HK catI‘ve always had a thing for cats. The cat in the photo on the left was taken in Hong Kong as it dashed out to me in hopes of affection or food. I’m a sucker for such innocence and helplessness.

However, not all cats are quite so innocent. Especially the cats here in Tokyo. While American cats will hiss a warning at you even before you spot them, Tokyo cats seem to be more full of game. They’ll lay purring on their backs looking like they’re welcoming a petting, then suddenly lunge and sink their teeth into your approaching hand. These are often the cats you see strolling along the streets of Tokyo in fluffy white coats as if they own the place.

I once observed a Japanese Chihuahua that had cornered such a cat, yapping away as if it had accomplished something. A moment later it was squealing in pain with a shredded ear as it vanished down the street. I swear the cat was grinning sadistically as she licked the blood from her pretty paw.

Here are a few tips about Tokyo cats based on my experience.

  • Beware the quiet. I used to carry my cat around the neighborhood in the evening. At first she would constantly meow as she surveyed the novel environment, a flood of possibilities filling her mind. Then came the quiet. About 4 seconds after the quiet, there would be a sudden flurry of clawing in an attempt to escape the safety of my arms.
  • Plan to get dirty. Sometimes, when my cat was just a kitten, I would let her explore a small patch of shrubs for a while before calling her back so I could safely carry her home. That was fine for the first few trips out, but she eventually got obstinate when I attempted to retrieve her. I far too often found myself crawling through the thorny shrubs, alternating between threats and promises as she smirked at me. I did usually get the final revenge as I hosed her soiled pelt down to a scrawny semblance of herself in the shower.
  • Know the previous owner. One cat I owned actually turned out to be the ex-cat of a yakuza boss who was known to take cat thieves on one-way excursions on his boat. I dyed the cat black.
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Split Loyalties

splitI feel like an anthropologist. My ability to exude at will what looks like stupidity allows me to freely approach the natives of many tribes nestled within the jungles of Tokyo. This innocuous and noncompetitive persona is especially attractive to some of the more affluent and celebrated of the jungle who have need of a dependable side-kick now and then. And I’m not gritting my teeth when I assume that role. I’m about as competitive as a bulldog in a greyhound race.

The reasons for this are varied, but the largest is my belief that girls can make up their own minds. My type of girl can easily sniff out the single whiff of honesty through the stench of deceit in a room of 200 indistinguishable males. Whenever I have a new romantic prospect, I introduce her to my better-looking, more-affluent and sweeter-talking male friends. If she attaches herself to one of them because he’s a better match, I’m quite content to have introduced them. If she attaches herself to one of them out of gullibility, I’ll have passed her on without experiencing any of the drama that would have no doubt later occurred. I’ve had considerable success with this strategy. So this uncompetitive nature allows me to mingle with even the more aggressive alpha-males within most tribes.

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Jerks and Genes

CityA week ago a female friend asks me for advice on how to spot a “nice guy”. She asks this with a very sincere look on her face as if she really wants a nice guy, and I do not have the heart to tell her that I know all about the “jerk gene” that all women possess that makes a girl walk the full length of a bar past all the nice guys, and right up to the jerk who slept with her best friend the previous night.
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0810pa190365_b_2They glared and snarled that first encounter. He sat his Japanese ex on his left and the new Korean girl on his right as he played jester to defuse the feline tension. Five minutes later they were giggling, comparing notes on his various competencies. Five weeks later they e-mailed him from Seoul.

This was an actual autobiographical occurrence circa 2003.

Counting on your Chick before…

bw sunHe thought the next morning over breakfast would be perfect as he contently looked at her lying beside him. The ring had cost him four months’ wages, but they had been together every wonderful weekend for year now. The phone rang. She picked up. Her eyes widened. “I have to go. My husband’s been in a car accident.”

This was a true tragedy in Tokyo circa 2003.

To Cure a Drunk

bw mysteryBy the time he had stumbled around to her side of the table and wrapped a tattooed arm around her, the whole second floor of post-midnight Starbucks patrons were bent inward with all ears tuned to their thin romantic whispers. She patted his military haircut as he slurred perfunctory questions and tried to keep his impatient, inebriated focus from drifting downward to a well-constructed chest. It all ended at 2:54 with the crowd in hysterics during her indignant stomping out following his brief bewilderment, then horrified but sober epiphany. “What? You’re a man?”

This is a true occurrence observed in Tokyo circa 2000.