Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry CHRISTmas

This Savior in a manger changes everything
that's why we sing!

Merry CHRISTmas, Everyone ~ thanks for being here!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

キミのために: Tohoku 3.11.2011 Three Years On

Above: the yellow section is Tohoku

So, here we are, 3 years later.

It really did change me.  And as i go, i’ve come to discover that it seems to have changed maybe a lot of people, not all of them Japanese and many not necessarily directly affected by the 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami and nuclear plant tragedies that unravelled on March 11, 2011 in Tohoku.

This post would have published sooner and more anniversary-appropriately, but Japan being ahead in time from where i reside here in the U.S. saw 3/11 in Japan ahead of us by nearly a day and i had an intrinsic need to watch as much coverage of the anniversary events airing in Japan as i had access to that day.  On March 11 in my Pacific Standard Time zone, i worked a full day "closing", then discovered once i got home that internet service wasn't cooperating on any device i attempted to crank this out on (it was windy here last night...?).  And still, earlier tonight, programming about Tohoku  continued to air. So, i trust you understand.

Just two weeks ago now while working at my not-so “day job”, someone particularly special happened in to my store.  i was working register, so was the one to greet customers and take their orders.  We get quite a few Asian customers at my store, but it isn’t always evident to me just who are Japanese ...until i get their name for their order, so her name tipped me off.

Dork that i am, i am admittedly happy on the occasion that i meet or encounter my fellow Japanese, be they issei, nisei or sansei.  In my heart, because of our shared cultural heritage, i have an affinity for them (or you, if you qualify) -and, evidently, my (Japanese) soul sees my fellow Japanese as my extended family.  Some take more kindly to this than others.

99% of the time, those who respond to this quality in me most positively are women.  And my very best experiences in this vein have always been with Japanese females in or from Japan who, for God-knows what reason, usually immediately respond to me as one of their own -however not Japanese i may look on the outside.  One of these days i should look into why this has been my experience -because i’m curious like that.

It’s felt a little to me like two puppies meeting and becoming instantaneous friends, having met Yuri.  The things we’ve come to learn that she and i have in common are downright ...eerie.  The Japanese might call it “sadame” (fate).  To me, God did it.

Yuri, i came to learn, is a student majoring in psychology at a local university.  To say that it’s highly unusual for someone from Japan to major in psychology - particularly of the western variety - would be a (gross) understatement.  The field and practice of psychology in Japan has been and remains severely underdeveloped, to its peril.  So in the two weeks since we met, i had to ask why.  Why western psychology?

i was a journalism major, but if i were to go back or do it over, i think the me of today would major in psychology or sociology and minor in business.  Or maybe vice-versa.  
So, there’s that in common.

As for her whys, 

a) an interest in human behavior -which has been the single most interesting facet of the job i’m presently in (y'all are interesting creatures ...wink) and likely plays a significant factor in why i’ve lasted there as long as i have.

b) she has a brother do i.


c) ...3.11.2011 Tohoku.

Yuri was in Japan, albeit closer to Tokyo, at the time of the event -and though i have family and a few friends in Japan, and so have heard some of their accounts of the event, it’s interesting to me to get to hear her experience of it.  No one that i personally know was in Tohoku that day, yet the accounts i’ve heard of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake in and of itself make it clear that that alone was terrifying.  Which only points to how much worse it must have been to have experienced what went down at “ground zero” in Tohoku that day.

We live in such a fast-paced world full of distractions that have, in my opinion, realized and exacerbated an epidemic of ADD/ADHD in developed nations.  My observation of Japan from across the ocean in the context of 3.11.2011 has only made my love for my paternal homeland grow.  Here, in the States, for our plethora of catastrophic events, it seems to me that we grow all-too apathetic all-too quickly.  If we weren’t personally affected by an event, we seem to move on, and quickly -if we so much as notice at all.  Our media coverage moves on just as quickly -which doesn’t help.  i find it unnerving, in fact.  In this rush-and-hurry world, ones personal tragedy gets reduced to a flash-in-the-pan at most, if it makes the radar at all.  Unless, of course, it's you that it happened to.

My family subscribes to TVJapan, an NHK channel available here in the States, which has and continues to air four programs each and every week about post-3.11.2011 Tohoku: Testimonies of the Great East Japan Earthquake (airs twice each week), Tohoku Travelogue and From Tohoku: Lectures for the Future.  Though there are, of course, other television stations in Japan, NHK is a dominant force amongst them.  Last year, NHK based one of its most popular dramas, Yae’s Sakura, on a historical heroine hailing from and set in Aizu in Tohoku.  And every year since 2011, NHK has dedicated a segment of their biggest show of the year, NHK’s New Years Eve “kouhaku”, to spotlighting Tohoku in light of 3.11.2011.  Simply stated, this blows my mind.  

This is TVJapan's regular weekly program grid - with programs about Tohoku circled in red

i expect that this, what little i manage to catch about Tohoku from this side of the Pacific ocean, is but a glimpse at their continued coverage and vigil of 3.11.2011, and that said, what a contrast.

Yuri’s reason for coming all the way to the United States in the pursuit of a degree in western psychology with regard to 3.11?  

“They’re forgetting.”

She proceeded to relay to me that experiencing that tragic day jolted into the people of Japan a keen sense about what truly matters in life -family, mostly.  But that sentiment seems to her to be dissipating as she sees people now diverting back to the ‘same ‘ol’ that was before the events of that tragic day.

Sound familiar?

Yet, i can’t help but take note of the difference in attention span ...despite the degree of drinking and video gaming that goes on in Japan.

i share my experience about Yuri here in this context because she is an example of others, like myself, who have been changed by the tragedies of 3.11.2011 to the point of taking (in her case, tremendous) action.  

That said, we have work to do.

Yes, still, 3 years on.

At present, there are still some 267,000 survivors residing in the temporary housing units erected for the surviving residents of Tohoku.

This is where the concentrated effort of the proceeds of our 3.11 Heal Japan benefit EP is being directed.

However, the 3.11 Heal Japan benefit effort is 3-fold:

  • The Heal Japan benefit EP is our digital download available on iTunes (Japan/US) and amazon (Japan/US) worldwide.  

For just ¥200 / .99 per single track or ¥600 / $2.49 for the full 3-track EP, you can help fund the building of homes for those who lost theirs and are still residing in temporary housing in Tohoku.  

The Heal Japan benefit EP was a labor of love on my part funded and produced entirely out of pocket.  
100% of sales generated goes directly to Habitat for Humanity’s building of homes for 3.11 survivors in Tohoku.  
i don’t see a penny.

  • spread the word!
Share the links to 
the iTunes or amazon Heal Japan benefit EP purchase pages


follow & interact with us on twitter 
“like” & interact with us on Facebook
follow our channel Tiki's Torch Productions on YouTube
follow michele (notme) on Pinterest
on Instagram

  • come together

i’ve worked in the non-profit sector in two previous jobs and one thing that always disturbed me about it is the divide, likely driven by competition.  So many non-profits!  Hard to know which, if any, to get behind.  That being the case tho’, the case of aid to Tohoku included, my hope is that our various efforts to help be effective.  And to that end, the selection process for the recipient of the proceeds of the Heal Japan benefit was a careful one.

Effectiveness, however, requires cohesion.  There is collective strength in numbers and success doesn’t come from isolation.  This is a team effort.  ...or it should be.  And maybe that explains the lack of progress concerning the reconstruction of Tohoku.  For as many as seem to care, why the apparent hangups?  My (somewhat educated) guess is that bureaucracy has been the predominant thing in the way.

As for the rest of us, those of us who took action and showed up and continue to even three years on, i salute you and support you and i hope that i have demonstrated that by following and promoting your various efforts in this vein via the various social media outlets.  To any of my fellows in the Tohoku reconstruction trenches with me who have supported or promoted the efforts of the Heal Japan benefit, thank you.  

Your support matters considerably. 

Now, let’s get (back) to work...!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

i met Virl

In the interest of saving all of our eyes, i'm inflicting a larger sized font on y'all with this post.  Let me know how you feel about it, please.

Warning: i’m about to “come out” about something in this post that i’ve been far more closeted (“in the closet”) about than i am about being gay. 
Consider yourselves warned.  

i was born and raised a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (“Mormon”).  But that's not what i'm in the closet about.

Though i was born here in “the States”, my family moved to Japan right after my baby brother was born, so i was mighty mighty young when we left the United States and my earliest memories and the majority of my formative years took place in Japan.  We eventually returned to the U.S. settling in California, in a suburb just outside of Los Angeles.  And it was there that the remainder of my "growing up" took place.

Fortunately for me, upon relocating back to the United States, there were a couple of kids my age that i went to school with who lived very near me that i subsequently became friends with. One of these kids was Alicia. Alicia and i used to trade things.  Specifically, i remember trading her a Barbie doll for her Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker lip gloss. To this day, i feel like that was a damn good trade. i was never all that attached to the two Barbies i ever recall owning -one of them being one of Barbie’s friends (...Skipper? The hell if i remember).  i do recall having a Barbie camper at one point -which i thought was dang cool. 

One day while at Alicia’s, we got to talking about boys we thought were cute.  She and i were all of 9 years old when this conversation took place, mind you.  And all i know of “cute boys” at the time is... (i had absolutely no idea i was or would be gay or that something called “gay” even existed at the age of 9, you realize) i had a soundtrack LP from the very first Power Rangers-type show ever created called Go (Five) Rangers which was airing in Japan at the time we moved back to the States.  i thought the guy that played the green ranger was cute, so i showed her the picture of him in the gatefold soundtrack LP cover.  Thinking back on her reaction, i don’t think she was moved by my taste in boys.  Instead, she hastily went and fetched something to show me her example of a cute guy, promptly returning with an LP of her own to show me.  “This is who I think is cute! He’s Mormon.”

This was the album cover that Alicia showed me on that fateful day.

And that was “it”.

In hindsight, the fact that he was a Mormon, like me, was oddly the more significant part of the attraction to me as i don’t recall being bowled over by his looks, initially.  Mormons are urged to marry Mormon, and even though i was all of 9 years old, my young brain was well aware of this.  i’ve often heard fans say that they thought they would marry their teen idol; that wasn’t the case for me. i didn’t ever figure that i would be the one to marry the guy. Yet it was that this guy was Mormon that drew me in, initially.

Soon thereafter, the variety show premiered. The year was 1976. And i was hooked.

Oh my heck, sooo freakin' CUTE, they were!

i became the “f-word”; a (can’ (what a dreadful word)  And not just a bit of one. i became a big...’ol...fanny fan.  And not just for a minute or even a still somewhat respectable “spell”; it went on for years (of my precious lifespan).

i was a quiet fanny fan.  i didn’t really know anyone other than Alicia who thought that Donny Osmond was the bees knees.  In fact, i learned as i went, that it was not “cool” in the slightest to be an Osmond fan.  Nevertheless, i was never ashamed of it.  Everyone i knew knew and i didn’t care what they thought.  Read what my peers wrote in every one of my junior high and high school yearbooks and it’ll tell you that it was well known that i was a big ‘ol Osmond fan.

The Donny & Marie variety show enlightened me to the fact that the “cute guy” had a sister, eventually leading to the discovery that they were, in fact, just two of a rather large family comprised of five performing siblings ...and two siblings, Virl and Tom, the eldest in the family, who didn’t generally perform due to hearing impairments. In total, there are NINE Osmonds:  


(risidual fanny fan-ness right there *cringe*)

i never got to meet nor so much as ever see them back then despite the fact that the Donny & Marie Show taped in Hollywood, just 20 minutes away from where i lived, and had even been given their address by friends i went to church with who knew them.  My folks weren’t interested in making that happen for me and i was too young to do anything about it myself at the time.  It was torturous to be deprived of that, and i resented it for years thereafter.  In fact, i still do, somewhere underneath; the Osmonds will never again be who they were when i loved them most.

Life for me back then was pretty dark and in the years since i’ve come to recognize that the Osmonds -and the other teen idol-types i was enamored with back then- served as an escape from that.  They seemed happy and i wanted that. They were my drug. And in hindsight, i suppose that’s better than having done the real thing, or any number of other things i could have done to escape my reality at the time.

My mom’s family of origin was and remains predominantly in Utah, where they settled upon coming to America on a ship from the Netherlands in the 1950s, and there were also reasons being Mormon that journeying to Utah get incorporated into one’s life at times, so much to my Osmond-obsessed elation, from time-to-time i got to be in the vicinity of the empire that was Osmond in the latter part of their heyday.  i was in heaven, though longingly painfully, if i so much as caught a glimpse of anything Osmond when i did get to go to Utah.  The Osmond Studios was, in fact, enroute to one destination point we went to most when we were there.  

Finally finally one day, i miraculously got my dad to stop at the studios just so i could find out if maybe just maybe they offered something in the way of a tour of the studios to the public, so when i found out that they did, it became crucial in my young mind to take that tour.  It makes me incredibly sad to think that just getting to experience something like that was for me so virtually impossible back then.  But i have a Broom Hilda cartoon frame that i clipped out of the newspaper years ago while growing up that i still have to this day: a frame of Broom Hilda sitting next to Santa in his sleigh and Santa saying to her, “When you believe in something that strongly, it has to happen.”  Something about that spoke to me even way back then.  And boy, has that proven to come to pass for me in some incredible ways in the years since.  But at the time, all i had were impossibly elusive pipe dreams that really felt like they would never happen; a Cinderella existence with never a “prince” (translation: “savior”) in sight, except through a TV screen.  It was awful and i don’t recommend it.

Somehow, i eventually pulled it off, getting to take that tour.  And i went prepared.  Over the years, i had assembled rather large scrapbooks of the many articles i’d collected about the Osmonds.  Just as most everything i wanted was denied me growing up, i also only very rarely had the good fortune of acquiring a teen magazine, which cost .75 cents at the time.  i will forever remember the very first teen magazine that Mom bought me; it will always hold a special place in my heart.  So any and every thing i ever came in to about the Osmonds was precious to me and therefore wound up lovingly stored in the scrapbooks i’d assembled through the years.  There were maybe three of these scrapbooks in my collection when this particular incident was going down, each about four inches thick, and i hauled one of them with me in case i’d actually get to take the elusive tour. Why i felt it necessary to bring such a thing only makes sense in hindsight.

This was the very first teen magazine that Mom bought me, which we bought at the long-since defunct grocery store, Fazio’s.  

i’m not sure that “enjoyed” would be the proper descriptor for my experience taking that tour.  i was such a mixture of beyond excited and nervous throughout it that i shook like a leaf, internally.  i am such a different person now than i was at the age of 15, which is how old i was at the time, that though i empathize with her, i hardly relate to her anymore; to think that simply touring the building caused me to feel like that at the time.  But go figure; it did.

This is the video they showed at the Osmond studios that kicked off the tour. Loved it then, and love it still.

In a section adjacent to the lobby at the studio was one glass case displaying items they evidently had for sale; Osmond posters, t-shirts, OsMints (don’t ask).  Being as familiar as i was to the Osmond mail order enterprise, what little they seemed to have to offer in the glass case at the studio seemed surprisingly little and disappointing to me and so before my 15 year old self had time enough to grow too nervous, i found myself almost subconsciously bolting over to the front desk where i confidently asked, “Is there someplace i can go to buy Osmond stuff?”. Indeed, there was, and she promptly got on the phone making a call (something to the effect of, “I’m sending her up”) and drew a map for me to get there.  

“There” proved to be just down the small dirt road adjacent to the studio to what’s probably best described as a storage building that those in-the-know referred to as the “OzArt building”.  That Dad actually took me there, despite how ridiculously close it was, was yet another miracle.

As i got out of the car, i hauled out with me the scrapbook i had brought and approached the door to the building with Mom trailing behind me. What on earth possessed me to lug that behemoth of a thing with me will forever elude me, suffice it to say that it’s evident in hindsight that i was meant to.  As i neared the door to the building, it grew evident that it was ajar. And the closer i got to the somewhat open door, the more that i could see that someone was sitting at a desk just inside.  And the closer i continued to get, the more that i could see that the person seated at the desk was ...Virl ...Osmond.

Ho-ly heck, an Osmond the flesh!

Remember, i had yet to meet any of them.  Or even so much as lay eyes on any of them in person up to that point.  In that moment, i truly was in no way any less excited than i would have been had it been Donny sitting before me.

As i proceeded to approach and knock on the door, Virl turned toward the door greeting and inviting Mom & i in.  i have the big, cumbersome scrapbook in my arms and it doesn’t take Virl long to notice and ask me about it, so i hand it to him so he can see what it is.  He was quiet as he sat back down at the desk with the scrapbook and began to leaf through the pages then said, “Did you do this?”.  He called out to someone else who came in to the room we were in and Virl motioned him over to see my scrapbook. And as Mom and i stood there observing this, it occurs to me that the man that has just joined us is none other than “Uncle" Tom; Osmond matriarch, Olive’s brother.  The Osmonds were such a family package that we hardcore fans knew even the names and faces of some extended Osmond family members.

i felt like i had died and gone to heaven. Even had you offered me a brand new Porsche, it would have paled compared to this very first Osmond moment in the sun to me.  i was simply floored to be experiencing what i was at that time.

Eventually, Uncle Tom said to Mom and i, “You wanted to buy some things?”, to which i responded enthusiastically in the affirmative.  He then led us into a warehouse of sorts filled with tall racks containing all of the Osmond merchandise my little 15 year old heart could possibly have ever wished for.  Uncle Tom pulled from the racks everything to show and offer us from long-since out-of-print LPs to rare magazines to things as interesting as a metal keychain version of a ticket to Donny’s infamous Broadway show that closed after opening night, “Little Johnny Jones” (which by the way, no, i didn't buy).  i was pretty sure at this point that i really was in heaven.  Little did i know that this experience was about to get even better.  Just how i made my selections, i’ll never know, but eventually i did at which point Uncle Tom led us back in to the front office portion of the building where Virl was still sitting at the desk looking through the scrapbook i had brought.

As we approached, Virl turned toward us motioning us toward him.  i wish to high heaven i could remember exactly what he said to me, but here it is to the best of my recollection.  He said, in reference to the scrapbook that he continued to look through, “This is really special.  My mother would really like to see this.  Do you think i could borrow it for a while so that she can see it?”  Woven into this conversation, Virl pointed out to me that he saw journalism strengths in me for having looked through my scrapbook and that if i hadn’t looked into it already, he definitely thought i should.  i’m surprised i didn’t pass out cold at that point.  Why never, ever in my wildest dreams could i have gotten such a compliment ...and directly from a member of my family of heroes?  

This was quite a request, that i loan him that scrapbook.  Little did he know that those scrapbooks were my most prized possessions at the time, and the one that i had brought with me that he was asking me to loan him was my very favorite of them.  But it was them wanting to borrow it, so though it was hard for me to relinquish in a way, i was more honored than i was fearful that i might never see it again, and so i agreed to loan it to him.

At this, he rifled through some of his file drawers in the room and returned with a small stack that he handed me.  His sister, Marie, had recently married (for the first time) and Virl did the photography for her wedding.  The stack that he handed me proved to be photographs- black and white 8x10 posed shots of Marie and Steve in front of the (Mormon) temple and a couple of 5x7s of Marie and Steve’s recent appearance on Good Morning America that he had shot.  And he was giving them to me. And yes, i still have them.

"Uncle" Tom, michele @ 15, and Virl on the very day this story went down 
in 1982 in Orem, Utah
(Osmond capital of the world)

As i relive this memory in writing it out, i’m finding myself getting emotional here, at this point of the story.  As i mentioned earlier, life was dark for me back then and this single episode in my life to that point, however brief, was the one brightest, most positive experience i really had had up to and even beyond then.  i’d be very surprised if Virl has so much as a vague recollection of this interaction with an awkward 15 year old girl that went down some 31 years ago.  

But... it speaks volumes for who Virl Osmond is; who he was then and, i imagine, still is.

Maybe because of how i grew up (or maybe not), i am to this day hyper-sensitive to our ability as human beings to “see” one another.  “See” is the word i use.  Probably the closest thing to what i mean with the word “see” is “care”.  i am extremely painfully aware of how very little people evidently care about one another.  And it colors how i see and experience life and view the world tremendously.   

Virl also gave me this that day.  Maybe he saw me even better than i realized. i treasure it still today.

For whatever reason, Virl Osmond “saw” the 15 year old version of me that day; moreso than maybe anyone else ever had, and with rather laser-like precision.  i didn’t “get” that back then; i only knew that what i experienced with him in that very short period of time felt tremendous ...tremendously validating.  And maybe it’s more important to experience that at the age of 15 or so than at any other time in ones life, although it’s vitally important at any and every point throughout ones life.  All i know now, in hindsight, is that this one interaction with someone i considered tremendously special at the time proved to alter my life in a positive way.

With this newfound insight that someone else had given me about myself, i returned to my everyday existence and promptly pursued a course in journalism the following year in high school.  Ms. Davey ended up being not only my journalism instructor but my English instructor the very period preceding; in other words, i had English with Ms. Davey immediately followed by my journalism class, also instructed by Ms. Davey.  She once humorously apologized to me for this, which i found endearing considering that she proved to be my absolute favorite instructor of the entirety of my student years. Upon receiving my grade on my most significant journalism project of the year, she wrote that she would be recruiting me to join the high school newspaper staff the following semester.  And journalism went on to become my major in college.

Virl was right.  Without knowing me, he saw that talent in me, even at 15; one i wasn't even aware i had. And he took the time to tell me so.

That talent grew into a skill that has carried on throughout my life into other projects and ventures including a ‘zine that i published for over five years that earned a worldwide subscription base, photography --which parlayed into everything from shooting for major photo agencies, later launching my own photo agency, to doing stills photography for motion pictures, right up to my position as editor at All Japan News, the job i held up until i signed on to work for Starbucks in order to devote more time to the music. 

Virl Osmond impacted my life tremendously in one rather brief interaction 31 years ago, and he has yet to know it.

When it comes to being the “f”-word (fan), it’s more-or-less tradition to have a “favorite”.   Odd, to me, but being that i’m gay and openly so, i’ve been asked at times why Marie isn’t my favorite Osmond (yeesh).  Donny was the initial draw - and admittedly remained the primary draw (think Rosie O'Donnell's "thing" for Tom Cruise, maybe)- through most of my Osmond fan “career”, and though i’ve always considered myself an “Osmond fan” in the general all-inclusive context, the Donny and Marie pairing was admittedly my Osmond bliss.  i blame their variety show for that.  

It would prove to be two more years before i would finally meet the “it” Osmond.  And though i was ecstatic to have met him at the time (although you’d never have known it from the outside), the experience in hindsight pales profoundly by comparison -and hence, i won’t provide the rather boring details of that event.

Hopefully this will suffice:

That Broom Hilda cartoon played out well through those years of active fan-dom. i’ve since met and spent time with each and every Osmond on countless occasions and have had both good and bad experiences with each of them along the way.  But i’ve only seen and interacted with Virl twice, and briefly at that, in the 31 years since our initial meeting.  And it’s been good ...every time.

The last-most-recent time i saw Virl was at the Osmonds' 50th Anniversary which was filmed for and aired on PBS in 2007; one of few events i "had" to attend, moreso anymore to get to see and spend time with the good, lifelong friends i made as a result of having been the hardcore Osmond fan i was for all those years.  In fact, the friendships that formed for me as a result of being an Osmond fan are the thing that i treasure most from having taken that journey. Because of my interest in the Osmonds, i have friends across the country and around the world to this day. They have made my life better for being in it and i can't help but marvel at times how God brings certain people together while on this life journey.  He must have a sense of humor, God.  'Cause, really, by way of the Osmonds...?  That's a riot!

My core group of Os-homies and i with Virl at the Osmonds' 50th

i asked Virl for his email address when i last saw him short of sharing with him my intention to contact him to relay this story to him and to thank him adequately, as it hardly seemed the time nor the place to do so at the time.  That was six years ago.  Goes to show you how life can get away from you (pay attention, peeps).  This intention comes to fruition, finally, right here and now.

Maybe it’s plenty evident by now that i’m pretty damn over the “f”-word stage anymore.  Maybe it was just a phase.  Maybe my priorities changed.  Maybe a lot of things.  i don’t much see them anymore, as i don’t make a point to even when any of them make their way out to my neck of the woods.  i doubt they miss me.  i doubt they miss any of the “f”-words that used to come around that don’t anymore.  

But i will always love the Osmonds.  

And if you were to ask me today who my favorite Osmond is, i’d have to say it’s ...Virl.

[Happy birthday, Virl
and from the bottom of my heart, 
thank you.]

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Shane's Song"

The Starbucks store i currently work at is not the store i originally got hired to work.  Some two years or so after signing on to my employment at Starbucks, an opportunity arose and i was offered a “trial run” at another store.  It was then that i first met Judy and Carol and it was they that, in large part, sealed the deal in my decision as i agreed to the transfer.  There are wonderful “partners” (Starbucksese for its employees) at every store i’ve had the opportunity to work at, but both Carol and Judy were hysterically funny, sarcastic as shit -like myself, and ...just more mature and “age-appropriate” for me.  Both Judy and Carol are single mothers.

A few weeks in to my new post, in to the store walks this kid in his late teens wearing a bandana around his forehead with what looks to me like Japanese writing on it which of course, caught my attention.  Any kid who wears a bandana with Japanese writing on it scores points from me ...just because. This was my first impression of Shane.  Who turns out to be Carol’s son -Carol’s only child.

When Shane learned of my ethnicity, he asked his mom if she would ask me to translate the writing on the bandana i soon learned he seemed to wear always at the time, as he was wearing it every time i saw him.  So Carol brought it in for me to take home so i could ask Dad to translate it for him ...since i’m personally incapable of such a thing.  Once the translation reached Shane, Carol informed me how elated he was to have received it.  Way cute.  My first personal connection and interaction with Shane.  Any kid who expresses interest in one of my cultures is a friend of mine ...just because.

So i’d see Shane from time-to-time, more by default than anything ...because i worked with his mom.  Sometimes he would pick her up after work, so i’d see him then.  Sometimes he’d be early to pick her up and he’d make faces at us through the glass windows while his mom and i finished closing the store.

Specifically, there was the Angels game.  Of 2010.  Three years ago, already.  Mike Scioscia (manager of the Angels baseball team) is a “regular” at our particular location, and is one of the nicest people to grace our store.  Generous to the degree that he has invited the entirety of the staff of our store not only to attend a game, but got us all passes to be out on the field with him pre-game and access to the VIP area, which we took advantage of dining in together.  Shane joined his mom and the rest of us for that happy occasion.  We rode to and from Anaheim - probably an hour and a half drive each way, mind you - with Shane busily playing DJ in the car by changing out the music on the stereo the duration of the trip.

L-R: Shane, it's me notme (down low), Judy (seated), Carol (down low with me), Jenny, and Tim

all of us dining inside the VIP area at Angels Stadium

There were a smattering of other occasions we interacted, Shane and i; private moments when he and i would mosey away from the crowd to smoke a cigarette together from time-to-time, or he’d occasionally simply “bum” one from me but, maybe almost oddly, my favorite interaction with Shane -which struck me as special even just after it happened- was the night i was going to check out at my local Target.  In that moment, i’d forgotten and wasn’t thinking about the fact that Carol had told me that Shane was working there, and as i was waiting my turn for a cashier, a male voice swooped by calling me by name saying, “I can take you over here, Michele”.  i was touched by that particular interaction; how observant he was to have spotted me, how intentional and thoughtful and ...sweet.  And it’s that interaction i keep flashing on most.

Tuesday, August 6th, i was invited over to a friends’ house who lives near the store after work.  i left their home just before midnight and was taking my usual route home from work when i came upon what felt like a surreal, albeit serene and peaceful scene: a police car parked horizontally in my path at an intersection.  It took me a second to adjust for it being so unexpected and odd and wasn’t quite sure what to do.  i then noticed a lone police officer standing on the meridian just outside my car window to the left, but he made no effort to communicate with me; no motioning to go this way or that; nothing at all.  It felt strangely quiet.  Eventually i figured i best take the only evident alternative and made the U-turn taking me in the complete opposite direction of my intended destination.

We lost Shane as he was riding his motorcycle having left his grandmother's, where he was residing at the time, just ten minutes prior the night of August 6th.  And that was the reason my path home was closed off that night.  Had i gone home after work as usual, instead of going to my friends' home, it would have put me exactly there around the very time Shane crashed his bike and lost his mortal life.  

i have a hard time believing that how that night played out for me is coincidental.  It is not.

i learned that we’d lost Shane by way of a friend texting me about her concern for Carol on Thursday, the 8th.  That was around 5pm.  By 6pm, i found myself writing “Shane’s Song”.  

i hope he likes it.  i will miss him.

L-R: Carol (Shane's mom), Judy, Mike, yours truly, and Shane