A NAVY STORY: Going on 30 years ago in Sasebo, Japan, the Mama-san of the “Blue Moon Bar And Grill” was the mother of my Japanese bargirl ex-fiance, Hitomi. Mama-san’s name was Emiko, but she went by the name of “Cherry”, although any possible resemblence prompting the adoption of that moniker had faded decades since. She was round, fat and jolly, rather a potty mouth for a Japanese woman, but I loved her dearly. I still saw her almost every night I was in port, long after my engagement to her daughter fell apart and Hitomi shipped Stateside with her new Lieutenant.
One day, Mama brought a gift to my hootch. I had a tiny, one-room apartment (“Aparto”, in Japanese) down Shiraki-Cho alley, over an itty-bitty whorehouse joint called the “Snack SWALLOW” where I did a little Johnnie Walker Red and Benson & Hedges cigarette business in the black market. Her gift was a great, big, six-sided ceramic ashtray—with fat, naked sumo wrestlers painted all over it…and lettered for some obscure manufacturing outfit. It was a factory second…I think it had the wrong phone number painted on it…but made by one of the famous Noritake shops in Nagasaki. She got it for a mere few yen at a discount sale, but I treasured it. In the cold Sasebo winter, after she’d close the BLUE MOON for the night, she’d waddle into my door in her silk robe with a big steaming bowl of Udon in her hands, and laugh past the last half-inch of a B & H clenched in her pearly white teeth. Seeing the huge ashtray occupying the entire top of the “kotatsu” kerosene-heated table, she would burst forth with “You SO CRAJEE domb-shit saylah! MOO-VAH dis domb ting! Why you likey dis domb-shit ashu-trayu so muchee?”…but love it I did.
Alas, my sumo ashtray was broken during my recent move earlier this year, when we lost our home and had to move into this very tiny house (not much bigger than my Japanese aparto, now that I think about it. ) . It fell out of an open cardboard box and broke on the concrete pad of our tiny back porch.
For months I had known we were going to lose our house. For days, I had kept a stiff upper lip as we cleaned my home of 19 years to hand over to the buyer, packed most of those 19 years into boxes for storage, and humped them thru the biting, unseasonal bitter April cold to the new place. All that time, I held myself together. When that silly ashtray broke, I lost it. Cherry had been dead for a decade, but I could here her laffing at me, sobbing uncontrollably over that damned thing….”You one DOMB-SHIT saylah!”……..