...Okay. Let's try this again...
In retrospect, the latter half of May I was so out of whack, have got to wonder whether the fabled "mid-life crisis" had at dreaded last munched my rump.
Why had I ever voluntarily moved half a world away from my family? Why had I ever left beautiful Battle Creek?
Well, of course you can't be both here and there. I miss my family, and friends, and home track (Jackson Harness Raceway closed in December; I visited the place for another farewell that trip) and horses--but I also love Japan, am happy in my house, am crazy for my job. This is just one point in the river's flow; earlier was different, later will be too. But still, those questions kept me down the hole a good while.
Looming the last weekend of May was the 11th renewal of the MoJo Two Days event, limited to 60 attendees. I had missed the 10-minute signup window while in the U.S., but friend SA-san had kindly made an extra reservation. Having to figure out which song to do in the second day's MoJox2 Nodo Jiman contest got me back out to karaoke for the first time in weeks. Gave everything MoJo in the catalog a try--even one I'd long avoided, Tsurikichi Sanpei opening theme "Wakaki Tabibito" ("Young Traveler"), because it was sure to be just too difficult:
But I tried it. And it was hard. It would need a ton of practice, on top of the time I'd need to write a singable English translation of the second verse. But grappling with the consequences of being a traveler myself, it really spoke to me--and with two weeks to get it done, I submitted it as my song choice.
Was busy on that when I happened to read about book-design software supplied by a print-on-demand publisher. Checked further into it, and got fired up by a sudden thought: If I could put together a quick book, that would be a memorable present for a certain performer having a 40th-anniversary event in June.
Commuting time became write-verse-two-of-"Wakaki Tabibito" time, and three nights a week I drilled on the song at the Karaoke Hangout of Justice. The rest of the hours after work went into sifting through my years of photos, laying out the book, and composing the text around the photos. I was a wee bit obsessed.
The MoJo Two Days arrived before the book's completion. The first day was the fantastic MoJo Zone Vol. 11 concert, and being back together with fellow fans, getting to enjoy MoJo's full-blast performance at close range, was great medicine!
Afterwards, as folks hung out and ordered from the bar, MoJo went from table to table to sit a bit and talk with fans. I mentioned that after my mom passed away last month, I'd been questioning why I'd ever left home and come to Japan, but that this had made me remember why. He was sympathetic and said that there's no getting around the fact that someday each of us will go--but until then, we should enjoy the time we have, and be as happy as we can.
The next day, I was super-nervous. After singing low for almost two years, I was going to switch back to soprano. Except for my glasses, everything I was wearing came from Battle Creek (including my doofy hat, a 1980 K-mart purchase that Mom dyed from white to red in the kitchen sink so I could have a hat like Joe Yabuki's). And I was going to sing this with the thought that my folks, together again at long last, might somehow hear it.
It was a huge relief to finish the song; my legs were shaking, and my voice had to have been, too. But I'd hit the notes I'd been worried about, and was going to be able to sit back down with no regrets--something that doesn't happen often.
At song's end, emcee Shocker Oh!No! commented on how moving it had been. Usually MoJo joins you onstage either between verses or at the end for a souvenir photo, but he seemed delayed in coming up...and I was stunned to see, grabbing a glance back at his seat in the music booth, that he seemed to be wiping away tears. That had to just be my imagination--but no, here he came, still teary-eyed. (Usually my singing just brings tears to people's ears...! ;^) ) That made me all misty too.
I had been lucky enough to win the women's grand prize three events ago, but starting this year, the rules had changed: Rather than awarding 10 various prizes, including a men's grand prize and a women's grand prize, there would now just be one prize awarded. In February, at this year's first of three planned MoJox2 Nodo Jiman contests (the third is slated for October), CB-san had won the tremendously deserved honors.
This time, to me it was a three-way race between Go-san's enormous "Kibou no Siren Builder," Nano-san's dynamite "Eyes of Justice," and Kou-san's deeply moving "Jinsei no Teishaeki"-- although I was rooting too for Shin-san to get rewarded after one of the guttiest performances ever, pro or no, finishing "Seiun Kamen Machineman" from the floor after landing flat on his back when his knee separated in landing from a flying kick.
Nimble and hilarious, crowd-pleasin' Shin-san always comes up with a wildly original delivery heaped with hee-hees--so when he went down with a mighty crash, it seemed like a breathtakingly skillful pratfall. But then he stayed down, with just one arm moving, feeling feebly for his dropped mike. No sooner had startled whispers started--"Was that not supposed to happen?" "Is he okay?"--then the front row surged up out of their seats, heading to his aid! Shocker and MoJo beat them there and helped him sit up, and he finished the song with dead-game gusto, propped on MoJo's shoulder.
I was still thinking about that, admiring Shin-san's guts, when MoJo announced the grand championship. "There were so many great performances," he said, "but to me, one especially stood out..."
Gotta be Shin-san!
Well, I sat there and cried until Ku-san made me go up, and then I stood up there and cried while MoJo and Shocker said kind things about my performance and fan activity, and then I had to speak. Usually speaking Japanese in public is my biggest bugaboo--but all the woulda-coulda-shouldas from after I stammered around when awarded the women's grand championship last year kicked in, and what I'd been regretting not saying then finally got to come out now.
I said that there are people all over the world who love anime and anime songs, and we see in anime magazines that in Japan there are events where you could meet the creators of your favorites, and concerts where you can hear the actual anime song performers sing. People dream of getting to Japan someday...and I'm one of the relatively few lucky ones who got to do it. I was drawn here by heroes and adventure--but now that I'm here, what I'm most grateful for isn't the anime and manga all around, but the comrades I've met, and the fun we have celebrating our favorites, and the willingness of stars like MoJo and Shocker to help keep that alive and provide fans opportunities like this.
Afterwards, as I was about to head out to grab the last train to Gunma, CB-san offered me a handshake at the door. Only then did it strike me--we're the only two overall grand champions. It's an honor that never, ever occurred to me could be the end result when I was racing the clock to get ready, ekeing out the English second verse line by scribbled line on jouncy bus rides and shoehorning in late-night karaoke practice.
A few days later I finished the book and sent it off for a test print run of 5. When it comes back, it'll be hardcover and 32 all-color pages long...and it's even expected to ship in time for the event (knock wood)! Need to keep it secret until then, but, here's a peek at the upper 1/5-or-so of its front cover:
That double dose of therapy projects had me pretty whupped...but so far it seems to have gotten me out of the hole. Am feeling a little more normal now--and thank goodness, 'cause the anything-but-normal annual anison karaoke marathon is just around the corner, yeeeee-hahhh!!