Craig-083 Japanese Bridge To Nowhere

Craig note- Sunday is my family day! And, we are preparing a Halloween party. Plus, I am working on a new feature story. This is another blurb from a series I wrote for my family and friends in 2008. It tells the story of my first date with a woman. (Enjoy!)
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Ah, July, my favorite month of the year as it is my birthday. Funny, over the last several years, I seem to magically remain 21 years old. How does that happen? Perhaps, Japan doubles as the mythical land of Shangri-la?

But, alas, Father Time is catching up with me. Where is Indiana Jones with that Holy Grail when you really, really, really need it? For the first time in my life, I actually felt like I was getting older. I suppose, it is a normal progression everyone makes from their 20s into their 30s. It was not like I went to pot this year, but I was somehow different.

Truly, it was the little things that got me. There was the occasional extra ache or pain upon waking up in the morning. The vision falling off a bit. The need for a nap, now and again. Now, I don’t think I am ready to be cast in an episode of ‘The Golden Girls’ just yet. But, I might be up for a leading role in ‘Thirtysomething,’ for sure.

I can’t really put my finger on it. But, something within me; while not broken, did change this year. And, I was not sure I liked it very much.

SEEKING INSPIRATION

I think, I spent most of my 20’s trying to figure out what I was in life. In stark contrast, it seems I have spent the early part of my 30’s contemplating what I am not. At this point, I cannot tell you for certain which of those struggles I have found more challenging. They have both found ways to make me question all that is life and my approach to it.

But, I will say, in knowing what I am not, there has been a refocus on what really drives me in my life. For example, I know I am not a musician. I know, I am not destined for greatness. I know that I have limits and things I simply will never be able to do or overcome. And, I know I have more foreign policy experience than Barack Obama.

But, as well, I understand that is most people, and the sun does come up tomorrow whether you are prepared for it or not.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

So, I was a content single guy when I got invited to a tour of Himeji and the setting for “The Last Samurai.” The morning started off quite unremarkable. I rolled out of bed, threw on the one clean shirt I had (albeit, orange), and I threw myself on a train.

The tour was, actually, a bit unorganized. I spent the morning listening to some guy talk about the wonders of enlightenment thru Buddhism. But, he was either high on life or any number of drugs, because his entire speech sounded about as coherent as Sarah Palin talking about US foreign policy.

But, at the end of the tour, I did manage to meet a couple of gals. I struck up a nice conversation with one of them. The second woman said, “Hello.” and that was it. Still, it was nice to meet a couple of new folks.

I never even caught their names. To tell the truth, I am not sure I really cared to know. I meet 100’s of people a year, most I never see again. I gave up trying to remember everybody’s names long ago.

Honestly, I thought nothing of the meeting until I got an e-mail from one of the women. She had asked for my e-mail from the host of the tour. She wanted English lessons. She suggested we meet at some restaurant and enjoy a little chatting.

I would make a bit of money and get free lunch for my trouble. And, I thought, “Hey, the woman is pretty hot, at least, it will be something to look at.” (I know; I am as deep as a puddle.)

I showed up at the restaurant, and I was greeted by a woman. To my shock and amazement, she was not the woman that I had the long conversation with, it was the woman who had only said “Hello.”(Whoops!)

I looked around thinking the other woman must have come with her. But, nope, it was simply a woman whose name I could not have told you for all the money in Bill Gates’ sock drawer. I barely got out, “Hello.”

It was sort of an awkward five minutes as I scrambled to recover from the shock of the total and complete stranger before me. But, I settled in, you live in Japan long enough, as a white guy, and you learn to sort of give a performance at the drop of a hat.

We had a very nice lunch. It was clear she was smart, sexy, funny, and happy. And, she had a wide variety of interests such as music, art, and golf. So, I was pretty unabashed when I suggested that we see each other again. She seemed pretty happy about it.

HEY, I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW HAPPY I AM

So, for the first date, I decided to pull out all the stops. Maybe, it was the lack of a date for a few months. Or, more likely, my desire to show her a really good time in appreciation for her buying my lunch and her sincere effort to get to know me. Or, it was just summer vacation, and I wanted to do something cool.

We started the day at about 11. We met in Akashi for a little Starbuck’s coffee. It turned out that was a good start as she really enjoys coffee. We took a train to Kobe and settled in an area near the harbor, aptly named Harborland. We had a lovely lunch and conversation at a fancy Italian joint. It was a great meal as we continued to hit it off.

We moved on to a cruise. We spent about an hour eating ice cream while watching the coastline. We found a fairly secluded spot on the ship, and we (awkwardly) held hands a bit. (I know, I am such a forward guy.)After the cruise, I sprung for some popcorn and sodas, and we walked around area for awhile.

It was getting to be a bit later in the evening, so we went in search of dinner after we finished a couple hours of karaoke. I decided that things were going well, so I wanted to kick it up a notch, ala Emeril, Bam! (Bam! Bam!)

We went to a very, very, very swanky oyster bar. We spent some two hours eating oysters from around Japan and the world while drinking some seriously overpriced imported beers.

GO REST HIGH UPON THAT MOUNTAIN

We stumbled out of the restaurant and made our way into the downtown square where we stopped on an overpass bridge, embraced, and we just took in a moment to savor what had been a truly special day.

Unfortunately, she was so drunk that I had to help her get back home. But, she was the sweetest drunk woman that I have ever seen. I can’t say I remember too much about how I got back home.

She had a super, super, super time. I do know the next day I had flies coming out of a very empty wallet and a serious AC/DC-esque pounding headache. She wrote me later that she had never felt so special in her whole life. And, how I must be the sweetest man on the earth.

I don’t anything about all that. But it was a wonderful start to what has been a great relationship. (later a superb marriage) And, truly, it was also a reminder for me that, “Life is what happens to you while you are planning for it.”

Grey, Grizzled, and Gaijin

Got a Question for the Grey, Grizzled, And Gaijin Mailbag? Send it to: @craighoffman11 on Twitter!

“Friendship at first sight, like love at first sight, is said to be the only truth.”- Herman Melville

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