"Picking up Chicks", in Japanese, is "nanpa suru". I learned this in Japan, quite a few years ago, but I had it burned into my brain like a brand is burned into a cow's hip on the Gold Coast of Australia by a young and somewhat effeminate Japanese lad named Makoto, who wasn't very good at it.
In fact he was horrible at it.
In fact, he had never successfully accomplished the feat of picking up chicks in his twenty years on the planet. No "nanpa" for him. None whatsoever. Not a whiff or a sniff. Ever.
Until I came along.
This story is really about two year old race horses and a fat, chocolate eating kid who was supposed to help me transport these jittery colts over a thousand miles. But I won't get that far in the story. Not today. Today is another really hot day that I spent tossing heavy sheets of plywood around in under a baking sun. Today I have the energy to tell you what happened the day before I picked up the horses. Today I won't tell you about the horse I punched, the kid I almost punched, and the man with the gun. I won't tell you about the horse that fell over or the motor that almost boiled over. Not today.
Today I just want to tell you about Makoto and how I helped him in his quest for "nanpa", and how, though he was beaming from ear to ear, it may have been one of the top ten meanest things I have ever done.
I worked for an Australian man named Rosco who didn't need to work. He was married to a very wealthy woman and had an ex-stripper New Zealand girlfriend, named Penny, on the side. None are in this story, not as far as I am gonna take it, but Rosco did ask me to drive a Toyota Hilux down to the Gold Coast, spend a couple of days, and then pick up a horse trailer, two thoroughbred horses, a chocolate eating fat kid (Rosco's son, who was supposed to be "good" with horses-- turns out, the only thing this kid knew how to do was to have me pull over so he could bet on them from a payphone) and drive this circus north and then west for a couple of days.
I said I would, made a few phone calls, and arranged to stay with Makoto, who I had played cards with in Cairns on several different nights while hanging with Japanese "tourists" (youthful, "working holiday" visa holders who were in Australia to experience the bigness of it all and to learn how to say G'day properly as well as to curse).
Makoto was now washing dishes in a Japanese restaurant on the Gold Coast and staying with four other Japanese young men in a tower apartment they all shared about nine floors up above the inland waterways, which they fished from the balcony. Seriously, this is how I found this fivesome. Cheap plastic chairs leaned back against the wall. Fishing rods in one hand and a beer in the other. Nine floors down and then some, red and white bobbers lolligagging in the ripply current, and a pile of left over sushi in a bowl, ready to be used as bait.
"Now THIS is how to live properly!" I met the boys with.
Makoto was obviously excited. He had a big, white, western friend to parade around. He had a new level of coolness and a new stature in his gang of five. He was no longer the bottom feeder in the strata. He had a newfound significance. A purpose. An air of relevance and mastery.
"Scott and I are going to go "nanpa" tomorrow." he said in Japanese.
Eyebrows raised. I smiled.
Everyone knew Makoto had caught many fish from the balcony, but had never landed a girl in his entire life. Not even in Japan, in Tokyo, where the girls swam in schools. Not even though his parents owned a "Soapland", a brothel of sorts, and Makoto had access to all the girls.
Not even then.
You see, Makoto was tall for a Japanese male. He was almost six foot. The trouble was, Makoto wasn't very wide. In fact he was quite thin. He looked like what you would get if you took a Japanese male and stretched him eight inches without adding any more playdoh. He was like an Asian Gumby. He was a stick figure with skin. And he had a big nose and a big Adam's Apple. You know what they say....
His parents sent him to Australia to toughen him up and help him develope. He was supposed to have "experiences" and learn and grow. He was learning to fish from balconies and enjoy beer in a leaning chair. This was good. And he was gaining the courage to at least "think" about approaching a woman and ask her to... you know... talk to him. This was good.
What wasn't good was that he had made plans in his own mind that included me, and he was telling everybody about them in front of me.
"Scott is going to go to the beach with me and we are going to pick up chicks," he kept explaining. "With Scott there, I won't have problems with English (he spoke almost none, which was unusual for the Japanese in Australia), and I think we'll be able to "get" some..."
I smiled and nodded. I looked around. "Got another chair?"
Makoto rushed into the other room and brought back the sixth chair of a plastic set. I leaned it against the wall and put my feet up on the balcony rail-- my favorite posture-- and asked about beer.
Makoto rushed into the kitchen and brought back a cold one.
"Now, we're talkin'"
The rest of the evening was spent talking about her and her and him, people we all knew (all young Japanese "tourists") and Makoto kept bringing up tomorrow and our great "nanpa" expedition. After awhile, the whole idea of shuffling around on the beach, trying to inconspicuously place our blankets near a few bikinis stuffed with young girls (not so they'd notice us "harumph harumph") was sounding more and more like a trip to the ice arena with grandma, who had heard that Charles Schultz owned the rink and that he was friends with my woodshop teacher who had been kissed by Cheryl Tiegs, but that too is for another day. But you get my meaning. Makoto equaled hanging out in places I preferred to remain "cool" in, with my grandma. Not a good comparison.
Night fell and so did we all. We all slept soundly on futons rolled out in furniture-less rooms, and woke to showers and eggs and toast and bacon. Makoto was already talking "nanpa" and had those brochures you pick up in touristy places with cartoon maps and hotel advertisements in the back laid out like treasure maps. He was plotting our assault before nine am. I told him, the best girls didn't even wake till eleven on a Saturday. This calmed him down.
Noon came and Makoto was as hyperactive as he was nervous. He and I had taken the elevator down from the ninth floor fishing platform and had descended on the vast expanses of white, sandy, enormous beaches. This was an off season weekend and so the beaches were more beach than bodies. This meant that wherever we put our towels down, IF it was within fifty feet of a pair or more bikini clad girls, EVERYBODY would know that we were out "nanpa" ing, and the girls would especially know, and make it hard for us. Girls love to flaunt their bodies like prizes and then force you to act like a boobie. This was their part of the "nanpa", and I knew this, and I explained this to Makoto in the best horrible Japanese I could.
"boobie?!" His eyes lit up.
"Calm down Valentino. You'll pop a zipper."
We gathered ourselves at a bench and reconnoitered. We discussed the merits of going after slightly chubby girls and the increased odds that would garner us. Makoto would have none of this. He had his "nanpa" partner and he was going for gold. He wanted to pick up a couple of hotties and he felt I was the --English speaking-- guy to do it with. Aim high, take your chances. That was what seemed to be in Makoto's mind. Go for broke. Bet it all. Go down in a flame of passion and glory.
"Now go nampa!" Makoto extolled me.
You've got to be kidding.
I picked out a pair of girls, one in a pink bikini bottom and no top, and the other in a yellow bikini bottom and no top, about a hundred yards down the beach-- which is odd because I am nearsighted. We marched with our blankets and our books ("You have to have a book", I told Makoto, "so you can look smart and hide your eyes when you need to") and our dark sunglasses and Makoto's SPF40 sunblock--did I mention he was translucent?
Makoto traipsed along behind me like a happy seventh dwarf, a HUGE smile on his face and expectations abounding.
We neared our target bikini bottoms and I picked out a spot that seemed "less obvious" than pure stalking. We flipped our blankets in the wind and worked at setting them down flat.
"Stop staring at them, Makoto! You'll scare them away!"
Makoto was transfixed on two very lovely rumps, compressed breasts oozing out the sides of their chests like hiding heels beneath a curtain, the two girls' heads placed in that sideways, slightly backways position to enable them both to check us out out of the corner of their eyes. They were indeed looking, and pretending not to look. Makoto was staring like a child stares at a candy counter. I hit him in his gut with the back of my hand.
Perhaps too hard.
I knocked the wind out of him. He couldn't breath. I set him down on the sand and grabbed the front of his bathing shorts which I then lifted and lowered like I had learned while playing football as a kid. It opened up the diaghram and drew air into the lungs like a siphon. Makoto was wheezing like an asthmatic
"Hooooo heeeee hooooo haaaa"
My lifting and lowering him was getting him some air.
"Is he going to be OK?" It was one of the girls. I turned to look at them. Both had sat up and turned toward us, revealing four-- yes four-- very lovely tatas.
"Hooooo hee heee hoooo haaaaa." said Makoto. He was "nampa" ing and it seemed to be working.
"I think so." I called over. "I caught him staring at you two so I backhanded him in the stomach. I think I hit him too hard."
"Heeeee hooooo haaaaa hoooo eeee...." Makoto was coming around.
"He looks really sick," the other girl said. "Are you sure he's alright?"
"He'll be fine. I don't think he's seen pretty girls before." (OK, so I tried a line) The two girls became self-conscious and began whispering amongst themselves. What I imagined (my ego takes full responsibility, here) they were discussing was the math. Two of them with that one and that one, meaning Makoto and I. "Who was going to hang with Makoto?" didn't even make it into full discussion mode. It simply led to the girls putting on their shirts and walking by Makoto and I for one final polite word or two and then a wiggle off the beach and into a bar.
"You shouldn't hit a guy like that, it isn't right." said the brunette in pink.
"Maybe we'll see you twos later?" said the blonder one in yellow.
Makotos eyes and smile grew again. These two girls were really something.
I said something unmemorable, and that was that.
Strike two went better, but the girls weren't as hot as our first attempt. Makoto understood the reason for the surreptitious glances and avoided staring. What he understood, was that he was able to gawk at pretty girls in bikinis for three times as long. Finally, his enthusiasm got the best of him and he started pulling on my arm, trying to get me to stand and go "nampa" the two girls who were way on to us.
Now... I'm not a pickle. I don't offend girls aesthetically and actually light a few fires. I don't get real nervous talking to girls I don't know, and I don't usually come across as "canned" and "vaudevillian". But when someone pulls on your arm and sets you in motion while you know your target girls have observed the whole silly thing, then trouble is a coming. I knew before I got there that trouble was a coming. When trouble is a coming, instinct always leads me to the the same thing, over and over. Tell the truth.
"I'm really sorry to bother you girls," I said (and they were thinking-- "Here it comes. The bad pick up line. Maybe he wants to borrow a cigarette or a light... But it's coming...") and I continued. "But that skinny Japanese guy over there has never picked up a girl in his entire life." I pointed.
They looked at Makoto. Makoto looked like a POW washed up upon the beach.
"I can see why." said one of the girls.
"He a bloody rail." said the other.
I gave them the story of how he wants me to help him pick up a girl and that is why we are here and if I had my druthers I would be on the ninth floor of an apartment building, overlooking the inland waterways, leaning back in a plastic chair with my feet on the rail drinking a beer.
These girls had a bit of a mean streak in them, I could tell. Nothing serious, just a bit of selfish teen "me-ism" mixed with a young, habitual female discomfiture and a grain or two of fatherly spoilation, and this was the attitude that I couldn't crack.There was nothing in these girls' hearts and minds that wanted to go out on a sympathy date with a skeletal, glow-in-the-dark, closet prank.
No way. They shook their heads. No way. Uh uh. No sirree. Never. What if someone SAW them?
I went back to Makoto and told him the news. He was expectant and all ears.
"They have boyfriends." I explained. Makoto understood.
This time, we picked up our blankets and moved on. I was getting to the point where the whole excercise was starting to bug me. I had started a novel that I actually liked, and was getting more and more into reading it. This dead-end "nanpa" thing was amusing at first, but it was hot and my butt crack was sandy and I needed a swim--which I took-- and now if I could just get back to my book...
Makoto would have no part in this. He had come within feet of several bouncing boobies and had stared at the back legs of a couple of decent looking young girls. There was no turning back now. He was on a roll.
He picked out the next victims. Two girls, a bit older than the second set of girls but younger than the first, with ample breast seepage and tiny bikini bottoms, at two o'clock (it seemed later than that to me).
Nanpa. Scotto. Nanpa. (Scott in Japanese is Sukatto, it sounds like Scotto)
"Alright", I agreed. "Alright."
We set our blankets out. The girls shifted a bit to check out the checker outters. We had been spotted early, assessed, then ignored. I opened my book. Makoto did his surreptitious stare thingy. A chapter of the book went by and I was quite happy. Makoto was ready. He sensed the time was ripe. One of the girls had made a move into the ocean, then the other, and now they were back. They jiggled in all the right ways and even I had noticed this over my book pages.
"Nanpa. Scotto. Nanpa."
Ahh crap. Here we go....
"You do it," I said. "You go nanpa those girls."
"Huh?" Makoto knew I knew he didn't speak English. He was confused. "I couldn't say anything. They don't speak Japanese."
I was agitated. I wanted to get back to my book and this led me down the pernicious and malicious path I was about to embark on and it's not my fault. Makoto brought this upon me... He did it. Blame it on HIM!
"I'll tell you what to say."
"I will. Just go up to those girls and say...."
"...and say... excuse me...."
"Excuse me..." (Makoto knew this expression.)
"Say... excuse me, but I have a little dick."
"Excuse me, but I hab a rittle dick!"
"Yes, that's it." I was cheering up already.
"Excuse me, but I hab a rittle dick! Excuse me, but I hab a rittle dick! Excuse me, but I hab a rittle dick!" Makoto was not going to get this wrong. He was going to practice this while I practiced keeping a straight face under duress.
"Excuse me, but I hab a rittle dick!" He was changing speeds and accents now, accentuating first the "excuse me", and then the "dick", and then "I hab" and then rittle dick became one word. Rittledick!
I had to calm him down. "You got it. Now go. The time is right."
Makoto swaggered over to the two topless wet girls coated in cream. He was sure he had the "right stuff". He was armed with a pick up line that was sure to succeed. We had gotten so close before. Scotto was a champion at nanpa. He knew what worked and what didn't. There they were. Two girls showing him their backsides while their boobies squished out the sides of their chest as they lay and waited for him. Makoto the nanpa master. Makoto the invincible nanpa man.
Makoto the rail.
He stopped and stooped. I lowered my book and watched through dark glasses. A shadow fell over the two girls faces and they looked up, to see.... Makoto. All six feet and one hundred and twenty pounds of him. The big nose. The big Adam's apple...
A bubbly giggly had already escaped from within me. There was more cavitating in there and they were ready to rumble.
"Excuse me." said Makoto. "I hab a rittle dick."
"What?" said one of the girls.
"What did you say?" asked the other.
Makoto was rolling now. They had talked to him! "Excuse me. I hab a rittle dick. I hab a rittledick!"
I was losing it. Ever laugh on your back and the only thing you can do is throw your feet in the air? Well, I got big feet. The two girls looked at me. Makoto felt the charm was working so he got excited and started repeating it, faster and faster and with more and more emphasis all over the place and with spittle spraying everywhere.
"I hab a rittle dick. I hab a rittledick! I HAB a rittle dick! Excuse me! I hab a rittle dick...."
The two girls were now laughing insanely but politely at Makoto and eyeing me behind him, as I was losing it. They just had to find out what the heck was going on. Who was? How did? This was too funny to be real....
They grabbed their shirts and threw them on and walked over to where I was holding my sides and trying desperately to not let Makoto see me laughing.
He was beaming from ear to ear.
"Scotto. I did "nanpa!"
"Yes, you did, Makoto." The two girls were looking at me like I was their older brother about to let them in on something cool. I was speaking Japanese to this skinny guy who had just professed his ambivalence to Jock straps while jumping rope and an explanation would be a cool thing to take away from this day to tell their friends.
I explained. I explained why I had a Yank accent. I explained about the horses. I exlained about fishing from the ninth floor and about playing cards in Cairns with Makoto and his friends, and about how I had come to speak a smattering of Japanese and about where I was from...
And Makoto was in heaven. He had two girls willing to sit next to him and talk. Never mind that I couldn't translate most of the conversation, often times filling in big bits with things like, "She says she thinks you are cute," and "she was wondering if you had a girlfriend?" and things like that. The girls were slowly starting to really like hanging with us, and Makoto went from being a pathetic guy to a funny oddity to a humorous Japanese guy who behaved really cutely around girls. We moved the party from the beach to a bar, and Makoto kept pulling out money from every possible storage place in his beach attire, and the night ended with Makoto recieving BOTH the girl's phone numbers and promises to come up and watch him fish. Makoto really was the best fisherman in that apartment.
I left later the next day to go find a couple of horses and spent the night on the side of the road in my boss's truck. The next morning, I would be ready bright and early to pick up a couple of two year old race horses, but that story is for another day.
It was too hot outside today and I don't have the energy.