Saturday, January 26, 2013

Worlds Collide Under Purple Skies

It's amazing to me how often my Japanese world collides with my American world.  Two years ago, I happened to be on vacation in New Orleans.  I was sitting by a rooftop pool at my hotel and wanted to order a drink.  I walked up to the bar, waiting for the bartender to notice me.  An African American waitress came up with her order for him and while she was waiting they somehow got on the topic of manga.  She said there was one she loved and read all the time.   I think it was One Piece.  He was shocked that she knew it.  She was shocked that he knew it.  Then I chimed in that I was studying  Japanese.  It turns out that they both were also studying Japanese.  The three of us broke out laughing at the bizarre coincidence.

Last night, at a different bar in Santa Monica California, I sat eating a Poblano Chili Steak with a glass of California cabernet before heading to a movie.   I don't usually like to sit at bars, but when I walked into the restaurant, there was a  woman seated on the side of the bar, hunched over a journal.  She had a trappers' fur hat on with a dress and boots.  She seemed like a rebel and that made me feel comfortable.

The bar now felt like a safety zone and I wouldn't feel foolish writing there myself.  I had just purchased a new journal at the Barnes and Noble bookstore down the street.  I sat, ordered, wrote, ate.  On my other side, another young woman sat down and hurriedly texted on her iphone while eating her happy hour dinner.  I thought we looked a bit formidable, the three of us.  There wouldn't be a man coming to interrupt our busyness, that was clear.

Finally I leaned over to the woman in the hat and asked her if she was a writer.  She looked up and smiled with giant topaz eyes lined in kohl and said, "Oh. Yes.  I'm a song writer."  She said she liked my red, burnished leather journal, it was pretty.  "Thanks, I just got it. Brand new."  "Oh me too!" and she flashed the cover of hers to me, the iconic Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany's photo.  "I love my journals.  When I'm done, I line them up facing out like this," she demonstrated in the air with Audrey's lovely face floating high in front of us. We talked about The Artist's Way (a famous book that teaches the reader how to overcome writers' block and how to connect with one's artistic gifts) and how much it meant to her, how she started the process of Morning Pages (the suggested practice of writing three pages every morning) and how she just keeps writing, and writing and writing, morning noon and night! Although it's been years since I worked the Artists Way program, I still remember that feeling of surging optimism and confidence those exercises gave me.

She asked me what kind of writing I did and I told her I'm a travel writer.  "Do you have a Blog?" she asked.  ( Funny how my generation still doesn't ask that right up front.   It might come up later in conversation, but not one of the first things.)  She wanted to check it out.  I told her I'm also currently working on a book about my travels in Japan.  She nodded quickly and a huge smile lit up her face.  "My album, Purple Skies, is now #7 on iTunes Japan!"

Worlds collide indeed.  

Her name is Michelle Shaprow.  We exchanged email addresses and I had to run off to see my movie, but we promised to check out each other's work.  Today I spent the morning listening to a few of the songs off the album.  Jazzy and soulful, but with the brightness of youth in her voice,  it appears Michelle Shaprow's  Morning Pages have been more than somewhat successful.

Sometimes you just know you're on the right track in your life because the Universe makes arrangements behind your back, then hides little gifts for you to find that make you smile, look up at the sky and say, "Thanks.  I get it!"  Who knew that I would be writing in a bar in Santa Monica with one of Japan's favorite new American vocalists?

Have a listen to one of my favorites off the album titled Back Down to Earth:


  1. I wonder if just mentioning the name Michelle Shaprow will bump your stats in Japan?

    I pretty much believe you that you don't like to go by yourself to drink in bars, but I must point out that you have pointed out drinking in bars three times on this blog. At least.

    1. I have? The other two must have been while in Japan, since I think my total for doing that in America in the past 10 years is perhaps no more than four times!

      I prefer to drink alone at home...

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