Same Story. Different City. And When Enough is Enough.

…since this space is shutting down, I am slowly moving a lot of pieces I wrote there, here, so I don’t lose what is and will always be a part of me.


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“You recommend ceviche? Ceviche… as in the dish with the raw fish?” I couldn’t help wonder out loud. After all we are in Texas, the land of steak, brisket, sausage and all kinds of fried and grilled and roasted and braised meats but the server’s recommendation is… seafood? And fresh seafood at that. I am skeptical. I can’t help it.

It was some years back in Austin, Texas. I had flown in from New York. Him from Europe. How or why we were in this random city is a story for another day. It was dinner time. We weren’t in the mood for BBQ or Tex-Mex so I asked locals for dining recommendations. Tallying the general consensus, we end up at Truluck in the Warehouse District.

The server laughs and maintains a pleasant demeanor as though tourists shocked by seafood recommendations in Texas is a frequent occurrence (I think he was just being kind). Before this night, I never imagined seafood as something I would order in Texas, but the server is correct. The ceviche at Turluck is fantastic. The fish is exactly the way it’s supposed to be: firm, dice-sized chunks of a non-descript white fish. The scallops are soft, creamy, slightly salty with a bite. The onions, aptly chopped. The three in my mouth, blending with the punch from the cilantro, and the kick from the spice infused lime juice is heavenly. I cannot get enough of the flavors and textures of ceviche.

There are house-made tortilla chips as an accompaniment that seem almost unnecessary. I am taken by this unexpectedly delicious ceviche, and my dining companion is too. I think we found something special.

Over five hours, two bottles of wine, two appetizers, a main I can’t remember, we got lost in conversation and with each other. I listened as he spoke of his ending marriage and heart wrenching family situation. God, this man is going through so much — how is he even functioning?

If hugging hearts were possible, I think I did just that. I showered this sad man with love and through the 15 days we spent together in Texas, I saw his broken soul transition to one filled with dreams, happiness and… hope.

Before him, I had no idea love so strong, so pure, so unconditional existed. I didn’t even know I was capable of giving another so much. As we said our farewells at the airport, I remember thinking: I don’t need anything in return. I only want to love him.


South Beach Miami, a year and some weeks later. I fly in from NY. Him from Europe. We still live on different continents but somehow maintained a relationship. South Beach is another neutral location we chose to meet over the year. I don’t care where we were. I just want to be with him.
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Playground for Adults

…since this space is shutting down, I am slowly moving a lot of pieces I wrote there, here, so I don’t lose what is and will always be a part of me.


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The champagne is steadily flowing. The DJ is dancing along with her vinyls. The crowd is beautiful. The venue trendy.

In any other city this would be a typical Friday night but it’s only Monday. In Tokyo, grown-ups can play any time, any day. It’s easy to see why there are many Peter Pans stuck in a Never Never (grow up) Land.

I am with four girl friends. We, too, are dressed to the nine. Champagne flutes in one hand. Cigarettes in the other. It’s the pre-opening party of the newest bar in the playground for foreigners: Roppongi.

As the reception draws to a close, we are told the after party is around the corner at their sister bar. The champagne takes over better judgment and I too, head to the next stop.

The night continues with more champagne, good music. Dancing is my activity of choice. It’s much more fun than talking to another Roppongi guy, whose objective is bedding volumes of women. I am having fun, possibly too much, as the champagne keeps coming.

Our eyes meet by accident. He is in a sharp suit. Even in the dark, I can tell it is exquisitely tailored. He is watching me, as he navigates through the crowd waiting their turns to greet him. He is generous with his attention. Shaking people’s hands. Kissing women on both cheeks. Getting hugged by men and women. Who is this man? He waits until my glass is empty, walks over and signals the bartender to refill my flute. Oh no, more champagne…

”Hello” he says with a smile. He is so charismatic I can’t breathe. I keep my cool, flash a smile and thank him for the refill. ”I saw you at the other bar” he says. ”Oh yeah?” I respond, my body is still moving with the rhythm of the music. I can sense his eyes on me. I turn back towards him and reciprocate his interest with my full attention. We introduce each other and the bartender hands him two new chilled flutes. ”Sit down.” he says, and smoothly replaces my old glass with the new. He pulls a bar stool out. I don’t resist. I sit.

We spend the rest of the evening talking. I am charmed with his existence. The champagne keeps coming, I’m no longer tracking time. Like clockwork, he pulls me towards him and whispers: let’s go, it’s World Cup time. I shake my head more so with exasperation than defiance. ”You are so sure I am going with you.” I say. ”Why wouldn’t you?” he says. Why? There are so many reasons. Way more than I want to think about. But the number one reason is because he owns some of the hottest clubs, bars and restaurants in the trendiest parts of Tokyo. What would someone like him want from me? My gut is telling me to RUN. But I suppress those inner voices and along with my girlfriend, head to the next place with him. Even on the street, he is the man. People call out from all directions to greet him.Jesus. What have I gotten myself into…

Fast forward a couple hours, it is now an indecent time when ‘normal’ people head to work. My girlfriend leaves and it’s just him, me and a few of his staff watching the game. I am sleepy and he notices. He escorts me out into a cab, pays the driver and sends me off with a kiss on the cheek. ”I’ll call you tomorrow.” he says, and closes the cab door.

I wasn’t expecting to hear from him but he calls and asks to see me again. Every fiber of my being is saying NO NO NO, red flag, red flag, red flag! but my will power is gone, thrown out the window with responsibility and good judgment the minute I chose to spend time with him. I agree and see him again at another one of his establishments. It is a busy Friday night. He is in his element. He is the center of attention but his attention is with me. Of course I am enjoying it. He invites me to the private room and we indulge in more conversation, champagne.

I don’t know what I’m doing with this man who I know is bad news. Roppongi is like Vegas, Miami and Beirut times ten. Here he is, this man who is the King of Fantasy Land, and I know I shouldn’t be there. We drink champagne until it is light out again, and he invites me for a dinner date. Everything in me is saying NO but I can’t help but do whatever this man asks. I know it won’t last. But every second I am with him, I feel like a princess.

I wake up to a text with the address of where he is taking me for dinner. I am still undecided but it’s him. I just can’t say no…

To be cont… Maybe.

Resurrection of TokyoFinds

BIG NEWS

I laid TokyoFinds to rest at the beginning of the year.

Thanks to Leah and Angie at Tumblr, IT HAS BEEN BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE!!

REJOICE. Visit Finds here: tokyofinds.com

Sidenotes: as much space as I take up on the internet, TokyoFinds is the only place I post under a paid domain LOL
For those wondering what Finds is:

Instead of polluting my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with all things Tokyo and Japan, I decided to deposit them here. Enjoy.

Big shout-out to Leah!!!!!!!’n Thank you, thank you thank you!

2014.

From Dec. 26th to January 4th, I traveled Japan solo. I chose to chronicle my trip on Hi — publishing platform — instead of Tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking and even on my own blog.

People have been asking why, this essay beautifully captures why:

Africa burns my eyes and sets my nerves on edge.

Even if you aren’t interested in Hi, the essay is a must read, for anyone looking to be whisked away to a land far away with…words.

Read Craig‘s essay here.

A photo from one of the many of the small Japanese villages I visited.
You can read my entire trip here: “Epic Trip 2013

Shirakawago

Asian Market 101

global market

1. Asia, is the global leader in online growth.

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2. Asia, is the global leader for mobile market share

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3. Asia, is a lucrative market for mobile revenues.

This is no secret — that’s why so many people take interest in Asia and one of the reasons I moved to Tokyo.

However, Asia includes the following four countries: China, India, Japan and South Korea. Those four countries account for 66% of Asia’s population, 60% of Asia’s mobile connections and over 70% of regional mobile income. Four markets, four countries with four very different ecosystems.

China = population of 1.4 billion people, GDP of 8.2 trillion USD
India = population of 1.2 billion people, GDP of 1.84 trillion USD
South Korea = population of 50M people, GDP of 1.13 trillion USD
Japan = population of 127.6M people, GDP of 5.96 trillion USD

Then, there are the smaller countries with high GDPs and/or high population like: Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, etc., etc.

To put that into perspective, the US has a population of 314M people (double Japan) with a GDP of 15.68 trillion USD. Compared to the big four Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, India and China), the US has been ahead of the race as far as development, access and economic distribution. This development gap the US has is significantly wider with India and China than the gap the US has with Japan and South Korea, but the US is still ahead of these four countries.

As much as I commend South Korea and Japan’s economies and their astounding growths, India and China’s rapid growth is clearly a focal point if you’re paying attention to the Asian market. Indeed, Asia is a lucrative market with bright economic futures and much wealth ahead.

However, the most important takeaway and my fourth point, is the Asian market is far from a market, one market, single market. People (including myself in the past), casually say Asia — almost as though China, Japan and South Korea are like what Texas, NY and California are to the US.

So for those intrigued by the Asian market, please remember Asia is a massive market that is close to impossible to penetrate, unless one understands what they are dealing with. There is massive opportunity here. It’s fun and lucrative, with plenty of room for disruption in each of the respective ecosystems in very different ways.

But in order to get anything done and move any of these economies forward, these points are so important — trust me, I live in ‘Asia’ ;)

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

There’s optimism. Then there is coddling. #Japan

Saw on Twitter that Sony has slashed their profit forecast by 40%, after poor Q2 results 1

Google News in English, search results are of course all about the profit cuts.
See? (points below)
Sony US

The news in Japanese? Is a crock of shit.

Sony Japan

This is at 6:02 +GMT (Japan time) — two hours after they announced lowering forecast.

Top headline from Oct 14, 2013 reads “Sony accelerating to 3rd global smartphone brand” followed by a bunch of bullshit about their eReader.

This is TWO hours after they announced Q2 losses.

The Japanese media failing to deliver information — good, bad or indifferent — is a bit…bizarre.

I’m going to keep checking, to see if or when the Japanese outlets will report. Maybe it’s cultural differences but I just don’t get this rose colored glasses mentality, where sugar coating hard facts are accepted (cough-Nintendo-cough)

I’m so afraid that coddling will be the ultimate downfall of this country; no matter how resilient the Japanese are.

DISCLAIMER: please excuse the Windows — my work computer is a X1 Carbon on Win7 T_T

UPDATE 11/01/13

Finally, about 12 hours later, there are three news sources that covered Sony’s losses. Bloomberg Japan, CNET Japan and one Japanese publication, IT Media. Sony, is one of Japan’s icons. Their continuous downfall should be a massive wake-up call to Japan.

I believe in optimism but I also believe in knowing the full truth, assessing the situation realistically, finding a solution and working towards the solution.

Directly communicating harsh realities, isn’t the ‘Japanese way’ but this sugar coating, is very troublesome. I hope this country wakes up soon, accept hard facts and figuring ways to move forth.

Or maybe, the Japanese way is to stay in its protective, isolated bubble.

Japan: This is why you can’t speak English

One of the greatest benefits of riding in packed trains during peak commute hours, is how I can peek on people’s mobile phones to see what apps they are using, what they are browsing. Look at people’s books to see what they are reading. Basically, learning by observing.

I want to say I’m looking at the brighter side of being a sardine in jam packed trains every morning and evening, but I’m gonna keep it real — I’m very curious about Japanese people’s consumption behaviors.

Today, I had the great (dis) pleasure of peeking on someone’s English study guide and was shocked to the shit. I mean, WTF is this???

photo 1

This looks more like an econ text book than an English textbook. Look all those Japanese hieroglyphics, breaking down English grammar!!

So I zoomed into the photo, expecting some complicated business colloquialism.
Turns out, those long-ass explanations were for one simple phrase: “An exciting game.”

What the fuck???

I don’t know about you, but there is no way I’d be able to form and speak basic English sentences, with all that extra noise in the way. I’d be terrified I wouldn’t remember all the learnings and apply them.

Jeez.