Cultural understanding

May 8, 2014 § 18 Comments

One of the things I’m proudest about is my cultural fluency. After living in Japan for ten years, working as an interpreter and translator, and staying married, pretty much, to my Japanese wife of a long-ass time, I’ve developed an amazing appreciation of and sensitivity to other cultures.

So I was thrilled to hear that one of my wife’s friends would be visiting Los Angeles for the red carpet thingy to commemorate the opening of the movie “Godzilla.” She had invested in it early on, and now, many years later the project had come to fruition. Since she’s from Tokyo and accustomed to really fine food, we thought it would be fun to take her to The Counter, a build-your-own-burger chain that was definitely different from anything in Japan.

Because they also serve beer, I decided to do some pre-dinner preparation by getting in a solid 60 or 70-miler in anticipation of the calories. Learning to ride long before you eat big is an important part of race fitness.

Hollywood, oh Hollywood

The friend was staying at the Roosevelt Hotel, so we picked her up and took her to The Counter on Sunset. My daughter, who graduated from a four-year Japanese university, and her husband, who was a classmate, joined us. It was pretty awesome to be part of this Japanese mini-community, blending in with amazing, near-native cultural skills. I think that of all the things my wife loves about me, the thing she loves the most is my cultural sensitivity, acquired after decades of concentration and, frankly, hard work.

But then the beer arrived.

It appears that someone at The Counter’s corporate HQ decided that Racer 5 IPA was a good beer to have on tap, a decision I heartily approved. So I knocked one down. Unfortunately, a pint is a rather meager unit of measurement and so I ordered another and knocked it down, too. By the time our burgers arrived, my third pint was drained and working its way into my bloodstream, which in turn was dutifully carrying the alcohol to my brain.

My wife’s friend was having a great time; the previous day she’d been dragged to vegan restaurants and was dying for a bit of red meat. She also liked the build-it-yourself experience. Most of all she loved being with people who were hip to her own cultural viewpoint while simultaneously introducing her to the fun and excitement of Los Angeles.

Then the fuggin’ beer hit.

Remember that gal I used to date?

For some reason, as I began swallowing my fourth pint (and most of this I know only because it has recently been told to me by my wife), it occurred to me to start talking about a couple of Japanese gals I used to date. One of them, ol’ Midori, I’d actually shacked up with before meeting my lovely wife.

Before. Of course.

Then I recalled how I’d met my lovely wife and then gotten really sick, and somewhere along the way I might have proposed to ol’ Midori but then with my wife in the picture THAT was a non-starter so I might have broken the news to ol’ Midori and that might have been about the time I was down with a bad flu and ol’ Midori might have gotten pretty angry and stormed out of the apartment with her kerosene stove which might have been the only thing keeping me from freezing to death and thank goodness my wife showed up the next morning with her mom in tow because they had a replacement stove and cleaned my apartment and made me dinner and my future mother-in-law allowed as how ol’ Midori couldn’t clean a toilet for squat, which was even more of an indictment than it sounds because it was actually a squat toilet.

Sitting there at The Counter our guest was slack-jawed (I’m told) and I then got to talking about one of my exes ol’ Reiko (I’m told) and from there things looked pretty grim (I’m told) until (I’m told) I hit upon the idea of extolling the virtues of Mrs. WM (I’m told) and so I went off on a tear about how she was the most beautiful and wonderful and smart woman on earth (I’m told) and then my daughter and son in-law were hanging their heads in shame (I’m told) and Mrs. WM was rolling her eyes and gritting her teeth (I’m told).

What I didn’t need to be told was that our guest was so amused at this funny recitation that she giggled and laughed and had a wonderful evening shortly before they called security after my fifth credit card was declined.

When we dropped our guest off at her hotel she was all smiles, that much I remember. I’m sure she had a great time and it was so kind of her to pick up the tab.

This morning I went for a long ride, a very long one, because I’m meeting up with some friends for dinner and perhaps a drink. I’m pretty sure no one will be speaking Japanese, but if they do, I’m ready for them.



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§ 18 Responses to Cultural understanding

  • billius says:

    They shut my local Counter in Carlsbad 😦 the burgers were ok but the staff, the Sculpin, and the occasional BLT with Avocado were all great – so much so that I decreed the restaurant “My Local” (Pub) in great English Tradition.

  • Brent F says:

    You’re a funny dude, with a great wit and an uncanny ability to bare your soul to the internet. Bless you for that, we’re all the better for it. This post leaves me hoping you’ve reached deep into the bag of exaggeration to make humor for us….No real way to make that one *just* funny. 😮

    • fsethd says:

      Thanks for the kind words. As I’m fond of saying, it’s all true except for the parts I make up, which is all of it!

  • 900aero says:

    I started out thinking I might enjoy this post because I have also lived in Japan and “cultural sensitivity” usually means something funny happens….but then the beer happened as you bravely and humbly explain. Which of course makes it funnier for us….sitting safely here at our iDevice screens around the world. Not creeping around the house, bowing obsequiously and muttering “sumimasen” a million times and going for long bike rides. Actually the long bike ride bit would be fine.

    If its any consolation or at all helpful; we’ve all done similar or worse. I’m here for you man.

  • jprumm says:

    All good stories start “I had been Drinking”. Or so I am told.

  • Wankomodo says:

    How do you say “Drinky Pants” in Japanese?

  • I feel ya. Last week in front of BottleRock I swung my leg over a little too hard and almost fell over. Waitress steadied and gave me a good push down the sidewalk towards home. Some of us, it seems, were destined to amuse others.

  • Rob says:

    Did they like the Counter? In japan, it’s either Freshness or Mos Burger. The Counter has them beat. Hope they’re having a good time.

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