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Joe to Jail, Atsuko to Japan (Part 13)

Joe: Here’s the set-up. Atsuko and I were on a superbike traveling fast over the Golden Gate Bridge. I was under the influence of cocaine and alcohol. A cop pulled me over and busted me for drunk driving and possession of a “narcotic substance.” I pled guilty and was sentenced to 90 days in the Marin County Jail. Atsuko and I talked about what she should do for the three months that I would be incarcerated and paying my debt to society. But first we got married in the Civic Center courthouse on McAllister between Polk and Van Ness in San Francisco. The judge—a 300-pound woman—read our vows and pronounced us husband and wife. After a celebration, we went to Las Vegas for our honeymoon. When we returned to SF, I went to jail and my wife went to Japan to study ceramics. She had never wanted to be a good little Japanese wife, but she had strong ties to Japan so it made sense for her to go to her own country.

Atsuko: I had met Joe in San Francisco, where he taught me how to shoot pool. When he went to jail, I chose to go to Ishikawa prefecture on the main island of Japan because it’s famous for a kind of pottery called kutani-yaki. I was about twenty-four-years old. I took a tent with me on the plane to Osaka. Now, I’m not a Buddhist, but when I was growing up my parents taught me Buddhist prayers. Of course, I grew up speaking Japanese, but it took me a couple of days to be able to speak the language fluently again. 

When I got to the town where I was going to study, I decided to camp out behind the studio. I was there for four days. People brought me books and food. It was pretty nice. I didn’t mean to break a law, but I guess I was. The city authorities told me it wasn’t safe for me to camp out, and that I had to take down my tent and leave with all my things. They said they didn’t want to accept responsibility for anything bad that might happen to me. A man from the art studio came to my rescue. He introduced me to Akiko, a potter who invited me to stay in her home. In exchange for not paying rent, I would help her in her studio.

Fortunately for me, I moved from outside to inside just in time to avoid a big typhoon that hit the island and that would have totally drenched me. Akiko and I got along good. She was a year or so younger than me, but that didn’t make a difference in our friendship and the way we worked and played together. We’d stay up late working. When we were finished we’d go into town and eat a ton of Chinese food: fried rice, Raman, pot stickers, sweet and sour pork, and chinjaorousu, a stir-fry dish with beef and vegetables. The cook couldn‘t believe we ate so much.

A man who worked near the studio came one day to see what was going on with me and Akiko. He looked like a yakuza, a Japanese mafia guy who would have taken one look at Joe and would said, “He’s crazy.” The yakuza had heard a rumor that there was a gaijin, a foreigner, working with Akiko. He looked around and asked, “Where is the foreigner?’ I said, “Me.” He said, “You not gaijin. You Japanese.” After that, everything went smoothly. I learned the art of noborigama, which is a wood-fired kiln. I learned how to make ceramic tools from steel and also the techniques for firing and glazing pottery, and making drawings, too. After three months, I came back to the U.S.

Joe: While I was in jail, I tried to learn Japanese. I thought I was learning, but it turned out that I had learned it all wrong. Mostly, I watched TV, played cards and got into a fight. The jailers added ten days to my sentence. A guy known as “Dirty Deal Harry” called me “a bitch.” I thought he was going to take my head off so I punched him as hard as I could and down he went. Then someone from behind knocked me out. The whole jail went nuts. The guards had a rough time putting us back in our cells. I was glad to be released and get back together with Atsuko.

Unlike my dad, Atsuko never puts pressure on me to do something or not do something. We have been together for about 25 years. I never knew what love was until I met her. Over the course of two-and-a-half-decades, I think some Japanese has rubbed off on me. People think I’m impatient, but I like to sit and observe. Atsuko and I have been to Japan several times. I love the restaurants, and I’ve noticed that the Japanese are serious about getting where they want to go. If you’re in their way you’re damned. If you do go to Japan, stay away from the whole Tokyo area. Much of the land, water and air is polluted.

I’ll probably spend the rest of my life in northern California with Atsuko and our children who are growing up fast. I’ve thought about the future of marijuana, and as I see it, it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. If you want to jump into the canabiz now, I’d question your sanity, but in the long run it will be a colossal new market. Some people will get really fucking rich. It will be interesting to see who ends up with the biggest piece of the cannabis pie. I love the marijuana plant and I’ll continue to be involved with it. I also plan to get into mycelium, soils, beneficial insects and beneficial microorganisms. That’s my future.

A Note on How This Book Was Written

The stories and the people in this booklet are all Joe’s. The words are mostly Joe’s. Some of them are Jonah’s. This is the way we worked: Joe would talk; Jonah would write down what he said, then type it up, making some small changes along the way and show the copy to Joe who would edit. Then Jonah made changes to the text on his computer and sent each installment to Bruce Anderson at the Anderson Valley Advertiser. All these chapters appeared in the AVA. Early on, Bruce encouraged us to go on. So did Fred Gardner, the editor at O’Shaughnessy’s. Sometimes Jonah would suggest certain themes or anecdotes to Joe. After each session Joe would come up with new ideas for stories. This doesn’t cover every aspect of Joe’s life, but it does cover many of the highlights.

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