Click here to go to Day 1 of the 2012 Japan Election Diary.
"Where the heck were you? You just missed meeting the President and First Lady."
"Sorry boss, nature called."
Actually, I'd been outside the school auditorium smoking a Basic Lite, but let's not get mired in the details of the past when there are broad historical brushworks to be admired. I was aware even then of what a historical moment I had failed to be privy to -- Not Present at the Creation would be my treatise. What if Napoleon hadn't invaded Russia? What if the US aircraft carriers had been at port in Pearl Harbor instead of safely out at sea? What if I had hit Bill Clinton with such a great one-liner that he had hired me on the spot as Presidential Speech Writer at Large and whisked me off with the rest of the White House press corps on Air Force One away from the decade that was to come of finding synonyms for "meeting to take place" headlines.
Ahhh, the what ifs of history.
Actually, I was pretty pleased with myself just to be in the same room as the Washington Press Corps. Who sat bored scribbling notes, or more often than not, not doing anything other than being present as this was just an unimportant Clinton trip to the hinterlands. They were just on gaffe-watch, much like the Japan news services have a night duty editor on call just in case the big one hits, which is about the only way the country can make the global news agendas these days. Well, what are the chances of that, eh readers?
I turned to the New York Times reporter and said: "I deliver you on Sundays," seriously expecting him to engage me in conversation, rather than the silent sneer of a king of his profession beholding an alley cat with a scrap of offal from his table.
I couldn't complain though, I cleared $50 for delivering 100 copies of the NYT and a handful of the Dallas Morning Post, the literally biggest paper in the US. It was so huge and full of discount coupons you couldn't fold the paper. It was invariably delivered to the McMansions being built at the Western end of I-630. But the Times was for the doctors and lawyers in Pleasant Valley, the professors in the leafy Heights of Little Rock and even one reader on the black side of town, over the tracks past West 12th and Roosevelt.
The front section of the Times -- the breaking news and sports -- would be flown in Saturday night from New York, while the inserts, the features on jogging and John Updike and such -- would set off from printing presses in Chicago, 500 miles north, by 18-wheeler on Wednesday. I'd arrive at 3:30am Sunday morning, as the trucks pulled in to the parking lot of a bakery and I'd put the newspapers together, get a printout of the addresses on my route and a fresh Danish and a coffee from the bakery. Load the papers in the back of my Chevrolet Metro (as Suzuki Swifts were marketed in the States) I'd hit the road by 4:30am or so and be back at my apartment just after midday if I was lucky, if the the weather was good and I didn't get lost looking for new addresses.
Now you just click here.
I clicked on Slate today and they had a report about how the likely new Japanese prime minister was going to be Shinzo Abe and how he was going to be the Roosevelt of Japan and all because he believes in quantative easing.
There was more to Roosevelt than just printing money, my grandmother could have told Slate that. She lived through the Depression, raised my mother and her two brothers with more hindrance than help from her alcoholic husband and never forgot how Roosevelt's New Deal policies had given her family an income in the darkest hours.
I'd meet her at her old folk's home every Wednesday and after supper, we'd sit down and watch McNeil-Lehrer Newshour together. She'd scowl at the Republicans and smile at my articles I'd cut out and show her of my week's efforts.
On the mantelpiece was a signed Christmas card from Bill and Hillary Clinton at the White House. That was something.
When she died, she'd kept every throwaway article I'd given her. That was something else.
Shinzo Abe is no Roosevelt, by the way.
"I'm crossing over the tracks, come and meet me."
I usually delete such emails when I see them, but this one was from my wife. She'd been out for a drink tonight with the girls and had made it back to the allotments near our house before she got nervous. They talked foreign adventures, husbands and politics. It would be inappropriate to print off-the-record tittle tattle. And actually, I have forgotten it. But what all four ladies agreed was the Liberal Democratic Party was the same old deal.
"We can't go back there. Please, no."
This blog series
is now a great
Cleaned up and
Guts Pose: Diary of a
features a previously
by me and foreword
by Michael Cucek.
You can buy it here.