Thursday, February 19, 2009


I sent this in as a "sample" essay for one of my grad school essays. I highly doubt that this essay will help me gain admissions to this school (or any other for that matter) because of my amazing track record as an undergraduate. I enjoyed trying to write this, and I'm sure any other fans in the world (fans of teams that are perennial losers) can identify with this little essay. Maybe just the losing part.

Needless to say, professional Japanese baseball is a completely different animal than the professional game in the United States. I won't go into the issues with NPB dealing with TV contracts and revenue sharing; it does not exist, but here's the little essay I threw out.


After initially entering the Yokohama Stadium bleachers, one has to check their ticket stub to verify they are attending a baseball game, not a rock concert populated by a passionate college football crowd. Endless rows of fans clad in Yokohama blue and white cheer and sing along with songs blaring from the brassy sextet buried in the stands upper reaches. Sir Georg Solti of the bleachers, in a dark blue short sleeved coat decorated with flowing Japanese calligraphy gestures wildly, stirring the crowd’s enthusiasm to a feverish pitch, imploring the various Baystars heroes to success with emphatic spirit (ganbatte) ballads echoing across the stadium.

This is Yokohama Baystars baseball.

Yokohama’s starters have their own personal ganbatte ballad and a contingent of loyal fans. Wily veterans, Takuro Ishii and Daisuke Miura appeal to the older fans while new heroes, Shuichi Murata and Yuki Yoshimura attract the younger generation. A voluminous library of music addresses crucial moments in the game covering deficit rallies, scoring opportunities, left handed and right handed pinch hitters. Victories, albeit rare and runs scored are highlighted by the fans belting out the team’s anthem followed by dynamic banzai cheers.

Games end with eyes brimming with tears of joy or the emptiness of another heartbreaking defeat.

Despite a perpetual occupancy at the bottom of the league standings, the Baystars legions of fans remain faithful as they fill the bleachers to capacity each summer. Hopes and dreams of glorious victories and champagne soaked championships seldom fade in these seats.

Looking forward to the Yokohama Baystars home opener against the !$$*&%*$(&(*$^(*&$%(*(^^%^%!^$%#$%$#^&*&%*&$%^&*^# Yomiuri Giants in April.


Another wonderfully rainy Feburary day in Kanagawa. Almost as much fun as walking into an ice cold house each night. Luckily, I have some great slippers from Muji that keep my feet warm as I acclimate myself to the freezing house.

I could simply leave the heater on while I'm away, but 1) thats a waste of money, 2) its a waste of energy and 3) my house will still be cold because there is a total absence of insulation in my house, on par with old Japanese buildings.

But, I am hoping that the rain lets up before I leave work--I hate running in cold weather when it is raining. I don't have to run, but I need to keep working towards the Tokyo Marathon--I already lost two and a half weeks because of injury, so I can't lose any more running days since the 22nd is getting closer and closer. I don't know if I will be able to run the race because of work, but well, its better to keep training now and prepare for the run than to give up now and feel that tinge of regret in the back of my mind. It's a 9 mile day...or something close to that distance.


Thursday, February 12, 2009


In the United States, today, is the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln. While there are several people who are quick to either revere or demonize (I don't know how many exist of the second group) the 16th President of the United States, it is fitting to reflect on his efforts during the devestating American Civil War.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I am not a cat

While I do understand the general public displeasure with those banks who recieved TARP funds giving executive, is it not a bit of the old adage "the pot calling the kettle stove burnt" when members of Congress are the ones casting the stones of judgement at these bank CEOs? Indeed, I would have a hard time maintaining my composure in the face of a lengthy lecture about the proper use of tax payer money from a member of Congress.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A clear Tuesday Morning

Snippets flash forward, illuminate momentarily on a screen and fade back into the darkness from where it appeared.

A breakfast journey, trudging slowly down the stairs, unawares of the outside world other than the mild Wisconsin fall day, more worried about the wrinkles from wear on my cotton khakis.

A television screen normally on CNN, an image of the North World Trade Tower billowing smoke from its upper reaches. Pause. Surrealistic. Was it a preview from the newest Schwarzenegger film? The newest Hollywood CGI?

Sitting and munching mindlessly on lukewarm eggs and cold french toast, trying to decihper the events unfolding in New York City with a voiceless television. The scrolling text, illegible until eyes were squinted, informed the basement under a twelve story building that an airplane had crashed into the WTC.

A drunk pilot?

A mid-air malfunction, a day gone terribly wrong.

Aircraft, tall tower in New mind drifted to the B-25 crash into the side of the Empire State Building on a foggy day in 1945.

Blue, clear skies, almost too perfect described that morning, now smeared with the ugly hues of angry fires burning 110 stories in the sky. Not a hint of murkiness to obscure any field of vision of the experienced pilots handling these giant aircraft with ease. What about electronic navigation? Air Traffic Controllers maintaining a chaos of flights heading inbound and outbound?

A deep sinking ugliness grew in the pit of my stomach. There was something seriously wrong. Yet, as the rest of the world, I did not know whether there was truly malice or mistake behind this tragedy.

The race back to my room and joining my roommates in rapt attention before the flickering television...only a weekend before we gathered cheering for the underdog Badgers against the highly ranked Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium, now a silent attention mingling with fear. My roommate and I sitting tentatively in our midshipman uniforms, unsure of the future, unsure of what would happen later during afternoon drill.

I don't remember whether or not I saw the second plane scream across the sky, slamming into the second tower; perhaps those moments passed as I glided up two flights of stairs to arrive breathlessly to the room. But I recall a short moment that never left my mind...

An errant camera was zooming in and out among the billowing smoke juxtaposed against the clear baby blue sky and the silver sides of the WTC reaching into the skies. A floating voice commented about debris falling from those heights and the camera zoomed in to catch a image of building parts, office supplies, chairs, aircraft parts falling from the ugly scar on the face of the tower.

But the debris falling, accelerating at 9.8 m/s/s, were humans, people with lives, personal stories, tragedies, triumphs, goals, family, children, loves, dislikes, allergies and memories.

The images were processed, realized and quickly we returned to another establishing shot of the towers burning in the clear morning.

A thought. Suppressed. Arose across the mind and the horrifying realization crossed silently through my lips.

There are people falling out of the tower.

A ugly thought arose and submerged just as soon as it reached daylight:

Did they jump?

As everyone filtered out on campus to their classes, my next class was after noon, I sat in rapt attention at the events unfolding before the eyes of millions of people held in position or seated by the magnetic force of the unbelievable images flickering across our collective screens. An event so huge...

The first tower collapsed as I spoke with my buddy a few floors up, as we spoke about the fires and whether or not the city was taking measures in case the towers fell. Shock. "One of the towers just fell of the towers just fell..."

Eyes glued...and then the sister to the tower now a pile of rubble followed its twin into memory, the upper portion settling, almost resigned to its fate, and fell in atop itself. Clouds of thick smoke rose in place of the vanishing structure, rising high and seeping through the streets of Manhattan, covering everything in a blanket of finality.

The Twin Towers were no more. Sober voices reiterated the reality before our eyes.

I paused before going to class. I was in uniform. My next class was a lecture for Islamic History. I never made it past Randall Street.

In the aftermath, as the men who plotted and executed the attack became known to the United States and the world, I felt a slight impotent helplessness. Today, I recall the words of Heath Ledger's Joker in the latest Batman movie as he prods the infuriated Batman, "with all your strength, you have nothing, nothing you can do to me."

I felt that while we were powerful, we were powerless to act. There was no one opponent, a nation bold enough to strike the United States, that we could bring bring to bear the total sum of our military power to exact a blood revenge. No Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, or Imperial Japan existed to avenge the blood of innocent civilians who suffered unimaginable and unthinkable deaths in New York, Washington DC and in a lonely field in Pennsylvania.

The American giant was reduced to powerful clenched fists, enraged yet unable to lash out, binded by self imposed limits while fires smoldered on the East Coast, its citizens buried their dead or posted fliers praying against all hope that their loved one was still lost in the chaos that continued in this plane of existence.

It was an uncertain and restless sleep that Tuesday night.

We could only search through the rubble for the faint hope of survivors, bury the dead and remind ourselves to never forget.

On that day. That clear Tuesday morning.

Just one view, and obscured behind the fog of memory. My brother and I shared a cup of coffee at a local restaurant and he told me about that clear and brisk Tuesday in September. Another nondescript day for him, a first year student at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, Long Island, New York.

Breakfast. Then a classmate burst in, and babbled about something happening in Manhattan and they have to come outside to see what is going on. A group follows the classmate outside, into the lush grassy open fields in the middle of the campus, a location that allows a direct view into downtown Manhattan. A clear and blue day, save for smoke rising from one of the Twin Towers.


The world changes forever as one classmate brings up his camera, the second jet slams into the South Tower.

Stories of USMMA students as EMTs in Manhattan; some traumatized by the discovery of the shattered remains of humans. Others the smell. My brother remembers that smell as it wafted across the river and into the campus of the future members of the US Merchant Marine. Unforgettable although many wished to bury it forever, to forget that smell that permeated through their uniforms, their lives.

A smell that I cannot describe nor understand as I never inhaled a fresh lungful of this air.

Years later, in a bar in uptown New York during Fleet Week 2005, sharing beers with two fire fighters, one a NYFD the other from Appleton, Wisconsin. The grizzled NYFD veteran slowly spoke about that clear Tuesday morning. Nothing different. Except the end of the day. Friends lost, other ladder companies that arrived on scene first and vanished in a cloud of rubble before lunchtime. Stories of the evidence of what were once people in the piles of shattered concrete and steel.

Stains on concrete that were once people.

Stories of what each block of demolished building uncovered.

He also mentioned that smell. The smell that permeated and embedded itself into their noses, clothes, skin and their minds.

They continued to sort through the carnage that man wrought on man, discovered new horrors, moved endless dusty chunks by hand. It appeared that they would never get through with this grim task, the impossibility of the task started to grow heavier and heavier on their weary shoulders. The city started to farm out those Ladder Companies and fire fighters at Ground Zero into other New York boroughs, to reacquaint them with a sense of the life now obscured behind the thick smoke of the towers collapsing on that September Tuesday.

Fighting fires and defeating fires.

Acting as EMTs for people they could save.

And a thank you for my service, although I had done nothing in comparison to those brave men who arose to only discover calamity that should never visit any civilian population. They wouldn't let me buy a beer at The Bravest Heart.

I still recall standing before the gaping holes, looking down into the open tombs of over 2000 souls and the structures that had housed them, that were solid superstructures of safety, all through the openings on tall chain linked fence lining the solemn perimeter. The crowds passing on their daily lives paid a fleeting moment of attention to the group of naval officers in summer whites, but I felt the glances lasted longer on the Pakistani sailors paying their respects to the dead. One glance freely told without obscuring the true thoughts, 'what the fuck are those guys doing here?'

I felt sorry for everyone. The New Yorkers who had either lost friends, lovers, wives, sons, sisters that morning and for those poor Pakistani sailors standing a few paces away from the group of Yankee sailors. Those upon the sea have the same fears and joys while on the ocean, a bond that no one person with their feet set firmly on the earth could understand.

It was impossible to process the whole scene; from the gaping wounds to the signs that covered the scars on the surviving adjacent towers and the unseen scars on the citizens of New York. Just a stupid sigh followed by dumber silence. Frustration boiled at my inability to understand and comprehend everything my eyes relayed to my brain.

It was only through chance that I stumbled upon these recollections, jogged by my sarcastic view towards the hysteria surrounding 2012, which lead to the ridiculous videos about a 9-11-01 conspiracy and now, a reflection of that day.

A brisk and a clear Tuesday.

Shuten Zushi Eki. 終点逗子駅

A silent whir from the hidden electric motors and the once packed commuter train ground to a halt with a static filled gasp.

A moment of silence save for the crumpling of a SOGO or Seiyu department store bag pressed to the chest of a sleeping woman or the stifled cough from the salaryman teetering on drunkenness and sleep in an adjacent seat. The air thick with the smell of fermented body odor, humidity, soju aftertaste, beer farts and perfume hung heavily at nose level as the diminished population awaited for permission to exit. As to savor those last moments of sitting on the heated cloth seats, no one moved save for the few who enjoyed the favor bestowed upon them by Kwannon Buddha of a seat for the whole clattering commute home, shaking to life their extremities. Exhausted passengers recalled the previous hour standing in the dizzying claustrophobia, compressed tighter and tighter with each Tokyo stop, the car turning into a human sardine can as the windows were covered with new layers of condensation from the combined sum of humans added, each with a resigned look pasted to their collective faces as a new wave of bodies pressed through the opening.

A farmer's daughter from Amori prefecture struggled to breathe as she attempted to rise above the heavy atmosphere, standing on her toes, stretching for those few molecules of fresh air that lingered in the upper reaches above the sea of commuters after every stop.

Scratching his head instinctively, as a small mammal cleaning itself in the forest, a balding ojiisan grunted silently, his soju breath bouncing off the crumpled pulp copy of a late edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun raised to his eyes while not releasing a death's grip on his battered leather folio. Under his breath, he mumbled incoherencies to pass those miserable moments standing in the packed throng.

As a cow mindlessly chews his cud, the high school student chomped down on an flavorless wad of gum, staring from one end of the car to the other, hoping to find a girl to focus and allow his sophomoric mind to wander from the car and into her bed. Buzzing in his ears were the newest and hottest rap song from the US, the words a jumbled mystery other than "fuck." His marks from the cram school English class reflected that inability to decipher that code pumping into his ears. The university was not a major concern, his futball skills were more than enough to get him past those pesky academics concerned with intelligence and the ability to solve pointlessly long calculus equations.

The gaijin grumbled silently as he looked forward to a long trip home standing in the midst of another crowded mode of public transportation and folded his dog eared Murakami novel to another page, praying that the doors would remain closed for just one more moment. A beer and bugolgi fart brewed in his lower intestine, and while he would normally let loose the methane weapon of mass destruction, he held back the bomb with the concern of collateral damage weighing on his mind.

Overhead, the tiny voice of the conductor piped through the speakers, the amplified words bounced noiselessly through the commuter cars. A tiny voice boosted electronically and yet a mind or two recalled a skinny and timid kid with large rimmed glasses that appeared too large for the kid's head, complete with an awkward gait that matched the silliness of those glasses. It was almost a dead ringer some thought, except the voice drifted from the lips of a tall, yet silent man ready for the shift to end and to go home. A late obento on the walk home awaited him on the way back to his apartment.

A cheery pulsating sound announced the doors opening, followed by the sluggish sound of the doors sliding open. Those doors always sounded sluggish in comparison to the efficient and cold sounds of the Tokyo Metro or Yamanote Line. Everything always felt a bit slower in the country as compared to the skyscraper packed urban sprawl of the Tokyo Metropolitan area. The blast of fresh air attempted to displaced the thick smog of the rush hour atmosphere.

Booming down from the corrugated roof, the strong voice of the station conductor reminded everyone which trains were coming that they could transfer to from the Shonan-Shinjuku line and other miscellaneous errata that few of the foreigners understood as they stumbled up the stairs towards the stations exits.

Save for a few interspersed animated or dull conversations, the perpetrators either chatty school girls in skirts sifting a scare few inches below the waist or boorish Americans, the station was silent for the sound of heels coldly clacking across the asphalt pavement. Conservative minds trudging slowly over the raised yellow guide for the blind, a braille pathway, instantly assumed that the girl's parents were paying too much yen for a mediocre education: one that would not even promise admission into a second rate university, as the correlation between the skirts length is directly related to the quality of the school.

The sound reverberated under the corrugated roof of the platform, up the stairs and past the beeping turnstiles that notified money removed from SUICA cards. A low rumbling as the various feet marched across the overpass to the Kaigan exit caused a weary station conductor standing idly, waiting for the last train to Chiba to depart, to stare up to the sky, his mind muddied with exhaustion. Flashing brightly, the neon lights of the pachinko parlor adjacent to the stadium framed his head, an indication of his next stop.

Only one sound pervaded across the local station...

The clicking of tired feet.