Having searched high and low for my fine friend, John C. Pray, aka Sanjuro, I’ve just about given up hope of finding him. Repeated scourings of the net turn up no hits, so I’ve decided to provide some of my own in the hopes that he might find me one of these days. Sanjuro was a real one-of-a-kind. Surrealist, Haiku poet, social critic, Japanophile, former alcoholic and all-around gonzo journalist of the dust-blasted Albuquerque desert. We met as mutual wage slaves of the Dayton-Hudson Corporation, which owned B. Dalton Booksellers, the Albuquerque branch being New Mexico’s largest bookstore back in 1983. Our co-workers were a bunch of practically (if not verifiably) insane people, including Hugh Callens, Rachel “Moonbat” Dixon, Miss Piggy, Charles Vane, Ben Porter, Walt Carpenter & Marty Dusty Rose Snapless Bird. We all lived on the nervous edge of the 70s, which had not quite been extinguished down in New Mexico, apprehensive about the technology that seemed to be creeping in from the periphery. B. Dalton installed modems to send all the sales information to HQ up in Minneapolis every night, which seemed pretty futuristic to me back then. Charles Vane was given a primordial beta testing version of the original Macintosh computer, something like a bastard cross between a toaster and mini-tv set. I drew a doodle on it using MacPaint. Sanjuro and I frequented the happy hour at Japanese Kitchen which was barely fifty meters from the bookstore. We swapped tales of motorcycling, writing, psychedelic experiences and journalistic feats of derring-do. Sanjuro’s famous incident was the statewide media scoop of Patty Hearst’s capture in 1975 on KUNM radio. “Out of my way!” he shouted, thrashing the DJ onto the floor and sweeping the needle across the turntable with a fistful of teletype paper. “Breaking News! Patty Hearst, captive of, or conspirator with, the Symbionese Liberation Army, has been captured in Los Angeles.” What a moment! And how many gin fizzes, tequila sunrises, and straight up shots of Wild Turkey followed… as the years rolled by and the realization sank in: nobody gives a damn about politics, about revolution, about savage covert operations taking place in forsaken backwaters of Central America or in the fetid jungle swamps of American corporate boardrooms. Another round of bourbon whiskey and let it all ride on the twitching pony with the green nostrils and pupils as big as bowling balls! Because, damn it, if this flea-bitten horse can’t win a race at the State Fair in New Mexico, then it will have to be beer at Okie’s and green chile pizza at Jack’s for the rest of our stinking lives! What a treasure it is to have a political junkie, poet, and Master of Art History as a drinking buddy! Of course the alcohol nearly did him in and he had to kick it, but not until he had filtered a decade of hard stuff through his kidneys. And no thanks to the Hawaiian bartender at Japanese Kitchen who was always giving him freebies! For reasons of my own I had as much of a drinking problem as the next guy, but then again, I was already a haggard minimum wage-earning father by the age of 22, whereas John C. Pray was a single guy who managed to invent his own kind of drunken bushido.
Well I just returned from a terrific trip, including a visit to Osaka and Kyoto with my Dad. The Namba Dotonburi district is always fun, with its giant seafood sculpture signage. The Red Devil takoyaki grilled octopus ball shop is looking pretty fashionable, too! In Japan there is no shortage of robots, and the one in Namba that amused me was the fat automaton struggling and hobbling with two cases of Asahi beer in front of the liquor store. This strikes me as a really good use of a robot - to portray a sweaty human carrying cases of beer, and none too steady on his feet! After swilling beer and munching seafood, you may want to stop for a rest at one of the fanciful hotels nearby, like the “International Hotel” with it’s curious facade.