Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Elixir (2/4)

Only when I was making my way from the baggage claim of Narita International Airport to the ground transportation area, where an impeccably dressed Mr. Junichero Matsui stood waiting for me next to his minivan, did it hit me: What the hell am I doing here?

The basic facts are easy for me to explain. I’m seeking information about the elixir and also hoping I can get more of the precious stuff. How this particular set of circumstances came about—that is to say, how I got here, takes a bit more explanation, however. Let me retrace my steps so that you can understand how I ended up in Japan and, well, so that I can reflect on this strange odyssey.  Perhaps I'll come up with some answers for myself!

Trish, a lesbian friend of mine who used to be into the occult, recommended that I see an elixirologist. (My use of the appositional phrase lesbian is an inside joke; she hates when people make such references.) I didn’t know what she was talking about until I consulted a dictionary later. Elixirology is the study of elixirs. An elixirologist, then, is evidently someone who knows a lot about elixirs. Why didn’t I think of that before? I had tried in vain to decipher the writing on the label, having exhausted my Armenian connections, namely Vince—that asshole! I was skeptical but desperate. Despite my misgivings, I let Trish hook me up with an old friend of hers, Roger, a self-styled spiritualist.

I met Roger at his apartment the next day. Two things put me off from the get-go. He’s obese as all get out! I have no problem with fatness; I could stand to lose 15 or 20 pounds myself. Roger, though, was disgustingly obese. I mean, didn’t he have any elixirs that could help with his obesity? Second, what’s with all the Marilyn Manson posters everywhere? I don’t hate the guy, but wall-to-wall posters strikes me as a bit excessive? And who listens to him anymore, anyway?

Despite my misgivings, Roger proved to be quite knowledgeable on the subject. He told me that the Mesopotamians first made elixirs to help them get through the day. Given the constant invasions and dry climate, they would have not have created civilization and invented writing without such a concoction.

I showed him a photo of the elixir, for I didn't trust anybody—especially him, someone who understands the value of elixirs.  I  could easily imagine him snatching the bottle from my hands and guzzling it down. He didn’t recognize the bottle or my description of its effects, but he started flipping through various dusty tomes that filled shelves next to his big oak desk. Apart from the Marilyn Manson posters and Snickers wrappers all over the place, his office looked like something out of Harry Potter—probably intentionally so.

As he had his nose in the book, I took the opportunity to look around. On a file cabinet next to his desk I spotted a frothy, foamy substance in a glass goblet. I was intrigued.

“What kind of elixir is that?”


“The glass there.” I gestured toward it.

“Oh, that’s a Coke-Oreo float. I like to wait until the ice cream melts a little.”

“I see,” I replied, trying hard to hide my disappointment.

“Ah hah! There it is!” Roger stabbed the page with his sausage finger. “The elixir you’re looking for: Nishishinjuku.”

“Doesn’t sound Armenian to me.  Indian?”

“Nope. Japanese. This green and black stuff was made in Japan.” He started to laugh obnoxiously.

“Japanese? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I’ll be damned. Are you sure about that?”

“Yes. It says here….wait, where was that….” As Roger was trying to find the relevant passage on the page, I had to witness the unpleasant site of him shaking his head in frustration and his chins following suit. “A company in Nagoya, Japan….named Nishishinjuku, or however you say it, makes the stuff and bottles it…”

“But I bought this bottle in Turkey from an Armenian…”

“Let me finish! They send the bottles to various countries—Korea, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Turkey….”

“What does this mean?”

“It means you need to go to Japan if you want answers and more of the elixir.”

I looked at Roger with dismay.

“I’m just sayin’,” he responded lamely. “I’ll write you a check so you can pick up some for me too. Three bottles should cover your fee, but I want more than that, if what you say about the elixir is true.”

“What’s the fee for? I didn’t know there was a fee.”

“There’s a fee.”

“How am I supposed to go to Japan?”

“I don’t know.”

I found myself staring at him in disgust as he opened up another Snickers and tore off a bite. He didn’t seem to care that I was staring.

An hour later I’m on the phone with Trish, lamenting the situation: the impossibility of going to Japan and, more to the point, the imminent emptying of the elixir bottle.  Moreover, I had no connections whatsoever in this country, and I figured that I would need them.  You don't go traipsing through a country whose language you don't understand and which has a highly ritualized way of doing things.  Well, as it turned out, Trish came through like a champ.

“Do you know Edward Litke?” she asked.

“Vaguely. Wasn’t he that guy who crashed your party a few years ago?”

“True. But we’ve become acquaintances since….”

“What does he have to do with Japan?”

“I remember him talking about a certain…Katrina, who worked in Japan. She know lots of big wigs over there.”


“Yeah. She’s like a corporate exec for Mitsubishi or something like that.”

“You still….or does Ed still know her?”

“Maybe. I’ll see what’s up and get back to you. Got your back, Der.”

“I like lesbians,” I joked with a grin.

“Me too.”  Trish nearly broke my eardrums laughing at her own comeback.  “Say hi to the wife and kids for me.” 

“Will do.”

Before I continue with the story, I should probably explain in a little more detail my experience with the elixir as the weeks rolled on.  I had been conserving the wonderful liquid, even measuring one teaspoon out per week.  I considered refraining from taking it altogether, at least until l I secured more of it; however, I couldn’t resist its charms.  It’s not addictive like a drug.  No.  But imagine going to heaven, milling around for a while there, walking down the golden streets, hanging with Abraham Lincoln or Mother Theresa, and then having to return to pain-ridden earth.  Imagine being filled with such comfort and joy, not having a care in the world.

Even when I was off the stuff, it had lingering effects on me.  I was more responsible as a husband and father.  Family and friends certainly enjoyed my company.  My days of being a sourpuss, it seemed, were nothing but a dim memory.  I used to come home from work and sit in my car listening to death metal, angry at the world, feeling sorry for myself.  Now I hang out at coffee shops, listen to Josh Groban CDs, network on Facebook, and encourage people to be who they are.

I didn’t think Trish would follow through, but she did. She calls me about a week later, telling me that I’ll have to come up with the plane ticket, but she’s arranged, through this Katrina, to hook me up with some Japanese officials who can help me once I get there. They’ll in fact meet me at Narita International Airport.

How was I going to pay for this trip?  Unfortunately, I ended up selling my daughter's Jetta, the one my parents-in-law gave her.  She only agreed to it because I told her I would buy her a brand new vintage 1975 Corvette Stingray, which she had been talking about ever since she saw it in some chick flick.  Why would I promise such a thing?  This is one instance in which I'll blame the elixir.  I had just taken a gulp and was feeling euphoric.

I later learned that Katrina wasn't a corporate exec for Mitsubishi.  In fact, she never worked for the company, nor any respectable business.  Lisa Liebowitz, Katrina's real name, was a stripper who gained a reputation for her "White Devil Geisha" act in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.  She had "connections," as it were, with Mr. Matsui and some of his colleagues.  In the end, it didn't matter, as long as I had someone waiting for me at Narita Airport who could help me negotiate the foreign culture and customs.