16 November 2012 ~ 13 Comments

Letting The Chips Fall Where They May

In November of 2008 — four years ago almost to the day– I began writing  my very first series entitled, “10 Ways NOT to go Loco in Yokohama” where I shared with readers 10 tips to help the longterm foreigner living in Japan maintain their sanity. It was well-received. In fact, it was what initially put Loco in Yokohama on the map. However, though I’ve left that series up and unedited for all to read, I no longer stand by everything I wrote in that series. As you might have expected, I’ve changed, as have some of my ideas about how best to keep your wits about you in this lovely country.

There has been a great deal of growth, but while some of this growth is in the area of wisdom, and thus beneficial, or benign, some of it is arguably malignant…and perhaps not in my best interest, but truth nonetheless, and therefore useful, at least in principle.

Though some of those posts were written from the perspective of someone who’d gone at least partly around the bend, I wrote that series for the most part from the viewpoint of a black ex-pat ex-New Yorker who was somehow managing against incredible odds and challenges to straddle the line between sane and Loco in Yokohama, and giving advice on how others could do the same.

If I can do it, you can do it, was the premise.

Ha! That’s a laugh…

I do not operate under that principle any longer. Life in Japan has altered me emotionally, mentally and even spiritually in many ways. And while some of these changes were indubitably positive, a number of them would fall squarely under the heading of “madness.”

The premise of that series was misleading, at best. I was not the Jay-Z of blogging, boasting about how I broke laws and peddled death in my own community for years and still managed, due to my talent, hard work, perseverance, inner strength of character and faith in a higher power, to emerge on top of the game and live out my dreams. If I were being completely forthcoming I would have likened myself more to Iceberg Slim, writing my autobio from the mental steel casket where I still resided, full of the wisdom one acquires once one is set on the path of atonement for ones crimes, particularly those against himself.

I recently re-read that series and, frankly, some of the posts kind of alarmed me, for I could see how determined I was to be read by as broad a readership as possible, even at the expense of watering down my thoughts and feelings to make them more palatable to readers with weaker constitutions when it comes to the harsh realities of  life for some immigrants to this island. I used to care about such things (still do, a disgusting little bit) and looking back I think I’ve done readers an injustice in some respects by taking that too much into consideration. Like crushing medicine and sprinkling it on ice cream for a child suffering from a serious ailment but refusing to take the medicine cause it tastes like shit, I think I was overly concerned with reaching those folks living here that I believed to be  suffering from unconditional infatuation with Japan.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m still very proud of that series. I think it served its purpose dutifully and I was indeed successful in establishing my blog as an alternative to the fluff the Japan blogosphere is replete with and as a destination for some hard truths about how everyday life can be here on the ground floor. It was cutting edge at times, thoughtful, creative, and even deep on occasion. Only, I’ve since learned something extremely valuable for a writer to know; that, without sacrificing creativity, I’m better off presenting my ideas and experiences with as little powdered sugar as possible and letting the chips fall where they may. I’ve learned, especially once my book was published, that I can’t let whatever trust issues I might have interfere with the message I want to convey. I have to trust  myself more, trust my talent, trust that what I have to say is not a waste of time and energy. And, as importantly, I need to trust readers.

At the time I wrote that series, I had very little readership to speak of, let alone trust, and knowing that there was a sizable potential audience for Japan related material, I made an effort (both consciously and unconsciously, I realized in my re-reading) to build one without pissing too many people off and winding up blacklisted (that is, on a list of blogs labeled Japanophobic, Japan bashers, or just plain Haters).

But, now I know…you either get it or you don’t, dig me or not…or both…or neither. And that is as it should be!

So, with that in mind, and in the spirit of offering something useful for readers planning to make a move to Japan, for those living here and encountering similar challenges and, finally, as a personal (yet curiously public) way to measure how I’ve changed, I’ve decided to revisit that series.

*****

So, Dearly Beloved:

At the start of that series, I had written a post introducing it called: “10 Ways Not to Go Loco in Yokohama, But I say…” where I talked about the benefits of going a little nuts here in Japan. If you haven’t read it, please take a peek now. Going Loco was actually a recurring theme throughout the series and this post sets it up pretty well. I think it was one of the best examples of the writing this blog had to offer at that time (a full two months into this blogging venture). Re-reading it I still love it and unlike some of the series’ entries to follow it, still stand soundly by it.

Particularly sections like this:

“First, I saw myself through stages, through the eyes all around me, through the mirror that is my life here, through the Japanese: Bigger, stronger, blacker, scarier, cooler, stupider, incomprehensible, shameless…less patient, more impetuous, alien, different, strange, bizarre…dangerous…passionate, emotional, surprising, unpredictable, opinionated…free-thinking, free-willed, free-spirited, free…

Free?

Was it true, I wondered. Well, I definitely wasn’t Japanese. No matter how hard I tried to fit in, that just wasn’t going to happen. They wouldn’t have me. Not maliciously. It was just inconceivable to them and thus impossible. And, I wasn’t American. In my mind, at least when I came here, America was a theory, an illusion, a motto on a bumper sticker, no more representative of me than Disneyland was. I was free, sure, the way homeless people are free. The way refugees are free. A very unsettling freedom to say the least. And terrifying. I’d never known that type of freedom.”

No, aside for some editing for clarity, there’s very little I’d change about the introduction. I still firmly assert that to get the most out of the experience of living in Japan (or in any new culture / society), you must first at least question the beliefs you came here/there with, even those problematic core beliefs we often avoid deeply probing, for doing so might upset…well, let’s face it…EVERYTHING! (They don’t call it Loco for nothing…)

I was very fortunate (I say this in hindsight, of course) that life in Japan really left me very little choice in the matter but to go a little loco, for I’ve benefitted in ways I could not have foreseen. But, if given that choice, I often wonder if I would have voluntarily done so, or if that would’ve even be an option. I mean, who, without impetus, would do such a thing to themself? You’d have had to been a little loco to begin with to even consider it, I suspect

And there’s a very good chance I was at that!

Loco

Stay Tuned for Part 1 of the “10 Ways NOT To Go Loco in Yokohama” Re-Mastered!

In the meantime, here’s a little ditty by one of my favorite artist of all time!


Let’s go crazy/Prince & The Revolution by gaimon5656

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13 Responses to “Letting The Chips Fall Where They May”

  1. Rude Boy Abroad 17 November 2012 at 12:09 am Permalink

    I was going to wait until I’d finished to let you know, but I’m currently in the process of archive binging everything you’ve ever written here (that’s still up at least.) So I’d like to let you know that I’ve enjoyed it, and I’ve found a lot to be learned from your perspective…you’ve taught me some interesting things. And, yeah, I feel like I’ve been able to grasp some idea of who you are as a person, which, to me, is actually one of the best parts of reading a blog – getting to know someone through their words, and content, and the little details they let slip about themselves and their history.

    So as I’ve read years’ worth of posts in a matter of months, it’s been fascinating to watch your growth as a person. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this yourself, but I’ve seen a gradual shift, not only in your development as a writer (you get better and better as you go along, naturally) but also in your emotional tone. Contrary to what you say in this post, I actually detect a lot of negativity in the early stuff, to the point that it comes off as venting, but as you progress it becomes more intellectual, at times even existential, and thus much more interesting to read. (Not that I always agree with you, but then, that’s part of the fun too.)

    Anyway, I realise this post is probably gonna come off as either a load of ass-kissing or reveal me as having completely misread you, but that’s what I see. My point in saying this was I’m looking forward to seeing how YOU view yourself as having transformed (I’m especially anticipating the “Make Japanese friends” reflection.)

    • Locohama 17 November 2012 at 2:40 am Permalink

      Rude boy, thanks for the shout.
      Nah I think you’re on point…I think the posts gradually did change. I don’t think my anger and madness decreased. I think I was able to hone a tone of writing that allowed me to express/release it in a manner less abrasive and/or reflective of a mind that is not thinking things through clearly blinded my emotion. That is the way people read anger Ive found. It never plays well. Yu can rant or you can rant and wrap it in an entertaining package and tie it up with an educating bow and people will accept it. Or something like that. Tell stories, refrain from preaching, refrain from cussing unless its for effect or colloquial, complain but attach it to an action of some sort to indicate you are actively trying to do something to ameliorate the situation…stuff like that. These are things I’ve worked on over the years. Thanks you for taking notice and for taking the time to read it.
      Agreement is not a required.
      Stay tuned. I haven’t written it yet, nor do I have any notes or anything, aside from a bunch of ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for years now…so I really don’t know what I’m going to say or how I’m going to say it yet. This is what I love about writing. Just seeing where it goes…where my mind and heart takes me. Doing this publicly is risky I suppose but I’ve been doing it so long now I hardly hesitate.
      Thanks again yo!

  2. Ru 20 November 2012 at 8:52 am Permalink

    Awesome post Loco, really though provoking. I know I don’t comment quite as much these days, but I still love reading each post and linger on each word. Just thought I’d drop a quick post to say g’day and let you know that one of my favourite thing about this blog, this social commentary, is its fluid and evolutionary nature. I love that you’ve your original posts up unedited and that you freely admit you now don’t entirely agree with them and how we can see the changes that time, age and arguably wisdom have brought with them. It’s a really cool thing. A digital brain dump, right here, for all and sundry.
    Stay awesome, my man.
    Ru


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