Dec 15, 2004

Worth standing out in the cold?

You be the judge. Below is about the clearest shot I got (of me, on videotape at home) from last night's live American Morning broadcast at Roppongi Hills.

Can you find me? (Hint: I'm not one of the hatless people.)

And it was cold. Not unbearably cold - I grew up with Nebraska winters, after all - but cold enough that after 45 minutes standing in one spot I began questioning the sanity of waiting just for a few seconds of blurry exposure in the shadows behind Bill Hemmer.

But I stuck it out for an hour and a half, and as the mostly expat crowd thinned out after 11:00 I managed to scoot up toward the front. At some point, a CNNj staff member approached sheepishly and explained with great politeness that I should not be pushing the people in front of me, as this is "very dangerous" behavior. I didn't push anyone, I told him truthfully, and he reiterated, "yes, but you should not push people." Great, thanks for the widely applicable advice, I told him, but let me tell you again that I was not pushing anyone. Perhaps you've mistaken me for someone else. All I was doing was petting Pokey the dachsund (who even got interviewed by Bill at the end of the show).

This Japanese guy in Tokyo is telling me that pushing is very dangerous behavior??? Has he ever been on a rush hour subway in this town?

Aside from swiveling around now and then to ask his fan base how we were doing, Bill didn't interact with the crowd as much as I expected. He spent a lot of time fiddling with a laptop to his right or having the different cell phone models explained to him. Now and then the Japanese-looking guy next to me in the Jets cap and jacket would yell some random thing in Bill's direction, which Bill mostly ignored but occasionally would respond to. Stuff like "Where do you live, Bill?" "What part of Manhattan?" "Where are you staying in Tokyo?" "Have you eaten _____ yet?" "Hey, Bill! I saw your personal video last night." "Hey, Bill! Jack's doing the hawk report again!" Standing next to the socially awkward Jets guy provided a good exercise in patience, as he would not shut up about Pale Male and Lola, the pair of red-tail hawks in NYC that Jack Cafferty reports on every day.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the night was listening to the other expats talk about their lives in Japan. There were a number of students on one-year exchanges, but the most vocal were a group of middle-aged women in the front row. Most of them live "in the neighborhood," which means they have money. And since they apparently don't work, one could presume that they are wives of either business executives or members of the diplomatic corps. A number of them have been in Japan for anywhere from six to thirteen years. What baffled me was that they still acted completely American. I realize it's possible - especially if you're not interested in growing culturally - to live in Tokyo and never interact with the locals. Especially around the foreigner-laden Nishi Azabu and Roppongi areas. But thirteen years without learning more than how to say 'good morning' and 'good night'?

We've been here only four years, and I already feel like I've been redrawn with an indelible marker. Maybe that's my problem.

Anyway, here are some things I learned about Bill Hemmer last night:

  • He is graying in the back

  • He is not a huge fan of octopus

  • He doesn't like his glasses

  • He did like his hairdo and beard 10 years ago

  • He drinks from a Starbucks cup

  • He types expertly one-handed on his IBM Thinkpad

  • He is pretty good at sitting still for hours at a time


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