Write about a time you won, Big.
March 7 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”
It’s not anything I could’ve predicted. Seen coming. Seen happening in my life that even in its short 31 years was characterized by first traumas/struggles and two, unconventionality.
The time I won, Big.
1988. San Francisco. Noc Noc. A dark cave of a place where the unconventional, the cool, the artists, the weirdos, the fringe hung out. Myself included. I was shaving my head my back. I mean shave. As in with shaving cream and a razor. And in shaving verrrry carefully!
Wasn’t a total cue ball. I’d left a long thin piece from the top of the head down the right side that I braided and tied off with the tiniest rubber band available on the market and thread. A tuft at the front that for a while I dyed orange. And a longer tuft down the back that I kept in a small ponytail aka Hare Krishna-style. (I wasn’t.) I’d created the style myself. Called it my monk-artist cut. And the real me.
I came to know E., the cool cat and very odd (even by my incredibly open and tolerant standards!) owner and designer of Noc Noc. But that’s an entirely different story and none of your damn business, frankly. I’d often go to Noc Noc with my Japanese language book and sometimes a scarf wrapped around my mostly-naked head. The City of Fog gets chiilllllly and damp and, as I discovered, you lose a LOT of heat through the head! Strangers would come up to me seated at the bar and rub my head like it was Buddah’s belly or something! Yeah, good times.
I got to studying Japanese not because of E., who is Japanese. Well, E. played a part in that E. introduced me, by presence, energy, cultural aura and all those many intangibles to which we Pisces are so attuned, to The Other Side. The Eastern side. I’ve always felt, since I was a child, a profound and “inexplicable” affinity with Asia. Later in life I came to understand it on many many levels and explained it simply as “I’m an Asian trapped in a Western body.”
Be that as it is, it wasn’t so much that I was introduced through Noc Noc and E. specifically and the other native Japanese to an unknown foreign culture as I was brought home.
I mean yes, I hadn’t yet been to Asia. (I had been through Europe, across the United States and, barf, into Mexico. But I’d always felt, starting from childhood, a strong and inexplicable affinity with Asia. I used to eat hamburgers with chopsticks. My mother I’m sure thought I was a total freak. Not her daughter. Wasn’t the first time, certainly wasn’t the last! Peas too. They’re terrific for developing chopstick skill & technique!
Later in life I came to understand much much more about this affinity. Now I simply express it with “I’m an Asian trapped in a Western body.” Most people don’t get it. They can’t understand. Can’t relate. In honesty, I don’t give an f. I’m not like most people and I know it. I don’t want to be like most people and I know that too.
So circa 1988 when I discovered Noc Noc in the Lower Haight of San Francisco, I felt like I’d found home. It was a strange place. Like a Moroccan opium den sans the opium (obviously).
Dark, shadowy, candlelight, intimate underworld haven for the unconventional, the artists, weirdos, freaks and fringe. Verrrry intimate place. It held, what, 30 people max? There was seating at the tiny bar that seated about 8. The funky tables, seats and booths were hand-fashioned outta wood; circled around a table, four was a crowd. I vaguely recall a couch or two toward the far wall.
I’d go in, sit at the bar, drink sake martinis and study my Japanese. At the time, I wasn’t planning a trip to Japan. At the time, I had no freaking clue of what my future held! No clue of what awaited me in that subterranean intimate opium den of a place. A place where the very shy Hideo played highly eclectic music from a DJ booth the size of a closet. Two people in it was a crowd for sure. Among the many unique and truly unusual discoveries, Talk Talk at Noc Noc was one of ’em!
I was studying Japanese in an evening course at the time not because I had any travels there planned. I simply I looooooooved the sound of the language. LOOOOOOVED it. I’ve studied five languages, including English, and none had that effect on me. (I did find Italian beautiful, however; the sounds of French are the WORST! HIDEOUS! Why people think it’s romantic is beyond me!!!)
To my ears and sensibilities, the sounds of the Japanese language were Zen. Like listening to water flower over rock. I used to make E. talk to me in Japanese. Didn’t matter what was being said. Coulda been the stock market report for all I cared! Just Talk Talk (speaking again of cool music!) to me in Japanese! E. obliged.
Because of Noc Noc and E., things happened. A LOT of things happened. Things developed. Unfolded. One thing led to another and led to another. Things that are deeply personal and private to me. Things I wouldn’t tell anyone but an profoundly dear and close person. So you ain’t gonna hear it here.
In a nutshell, Noc Noc and the people and events and oh so much more entirely altered the course of my life. My life got shape-shifted. Big time. I got shape-shifted. Through and through.
And the rest as they say is history.
The time I won, Big … it’s got nuthin’ to do with jackpots in a casino. Got nuthin’ to do with lottery tickets or a chance find on the street of a clipped newspaper ad of someone hiring a writer / editor / radio person — and absolutely that’d be a majorily huuuuuuuge win!!! A dream come true even!
The time I won, Big … it’s got nuthin’ to do with, say, buying a dinner plate at the Goodwill for 50 cents and discovering it’s one of a 100 in the world and worth $50,000!
And it’s got nuthin’ to do with the scholarships, academic achievements and awards including in my field of journalism, back when journalism was still journalism, not this fucking Obama-Liberal Agenda, oh so long ago. All of which I’m deeply proud of and inexpressibly wish that someone other than myself (i.e, employer) would also value so I could make use of my gifts, talents, abilities, experience and skills in paid work.
So yes, I do feel that I won, Big, on that level. As an inquisitive and bright Student of Life who’s always been highly academically oriented and keen on learning, to be able to receive quality higher education that included specifically the best journalism education in the country (the University of Missouri in Columbia) Columbia, Missouri) is something I do not take lightly.
But that’s to the time I won, Big, Really Big. That occurred starting in 1988 in that hovel of an opium den in San Francisco back when I was shaving my head except for those tufts and the long skinny braid down one side. When I got discovered, not by a publisher — though I’d NOT say no to that!!! I got discovered … spotted … seen … recognized for the truly unconventional girl that I am by someone equally weird, in different yet compatible ways.
I got zeroed in on by an Japanese person who had absolutely no idea at the time of just how much of a counterpart I was! A Westerner on the outside, an Asian on the inside. Soooo much happened, so much I won’t share save to say that, yes, my life and I both were wholly, fully, completely shape-shifted.
What began as a tiny dark weird underground hovel of a hangout where I’d drink those sake martinis and study my Japanese book became … yes, the Jackpot of my Lifetime. The people involved know who they are. I know who they are. God knows who they are.
And so on this day, March 7, 2015, some 26 years later and, coincidentally, nearly to the very day that I got on a plane for the first travel to Japan — a short 2-week visit that soon thereafter led to nearly 11 years in the Land of the Rising Sun — I celebrate … remember … honor … give gratitude to that weird place called Noc Noc. To the weird mysterious artist who created it. To the Japanese who forever changed my life, mind, soul and spirit. To the Love of my Life and the one who got away.
Real love, no matter how badly or painfully it ends … real love, even when it leaves your life, never dies. Your paths will cross again in other lifetimes and on the Other Side. True love is unaffected by time or distance or other partners. True love withstands every thunderbolt and crash of the waves and ruination by human hearts and hands. True love never leaves.
And that is the time I won, Big. It’s safe in my heart. Spoken but not revealed here. It is shared by none but me and T. You know who you are. I know who I am. We know who we were. And will be again on the other side. True lasting forever love. The biggest win of the human heart of them all.