I’d learned to like California rolls back in L.A., and I boasted of my familiarity with Japanese food to my fellow cast members, who finally decided it was time to take me down a peg or two. They invited me out for a dinner in the hippest part of Tokyo, the Ginza.
We went to a robatayaki, a restaurant in which you sit around a low table and the waiter brings you a tiny offering of food about every 10 minutes. The plan that Yuriko, my co-star, and the half dozen other cast members had cooked up was that they would choose the weirdest possible food on the menu. I would have to eat it without knowing what it was. But first, whiskey.
I was already pretty buzzed by the time I chomped down the first course, a bowl of what seemed to be little bits of fried potatoes. Oishii desu, ne? asked Yuriko. Delicious, aren’t they? Yes, I had to agree. Best french fries I’d ever had. Hysterical laughter from cast. You eat grasshoppers!
Another glass of whiskey. Next entrée. Tiny balls of chocolate, about the size of peas. Not bad, really. Crunchy.
Ha ha ha! You eat ants!
Did these people have no respect for me? Did they not realize they were dealing with one of the biggest stars in the history of “English for Today, Level One”?
But the joke, so far, was on them. Because I hadn’t turned green yet. I hadn’t vomited my guts out on the nice tatami mats.
But just as I began to congratulate myself, another entrée appeared. Chunks of dense meat, heavy and black. Oh, it was foul. Like chewing a lump of broiled Vaseline. But I had a duty to maintain the pride of my nation. I swallowed it. Ha ha ha! You eat whale!
The fragment of mackerel writhed with galvanic energy. I stuck it in my craw and it went flopping back into my throat like a salmon swimming upstream. Just as I was about to pass out a couple of my friends took me back to the bathroom for an apocalyptic voiding of my stomach. They had won. |!|
George Bilgere is the author of several books of poetry, including, most recently, “The Good Kiss” and “Haywire.” He’s also the host of a weekly radio poetry show, “Wordplay” (Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m., WJCU 88.7). He teaches at John Carroll University, and never eats squid bile.