68. Paranoia

Friday afternoon, July 7th


Later when I’ve gotten back from Kokura, two officials from the Customs Office—Nakata, the pudgy one with the wimpy little mustache and Windbreaker—pay me a visit. Nakata told me yesterday that my cell phone would be returned today, but thanks to Azami’s incessant calling, the battery died before the data could be transferred. And now the two of them are entreating me, practically cap in hand, for the adaptor. They don’t have the authority to confiscate it out right, Nakata explaines with a tinge of embarrassment; my permission is required.

Were there anything remotely incriminating on my cell phone, I might not be so cooperative. Fortunately, I have for many years been in the habit of erasing all out-going texts, and keeping the in-box tidy, purposely free of anything that could implicate me, or my friends, in any crime or “extracurricular” love activity. I have dé Dale to thank for that.


Those first two grams of crystal meth didn’t last nearly as long as I had hoped. Imagine that! Before I knew it, I was buying a gram here, another there, but always for some express reason or another, of course. If it weren’t finals I had to cram for, then it was Giles Peterson DJ-ing at O/Dor a date with a hot nurse that required me to be sharperthan usual. Within six months of that first enlightening hit, I was buying five-gram bags of the drug for the bargain-basement price of seven thousand yen ($67) a gram.

Dé Dale meanwhile was buying the shit in bulk–twenty, thirty grams at a time–and, as a precaution, keeping most of his stash in a safe place an hour’s drive outside the city. Whenever he couldn’t be bothered, or was just too damn “baked” to make the trip, he would ring me up from a pay phone and ask to “borrow” a gram of “Shinji”, no different from, say, a neighbor knocking on your door to borrow a cup of sugar.

I’ll never forget that first neighborly visit.

Dé Dale wasted little time getting down to business. The Frenchman could be as methodical as a surgeon. After, giving the coffee table in my living room a good wipe down with tissue, he took the small packet of crystal meth I had given him and snipped a corner off with his Swiss Army knife. Placing the bit of plastic that he had just cut off in the center of the tissue, he twisted the tissue up.

Next, dé Dale set about preparing the foil. I handed him a strip, which he folded in half to form a perfect square. With another narrow fold along the open end he created a cuff sealing the foil. He then wiped the foil down with a fresh piece of tissue making it nice and flat, free of any wrinkles or creases where the meth might catch and burn. Finally, he manipulated the foil with his fingertips to form a shallow trough into which he then sprinkled some of the crystals.

Before lighting up, dé Dale dug a small, but powerful penlight out of his pocket and, illuminating the surface of the table, scoured every inch of the table and the surrounding floor.

“Aha,” dé Dale said, pointing to a speck on the table. “You see that?”

He dabbed at a splinter with the tip of his index finger and added it to the rest of the crystal on the foil. After placing the first tissue into the second and twisting the two of them up, he gestured for me to follow him to the toilet. There, he set the tissue alight, allowing it burn slowly and thoroughly.

“You may think I’m being paranoid,” dé Dale said, “but, my friend, paranoia has nothing to do with it. I’m merely being careful. And, I want you to be very careful, too. You have to realize what the risks are. Do you want to go to jail?”

“Of course not,” I said. “You think I’m stupid?”

“Well then, if you are so smart, I need not tell you that little piece of plastic in there could get you arrested. It’s not much, but it’s enough for the cops to take your freedom away, to put you behind bars until you talk, and believe me, you willtalk. If talking gets you out and back to your life, you will sing like le canari, just as everyone does.”

Dé Dale turned the tissue to keep the flame alive, and once satisfied he had destroyed any evidence, dumped it into the toilet and flushed it.

Mon ami, ici, ce n’est pas l’Amerique. La France non plus,” he said. This is not America, my friend. It’s not France, either. “The police won’t break down your door here. They’re much more subtle. The first thing they do is go through your garbage when you’re not around, then they go in and check all the surfaces in your apartment, wipe them all down, vacuum the floors. Then, they take it all to their labs to be tested. And if they find traces of our friend “Shinji”here, how are you gonna explain how he got here? A little bird flew it in?”

Dé Dale stared intently at me, looking past my eyes into that thick head of mine to listen to the thoughts.

“No, my friend, you will not say anything,” dé Dale continued. “Why? Because they won’t find anything here that incriminates you. And you know why? I will tell you why. Because, so long as you want to meet Shinji, you will be as careful as I am. You understand?”

I nodded.

Tres bien.”

We returned to the coffee table and lit up.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.


All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

48. Show Time!

It wasn’t until The Zoo opened down the street from my apartment in late 1999 that dé Dale and I finally got to know each other. Although he had been living in Fukuoka for nearly as long as I had, the two of us seemed to be running around in concentric circles. All I knew about the man was a few salacious rumors.

In the dark, too, about dé Dale’s nationality, I resorted to greeting him in English, a “Hey, man” here, a “Whassup?” there, whenever our paths happened to cross. And so, it was in English that we spoke for the first time, curiosity having compelled me to pop over to The Zoo on its opening night.

A row of massive bouquets stood on tripods before the shop bearing congratulatory messages from companies that conducted business with dé Dale. Inside, the shop was crowded with businessmen, friends, staff, and not a few customers who, like me, had been attracted by the commotion.

Dé Dale walked straight over to me, hand out and grinning broadly. “Thanks for coming!”

“Quite a store you’ve got here,” I said.

The Zoo was deep and narrow. At the front of the shop, fashion accessories were displayed: racks upon racks of rings, bracelets, bags and hats. The deeper you ventured into the shop, however, the more degenerate the merchandise became. Outrageous graffiti covering the walls and ceiling pulled you further into the store, where body modification equipment was on display. Everything you could possibly want and more to pierce, cut, implant, stretch or tattoo your body. And in the very rear, in The Zoo’s Holy of Holies, dissipation reigned: every kind of paraphernalia imaginable vied for space on the crowded shelves: pipes, bongs, rolling paper, scales, turbo lighters, and so on. And there in the glass case next to the cash register was a smorgasbord of psychedelics, many I had never before heard of.

“You’re so conveniently located,” I said to dé Dale, giddy as a boy in a toyshop, “I don’t know whether to be thrilled or concerned.”

“Man, you cannot believe what I have been through in the last three days to make The Zoo a possibility,” dé Dale said excitedly. He was standing before a row of dildos, one of which wobbled and churned on the shelf. “Four days ago my realtor found this property, the next day I got the loan and signed the contract. Yesterday, we painted the place and then moved all this stuff in last night. I have not slept a minute in four days.”

“Sounds like a rough week.”

“No! Sounds like a goodweek! A great week for business! There was a chance, I took it, and—boom—three days later, here I am and here you are and here is everyone else and now it’s show time. You saw the sign?”

“The sign? The one out front? Yes, I . . .”

“There’s a reason for that,” dé Dale said, giving his temple a self-congratulatory tap.

Rather than hanging a shingle out front that gave the business hours like practically every other shop in the world, there was a board that said: 


Show Time: 11am to ?


The Zoo is not just a store,” dé Dale crowed.

“You can say that again.”

“This is going to be my showcase. This store! This is but merely the beginning, my friend! Merely the beginning.”

There was no way I could have known it at the time, but dé Dale was full on, pumped up with enough methamphetamine to give an elephant a heart attack. I was under the naive assumption that the man rocking on the balls of his feet before me had the stamina of Napoleon who famously functioned on as little as three hours’ sleep a night. And, like le Petit Caporal, dé Dale was also short in stature, even in a country like Japan. What he lacked in height, though, he more than compensated in his physical presence: he had the broad shoulders and powerful arms of an ape.

“Pardon me, but I don’t believe I know your name,” dé Dale said, presenting me with a business card: G. dé Dale, President.


“Gabriel, Gabriel dé Dale. Everyone calls me dé Dale. And you are?”

“Rémy,” I said.

“Rémy?” he said. His piercing blue eyes studied me. “You’re American, no? Or am I confusing you with some one else?”

“I am American, American by birth, but I’m half French. My old man’s from Avignon.”

“Avignon. Interesting. And the other half?”


“Ah, Lebanese!” His eyes widened as if his suspicions had been proven correct. “You are only the second Lebanese I have ever met, and you both party. That must be some country.”

“It is. You should visit it some day.”

“I would very much like to do that, but I am . . . Jewish.” Dé Dale’s hair was strawberry blond, cropped militarily short. On his chin he sported a narrow beard, tinged with orange. He looked like the Devil himself. “Now that we’re neighbors, we ought to get together and party.”

“Sure, anytime,” I replied, pulling my own business card out of my wallet. “I usually finish work late . . .”

In a broad gesture taking in the whole of his store, he said, “And you take me for some nine-to-five stiff?”

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

45. Business as usual

On my way home, I pedal past dé Dale’s flagship shop, The Zoo. A block and a half away from my apartment, the shop specializes in drug paraphernalia: rolling papers and bongs, turbo lighters and glass pipes for smoking meth and crack. The Zoo also sells beach cruisers and New York hats and original silver accessories and anime figurinesbut those bicycles and hats, as popular as my friend claims them to be, isn’t what brings people into his shop at three o’clock in the morning.

Dé Dale always opened up possibilities for me: where other foreigners spoke of the limitations of being a gaijinin Japan, of all the things they couldn’t do, my friend was steaming ahead, doing the unimaginable: running several headshops in town and selling drugs, albeit it nominally legal ones. What balls! What stupidity!

“If you really want to make money,” dé Dale once lectured me, “you must tread a very fine line between what is accepted and what is not, what is allowed and what is not, what is legal . . . and what is not. That is where the money is, Rémy! That is where the others are too goose to tread.”



“Yeah, it’s ‘chicken’, not ‘goose’.” 

“Ah, chicken. Yes. I am a learning machine,” he said, and he was. 

I try not to be too obvious as I ride by The Zoo. Beach cruisers are lined up smartly on the sidewalk, lava lamps gurgle in the display window, and the dreadlocked manager is slouched at the entrance having a smoke. Seeing me, he gives me a friendly nod. 

Business as usual. Thank God.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.