When I talk to people about my travels and my residency abroad, I always speak proudly of my 3 years in Tokyo. From my vantage right now, it was the best years of my life…for very good reason, obviously. I won Airman of the Year. I personally met a few musicians I listen to and even got a kiss from one. I became a train guru. But the thing I really liked most about my stay in Tokyo was the people. The locals were all great and even the expats…military, teachers, and just regular people alike. There were 2 people that really put it into focus for me. I covered one of them a couple of weeks back. Now, it’s time to cover the other one. In today’s post to The 24 To 30 feature, I’ll cover the story of Adrian Mask…
THE BACKGROUND. I first met Adrian—most often known as AJay to most—a few weeks after I returned from the deployment to Iraq. He had PCS’d into Yokota Air Base and became a member of the church I attended. He had history with some of the members there, most notably Mama Sanders. I didn’t know much about him initially except he seemed around my age and was very personable. I got that from our brief interactions during church greetings. I was formally introduced to him when Latisha suggested he’d be a good person to hang out with. And that’s how it started. Pretty shortly after, AJay started joining myself and Latisha on our after-church excursions and the legend of the 3 Crazy Friends was born. For the most part, all 3 of us hung out together on Thursdays and Sundays…did a lot of stuff as a group. Truthfully, me and AJay were still learning Tokyo and Latisha was our guide. Because of his complex work schedule, I wasn’t able to hang out with him much initially. Once the consistency in his work schedule clicked in, we started hanging out regularly. We always took to the trains…to see what was happening in Tachikawa or in Downtown Tokyo. But more than that, we just rode out in his car around the Fussa and Hachiōji areas. We burned a lot of gas doing that but we had plenty of fun. As AJay was the pastor’s armor bearer, he often ran a lot of errands as directed by the pastor. I sometimes tagged along…the Krispy Kreme trip to Tachikawa comes to mind. There was even that one time we got lost between Fussa and Hamura on Route 16 looking for somebody’s off-base residency. Though he got married in the Summer of 2008, we continued to hang out closely until his wife and daughter joined him in Tokyo. Even after that, we were still close though we didn’t hang out in the great frequency that we once did. We tried but he’d always have to cancel out because of family obligations. More than anything, that probably paved the way for me to do my own thing and eventually know Tokyo inside and out. I became a mainstay at his place during the after-church fellowships he usually hosted though. It was where we—along with other guys from the church—usually watched sports, played PS3 and Xbox games, and did damage on Rock Band. We also did a lot of bowling at Tomodachi Lanes, where our competitiveness usually manifested itself. If you ask him, he’ll tell you about that one time I choked away what was literally a 99.9% win probability. AJay, in my observance, was all about grilling meat and taking care of his fish. Through him, I learned a lot about how to grill over open flames and about home aquariums and such. He was also one of the people I trusted in keeping me accountable when I lived in Tokyo and as someone who was my age yet much more spiritually matured, I learned a lot about the greatness of God from him. Our relationship didn’t decline one bit when I left to return to the United States. We still kept really close and when he moved to the United States, he even convinced me to attend a Florida State game in Tallahassee. Today, we’re still as close as ever. You’re likely to find us in friendly disagreements over sports and laughing about all those infamous moments in Tokyo…like the Showa Park incident.
THE MOMENT OF IMPACT. The impact moment I remember most with Adrian occurred in December 2008. It was a few weeks after his wife and daughter arrived to join him in Japan. Up until that time, me and him had hung out pretty regularly. But with the arrival of his family, I didn’t want it to seem like I was crowding his space or interfering with what he had going on with his family so I backed off and just branched out on my own. Based on my initial interactions with her, I got the impression that his wife didn’t want us to kick it as much…that and the constant cancellations of trips into the city shortly after she and his daughter arrived. Then came December 7, 2008. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was at home watching AFN TV, having just finished up my last homework assignment on the way to my 1st graduate degree. AJay calls me up and he’s like “Juan, what you doing” and I responded that I was just chilling at the crib. He then says “man, come on over”. I countered with my reservations that he should take the time to kick it with his family. That’s when he put me on speaker and his wife was like “c’mon Juan, we over here cooking”. About 15 minutes later, I was having dinner and a good time with them. From that point forward, my relationship with him got stronger. And not only that, my relationship with his wife and daughter got stronger. For the rest of my time in Tokyo and even now, I’ve been really close to that entire family.
HOW IT GOT ME TO 30. Having Adrian as one of my closest friends has significantly upgraded the way in which I live life. In a lot of ways, his presence showed me that it was cool to remain who I was personality-wise while emerging in my walk with the Lord as long as my actions were Christ-centered. I really took flight in learning to pray from him. Eventually, at some point in life, I’ll marry and start a family and it’ll be all the things I learned through observation of him and his wife and daughter that I’ll take as life experiences for my own situations. With the exception of him being a Florida State fan, he’s good people. I’m proud to have him as one of my co-best friends.