If you are coming from the letter to Bob Donnelly, you may wonder what happened next. In one sentence: a fellow call Yusuke, who thought I was the cat's meow because I edited his thesis—something about potato production—and made it sound like he knew what he was talking about, returned to Japan and then called me up on the electric telephone and suggested I leave Canada and move to the land of the rising sun.
At first I said I never get up that early. Finally though, I told him to get me a job and I would come. So he got me a job.
Now that's all water under the bridge. Eight years ago, in fact.
So why a diary all of a sudden? Actually, from around 13 to 30 I kept a diary. It was daily during the summer when I went off on my travels. Otherwise, it was whenever things happened. So this is just getting back to my old ways, really. But are the old ways the best ways or the worst ways? Irregardless, it now it now appears on the wide screen internet.
But there's another reason. The page has turned, the chapter ends, a new volume begins. Unfortunately, in my life, every time a new volume begins, it means that the previous one, which may have started as a ripping yarn, a comedy, a romance or, more probably, all three, has ended as a tragedy.
And so it is. The girl I married in Japan has left me.
Now, she's been working 16 hours a day for three years and canceled almost all her holidays so she could keep working 16 hours hours a day. Well, something was bound to snap. Something is bound to snap when you consider that she was forced to quit a previous job under doctor's orders for the self same obsessive reason.
So she snapped. I spent the last three years warning against this snapping. Alas, alack, we both pay the price for the breakage. And mop up on isle number one.
Mop me up.
Of course it take two to truly disaster. I admit to a variety of failings. I also beg your lordship to consider a certain unspeakable hospital drama. And the final curtain has yet to fall on that one.
But still, did I really deserve another tragedy?
So the girl I married in Japan left. This means that I was the one stuck in the now haunted house. Every week I throw stuff out, but still everything that remains reminds me of her.
And it's a dump.
So I'm stuck in a haunted dump.
And summer is setting in. There is air-con downstairs and upstairs. But I have no money to run it. So, when it hits 35 degrees in the bedroom—even though it's only 28 outside—well I suffer the misery of my own private little hell.
Actually, having no air-con in my sweltering hell actually has a positive side: when the evening cools and the breeze picks up to the potency of a mosquito's dying breath and slips into the open window, well, oh it really feels so nice and refreshing and I almost feel like I'm camping and having a good time.
So why not just move?
Oh ye foreigner, ye. Don't ye know the cost of moving in Japan? Tis pure mathematics.
Real estate agent fee (payable every two years!) - 1 month's rent.
Deposit - 1 month's rent.
Gift to landlord (!) - 1 months rent.
Key money - 1 month's rent.
1st months rent - 1 month's rent.
So if your rent is $1000, that means it will cost you $5000 to move.
Any way, this is supposed to be a diary, so let's be chronological.
The girl I married in Japan left me by email! She says she wants to meet me and explain, but she's afraid. Of course she is. If she meets me in person, she'll see herself reflected in my eyes and she's afraid what she'll see.
I just watched a pirated version of Michael Moore's Sicko. I have never been good at watching other people suffer. For this reason— and luckily for you—I'll skip over my own hellish suffering through all this being dumped by e-mail by the girl I married in Japan. I won't even comment on being dumped by email after so many years.
Actually, I just realised this isn't a real diary. Because it goes on the wide screen internet, I'm censoring my misery. It's a shame because my old diaries always loved my misery.
So there I was, in the haunted house, daily dumping stuff but never getting rid of the ghosts.
Even my beautiful Anderson guitar and my Egnater pre-amp and my Marshall power-amp and my glorious Bogner cabs. Of course, I haven't thrown them away. But I can't stand to touch them. They're all haunted. Haunted or junk. Maybe both. Or maybe just too much a reminder of happy times.
Any way, I quickly I realised the whole neighbourhood was haunted too. And after that it became obvious that all of Tokyo was a spooky place.
No matter where I go or where I turn, the ghost of the girl married in Japan is waiting for me. Waiting and peeping out from every corner and chuckling in a Steven King kind of way.
My first idea was to get the hell out of Japan. I had no job here so it seemed pretty sensible.
But go back to Canada? After so many years in Japan, go back to Canada with what? Alas, alack, only memories of the girl I married in Japan.
What a loser.
Yes, I'm a loser. I lose. I lost.
Go back to England then.
I left Leeds when I was 15. Everyone said I'd be back. Call me stubborn. I'm not going back.
So, I'm in Asia. Asia is interesting. Move somewhere in Asia. That seemed like a good idea. The girl I married in Japan and I were supposed to move to Hong Kong in September. The girl I married in Japan had cancelled that one; but, pathetically, I first thought of moving there alone.
I looked into it. Immigration issues. I forgot about it.
Next, I considered Thailand. I love thailand. I love the Thai people. But if I moved there I'd never make enough money to save a single baht.
And then it hit me and it hit me hard. I can't play hippy any more. At my age, I need to make some money and save some money. For the first time in my life, I have to make a plan with money being top of priority list.
I went to bed a hippy and woke up a banker. Well, an unemployed banker.
So, if i want to stay in Asia and make some money, well, that means Japan or South Korea.
I applied for a Job in South Korea today.
But to get back to chronology, I actually got a job here quite quickly after I found myself living alone in a haunted house. It's an editing job editing things with titles like:
"Exciton Polariton In an Organic-Inorganic Multiple-Quantum-Well Crystal (C4H9NH3)2PbBr4"
As you can imagine, since only a madman can edit this stuff, the pay is good. Unfortunately, they don't have that much work. So, after one month, it looks like I only made enough to pay the expensive rent for my haunted house.
At the same time I got a couple of private students for English lessons.
Now, when the girl I married in Japan first vanished, I was overweight and the scales strained to tell me there was 84 kg of me.
Now there is only 68 kg of me. Yes yes yes, I know what you're saying: there's still too much of me. Ha ha ha. Can you hear me laughing? No? Well, that's because I rarely laugh these days.
I lost the weight because I started a diet.
Also I have no money for food. That helps.
I come from a rich country (England).
I moved to a rich country (Canada).
I now live in a rich country (Japan).
But I have no money for air-con or food. I swelter and get thinner. But I will not fade away.
So what happens next? Shame of shame, it all depends on the job i get. I'm only looking for jobs that pay good money.
Yes, I've rejected a pleasant few years in Thailand, a jaunt in Outer Mongolia, a free and easy stay in Indonesia. It all comes down to cold cash.
I went to bed a hippy and woke up a banker. Well, an unemployed banker. Watch out. Next I'll be buying a fucking tie.
Well, I know that "hippy banker" thing was cute. But even so, it was intended as an accurate expression of my new way of thinking. Yes, for the first time in my life I would make money my absolute priority. I would become focused, like those folks in suits we read about in The Economist. To me that did sound rather like being mean, ungenerous and even unfriendly. But so be it.
Alas, my bad intentions didn't last very long. Within two days of writing that diary entry I met one of my writing students. She was paying for the previous two lessons and had doubled the pay for one of them. I asked why. She said because the lesson had lasted two hours. Well, she needed to prepare for an interview with some American business guy for the Japanese business magazine where she works. So we just kept going until it was done.
I told her to take the extra money back and just pay for one hour as usual. And I'll quote myself here: "I'm not a banker," I told her!
Mmm. So much for dedicating the next few years to money making and buying a tie.
Oh, and I even put the air-con on this morning! I was feeling extra miserable for some reason and thought it might cheer me up. It didn't. But at least it cooled me down.
So now I need a new new way of thinking. E-mail me if you have any ideas!
I was really hoping nothing would happen much and I wouldn't make another entry for a few weeks. Unfortunately not.
The girl I married in Japan left me, as I said, by email. Today I discovered she forged my signature on a divorce paper and we are already divorced. This is the person who always took pride in her honesty.
I can forgive so much because of her mental condition. I think this is one horror too many.
Now let me tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a corrupt Japanese politician. This corrupt politician get's caught doing some sly sneaky scam. He makes a public confession and apology. He mentions his family. He mentions shame. He resigns. He bows deeply.
Now, as far as he's concerned, and as far as every Japanese is concerned, this apology, not matter how insincere, has now made him all clean and innocent as a new born baby. All his corruption and criminality is magically washed away.
He disappears for a couple of years. Then he announces his intention to run for election again. No one blinks an eye. Why would they? He's clean. He did the apology trick. So he's promptly reelected and begins his corrupt scams exactly where he left off, only this time being more careful so he doesn't get caught again.
This convenient method of absolution explains why Japan can never have good relations with it's neighbours: the government offers an apology for world war 2 crimes. A year later they deny that any crimes were even committed. Or that they were grossly exaggerated.
The apology trick is common. Business men, unfaithful husbands, common criminals, children: they all do it. It makes them clean.
And they all live happily ever after.
The latest development in my catalogue of misery: my incredibly stupid and largely insane landlady now wants me out. She doesn't want a foreigner living in her apartment without some Japanese presence. Of course, the girl I married in Japan no longer provides that Japanese presence.
If this was a normal country, I'd say she can go whistle up a tree. Misfortune is me: this 'aint no normal country. I actually want to get out of here, but, as I mentioned above, moving apartment in this country costs a fortune. And where to move to? And what kind of life?
Next problem: I went to the hospital this week. Because the girl I married in Japan forged my signature for a lovely quick criminal divorce, well now I have no health insurance. Next month I need a MRI-scan. It's very expensive.
So basically, I'm fucked.
Next problem: I heard recently from a friend that the girl I married in Japan was in a bad state. I was very anxious about her, so I decided to meet.
Yesterday we met. I have to wonder, if leaving me was such a great idea, how come three months later her mental condition is fucked and she looks completely depressed?
Like the corrupt Japanese politician in that little story, the girl I married in Japan is obsessed with becoming "clean." So, wanting to meet me was really nothing about me. It was just about her. It was just about her trying to be clean. She didn't say much. Of course she said sorry. The trick didn't work. I didn't say much either. But I did manage to get through the whole miserable meeting with hardly a tear shed.
Obviously when you fuck someone up so much that you actually become a criminal—I won't even mention my healthcare problems—well obviously you can't become clean so easily as Japanese like to think.
She's also completely obsessed with her own misery. She's started her new life and her new apartment is clean and far from Tokyo and far from memories. But the misery remains. And then a job offer from a Japanese company didn't work out. So now she feels all rejected and thinks she has no value. It really is a shame. She'll just have to keep her present executive position a bit longer and fill up the bank account a bit more until the next job offer comes along. Life's hard, right? So obviously her mental state is not great. Most people would love to be in her position. All her misery comes from deep inside. And that's why I can't hate her, no matter what she's done.
She's also obsessed with being independent. She thinks it means doing everything alone and accepting help from no one. What a lonely independence. Where's the humanity? Where's love and compassion? Where's even the chance of happiness?
So any way, the meeting was a waste of time. It didn't make her clean. And it's just made me even more worried about her. It's a sad situation to be in because she's definitely not worried about me.
Yesterday we met. I have to wonder, if leaving me was such a great idea, how come three months later her mental condition is fucked and she looks completely depressed?
And tomorrow I have to wake up and get up and get on with life. And the day after that. And the day after that. I can hardly be bothered.
Oh, one final thing: is it really possible to lose 1.5kg in 24 hours? Well that's what happened. And I stopped my diet ages ago. Maybe I will fade away after all.
Riding home on my bike early this evening, the neighbourhood streets were filled with girls young and old dressed in their kimonos and on their way to a local festival.
Upstairs in the house, with the windows open, the sounds of festival music drifted in on the breeze. For a moment I thought about going out and following the sound of the music and joining the festival.
Only for a moment. Then I imagined myself there, alone. I've never been to a Japanese festival alone.
There's not much I like in Japan, but now even the beautiful things and even the nice things and even the fun things have become things of sadness.
So I stayed home.
This diary is not exactly going the way I expected it. By now I should be in Outer Mongolia teaching in an awful school and writing about what an adventure it is. Instead i can't even get out of this fucking haunted house.
I'm trying to get compensation for moving from my racist landlady and the equally racist real estate agent. Also, even when I do move I need the help of a Japanese friend to act as my guarantor. In Japan adults are always treated as children and you always need a guarantor to sign things for you and promise to be responsible for you. This is not just for foreigners. Every adult here is treated like a child. So I cannot do things at my own speed and that's why I'm stuck in this fucking place.
I did something unusual the other day. Something I've never done before. I looked on the net for a literary agent and send the first three chapter of Stoopid Kids. I know it was pretty much a waste of time. I know you have to send stuff to at least twenty agents and expect nothing. But I decided to be ultra efficient, send to only a single agent and still expect nothing. Actually I will send it to a few others; but I still give myself points for even doing this much. We all have to start somewhere.
I've never been one to celebrate birthdays. Some years I even managed to let it pass without noticing it was even there. This year though I noticed.
My birthday is August 4th, which was Saturday. This birthday story though started on Friday evening when I suddenly felt a strange pain in the lower part of my stomach. As you can see we're getting off to a merry start. I have a problem with my intestine which is not supposed to be serious; but for the last couple of months things have been getting worse. So I spent the rest of the evening laying on the bed listening to BBC Radio 4 on the internet and suspecting that this was connected to my deteriorating intestine trouble.
The next morning the pain was still there. By lunch time I decided to go to the hospital. I rode there on my bicycle and imagined urgent surgery. I have a good imagination. I hope that's all I have. Anyway, it seems that Japanese hospitals close a 12 noon on Saturday, so they sent me to the emergency. Several hours passed. Such a merry birthday. Lucky I had a thick Dicken's novel to read. Ironically it was Great Expectations.
Finally they called out my name. The two doctors looked like high school boys. I'm sure the ink on their medical qualifications is still wet. They gave me a bunch of tests and all I can say is that their diagnosis was incomplete. And I'm being generous with that.
So, with my merry birthday afternoon now all spent, I used my old medical insurance card, even though I was sure it was already cancelled and that sooner or later the bill would come flying back to me. Also, Japanese health insurance only covers 70%. So I paid 50 dollars for the merry pleasure of spending a merry birthday in a hospital and being examined by two high school boys.
The worst was I knew I'd have to go back on a regular day and see my real doctor. So it was pretty much a complete and utter waste of time and money. Not to mention a birthday.
Who needs fun when you can have a merry birthday like that? Well, I do. Luckily, I went to an obon festival with a friend. Obon is supposed to be a commemoration of dead ancestors and spirits. But of course, no one actually thinks about that. They just dress up, eat and drink and dance around the drum tower.
So really there was some real merriment at the end of the day. Low key and my friend didn't even know it was my birthday.
On Sunday morning I gave my 8 a.m. English lesson(!) then had all day to enjoy worrying about my health.
And so today I went to the town hall to try and get some government insurance. Of course they couldn't give me any because they had my name registered already with the insurance from the girl I married in Japan. There was some paper work she needed to do and of course she hadn't done it.
To cut a long story short, the girl I married in Japan now says that my insurance with her company is still valid. This is not what she told me two months ago. Now it's not my business, but I'm sure she's told her company that she's now divorced, even though all she did was forge my signature and pretend that we're divorced.
One way or another I think this will give her some problems.
But again, it's not my business and at least I can go back to the hospital this week and have another merry time.
Yesterday morning, after a sleepless night, I went to the hospital for a panic inducing MRI scan. Actually the first time I had one of these I started shouting, "Stop!" before they even started. I've had so many now I hardly blink an eye. Maybe because they are firmly shut. But what does bother me is the result, which I always imagine will be bad. Any way, to cut a long story short, I had the test and everything is fine. It was the first good news I've had since May. Maybe I'm on a roll! I hope so because I have to go back to the hospital next Wednesday and see what's going on with my intestine. I feel like an old guy: myriad health problems and all my future is in my past. Also the girl I married in Japan wants to meet me at the end of next week. You can be sure that she wants to take care of something that will make her life more comfortable and give me even more problems. Come to think of it, somehow I don't think I'm on a roll.
I went to the hospital today. I need more tests to find out the cause of my stomach problem, but it seems like it could be stress related. Let's face it, I've had plenty of stress since May.
Also it turns out I have a hernia. There is no treatment except an operation. I can choose to have the operation or not, since the level of pain is not high. But it seems if I don't have the operation now I will have to have it later since the condition only gets worse with time. After a certain unspeakable hospitalization two years ago I have a terible fear of staying in a Japanese hospital again.
I know this is bad news, but right now everything is so bad in my life I actually took this as good news. After all, the problem was easily diagnosed and it can be treated, even if it means an operation.
Meanswhile, the girl I married in Japan is very eager to meet next week, so I have to assume what ever she says will definitly be great for her and more trouble and sadness for me.
This diary is not exactly going the way I expected it.