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by Jim Cunningham

We are nomads, and in the tradition of those wayward folks of the dark past, we tell stories. We have sparse common ground on which to stand--I mean, who ever compared the snack bar in Sagamihara to the Oasis Drive Inn in El Paso, or Scotties Soda Fountain in Small Town, USA? (Even if we can still hear the tunes pulsating from the nickel jukebox). We reach back into the hazy mist of yesterday, and try to configure some image that is simultaneously comforting to us and appealing to an audience. The kicker is that the audience isn't usually interested.

They are either brats with their own tales to tell, or locals who need no yarns to spin--they have real life connections, born on the finite trails of their youth, in the small towns or city neighborhoods where they saw the same lights, heard the same sounds, and digested the same metaphysical meals each day of their lives. Some would say the lived in a land of oblivion, like blind and deaf rodents on a spinning wheel. Others would envy their sedate, predictable lives that we were, as brats, denied the privilege of knowing. In a room full of these--let's call them automatons--we listen to the unpunctuated chatter that we are sure is robust with flavor. All night we try to relate, we wait for a place to plug in and add some of our own energy, but the wires of communication are often cold.

We recount some events that we are sure will tantalize--after all, who can resist a description of your leg after a truck has run your bicycle into an overflowing benjo ditch, or who wouldn't explode with laughter when you did your award winning impression of your 7th grade English teacher (of Japanese descent) who never could figure out what words were plural. It's not that these non brats are politically correct (they're really quite provincial), it's just they don't know what the hell you're talking about. To survive then, we became better story tellers. We had to in order to make up lives for ourselves.

Yes, we did have real lives, but since they were rarely validated by others, we became strangers in a strange land, without Heinlein to write our script. For many of us, this was a permanent status. Our cells were compatible enough with the automatons for mating, but our language was of another dimension where words like Ikura desu ka', DR (delinquent report), and full bird had meaning.

Every once in awhile, we happen upon some other nomad, engaging in respite from his herd, and we find his flock has grazed the same arid prairies or traversed the same snowy peaks (or more likely smelled the same dried squid or remembered the same band at the teen club) and we sup at the same watering hole and bask in the glow of a common fire, wishing that night would be eternal.

But alas, the light of day, and the shepherd and his flock come into specific relief, but only for a fleeting moment, and then they fade into the lifeless horizon as quickly as they came. We trudge along, searching for the next herd, knowing that they may have their stories to share, and we will listen, and hear, and hope they will respond in kind when we tell our tales. For we know they are rich and worth telling, despite the deaf ears of most of the world.


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