Saturday, June 11, 2011

Foreign Powers

It's Johnny!! Johnny!!!

No, not Johnny Depp. Me, Johntaro. I was waiting in line at the supermarket today when the guy behind me, a total stranger, asked if I still played the drums? You see I belong to a local drumming group, God of Light Percussion, that plays at different venues around town a few times a year. The last time I performed in public with the group was last year but this guy recognized me. I'm a talented celebrity! Either that or I just stick out in the crowd for some reason.

I don't think it's because I'm obviously a foreigner. This town is lousy with foreigners. The streets are crawling with us. I see them pass me by all the time. Sometimes we give each other the nod, other times we pretend not to see one another (dubbed shiranpuri, this "feigned ignorance" has been practically elevated to a near art form here in Japan via perhaps some cultural adaptation by so many people clinging on for their lives to a tiny outcrop of rocks in the middle of the ocean). 

Then there are the smiles. Not from my apparent fellow/sister foreigners, but the ones painted across the mugs of the native born. I sometimes see them crawl across their lips whenever they catch a glimpse of me, while either waiting to cross the street, meandering along the byways, or just sitting there minding my own business.

It doesn't happen with everyone and not all the time, certainly not all at the same time. What triggers these mouths to move with mirthful delight? It's a mystery. Maybe the sight of me standing there stokes the smoldering ember of some far distant and pleasant memory, the silver screen antics of some star like Jerry Lewis or a brush with some lesser foreign celebrity like Kent Derricott or Dave Spector whose star shines only in Japan. Then again, maybe there just dumbfounded, thinking "why the heck would anybody move half way across the globe to come and live in a place like this?" I'm assuming it's my "foreign powers" that elicits the display of pearly whites and that I'm not the only stranger to this land who has witnessed this sudden and fleeting flash of joy. Call it what you will, I call it magical!  

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