Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Had a Dream

Quiet as kept, I was given notice by my employer that my services will no longer be needed as of contract's end September 30th. Their reasoning, I was late multiple (5) times. 4 of which had no effect on classes or scheduling. However, I owned up to my (lack of) responsibility with no ill will or hard feelings. That is, until I was notified by other employees, that they'd been late at least that many times, and have had little to no threats/consequences sent their way. Couple that with a scenario in which I witnessed a new employee make the exact same mistake at the exact same school that I made in my 1st week on the job, (mis-reading my schedule and being late on account of it.) and receive not nearly the degree of penalty or 'warnings' that had me fearing for my life(job) just 3 weeks into the country.

Regardless of the dynamics surrounding the decision, ultimately I am done as of tomorrow. This left me in an interesting situation. To stay or not to stay. What to do? I immediately blasted out resumes everywhere I could. In the teaching industry it is pretty easy to get a job. Or so I was told. I didn't hear back from anyone at first. Then gradually interviews started aligning, mostly for part time work. But that was much more liberating than my current situation which required working on Saturdays and Sundays.

Yet, all the while I was flirting with making a move back to the States.

Just when it seemed to be a toss up, I had a dream that very clearly told me where my next step shouldn't be!

I don't really remember how it began, but I do recall glancing over and locking eyes with my grandfather. This was a bit extraordinary as he passed away a good 10 years ago. And I haven't seen him in a dream for at least 3 years. However, it should be noted that he remains my primary ancestor, in terms of prayers and guidance. I always feel his presence is closest. At least amongst those I can name and recognize.

Astonished by the sight of him, I all but collapsed into my brother Guilian's lap as I balled from the soul. The tears were uncontrollable. Moments after I regained composure, he walked over to me and said very matter of factly, "You need to stop teaching."

And just like that, my decision was made. I'd be lying if I said I didn't wrestle with this. My ego has grown very comfortable here in Tokyo and I felt like I'd only brushed the surface of what is possible. Yet an omen is an omen. And I feel as if I'd be disobeying a direct order, so to speak, if I chose to stay here despite what's been revealed.

That being said...I put a plan in action. One of my bestest buddies from childhood is getting married Thanksgiving weekend in New York. Hence, I had to figure a way to get back there in time for that. However, I am no fan of the cold. I have a month to kill between my estimated departure from Tokyo and the wedding. I'm not usually a fan of taking steps backwards, but this was a remarkable exception. The spirits of Santa Cruz beckoned! And I joyously heeded the call.

Not only will I be side-stepping some cold, but I'll be beach bumming at the same time! A formula for empowerment I do believe! Only time will tell exactly what dynamics manifest there. But here and now I am VERY excited to be returning to the States and rekindling some good-hearted friendships!

If you're gonna be in the area... Holla at ya boy!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

All Day Erryday!

Probably the biggest outdoor basketball tournament in Japan is the All-Day tourney, sponsored by Nike. The 1st one I played in back in March sometime. The scenario was less than optimal, as I was slated to play with a team that last it's 1st game, hence preventing me from joining them on day 2 (when I had the day off.) As it turned out, a youngin asked me to run with him and his boys the night before and I accepted. We faced an early exit, as we ran into the eventual champions "Underdog" in our 1st game.

As the days turned to weeks turned to months, I amassed a good number of basketball friends by way of 'gettin it in' at every open run I could get to. As the 2nd All-Day approached, I received a few different invitations to run. After some intense deliberation, I decided my 1st choice was to join "Underdog" the very team I'd lost to that went on to claim the title in the last tournament. I'd much rather beat em than join em, however, in this case, Underdog's roster consisted of all the fellas I'd gotten to know well by way of the Rising Suns experience.

The guys were gracious enough to offer me a spot, so we laced em up, and got it on! Our opening game was versus a squad called 1st step. Apparently they had 3 or 4 guys on their roster that play/ed pro ball out here. If that's the case, we all should've been offered contracts when it was said and done, cause they never really contested us. I think we bounced em by double digits.

Game two~ The Semis of the tournament (we had a 1st day bye on account of being the previous champs) matched us up with a team called 420. Which is absolutely hilarious because ganja is HIGHLY illegal out here. As in you can get 5 years for a spliff.

Anyhow, we went ahead by about 9 or so on em with about 5 minutes left in the game. But they mounted a comeback and got it down to a one point game with about 40 seconds left. We were at the line shooting 1 and 1. I snatched up the miss and threw it out to our point guard, who proceeded to throw a cross court pass that sailed a good 5 feet over our player's head. TURNOVER.

There was about 20 seconds left when they came down court, penetrated, shot a jumper. And that's when my biggest moment of the tournament came as I outjumped 4 others to come down with the rebound. They fouled, we converted, game over!

Honestly, I didn't really contribute much to our teams' success throughout the tournament, but like my daddy used to tell me, "Just be there when I need you!"

We ended up manhandling a team called Proline in the finals. Winning by about 15 or so. My man, ST was the MVP. And Each of us got a free pair of kicks for bringing home the title!

I've been in this country 9 months, and I've already got 2 new pairs of shoes from hooping. Why can't life always be like this!!

Pictures can be found at http://alldaymag.com/photo_gallery/19th-allday-photos-day2-part2.html

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Legends 3 on 3 Grand Championship

Most of the guys I played with on the Rising Suns play in a professional 3 on 3 league here in Tokyo called "Legends." It's kind of like a Japanese version of And 1 without the above the rim aspect.

Fresh off our trip from Paris, I made it a point to get out to as many of their games as possible. Not only to check out my boys and Show Love, but also size up the competition!

The 1st event I attended was RIDICULOUS! Basketball aside, the setting alone was chilling. They were in the center of this ancient Greece looking like stone coliseum. The only thing missing was the chariots and lions! The gladiators, however, definitely showed up.

The way the league is organized is, they change teams at each event. The winner of each game gets...(something like) 3 points. Leaving each of them jockeying for position game in and game out, in hopes of qualifying for the Grand Championship.

When the regular season is finished, the top 4 scorers get to choose their respective teams. Those 4 teams compete in the finals which are held in, get this, a night club! With the captain of the winning team getting a grand prize of $10,000. Needless to say, these boys put it all on the line when it comes down to the finals.

It turns out, my man Mitsui is the 2 time defending champion. He qualified for the Grand Championship as a captain, as did Atsushi who was our point guard on the Rising Suns. Although they didn't qualify as captains, S.T. and Matsu also laced em up as members of qualifying teams.

Unfortunately, I ended up getting on the wrong train after work, (yes, I live in Japan!) This cost me a good hour of competition. So I basically missed the semi's. When I arrived Atsushi just happened to be outside and I could tell from his walk alone, he didn't fare so well in the earlier game.

As it turned out, the only one from the Suns to make it was none other than Mitsui (the reigning champ.)

When I walked into the club I was amazed! They did a great job of designing the venue according to their vision. There were 2 huge screens showing the game from above the action, while a few thousand people looked on from every angle possible.

Hosted by the street ball legend himself, Mamushi, who is a great host and hilarious M.C., the scene was set for a much anticipated championship game.

Mitsui (M21) was set to meet Chihiro in the finals. I've played with this dude Chihiro a few times, and the kids got one of the quickest 1st steps I've seen in awhile. Not to mention he plays with a passion that borders on fury.

After killing time with an off-key J-pop band and an entertaining ex-Legends vs present Legends game, they finally got down to business. All the hoopla ceased. And when that ball was in play, the Lion inside of Chihiro was finally cut loose.

The boy was everywhere. Grabbing rebounds, making steels, going to the cup at will. No one could hold him. M21's squad tried to stay in it, but all it took was one cold spell that put them down 10.

They could never recover. Partially on account of having to shoot 3's to make up any kind of ground. But mostly due to the unrelenting tenacity Chihiro's squad brought to the table. They weren't missing. And if they did, they rebounded. Simply put, the game was over midway through the 2nd (of 3) period.

When the final horn sounded, streamers and confetti rained down all over the court as Chihiro's squad ended up with a 25 point victory. I felt bad for my bredren, cause of course I was rooting for him to take home the title. But I must say, Chihiro's approach to the game won over everyone in the building that night.

What was even more powerful, was watching him cry like a baby when it was all said and done. To watch someone go from one extreme to the other in such a short period of time was truly compelling. But shiiiiit, bring me a check for $10,000 dollars and you better believe you're gonna see some tears from ya boy!

All in all, it was dope to see the pinnacle of the league. After getting to know the guys and feel out the scene here in Japan, it was nice to have a little insider's perspective on the entire event. With the way things have been going out here, who knows...perhaps next year I'll be writing this from inside the locker room.


~Retired Ninjas~

Ok, this one was random.

We hoop at a school in an obscure neighborhood in Tokyo. There's an exercise room on the floor beneath us which has proven to be quite entertaining. The last time we played there, there was one of those 'big ball' exercise classes going on when we finished up. This in itself was not so comical. Although I'm sure most would have found ample reason to laugh if they'd watched the retired old ladies doing a little good for their bones. However, the instructor must have brought her daughter along, cause there was a 5 or 6 year old girl who was TOO CUTE!

She couldn't do any of the exercises the grown folks were doing. But believe you me she was trying with all her heart. And it was downright hilarious. (in a beautiful way) Wish you could've seen that one.

Anyhow, the following week. We staggered down the stairs on hollow legs. And lo and behold, there were some old-timers, (this time men) doing something I had never seen before. I guess you'd call it blow-darts. I was transfixed from the moment I saw them.

From what I gathered. They'd take out a dart. Hold the bamboo shoot looking....blower??? at their waste and pause for a moment. (I think this is when they're getting their mind right!) Then they'd raise the shoot to the sky in a very reverent fashion, as if praising it or perhpas exulting the entire process. Before loading the dart. Lifting the shoot, aaaand.. PEYUNT!!...Whap!! Smack dab on the target. Amazing!

The actual execution itself was astonishing, but what really took me by surprise was how accurate these guys were. None of 'em looked younger than 70. And I don't know what type of darts they were shooting, but they were hitting the target REAL hard. So you can imagine the look on my face as I watched one of them slowly stroll down his 'alley' to retrieve his darts. WHILE the man 4 feet next to him was shooting.

I thought, "Man! That's a lotta trust!" But I watched for a good while, and every single one of them was on target time and time again. And that's when it hit me....

This is what ninjas do when they retire!