My agent is a gentle giant, name of Ralph. Although he ferries his little family of actors toward their various dramas like emergency crews come to remedy any blandness, he himself is drama-adjacent. You can’t make him mad. You can’t get under his skin, you can’t make him blow a vein. I believe the word is ‘unflappable.’(which is a very funny word. Think of all the poor flappable people flailing about). Not that I would try to rile Ralph. But in the business of entertainment, that level head of his, is gold.
Which is why it’s weird that last week he and I were sitting in his office together bawling our eyes out.
Thing was, late last month Ralph announced he was going to Japan to attend his partner's nephew’s wedding. I asked him if he would take a donation and see if he could find someone affected by the quake that he could help directly. He ‘d been thinking the same thing.
I had to laugh while he described his encounter with the Japanese nation. “Everything works! Everything’s on time!” Ralph is very organized. Japan was a Ralphy heaven. He took many pictures. Even of the washrooms with their little slipper sets.
The wedding was at a Shinto Shrine near a beautiful beach. The bride’s Kimono apparently cost 250, 000 yen(@3000 dollars)for a three hour rental. After the ceremony she wisely got into a frock she could frolic in on the beach.
Like most hotels, one where Ralph and his partner stayed had extra rooms and allocated a percentage to refugees from Fukushima. There was a young couple there in one such room. All their worldly possessions in a van. It seemed like a perfect opportunity. But then Ralph’s nephew? cautioned that in Japan, custom had it that if you offered a gift the recipient was not only obliged to match it, but had to top it. That was a baffler.
He considered leaving the money anonymously in the van, but was told no, it would just embarrass the couple. Nothing else presented itself as a venue so when he and his partner, Daryl returned to Tokyo, the gift money was burning a hole in is pocket.
They were on their way to a mall type place to buy last minute gifts for friends when they passed a man soliciting funds for both people and orphaned domestic animals in Sendai. Perhaps it was the proscription against giving, but people passed him by without much notice. Ralph alerted his partner. That’s our man.
He took out the envelope containing the yen he had converted and crossed to the animal rescuer. The man glanced in the yawning envelope and here… as Ralph was relating the story, is where he started to tear up. The man took his hand, and held it. He didn’t speak English, clearly, few people there do. And in a place where people are so conscious of one another’s personal space, it was unusual for someone to hold on like that, but Ralph said he could just feel this tremendous wave of…
And here, back in the ofice we both shed tears, tears, tears… I could feel it as Ralph was telling me. So we just hung out and had a weep. The boat rocked. His office is on a boat.
It wasn’t even that much money. There was no language. It was communication by feeling. After the transfer, Ralph and Daryl went to a mall, which was just odd because both were reeling from the power and the beauty of this seemingly minor connection. They got in an elevator. Ralph who is taller than Daryl, noticed him, stock still, staring at the floor. Then Daryl said: “Don’t say anything.”
Ralph went into a shop alone. He bought the trifle he’d been planning to buy. It may have been a pair of underpants. However small, a saleslady took it away to wrap it beautifully and carefully, leaving him alone with a pretty cup of tea, while she did so. He wept. And sipped his tea.
That animal rescuer, true to Japanese tradition as we now understand it, gave back far more than he was given.
People, eh. You gotta love ‘em.