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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Take Another Road," Chapter 11...Looking Back

Well, hurricane blogging is done, and it's time to get back to our story.  Thus far our tale:  we have traveled along ten chapters of "Take Another Road," and I hope I have held your interest.

Chapter 11 follows now...again, I hope for your thoughts, comments and critiques...all the previous chapters are in the Older Posts.

Away we go...


Chapter 11--Looking Back

            Dear Kira:  I’m sorry I haven’t written much lately, but Finals Week has been stressful on me, mentally more than anything.  Even though we only have one per day, they last a good two hours each, and this term they were tough.  Thankfully, Friday has arrived and Kaz, Mei and I are down to the last one, science.  I think I’ve done well so far, though I’m a little worried about the history exam I took yesterday.  I should pass okay, though.

            Without the other’s help, I would not have made it.  Midori would join us, and we’d meet at each other’s houses every day, to go over what we had to know.  We feel like we know the study material that much better, and that should translate to the exams. 

            We even helped Mei while we were at her house as she worked out in the back; we took turns holding the pads for her while she practiced her kicks.  Mei has gotten stronger; she knocked poor Midori over the first time she tried to hold for her!  Then we watched Mei work the posts--no wonder she scares people at times.

            I have also found a little free time to read again.  I borrowed A Midsummer Night’s Dream from Mom’s bookshelf; not that I’m trying to impress anyone, but I do like a good challenge.  Minoru will probably have a comment on it, should I mention this.  In any case, he is always interesting to talk to.

            Our “new” club will go to Kaldera’s tonight, and then we’ll go sailing over the weekend.  It’ll be great fun, and I’m excited.  The club idea went down well with Asuka and Minoru, too; they love it.  We’ve become such good friends; I wish you could meet them. 

            I love you, Kira, as always…Aimi.

            Aimi, Kaz and Mei walked down the street from Masuyo High.  The last final had been completed, and all were relieved.  “I think I passed,” Kaz said, “but not without your help, you two.  I owe you.”

            “Don’t worry about it,” Mei replied, “we all did fine, believe it.”

            “Yes,” Aimi agreed.  “So ends the first term.”

            “It’s been strange not to see Asuka or the others,” Kaz noted.  He paused slightly, then continued, “I wasn’t over at Kaldera’s all week, because of the exams and studying.”  He re-shouldered his backpack; he and Aimi were also carrying the gear they would need for the weekend, and Kaz of course had brought his guitar.  “I’ll be glad to get away for a couple of days.”

            “I’m sure it’ll be fun,” Mei added, “and I am interested in Kaldera’s place.  A pity Midori won’t be with us.”

            Aimi could tell by the sound of her voice that Mei was sad.  They hadn’t seen Midori much this week, as her exam schedule was different, and her last one had taken place Thursday.  “It does seem a little quieter without Midori,” Aimi admitted, “and by the way, I’m really happy for you and her.  You make a cute couple.”

            Kaz laughed, and Mei returned, “We are not a couple, I’ll have you know!”  Mei then joined in the laughter and added, “But yeah, I do like her, she’s a great kid.  That will never diminish how much I love the both of you, and I’m glad you guys have taken to her as well.”

            “How can we not?”  Aimi asked.  “Midori is so sweet, and she really needed a friend when she got here.”

            Mei nodded, and her thoughts drifted back to the early spring.  It was the first day of the new school year, and Mei wondered about just how all of that had happened, and the way it did.

            The incident occurred in one of the narrow hallways of Masuyo.  It was actually the second day of the term, but the first had only been a half-day, for registration and orientation.  Mei and her friends had been passing through one of the crowded halls on their way to homeroom.  It was easy to spot the first-year students, though all classes wore the same uniform.  Funny, they looked so young and small to Mei, now that she was second-year.

            Mei had spotted Midori, as she walked a short distance ahead of them.  She was loaded down with her books, and looked like just about every other first-year kid, nervous and a little bewildered as she looked around.

            Then it happened.  Near the end of the hall were four boys, a group of second and third-year kids.  One of them Mei knew well; his nickname was Kai, and he had a bad reputation.  He was tall and thin, and preferred the Emo hairstyle.  He also had a mean, pockmarked face, and the former adjective matched his attitude. 

            Seeing Midori approach, Mei saw him cast a glance at his buddies.  His foot shot out at the last moment and he tripped Midori, but he also put his hand between her shoulder blades and shoved her over, hard.

            Midori’s momentum sent her to the tiled floor at a bad angle; her head struck the floor, and her books and papers flew every which way.  Everyone around her backed off, and there were intakes of breath from some of the kids, but no one did anything to help her.

            Midori slowly pulled herself to her knees.  Her hand went to her face; even from a distance and with others in the hall between them, Mei saw she was bleeding.  Kai and his friends just laughed.

            “Stupid Zainichi,” he cracked, “can’t even walk straight!”

            Midori was bent over, gasping for breath; it was obvious she was trying not to cry.  Mei dropped her book bag on a nearby bench and made straight for Kai.  Her temper was always right beneath the surface, and Mei was not afraid to show it. 

            While Aimi and Kaz went to Midori’s aid, Mei got in Kai’s face.  “Pick on someone your own sex, Kai!”  She snapped.  Mei only came up to Kai’s chest, but she was broader in girth, and that made up for it.  “Or perhaps you’d like to try me?”

            Kai’s friends backed off; they knew Mei, and what she was capable of.  Kai knew as well, but his demeanor did not change.  “What’s it to you?”  He sneered.  “This little bitch can’t even stand up; but I guess you need to get it where you can.” 

            His hand came up in a flipping-off gesture, and it was just close enough to graze Mei’s nose.  That was all Mei needed. 

            When attacked, martial arts practitioners are taught to make the most direct response.  Mei did just that, and grabbed his wrist with her left hand.  Having already set her feet, Mei pulled Kai to her and struck him in the solar plexus with a straight punch.  As Kai doubled over, Mei grabbed him by hair and delivered a knee strike to his face, then twisted his right arm.  As Kai went to the floor, Mei threw all her weight down on the back of his shoulder and arm, and straightened the limb into an armbar. 

            Everyone was taken aback as they heard the cracks of Mei’s knee into Kai’s face, then his arm after he hit the floor.  Kai kicked and screamed, but with Mei’s weight on top of him, there was nothing he could do about it.  His friends weren’t about to intervene, either. 

            Aimi and Kaz were helping Midori to her feet by this time, and after about thirty seconds of further torture, Mei decided that was enough.  She released Kai’s arm, went to retrieve her bag, and headed down to the Main Office.  She’d been there before.

            Mei went into one of the vice principal’s offices, a man she got along with.  Fortunately he wasn’t seeing anyone, and Mei sat down and explained what had just taken place.  Needless to say, the VP wasn’t too happy, and made her wait in his office while he went to inform himself of the situation.

            Midori had been shepherded to the nurse’s office by Aimi and Kaz; they then arrived themselves, to report what had occurred.  After speaking to them in the outer office, the VP returned and sat back down at his desk.  “You know what this means, Miss Maeda.”

            The man’s voice was stern, but his expression was at least somewhat sympathetic.  “Yes, sir,” she replied evenly.

            “Could you not have found another way to diffuse the situation,” he asked, “without resorting to violence?”

            “At that moment sir, no.”  Mei looked him in the eye.  “I’m sorry this had to happen, but after what I saw and what Kai said, something had to be done.  He’s done and said things that are not supposed to be countenanced in this school.  Why he’s still here, I have no idea.”

            “That is beside the point.”  The VP was filling out a pink document, which Mei knew was a suspension form.  “His matter will be dealt with in due course, I can assure you.  As for you, while your record until now has been decent, I am afraid I have no choice but to suspend you over this action.  I will contact your mother and inform her of this.” 

            The VP signed the paper and passed it to her.  “Take this to the Security Office,” he ordered.  “They will see you to your locker for whatever items you require, then the front entrance.  You are not allowed on this campus for five days, for any reason.”

            Mei stood up and accepted the document.  “Yes, sir,” she replied and bowed.  She then walked down to the Security Office near the front doors and presented the form.  One of the guards escorted Mei to her locker, then back.  All the way through the process, Mei was still seething.  The guard sensed this and told her that Kai had gone first to the nurse’s office, then the hospital. 

            “It looks like you broke his arm, as well as his nose,” the man commented.  At the door, however, he winked at Mei.  “Good for you, Mei.  It’s about time somebody let that piece of shit have it.”

            Mei smiled back at the guard, but it was thin one.  “I’m not proud of it,” she said, “but I’m sure I’ll hear about it when I get back.  See you.”  She passed through the empty courtyard (the first period having already started) and out to the street.  Mei was about to walk home, when to her left, she saw the girl:  she was sitting on a bench, her hands in her lap on her bare legs, with her head down.  Her book bag lay on the ground by her feet. 

            The kid looked so pathetic; “Hey,” Mei asked as she slowly approached, “mind if I join you?”

            Midori looked up.  Her eyes were puffy and red, and there were still flecks of blood around her nostrils, but there was no discharge. 

            “Sure,” she replied, her voice as small as her build.

            Mei sat down beside her.  “I’m sorry about what happened in there,” she said, “that guy treats everyone like crap.  It wasn’t anything you did.”

            “I suppose.”  Midori sniffed and again looked down at the pavement.  “I’ve been through it before,” she went on, “but my courage failed me.  Normally I can just walk away from things like that, but I couldn’t today.”

            Mei looked at the girl; she was Korean, obviously full-blooded.  Mei knew how hard it was, just being mixed-race in this country.  “Well,” Mei suggested, “a new school, the first day, you’re thinking about a thousand other things, you just don’t expect something like that to happen.”

            “I know,” Midori replied, “I was just hoping it would be different.  The Vice Principal sent me home; he said with all the excitement, I should just come back tomorrow and start over again.  Oh, by the way, I’m Midori.  Thank you for what you did in there,” she added, as she offered her hand.

            Mei shook Midori’s hand and gave her name.  “It’s not something I do as a habit,” she said, “but when I saw you being taken advantage of, I had to.  Don’t worry about Kai, he’s not gonna be here much longer if I have anything to say about it.  He’s been a troublemaker ever since I knew him; he thinks because his parents have a little money and political clout, he can do whatever.  After today, it will be easy for the school to get him out of here.”

            Midori nodded, but did not seem so sure.  “Your friends,” she replied, “Aimi and Kaz.  They were very nice; they helped me back there.  I need to thank them.”

            Mei smiled and put her arm around Midori.  “They’re my best and oldest friends,” she explained.  “We live on the same block, they’re good people.  Stick with them, if you need someone to hang out with.  I’ll be back in a few days, so we can hang, too.”

            “I’m sorry you got suspended,” Midori told her, but Mei cut her off. 

            “Not your fault,” she said, “besides, five days’ suspension is five days’ rest.  Aimi and Kaz can keep me up on my classes.”

            “How about your parents?” Midori asked.  “They’re probably going to be mad about this.”

            “Nah,” Mei quicily replied, “they’re divorced.  Mom’s gonna be cool with it, once she knows why.”  Actually, Mei did wonder how she was going to explain it to Reiko, but believed that her mother would at least understand.

            Midori smiled, and Mei did as well.  “You’re very kind, Mei,” she said, “thank you.”  She then looked up the street.  “Oh, Mom’s here,” she added.

            Both rose as a late-model Toyota pulled up to the curb.  Mei stood aside and watched as an attractive, well-dressed young woman got out.  Her first thought had been: this is her mom?  She’s Japanese, and she can’t be older than 30.  Midori must be adopted…but if Midori is about 15...that’s kind of weird.

            The woman immediately went to Midori and asked if she was all right, a look of real concern on her face.  Midori indicated she was fine, and introduced Mei to her.

            Seeing her daughter was okay, the woman smiled, shook Mei’s hand and bowed.  “Thank you for helping Midori,” she said, “you’re very kind.”

            “No problem.”  Mei returned the bow.  At the question of whether she needed a ride, Mei replied, “No, thanks.  I live in walking distance.”

            Midori then put her arms around Mei.  “Thank you again, Mei,” she said, “I’ll see you when you get back.”  Mei remembered the feeling of the girl’s arms around her as she returned the embrace; it was unlike the embrace of friendship, the type she felt from Aimi, Kaz or her other friends.  It reminded her of Shuji, but she shut out that thought.

            “You got it.”  She waved as they drove off, then Mei turned for home, feeling better about it all.  Fighting is not what I took martial arts for, but sometimes you have to.  I’m glad I could fight for someone else, someone who needed help.  Kai also did get the boot; he was expelled, but his folks can always pay to send him someplace else.

            “Here we are.”  Aimi’s voice brought Mei out of her reflections.  They were across the street from Katsuhashi, and Asuka and Minoru were waiting for them by the main gate.  Both were also carrying gear for the trip, the latter his shamisen as well.  They crossed the street, and all greeted one other.  Presently, the white Vanagon rolled into sight, and Kaldera pulled alongside. 

            All climbed aboard as they gave their hellos to the man and Kaz called shotgun.  Once their equipment had been stowed, Kaldera pulled into traffic and turned down the J-rock station he’d been listening to. 

            “All done for the year?”  He asked.  At their positive replies, Kaldera replied, “Right, then.  Tonight we ride!”

            Everyone laughed as the Vanagon headed down the street.  Aimi thought everyone was in a good mood, as was she.  It was time for some fun.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Hurricane" Irene, Part 4...that should be about it from here...

Okay!  It's now 10:21 am Eastern Time as I write this, back to work at WITF.  My colleagues, Tim Lambert and Megan Lello are working it on 89.5, but I have not had time to really listen in; getting ready for very abbreviated sports reports for KYW 1060 in Philly.

I needless to say didn't sleep an awful lot; found plenty of things to do around the house while keeping an eye and ear out on things.  Had a couple of minor power outages, but the electricity came right back on. 

The worst of the storm has moved northward...

I haven't watched Boston TV in years, even when I go up to visit.  Looks like they're doing their best.  I give kudos to the NBC 4 crews in New York for doing a very good job, without sounding like they're covering the end of the world.  A lot of local and some cable outlets could take lessons from those folks.

I finally awakened this morning to find still windy conditions and occasional bursts of rain.  The house survived the night okay, and the property looks good.  Couple of big downed limbs, but one of those was already headed for the ground anyway.!/media/set/?set=a.10150275719565787.336997.552340786&type=1

Not a lot of exciting pictures, sorry to say.  My old friend Alexandra who lives in NYC said Irene was all hype.  She certainly still caused plenty of damage along the coast.

Another old friend Ardyth rode out the storm on Long Island, in the mandatory evac. zone:  she reports they had power nearly all night, some heavy waves washed over the boardwalk onto the beach, but flooding has closed a number of highways.  So no one's going much of anywhere.

Irene is now a tropical storm, but still can cause trouble as it blasts through New England and into Canada.  But it looks like we came out of it without too much difficulty. 

Anyway, I do not expect to blog much more about the storm, unless something really unusual happens.  I did this mostly as an exercise of my skillz; keeps you busy and going.

I well remember the days when we had to go mad trying to rig any possible way of getting information, begging, borrowing and pirating if need be.  The Internet has made it easier, though not always perfect.

Looks like we're back to your regularly scheduled blog...haha!

Irene Update, Part 3

This will need to be's about 1:30 in the morning Eastern Time as I write this...we are now getting lashed by wind and rain here in the Midstate.  Bear this in mind:  I am a good 90 miles west of Philadelphia.  This is a storm here, with continuous rain and winds; go that far east, and think of how rough it is.

I was roused by a sound that didn't shake me, but it was enough:  power outage.  Momentarily, thankfully, and I was able to get things back up.  Cold, clammy conditions, forcing me to close my bedroom window.  With it closed, you can feel and hear the situation outside.

I've been watching NBC 4 (hooray for the Internet and streaming!), or listening throughout the night; they have done damned fine work.  New York is getting it now...what you can hear on the stream as well as see proves it's getting worse.  Now look at this:

This ABC affiliate's fine weather link shows Irene has not yet hit New York.  It will not be paralell to Philadelphia until 8 am.  Now, that is telling.  While Irene appears to be weakening a little, it's still powerful.

The storm appears to be skirting the Jersey Shore, but it's on track to move on New York, especially the western edge of Long Island, then into Connecticut, through New Hampshire and into Canada.

Now, we are getting some higher winds, gusting up...they are talking of storm surges.  We saw what it did in Japan, with the tsunami; we're not going to have that but it's still dangerous.  3-8 feet along the Jersey Shore.

Anyway, I must crash again...a long day tomorrow, and I'm sure I'll have much more to report as my day wears on.

Again, be safe, all...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Irene Update, Part 2

So far, the night in the Midstate has been pretty quiet...we've had steady rainfall for more than four hours, and also a bit of wind.  Nothing too terrible.  My NOAA Weather Radio tripped only once about 35 minutes ago.

Reports have been interesting, from different places, via Twitter:

RT : NJ News Traffic Advisory: Please avoid Highway 9, it's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive.

It's so wet at Fenway, fans are playing 'Marco Scutaro', not 'Polo'... "Marco" from 1st base side, "Scutaro" from 3rd...

Those are the more humorous ones.  A old boss of mine had a boat near the Rappahannock, and hopefully got that to safety. 

On Long Island, an old friend of mine, and nearly 3/4 of her condo have stayed, despite the evac. order; Ardyth's reports include:

"Just starting to get some wind, been raining on and off all day."

"Lightning and thunder just arrived." (10:02 pm, Eastern)

"...the worst of it is not due to arrive for a few more hours."

"The only thing I'm really concerned with is the storm surge @ high tide tomorrow.  There's a canal 2 blocks away."

"We can't leave the house now...I hear the wind howling now."

Those all in the space of about 10 minutes.  Ardyth is Long Island tough, so they should be alright. 

My old friend Alexandra has just chirped in from NYC:  "All good...Irene is hype...just some wind and rain here."

Well...we'll see...let's hope the track of the storm continues off the coast, as this shows:

This is pretty neat...anyway, I am appreciative to NOT be in the middle of it, not for nothing.  I've been through two hurricanes, and survived countless Nor-Easters to respect Mother Nature.

NBC 4 has done a very good job of covering the storm tonight; still doesn't look like the worst is there yet...appears to be about 2 am for the city, by a rough look at the above link's model.

Mayor Bloomberg is talking once again...will go check this out.

I think I'll get down for a bit...I likely will be awakened by anything that goes down outside my bedroom window...if the storm doesn't wake me, the cats will!

Again, be safe, my friends and all others...

Irene Update from Midstate PA...

A pretty quiet evening on the whole for this part of the Mid-Atlantic; my guess is we in the midstate are going to get off reasonably lightly.

The past 2-1/2 hours have had light to moderate rains and breezy conditions, but nothing serious.  That could change as the night goes on.

An interesting steady cam on the Jersey Shore somewhere...the sound of the wind, the rain hitting the camera and the ground is different.  There are some voices, but I don't know if they're camera minders or people just out for "fun."

The Weather Channel has done pretty well on the coverage today and tonight, mostly because the Drama Queens aren't on much, if at all.  The people who do the real work are at it, and it's good work so far.

Now if you've watched any of this, the closer to shore you are the more dangerous this is.  Then, there are some people who have no clue whatsoever:

What do you want to bet someone's gonna demand that idiot be charged for indecent exposure?  Actually, the whole world now knows he's a moron, so that should be enough shame for have to admit though, it was pretty funny.

Twitterverse for me is pretty quiet, don't have a lot of followers.  Some of the comments and re-tweets are pretty funny.  A literary agent named JC reports her cousin in Vermont is terrified she will die. a native Vermonter, the storm's not going up there...she stands a better chance of being butted by an irate deer while jogging than dying from the storm.

I'm so having too much specific duties until tomorrow morning.  Quiet day at WITF, covering KYW Sports...wall to wall weather coverage of course:  Phillies game postponed, Union match postponed, just about everything shut down and done till the storm passes through. 

I thought tonight might be a good stretch of my skills as a blogger, to keep you in the loop.  Just for fun more than anything; right now, pretty quiet.  Still very light rain, and the wind has again picked up, but nothing too terrible at this point.

The cats are pretty calm about it all; you can generally tell if something's up, based on their behavior.  Baldrick I think was a bit worried early on yesterday, but now everyone's laid back.

Hell, even the deer are back...more pics on my new folder on Facebook:!/tory.gates

Yeah, having too much fun here...I will see what else there is to do while listening and checking in on things.

If you're in the zone, I wish you safety through this time and to be careful. 

1 million w/o power in the Mid-Atlantic, heavy gusts in Virginia; I'd check with friends down in the VA/DC region's getting a bit more hairy now, I'm sure.

Okay...again, be safe!

Hurricane Irene, what I'm seeing, and what pisses me off...

Well, this should be a very interesting blog, and I'm sure a good game of Whack-A-Troll is going to come out of it.

First, let me get what pisses me off out of the way...the most immediate part.

I made the mistake of reading the Letters to the Editor section of the Harrisburg Patriot-News, or as I call it, "The Rag."  Generally, I consider nearly every newspaper published in this region as nothing more than a rag; the York papers are among the worst I've ever come across, and the Patriot-News isn't too far off.

Like most daily papers, they will print the most outrageous and idiotic letters, knowing they will piss people off, make them write more letters and by way of that, sell more papers.  They don't care that a lot of these letter writers are barely literate, and have been fed a steady diet of media ignorance from TV, radio and the Internet.

The alternative universe loonie bin includes a well-worn topic:  the draft.

BRING BACK THE DRAFT!, proclaimed some woman a while back, and today another woman fired off her missive agreeing with it.

The latest loon did make a good point about our military being stretched to the limit...and so, she reasons, we need to send all our 18-year-olds into the military to confront an enemy she claims is "more evil than any we faced in WWII."

Yeah, right...

Guess what's wrong with this picture?  You and I both know it.

A draft will be fraught with people trying to get out of it.  The rich, powerful and connected will NEVER serve, except in Officer's Training School, and only then if they're assured they'll get their bars or oak leaves.

It will, as this latest atrocity we call a war on terror, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam, and hell, date it back to the Civil War, where this term came from:  "A rich man's war, a poor man's fight."
I'm quite sure the letter writers are too old to serve, and most of their demon spawn probably are too.

The real "enemy" is one within...let's not forget how the Iraq and Afghan wars were started, on a false premise, and how they have been perpetuated.

Quite plainly, we need to end our role in this insanity.  The Iraqi and Afghan leadership need to take over in their own country; yes, we made the mess, we need to advise and to help, but we do not need gigantic residual forces there.

Our troops need to come home, to rest, get extended leave, get paid, and get the respect they deserve.

But we don't need a draft.

I'm so sick of armchair quarterbacks claiming they know what's good for the planet, and rags like the Patriot-News just nodding their collective bobbleheads and printing it like gospel truth.

Just so you know:  I am NOT a pacifist.  As a Buddhist, fighting is not something we need to do for gain, or for sport.  You fight to DEFEND, not to destroy because you can.

Everyone whines about the troops fighting for freedom...our freedom.  But wait, we're not fighting here, we're fighting over there...for their freedom...though we are again trying to change parts of the world that don't understand us, and we'll never understand.

I am all for defending our homeland, and doing what we must within the law to do just that.  Fine; we do not need to export war.

And that enemy within starts with the Bush Administration, and a political/military industrial complex that makes war a profiteering venture.  Our troops would not be in the shape they're in if we did not fabricate an excuse to go to war.

I want our troops home, where they can recover, and know that we do respect them and thank them for their thankless job.



Okay, now that that's out of the way...Hurricane Irene...oh joy.  Well, I'm a bit to the west of the danger zone in Pennsylvania, but we do have storm warnings for the area.  Our eye goes to the east, as the seaboard is getting pounded by a Category 1 storm. 

I think people have finally learned the lessons from Hurricane Katrina, and have got off the beaches and gone inland.  Evacuation orders appear so far to have been followed; I am hopeful that the media will do a better job of handling the story.

The Weather Channel is on here at WITF, as I handle KYW Sports in Philly.  That city is keeping it pretty much wall to wall weather coverage, as they should.  I don't have much to do, except to keep up on the one game the Phillies will play; everything's battened down out there, and NY and Philadelphia are taking prudent and I think, correct precautions.

I have a lot of friends in NYC, and they're smart enough to know what to do; all the same, I hope everyone rides out the storm okay.

TWC is as usual putting their people in danger, and sometimes I think they go too far.  I also don't care much for some of their "reporters."  Some do a very good job, and are actual meteorologists; others are people I consider "Book Smart and Street Stupid."

I won't mention the one who nearly got herself killed during Katrina by stepping out into the full path of the storm from cover.  Her "EEEEEEEEEE..." squeal was heard 'round the world; I couldn't imagine any trained meterologist doing something that dumb, but she did.

One of my XM colleagues (I was there for much of Katrina) called her a "drama queen."  They have a melonhead Al Roker and some of the others.

My aim will be to provide updates through the weekend, based on where I am.  As I say, I'm really on the edge of the storm, but it will be interesting to see how things progress.  Right now, the sun's shining, and we have some on and off rain this morning.  We'll see how it goes.

I wish everyone well, in riding this one out.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Take Another Road," Chapter 10; plus, a Slight Recap

Greetings, once again!  Before we get to Chapter 10 of "Take Another Road," I'd like to give you a brief look-back at my past few days.

Returned to PA yesterday, following a largely good vacation to New England.  Back in Vermont for my nephew Aubrey's wedding, a short jam session with my brother Mark, and then off to Boston.

While there, good meetings with Riz and Jen (we're collaborating on the Sweet Dreams Series manga venture), plus my old friends Gretchen, Linda, and a fine dinner at the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth with Jesse...great to see him again, but all of them really.

I'm in a better state of mind, now that I've returned, and I again feel centered and ready to take on whatever comes next.  

Time now...for Chapter 10...enjoy, and do comment if you please, in any way you wish!


Chapter 10--Other Roads

            Aimi, Kaz and Mei stepped through the doors of Masuyo, joined by a wave of their classmates.  The half-day had passed swiftly, as students prepared for the coming exam week.  Their schedules for the finals were similar, as they shared most of the same classes.
            “Glad it’s only one exam a day,” Kaz noted as he perused his copy of the printed schedule.  “My science one is last, which is good.”  Kaz was not outstanding in that particular class, but Aimi and Mei had helped him through it.
            “Why don’t we do what we’ve done in the past?”  Aimi suggested as they walked toward their usual bench, where Midori waited, again seated in meditation.  “Let’s all get together, and test each other.”
            “That’s cool.”  Mei nodded her agreement, as did Kaz.  The three often met up at one or another’s houses and went over their like subjects.  They had made a game out of studying, and found their test scores were much higher when it was done that way.  Aimi also found studying a lot more fun, when it was done with her friends. 
            “I have to work out,” Mei added, “but come around after that.  Let’s ask Midori, too; she mostly has first-year classes, but it should work.”
            Midori opened her eyes and smiled as she saw her friends approach.  She was wearing the jacket Mei had given her the night before, and it was wrapped about her shoulders like a cape.  “Hello again,” she hailed the three, and climbed down to greet her friends.  “I can’t get over how great last night was,” she continued, “Mom and Dad really enjoyed themselves.”
            “Kaldera was really good, I have to admit,” Mei added as they sat down.  “That guy’s a pro; and Kaz, I’ll say it again:  you rocked last night!”
            Kaz grinned and lowered his head slightly.  “Thanks,” he said, “but you don’t know scared I was!  Kaldera sprung that on me just before he went on, Minoru too.  Minoru didn’t want to play until the end, because he didn’t think the shamisen would work on anything else.  Me, I was shaking until I got out there.”
            “So you felt fine, then?”  Aimi asked.
            Kaz nodded.  “Yeah.  As soon as I started playing, I was all right.  It’s kind of an odd thing, me singing about Johnny Cash, but it was a song I heard over at Kaldera’s, and I just picked up on it.”
            “No matter, it was great to hear you finally,” Midori told him.  “I think everybody enjoyed what you guys did.”
            “By the way…”  Aimi wasn’t sure how to ask it, but felt she must.  “Your folks weren’t there.  You did invite them, right?”
            “I did.”  Kaz shook his head in the affirmative.  “I think they were actually curious,” he continued, “but Mom told me this morning they’d had another argument.  Neither felt like going by the time they got it settled.”
            Aimi watched Kaz’s expression; it again was a fallen one.  “They’re fighting now?”
            “Not really.”  Kaz shook his head again.  “There is a lot of tension between the two of them, lately.  I know part of it is because of their jobs.  They work long hours, and there’s not much time for anything else.  I don’t know for sure, but I’m afraid I may be the source of some of their troubles.”
            Mei reached over and took his arm.  “I can sympathize,” she replied, “but you’re not it, believe me.  My mom and dad had their fights, too, and I used to think a lot of it was my fault.  You know the problems I had when I was younger,” she went on as she indicated Aimi and Kaz, “but they made it clear that I was not the problem, it was them.  Dad was always on the road, doing construction; he still does, he loves traveling and doing different jobs, not always the same thing all the time.  Well, Mom got sick of him not being home; and when her health problems started to mount, they were at odds.  They finally agreed to end the marriage before they hurt each other, or me.”
            “I know what you’re saying, Mei, and I appreciate it,” Kaz said.  “This thing with Mom and Dad is sort of like that, but only in certain ways.  I do know I am a problem to them; they don’t say much, but I know that both of them are concerned.  They want me to go to university, and find a stable life.  I know they’re right, I should do that.”
            Kaz interlaced his fingers before him.  “I should go on to university,” he said, “but for what?  I don’t know; I don’t honestly know what I want to be, or do.  Music is the only thing I’ve truly enjoyed the past year or so.  I love learning from Kaldera, and I learn more than just guitar; he is a great teacher.  Minoru and I spend a lot of time talking with him about so many different subjects.  He’s knowledgeable in a lot of areas, and I feel like he’s gotten me to look inside myself, to find out what more is there.’
            All listened, interested.  “I’ve always felt there was more to Kaldera,” Aimi agreed.  “Hey, that leads me to a question:  we all saw what happened last night when he did that song, the one toward the end?”
            “The one about the ‘Spirit Trail?’  Yeah, that was eerie,” Mei said. 
            “Well, Kaldera’s done stuff like that before,” Kaz interjected, “we’ve seen it.  He radiates a kind of light or energy when we play music; even when he’s just around, I feel it.  I’ve never experienced that from anybody before.  I don’t think there’s anything harmful in it, like Tanaka-san said last night, but it makes you wonder.”
            “He could be a kind of shaman.”  Midori had suddenly made this suggestion.  When all looked to her, she explained, “Shamans are healers, but they’re also seekers.  We read about this in history class:  certain people in tribes all around the world are believed to be able to walk in the Spirit World, and find answers to questions and things.  They can heal people, and in some cases harm others. 
            ‘But I agree,” Midori quickly went on, “I don’t think Kaldera is dangerous.  Now there’s another thing--have you guys noticed that Kaldera is sort of the focal point for all of us?  He’s brought Kaz and Minoru together; he then brought Asuka, really all of us together.  He did it last night, and I wish I was gonna be around next weekend; I am interested to know what he’s talking about, beyond just going sailing.”
            Everyone nodded.  “He has done it,” Aimi said.  “Kaz, Mei and I have always been united, but then came you, Midori.  Minoru and Asuka are here now…he’s almost put us together,” she added, “like a puzzle.  We all get along as friends, and I feel like we’re destined to be together.”
            “Like a club?”  Kaz asked.
            “Yes,” Aimi responded, all the more excited as she talked about it, “and that last song he did, about another road?  Perhaps that’s it:  we’re all on a road that was made for us, but perhaps some of us, or all of us need to take the other, the ‘road less traveled.’”
            “There’s no harm in going in another direction,” Midori said, “if it is the right one for that individual.”  She had picked up on Aimi’s train of thought before anyone else. 
            Aimi stood up.  “I have an idea,” she said.  “We’ve always been our own little group.  I suggest we form a club:  The Other Roads Club.  We’ll bring Asuka and Minoru in, and Kaldera if he wishes.  We’re all in this life together; why not join as friends and go together, and help each other when in need?”
            She put her hand out, and each put their hands on the others.  “We are,” Aimi declared, “The Other Roads Club!”
            “Hear, hear!”  All shouted.
            “Permission to come aboard, sir?”           
            “Permission granted.”  Keru extended his hand as Kaldera stepped from the dock onto the deck of the Bayliner.  The two shook hands, and Keru added, “I see you’ve recovered from last night.” 
            “I’m not sure what there was to recover from,” Kaldera replied with a laugh.  “It seemed like everyone enjoyed themselves, that was the point.”
            “Quite.”  Keru was dressed for the yacht, in a fashionable striped polo shirt and shorts from one of Tokyo’s finer downtown clothiers, plus a pair of red-lensed Mykita sunglasses.  Kaldera thought to himself, clothes do make the man—in some cases. 
            He followed Keru around the port rail, and said hello to Asuka and Minoru, who were lounging on the fiberglass deck before the bow.  Both stood up to greet him, Asuka in a barely-there white bikini, which showed off her every curve quite nicely.  Minoru was in his customary black, jeans this time, and a tank top. 
            “Good to see you again, Kaldera,” Asuka said, “and again, you and your band were wonderful last night.”
            “Thank you,” Kaldera replied, “the whole show went really well, and I am at peace.”  He leaned against the rail, whie Keru went aft; the others sat back down on the towels they’d laid out.  “I gather Keru is ready to give the boat a trial.”
            “Yes,” Asuka replied, “we’re glad you could join us.” 
            Kaldera chuckled as he pulled out his pack of Silk Cut.  “I have always been more of a sail guy,” he admitted, “but it is good to try out different things.”
He regarded Minoru through the smoke of his cigarette as he lit up; Minoru had been quiet and more reserved than usual, it was that pronounced.  “Last night go okay for you, Minoru?”
            “It was,” Minoru replied, “but I’m more happy for Kaz.  He gave an excellent performance, as I knew he would.”
            “He did,” Asuka concurred. “You’ve really done well by him, Kaldera.”
            “Well, a lot of that’s been on his own.”  Kaldera exhaled the smoke through his nose, and continued, “I never had a teacher.  I just fooled around on guitar, piano and other instruments to get what I wanted.  Kaz is doing the same, and he really does work at it.”
            “He does.”  Minoru pulled his knees to his chest and said, “I think he really has found himself.  I did the same, a little earlier in that way.  But I’m pleased for him, and I can’t think of too many others I respect as much as Kaz.”
            Kaldera nodded.  “That’s good to hear,” he replied, “and you two get along really well, but I knew you would from the start.  Speaking of which…” He addressed Asuka, “Will Father let you out of the pen next weekend?”
            Asuka laughed, as did the others.  “Mom worked on him,” she said, “it is a go.  My meeting with Aimi the other day really opened some doors for me, and I really like her, Kaz as well.  I am not so sure about Mei, she still seems a little standoffish.”
            “She is that way,” Minoru said, “but really, she is the kind of person that, if Aimi or Kaz have friends, they become her friends, too.  I would not worry Asuka, about her.”
            Keru returned at this moment, preceded by Nanae, who wore a colorful sarong over her one-piece bathing suit.  “Ah, Kaldera,” she greeted as she took his hand and kissed his cheek as he stood.  “Welcome!  You have been getting rave reviews from our friends who were at the club last night, and you get one from me as well.”
            Kaldera grinned and sat again, Nanae beside him, while Keru remained standing.  “I am honored,” he replied, “and I will have to see how future shows go.  I may have an old friend coming to Japan to tour, and I want to see if I may entice her to join me next time.”
            “Who is this?”  Nanae asked.
            “Her name’s Marlie,” Kaldera explained, “a folksinger that I’ve known for a long time.  She’s had a few records out in the States.  No huge hits, but then again Marlie was never known for being commercial.  I have not seen her in years; it’ll be good to, and I hope you and your friends,” he motioned to Asuka and Minoru, “will be able to meet her.  She’s a great person.”
            “I would like that,” Minoru replied, and Asuka nodded her agreement.
            “Well, we’re loaded up,” Keru broke in, “shall we?”
            “Let’s.”  Nanae stood up and said, “Come down all of you, lunch is on.”
            Kaldera helped Minoru cast off the lines, while Keru climbed to the bridge and fired up the twin diesels.  Kaldera joined him there, and he watched Keru guide the boat (named the Kiyomi) out of her slip, past the long lines of other yachts, cabin cruisers and vessels of the upper classes. 
            “Where’s Daisuke?”  He asked.  “Thought he’d be with us.”
            “He is off today,” Keru told him, “I believe he is on a date with Saki.”  At this, the two chuckled.  Daisuke was unmarried, and was a known favorite of the ladies at the club, Saki for one. 
            “Good for them both,” Kaldera replied.  He lowered his shades as he watched Keru guide the Kiyomi into the channel, a little too close to a passing cruiser for his liking. 
            Keru seemed not to notice, and increased the throttle speed slightly as they moved past several more slips.  “Saki has become an exceptional manager,“ he commented, “for one so young.  Being a hostess is never easy, I’ve learned that much; but she has a thick skin, and knows how to deal with people.”
            Kaldera nodded as Nanae effortlessly climbed to the bridge with a pair of wide, heavy-bottomed glasses.  “Here you are, gentlemen.”
            Keru nodded his thanks, and Kaldera voiced his as he accepted his drink and tasted it.  Tanqueray and tonic, he noted, and very well made; Kaldera made a mental note to himself that he would have to be careful about how much he drank while out here.
            Nanae returned below, and Keru bumped up the throttle a little more as he guided the boat into open water.  “Good day for a sail, eh, Kaldera?”  He asked, over the sound of the diesels.
            “Indeed,” Kaldera replied.  He clinked his glass to Keru’s and took another sip.  He looked out across the water; it was a sunny, almost cloudless day and he eyed some of the other pleasure craft.  I remember these days; I thought I’d left them behind.  But in looking back, I feel happier, I think because of these friends of mine, especially the younger ones.  I must, I know now, watch over them if I can.  I will never be their father, but I can be their friend and stand by them if they need help.  If only they knew how much I need them--but then, that would be too much for them to know right now.


There you have it...thank you for reading!