How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Shinjuku Part 1

My motto has always been “jump and the net will appear.” I’m not actually as gung ho and brave as people seem to think. I just see situations where the benefits of doing something and possibly failing outweigh the monotony of doing nothing. Stand-up comedy, quitting my job to be a closed captioner against the wishes of my then coworkers and boss, moving to California into a sight-unseen apartment, even though life in Pittsburgh was comfortable and familiar. I like to mix things up. I’m no stranger to failure, but it’s resulted in more than a few cool stories and memories.
But although I hesitate to admit it, I always had a backup plan, or I thought I could formulate one if I had to. Quitting, moving back in with my parents, going back to school — the last bastion of hope that twenty-somethings who don’t know where to go next seem to fall back on.
Japan is different, though, and that might have been part of the allure for me. There is no crying and running back home. There is no quitting your job without deportation. I figured it would be a fun challenge for myself to sign up for a country where I have to get a classroom of teenagers to learn something from me in a different language. Let’s see if I can figure out a train system in Japanese, even though I can’t decipher the English one in New York. Getting a meal at Chili’s and Applebee’s is so easy, it’s become blas√©. Why not try sitting in a restaurant where the menu contains only incomprehensible scribblings?

Okay, sometimes the net doesn’t appear, and you’re stuck eating pig intestines at a tiny mom-and-pop ramen shop — with the mom and pop standing right there, hands clasped, asking how delicious it is. But would I have a story if I’d gone to McDonald’s? Would I know whether or not I liked pig intestines without that experience? No, I wouldn’t.

My parents came to visit me about 2 months ago. We had a great time, and I took them all around the hotspots of Tokyo. I actually surprised myself. The part of my personality that’s from Mars (as opposed to Venus) confidently sauntered around the city, assuring my mother with rolled eyes that, yes, I was sure I knew where we were going, and, no, we don’t need to ask for directions.

At the end of their trip, I dropped them off at Narita, and suddenly, my role as a lost, bumbling water buffalo came cascading back to me. I think I said aloud on the escalator, “And how the hell am I supposed to get home from here?” likely frightening passengers around me who weren’t used to people talking to themselves.

I had put on a confident front for my parents, mostly so they wouldn’t accost poor elderly businessmen with questions to double-check my navigational abilities. But now I was back to regular Unsure Me, positive that my attempts to travel home, alone, on a route I never traveled before, would end with me shivering, naked somewhere in a gutter.

Well, you’ll have to tune in next time to hear if I do. For now, here are some pictures!

(My Parents Visit Japan)

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