Monday, February 27, 2006

The Savior Survives the Lesson of Death

My fourth week of Japanese studies has come and gone. I survived the experience. Unfortunately, so did everybody else.

Friday began poorly, as Friday’s tend to do. I dragged myself out of bed and arrived at my job so late I considered claiming some sick time to repay the company for missed work (where “work” equals “sitting at my desk surfing the ‘net”). Fortunately, none of my bosses commented on my tardiness so my attack of conscience passed.

I used to have some of those “Who links here?” type of java tools imbedded in the sidebar to the right. I never really liked them since they felt a tad Orwellian to me, but sometimes it was nice to see who had linked to my site. Friday afternoon I saw I had gotten a hit from a new site, so I followed the backtracked link and found somebody had accused me of being a stalker. Note – in order to prevent a silly Internet beef from erupting in my comments, I’ll leave the names involved out. Person A visited Person B’s site and left a link to my site saying it was a secret but that I was Person C’s stalker and B should check me out. B did and added a comment saying that B didn’t see any evidence of stalking (in fact, no mention of C at all) but it still bugged me. I have enough problems being myself without having other problems pushed on me. I don’t mind being called evil or a psycho, but stalker irritates me because it’s something I’d never do.

I left work for my private Japanese lesson, not in the best of spirits, but determined to get through the evening without undue embarrassment. I arrived early and spent a half hour reviewing before my lesson began. As usual, sensei wasted no time getting down to business and began rapid-firing questions at me before I even had a chance to sit and open my notebook. She greeted me and asked how I was doing. I tried to say “I’m fine, thanks” and instead said “I’m fine – not!” Then I had to deal with her a) expressing concern over my well being and b) correcting me because that wasn’t the proper way to say “I’m not well.” What a fecking nightmare.

I finally got the book opened, settled down, and managed to answer a few questions correctly. One minute into the lesson and things were looking good – I could engage sensei in a limited conversation while wondering what it would be like to have sex with her on the conference table. Five minutes later and I felt like a complete bumbling idiot; my previously aroused part had withdrawn like a frightened turtle. Five minutes after that and I realized that, in terms of effort, it would have been much easier to just shove a knife into her tiny little chest than to endure the learning process any longer. Note to novices – aim just above the floating (12th) rib on an upstroke for maximum effect. Remember, kiddies, soft tissue is our friend. :-]

Anyway, after the first fifteen minutes of instruction I felt too emasculated to do anything but crawl away and hide under the nearest rock. The lesson finally crawled to its excruciating end and I managed to say “Thank you” without totally fucking it up and slithered away into the night. I usually don’t drink on Friday since I have class the next morning, but I really needed several beers that night. After many frothy brews my confidence finally soared somewhere between “amoeba” and “liver fluke” and I felt a bit like my old self, which is to say I wanted to kill a lot of people starting with myself. Before I could grab the chainsaw, I had an epiphany: I had no problems reading, writing, or understanding the Japanese language. It just all fell to pieces when I had to speak to somebody else, particularly to a pretty woman or in front of a group, which is the same problem I have with English.

Somehow that thought failed to provide any comfort, so I spent the evening berating myself for being so foolish as to believe I could actually speak Japanese and trying to decide if I wanted to quit now or after the next seven lessons for which I had already paid. Beer and a half-decent night’s sleep restored some of my grim determination by the next morning. I still dreaded going to class, but I was determined to at least stick it out to the end of the ten week period.

Guess what? For the first time since the first time, I actually did pretty well. I may not have been the brightest student that morning (although it was debatable), but I was far from the worst. I only made one outright mistake (I’m still learning the written characters) and one mistake which was just a matter of being slightly improper rather than blatantly wrong – I referred to an item as belonging to “sensei-san” rather than just “sensei.” The book says that’s okay, but the book has made a few mistakes. Anybody out there who knows whether or not referring to a person by their job (a.k.a. “Mr. Teacher”) is okay in Japanese, please leave a comment. Try not to call me a stalker. :p

Anyway, I managed to relax – a little – and have some fun. I was exhausted and ready to flee by the end of the class, but at least I learned some things and kept a shred of my precious dignity in the process. I also learned something of interest – one of the words for the number four (yes, they have more than one) is the same as the word for death: shi. Sensei also told us that’s why hospitals never have a fourth floor in Japan, which makes sense.

Large Japanese Family: “We’re here to see our mother. She was checked in today.”
Nurse at Reception: “Yes, I have her right here. She’s on the floor of DEATH!”
LJF: “But she only had a sprained ankle…” Mass suicide follows.

Anime Nurse

Note – this post was getting too long, so I inserted a picture just to break up things.

Of course, they could always reserve that floor for the morgue. “I’m here to claim a body. Which floor?” “What do you think?” Japan didn’t ask me. Anyway, thanks to this revelation and an e-mail from an e-pal, I now know all I need to invade visit Japan – the words for death and a pair of words I’m not supposed to confuse: kirai (hate) and kirei (pretty). I was happy to learn those words, but in doing so I realized it’s not that important if I confuse them. Ask yourself which is more frightening?

A large gaijin leaping from the airplane brandishing a chainsaw and shouting “Hate! Death!”


Or a large gaijin leaping from the airplane brandishing a chainsaw and shouting “Pretty death!”


Answer: it doesn’t matter. It’s like those questions about which you would find preferable, death by drowning or death by fire. Any answer you give after the “death by” phrase is going to suck donkey anus.

We also discussed beverages, including sake, which I’ve always spelled as saki. Sake (pronounced sah-key by us Americans) is rice wine usually served hot if you didn’t know (sure you didn’t). It’s properly pronounced as sah-keh. I had an urge to channel Denis Leary and pronounce it as sake (as in “for feck’s sake”), but sensei told us never to mispronounce it again and mimicked cuffing us on the back of the head if we did. Ha ha. I’d love her if I didn’t want to stab her to death and play around with her blood.

Anyway, I left without feeling like a broken shell of a man and drove home to do some studying and research and in the process discovered the following: Japan’s population is on the cusp of a major decline. Suddenly reality made sense to me and, for the first time in several days, the gates of heaven swung wide and the lord personally spake unto me.

His voice called my name from up on high, by which I mean the bowels of the earth. Limpid pools of flaming blood opened around me and a heavenly host of angels leapt from them, firelight gleaming on the tips of their horns, tails waving like angry rattlers, and pitchforks poking my rump. They laughed with holy glee and told me it was my mission in life to visit Japan and rage over the lands like a horny Godzilla and personally top off the gene pool. It seems fantastic, I know, but it must be true. Angels don’t lie.

I am truly blessed, not only with a still absorbent sponge, but also with not one, not two, but three purposes in life:
1) Prophet of doom.
2) Writer of the Giant Atomic Chickens.
3) Japanese Lothario stud-muffin (or would that be stud-springroll?). Whatever.

I will remain true to my holy cause and will continue to study nihongo no matter the cost or how long it takes. As the red horned god and zombie jesus are my witnesses, I will learn to speak Japanese. Asian women, heed the word of the lord and keep your legs crossed until my arrival. Have another cup of sake (I don’t care how you pronounce it). Your savior is on his way. Small request – when I arrive, don’t nail me to two pieces of wood. BJ’s will suffice.

On a side note, I recently downloaded “Calling All Angels” by Train, which is not my normally Satanic fare, but that’s okay. When he sings (repeatedly) “calling all you angels” my brain automatically replaces it with “all you fucking angels.” I’m thinking about Asian women while it plays. But I do not have yellow fever.

Final note – I’m sorry my posts have been so long here lately. Tomorrow I’ll be brief.

Shi, out


Anonymous said...

if japanese is anything like chinese (both of which i've studied at some point in time) - the number 'four' and the word 'death' sound similar but are different words. This is the origin of chinese superstitions. For example - the number eight sounds very similar to the word "fortune" so eight is considered a very lucky number. the number thirteen is also very lucky for some similar reason...

i'm not surprised the population of japan is declining - did you know its amazingly difficult to migrate there? Citizenship involves something like 15 years residency or something!

Weary Hag said...

This was your best post ever. Or perhaps it's just that I miss my once-daily visits to your blog. Nahhh... it's your best post ever. Oh, I do miss my once-daily visits as well, but there are so many little gem-lines in this post that I don't know where to begin commenting. When that happens, this is what you get... a jumbled mass of projectile-vomit-print.

Your writing has become so well honed that I nearly hate you. That's a compliment. No, really.

(my favorite line was "I'd love her if I didn't want to stab her to death and play around with her blood" simply amazing, Grant)

TTD said...

so how do you say "hello, how are you?" in japanese?

poody said...

I wish you would tell us how you really feel just once. Well, I am gald to know you are not a stalker!! You are too funny Now remind me again why you need to learn Japanese.

Tai said...

Good luck with that.

(I'm not sure which bit I'm refering to...but all the best!)

Grant said...

aka fatty - I had heard immigration was low, but I didn't know about the standards.

weary hag - thanks. You're strange. That was a compliment as well. :)

ttd - the most common way would be "Konnichiwa. O-genki desu ka."

poody - I'm always serious. And I'm just learning Japanese because I like the culture / movies / women and wanted to learn something new.

tai - thanks. I'll send you a postcard after my rampage.

Joe said...

Just curious, but have you considered learning to say "I'm wondering what it would be like to have sex with you on the conference table." and then pretending that it was a mistake and tha you meant to say "I'm fine, thank you."?

Could be a good way to gauge her interest in you...

Melissa said...

Feel free to stalk me, I'm pretty easy to fine; consider yourself warned, however, I'm just a little crazy right now.

Kira said...

No, wait, Grant doesn't stalk others...*I* stalk him! Who's inching in on my turf here? Feck off!

PBS said...

Good thing you're learning Japanese--to fulfill your special purpose!

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Mmmmm...sake. Wish I had some right now. I could even put it in my water jug here at work and they'd never know.

(Well, until I started making copies of my ass on the copy machine...;)

sands of time said...

I think Japanese is so you.
Sorry to hear about someone accussing you of being a stalker.You do come across some bizarre things online.

Nobius said...

I knew you were a stalker! It must be true if I read it on the Internet!


Surprisinly, I like that Train band. Drops of Jupiter (or whatever it's called) is excellent.

Grant said...

joe - I like the way everybody keeps encouraging me to hit on her, even though I've repeatedly said a) she's married, and b) I want to hurt her. Apparently everybody wants to read about how I made a fool of myself and / or landed in jail.

melissa - does that mean you're sane at other times? :p

kira - so that was you hiding in the bushes last night. I'll send out some cocoa next time.

pink - thanks. Internet stalking is a bummer, is it not?

nobius - we're getting old. I can barely stage dive without my arthritis medication.

Eternity said...

It's your blog, you can do as you damn well please.