An American reporter in Japan

Friday, September 22, 2006

Voice of Verizon

James Earl Jones came to the Ramsdell to do a benefit for the renovation of the old Dickson School in Brethren (where he graduated from high school). I was lucky enough to be an usher. He read some Longfellow and Walt Whitman, but my favorite was when he read The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. He also took questions from the audience. It was an awesome experience. James Earl Jones could captivate an audience reading names from the phone book or my grocery list!!! It's hard to believe that he was practically mute from a severe stutter as a youth. He credits one of his teachers, Mr. Crouch, with unlocking his voice--to which we owe Mr. Crouch a huge debt of gratitude!!

Impending Goat

Pardon me for not awaiting Typhoon Yagi's approach with bated, bad weather breath.
I have yet to be blown away by all this typhoon talk. The year I've spent here has been filled with frenzied forecasts, but the only typhoon I've seen was a dud. The base went into lockdown last October right after I moved here. I was a-goggle with anticipation. So far, Japanese earthquakes lived up to their reputation -- me and Carly Simon feel the Earth. Move. Under my feet...once a month. I knew my first typhoon was going to be rad! Everyone went home from work early except for this reporter, who was living at the Navy Lodge and works til 9 p.m. All the stores and restaurants were closed. But beyond couple raindrops--all the typhoon meant was I ate out of the vending machine that night.
Where were the thrills, the chills, the Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness? I mean, you can't say "We're in TCCOR 4" without a a twinge of Star Trekkian excitement, right? We chew our nails waiting to see if the tropical storm gets promoted to a typhoon like we were going to get the raise and fringe benefits.
But one can only take so much build up with no climax. Moreover, typhoons at Yokosuka are political -- which adds to the cynicism. Two years ago a typhoon was forecast for the night of the Navy Ball. After all that work, the money spent, the spousal politics -- no one wanted to lock down the base. The ball must go on. Besides, Yokosuka/Tokyo is pretty far north and protected by bays (unlike southern Japan, which always gets hit), that's why the forecaster's foreplay never goes anywhere.
You can image what happened. The typhoon laid waste to the base. Million-dollar warships smashed into each other. Trees fell on cars. Epaulet's swirled into the vortex. People got in big, big, trouble.
So now, a brisk breeze is enough to start freaking out. Yagi, meaning "Goat," is the 16th storm of the northwest Pacific'’s tropical cyclone season (Note: I didn't notice the other 15). It strengthened into a "super typhoon" Thursday and is tracking east of Tokyo, but may blow 45-mile-an-hour kisses to the coastal areas Sunday.
The ships have moved out to sea lest they smash into each other and the sailors are irritated, as they have to sit on a ship instead of getting a weekend. I shot the Cowpens getting ready to shove off for some "impending typhoon art," and one lieutenant urged me to run another picture Sunday "when it's sunny and all the Japanese are playing golf outside."
Forgive the pun, but Japanese do take typhoons as a matter of "course." Even in big storms -- like ones that kill people -- Japanese clean up the wreckage and move on. So have I brought my bottled water? Nah, I think I'm going with the Japanese model on this one...in my town, typhoons are synonymous with "Surf's Up."