Photo by Starsprinkles
“Someday I’ll wish upon a star,
And wake up where the clouds are far
Last night, somewhere over the rainbow, on 14th street in Chelsea, Manhattan…
Dude Sitting in the back of a Christmas Tree Truck: You dropped something.
Me: (stopped walking to look behind me, surprised) Really?
Dude: Yeah, my heart.
Me: Ha. That’s pretty funny.
Dude: Can you pick it up for me and come over here and give it back?
Can I just start off this post by saying that I love being back in New York? I love New York for the random, unpredictable conversations you have with total strangers. Can you imagine that above pick-up line used in Japan? Or any pick-up line at all? I love that I can once again have random conversations with strangers and feel confident in my ability to understand and be understood.
I love being anonymous again. I love being able to walk down the street and have not a single, solitary person give me a second glance. There are no stares, no questions. I blend in again. I’m a nobody and completely ordinary and unremarkable and by God, it feels so good.
I guess I never fully understood how much living in homogenous culture had a negative effect on me. But now that I’m in this unabashedly loud, upfront, agressive city pusling with diversity, I realize how emotionally draining it is to live a society where my outsider status is on prominent display like a Scarlet Letter.
But it’s been a very surreal transition back to the “Real World”. It’s felt a little like the World as I knew it was sucked into a tornado and dropped on it’s head is some alternate Universe. I feel so far removed from Tokyoland that sometimes it’s hard to believe that it even exists.
Right now I’m sitting at a Starbucks, listening to two Japanese girls discuss their shopping spree in Macy’s and if it weren’t for the fact that I can understand their conversation, I could easily convince myself that the whole nightmare that was Japan, never happened.
But then there’s the added fact that for better or worse, Japan has permanently scarred me. I now feel uncomfortable wearing shoes in doors, and continuelly walk into on coming traffic because I look in the wrong direction when crossing the street. I even catch myself refering to all non-asians as ‘foreigners’ and feel unsafe riding the subway alone at night.
I’ve also become a bit of a dirt-o-phobe. I’m now hyper aware of layers of grime that coat the subway walls and the darkened blogs of bubble gum that cover the sidewalks. I’m repulsed by the subway seats sticky from soda spills and the street corners that smell like rotting tacos and urine.
And I can’t eat. Everything tastes like it’s been soaked in butter and salt. And what’s with the obsession with cheese? Cheese is as much as much of an added seasoning staple in the States, as pepper and salt! It’s put on everything! Salads, potatoes, eggs, bread…After living an almost vegan existence in Japan for so many months, I’ve found that eating cheese just makes me feel sick.
Returning home is a funny experience…because the ‘home’ you think you’re returning to is never just as you left it; your experiences have forever altered your perception of it.
I don’t think we’re in Tokyo anymore, Toto, but it certainly doesn’t feel like New York either.