Little Tokyo

You can tell this is an old advertisement because they clearly expected people to read all those words. 

I’ve been working full time again for a couple of months now, and it’s reminded me that no matter what kind of day I had at the office, I’m going to be completely worn out at the end of it. Even after slow days where I just spend eight hours slumped at my desk bouncing back and forth between Facebook and Reddit, I still drag myself up the stairs to my apartment like I just got home from a 36 hour shift at a factory where all people do is pick up bowling balls and set them down again.

Most likely it’s a psychological defense mechanism against being productive – if I convince myself that I’ve had a rough day at the office, then I’ve got an excuse to hit Baja Fresh on the way home and spend the evening playing video games instead of writing something. Whatever the case, pretty much every day after work I’m not interested in doing anything more ambitious than going home, closing my front door, and not opening it again until I leave for work in the morning.

Last Wednesday was an unusually busy day at the business factory, and as I left at 7:00 I got a text from my friend John, Owner of Milo. He wanted to get sushi and go drinking in Little Tokyo, which sounds like a really glamorous and cosmopolitan thing to do until you start thinking about how long you’re going to spend in traffic getting there and finding parking, and then whether this new experience will even really be worth the effort it takes to have it.

I know that I like my apartment. Spending the evening in my apartment will always be some base level of enjoyable. Little Tokyo, on the other hand, was a mystery – I’d never been there, so I had no idea whether spending my evening there would be better or worse than spending it at home. Most of the time in situations like these I figure it’s a safe bet to just stay home, since there are way more things that piss me off in the outside world than there are in my apartment.

That night, though, my chronic Fear Of Missing Out kicked in and I before I could say, “No, sorry, I’m tired from a long day of trying to make kids buy violent video games,” I said, “Yeah, sure!”

I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the sushi restaurant we went to, but it was underneath a parking garage at the bottom of a grimy concrete staircase that led down from the street. Personally, I’ve always been of the belief that you shouldn’t eat raw fish that you find in the basement of a parking garage, but when we walked inside the restaurant it turned out to be a classy, fancy looking place where we sat at a glowing bar and ate sushi and bacon wrapped asparagus.

Afterward we’d achieved a pretty solid sake buzz, so we left the restaurant and wandered to a nearby bar to keep it going. All of the bar’s 20 or so customers were squeezed into one corner, where an MC with a microphone and a laptop was running a boozy, public game of Cards Against Humanity.

He was midway through reading the prompt on the black card – When tripping on acid, [BLANK] turned into [BLANK] – when he spotted us standing in the doorway.

“You guys should play! Come grab some white cards!” To sweeten the pot, he added, “There’s prizes!”  

He gestured to a table behind him where the evening’s prizes were laid out. Like all good bar contest prizes, these had been picked up at garage sales – lots of 8 track tapes, old T-shirts with obscure slogans on them, some novelty action figures. But the crown jewel of crappy prizes lay at the center of the table.

“Holy shit,” John breathed. “Is that Jurassic Park on laserdisc!?”

“We have to play now.” I said. “Because we need to win that piece of home video technology history. We’re not leaving here without it.”

We collected 15 white cards, then collected two drinks, then sat down and started to play, delivering white cards to the MC in response to his prompts and crossing our fingers that the drunk patrons judging each round would find our antics amusing.

After a couple of unsuccessful rounds, the MC took a break from Cards Against Humanity to play a couple of rounds of trivia in exchange for free drink tickets.

“Alright,” he muttered into the microphone, one and a half empty beer glasses standing sentry beside his laptop. “I’m just gonna keep giving clues until somebody shouts out an answer, okay? First question’s about shipwrecks. This ship sank in November of 1975…”

I cupped my hands to my mouth and yelled, “The Edmund Fitzgerald!

The MC, immediately followed by everyone else in the bar, gawped at me.

“Holy shit, man!” He exclaimed. “How the hell did you know that? Did your parents force you to listen to lots of Gordon Lightfoot growing up?”


A waiter delivered John and I two free drink tickets as the MC moved on. “Okay. Next question. Not about shipwrecks. This sniper killed multiple people from a tower in Austin, Texas, in the 1960s.”

“Lee Harvey Oswald!” Somebody in the bar yelled.

“Nope.” The MC said.

“Lee Harvey Oswald!” Someone else yelled.

“The answer is still no.” The MC said.

I leaned over to John and murmured, “It’s Charles Whitman.”

John cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled, “CHARLES WHITMAN!”

Again, the MC and everyone else gawped at us. He threw up his hands.

“Jesus! Okay, two more drink tickets for the history major table over here, I guess. Let’s just go back to Cards Against Humanity.”

The waiter dropped off another two drink tickets for a total of four. John looked at me and shrugged.

“Well, I guess we’re getting wasted tonight.”

“It would be wrong not to.”

We put away a couple of Jamison shots in the course of the next few rounds of Cards Against Humanity, none of which we won. Finally, the only prize left on the table was the Jurassic Park laserdisc. We drunkenly hung on baited breath as the MC pulled the final black card.

“This one’s for the grand prize, everybody,” the equally drunk MC slurred before reading the card. “[BLANK]-man was the superhero we neither wanted nor needed.”

We scanned our white cards and quickly agreed on the best one, which made the phrase: “Drinking Alone Man was the superhero we neither wanted nor needed.”

After delivering our card to the judge, I went to the bathroom. When I came back the MC was announcing the winner, but I didn’t pay attention until John grabbed my arm and looked at me, wide eyed.

“We won.” He gasped.

“We won the laserdisc!?”

I looked to the MC, who, seemingly unable to believe how many prizes he’d awarded to the same table in the same night, was extending the black and red laserdisc sleeve toward us.

We spared no expense. 

I’d had a legitimately exhausting day at work, the sort of one where I typically feel the only remedy is to spend the entire evening sprawled on my bed watching HBO. And yet, after a busy night of interacting with people and earning alcohol through trivia, I felt even more recharged than I would’ve if I’d just stayed home and been Drinking Alone Man.

That night, John and I were the B-plot in life’s great sitcom. And just like a sitcom, I learned something from the experience: Sometimes, when you’re telling yourself you’re exhausted, the only thing you’re really too exhausted to do is your job. Anything else is fair game.

And the next time I turn down weeknight plans to stay home, at least now I know I can watch Jurassic Park – as soon as I get a laserdisc player.

Truman Capps also won a VHS copy of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it was post-shots so he can’t remember what the prompt was.