Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Well that afternoon Tom did come back to my parents apartment on his way to Kennedy Airport.  He basically was coming back to do a very old fashioned kind of thing.....ask my Father for my hand in marriage.  I didn't know he was going to do that until he arrived at my door....I held my breathe, had no idea how my Father would respond.  Both he and my Mother had been trying to talk me out of the idea of marrying Tom from the time I had told them that earlier in the day.  They said that people would not accept a mixed marriage easily, we would not be accepted in certain places, people would look down on us for intermingling the races and last but not least...any children that we would have would have a battle on their hands from day one.  Now, mind you my parents are not racists....they were just spelling out to me how cruel the world in general can be when you don't fit their mold or idea of the perfect life to live.

So it was with trepidation that I led Tom into the livingroom to speak to my Mother and I went back into the kitchen.
It was about ten minutes and the two men came into the kitchen laughing.  My Mother and I exchanged glances (sort of oh no what's going on now) Father turned to me and said "Tom has asked for your hand in marriage and I've told him I do not have a problem with your marrying him, in fact you have my blessing."

Whew!! Whatever Tom had said had won the folks never brought up the "problems" that we supposedly would have ever again.  I said my goodbyes to Tom, knowing that I would not see him for at least three months maybe more.  I had alot to get prepared, not only for the wedding but I had to get a visa, a passport, shots ... all kinds of stuff.  Then I found out I couldn't get a long term visa unless I had a job over there to go to or someone would have to write a Letter of Credit for me that would guarantee I would not become penniless over there.

Well, Okura New York, once again came to the forefront and wrote a Letter of Credit for me.  I applied for the visa and passport so that was going along nicely.  I was still working at Okura and trying to learn to speak a little Japanese.  Nakajima-san bought me  some really good English-Japanese language books so I could practice at home too.  My Mom was helping me get everything together for the wedding...we had found a beautiful long gown with a long detachable was beautiful.  I had found a large black steamer trunk, the kind that you used put all those travel stickers on.  I could ship one I packed very carefully.

It was like putting little pieces of home into the trunk...I can remember sitting there..thinking is this trunk worthy? Or Not?
So alot of what I had collected throughout the years unfortunately had to stay behind.  My Mom had a spare room that she used for storage so I knew when we came back to the States I could retrieve my treasures.  The weather in Tokyo was very similiar to New York so I packed for the different seasons.  I tell you though I did have moments when I questioned myself .. the thought of traveling l0,000 miles away to a strange land to begin a new life was at times very unnerving.  Tom had begun to write letters to me and they helped tremendously, they brought him closer to me than I had ever been.

The day to leave kept coming closer and closer....a day in January, cold as heck...but I had almost twenty people show up to say goodbye to me at the airport....crazy, nutty wonderful people.  I can still remember the feeling of walking down the airplane corridor, turning and waving goodbye to everyone. Oh, boy...and the kicker was I had not flown in a plane since I was 4 years old.  Here I was flying from New York to LA, changing flights to Hawaii...I had a three day layover in Hawaii and then onto Tokyo.I normally did not drink too much, however, there was a guy on board who insisted that everyone drink his my nerves being what they were I did not protest.  Luckily for me too, as we approached Hawaii we hit a terrible storm, lightening strikes were hitting everywhere - lighting the sky...looking down the island seemed so tiny...I really said a prayer as we approached the landing strip.

The reason for the three day layover was my friend Sal...great guy he had worked at Okura and had joined the Marines. His unit was due to be shipped out to Vietnam. It was when they first started to add more "advisors".  He had been in Hawaii for a couple of months in training...he was looking forward to seeing a face from home.   Sal met my plane, the stews back then used to put leis on every passenger deplaning...I think I still have a book dried piece of the flower was nice having someone who knew their way around show me Hawaii.  It is a beautiful, beautiful place....I was staying at the Hawaiian Village, it was very nice, loved the water too.  I was also hoping when Sal got R&R he could come to Tokyo and be our guest. 

On to Tokyo.


Saturday, October 16, 2004

19 and Alive

Well I got bored pretty quick just sitting home.  Because the tumor had been so large, the surgeon had put in drains so I had to keep my left arm still and in a sling.  There went any idea about typing. I called the office, spoke to Danny Nakajima who was my head boss, he told me that I could come in and possibly fill in at the front desk...where I wouldn't have to type.  I was tremendously grateful.

So I went back to work after about a week and half of recuperating from the surgery...but I was young and full of piss & vinegar then.
I was working for three Japanese men...quite different in their ways from each other - that in itself, amazed me because of stereotyping.  I had never come into contact with any Asian people at all, my only knowledge was from history in school, my love of reading...especially Pearl Buck.  Oh, and my Dad was a Marine in World War II so he had very definite ideas about the Japanese.

Danny was the oldest of the three, very intelligent...spoke English really very well and didn't hesitate to tell you exactly what was on his mind at any given point.
"Shimmy" Shimada was an exceptionally good looking man and boy did he know it! He also was the office cut up and could be relied on to find humor in any subject.
Tom - Takashi Takabayashi...he wasn't an adonis, but there was a huggable bear quality about him that pulled at your heart strings.
His english was exceptional, because he had been used as an interpreter for the American Embassy in Tokyo. He excelled at salesmanship, knew just how to deal with a client and was terrific at closing a deal.  Some of his clients were really big names...WestBend, Werner Ladder Co., just to name a few.

We all worked well together, I became very used to taking dictation, typing - coordinating shipments, bills of lading, various needed documentation...and of course, speaking with clients.  I learned alot from these three gentlemen regarding customer service and it stayed with me my whole life.  The years went on, one year turning into another....our lives changed little...until the year I turned 21.

I had been dating Jimmy for a long time.....he asked me to marry him.....I said "yes"....we set the date for about 6 months away.

I showed up at work with the diamond engagement ring on my finger.....everyone congratulated me - except Tom.  I didn't know how to respond to that, so I just ignored it. 

Two weeks later, I go into work to find that Tom is going to be transferred back to Tokyo.  Danny told me that Tom requested it.
In fact the transfer was going to take place within a week...I thought..."Oh, no..I'll never see him again...I was not happy"
My unhappiness continued to deepen as the week progressed..I realized I didn't want him to leave not just New York...but ME!.

The night before Tom was to leave, the office gave him a party which of course we all attended after work.  Everyone was unhappy to see him go, especially me.  Did you ever have a clear defining moment in your life where everything that you know you should do is laid out right in front of you? That night was my moment of truth.  Because we were in the city so late, Tom had driven in...he offered to drive me home so I didn't have to chance the subways late at night.  I accepted.

The ride started easy enough, conversation was light and carefree mostly about his seeing his Mom after so many years away. The mood turned a little more serious when he asked me "Are you happy? with your engagement?"  That question opened the flood gates..all my emotions came to the moment of truth!
"I looked deeply into his eyes and said "No, I'm not happy, not at all - the idea of never seeing YOU again is making me crazy"..Tom's reaction was like a bubbling volcano that deperately needed to vent...."Oh my God! YOU feel that way TOO?"
We fell into each other arms and kissed for the first time....I knew to the very depths of my soul that I had never loved before.

Now I understood Tom's misery at the thought of my engagement. Here was the real reason he requested to return home...what were we to do?  He was to fly out the next afternoon..not much time at all.  We sat and talked for hours that night in his car...finding out more about each other than most people do in a lifetime together.
He asked me to marry him, to come to Tokyo to be his wife....I told him I would.

Now, dawn was approaching fast, I knew I had to go up to my parents apartment (after the surgery my Mom insisted I move back with them).  Tom & I said goodbye...he was to stop back on his way to the airport that day.  As we were saying goodbye in the downstairs Dad came flying down the stairs at us... took one look, said..." are Okay..." and turned around and went back up the stairs.

As I climbed the stairs to their apartment I was so excited with what had happened that I felt like I floated through the air up the stairs.  My poor Mom & Dad didn't know what to make of me...I had never stayed out that late even with Jimmy. They were so full of questions...all I could do was tell them...."I'm marrying Tom, not Jimmy and I'm going to Japan".  They tried to talk me out of it, talk some sense into me...nothing worked.

Then I faced the horrific ordeal of telling one of the sweetest guys I've ever known that it was all over between us.  Not my best defining moment I tell you.  I cried, he cried...his Mom was totally angry...but she was a control freak anyway.  I gave the ring back and wished him well.  I had no destiny was written.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


The next day I woke up bright and early, showered, - willing myself to again get on the train and take the journey into the city.  I glanced at the wall clock in the kitchen above the refrigerator...the minutes were moving...I had to move.  I gathered my jacket, pocketbook - yelled goodbye to my Mom and ran for the station.  It was only two blocks from our apartment but I was supposed to meet Jimmy and travel into the city with him...I think he was trying to give me some moral support.

Slightly winded I reached the station platform and spied Jimmy about twenty feet from me.  He and I had been dating for about two years and had been friends throughout high school. Jim was really special, very kind, very caring.  He asked me how I felt this morning about what happened the day before.  I told him that I was still upset, but I needed to get over it and concentrate on finding a real job.

We both got off the train at the Wall Street exit...I headed for the agency.  When I arrived there I found that they had arranged three appointments for me.  The first one was with a small publishing firm as a secretary...the interview went well I thought. The man who conducted the interview made the position sound really nice and interesting.  The second appointment was a few blocks away so I walked to it...this one was again with a stock brokerage...there I had to take a typing test...I know I passed. The third interview was with a Japanese Import=Export Company on Church Street.

The people there were very friendly, the position was to be a secretary to three bosses, preparing bills of lading, filling import or export orders, customer service...and fill in on the PBX board when necessary...oh, also learn the teletype machine. I thought that I did well on the interview.  I made my way back to the Agency...the way it worked then...the agency would find out which company wanted to hire me and would let me know after the interview process.   Well, as luck would have it...all three wanted to hire it was my choice.

This is where when you look back on your life you question and ask "What if?"  I choose the Japanese Import Export Company- Okura & Co., Inc. little knowing that by doing so I would open a wonderful chapter in my life.  Life's little choices...such small things can mean such a constantly amazes me. 

My choice proved to be a good one...after about six months of working there I wound up getting a small studio apartment of my own just to try my wings a bit.  Should of month after this I found a lump in my breast and wound up facing surgery at age 19.   Doctor Bruce had told me to keep positive that it was highly unlikely to be cancerous.  I can still remember the terror I did new company was wonderful..thank God my insurance coverage had kicked in and they were going to let me have three weeks to recuperate. 

Well, the surgery was scheduled - they would do a biopsy while I was on the table, if it came back positive they would proceed with the removal.  I can remember coming to in the post op room and trying to see if I was whole or not. Finally a nurse came over and told me that it had been a benign tumor..which they had removed. I remember thanking God, saying a prayer and falling into an extremely deep sleep for the first time in weeks.

Life can sometime be strange....but I have always found it interesting.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Little History Continued

Well I decided to try my luck in the city.  After all, downtown New York was only about 45 minutes from my house in Queens by the elevated A-Train.  I also decided to be smart about the job search and register with a good employment agency, that way my skills would be put to good use instead of losing them. 

The agency sent me out and I was hired very quickly by a large stock brokerage firm.   I was to be an assistant to the office manager who seemed to be quite a nice lady...because I would be working with bonds etc. I had to go get fingerprinted, bonded and background checked.  It would take a few days for that to be processed so I was told to come in the following Monday at 9 a.m.

I was excited, nicely dressed in a skirt, blouse and jacket and of course the mandatory 3" heels....I literally bounced to the train station with excitement.  Upon arrival, I found that the lady manager had been seriously hurt in a skiing accident over the weekend.  Another assistant showed me to my desk and tried to get me started on what she could for the day.  I wound up doing a bunch of typing and some filing...working my way up to the phones.

I was told that I did well the first day.  The second day was very similiar to the first, except the manager felt well enough to call in and actually assign me projects.  No, problem I was enjoying the work.  The assistant came over to me during the day and asked if I could stay and work overtime as they had a problem that needed additional work done on it and they could use me.  I agreed to do so.   The work progressed slowly, there were about five of us who had stayed....again remember no computers...everything done by hand, typewriter etc.

A strange looking man entered the room where we were working, he was tall, thin dirty blonde hair but his face...oh it was very pox marked, very badly scarred.  He came over to our group and one of the girls introduced me as "the new kid on the block" he was a manager of another area of the company.  Because my manager was not expected back for weeks..the company had assigned him to supervise our section.  I worked overtime Tuesday, Wednesday and on Thursday found myself working alone with the subsitute manager.

It was late by the time we finished...the manager took one of the subways home too so we walked down Wall Street together ... we passed one of the little bistros that they had down there...It was like a little pub...he asked me to come in and have a drink. I agreed and we sat down at a small table in a secluded part of the room. Next thing I know he's telling me that he wants a relationship, and I'd better realize just how much he can do for me or not do depending how I treat him.....he reached into his pocket and pushes a gold key across to me.

I asked "What's this?"  He said..well, I have a really neat set-up here in the city...a friend of mine is in Europe and let's me use his apartment whenever I want.  By this point I was a little frightened of the whole situation and wanted out of there.  I told him I'd have to think about it...just to get out of there.  What a creep!  I finally made it home.

The next day..the other girls were not as friendly..I actually asked the first girl I worked with what was wrong? She said she was sorry that I hadn't been warned about the substitute..but it was all over the office about the two of us.  I told her I didn't do anything.
About 3 P.M. I received a phone call from the woman manager who proceeded to tell me that it was unfortunate but I would have to be let go.  She had gotten a call from a higher up and was told to fire me.  I was hurt, angry...

I had a boyfriend who worked on Wall Street...I called him and as I walked down the street of dreams with tears flowing down my face Jimmy found me.  You know you reach that point that you don't care that people look at you and think "What's wrong with her?"  To have it happen again so quickly...I asked I have a sign on my head? He was angry too, but used some common sense and told me to go back to the agency to complain.

I was still upset when I entered the agency..I had paid them a heck of alot of money to be placed in a good company.  They calmed me down andarranged some more interviews for the next day.  Which was a good thing...

I'm not particularly beautiful, but in my younger days I was considered "pretty"..but being pretty didn't mean that I was loose or easy.... I was beginning to wonder if there were any decent men out there in the work place.


Monday, October 11, 2004


I'm looking back in retrospect at a very long employment history..
some of my recollections, memories are not so funny...but most were interesting or at the very least a bit of education for someone on how the world worked years ago...and maybe still does

I was one of the youngest persons American Airlines ever hired at Idlewild Airport (now Kennedy) it was a semi-interesting job.  I had graduated on a commercial diploma and excelled at sten & I was assigned to Seat Selection & also filled in as a secretary when anyone was ill or too busy.  Unfortunately, they put our section downstairs under the main hub, in a locked room that had the overnight safe.  So, you were kind of locked down especially if you were the only one in the room.  Kind of miserable for a l7 year whenever I had the chance to go "up top" I would.  Now Seat Selection, the agent upstairs at the counter would call down to us and we had a layout for each plane departing....they would request a seat and we would give it.  Now, please remember folks..this is before the fact, I guess I was the computer LOL.

A few funny things happened while I worked there...Frank Sinatra lost a toupee and you would of thought the world ended..ticket agents, gate agents...PR people all running & searching for his funny...I have a warped sense of humor.  Then there was the time that Charlton Heston needed to borrow a typewriter and he used MINE...unfortunately I was off that day..he left me a note and the manager took it...wouldn't give it to me.  But he had sat in my chair..typed at my typewriter - it set my l7 year old heart aflutter.   

Then there was an extremely sad occurrence when an American Airlines jet crashed into Jamaica Bay, it had flown into a flock of birds over the marsh sanctuary - they got sucked into the engine and the plane which had just taken off came plunging straight down into the bay.  Even at that young age I think I developed some grey that folks were on standby to fly to California on my pass...they luckily had gotten on the earlier flight.  But I didn't know that.  I didn't know until they called that night that they were not on that was a horrible day. 

After about a year of this I decided that I would try to transfer out of that particular job.  Well, there was an opening in the baggage area for a secretary - so I applied.  One day as I was waiting for the bus to go home, the supervisor for that Department pulls up in his car and offers me a ride home...I did know him, I was hoping to work with I got in the car.  After a little small talk, he says to me "You really want that job?" I told him "yes, of course I do".   He says to me..."Well, young lady I have a surefire way that you will get the job and he proceeds to tell me just how and in what way I can be "friendly" to him. 

I don't know where I found the strength but I told him he could take his job and shove it.  I told him to stop the car...he pulled over and I quickly was only a few blocks left to my house so I walked with steam coming out of my head.  To make matters worse I had to go home and tell my parents because my Dad had gotten me the job at American through a close friend.

My Dad's advice was to tell my manager what had happened.  So I went nowhere......I found out later that the manager was a close friend of the jerk (who was also married) they were certainly not going to ruin whatever good thing they had going.  Then I was told that my transfer was turned down, they brought someone in from outside.  I was made to feel uncomfortable on a daily basis as if I was the one who did I quit.  That was my welcome to the adult world.

We've come a long way baby since that time the year 1961.