We shifted only slightly with the movement of the car through the turns. Sarah flirted with falling asleep in the back seat while Kurt serenaded the smiling chauffeur Racheal to the tune of Wilco’s ‘Passenger Side’ from, of course, the passenger side. The afternoon sun was golden and the air shimmered in its light. We were all at peace weaving past the rice paddies and cedars on the way to Ichinoseki.

Racheal’s birthday weekend brought a group of us North to Mizusawa where the fine food of a restaurant named Ajito beckoned. (Of note, Ajito is not too far from a thrift shop named Second-Hand Sixty Nine, and a pub named Swallow among other establishments with suggestive Engrish.)

Crammed into a reserved room, Tim (it was also his birthday party) and Racheal had gathered a good crowd for the festivities. We feasted. We brushed off the drunken rudeness of one of the Japanese guests as his social coordination became more lax with every sip of beer. With Josh and north-side Sarah, we discussed the endless tragic possibilities of motivating pets through a liberal smearing of peanut butter. We laughed a lot.

At the post-dinner karaoke, we rocked the mic. My opening salvo was a duet with Josh of the Darkness’ ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love.’ My falsetto wails must have pierced through the doorways and out into the Mizusawa streets for all to hear. They were unstoppable. But, the only thing that could have made the performance more homoerotic would have been a couple of Justin Hawkins unitards for Josh and I. I suspect we might have cleared the room had we been so attired.

The duet was enough fun to warrant a couple follow ups. Kelly and I did ‘Hey Ya!’ and Kurt and I rocked ‘My Name is Jonas.’ Of course, I had to get in a couple solo performances and Price’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ was a fine choice. It was, however, eclipsed by my finale of Rick Springfield’s ‘Jesse’s Girl.’ I’m surprised none of the girls threw a bra in my direction.

With most of the night behind us, we retired to Racheal’s for bed. The next morning, Kurt, Sarah and I had to wait while Kelly took Racheal for a birthday massage. We found our way to the bakery to abate our hunger and to a park to enjoy the perfect spring day.

The park we found was a truly strange bit of landscaping. Hills dipped down toward a small amphitheatre whose only purpose could have been to watch the small drainage stream immediately in front of it. Resting in the sun on the grassy hillside, we munched out bakery goods then Kurt broke out the Frisbee.

We could have been anywhere. We could have been in Calgary in May, somewhere near the university with final exams completed and the exercise of freedom the only responsibility for the day. We could have been in Kurt’s South Carolina, tossing the disc through the air and feeling like a champion each time we defied appearances and made a catch that looked impossible. We could have been on a hillside in Sarah’s Durham, laughing with each other in the blue sky. We could have been anywhere. It almost defied logic that we were in Japan. Who would expect this in Japan? How did we get here, with this Frisbee, with these great friends, here in Japan?

Kelly and Racheal returned from their pampering and we sought out a new location for lunch when our original establishment was found to be closed. We filled ourselves with pasta and pizza then headed south.

And Sarah snoozed. And Kurt sang. And Racheal laughed at him. And I smiled in the golden sun.

Leave a Reply