Thursday, January 14, 2010

View to a Thrill: Ghosts in Japan

Photo by Penguin Scott

NRT March 13, 2004

I’m in Narita, Japan and turned on the radio. I found a station playing band music. The music is sort of jazzy- sort of big band; trumpets, pianos, violins, harps and bass, old people music, as I call it. I'd already been downtown, walked to the Naritasan temple, dined at the local noodle house and shopped in the hundred Yen store. Now I was back in my room, trying to find some activity to occupy myself with before boredom took control. I'm not sure why I chose to investigate the radio and its limited variety of stations, but there you have it; big band music to boot.

It took me back to the days when I was a young boy and I’d go to Corpus to visit my grandparents, Memaw and Pa. They listened to this type of music at night as they slept. I recall it so well; After staying up past my bedtime, I’d go to bed in the bedroom, which adjoined theirs. Still being awake when they would eventually turn out the lights, I could hear them pray together, the one that talks about walking down the valley of the shadow of death. From my bed, listening to them recite together, and then turn on the radio, I could feel the love they shared for one another. And I always wondered what that valley looked like, obviously all dark with those death shadows blocking out the sun.

Oh how I used to love going to Corpus. I would go to the grocery store with Pappy, holding his hand while crossing the street to go to that funny grocery store with a big arched roof. On the walls were large, colorful 3-D fruit and veggies. I seem to recall a mural you’d expect to see in West Texas with cowboys and covered wagons. Not sure how it wound up being on the Gulf Coast instead, but it left one of those wonderful, lasting impressions on a young boy.

My grandparents were such good cooks, and everything was made from scratch and with fresh ingredients, many grown in their very back yard. I'd eat things in Corpus I never ate at home in Houston; collard greens, fried okra, rice swimming in sweet milk. And it was here where I learned that some people put salt on their watermelon and didn't use sugar in grits. I'll never have hotcakes or cornbread the way my grandfather used to make them, and the world my never recover from this.

I loved their house, with its musty smell, the sound of the window air conditioner and the dim light created from keeping the curtains drawn to keep out the Texas heat. I recall the traffic noise from the busy street out front, the cicadas screeching in the hot and humid afternoons. They always made the heat seem so much more than maybe it was, as their screams permeated the living room where we hid in the relative cool. Memaw and Pa…together again, now that she passed away nearly six months ago.

And here I am in Japan listening to their music and thinking of them; missing them and reliving the past. I was so young then. And I feel so young now – not like I’m 36 at all; hardly even like late 20s. Sometimes I still feel so very young. And although I’ve been on my own for so long, and I’ve been an adult for as long as I was a child, I don’t feel all that old. That’s a good thing, I guess.

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