Every summer for the past three years, I’ve broken up my routine by visiting Jeff, my college roommate, out in Los Angeles. During the most recent visit in June, I was in the thick of my first ill-fated management stint and in dire need of a rest. This consisted of lounging by the pool and making numerous trips to Walgreens for beer — plus a straw cowboy hat and “Turbo” brand sunglasses for me. Such a lifestyle must be tempered with the right food, which is why one afternoon we found ourselves waiting outside a taco stand along one of L.A.’s many sun-bleached, desolate roadways. Out of the blue, a random Asian man approached with his camera and asked to take my picture for a fashion magazine. In full vacation mode, I was wearing the hat, sunglasses and one of my favorite outfits
In New York, I normally don’t have much time or interest for such random requests, but the offer intrigued me. To be clear, I’m one of the least fashionable people around. My wardrobe consists of different colored slacks and button down shirts. I update it as rarely as possible with no mind to trends. Suddenly, someone was actually interested in my clothes, to the point that he even wanted to know what brands I was wearing. Feeling very relaxed and open to anything, I followed him across the street to stand in front of a brick wall. For the next few minutes, with the entire taco stand looking on, he guided me through basic poses in broken English. Normally, I would’ve been embarrassed, but this was different. The man seemed genuinely interested in letting me be natural. After finishing, I filled out a form, he handed me a business card that said Men’s Fudge and I forgot about it entirely.
Months later, I remembered the whole experience but his e-mail address didn’t work and the entire website was in Japanese. Thankfully, I found out that copies of Men’s Fudge can be purchased at Midtown’s Kinokinuya Bookstore. Katie and I made the trip up and sure enough the August issue was sitting on a shelf, a Japanese boy looking aloof on the cover. As I flipped through pages of random young men from all around the world, I suddenly came upon my pictured featured prominently on page 85. I had no idea how to react except laugh. My drunken face was now in copies of this magazine all over Japan. After purchasing the issue, I couldn’t stop pulling it out to look all night. Out of humility I didn’t want to show anyone at first, but soon realized that was the only way to go. Katie’s Japanese co-workers helped translate my caption with excitement — it reads something along the lines of “L.A. beach style” — and everyone I’ve shown since think it’s hilarious. My grandmother even requested an extra copy of the issue.
In years to come, this will likely be nothing more than a funny anecdote, but right now I’m viewing it as a valuable lesson. We get so caught up in our routines that we often forget why we moved to cities in the first place. Yet, every once in a while, our paths will cross with a fellow member of the populace and produce amazing results. These types of encounters are why I’ve come to love cities so much and why, no matter how crazy things get, I must stay open to whatever they have to offer.