tokyo

High noon Tokyo, two men fifty paces stare each other down like a scene from the shoot out at the OK Corral. One dressed in black tights resembles an engorged tick with a silver phallus shaped weapon at the ready. The other short and frail is dressed in a white workman’s outfit with a bandaged right leg, holding a cane concealing the octogenarian weapon of choice – a mini Samurai sword. Squinting like Clint Eastwood, the centenarian sizes up his opponent – who at half his age happens to be me the tick. Tension mounts while waiting for each to make the first move. As cruel as this scene looks, odds are in my favor that I am about to check off a bucket list item I had no idea existed.

On my trusty steel steed enjoying an early morning ride around Tokyo, I am closing in on a red traffic signal. My joy is short lived and shattered by the deafening sound of a car horn. It’s not one of those polite short beeps signaling, “I am here be careful.” This was a long blare implying “get the f __ ___ ___ out of my way or you will die.” At least that was my interpretation of it.

I now would like to justify my next series of actions with the following: The sidewalk width road was packed with cars going in both directions, I got a glimpse of the grim reaper in my rear view bike mirror so swerving into oncoming traffic was a bad first choice. To avoid experiencing the sounds of bone crunching and metal on metal, I opted for slamming into the fence – The offending car just missed me by a grain of rice. A tangled mess, my anger welled and I screamed, “What’s the point of the horn?” My only conclusion, this was some old geezer having a massive heart attack and the weight of his limp head hitting the steering wheel caused the car to swerve and horn to blow. The quick thinking passenger grabbed the steering wheel and took control of the car just in the nick of time. In hindsight I wasn’t too far off.

While untangling myself I immediately went into NYC mode. NYC stands for New York City, and if you have ever been to NYC then you will know what I am talking about. If not, I will ask you to imagine life on the streets as an urban wild west – where humanity meets the road. Instead of gunfire and hoots it’s horns and insults. Think of it as a modern day gunfight in which split second verbal and finger reactions are fired off in response to car horns.  Who wins, depends on the mettle of one’s character. This lethal mix of bikes, pedestrians and automobiles makes for an incendiary combination in which tempers flair at the drop of a hat. And having lived in NYC for 8 years I was well trained relying on my voice and middle finger – The chosen methods of response in this current situation.

Freed from the fence, I was back on my bike quaking with anger. Thanks to the narrow road I was within arms length of the car window of my offender and yelled at the top of my lungs the good ole “You Mother F__ ___ ___ ___ ___ ” followed up with a “F___ ___ ___  you,” to drive the point home. Even if English wasn’t there second language, there was no doubt the driver and passenger understood what was being communicated. In tandem with the verbal reply, my well-trained middle figure really put the cherry on top. I thought to myself, “It’s like riding a bike, you never forget.” Suddenly, I was filled with rapturous moments of NYC rage! I loved it!

Enjoying the waning moments, I rode my bike towards the cross walk and stopped to wait for the light to change. Out of habit I turned around to make sure that the driver or passenger were not coming my way. This move is also part of my NYC tutelage. You see in NYC it was not uncommon that the driver of a taxi or car would get out and start yelling in hopes of a physical altercation. Not being a fighter by nature it was always a yelling match for me. To my surprise when I turned around the driver was walking in my direction with a sense of brave purpose. Stopping fifty paces apart I sized him up as he squinted in my direction. “If we were to duke it out I could use his limp to my advantage,” I thought to myself. His emanating rage evidenced by clenched fists threatened my existence as I reached deep inside to call forth my evolutionary need for survival. Readying myself for a rumble my body trembled. However, there was one problem, I am a MAMIL – A Middle Age Man In Lyrca, or the tick if you recall. From his vantage point I must have looked like an easy mark considering my cycling garb. That is until he got a closer look at my face and beard.

Seeing I was a foreigner and not yet backing down he looked over his shoulder to his car and stoplight to confirm it was still red. I surmised that he was using this fact that there would a driverless car if the light turned green to save face. He reluctantly took a step backward in the direction of his car. This was indeed his excuse to back down in order to save face rather than to start a street brawl with a gaijin (Foreigner). Tension released after retreating to our respective corners – car and cross walk, I waited for the light to turn green. As the light changed I darted across knowing he was turning left and could have easily clipped me had he timed it right. Within a safe distance I sat up on my bike with a feeling of satisfaction soon followed by disappointment thinking to myself, “I could have made Wyatt Earp proud.”


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I was out for an early morning run around our local park the other day located in a sleepy suburban town on the outskirts of Tokyo. Early morning runs are the best! I get the park all to myself, it’s peaceful and mid February temperatures have a slight nip in the air, which reminds me of Minnesota. After fifteen minutes of warming up, I kick into gear, not that high of a gear, just a notch faster than my warm up. When I hit my stride thoughts floating around my head ratchet up as well. Usually I do not grab them. Most are just trivial and related to politics, resentments or plans for the day. If I am in the midst of working on my book, ideas tend to float in. On this occasion it was none of the above. Having breached my 50s a while ago and weathered the mid-life confrontation, I still get the occasional residuals. On this particular morning what hit me was the word – mortality.

How many of you think of your own mortality? That inevitable truth we cannot escape. You can be the richest man in the world, what’s his name that owns Amazon? He will die. You can be the most famous actor or actress in the world and you know what, they will die. The president of the US will die. In short we all will die. How many have even said these words? – I will die someday. This does not have to be morbid in any way, it just is. Knowing this truism I choose to live my life like I may die today. What the heck does that mean? Or maybe you’ve heard that before. I certainly did not coin the phrase, but I do on a regular basis try to live that way. How I interpret the phrase “Live like you’ll die today,” or I believe another way of saying it is, “Live like it’s your last day,” is that I try not to get caught up in the pettiness of life, treat everything with at least a modicum of love and respect for everyone and everything and take risks. I am not perfect at it and I know I never will be, but I try.

For those results oriented people, what is the payoff of admitting one’s inevitable extinction?  It’s peace, serenity, clarity, joy, lightheartedness, compassion and love. The list of positives goes on and on and on. Really, I find it comforting knowing there will be an end and that I get to live my life on this planet in the best possible way.

I do want to add one caveat, and that is this is coming from someone who is in his 50s and well over the halfway mark. So it does seem to make sense that this whole notion of the inevitable has planted roots in my psyche. If there were only a way to teach those under the halfway mark the concept of mortality. I wonder how it would affect our world?


Bodies strewn about writhing in pain, with blood splatter canvasing the ice like a Jackson Pollock painting, ladies and gentleman it’s broomball!

Once a week from Japan I Skype a family member in Minneapolis to say hi and see what’s up. The first topic of conversation is always the weather. Lately it has been about how much snow there is in Minnesota – a lot! After a recent call I started reminiscing about Minnesota winters and how much I miss them. Winter exists in Japan and I go skiing twice a year with family, we just have to get in a car, bus or train for a few hours to reach it. What I miss most is the easy access to winter sports such as cross country skiing, hockey and my favorite, broomball. Ask anyone who has never experienced life in a winter wonderland what broomball is and 100% will be clueless.

To the untrained eye broomball looks like a trailer trash form of hockey in which participants unable to afford to buy the necessary equipment like skates, hockey sticks and a puck opted for dumpster diving and came up with brooms, old winter boots and a volleyball. This is not the case. In fact broomball is a legitimate sport with teams, leagues and tournaments. There are commonalities with hockey such as six players to a side, an ice rink and goals. Other than that it’s a game all its own.

Made with rubber soles, the boots do not mix well with ice causing extreme slippage adding to the danger factor. The lethal combination of rubber soles and a lack of head protection increase the chance of a noggin cracking. The broom is the centerpiece of equipment and used to bash the volleyball. The object of the game is simple, put the ball into the opposing team’s goal. This is not an easy task due to the slick ice and the opposing team trying to slam you into the boards. Like passing a hockey puck, passing the ball to a teammate is next to an impossible task.

This game is about timing and team members overshooting their position sliding past an incoming pass is common. With skates you can stop on a dime thanks to the sharp edges. Boots offer no stopping power whatsoever. Besides timing, it comes down to speed, balance and an understanding of physics. I failed out of physics in college and ended up relying on my speed, which explains why I nearly always overshot my mark.

Like Usain Bolt in the 100 meters, at the ready in my starting position at one end of the rink hoping this time physics and gravity work in my favor, my starter pistol is a teammate screaming at the top of his lungs “Unleash the fury!” At that moment I start my dash gathering speed as I go from one end of the rink to the other with an aspiration to remain on my feet for the duration before getting the pass. Receiving the pass just as I reach top speed, shooting and scoring was a rare occasion. Most of the time the ball would end up behind me and at bone breaking speed I would crash into the boards surrounding the rink injuring my shoulder and pride, or the next best thing run headlong into the opposing team knocking them down like a set of bowling pins. Whenever that happened spectators would yell out in unison STRIKE!

Hockey fans go to games to cheer on their favorite team, but we all know the real reason is to see fights. Fighting is the highlight. Hockey fights are barbaric and brutal in which tempers flare at the slightest infraction. Loyal broomball fans of course support their teams, but what really puts butts in the seats is the promise of seeing cracked skulls. To the tried and true, it doesn’t matter win or lose the rallying cry of both teams is the same – “Victory is ours only when enough blood is spilt!”

Weary and woozy from a well fought battle and concussions, we enter our local watering hole to glorious applause knowing we did our best for our diehard fans and Jackson – leaving enough blood for his next masterpiece.

I am amazed at how comics use timing to get a laugh. It is truly an art form and a skill. Some have it naturally, I believe they call it “funny bones,” which I think is one component of having talent. Others have to cultivate and practice for years in order to learn how to use it. Actors use timing when saying lines during a scene. An example is pausing after a saying a line to build tension is one such use – “You talkin to me?” But timing does not just have to do with the world of comedy and acting.

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Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Welcome and here we go!

You may have stumbled across this site by accident, sent as a link by yours truly, or as a recommendation from a friend. However means you may have gotten here thank you for taking a little time out of your day to take a gander at the site and maybe read on a bit.

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