Dan & Me

By Guest Blogger:  KAZ MATAMURA – Japanese

When I was 13, I was involved with a theatre company, turned into a night owl and stopped going to school. I came home at 1 AM, then stayed up reading and watching old movies, and around 5 AM, turned the TV on to watch “I Love Lucy”, where I learned English from Lucy and Ricky. Then I stayed up for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.  Well, because of the time difference, the evening here was the morning in Japan.

At first, Dan Rather was speaking to me in Japanese.

There was a time that instead of saying, “That’s the way it is” – he signed off by saying just one word: “Courage.” That was it. “Courage.” The Japanese didn’t know how to translate it, so the Japanese voice just said “KA-RAIJI”.

My first published article, about the Alaskan oil spill, was pretty much stolen from Dan Rather’s commentary. He taught me how to be critical of authority. I didn’t know what “environment” or “ozone” meant – until I saw an animation of the earth growing warm, ice melting, water levels rising and Japan disappearing on the CBS news. The sight was horrendous enough for me to stop using hair spray in the ’80s.

Oh, and Sting. He came to Japan, and asked us, then the richest people in the world, to help protect the Amazon rainforest. But then, to the rest of the world, he blamed the Japanese for killing trees for disposable chopsticks. I learned that from Dan Rather, too. I once admired Sting for his courageous break away from the Police and for releasing a stupid titled album “The Dreams of the Blue Turtle” – but after Dan told us what he’d said about us I lost my respect. I don’t like two-faced people.

Dan had compassion – I didn’t know how much the Space Shuttle Challenger meant to the American people until I saw him watching the image of the explosion and almost breaking down.

Dan and I learned about the epidemic of AIDS and HIV together – and saw it through the life of Ryan White. He was a boy who got HIV through a blood transfusion. Dan and I were not happy about those ignorant people who were not nice to Ryan, especially at his school. Ryan eventually was transferred to another school where students were fully educated about HIV.

Dan told us “Don’t treat this as someone else’s problem. It’s our problem.”

Every week, the death toll from AIDS was rising. One morning, Ryan passed away. I woke my mom up. We sat in a front of the TV, as Dan Rather reported the funeral. We listened to Elton’s “Candle in the Wind” and watched clips of Ryan’s last 4 years. We remembered Ryan growing up fighting the disease, and how we’d felt that somehow he would be all right.

My first trip to the US was in 1992. The plane was supposed to leave on April 30th. I was excited, and to attune my ear to the English language I turned on the TV to watch Dan – not the broadcast dubbed in Japanese but the one in English, in Dan’s own voice.

There was a big trial that had something to do with a guy named Rodney King. I didn’t pay too much attention until I saw the headline “LA RIOTS” Dan told me “The airport and schools are closed. LAPD has established a curfew.”

People were firing guns and beating up one another on the street. I watched a truck blocking an intersection and a man being dragged out of that truck

Oh, my god.”

So even before the travel agent called, I knew my trip was cancelled. The Japanese government would not allow us to fly into LA.

A few months later, in the fall, I took that trip, made friends, and returned to Japan with plans to go back to LA to live permanently.

Then the Northridge earthquake hit!

I first saw it on the Japanese news, “LA was destroyed by the earthquake magnitude 6.7.”

Most of my friends lived in Hollywood. But one Japanese girl, Pea, lived in Sherman Oaks. I stared at the TV. I saw a huge fire burning down an apartment complex, and the caption said “Sherman Oaks”

Oh, shit!

I called, and heard, “All circuits are busy. Please try again.”

That night I stayed up, calling every hour, and waiting for Dan. Finally he was there telling me that in Los Angeles all the electricity was out, and the gas was off for fear of fires.

Watching familiar places on the news I tried Pea again and again.

Three days later, I reached Pea. She was all right, and LA revived more quickly than anticipated.

I moved to LA that year.

Oh, America is dangerous. Why you are moving there? They hate the Japanese”

You don’t speak any English. How will you survive?”

I felt more like an American, because I grew up watching Dan Rather.

The Japanese seemed less human than Americans for some reason.

Americans – tall and beautiful. Japanese – short and mousy. Americans bold and courageous. Japanese – we expect others to read our minds, and when they don’t, we get resentful. We don’t like to stand out. We live in a harmony as a group.

But there was Yoko Ono.

She was the first oriental woman to show her bare ass for a cause. If you put hers next to John Lennon’s, you got her message “War is not a pretty thing – you’d better stop it right now, or we will turn around!

I discovered that in America being an oriental is a damn good thing.

In Japan, when I was cranky and didn’t feel like talking to anyone, people called me rude and snobby. In America, I’m “shy”.

In Japan, I was moody. Here I’m sensitive.

In Japan, I was selfish, bossy and loud. Here, I’m a “go-getter.”

On the other hand, there is the stereotype. Americans view oriental women like lost 1950s housewives. Demure and kind, she takes care of her man, and before you tell her what to do, she has taken care of it. She’ll do what her man says, always please him.

I don’t do that.

I am a workaholic. In Japan, being a workaholic is a birthright – here, it’s a disease.

By the time I did move here, around the Monica Lewinsky era, I was an adult and I finally began to fully understand English.

Every night at 6:30 PM I listened to Dan, trying to make sense of the fact that President Clinton was being tried for sticking a cigar in that willing young woman’s vagina. Dan tried to explain to me that Clinton had lied under oath, but I still didn’t get why they were making such a big deal out of it.

After the 2000 election, my mom called me “I heard the news that they were laughing about the president and vice president being a Bush and a Dick. Why is that so funny?

I explained it to my mom that Americans love genital jokes, and then said, “Mom, it’s ELECTION with an ‘L.”

Over the years, Dan softened a lot. I watched him after September 11, breaking down and holding Dave Letterman’s hand. The only way for him to let out his anger was simply to cry.

And then came the 2004 election. During that fateful November night, I was with Dan.

At first, I thought my wish had come true. Dan told me things were going well for Kerry.

As Dan said, “The presidential race is swinging like Count Basie.”

But Dan had spoken too soon and now he had an omelet on his face. The race was too close to call. Dan added, “The race is hotter than a Times Square Rolex.”

Then all those states on the map started turning red, and he said, “Do you hear that knocking…President Bush‘s re-election is at the door.”

I stayed up with Dan.

No one is saying that George Bush is not going to win the election, and if you had to bet the double-wide, you’d have to bet that he’d win.”

Then the Ohio problem showed up. “We need Billy Crystal to ‘Analyze This’,” Dan said.

Dan was not trying to be funny. He is just poetic.

It is like a swan, with every feather above the water settled, but under the water paddling like crazy,” Dan said.

Even as Kerry and Edwards were preparing their concession speech, Dan offered me hope. “In some ways, George Bush’s lead is as thin as November ice.”

And at 4 a.m. he said, “This race is shakier than cafeteria Jell-O.”

Then, Dan left to rest and I turned off the TV, promising the whatever-American-gods-available that if he let Kerry win I would remain celibate for the next four years.

Well, Bush won the election and I won the erection.

After that day, I went into a kind of depression, I couldn’t get laid. I was not able to believe how stupid people could be to actually vote for a moron. Do we have a future? What are we working so hard for? Who are we fighting for? Every time I saw that Baby Bush face, I felt powerless. I think TV is the weapon of mass destruction. Look at how it is making us fat, lazy and brain-dead.

I didn’t know whom to turn to. Dan Rather was no longer the face of the CBS Evening News. The funny white man who was my window to America for almost 20 years was kicked out.

In January 2007, I was in a bar in New York City when a friend of mine told me “isn’t it exciting, Obama is running for President.”

Exciting? A black man running at this crucial time is exciting? I mean at least he doesn’t look like Count Chocula like the Mr. Ketchup guy did, but he is black! We are not really a color-blind nation yet. We cannot take a chance this time. C’mon, democrats, get your act together, I thought.

When Obama beat Hillary, I gave in. Maybe this guy can make it. To start with, he is not really black. He is HALF black. He is a Hawaian. I mean everyone LOVES Hawaii. Plus racism doesn’t apply to good-looking people. If Rodney King looked like Denzel, the LA Riots would never have happened.

My involuntary celibacy may have worked. On November 4, 2009, at 8 PM, Barak Obama got the election and Michelle Obama got the erection. Obama whacked the Bush era.

What elected President Obama was the collective courage to believe that we deserve better. But now, one year later, he is facing collective expectations of those who elected him.

Then I got it. It took more than 20 years. Dan Rather was reminding us of what’s inside of us; that we all have the pioneering spirit in our blood, every one of us, from the Indian who crossed ice sheets to reach these shores to those who fled condemnation, poverty, and war, to those like me who came simply to discover something new.

Dan was reminding us of what we have done and what we can do; that we can still believe in possibility. Yeah, times are tough now, but considering the speed of growth of this country, I want to believe this Bush thing was just another growing pain. I think we can still go on…with a bit more COURAGE.

12 Responses to “Dan & Me”

  1. Jane Hoffman says:

    I REALLY, REALLY enjoyed this article. It was different and refreshing and very entertaining. I was laughing as I could see all the different scenarios you painted with your beautiful writing. I’m surprised English is not your first language. I would read this article again and again and still enjoy it.

  2. Erotic Movie says:

    I enjoyed LOOKING at this gorgeous woman. Kaz your article is fun but you are really good looking. Lucky Dan.

  3. Wendy Drolma says:

    Hi Kaz, I’ve enjoyed seeing things through your eyes. Thanks for sharing your optimism. My focus landed on Dan Rather. He never much made it onto my radar though, since you bring him up, I’m scanning my mind for impressions of him and can only say, he seemed like a man with a heart. There’s something of Bill Moyer’s earnestness about him, an authentic connection to his chosen field. Still, having broken up with television over 20 years ago I’m delightfully brain-dead when it comes to these things. In general, the free floating, random impressions that make their way in are more than enough to remind me why I stay away. Powerful stuff!

    • KAZ says:

      THANK YOU, Wendy!!! What made you decided to break away from TV 20 years ago???

      • Wendy Drolma says:

        I broke up with television because it depressed me to be fed such a low quality diet. I recently heard a statement that struck me as true, “Eating is a form of information transference.” Of course, no less true a statement goes for television. The sound of it (not just the words), did terrible things to my mood. Like walking into a casino, swirling carpet and wallpaper patterns, strange binging sounds, failed human aspiration, TV has always left me feeling sick to my stomach, completely estranged from the people around me and without any hope of connection. Not only that, I feel it creates an addiction to that state. I left it behind because I could feel it sucking the life out of me.

  4. Tao says:

    Dan Rather should read this article. He would certainly be flattered.

  5. Sandra: Co-Founder of this Blog says:

    Kaz, you engaged my attention with the story you told in this article. It was very interesting. I liked it a lot and apparently, so did others who’ve commented. Dan Rather has taken some heat lately with some comments he made about Obama with reference to a watermelon. What were your thoughts on that? Did you think any differently about Dan?

    • KAZ says:

      Yes, I am aware of water(mellon)gate. What if he said “cantaloupe” instead of “watermellon”? That’s not racism, right?

      Actually, I think Dan meant to say “couldn’t sell watermellons IN JAPAN.” Watermellon in Japan is so expensive. It is a special gift, like Omaha Beef here. Selling watermellons is a hard business nowadays.

      Seriously, I hope someday these lame stereo type referrences become archaic, and we will stop making a big deal out of it.

  6. Mikki says:

    wonderful insight into how foreigners view us and how we can have a positive impact.

  7. Nigel L. says:

    This is a very good article. I had forgotten about all those incidents in our history and it’s nice to reflect on the good and the bad and see it from someone else’s eyes. My, how far we’ve come with AIDS and riots and natural disasters and even racism – hey, we elected an African American! Congratulations. I’ve enjoyed reading this article.

    • KAZ says:

      Indeed, Nigel. We came a long way in the past 100 years. It is solely because of Will Power of American people. We can do anything, really. We just need to stay focus on “common goodness.”

  8. PiterJankovich says:

    My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

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