Back in December, my old friend Amy was in town, however briefly. We had been roommates freshman year in college, and lived together pretty much all the way through school after that, except for junior year when I was abroad. Sophomore year, a group of us shared Pine Tree House. That’s Amy at the upper right.
I’ve since lost touch with most of these people, except for Darrell. He’s sitting next to Amy.
After college, Amy went on to become a lawyer and then some kind of big cheese with the United Nations. She jets around the world doing her part to make it a better place.
She had flown in from Doha or some such and was supposed to be in town just for one night, but arranged to stay an extra day so she could hang with me, then fly three quarters of the way around the world in the wrong direction to get back home. That made me feel pretty special indeed.
She was staying at The New Otani, a posh hotel in a business district. The only time I’d ever been there before was when a wealthy student of mine took me to a hotel restaurant called La Tour D’Argent and I got the menu without any prices on it. Oh, my.
The first day, Amy and I spent a couple of hours just wandering around the neighborhood, catching up. We’d both been through some similar challenges in recent years and had a lot to say. I can’t tell you how good it felt to be able to open up like that. I’ve had wonderful friends here over the years, but one problem with being an expat is that people leave, and as you get older, it gets harder and harder to replace them.
The day after her meetings, Amy wanted to do some shopping, so I suggested that she come to my neighborhood, and when she got here, she said she’d really like to have a massage. “Sure,” I said, “there’s a place by the station that’s quite reasonable.” I hadn’t been there but had wanted to try it. The place was on the third floor, and as we were climbing the steps, she suddenly stopped, turned to me and asked, “This isn’t going to be one of those…sex kind of things, is it?” I just laughed and said, “Nah. This isn’t that kind of neighborhood.” I liked that she didn’t have any way of knowing that.
An hour later, both semi-comatose, we were re-arranging ourselves, and she said, “That goes on the list of one of the best hours of my life.” Yup. It really was.
After a Really Great bowl of noodles for lunch, we hit a couple of stores. She started running out of cash and asked where there might be an ATM. “No problem,” says me, “there’s a Post Office around the corner.”
One of the oddly third world things about Japan is that the banks are not on the international banking grid, but the Post Office ATMs are. That still amazes me. I’ve gotten cash from my US bank account at ATMs in Luxor, Egypt, and the Middle of Nowhere, Cappadocia, Turkey, but in Japan, an otherwise (sort of) fully developed first world country, you have to go to the Post Office. (I’ve heard they’re thinking of rectifying that in time for the Olympics, so they’ve still got six years to dither about it.)
Amy wanted to buy a Really Great Knife, so I took her to the Really Great Knife Store, but on the way warned her that my knife vocabulary is rather limited.
“Suck it up, kiddo,” she said. “You know more than I do.” So I did, and we managed to procure a Really Great Knife as well as some other stuff. Amy has always been a fan of tools.
Having had about all the shopping either of us could take, and still having some time before her flight, we came to my house. Here in the study, I noticed her looking at this shelf. “That’s my vanity shelf,” I said. “It’s all stuff I’ve published.”
She stared at me for a moment and then said, “So you’re kind of famous?”
That one surprised me. “I guess, in a very small way and a very small world, I am kind of famous. But you can’t begin to compare what I do with what you do.”
And then she was gone, but it was wonderful to get a fresh perspective on my life by sharing it with someone I’ve known so well for so long. I loved that I could use my language and experience to make things happen for someone I care about. Sharing memories of people we both knew, and things that we did together, and all that’s come between then and now, and the people that we’ve become isn’t something I get to do very often. Most likely, neither of us will ever cure cancer or invent a better mousetrap, but I think we both turned out pretty well.
Thanks, Amy. It was a great day.