No Iron Maiden Posters in Japan
I want to talk about some things that happened as I was coming back from the US yesterday, but let me start by saying that it’s impossible to comprehend how big, and full of people, this world is.
When I was 15 years old I took my first trip outside the
From the outside their house was normal. Japanese, but pretty normal. But when they gave me a tour of the inside I noticed three things:
- the house had no beds, because everyone slept on the floor
- all the doors were sliding doors, on tracks in the floor that separated one room from another
- the walls were made of paper
I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to live in a house with paper walls. If someone was in another room with the light on it would shine right in your eyes. Plus my Iron Maiden poster would never have worked on that wall. The tacks would have gone straight through it. No Iron Maiden posters in Japan. Perhaps that's why they invented Pokemon.
One Saturday Mr. Inoue and his son Takeshi took me to the city center in Himeji so I could see it for myself. As we stood together at a busy intersection waiting to cross the street, I looked around and for a moment tried to take in what I was seeing. There were literally thousands of people everywhere, milling about in a very small area. To my 15 year-old brain they were like ants, moving in all different directions, heads down on their way to something important at the time. Every one of them looked exactly the same to me. They were all short with round faces and thick black hair. The US is a pretty diverse place in terms of Mendelian Genetics. France is too. Japan is not.
I looked at the people and said to myself, “Every one of these people thinks he/she is the most important person on earth. But that can't be true because the most important person in the world is me. I’ve never seen or heard of any of them, they don’t mean anything to me, and I will never see them again after this moment.” For the first time I was trying to comprehend the size of this world, and that in the grand scheme of things I meant nothing. It was stretching my mind.
In the ensuing twenty years, the increasing accessibility of the world's corners has only brought its enormity into starker relief. Yesterday I was at the Mormon Church on 51st Avenue and Pinnacle Peak Road in Glendale, AZ. I spoke with Courtney Dana, Larissa Boden, Kim Easton, Matt Robinson, and Sam Andrus. They’re all different people leading totally different lives, but all are very nice. Courtney has an amazing sense of humor and is really fun to be around. But, frankly, I like all of them. Especially Larissa, who I would marry if she wasn’t so religious and if I wasn’t already married to someone I really like. Plus my wife speaks French now and Larissa doesn’t. So I guess it’s never going to work out between us.
Only a few hours after seeing these people at perhaps the most American of churches, I’m now on a train watching the French landscape change from the falling red and orange leaves in
“Is smoking allowed on the train?” I asked him, knowing perfectly well that it wasn’t. “No,” said Costa. “But the ride is five hours. I’ve been smoking for so long that I can’t go more than two hours without having a cigarette.” His red eyes darted around, looking for the “Controle", who are the guys that will throw you off the train if they catch you smoking.
Since he was smoking and I was recharging, we got to know each other. Costa was born in Puerto Rico and immigrated to
“Do you speak Spanish?” I asked. “Pas du tout,” he responded. “I only speak French at six million miles per hour.” I’m not sure he said that last part but he might have. I wouldn’t have understood him if he did.
“I don’t get it,” I said. “Your parents are from
“Vous devez demander à mon parents,” he responded. “When we came to
I explained to him why Stasha and I have come here, and that I hope the kids can learn French better than I'll ever be able to. “Oh they will,” he responded. If I can learn it then they will for sure. I wish you the best of luck in your experience.” I got up to retrieve my iPod just as the train reached our first stop: