I am an American

I am an American

I was born in Los Angeles back in the time when the American automobile was loved & respected throughout the world, and America was loved & respected throughout the world. Obviously, I’ve been around a few years …

In 1988, I began spending three or four months a year in Asia, primarily in Japan. Much of this time has been in and around Tokyo. People say I know Tokyo like a taxicab driver. That’s not entirely true. Mostly, I know the Westside; but that I know well. I’ve sublet places all over – Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Mejiro, Shin Okubo, Nerima, Nakano, Kichijoji, Fussa, Musashi Sakai, Omotesando, Chitose Karasuyama, Soshigaya Okura, Nishi Magomae, Eifukucho, Jiyugaoka – the list goes on and on.

My transportation in Japan is pretty much limited to trains and bicycles.  Amazing, particularly when you consider I grew up in LA, the car culture of the planet. My bicycles, mountain bikes, I bring in from California because Japanese bikes are too small.  The thing about bicycling is it not only keeps you strong, but stopping when a good reason comes along is never an issue …

That’s me in Japan.

The reason I started these treks to the world’s largest city was because in the 1980’s, under the strange tutelage of Ronald Reagan and supply-side economics, America was nose diving. Japan, on the other hand, was achieving economic preeminence. I came here to study how the Japanese did it. Anyway, that was what I told people. If the truth be known, I was broke and my economic bridges in America were ablaze. I needed money and I figured Japan was a place I could find some. What transpired truly took my breath away. Not only did I come up with a way or two to make some cash, I also came to love Japan. Today, Japan is in my soul and we are forever linked.

It’s all the more amazing considering my home in America is in Marin County.  In case you don’t know, Marin lies across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. They say when Americans dream, they dream of California. Well, when Californians dream, they dream of Marin. It’s where the rich liberals live. It’s where the Grateful Dead call home. Where mountain bikes were invented. Where George Lucas has his Skywalker Ranch. Things happen in Marin before they happen in other places in California and, as everyone knows, everything happens in California before anywhere else. Cocaine came through Marin in the Seventies long before it hit LA and years before it ruined lives in Omaha. They say the marijuana is the best in Marin because it’s where the top organic dope farmers come to sell their wares. Marin people have the bread and they have the standard.

Marin is such a place.

The right-wing, the Bush lovers, hate Marin. A quick look around and it’s pretty easy to figure out why. Right off there’s the Impeach Bush signs. Bush represents everything Marin people despise – Rigged elections. Lies. Stealing. Torture. Bush is exactly what Marin is not about. Love Bush? Stay out of Marin; everyone will be happier, especially you.

Then there’s all these healthy looking people biking, running, and shopping in super-market-sized natural food stores. The haters, the Bushies, stand out like sore thumbs so they just hate and avoid Marin like the plague. That’s fine with me.

Marin is quite a spot and I am proud to call it home. It was a big deal coming to Japan, leaving my Marin life. But lack of money will do that. Some folks grab a shopping cart and sleep in the hills. But I was born in Hollywood, studied at Berkeley, and lived in Marin. So I hocked what I could, borrowed from whomever would, and flew to Tokyo. Of course, my ticket was first class.

Tokyo has two real downsides. One is the air. I mean, how can the air be that clean when you’ve got 40 million people fighting for their share of it? The other is all the people. I couldn’t believe it when I first arrived. The packed trains and stations were something I’d never even imagined. A sudden move in Tokyo knocks over three unsuspecting obasans.

There are people everywhere!

Still, Tokyo has it’s moments. One of my pleasures is walking or biking the hosoi michis at night, listening to the sounds of people living their lives. I’ve stood clandestinely outside countless homes listening to piano or shamisen emanations. When I’m real lucky, I hear a koto.

My first uguisu was near a Buddha hidden away in Yotsuya.

So, when the beautiful girl I met in a coffee shop on the Westside suggested we search for a quiet place with cleaner air I responded, “Let’s do it.”  That’s how I got to Kugenuma. I love Tokyo, and always will. But what can I say?

I am an American.

D. B. Guidinger © All Rights Reserved 2003