The Cat’s in the Cradle.

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Don’t be fooled: This picture isn’t showing you a simple story of mechanical claw prowess.

The morning of the photo, my wife was trying to shoo me out of the house. I had told her that I had wanted to go record shopping in a relatively close Tokyo neighborhood. That morning, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I woke up tired and semi-infected thanks to our children being incubators for all manner of disease. Catching a train (even though the rail system in Japan is superior to that of the States) that becomes a big petri-dish because of the amount of people that try to pile in, wasn’t something that I had wanted to partake in on that particular day.

As a compromise and to ensure that I got out of the house (because she had threatened to make me miserable if I didn’t), my wife suggested that I take the boy. I quickly reasoned that that option was the way to go. He used to be a train fanatic (and still is to some degree), he’s almost always good company, and he’s been having a hard time socializing with other kids his age.

His reluctance to socialize started before we left the states. On top of that, getting a straight answer out of him when it comes to expressing feelings is a Herculean feat. Unfortunately, he takes after his father in that respect. If I had to guess, I’d say that the impermanence of friendships when you live a gypsy lifestyle really sank in when he learned we’d be living in a  foreign country for a couple of years.

I digress.

So I took the boy on a train ride. A short train ride. We got off at Tachikawa, had lunch at McDonald’s, and I alternated between me, tripping on the generally laid-back-ed-ness of the city and trying to get him to participate in our semi exploration.

Then we found an arcade.

Arcades are plentiful here. Back in the states, they went the way of the Do-do bird. Personally, I think that they have survived in Japan because a large part of the currency is coinage (everything less that 10 USD is coin, you could probably apply my numb-but logic to the popularity of gambling here as well).

He perked up as soon as he realized what was before him.The video games he wasn’t interested in so much. Claw machines? That’s his shit.

Claw machines are even more of his shit when one of those machines has a clock in the shape of a cardboard boy. 25 dollars and a half an hour later, we had attracted the attention fo the Arcade attendant. Being amused by my dedication and my son’s fanaticism, he offered some pointers before going back to tending the other machines.

10 minutes laters the attendant came back to see us still at it.

Graciously, he opened the case, rigged the box to where a light breeze would have blown it over and said to me in perfect english, “Hit it right there”, while pointing at a crucial area of the box.

I did what I was told and everybody won something that day. My son got a good memory and a temporary object of desire, the attendant got to witness a father’s dedication to his son, and me? I made everyone involved in this story, including myself, a little bit happier.

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