CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Memories of Woody Hiroto Won’t Go Away

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WIMPY1By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

{The introduction of “Oh-bah-keh-sama” to Crossroads to Somewhere readers has resulted in numerous requests to talk about the phenomena. “O” escapades have become somewhat commonplace, so I wonder why requests for speaking engagements continue. This is not a case of self-deprecation or false modesty; I’m a writer, not Willy Graham nor Danzo Inouye. So while preparing for another gabfest (yesterday), I decided a reading of past CR2S columns might be of greater interest than a rehash of “O” visitations or droning on about youthful/elderly escapades. I got so engrossed in rereading the old stuff, I forgot my deadline. So let’s repeat a selection from some years ago (one of my favorites) as a substitute for today’s CR2S.}

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I imagine there are more important questions to ponder than male machismo, but the subject intrigues. Especially the part about a grown man shouldn’t show emotion, least of all cry. It starts in childhood: “Don’t be a crybaby” is the standard admonishment when you skin your knee or fall out of a tree. “Only girls cry” is the warning after losing an important game or being inoculated by a bumbling school nurse who uses the needle like a dart.

Later in life you find tears continue to threaten, but you try real hard to make sure they don’t pass the “welling” stage. Why? What’s so wrong about weeping for joy or loss, visceral or physical? We all know that humans are the only species of animal capable of tears; men and women and children can cry, dogs can’t.

I had a dog. His name was Woody. You’ll note the tense is past. Woody is dead. He’s dead because I had a vet put him down. He had an inoperable brain tumor. He was 14 years old. So now I do cry, Woody can’t. He’s dead.

I could lie but he really wasn’t much dog. Nothing like those show animals you see prancing around Westchester and Madison Square Garden. He was mostly Lhasa Apso but the only papers he had were strewn around the house to prevent him from making it a private latrine. He was the last of a litter of eight back in February of 1987. Lisa and Jennifer (Ahn) wanted the runt to have a good home so the Hirotos hesitantly obliged. Laurie (Hirami) delivered the clumsy ball of fur to my office the next day. He had an “accident” in her car en route, an episode revisited the moment he was introduced to my office carpeting. The same happened again taking him home and again immediately upon arrival. It was obvious by now that he didn’t enjoy riding in a car and it was his way of letting you know of his dislike.

Have you noticed how pets grow into their names? Once christened, you can’t imagine them having any other moniker. In the case of Woody, there was no grand revelation or inspiration. It was simply Woody Harrelson, the hayseed bartender of “Cheers,” lovable, irascible, irrepressible and well, sort of simple. Stupid, really, but in a nice sort of way.

Woody refused to learn tricks. No matter the effort or method of teaching, he simply refused. Maybe he just couldn’t. Like how some humans can’t learn to whistle or rub their stomach while patting their head. Roll over on command? Forget it. Fetch a newspaper or slipper? He would cock his head as if to imply you were crazy. Another anomaly: HE NEVER EVER BARKED!

As the years passed, the life of Woody Hiroto fell into a familiar routine, a pattern: Get up in the morning in preparation for a later nap; get up from said nap to while away some more idle time before afternoon naptime which preceded bedtime. His sleeping sites were the only thing that varied: He could be under the coffee table, behind a bathroom commode (especially in hot weather), side vestibule, on the big sofa, and his favorite spot, on a beach towel on my side of the bed.

When in the mood, he would sleep on his back! I kid thee not! He would lie on his back with his stubby little feet straight up in the air at a 90-degree angle! Amazing. Or crazy.

Woody had one uncanny talent: He always knew when I was coming home. Because of his lack of size, we had a chair situated by the dining room window, drapes parted so he could look out onto the street. He would always be perched there when I would drive off to work. There is a boulevard stop sign at the crest of Pomeroy Avenue that dead-ends into Hicks, about 30 yards from the Hiroto abode. Once past the stop sign, I would coast toward the driveway when arriving home. As if by magic, there’s Woody, perched on the chair, waiting for his master to park the car.

Most amazing of all, it didn’t matter what time of day it was. Two in the afternoon, two in the morning, he was always there. Entering via the kitchen door, there he would be to greet me – without fail. Now he is gone. There is no one to greet me. How very sad.

There is a Tupperware container in the refrigerator with choice pieces of beef and chicken teriyaki, his personal, private stash. Whenever he heard the refrigerator door open – hearing was not one of his deficiencies – whether napping or not, he would magically appear to claim a meaty reward, no matter the time of day or night. Do you have any idea the noise a refrigerator door DOESN’T make when it’s opened? The container is still there even though Woody is gone.

The beach towel also remains on my bed. But no Woody. I continue to cry in his absence.

{This column appeared June 2001. It resulted in the greatest outpouring of reader mail in the history of CR2S. I’ve not had a dog since. But a beach towel continues to grace my bed, even here at Keiro Retirement Home thirteen years later.}

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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