Saturday, February 14, 2009


It pays to have Yale connections in town. Back in October, my friend who works for Metropolis magazine put me on the guest list for the publication's Halloween Party. It was my first experience seeing a real Tokyo dance club. This week, she invited me to their Valentine's Day ball. I can't complain; beautiful women were everywhere, the music was poppin', and there was abundant free beer.

While on my way to pick up a drink, I bumped into a few young American guys toasting their beers. I joined in with a hearty "Kan-pai!" Two were white guys, jacked with gelled crew cuts, one of whom was very tall. The third looked biracial (black or hispanic) and had a buzz cut. I should have taken the cue. They were all in the US Navy. We shared a bit of small talk.

I asked the short guy if he knew any Japanese. He proudly responded that he was taking a class but was still having trouble. "This is all I can say," he said. "[This is a chair]." It was easily the worst accent and pacing I have ever heard. I told him there were plenty of people in town who speak English.

First faux pas for the night; I recalled my adventures trying to communicate with Koreans in Seoul while not knowing a word of the language. "In Korea, I would go up to people, point to myself, and say 'OOObama!' and they would all respond, 'OOObama!'"

The biracial guy looked me right in the eye. "Don't even get me started." I recognized my momentary lapse of judgement. Don't bring up politics in friendly conversation with people in the US Military, especially if you are a liberal Ivy League educated snob like myself.

We chatted a bit more. At the first slight pause in conversation, I tactfully took the cue to return to my group of friends.

The Valentine's Ball was pretty decked out. They had DJ's, VJ's, dancers, decorations, and the whole shebang. Glow sticks were even given out to all of the guests. I snagged two and started raving to goof off with my friends. While we were dancing, the Navy guys walked by. The shorter one came over and asked if he could snag my glow sticks. I gave him the sticks and sidelined myself. Then he started raving and showing off to my friends. He knew the dance better and my group was cheering him on.

Then one of their friends approached me and asked me directly in my ear.

"Hey, how much for some bean?"

"What?" I shouted back, with a loud voice to match the music.

"Do you have some bean?"

"No." I responded. I had no idea what he wanted but I figured he must have been asking for drugs.

His name was Mike. He wasn't in the Navy, but he had the same gelled crew cut as the other guys.

"Aren't you guys tripping on E?" he asked. I waved my hands and responded in the negative.

I was taken aback. While I may have been raving with glow sticks a minute earlier, it's hard for me to imagine I looked to be the authentic trance type.

So sorry everyone. I know you are upset, but I don't have any "Bean." And dealing drugs to the US Military overseas probably isn't the best idea. I don't want to get sent to Guantanamo before Obama's order goes into effect...

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