BIG LIKE: CASCADE INTO AN ODYSSEY
A Travel Memoir
By Wolf Richter
Twenty years after coming to America to escape the debacle at home, Wolf is in the middle of a successful career when a thought trips him up: What if he dies at forty? After one decade in survival mode and another decade in success mode, what’s his purpose now? Stunned, he quits his job and goes to France to open himself up to new possibilities. But instead of answers, he finds Izumi. Her bubbly enthusiasm about Japan grips him; the idea of Asia fascinates him. And during their one night together, he decides to visit her in Tokyo. But the journey doesn’t go in a straight line.
BIG LIKE is the startling, funny, and culturally intense account of an almost regular guy who ends up on a deliciously slippery slope. When he makes it to Tokyo, he smacks into Japan’s insular culture, impenetrable language, and obsession with unspoken rules. He struggles with inscrutable complexities: love hotels, packed trains, Korean roommates, irresistible food. Everything is hard. That’s the backdrop to the utterly confounding experience of a gaijin who wants to roam the world but gets tangled up with a Japanese girl. And the slippery slope turns into a life-changing odyssey.
“Funny as hell non-fiction book about wanderlust and traveling abroad.”
“The Japan chapters are astonishing, hilarious, thrilling in many ways.”
“A wonderful reminder of how bubbles get created and evaporate... a must read for everybody trying to understand the enigma inside the riddle of Japan.”
“Super enjoyable, great antidote to everyday life.”
“And then there is an incredible climax. Let me just say that it’s full of cultural complexity, passion, and shock.”
“Super book, really only put it down to go to meetings, meals, etc. Bravo.”
AIRMAIL FROM AFTERLIFE
One rainy summer day, I packed my backpack and went to America. I was seventeen. I knew what I was doing: I was escaping from the debacle at home. And I was looking for something. For what exactly, I didn’t know, but I’d go look for it in America. There, the heat burned in my nostrils. Lawns were brown. Cars were big and air-conditioned. Girls went gaga over my accent. Guys thought I was cool. And I fell in love with it all.
Three years later, I was paying my way through college in Texas when the notion of home, distant and convoluted as it had become, blew up with gratuitous violence. A Boeing had crashed into a mountain in Turkey, killing all 155 people aboard. I heard about it on the radio. But I didn’t connect the dots.
A few days later, I found a message from the operator in my campus PO Box. Telegram, call Western Union, it said. I called from one of the pay phones. My heart was pounding in my temples, and I had trouble hearing the lady on the other end.
“I’d read it to you,” she said. “But it’s in German. I think you better come by and get it.”
“I’m fixing to go to work. Can’t you try to read it to me?”
“Is it long?”
“Can you spell it?”
“Well, I guess I could. Are you ready?”
I pulled out a notepad and pen. “Ready,” I said, though I knew that I wasn’t ready, that I’d never be ready for whatever she was about to spell.
“E-L-T-E-R-N new word,” she said, “A-M new word M-O-N-T-A-G new word M-I-T new word F-L-U-G-Z-E-U-G new word I-N new word D-E-R new word T-U-R-K-E-I—”
“Stop! Please.” I couldn’t write anymore. Parents on Monday with plane in Turkey.... German sentences, even in abbreviated telegram style, had the main verb at the end, but I didn’t want to hear the main verb, didn’t want to hear it spelled out letter by torturous letter. “Thank you. That’s enough.”
I’d escaped the debacle at home and had gone as far away as possible. But this wasn’t what I’d had in mind. I stood there in a daze, brain deadlocked, numb, clutching the receiver, drowning in abysmal emotions.
Then I went to work. It was just a part-time job, but now I needed the money more than ever. Afterward, I drove to the Western Union office and picked up the yellow slip of paper with twelve lines of all-caps alphanumeric gibberish and two lines of readable text. It was from my sister, sent from the town where she was staying with friends. But it didn’t include their phone number. And my brother was on vacation somewhere. So there was no way to reach him either.
By Wolf Richter
The whole business boils down to numbers. Either you have them, or you don’t. There are no performance reviews; they aren’t necessary. A job is a day-to-day affair of numbers. Move the goddamn iron, and everything else will follow—commissions, satisfied customers, job security even. But nothing happens until you move the goddamn iron. And no one can move it like Ferronickel, the general sales manager at the Ford Superstore. But he’s losing his grip, and he’s going to hell.
As the unforgettable characters, the salesmen and managers at the Ford Superstore, struggle to survive in their tough and often nasty world, they rely on hard-boiled sales processes that are older than dirt. But customers have their own tricks up their sleeves.
Funny, edgy, cynical, and loaded with insider-only details about the car business, TESTOSTERONE PIT, the novel, will change the way you think about buying a car. Seatbelt-mandatory reading.