Friday, October 17, 2014

One Hundred and Sixteen Days

Disclaimer: This one's on the depressing side, so if you're not into that, don't keep reading. The blog helps me think, so thanks for indulging me.


I'm sitting in a Starbucks waiting for a meeting. As I look at the pedestrian mall across the street, I think about the last time I was here.  Back in June, when I was walking through that space, debating whether to get a coffee before catching my train, a call from Ren's sister stopped me in my tracks.



Ren's brother was dead.

One hundred and sixteen days have past since then. And in almost every way, our daily lives go on just as they would have had Ren's brother not been killed. It's weird to lose someone you didn't see every day (or even every year, for that matter)--somehow the loss is both distant and near, real and imagined. This past week, as I've retraced many of the steps we took through the crowded streets of Tokyo and Kyoto back in June, I've seen the face of Ren's brother on many of the well-dressed businessmen rushing to and from work.

Distant and near. Real and imagined.



Ren's brother is gone and never coming back, a reality that's no more easier to grasp than it was four months ago, when I stood in this plaza and heard the inconceivable news from Ren's sister. But, we know more now than we did then. The police report describes in painful detail how a twenty-something driver got distracted by the new iPad sitting on the passenger seat next to him. Stuck in slow traffic, he let the digital images on the screen pull his eyes from the road, and before he knew it, he was on the sidewalk, and Ren's brother was dead mere feet from his front door.

Such a stupid mistake. And with it a trail of destruction that will never be undone. I visited my widowed sister-in-law last week, and together we walked to the spot where Ren's brother died. She pointed out the wall that was damaged by the impact of the car. "It looked as good as new within a week," she said, slow and pointedly, reminding us both that some things can never be fixed.

I wish I could show you the alter erected in his memory, a large photo of Ren's brother watching over the family as they live their new reality--on one side, a white bag holds the ripped and damaged clothes he wore on that day, carefully washed and returned to his family by the policemen in charge of his case; on the other, a plain piece of wood bears his posthumous name next to a mountain of fruits and snacks piled up as offerings to a lost father and husband.

I can't show you these because this is my blog, not theirs, and theirs is a story only they can tell. I can tell you this, though. Turn off your devices. Drive with both eyes on the road. And, while you are at it, say a little prayer for all of us as we still very much struggle to make sense of this senseless loss 116 days later.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sometimes These Posts Just Write Themselves: The Bad English Version

Hallo! Remember me? I know. I know. I know. I fell of the radar again. Call it post-Ren-surgery blues with a side of flying-to-the-other-side-of-the-world-for-a-few-days. So many stories to tell and no time to tell them!

You know what all of this means, though, don't you? That's right! It's time for some more funny English. If you haven't already, take a look at this old post about what makes a good bad English shirt.

And, I know it's kind of lame to rely on the seemingly infinite supply of bad English children's wear to give my blog meaning, but Oh. Em. Gee. you guys, some of these shirts just scream to be seen. 

It turns out I can't turn down overly suggestive children's wear. You'd be proud of me, though, I only bought two of these.

Umm...

Wait. No. No, this one isn't much better.

This one has a school bus, so how bad could it be? Turns out that misplaced signifiers make a big difference.
Besides, unintended innuendo, I also like the shirts that implicitly (or sometimes quite explictly) reference the illicit drug habits of elementary school students.

Munchies? We are pleased with this happy.

Wait. What?

Hmmm. Apparently, I DIDN'T misread it.

After all of this talk of sex and drugs, I find a simple case of false advertising to be pretty refreshing.


Nothing says "stylish" like a poor-fitting shirt with ugly brown polka dots and a mismatched front pocket sewn hastily on the front of it.