Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Strange, Brief Acquaintance

I'm writing this brief post sort of as a confession, and as an apology.  I'm writing one specific person, who lives in my town.  

I'm a translator who has translated over fifty DVDs of Japanese cinema, and lots of them are available online on Netflix, etc.  Translators don't get a lot of credit, but it's always nice to read raving reviews about the "great" and "superb" etc. translation.  I translate because it's an aspect of my profession, and not because I'm a fan.  I'm strictly a professional translator. Once the movie is finished, it's out of sight and out of mind, and I move on to the next task at hand.  True, I've liked a few movies here and there.  I especially liked the series "Sleepy Eyes of Death" starring ... wait, I have to look this up ... oh yes, Raizo Ichikawa.  I liked the series because I could relate to the main character.

Anyway, I stumbled upon an Asian cinema blog, and saw that several of the films I had translated had been reviewed.  I looked up the author profile, and voila, he lives in my town! I thought it might be some kind of kismet, so I wrote him an email.  We then spoke on the phone, and went on a bro-date to a Sushi joint I had never been to.  He was generous and sprung for the check.  A short while later, we went for a swim at the ritzy gym downtown (membership required, again, his treat), and afterward, I bought dinner.  

He indeed was a bon vivant as he refers to himself.  He doesn't have to work, he has no children, and he and his wife are globe trotters.  He has written several books on the subject of Asian cinema, and even gave me an autographed copy of one, full of fabulous photos he himself had gleaned from jaunts to Japanese studios.  

All this was fine and good, but I found myself in a curious pickle.  He was under the impression that I was an Asian-cinemaphile too, when in fact I couldn't care less about the genre. I was just a professional translator who so happened to have translated a whole bunch of Japanese flicks, and that's as far as I go on the subject.  He dropped names of actors and directors, of this movie and that movie.  I pretended to understand what the hell he was talking about.  His knowledge of the subject was encyclopedic, and all I could do was nod.  I said nothing in return, but he didn't suspect a thing.  After all, I had translated so many of his favorite movies.  

I didn't know what to do.  We got together a few times thereafter.  He brought gifts for us and our children.  He and his wife took us out to a fine and expensive dinner, he paid for the whole thing without batting an eye.  And all that time, I was in the difficult situation of not knowing what to say or do.  Should I come right out and tell him that I have no interest in Asian cinema? How could I, after all he's done for me?  He was generous to a fault.  He also is a rowdy sort as he was in a metal band in the 80's, and I showed him no empathy in his raucousness.  He liked to party, I didn't.  He liked Asian cinema, I didn't.  What did we have in common? I had nothing in common with him, and yet led him to believe we had that great commonality of Asian-cinemaphilia.  

Several weeks after the last dinner, I told him I'd call him in January.  I called him in May. He was rightfully upset, and called off our friendship, as he said that he had gathered I was not interested in his company.  I just didn't have the heart to tell him that I was not a fan of Japanese movies. That I had only pretended, and got caught up in a relationship I could not sustain, because it was based on nothing. And I know I bored the daylights out of him.  

So I write this as an apology to him, because he was a better friend to me than I was to him. It's a lesson for me to not seek "kismet" in places that are not dear to my heart; it's a path to inauthenticity. Strange circumstance it was, indeed.  I wish him good health and well being.