July, 2008


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July 28, 2008-Recently on the Brickster’s second fav’rit site (next to his own), the Samurai Archives Citadel, one of the posters (a certain Kato Kiyomasa) went on a series of rants glorifyin’ his supposed samurai ancestors (the Date clan, who far from bein’ stalwart defenders of Bushido were known as duplicitous, treacherous, infightin’ bastards) and trumpetin’ his superior status and knowledge over all of us dumbass, barbarian Americans. My pal Tatsu (a fellow dumbass barbarian American) called him on it, and this really sent the guy into a frenzy. He began to stammer on about Tatsu fallin’ victim to the propaganda of the ‘Secret Japan Hater’s Club’. Almost immediately after that he was banned by forum Shogun Kitsuno. The Brickster got a good laugh over the superb send-off Kit gave Kato, but other than that, didn’t think much about it. That is, until the next day.

After comin’ home from the studio, Ko sent the Brickster out to pick up some crap at the local market for dinner, and on the way back I ran into a couple of fans who insisted on buyin’ me some drinks-and fer a change, I wasn’t the one that suggested it. We stopped in at the Lucky Star bar and settled back. As usual, things got a bit hazy-just a lot faster than they normally do-and the Brickster teetered on the precipice of dreamland, finally bein’ pushed over the edge by a particularly fine karaoke rendition of Ishida Yoko's 'Foolish Dream'.

When I came to, I found myself sittin’ alone in a dark room and even woozier than normal-kinda like I’d been drugged. Well, the first thing I did was to check and make sure both kidneys were still there-and that’s when the door opened and several forms in hooded robes filed in, each carryin’ a burnin’ candle. They placed the candles in a circle around a symbol inscribed on the floor in the center of the room-a simple black circle on a field of white, with a bunch of words that looked like Latin ringin’ it. On a signal from their leader, the group removed their outer robes and settled into several chairs around a scuffed wooden table. They ranged from regular lookin’ men in suits to one guy in a nineteenth century British naval officer’s uniform.

The leader spoke up. He was an older lookin’ gent with a Brit accent and his eyes sparkled as the light from the candle flames danced eerily across them. “Greetings, Brick McBurly, and welcome to our humble group. You may call me…the Chamberlain. We apologize for the method used to secure your attendance, but alas, we find secrecy to be of the utmost importance and employing subterfudge was necessary.” After that, the other members introduced themselves.

A bearded man who also spoke in a mild British accent nodded and said, “So very good to meet you. Steve’s the name.” Could’ve sworn I’ve seen his picture in several English language books on Japanese history, but it was too dark to be sure.

“Chris”, said a younger guy with demon tattoos who looked like he had just stepped off the beaches of the Pacific.

The stern lookin’ man in the old fashioned naval uniform spoke up. “I am…Teh Notre”.

A man in the background who had stayed out of sight revealed himself. He was wearin’ some kind of crazy evil-lookin’ face armor and in a subdued voice muttered, “My name is well known to you, perhaps as well as your own. Forgive me, therefore, for concealing my identity. Call me the Dragon if you must”.

Another member of the group stepped from the shadows, the tallest of the lot. His face was obscured by smeared white Kabuki makeup. He gave out a chillin’ laugh and announced, “Far and wide the name of Senmen Jyo is both feared and respected. And a big hit with the ladies, too!” Despite the makeup, this guy I knew-and his name wasn’t Senmen.

Finally, an excitable lookin’ middle aged guy in a suit repeatedly rotated what appeared to be an old fashioned cannonball in his hands, lookin’ as if he wished to crush it in his grasp. “Doubting Thomas, if you please.”

The Chamberlain cleared his throat and said “We number ten in all, but our loyal footsoldier Scott is out on nocturnal reconnaissance. The Lianered One is busy pouring over research materials, and our southeast Asian liaison the Badger is arranging a banquet to accompany tonight’s meeting-the exquisite Banana Surpr…”

Suddenly a loud bangin’ began to resonate against the floorboards beneath us. A trap door flew open and was barely restrained by a thick length of chain. “Semen! I thought you had secured the fruit cellar!” roared the Chamberlain while glarin’ at his towerin’ colleague.

“That’s Senmen, boss. I thought I had…but perhaps this will appease the beast.” So sayin’, Senmen threw several bones through the partially opened trap door into the cellar…and a contented cacklin’ began to emerge from the basement, followed by a frenzied crunchin’ sound. The door slammed shut and ponderous footsteps receded into the distance.

The Chamberlain released his breath and shrugged his shoulders. “One of our failed members, I’m afraid. It happens from time to time, and in the interests of compassion we keep them confined down…there."

What other horrors did this den of twisted virtue conceal? As if on cue, a faint scratchin' could be heard from inside a chained closet door-obviously not the beast from the cellar. There was a moment of stillness, and suddenly a voice not unlike Ed McMahon' s boomed out, "Teh Notre.........YOU ROCK, MANNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!" At this, the fierce lookin' man in the naval uniform turned and I believe wiped a tear from his eye...

The Chamberlain gave me an embarrassed look and glanced askance at Teh Notre, but neverless continued his speech. "Well, we ran out of room downstairs. What can I say? Now Brick, before we begin our presentation, are there any questions you wish to ask of us? We will answer, if we can”.

“Well, aside from ‘where’s the bathroom’, I’d like to know what that symbol is on the floor and what the writin’ says,” I asked.

“Ah!” purred the Chamberlain. “I see that our interest in you and the three dollars we had spent on drinks will not be wasted. The black circle on white symbolizes the eclipsing of the Rising Sun-our ultimate goal. And the writing…” Here the Chamberlain paused for dramatic effect, obviously savorin’ the moment. “The writing…is the name of our organization. It reads, The Secret Japan Hater’s Club!”

That’s when the Brickster realized he was in a world class predicament. Far from bein’ the product of fever induced ravin’s from a third-gen Japanese-American, The SJHC was real-but only Kato, and maybe Kevin McCarthy, knew the truth among outsiders. The member named Chris must have read the look on my face, and said “Yes, the same organization spoken of by that interloper Kiyomasa. Once he had publicly aired his suspicions, it was time for him to be removed in an expeditious manner. He had it coming”. He and Teh Notre exchanged a glance which told me it wasn’t the first time such a removal had been necessary.

The Chamberlain spread his hands wide. “But fear not, Brick. We seek not your disappearance, but your company in our ranks. You would be of great help in infiltrating the world of Japanese entertainment with our jealous and negative viewpoints meant to belittle and mock Nihon. Already, your films are masterpieces of subversive content, pointing out the absurdities and inconsistencies of Japanese culture. With our help, your budgets could be raised and your distribution network increased, reaching into every home in Japan. In return, we would expect you to ingratiate our messages into all of your projects, utterly destroying the Japanese sense of pride, dignity, and identity and rocking the national policy of Bushido to its core. What say you?”

“Well…” says I, stallin’ fer time. “First off, there’s the point that I DON’T hate Japan, sekritly or otherwise. I adore it. Especially the chicks and the fact I can get paid fer actin’ like a jackass. And my films don’t mock the Japanese-they just reinforce the stereotype of Westerners that Japanese love seein’-and hell, I don’t even have to act. Third, Ko would kick my ass or lecture me, and we ain’t havin’ any of that. My sorry carcass is already in trouble since you morons are makin’ me late fer dinner. She hates cookin’ in the first place, and she’s wearin’ that hot lookin’ thong today, so if you don’t mind, I’ll be on my way…” I began to move towards the door, but it seems they hadn’t been lulled into complacency yet. The Chamberlain gave a small twist of his head and Teh Notre stepped in front of the door.

The Chamberlain wheeled and shouted at Senmen, “Fool! It was on your recommendation that I suffered the presence of this idiot amongst us-and now we can add the indignity of rejection from a Grade Z hack actor who can’t tell the difference between ‘Seven Samurai’ and ‘Bohachi Bushido’”.

Screw that-this insult couldn’t go unchallenged. “Hey, you tea-sippin’ pantywaist-I’ll have you know I took home several Golden Globes durin’ the filmin’ of my epic ‘Brick McBurly and The Samurai Girls’, and it sold enough copies on DVD to make the house payment for three months. Not to mention it got a great review from “Samurai And Schoolgirls” magazine. Then there’s ‘Shogun Sexecutioner’, which…”

“Oh, do shut up!” sighed the Chamberlain. “I suppose there’s nothing else for it but…” He nodded at Chris, who began to unlock the chain holdin’ the door of the Fruit Cellar shut. The Brickster began to feel his bladder loosen, and not just because they still hadn’t told me where the bathroom was. The thought of facin’ what was down there was too terrifyin’ to contemplate.

Senmen looked uncertainly at the Chamberlain. “Are you sure about this? After all, he’s booked for three appearances next week, and I can’t afford…” The Chamberlain cut him off with a wave of his hand.

Suddenly, the armored mask of the Dragon began to glow red with an unearthly energy. It pulsed in and out, lendin’ an evil glow to the poorly lit room. The Dragon shot up from his chair, bangin’ his knee on the table and collapsin’ in a heap. “Damn it! I had a dramatic speech all ready and everything. Aww, to hell with it. Look, Chamberlain, whether Brick is a member or not, his films are still advancing our cause and doing our work. Perhaps he should be allowed to continue following his own path. Should he speak of our group, it matters not-he will not be taken seriously. He never is.”

The Chamberlain stopped to consider this and could be seen turnin’ the matter over in his mind. After several minutes had passed, he said “So be it. But know, Brick, that we shall continue to monitor your activities. You will know us by this sign.” At this, he and the other members tapped their left wrist with the index finger of their right hand. “Double cross us, and you will meet the same fate as Kiyomasa…or worse…” At this, he gave a meanin’ful glance at the fruit cellar. I felt a sharp impact on the back of my head. The last thing I remember before passin’ out was Steve smilin’ broadly and whisperin’, “Buuuuuuuuy my booooooooks”. Everythin’ went black….

…and I awoke back at the Lucky Star to find Ko givin’ me a shake and bitchin’ at me. It was music to my ears, and I didn’t even mind all the other patrons laughin’ at me after I fell off the stool onto the floor. Was it a dream or did it really happen? Some time had passed, but that ain’t nothin’ strange for me on a bender, and my waitress Reiko said she hadn’t noticed me comin’ or goin’. Had to have been a dream, ceptin’…

On the way home, we stopped at the Gojo-dori crosswalk. One of the others waitin’ was a Westerner who saw me, turned, and with a crazed grin tapped his left wrist several times with his right index figure. As Ko began to tell him the time, I fainted dead away in her arms. Looks like Kato Kiyomasa was a prophet ahead of his time rather than the poorly screwed together loony everyone thinks he was-but don’t look for the poor guy anytime soon.

July 22, 2008-Usually me ‘n Ko are workin’ on the same projects at the studio, so we leave the house together (assumin’ I can drag my carcass outta bed early enuff). Today, though, she was up and left the house way before the Brickster, sayin’ she had some errands to run before work. On her way out, she picked up our portable charcoal grille (a ‘hibachi’ to you Westerners) along with a bag full of charcoal. Since she had this crap, she decided to take her Beemer to work (since she is a rich man’s daddy’s girl) instead of takin’ the train like we usually do. She sped off and the Brickster didn’t think any more about it…at least until he was eatin’ his mornin’ bag of Mr. D’s while tunin’ in to the local news.

A feature came on that detailed how group suicides that were organized on the internet were startin’ to become a big problem both here in Kyoto and across Japan. It seems there are actual chat rooms and websites where people get together and make plans to meet and kill themselves in one fell swoop-as many as 5, 6 or more. While it does seem safer and saner than internet datin’ (the huntin’ ground fer fat chicks worldwide), the Brickster couldn’t help but feel sorry for these poor souls that felt life had nothin’ to offer them. The news program went on to describe the methods employed. The popular one at the moment is a mixture usin’ toilet cleaner as the main ingredient that produces toxic fumes (havin’ the side effect of seepin’ into other abodes and harmin’ people that weren’t part of the merry band), but the longtime favorite was groups of people usin’ portable charcoal grills inside a van with the windows rolled up, dyin’ from the smoke. The Brickster suddenly got a sinkin’ feelin’ in the pit of his stomach as he formed a mental image of Ko as she left the house that mornin’-wow, she sure has a great ass. Nice rack, too. But my rovin’ eye soon settled on the damn charcoal grill she had carried out with her.

Damn it! The Brickster was wracked with guilt as he realized he had driven his adorable little sweetheart to the depths of despair, leavin’ her feelin’ that the cold embrace of death was preferable to dealin’ with his antics. I vowed to the Buddhas and kami that if they let me find Koyori before she offed herself, I’d never again hit on the door-to-door kondo-san lady. Or accept furtive notes scribbled by middle aged women in schoolgirl outfits. I’d stop drinkin’ other people’s pre-bought bottles of liquor at the local bar. And I’d listen to Ko once in awhile when she was talkin’ to me.

Since the Brickster’s classic Mustang was waitin’ on imported parts again, that left me with just my Harley to try to track Ko down before she could carry out her plan of self destruction. There was no time to waste! After stoppin’ just long enuff to pick up some liquid courage at the liquor store and cash in some pachinko balls behind Daily Yamazaki (and place a bet on the lottery with that cuty of a cashier), I fired the hog up and roared off into the midday traffic, remindin’ myself that she’d likely had ditched the Beemer and that I needed to look for a suspicious lookin’ parked van. Right outside the Lucky Star bar, I saw one-one of the rear doors had been left ajar haphazardly and was hangin’ there, as if some suicide-happy clown had changed their mind and bolted out. The Brickster ran the Harley up on the curb, hopped off, and threw the doors open. Well, no suicide victims, but the little guy gettin’ the bar’s order together inside the van looked like he was ready to have a heart attack. I guess with the bike, my dark glasses, and the tattoo sleeves I was wearin’ for filmin’ that day he thought I was a yakuza sent to shake him down, cause with a nervous smile he handed over several bottles of liquor. It struck me that I might be able to put together a decent breakfast by repeatin’ this with other delivery vans, and sure enough, the saddlebags of my hog were soon crammed full of bento boxes, cartons of juice, and even a few girlie mags the news vendor handed over. However, this didn’t get me any closer to findin’ Ko.

I knew I had hit the jackpot when I saw a van tucked into an out-of-the-way alley behind some restaurants that hadn’t opened for the day yet. It was rockin’ gently on its springs as if the inhabitants within were in the final stages of their smoke-induced death throes. While I had visions of findin’ a van full of dead and distorted bodies, I knew that I had to be brave and do whatever I could to save Koyori if it was at all possible. I wrenched open the creaky old doors-and saw that the inhabitants were in the middle of filmin’ an all-girl guerilla porn flick. Their initial cries of surprise and outrage turned to smiles as they recognized the Brickster, figurin’ I had shown up to be a guest star. Under other circumstances, I might have stuck around and given them some pointers, but after posin’ fer photos and signin’ a few autographs fer the gals, I got back to the matter at hand.

A couple of hours later, I still hadn’t found Koyori, and figured it was time to bring the local police in on the case. I pulled out my cell and was surprised to see I had about a dozen messages-all from Ko! The first few just asked where I was, but got increasin’ly cranky and abusive until the last one told me to get my sorry ass to the studio, NOW. That poor girl-the Brickster recognized a cry for help when he saw it…even if it did sound an awful lot like bitchin’. I prayed that I wouldn’t be too late.

After performin’ a nifty McQueen through the security gates at the studio, I found Ko, and as I feared she wasn’t alone. She had a bunch of my friends and neighbors with her, and they indeed had the charcoal grill goin’-but thankfully had been too stupid to put it inside a van. It was then that I noticed the banner flyin’ overhead-‘Seven Years Of The Brickster, 2001/7/22-2008/7/22’. They were throwin’ a party for the seven year anniversary of my arrival in Japan! Well, with the prospect of my Ko bein’ alive and well along with the honor given me by my pals (to say nothin’ of the booze I’d been sluggin’ down), the Brickster got all weepy and blubbery, even though they gave me a big bouquet of flowers instead of somethin’ useful like power tools or Brickster T-shirts with new artwork. With the addition of the yakuza offerin’s from my saddlebags, the party was a rip-roarin’ success, although nobody ended up in the fountain or took their clothes off. The best part about the whole deal was that since Ko had never been plannin’ to off herself, I didn’t have to live up to any of the promises I had made to the Buddhas.

Later on at home, I told Ko about my suspicions from earlier and she was touched by my concern. She told me I didn’t have anythin’ to worry about-that if I pushed her that far, she wouldn’t be the one that would be shakin’ hands with the Grim Reaper. While that shoulda made me happy to hear, somehow it just didn’t sound right…

July 17, 2008
-Today (July 16 in the USA) the Brickster took the day off to watch the MLB All-Star Game (which began airin’ about 9 AM in Japan). My National League boys didn’t disappoint, continuin’ their losin’ ways by coughin’ it up to the American League in 15 innin's, 4-3. As a bonus, it was one of my hometown Cincinnati Reds (Edison Volquez) that allowed the American League to get up off the mat and tie the game, just like the Reds do in the regular season. Keepin’ tabs on American sports is a lot easier in Japan the last few years with the advent of the net-practically every game can be picked up for viewin’ on the MLB website, and the few that aren’t on have radio feeds.

That’s a good thing, too, since the Brickster enjoys the Reds TV broadcasters. The regular team of Chris Welsh and George Grande focus their efforts on callin’ the game, providin’ good insights and keepin’ the interest level high. They’re a big improvement over the radio broadcast team the Brickster had been sufferin’ with the last couple of years, the god-awful Marty Brennaman and bottom feeder Jeff Brantley.

Marty Brennaman at one time was one of the best baseball broadcasters in the game-back in the 70’s, when he started his career callin’ Reds games. Excellent flow, smooth delivery, paid attention to the game, good insights, and a pleasure to listen to. However, when the Reds exited their glory years of the 70’s and their record started to tank, Brennaman started to lose interest and took the first steps down that long road to mediocrity. He began to spend large amounts of on-air time commentin’ on the personal lives of himself and fellow broadcaster Joe Nuxhall (spendin’ a lot of time on the tomatoes Nuxhall had planted and his favorite places to golf), talkin’ about Elvis and wrestlin’ incessantly, reviewin' people’s clothes, givin’ stupid nicknames to stadium personnel, trottin’ out lame in-jokes few of the listeners would get, and in general bringin' out the dog 'n pony show and tryin’ to reintroduce vaudeville to the airwaves with himself as the dancin’ guy wearin’ the lampshade on his head (only not as entertainin’). A typical Brennaman routine goes like this-in the top of the first, he’ll ask fellow broadcaster Brantley if he ever wore Bermuda shorts with black socks and sandals-he’ll spend an entire half innin’ doin’ that, and then bring it up at least once an innin’ for the rest of the game (with that jackass Brantley guffawin’ like he’s watchin’ the latest Jim Carey film). On top of that, Brennaman began to become more and more arrogant and an on air bully once Nuxhall was farmed out, jumpin’ on anythin’ he thought a player was doin’ wrong and rippin’ him to shreds for it. He’s begun to slide into senility, gettin’ player names wrong, missin’ substitutions, neglectin’ the on field action to indulge his ego by continuin’ to trot out feeble attempts at juvenile humor, and becomin’ increasin’ly nasty and negative with every game. Off air, even his friends admit he has a huge ego and an incredibly foul mouth. Occasionally, he’ll totally lose it, spaz out, and do somethin’ that’s so over the top that it actually does become funny-just for all the wrong reasons. An example of this was heard earlier this year when he went on an extended rant about Chicago Cubs fans, an episode which is all over YouTube for anyone wantin’ to hear it. It was hilarious-it sounded exactly like some bitter old coot in an insane asylum mumblin’ about the good ol’ days when we sure showed those Krauts who was boss.

However, Brennaman was at least a top shelf announcer at one point in his career-somethin’ which can’t be said for his partner, Jeff Brantley. Brantley’s always been awful, and made much of ESPN’s baseball programmin’ virtually unwatchable while he was there. Now with the Reds, Brantley’s approach to broadcastin’ can be summed up by the nickname he has anointed himself with-‘The Clownboy’. As in, ‘Everyone south of the Mason-Dixon Line knows The Clownboy’ (and Jeff, the Brickster would add, ‘Everyone north of it wishes they didn’t’). Brantley had a mediocre stint as a major league pitcher with several teams over parts of 14 seasons-he failed miserably as a starter, and when made into a reliever, managed to eke out a pretty mundane career. He had a lifetime losin’ record, and his percentage of blown saves (46 of 218, or 21.1 %) was slightly worse than the major league average-but was just good enough so that some team desperate for relief help would take a flyer on him. Unaccomplished with the stick (.118 lifetime battin' average). Average fielder. Slow. But when he could no longer find a team who wanted him and moved his ample backside into a broadcast chair (and becomin’ the worst enemy of jumbo bags of potato chips and the English language in the process), somethin’ changed. Like a lot of former major leaguers turned broadcaster, the game suddenly seemed to become a whole lot easier than when he was playin’. ‘Rantley’ competes with Brennaman on a nightly basis to see which one can jump onto a player’s throat first and ridicule every aspect of his game. Brantley will lovin’ly detail how his target just doesn’t measure up, explain how he thinks it should be done, and end with his signature phrase-‘It’s Just. That. Simple.’. Well, Jeff, the Brickster’s got a question for ya-if it is indeed Just. That. Simple., then why weren’t you a 14 time All Star and a first ballot Hall Of Famer instead of a run-of-the-mill jobber? Well, obviously, things are Just. That. Simple. only when you’re no longer the one who has to do ‘em. When Brantley ain’t proclaimin’ the failures of today’s players, he likes to center his patter around four points:

1) Tellin’ the listeners how much he enjoys eatin’.
2) Tellin’ the listeners how he likes his food prepared.
3) Tellin’ the listeners how much he enjoys sleepin’.
4) Guffawin’ like a hyena at Brennaman’s lame standup.

The Clownboy is a natural if they ever do a relaunch of the 'Hee Haw' series, particularly if Junior Samples' role is still open. Brantley is truly painful on the ears-it’s like listenin’ to Deputy Dawg call the World Series, only not nearly as funny. And worse, the Reds let him broadcast TV games on occasion, meanin’ I have to turn the sound off. I have to say, it’s a novel marketin’ idea the Reds employ-havin’ two broadcasters on board who take every opportunity to rip the hometown players, try to divert attention from the game onto themselves, and make listeners hate the team and stay away from the ballpark. And they wonder why attendance is droppin’ even though the team is gettin’ better-sheesh. Owner Bob ‘Win Now Or Else-No, I Don’t Know How Either’ Castellini might want to think about puttin’ Brennaman out to pasture, consignin’ Jeff Brantley to the ‘all you can eat’ seats in center field, and creatin’ a more positive buzz around his team. And while he’s at it, firin’ Dusty ‘I Let Barry Bonds Run My Team Since I Never Learned How To’ Baker, a totally inadequate manager who insists on playin’ smallball in a home run park. But I digress. Back to Reds Radio:

When I have to listen to a Reds game on the radio feed, I just pray that it’s one of the broadcasts where Brennaman’s son Thom steps in for one or the other-Thom’s a pro, and manages to curtail the antics of whichever goofball he’s saddled with. But you know, the elder Brennaman and Brantley sound like Walter Cronkite compared to the loathsome toad that does the Reds post game call-in show-that bein’ one Paul Daugherty.

Daugherty defines the words ‘smarmy’ and ‘disinterested’. He has a somewhat different approach to the airwaves than Jeff Brantley-Daugherty’s oft-emphasized points fall into the followin’ categories:

1) How he really doesn’t like baseball.
2) How he really doesn’t care about the Reds.
3) How he actually doesn’t feel like doin’ the show, and would rather be home drinkin’ a Keystone Light.
4) How he wants to bear Brandon Phillips’ children (Phillips is the Reds second baseman).

While I do agree with him on point 3 (I’d rather you not be doin’ the show, too, Paul), the other three seem to be odd qualifications for doin’ a post game show on baseball focusin’ on the Reds. Radio station WLW sure seems to have cornered the market on obnoxious on-air personalities-try googlin’ Cunningham, Bill some time. Anyway, Daugherty only got the job because frontrunner Tom Gamble (who is superlative, and was the station’s initial choice) passed on it, and because Daugherty writes a sports column for the Cincinnati Enquirer. His columns are unimaginative and very rarely have much to say, interestin’ or otherwise-they’re mostly generalized fluff pieces that don’t take much research, work, or original thought-like his latest one that tells the reader what a great guy a Bengals wide receiver is, even though that particular WR is widely known as an ill-tempered, surly thug. Less time spent writin’ means more quality time with that Keystone Light, right, Paul? This type of story earned Daugherty his nickname, ‘Fluffy’. Now, since the Brickster doesn’t like to end his columns on a negative note, I’ll add this-I’ve heard Daugherty does excel at moochin’ free food and drinks-now THAT, at least, I can have some respect for.

July 7, 2008-The Brickster recently tried importin’ the fine American tradition of blowin’ stuff up on the Fourth of July to Japan. This proved to be a big crowd pleaser here in the neighborhood-the Japanese really love fireworks, not to mention bein’ given another excuse to drink. The kids particularly liked the Brickster’s version of the Saturn V, that bein’ a tin can with one end opened up set on top of a cherry bomb. The lift off is rarely delayed by bureaucratic red tape (since the friendly cops from the local koban were all lookin’ the other way), but the Brickster found out the hard way that the escape velocity produced wasn’t meant for human beings to endure. While I was chattin’ up Keiko (my next door neighbors wife), her son Masakado (who’s a bit rebellious) decided to proceed with an unauthorized launch-and to make things worse, confabulated the launchin’ pad for an offensive strike rather than lunar exploration. Next thing I know, I felt this huge ‘clonk’ on the back of my head and fell over, hittin’ my head on the curb (instead of fallin’ into Keiko’s arms-life just ain’t fair). Everythin’ began to go black and I felt myself bein’ pulled down into this long, dark tunnel before I passed out.

When I came to, I saw this fat guy sittin’ on a throne (no, not Elvis) with a goofy hat lookin’ all arrogant an’ judgmental-he reminded me of Dong Zhou from the Shin Sangoku Musou series. The throne was made of human skulls and spinal columns. He had a couple of demons (one red, one blue) flankin’ him and for a minute I thought I was back on the set of Onryou Ryoushi. I did have the presence of mind to take a snap with my cell phone, just for posterity.

Fat guy decided it’s about time he introduced hisself. “I am Enma, King of Hell-and we are here to decide the worthiness of your soul.” Now, if he’s goin’ to be playin’ a role, he oughta at least get the name right-I told him that should be ‘Emma-O, King of Hell’. He just looked more pissed and told me to keep my alternate romaji to myself. Then he started rattlin’ off every amorous conquest the Brickster had ever made. That made fer a pleasant feelin’ of nostalgia as I replayed each an’ everyone of them back in my mind. After a few hours of this, he started in on skipped bar tabs, lyin’ to my wife, fightin’, drinkin’ and takin’ money for starrin’ in Shogun Sexecutioner. It was a lot like bein’ on ‘This Is Your Life’, but not nearly as borin’-even Hot Stuff and DePaul (the names I gave the Red and Blue demons attendin’ Emma-O) looked pretty impressed. About this time I started gettin’ a bad feelin’-what if this was Santa goin’ over his ‘naughty and nice’ list and plannin’ to shut out the Brickster? So’s I asked him if he might not have a bright red suit in his wardrobe, and he wrote somethin’ down on a board and ended his speech with accusin’ me of impertinence as well. Then he confabbed a bit with the demons. He turned to me and said, “Frankly, I don’t know where to start with your punishment. I suppose we’ll start you off with the River Of Filth, where all fornicators are sent to atone for their sins.” Bein’ sent to India didn’t sound so bad, and an instant later the Brickster found himself naked in a scummy river teamin’ with hot babes! It was a lot like bein’ in a Soapland in Vietnam, except it was free, and the Brickster put Mr. Crackers to work in no time. Just as I was hittin’ my stride, I found myself back before Emma-O. “McBurly”, says he, “You’re missing the point-you not supposed to be ENJOYING yourself here. Let’s see…hmmmm…we’ll try the Field Of Shards next.” This was no big deal either, since the Brickster had learned the sekrit of glass walkin’ durin’ his time as an escape artist with the Sideshow at Bob’s Circus. When I started coachin’ the others, I got pulled from here too. Bein’ strapped to the flamin’ wheel of karma warn’t no worse than the Ferris wheel at Tokyo Disneyland in August. And havin’ the skin flayed from my body just reminded me of the time I spent doin’ bondage flicks early in my career. After I got talkin’ with the demons, I found out that they weren’t really bad at all-just misunderstood and tryin’ to put limbs on the table for their families. Usin’ my secreted bottle of hooch strategically, I made allies of quite a few of them and the next time I was brought before Emma-O there were more than a few mumbled words of discontent in the ranks. This didn’t go unnoticed by Emma-O, who saw the writin’ on the wall. “I’m stumped at how to handle your case. Maybe you should just go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done”. I told round boy that he oughta send me back to the River Of Filth since I hadn’t quite finished things up there, and I think that’s when he snapped. He pasted me one with that funerary tablet he was holdin’ and I felt myself bein’ lifted up towards the light.

I came to sputterin’ and found myself lookin’ right up the skirt of Keiko and knew that I had reached the Promised Land. But Nirvana turned out to be just an illusion and dust before the wind when Koyori finished dumpin’ a bucket of water on my head, bringin’ me back to full consciousness. After I told Ko what had happened (leavin’ out the spicy parts), she laughed and told me it had just been a dream. But the picture was still on my cell phone. In the aftermath, I did a lot of soul searchin’ about the path I’ve been followin’ in life, and decided that the guys in charge of hell were dumbasses. I mean, if they really wanted to scare people, they’d populate it with fat chicks, or make you the star of a Shinsengumi yaoi film. Or worse, take the lead outta yer pencil.