Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dear reader

Dear reader, this is meant to be a blog where I moan about the state of the Washington Nationals. It's not a place for me to indulge my other interests, like scrimshaw and potato chips that look like George Hamilton. That's what LiveJournal is for.

But sometimes things happen, momentous things, and they must be commented upon even though they may be only tangentially related to the Washington Nationals. Dear reader (and I know there's only one of you out there -- Hi Grandma!) -- former part-time Nationals beat writer Chico Harlan has a new blog. And I intend to make relentless mockery of his blog, taking the cheapest shots I can imagine. Looks like that post on why it would be a good idea for the Nats to trade for David DeJesus is going to have to wait for another day.

Oh, so now you want to post to a blog. What happened when posting to a blog was part of your job?

Dear reader, welcome to my blog. It’s about me.

Chico, when has anything you've ever done not been about you? I'm not quick to forget, Chico.

I hope you like it.


Please, have a look around; take the grand tour.

Grand tour? It's a basic Blogspot blog. You didn't even splurge for a custom domain name. STFU.

In the last few weeks, with misguided desires to launch this forum, I conceived the title and designed the banner.

OMG, you're so creative!

I pray for this kid's editors.

I thought briefly about using Thai characters instead of Japanese, but their alphabet too much resembles a store shelf of flowerpots, and I didn’t quite like the aesthetic.

You don't have to cover Thailand as part of your beat, do you? Oh, you do? Don't worry, I'm sure no one will ever find anything derogatory you might have said about Thai culture on the Internet.

I thought briefly, too, about entitling this real estate “Big in Japan!,” but I have this new goal to go at least the next three years without publicly embarrassing myself. 

Might want to reset that sign back to "Zero days since publicly embarrassing myself."

Just as a deterrent, of course, I’ve constructed a first paragraph that slashes total readership to four. (*) 

I think I'll be sticking around for a while. So, make that five.

Now, before I get too far along — before I board the plane, even — let me provide some background. 

Let's all sit at the feet of Swami Chico as he recounts his heroic journey. 

Sometime early last December, I received an offer from The Washington Post to cover East Asia as a foreign correspondent. 

That's an interesting way to describe denigrating your job, implicitly insulting all your Washington Post sports colleagues, alienating your readers, doing a second-rate job on the beat, proving to be a wholly unworthy successor to Barry Svrluga, taking more vacations than a Greek civil servant, and then whingeing to your higher-ups that you didn't want to be an icky sportswriter anymore but could they please find another job for you and not fire your sorry ass into the worst job market for unemployed journalists since the invention of movable type. 

Acceptance of this proposal required a three-second lag time only because my new boss first offered his congratulations in Japanese, meaning I didn’t understand a word of what he was saying.

Somewhere, an unemployed Japanese-speaking j-school grad weeps. 

This, in retrospect, was probably the first good practice for my new life. Tuesday, I fly to Tokyo, my new home. Within a week, after finding an apartment, I’ll be responsible for The Post’s coverage of Japan, North and South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. (‘Etc.’ doesn’t include China.) 

"Etc.?" No worries, the Cambodians and Laotians are used to being overlooked by Americans.

Though I’ve taken full responsibility for preparation — memorizing a fair portion of Kim Jong Il’s family tree… meeting with D.C.-based East Asia experts… honing and developing the Japanese vocabulary of a 3-year-old — nothing quite erases the fact that this is a remarkable job, and I am a wholly unremarkable person, and I am now very excited and very scared.

Anyone here feel the least bit of sympathy for Chico and his terrible plight? Anyone? 

When people hear about this job, they ask, invariably, if I’ve ever been to Japan. (And the answer, invariably — until now! — is no.) But they also ask, almost reflexively, if I plan to establish a personal blog. It is by now, I suppose, an accepted part of the modern human condition, a predictable sequence whose steps I list below, having dutifully submitted to each of them.

The ennui of the Gen Y privileged white professional middle class must have yet another outlet. Surely, as an accepted part of the modern human condition, the world demands it.

Step 1.) Person X obtains new job, requiring a move overseas.

Someone should tell Chico that "obtains" isn't a synonym for "whiningly demands."

Step 2.) A small number of people in Person X’s life suggest, even if they don’t really mean it, that, Hey, you should really start a blog, and Yeah, you’ll have to send me the link.

Do I need to start a beef with Eli Saslow, too?

Step 3.) Person X starts to realize that, Hey, it’s true; everybody has a voice; everybody has a story to tell, and maybe it’s not such a bad idea. Maybe, in fact, it’s a good idea. Person X tours the blogosphere, trolling for possibilities. He realizes that there’s a good chance no American citizen since 2005 has relocated to East Asia without establishing a blog. Generally, as subsequent research reveals, these blogs begin with the photo of a frenzied Tokyo intersection, the only thing motionless and in focus being, in the foreground, a white and somewhat flustered face, possibly framed by the display of a double-thumbs-up sign. The rest of the picture is a hallucination of warp speed life — lights and pyrotechnics and indecipherable signs and anime billboards, all the confusion and untamed beauty of the world’s most populous vortex. Ahhh, Tokyo! Here I am, “Big in Japan!”

Upon completion of his tour of the American-relocates-to-East-Asia portion of the blogosphere, Person X should have realized that most of the interesting things that could be said about Tokyo-style sensory dysphasia and dislocation have already been said. Person X should have realized that, unless he fancies himself some combination of Pico Iyer, William Dalrymple, and Paul Theroux (and really, Person X would need a truly massive ego to think such a thing), anything Person X might add to the wordy vastness of the topic would really be nothing more than a faded VHS copy of Lost in Translation. Person X should have realized that while everyone may have a voice, not everyone should speak.

Person X should also have realized that using phrases like "Person X" as a lame device to talk about one's self in the third person makes him sound like a self-important douche juice.

Step 4.) Person X joins the blogosphere.

Step 5.) The world becomes a better place.

A better place for comedy.

So, here I am. I’m in. I was at least 93.4-percent committed to the frequent upkeep of this blog and then my parents bought me a flip-cam, which pretty much sealed the deal. Since then I’ve applied for and received’s official Waiver To Write With Unapologetic Immodesty, which is really just a formality around these parts.

I thought Chico already got that waiver from the WaPo's Sunday magazine. He needs another outlet for his solipsistic meanderings?

I am going to miss America, and in particular Washington, D.C. I am going to miss my parents and my friends. I am going to miss a world that makes sense.

To you. A world that makes sense to you. You know, you, the thing that you apparently think it's all about.

As a writer — or rather, as somebody who loves to observe eloquence — I will miss the way people talk. A few weeks ago, I heard author Tim O’Brien speak at a local bookstore, and with words — only words, and just the right words — he told stories for 60 minutes, and many in the crowd who probably didn’t expect to cry were crying. Strange, I know, but that’s the moment when I got really sad about leaving America.

I really hope Henry Allen, Joel Achenbach, Emily Wax, Pamela Constable, and the entire WaPo sports desk are lining up for a last chance to punch Chico in the balls before he leaves.

Leaving is not easy. But it’s right. I know this intuitively like I’ve known nothing else. A few weeks ago, foreign editor Kevin Sullivan, who himself has spent years in Japan, termed it like this, and I paraphrase: “Look at it this way. Right now your life is too easy. Nothing is a challenge. Soon everything will be a challenge, but it will be fun. You just have to go in with the right attitude.” And that, to me, made sense.

Since I know how Chico approaches a challenge, I expect to see Steve Yanda and Gene Wang filling in for him by September.

Now all the goodbyes are mostly over. My apartment is empty, but for the techie gadgets and clothing. Last Wednesday, I had my final Japanese class with my fantastic tutor, Kohriki-sensei. Last Thursday, in the latest sign that I no longer cover the National League East, I went out to lunch with my boss, who suggested I buy a Kevlar vest. 

I'd say that you need that Kevlar vest as a result of how you covered the National League East.

Then, Friday, I took a 24-hour trip to New Orleans for a buddy’s bachelor party. It was a debauched, terrific, poignant time, and in tribute we all conducted small-scale “top kill” missions — calling for a violent clash of unsavory substances — within our own stomachs.

Ha ha, oily post-Katrina New Orleans is nothing more than a theme park playground for upper middle class debauchery and an opportunity to make a tossed-off joke about environmental devastation and the death of an entire way of life. Good times.

Also -- "violent clash of unsavory substances" -- Jim Morrison called. He wants his terrible poetry back.

Saturday, I came home. Sunday morning, I wrote this, and now there’s basically nothing else standing between my old life and my new one.

What, you're not going to tell us what you had for Sunday brunch? I thought you wanted to write about food.

(*) And even those four will be tested by future blog entries dedicated entirely to yearnings for American breakfast cereal.

That's right, why try to understand a new culture by acclimating? Much easier to blog about how the Japanese eat fish and soup and rice for breakfast and no one's ever heard of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. And have you seen the toilets?

Bon voyage, Chico!


Positively Half St. said...

Well done. I enjoyed your post, and could not bring myself to read his blog. I tried to be nice, but he was a failure for us, almost on purpose.

You should have more readers than your grandma, since I had sportspyder connect to your blog, which is most entertaining.

CoverageisLacking said...

"Step 5.) The world becomes a better place.

A better place for comedy."

Not here it doesn't. Geez, if you're going to waste so many words on this (it appears you're writing even more than Chico-san) you might try bringing the funny at least once per blog post, ya think?

Chico-san: FAIL

You: Bigger FAIL, and thereby PATHETIC.

Nate said...

I for one wish you all the best with your shiny new obsession.

CoverageisLacking said...

Nice post, I enjoyed it.

And why is the big Irish cookie continuing to make an ass of himself by pretending to be other people?

The Emperor Has No Clothes said...

Hey Kevin/CiL, maybe you should quit talking to yourself in your blog comments, team up with ABM's many personas non grata and try to talk Uncle Ted into getting Nyger into that multiple personality disorder treatment. I hear he's authorized Stan to grant the group discount liberally.

Oh wait, a group discount for MPD treatment? That's kinda redundant, innit? Never mind. Just go back to talking amongst yourself.

Sec314 said...

The good news here is that Chico will not be doing any more pinch hitting for Kilgore or Sheinin or anyone else in the Sports Dept.

I actually read that self-indulgent piece about his Uncle he had in the WaPo magazine. I kept waiting for some observation or conclusion, but it just sort of ran out of gas.

WFY said...

Sec314: I read it to and was thinking the same thing.