Thursday, February 18, 2010


Compartment Comportment, Parts Two and Three

The essay continues and concludes.

In your writing I can see how much you love Japan, but how much you are also trying to understand the bits that you don't like. I think it is something that all of us who are born and live in two or three different cultures experience, and although our particular experiences may differ, there are always certain situations which we can all identify. I'm looking forward to reading the next part.
As I'm still finishing Picking Bones From Ash, I'm still digesting it while simultaneously composing a long note to you Marie about my own revelations.

My partner has what I call a love-hate relationship with Japan. He has described the culture as exhausting. He loves NYC as he can find Japan when he needs to but retreat to other aspects of the city when he doesn't. (Although he was positive we should not live with Japanese roommates. That he was sure of.)

I think in some ways I understand this, I always say that I'm a Chicagoan on an over a decade long tour of the rest of the United States. I'm a Chicago kid, raised by two midwesterners. I love the midwest. I love our fields and our cities -- Des Moines, Minneapolis, Detroit. I love going home to visit. I even love our accents. I recommend that everyone move there.

But I also can't live there myself. I tried. But I know what lurks behind the midwestern niceness. The subtleties of insults, the quiet ways of snubbing. How quickly I can feel like a yelled at 12 year old, longing for a place to hide.

So we find ourselves in NY where we can perpetual tourists. Observers. But never quite, NYers. And that's fine. I think displacement in this case works to our advantage.
Your partner isn't the first Japanese person I've heard say this about NYC and Japan. My hairdresser, for example, misses Japan only for the baths and the food.

It's interesting that both of you pick up on my wrestles with trying to understand what I don't like . . . when I think back to writing this piece, I remember mostly trying to get across the feeling of being in both worlds, and how that opens up certain problems. I wasn't consciously trying to say: "Here is what I like and here is what I don't." But it's always interesting to me to learn what people take away from reading something.

Thanks for commenting! I think that part three went live today; I'll have to check.
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