The drawing muse has come to visit for the last few days and this is the result. I titled it "Sushi". The meaning has a cautionary tale. "Becareful what you wish for." Most of the time we go through life never realizing that we bait our own hook, which means we are mostly responsible for what we get. I think a wiser philosopher than I said it better, "What you sow you reap." Duck hunters don't use a moose call to catch ducks. The call you put out is the answer you will get back. But that has little to do with the rest of this blog.
Although I have not lived in Texas for the last 40 plus years, it is hard not to think of a thick juicy steak and baked potato as my favorited dinner. However, an evening out for Sushi may be giving that traditional dinner some competition to my dining desires. This is quite a pivot for me, although I do miss going to Sushi the way it used to be.
I was introduced to Sushi by Ted Wass and Billy Crystal. It was when we were doing SOAP on the ABC lot in Hollywood for a half season. One day Ted and Billy decided to go to lunch "off Campus" and invited me to go along. I did not know they planned to make a lunch of raw fish until we got to a small out of the way Sushi Bar 10 minutes from the studio. It was located in Chinatown and at that time one of the few Sushi bars in the city. It was only after my second time there that I was able to find my way back. It was traditional in every way. There was low hanging cloths on the door way, and traditional Japanese music playing. The Sushi Chefs were all decked out in traditional white with scarves rolled and tied around their foreheads. They were welding sharp knives with Ninja precision. A very calm and inviting place that was like no other restaurant I had ever been too. There were no tables only the long bar with personalized wooden sake cups on wall shelves. As we walked in the entire staff yelled something in Japanese. Since we were the only "non-Asian's" there I thought they were yelling at us to leave. There were no menus just a glass counter in front of us with various kinds of raw fish. I remember thinking it looked like a butcher shop more than a restaurant.
Billy and Ted began to utter a different language to the chef. They ordered things like Magura, Neghihama, Yellow Tail and sea ell. When I found out that one of those items was tuna, I decided to give it a try. I didn't jump off into the deep end, Ted, however, ordered Sea Urchin with a quail egg. It looked like something that was ready to be prepared not yet ready to eat, but Teddy gulped it down. After I got past the idea that a "hot" lunch was out of the question I settled in. Every thing I ordered, most of the time not knowing what it really was, tasted great. It was a new adventure and an unrealized turn in my eating habits.
Back then there were so few Sushi places that it became an event to have a Sushi dinner. To introduce Sandi to my new passion we had to drive over to Hollywood, there were no Sushi places I knew of in the Valley. But, before long Sushi places starting springing up like Starbucks. It was not long before LA had a glut of Sushi bars. We didn't have to travel to Hollywood any longer to get our fix. TerraSushi opened on Ventura boulevard not far from the Radford CBS lot and it became the "in" place for the young Turks of Hollywood to hang. If you wanted to see celebrities and be seen by those looking for celebrities TerraSushi became the place to be. We used to joke that to get a good table or preferred place at the bar you needed to be wearing a satin production jacket from a hit show. Satin production jackets were also the rage at the time and I will admit to wearing my SOAP jacket there more than a few times. In those evenings of just hanging out with friends, I learned that a fine compliment to any Sushi is Kirin beer and hot sake. I salivate now just thinking of that combination.
It was at a Sushi bar in New York during that time that I had an unforgettable "fan" experience. I was in town doing some promo for ABC and had gone out to Sushi on Columbus Ave. with a friend.
As we were ordering our second round a very nice asian woman came up to me. In very broken English she explained she was a reporter/writer from Japan. She knew that I was a "television man" and wondered if I would have time to do an interview with her. In anticipation of just such an occurrence the publicist at ABC had given me a dozen of her business cards. She told me that if someone wanted to set up an interview, give the person her card and they would set up something at a convenient time. Being a good network employee, I said, "Sure we can do an interview" and I reached for one of the cards. Before I could say, "Give ABC a call and they will set something up..." The woman retrieved a small tape recorder and a very large professional microphone from her bag and said, "Good... we do it now?" It was a rhetorical question, she immediately launched into it tuning on the recorder, clearing her throat and checking the level. It went exactly like this:
She held the mic to her face and started speaking in Japanese. It was very lyrical in sound but the only thing I understood was my name. She sprinkled it into the monologue occasionally saying, Mr. Jay Johnson San. After what seemed like a long time she paused looked me in th eye and said very seriously, "Mr. Johnson San..... what you eating?" In all my years of being interviewed it was the first time and perhaps the only time that question had been asked. I said, "I am eating Tuna sushi."
She seemed delighted at that response and moved the microphone back to her face and said, "Ahhhhh, Mr. Johnson San, yadda yadda, yadda, Tuna Sushi.... yadda yadda." This Japanese monologue went on for some time until once again she paused, looked at me and said, "Mr. Johnson San..... what you order next?"
I hadn't really decided until that moment but I boldly went out on a limb and said, "I think next I will have California Roll."
Same reaction..... "Ahhhhhh, Mr. Johnson San, yadda yadda yadda, California Roll.... yadda yadda yadda." The yadda's continued in the same manner as I had become accustomed to. Once again she paused getting ready to ask me another question. I was prepared with all the answers about my career on SOAP, our new season, what happened at the end of last season, and what it was like to be on a show like SOAP. So, she looked at me with all seriousness, took in a deep breath as if this is the question she had been waiting to ask. It was a little slower and more deliberate in the delivery, she paused a longer time between my name and the question.
"Mr. Johnson San...... what you order after that?"
Now I am set on improv mode. One of the great things about eating at a Sushi bar ordering a selection at a time and waiting until you are ready for the next taste. I was not sure at all what I would order after the California Roll, but I usually ended my Sushi dinners at the time with Sea Ell Sushi. As if I was considering the question longer than the first two I finally said, "I guess I will have my favorite dessert, Sea Ell."
"Ahhh.... Mr. Johnson San, yadda yadda, Sea Ell yadda yadda yadda. She giggled as she yaddaed some more. Finally it was back to me as she said,
"Mr. Johnson San......... thank you very much."
The interview was over. The mic and the recorder went back into the bag, she bowed and returned to her table. Noting more needed to be said. I have spent years reliving that interview wondering what was really said. I decided she was probably a food critic rather than an entertainment writer but I will never know. To date it is still one of the strangest interviews I have ever done.
As you were,