When Dave and Eric decided to move on, I was left alone to find a roommate. A roommate? But I had been so used to living with all of my men. How was I ever going to find a person to move into the Dave/Eric spot and fill my live-in BFF void? Looking back, them moving out was more than just a move-out. It was a slashing of the umbilical cord. They were my only tie home to Massachusetts. Without them, I was alone on the other side of the US. I’m not sure it hit me like that back then but, as I type these words, the symbolism is evident.
The San Diego Reader was the local who’s doing what/what’s the haps/what bands are playing/classified ads type newspaper. It was a biblical experience to grab it every week and to check my favorite venues out. Who’s playing where and when so that I could plan accordingly. Becky was my go-to person for seeing bands. We liked mostly all of the same music and we sort of discovered the San Diego music scene together. I remember the casual exterior we masked ourselves in when we first went to The Casbah. But man, we were both so insecure on the inside. Did we fit into this world? Were we dressed cool enough? Did we look the part? At some point, we came into ourselves and we stopped caring. We would sit on the stoop outside the venue and make fun of people together. We debated which guys were do-able and which guys were hideous. We debated which girls looked cute and which girls needed a re-do. We were mean. But hey, no one ever heard us. We were just us being us, two friends at a gig.
Our favorite band to see was The Dragons, fronted by one Mr. Mario Escovedo of the musically gifted Escovedo family. They were a hard rock punk band with a wall of guitar sound and they were good. Picture the Sex Pistols mixed with The Rolling Stones and that was The Dragons…with a Mexican singer. Becky had a huge crush on Ken, the guitar player. He was half Japanese and half white. The kemosabe kid. I always thought that he had a Sid Vicious look to him. And the way he would play guitar…he always had his mouth open and his body would be convulsing with the rhythm. It was hot. So yeah, as a friend, I approved of her crush.
It was through The Reader that I placed an ad for a roommate in the classifieds. The first person to call was a man who spoke with an Asian accent. He was interested in coming to check it out which I was totally cool with. Why not? An ethnic experience if you will. I thought that it was funny that he specifically said to me, “I’m Japanese.” I didn’t care that he was Japanese. Hey, cool, right? But, since I could tell that he was Asian by his accent, the fact that he felt the need to provide that info to me made me chuckle. Immediately I called Becky to tell her about the Japanese guy coming to check out my place. Her first words: “Maybe he knows Ken from The Dragons.” Mind you, she was just being silly. She wasn’t really making the assumption that they would simply know each other just because of their Japanese-ness.
When he came to check out the place, he brought a friend along. His name was Take’, short for Takeyoshi and his friend’s name was Kimi. They were absolutely adorable. They both had a hip, Tokyo street style and they both seemed really artsy. After asking them some questions, I began to tell them about me: “I’m a student at SDSU, I work at an elementary school and I love to go see bands. I’m always at The Casbah.”
As soon as Kimi heard me say Casbah, she exclaimed, – and I’m going to attempt the Japanese accent here – “Ohhh, Cashah! Maybe you know my boyfriend. He play guitar for band Dragons!”
Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me? Her boyfriend was none other that the kemosabe kid himself, Ken from The Dragons? Considering Becky’s preposterous claim that maybe Take’ and Ken would know each other, I was floored. Of course, I had to hold that in but what a coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidences. I did then but not now. Now I’m aware enough to know that Take’ moving in was meant to be.
On the day that he was supposed to move in, I was prepared to be at the apartment and to keep out of his way. What I wasn’t prepared for was him calling. “Hi Ellen. This is Take’. I need help to move in.” Being the type of person I am, I headed out to help my new roommate move in. What else was I supposed to do?
Take’ didn’t have a car so he would hop along with me when it was time to go to the market and he loved to cook. When he cooked, he always made enough for me. He made some odd Japanesey-esque dishes. He made this soup…it was like a soy sauce broth with a giant scoop of mashed potatoes in the middle and it was deee-licious! The kid had skills. He made me want to be a better cook so I made myself better and I eventually started to cook for him as often as he cooked for me. We had a good thing going on.
He was on a student visa and he was majoring in Art so he always had cool art projects that he was working on. His bedroom walls were decorated in jeans. Yes, jeans were hung in geometric patterns on his walls. Weird as it was, it was quintessentially Take’! He hoarded movies and he watched them with the subtitles to better his English learning experience. I felt like we lived at Blockbuster. There were seriously that many movies.
Kimi and Ken came around pretty often and, though I was always the forth non-Japanese speaking wheel, I was always included in everything that they did. We would make dinners together, watch movies together and go see bands together. Kimi will forever be remembered as the one female who straight up asked me, “Oh, they so big. Can I touch them?” Though shocked, I said yes. No one had ever just asked to touch my boobs like that. She poked at them for a minute and then said, “They so squishy.” You’ve got to love an adorable Japanese girl with no social skills.
Poor Take’ put up with quite a few of my pranks. I would leave him random 1-800 phone numbers to call back with messages that the INS had called looking for him. I also once convinced him that I had signed him up to be on one of those ‘eat bugs’ type of game shows. I got him a lot but eventually he just assumed that I was always joking. It’s not easy living with a prankster like me but it is fun. Or at least I think it is. Times with him weren’t always rosy. We got on each other’s nerves every so often and I once had to put a ban on speaking Japanese in the living room but when it came down to it we became close friends. Take’ was with me the morning of 9/11. I ran into his bedroom and woke him up and we both watched the television transfixed by what we were seeing. Something like that bonds you.
When it was time for him to go back to Japan to visit his family, Kimi and Ken picked him up early and brought him to LAX. At some point that morning, I received a phone call. He never got out of the habit of telling me that it was him: “Hello, Ellen. This is Take’.” I guess he never realized that the accent gave him away when he uttered his first syllable. He then said, “They won’t let me go to Japan.”
“What do you mean they won’t let you go to Japan,” I asked.
“My passport is expired.”
I could hear how scared he was and I knew at that moment that I was probably going to be driving the 2.5 hours to LA to get him but I held out some hope. He was in LA after all. There had to be a way to expedite renewing his passport so I told him to go find out answers, to ask for help and not to call back for at least a half hour. Exactly a half hour later the phone rang and – yup – you guessed it. He still couldn’t go to Japan. So, up to LA I drove and picked him up. He was sitting on his suitcase all hunched over and depressed looking. It was like a movie scene when the guy tries to get to the airport in time to catch the girl he loves but misses her. That’s exactly how he looked.
I don’t know how many people find roommates as willing to do some of the things I did for him. I was good to that kid, took care of him. Someone had to. Who knows. Maybe he thought that he was taking care of me. He’s living in Portland now and he has a girlie to kick it with. We still keep in touch. I’m glad for that. He is, after all, my Japanesey BFF. He told me that Kimi moved back to Japan and got married. Ken is playing guitar for a popular band called The Bronx now. Though we’ve all moved on, I can still hear them speaking Japanese and I can still taste that mashed potato soup. Good memories never fade.