Noilly Prattle: Izakaya - 居酒屋 – song of the dispossessed

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Izakaya - 居酒屋 – song of the dispossessed

      I was having a beer and a bite at my favorite izakaya after my evening classes recently when Matt walked in the door. I hadn't seen him all summer and I asked where he'd been hiding himself. Said he'd gone back to the States for a few weeks for a going-home-again nostalgia tour of the old hometown and seeing family and old friends. He asked: “Mind if I join you?” “No, of course not, sit down and have a beer or two. Have you eaten? The yakitori is really good tonight,” I said. We called the waitress over and Matt ordered.
      “How was your trip to the hometown?” I asked.
      “A lot of things've changed, but there's always a certain familiarity about the place. For one thing it's so easy to communicate. You understand everybody and everything and they understand you,” Matt said. “Well, we speak the same language anyway, but might not be coming from the same philosophical or political perspective. You know what I mean?”
      “Oh, yeah! None of that 'Sorry, can you say that again more slowly, please. I'm still learning Japanese.' Yeah, after almost 30 years like I'm still learning Japanese, right? Anything interesting happen while you were there?” I asked.
      “Well, yeah, I had a bit of culture shock in a way.”
       "How do you mean?”
       “My father died some 25 years ago and he's buried in a cemetery that's at the end of the street we used to live on when I was a 10-year-old kid. I decided to go and pay my respects and then walked down the street to see the old neighborhood. This bar/cafe that Dad used to hang out in called the Rendezvous Cafe was still there. They used to serve really great fish and chips and my Mom used to order some and send me across the street to pick it up for Friday night dinner. You know, good Catholics, meatless Friday and all that stuff. The place was looking a little the worse for wear. The whole neighborhood looked more dilapidated than I remember it being in those days.”
       “Isn't that the way it is with the old hometown, though? Who was it said 'you can't go home again?' I was shocked when I drove through my old neighborhood some years ago. The town had fallen on tough times with the loss of its major industries and looked really like those rust belt cities you hear about with the main street full of empty stores—like a ghost town almost. The few people I saw on the streets looked sort of aimless and as shabby as the buildings—sort of like ghosts themselves,” I added. 
      “I know what you mean,” he said and continued. “I went into the cafe for auld lang syne's sake, I suppose, and sat at the bar and ordered a beer. There weren't many people at that time of day, but there was this mid-twenties looking guy with a beer at the other end of the bar. He was a pretty good-looking guy in a conventional Hollywood blue collar movie kind of way. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, a couple of tats, pierced earring, baseball cap with the brim turned backwards—typical Gen X uniform, I thought. He looked a little down at the mouth, carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, hoisting his beer glass and eying me surreptitiously as though he recognized me.”
      “Did you recognize him?” I asked.
      “Never saw him before in my life. But, he came to a decision and stood up and came over to me and asked: 'Sorry to bother you, but ain't you Matt Lambert?' 'Yes, I am, but how do you know that?' I asked him. 'I haven't lived around here in decades, since probably before you were born.'”
      “You still had no idea who he was?”
      “Not a clue.”
      “Well, what then?”
      “He told me that his name was Jason. He had seen a picture of me taken a couple years earlier at his Aunt Nicole's place on one of my previous visits to the area. Nicole is one of my cousin's kids and she was one of my favorites when she was just a little girl.”
      “Quite a coincidence.”
      “Uh-huh, it's a small world. I laughed and said: 'Oh, I've heard about you from Nicole. You're Sharon's oldest boy, aren't you. I remember your Mom when she was a little girl. I'm not doing anything special right now. Why don't we have another beer and chew the rag a little? There's an empty booth over there, more private. On me.' 'Yeah, cool!' he said.”
      Matt continued: “We picked up a couple more beers and moved over to a booth and I asked if he had gone to the same high school I had attended. He said he had but had gotten into some trouble dealing drugs and had dropped out in the 9th Grade.”
      “Hm, doesn't sound like the start of an auspicious story,” I commented.
      “You got that right. The kid' story made my hair stand on end. I didn't let on, but I had heard some of his story from his aunt—bad environment, bad companions, three kids with different women, done time more than once, etc. Still, I felt compelled to listen to his latest travails. There was something moving at the core of this, I can only say tragic young man's story. There was a kind of semi-literate poetry in it. It reminded me of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska album, describing life on the margins of society. Also Tracy Chapman's grainy black and white takes on the yearning to break out of poverty, want and ignorance. I was frankly mesmerized by his desperate need to express his frustrations with the trap he finds himself in. I'll try to reconstruct the conversation in his own words and odd manner of expression.”
      “By all means, please, go on. It sounds intriguing,” I said.

at the Rendezvous Cafe
Matt: I can't help but notice you look like you're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Jason: i am in a messed up situation. everyone always wanted me to be the best i could and do good for myself and the kids. and it getting difficult to do good.
Matt: What do you mean?
Jason: i had a house job vehicle and wat not in nebraska. well i travelled back from nebraska to make a difference. kaylee and my son begged me to come home and help me fix everything.
Matt: Oh, you were living in Nebraska?

Jason: yeah i had a warrent for me here and i ran. so i come back and turned my self in for that warrent i had and wat not. got out in march on parole. got a job what not had a job for 4 month and put it under the table for the extra money so me and kaylee could get up on our feet.

Matt: Sounds like you did the right thing.
Jason: and well about two weeks ago she finally got up and stop being lazy and got a job at wendys here. that was awesome till she got jealous about how i make 12 n hour and she made minumum wage. i figured hey regardless it should not matter that is our money for us to survive and get this house i been trying to get for us and the lil one.
Matt: Sure. Double income ... all in the family.
Jason: well for the past three weeks she been lying, cheating, and took 2600 dollars from me. i left that to the side in my head and still tryed cuz i love her and always have plus those two lil kids are my life and know i am daddy.
Matt: Oh, you have two kids?
Jason: yeah one is mine and hers and one is hers with another dude. i enrolled both kids into skool and what not. so last week she called my job on some crazy stuff. so then no more job. took all my ways to live.
Matt: You got fired?
Jason: yeah now we been having dcf [Department of Children and Families] in our life plus she smash a window a month ago and i got arrested for it. and payed for it and would not prove to the courts i did so they want like 350 bucks. cuz she wont prove it.
Matt: So you still owe $350?
Jason: uh-huh. then last weekend she took off to the bar and got drunk. i culd not get her a ride back so i walked there and got her and drove.
Matt: Why were you walking?
Jason: i aint got a license so she had the car. well as we driving she spazzed said "jump on the highway". well i did and got pulled over. i was honest with officer. he let me and her go with a sitation. well we both got hauled in to court. so another charge for helping her. i said to my self what ever.
Matt: Getting deeper in the hole...
Jason: yeah and well it keeps building cuz in the middle last week i been watching her come home everynight all messed up on drugs. and i am watching the kids over 60 hour a week. no time for me to get a job. over the weekend she string me along and sunday night went psyco on me and tells me to get the fuck out her home and dont think seeing ur kids ever again. she gots some of my stuf and wat not stole all my money couple thousand. then we had to go to court yesterday and she never came so now she has a warrent and by next month i will have over a thousand dollars in fines with no job.
Matt: Shit!
Jason: there is more. this been going on for awhile. and it sux cuz i love her and i am a totally dif person. now i am stuck between a rock and a hard shell. i feel that i was purposly fucked with. i had a house job vehicle and wat not in nebraska dropped everything for them now it was all ripped from me and i am now deep in the whole finantally and there in no need.
Matt: Damn, when it rains it pours. What now?
Jason: i am keeping my cool. but i dont know how long i can. i am sick of the family and the system looking at me as the bad guy when truthfully i want a honest living and comfortable. i got a big heart and get toyed with.... i just do what i am asked by the family and for myself and get trashed on. i need guide and help. i got 5 flonys on my record and it seems like it dont stop even when i try. i been clean for 3 yrs. and love to work. i wish it would stop. i want to be able to smile and i am affraid now that the system is goin to take my kids. i dont got no one to talk too. thank u for listening.
There but for fortune....

No comments: