The Lakers lost the first game to Boston in the finals tonight, which was not unexpected, though I still predict the Lakers in six. Kobe had a lousy game, 9/26 from the floor with only 24 points and missed defensive assignments on Paul Pierce which really was the difference.
To deal with my sorrow I called my two daughters; the first had her mailbox full, the second didn't answer, so I decided to call my good friend, Ralph, who hadn't even watched the game. He was more interested in discussing crawdads from his recent visit to Louisiana.
I put him in the position of comforter and he adapted. He told me it was a long series and made me repeat “The Lakers suck, the Lakers suck,” to free me from the bondage of grief. But when he told me to repeat “Root for the Celtics” my tongue clove to the roof of my mouth and I could not pronounce his shibboleth.
Ralph, perhaps the most dependable of all my friends, weighs about 105 lbs and is five feet tall. I'm 6'6” and weigh 270. When we go out together he likes to order me around, as if I were Lenny in “Of Mice and Men.” I don't mind it; it's nice to take a vacation from alpha maleness so long as you have another to boss you around.
Although third-generation Japanese-American, Ralph has retained little of the old country. Indeed, he announced to me tonight that he “had no shame,” and Japan is a shame culture. So I replied, “I'm Protestant and have no guilt”--which is a lie, of course, for which I beg forgiveness.
Ralph has amazing hands. He fixes musical instruments and builds stereos that will blow you out of the room with just five watts of power. Lately he's taken to photography and fixing old cameras he buys off the Net. What ever he puts his hand to is gold. He is a very fine craftsman with the soul of an artist. He's also an excellent fisherman; one of my nicknames for him is “Fishmeister.” The other is “Le Pig.” The latter nickname I created because it's the complete opposite of Ralph; he is moderate, temperate, cautious, neat and careful; still, when it comes to hogging the spotlight, he is indeed a pig!
Unfortunately he is not an artist, as one listen to his attempts on the saxophone will prove. But because of his big cajones, he's not afraid to jump on stage, because despite his lack of skill he expects everyone to worship him if he has the feeling.
He's more American than I am in this. I think he should be appointed to the famous self-esteem council that our wacky state actually funded as he has no lack of it, and perhaps this is what makes him still Japanese, his sense of superiority.
The Japanese traditionally look upon “round eyes” and others as useless barbarians; Ralph, in his pygmy narcissism, has gone a step further: he considers everyone but himself a useless barbarian. I am not so much his friend as his Samurai bodyguard, and he lets me know that I am expendable.
On the downside, he is a little bit anal, a turd hoarder, sometimes miserly with his wallet. He keeps track of everything to make sure it's fair, though he likes to spend my money.
In any case he comforted me after the Lakers' loss by calling me a tit-sucking weasel and letting me know my real place in the cosmos. I was grateful for his time, much better than dial-a-prayer. He's also a great cook and a knowledgeable bartender, though he always complains that when I visit I drink too much of his booze. He can't wrap his brain around my great size and alcohol tolerance; he drinks like a pygmy because he is a pygmy.
I wrote a poem yesterday, here it is:
Sunset on the Mendocino Coast
A single bat flew
in and out of the pine grove
like a confused swift,
diving and jerking
against the pastel horizon's
merging of violet to red.
It returned, a dark
dab against orange
like a defect in a movie
passing over the screen.
I made a small fire
of newspaper and twigs.
Smoke swirled as randomly
as a bat's flight. Sticks glowed
orange and disintegrated
into white ash. The bat
flew out, dipped
down to the high grass
and disappeared again.
Above the sussuration of the ocean,
thin and white against the high violet,
a sickle of moon shone,
too weak to be reflected--
and I feared shrinking
into something less than bat,
lint on a projector maybe,
maybe as random.
All for tonight. We'll win on Sunday. Go Lakers! Lakers in six!