DB Guidinger & Associates

DB Guidinger & Associates

Writing Services Since 1985 …



“In my country, it is common for children to be raised by their grandparents. When I was a little girl my grandfather was my best friend. We were together every day and he is forever in my heart.”

“Grandfather, will rain come tomorrow?”

My grandfather’s eyes wandered the horizon before settling on a flock of low flying birds. “Yes Granddaughter, tomorrow will bring rain.”

“How do you know Grandfather?”

“Birds fly low Granddaughter because moisture in the sky brings worms to Earth’s surface.”

“Grandfather, can I touch a dragonfly?”

“Extend your arm Granddaughter when you see a dragonfly. It will land on your finger.”

“Grandfather, were you in the war?”

“Yes Granddaughter, I was in the war.”

Before the war, my grandfather was a mailman, making his deliveries on horseback. As was his custom he rode bareback and barefoot, even in the cold of winter.

“Grandfather, why didn’t you wear shoes?”

“Granddaughter, a horse is more easily controlled with the touch of a foot than a kick from a boot.”

As was their custom, people would wait for my grandfather and his horse in front of their homes. In Japan, receiving a letter is an honor worthy of high respect. Once war came to their land, however, the people would hide from my grandfather and his horse in fear he would deliver a red envelope. A red envelope meant a father or son was called to serve the Imperial Japanese Army and the people were afraid. One day, another man rode a horse along my grandfather’s route delivering the mail. My grandfather had received a red envelope of his own and he was home, preparing to leave my grandmother and their three small children. After training, he was sent to China where he joined many thousands of other Japanese soldiers.

That was all my grandfather told me about the war.

After his death, my grandmother refused to violate her husband’s privacy by speaking of his experiences in the war. Then, when she too was near death and I was next to her, she suddenly sat up, looked me straight in the eye, and finished my grandfather’s war story.

My grandfather’s unit fought many battles with the Chinese. After each, he was so overcome with emotion that he would lie on the ground shaking while his mind raced home to his wife and their three small children. One day, his unit was overrun by Chinese horse cavalry and, with the exception of himself and an officer named Lieutenant Uchikawa, everyone in his unit was killed. My grandfather survived by pretending he was dead, lying motionless on top of the severely wounded lieutenant. Victorious Chinese soldiers moved through the fallen Japanese troops firing bullets into the heads to insure there would be no survivors. Hearing the approaching Chinese soldiers my grandfather thought of my grandmother and their three small children. Then he prepared to receive a bullet in his brain.

That was his last thought before passing out …


Surviving Japan

Reality is sinking in.

We walk to the local market to stock up for what appears to be a long haul. Problem! The shelves are mostly empty. All that’s left is the lousiest of the lousy … Really cheap ‘just add hot water’ noodle soup; skim ‘aka white water’ milk; made in China rice crackers (respectable Japanese would never (NEVER!) buy food from China). Fortunately, there’s a few bottles of red wine. I grab them all.

Like wilted roses, we trudge home.

First thing, I crack open a bottle of red and guzzle half of it. Soon I’m going on about being stuck and no food and all that. I’m about to go out and track down the slime sucker who put the beam across our ceiling when my wife points to the TV now displaying an image of Matsushima, a revered member of Nihon Sankei, one of the three most beautiful places in Japan. When the Haiku poet, Matsuo Basho, visited Matsushima in 1689 he spontaneously erupted …

Matsushima ah!
A-ah, Matsushima, ah!
Matsushima, ah!

This year’s tsunami, however, gave no such respect to Matsushima, leaving destruction and dead bodies littered across what was once pristine. The pain is enough to zip even my mouth. I fall to the tatamis, sit back, and stare at the TV …



Sears Tower

As the machine draws near a firefighter leans over the railing with a walkie-talkie. He’s talking to someone as he glares at me. I can almost hear him, but not quite. I’m thinking they’re waiting for me to make the first move when I hear what eerily sounds like a seal being broken; as if someone is peeling back the rubber cap on a canning jar. It takes a second for my eyes to lock on the source. On the inside, inches to my right, security guards armed with their own suction cups are removing the glass. Like a flash, I release the pressure on one of my cups, slap it onto their window, and pump it up. Astonishment freezes their faces as I swing out onto the cup, then pump up the other.

I try to take advantage of their momentary lapse of concentration. However, by the time I’m able to transfer my weight onto the second cup and begin releasing the first, they’ve recovered and are aggressively pulling the window into the building. In an adrenaline rush, I lean back and pull in the opposite direction. My opponents’ eyes widen in fear the window with me attached will spiral toward the pavement and I feel their tug relax. Then a man barges into the room and starts barking orders as if he wants me hauled in regardless of the danger.

For the next couple of minutes we wage a bizarre game of tug of war at six hundred feet. One moment they have the advantage with someone reaching out to grab me. And the next, it’s mine, and the glass slides back into place. What’s most disturbing is the memory of what happened on the second floor. In theory the cups should stick like glue; but the glass is flexing, and I’m hanging on for my life …

DB Guidinger & Associates
Tokyo & Marin

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