Conversations, excerpts, and edits — The Dead Enjoy Eating, Too — 06: Settings Pt. One: Physical

Conversations, excerpts, and edits — The Dead Enjoy Eating, Too — 06: Settings Pt. One: Physical

Tormented Souls

The settings in The Dead Enjoy Eating Too take place in two locations: various venues in Yokohama and in the mind. The physical locations provide insights into the conflicts taking place inside the minds of the characters.

Terrell’s Bar is a fictional, almost mythical location. Charles Borromeo described the bar: “The building with its weather-beaten exterior walls discouraged the faint of heart from entering. Those who took the plunge and pulled open the door would find the ambiance surprisingly inviting, almost ethereal.”

Eric Haas parallels Borromeo’s description: “Terrell’s Bar is located on one of the lesser-traveled roads in Motomachi. Walk past the bar and you end up at the Foreign Cemetary. In fact, a few of Terrell’s customers eventually ended up in the cemetery. Customers new to Terrell’s might mistake the building for an old tool shed. But once they enter, they find the ambiance inviting, almost ethereal.”

Later, in a short story, Haas has his character say: “Go to Terrell’s Bar for a glimpse into your own soul, or even for a glimpse into the future.” These words underscore the ethereal when Borromeo/Haas describes the impressions customers have when first entering the bar.”

The Terrell’s Bar Borromeo remembers was knocked down to make way for Motomachi’s renewal construction. In reflecting back over the years, Borromeo wrote: “Terrell’s Bar no longer exists. Today, the Peace Flower Market Cafe is located in the same spot where the bar had taken up space. The smells of pies, scones, cookies baking in the kitchen have replaced the odors of stale cigarettes mashed in ashtrays, spilled beer, and clogged toilets that permeated the fibers of our clothes after a night at Terrell’s. The cafe represented the extent Motomachi had become gentrified during the years after bulldozers had flattened the bar’s wooden structure, leaving nothing behind but dust and memories. Soon even the memories would dissipate.”

When Borromeo visits the Peace Market Cafe, he reminisces with Yuko the proprietor.

“You want to know something, Yuko?” She looked at me, expectantly.

“Forty years ago, Yuko, the grotty old building that used to be here was the location of Terrell’s Bar.”

“Never heard of it.” She wiped her hands on her apron.

Peace Flower Market Cafe is located in Motomachi and Yuko bakes the most delicious pastries. (You have to have Google translate to English.) The cafe is one of my regular stops whenever I am in the Motomachi area.

Other physical locations include Yokohama China Town,, and Harbor View Park,

I included two bars located in Chinatown — Nob Hill Bar and Casper’s Longboat Tavern. The names are fictitious but refer to watering holes I frequently visited in my younger days. Nob Hill catered to couples and the bartenders there all mixed drinks to perfection. Casper’s catered to the rough and tumble merchant seamen or to anyone whose taste buds were anesthetized and couldn’t tell the difference between a gin tonic and Jack Daniel’s. I knew the proprietors of both places.

Jimmy, the owner of ‘Nob Hill’ was an ex-pat American who kept a close watch over the bar. Anybody disturbing the decor was ousted with little regard to his or her dignity. In the novel, Jimmy becomes Jesse and I added a little embellishment to Jesse’s response to troublemakers.  “Jesse stood near the doorway to ensure no one entered who might shatter Nob Hill’s ambiance. Better to stop trouble at the door, he believed. When he was a younger man in his twenties, he worked as a bouncer at the San Francisco Broadway Club. His bulky torso and thick shoulders were enough to intimidate the timid trouble-makers. For the more quarrelsome he made ready use of his fists. During one altercation, he got carried away and forgot he was punching a loudmouth customer instead of a heavy bag at the University of San Francisco gymnasium.”

Eric, the owner of ‘Casper’s Longboat Tavern, was a Danish Merchant Seaman who settled down in Yokohama. Rumor had it that Eric was wanted for murder in Spain and so opened the bar to avoid signing on to a ship that might head back to Europe. Was it true? Maybe. True or not, the rumor added to the local color of the bar. I also embellished Casper’s character and description. “Coming in? If not, fuck off!” Casper spoke in a deep, and to Felix’s ears, Biblical voice. He leaned his hulking body over the bar; his fists planted unyieldingly on the countertop. A thick black beard covered his cheeks and jaw, giving Felix the sensation he was standing in the presence of the Lord of Hosts. Fierce brown eyes peered from under bushy eyebrows into the depths of his soul.
Felix sat on a stool, his soul quivering in fear. He was alone, as David had been before loading the stone into his sling.
“Wine, please. But it must be altar wine.”
“Wine! Only pussies drink wine. Are you a pussy?”
“I am a sinner.”
“You’ve come to the right place.”

Sadly, both are dead and both bars have undergone changes in ownership. The new owners of ‘Nob Hill’ carried on with the reputation for being a bar for couples. ‘Caspers’ is now a Greek Restaurant. Whenever I walk past these places, I feel a little maudlin. “Those were the days, huh?”

Oh, yes, about the Chinese restaurant where Mei Ling teaches Cecil about Chinese cuisine. Many of my former students from my Saint Joseph College teaching days own restaurants in China Town. In order not to favor only one former student’s eating establishment, I created a fictitious restaurant.

Next: Locations in the mind.

A woman who stepped into the eternal now
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