a tokyo state of mind

If there is something I’d like to be remembered for, it is my absolute inability to drink.
I don’t say this with pride; I simply believe that it is one of my more positive – albeit incapacitating – traits. Boyfriends have found my post-half-a-beer stumbling adorable, friends know they never have to include me in a second round, and my family will happily pour one less glass of good wine. I like to believe that the money I have saved ex-boyfriends on alcohol somehow cancels out my sociopathic propensity for screaming fights, and that between friends, I still retain some utility as the generally sober one with no driver’s license. These thoughts run through my throbbing temples – the beginning of a hangover – just as everyone [irritatingly, happily] starts in on their second round. A good night usually has me drinking large amounts of water and running to the bathroom for the rest of the night; a less successful one has me spontaneously passing out on some random, semi-horizontal surface.
Having come to terms with the fact that a glass of Chimay will make me cross-eyed, I generally stick to what I know best: premium American beers known better by three-letter acronyms and girly drinks so watered down they have the inebriating effect of juice. I ordered a tall glass of something similar on Tim and Chandler’s last night in Tokyo, at a yakiniku restaurant full of fake geishas with plunging necklines.

“What is that, like a wine cooler?” Chandler asked.
“Yeah,” Tim said after taking a sip, “but worse.”
But it was something I could finish, which had, to me, some semblance of significance. Like a triathlete’s proud “Finisher” t-shirt, it seemed like an achievement I could refer back to later in the evening, should my night not conclude with the check. “But I finished that drink,” I could say defensively, “remember? Back at that restaurant? Like an hour ago? Remember?”
I came back from the bathroom, however, [escorted there by those same geishas] not to my empty glass, but a full one. Courtesy of Arnie of Red Bull.
“High five, Kaiko,” he said.

A drunken blush had started to invade my entire face by the time Arnie, Ai [also of Red Bull], Chandler, Tim and I crammed into an elevator and back outside. To go to karaoke. This was going to be interesting…in part because Arnie ordered vodka shots as soon as we got there.
Vodka and I have a somewhat troubled history. The first time I drank an entire shot of vodka, the room spun, and I ended up with my face in my sister’s toilet for the majority of the night. Until 4 a.m., that toilet seat was the most reassuring headrest I’d ever known, its surface so cool and welcome it didn’t occur to me until much later that that morning, my left buttcheek had rested in the same spot where my face was. But at that point, I was beyond being “gross,” and was actively embracing “downright disgusting.” I even went so far as to attempt to talk to a then-boyfriend while slumped over that porcelain fixture, as if my inability to refrain from convulsively bringing up nacho remnants every time I opened my mouth would somehow wither in the face of [college] love. It didn’t.
I finally stopped retching, took the next day off, but told my boss at my internship the truth a few days later [“I think I drank a little too much the other night”]. Later that summer, I was asked to parade in front of the Grand Hyatt hotel next to Grand Central station wearing a sandwich board. I would like to think the two events are somehow not related.
Afterwards, I swore off vodka shots like I swear off boys post-break-up; just long enough to forget about all the bad shit that went down. One could argue that my vodka abstinence lasted a bit longer, due to the fact that the mere mention of gray geese was enough to give my esophagus spasms [something, admittedly, no man in my life has been able to do before]. Mental gag reflexes had abated, though, by my best friend’s bachelorette party. As the sole bridesmaid without an acceptable, bullshit excuse to not get properly shitfaced, I did my first vodka shot in forever, topped off with most of a Tom Collins. We ended up at South Brooklyn Pizza later that night, where I crammed bread, cheese, tomato sauce, and gobs of roasted garlic into my mouth while mostly ignoring the group of guys we had collected on the way. I rolled outside, cheese probably stuck between several teeth, and promptly dropped the ball on reciprocating flirting with an incredibly handsome British banker [his handsome-ness certainly didn’t help the situation]. Instead, I crawled into a cab to pass out on my sister’s couch, half-bedazzled and fully clothed, but without pants. Thank you, alcohol.

Back at the karaoke booth, still in denial that I was already on my way to getting tanked, I took an obligatory sip off my shot after we all raised our glasses. I thought I was in the clear, until Tim pointed to my mostly-full glass. The last train literally and figuratively pulled out of Shibuya as I picked up my glass and clinked it against Tim’s [which Arnie had somehow refilled]. Bottoms up.

From there the my night got a lot more awesome. Arnie serenaded us with ballads like Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” Ai was hitting all the high notes that no one else could, Chandler and Tim were adding the appropriate screams to Guns ‘n Roses songs, and we all yelled along to “Thriller.” …And then I started rapping.

Let me clarify: I do not usually do this. In fact, until that night, I have never subjected a person I had only met several hours prior, to my inner gangsta [Sorry, Ai!]. Much like masturbation, I will admit to doing it [come on, everyone lip syncs into their mirror, right?] but that doesn’t mean I’m doing it in public. As proof, I could list long-term boyfriends and close friends who have never so much as heard the words declaration “it was all a dream/I used to read Word Up magazine,” escape my lips. I may hum along to a rap chorus, but my real rapping sessions have largely been conducted in the safe confines of my room, and even then with the paranoid, self-consciousness of Michael Bolton in “Office Space.”
But feeling either generous or cruel [depending on one’s assessment of my performance] in addition to simply drunk, I was enthusiastically channeling Snoop Dogg in “California Gurls” and Jay-Z in “Empire State of Mind.” Jaws seemed to drop a little before general laughter followed. Tequila shots appeared. I actually drank half of mine.

We wrapped it up around 3 a.m. with a Lady Gaga medley and said our goodbyes. I staggered into a cab, didn’t hurl as soon as I got home and randomly drunk-emailed friends while lurching uncontrollably. All with my pants undone.

The next day, for the first time in my life, I was [horribly, disgustingly] hung over. Tim and Chandler emailed a last goodbye from the airport, and I told them to come back soon, for Round 2.
Because come to think of it, we never did get around to Biggie or ‘Pac...

pedal strike, esq.

It was Saturday, and tummy full of breakfast eaten with the family, we were killing time before the planned IKEA run.
“You have another thing in common with Pantani,” I was informed, “you both love karaoke.” Then, “...Oh my God.”
From Mike’s new iPad came the streaming sounds of an Italian song. He had found a gem of a Youtube video, from 1996, when Pantani, injured from a tangle with a car and told he might never walk - much less ride - again, sung the Giro theme.
We played it at least three times in a row while Pantani transported us to whole other world of awesome. And between the first and second time, I commented that that video made my weekend, that it was even better than my graduation.


Because on Friday, I officially became an Esquire. Or at least an almost-Esquire [I think I’m allowed to at least put the J.D. after my name]. I had rolled out of bed, put on mascara, squeezed into a dress, ran to a bus in heels, and wore a polyester gown for two hours in the heat to pick up an impressive[ly big] piece of paper. And to be honest, it was sort of anticlimactic. We lined up alphabetically, walked, listened to speeches, and, well, graduated. And like that weirdly surreal feeling of stagnancy I felt after I finished all my exams, I didn’t quite believe it had happened.
Instead, I’ve felt a lingering disappointment. Like Pavlov's dog, I’d waited too long for this day for it possibly measure up to my expectations of freedom, universal love, and world peace. After three years, I'd even managed to get tired of salivating.
Maybe it’s the impending bar exam and the fact that I have about 10 weeks to memorize 20+ subjects condensed into three consecutive 8 hour days of testing, and the knowledge that I’ll be missing most of this summer. The Tour, my bikes, even my sanity are preparing to hide away, replaced by sheer terror and parental expectations to pass what a friend endearingly called “the most important test of our lives.” I am fucking terrified.



But my panicked moments of nausea-inducing fits of bar-related anxiety aside, my graduation was less than exciting. Not that I expected it to be; I had grumbled that I didn’t even want to go, that if my family hadn’t insisted on flying in, I wouldn’t go. Memories of the past three years are, at least as they relate to law school, marked by mental breakdowns, therapy, and acne.
All of which led me to believe - in part because it was easier that way - that none of it really mattered. I had clung to that belief because otherwise it felt like I had failed at something significant enough to measure my worth. And crazy as I am, even I didn’t want to believe that. So in the middle of winter I had purchased a bicycle. I stayed in school, made some new friends who preferred to live on two wheels, and found a man who, when I told him that I wanted the past three years of my life back, told me he could give me back one. I was skeptical, but I think he just may have.


After the ceremony on Friday, still in my unflattering gown, I had squeezed past classmates scouring the audience for their families, past proud parents taking pictures, to touch Matt on the arm. In our silly caps, we gave each other big smiles, and hugged tight. Because I had found him, too.
And unlike grades, transcripts, and classes, that mattered. That was really, really worth it.