunch!! I was highly motivated and the muse shakes my house every 20 minutes or so (-;

  11. Jaydoubleuf (Janet) 14 March 2011 at 9:20 pm Permalink

    Your writing has blown me away – it is beautiful and terrible at the same time. I can't even begin to understand what life is going to be like there in the weeks and months to come for so many people. Keep writing, I want to keep reading

  12. Locohama 15 March 2011 at 6:49 am Permalink

    Thanks Don! You be safe yourself!
    Yep i think luck was a major factor

  13. Exotic Japan 24 March 2011 at 7:05 pm Permalink

    Damn, man. I wish I was as good of a photographer as you are a writer. Ido know what you are talking about. That clarity a traumatic event lime this or 911 generates. Too bad that it fades so soon once we get back to normal life. 🙂

  14. cocopuff1212 11 September 2011 at 5:29 pm Permalink

    I wonder how many people have experienced both 9/11 and 3/11 firsthand, the way you did? Not many.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I loved reading it.

  15. Caroline Josephine 11 September 2011 at 11:51 pm Permalink

    Stunning my friend. Just stunning.

    I find it interesting that so many of us (Americans) are connecting the two events when the only thing they really have in common are fear. I think I was too young for 9/11 to really strike fear into my heart. And I was trying so hard to be strong on 3/11 that I never really admitted that the fear was there for a good, long time.

  16. manly otoko 12 September 2011 at 1:25 pm Permalink

    Ame –
    “bloodthirsty America”… up yours, jackass.
    grow some balls.

    OK post.

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