[The Human Writers website is a website for older writers in Australia to publish their stories, ideas, memoirs, etc. U3A member John Jenkins recently had a (true) story published there. Below are the first few paragraphs of John’s story.]
I can remember it so clearly, as if it only happened yesterday.
As I walked very briskly from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, I rehearsed my precise instructions. The stranger I was to meet would be loitering close to Hibiya Park fountain, where he or she would be wearing a big, white artificial flower in a top buttonhole. Obviously, in a shirt or blouse, on this hot day in August, 1989.
Earlier that day, I had been drinking champagne in Tokyo’s midtown business district, upstairs from the Foreign Correspondents’ impressive entrance in the Marunouchi Nijubashi Building, a steel and glass complex with sweeping upper-floor views of the city’s gleaming office towers.
Let me explain. I was a journalist abroad. And it was there I first met Mr. Hamilton York, an American finance reporter married to a Japanese woman, and both living permanently in Tokyo.
I recall being introduced to Hamilton by reception staff and, in turn, he immediately introduced me to his many friends and colleagues, all hanging about in the Club’s nearby Cozy Bar and Café.
I instantly felt very much at home with Hamilton, as he bought bottles of top French champagne, as if the price was nothing, and his popping corks opened more doors, attracting faces familiar to him, from various corners of the club. I found out he was a rusted-on regular here, a sometime share trader and very wealthy, who everyone called ‘Uncle Ham’, a pun on Uncle Sam.
It soon became a very jolly gathering indeed. Then, during a quiet moment ‘Uncle Ham’ asked me what I was doing here. “You’re Australian, aren’t you? From your accent?” he said.
He asked many questions, obviously adept at extracting information, along with corks. “I’m sending stories home,” I said. “But purely on commission. If a newspaper or magazine editor likes a particular idea that I float … well, then it floats. Lately, I’ve been writing on the arts, new Japanese technology, cultural interests, some travel…”
“Yup, I get it!” he said. “Good luck to you! And enjoy your first day here at our friendly little Correspondents’ Club.”
Suddenly, he stood up. “A first-dayer,” he said, playfully pointing at me. “Hope you come back often.” Then, much louder, to all within hearing range: “Don’t we, ladies and gentlemen?”
More glasses were raised, with smiles all round, as he poured another, and another …
* * * * *
“So, you want a really good story, do you? One your editor will find impossible to refuse?” It was the following week, and Uncle Ham had taken me aside for a moment, and I noticed that no one tried to interrupt him, as his expression and gestures flipped into a more hushed, conspiratorial mode.