TOKYO — On a stinking blistery summertime day successful a metropolis of 14 cardinal radical trying to unreal these $20 cardinal Summer Games ne'er existed, I yet recovered the cardinal to that elusive Olympic tone successful the hands of a bespectacled dude wearing a Slayer chapeau and a T-shirt adorned with the deranged mug of histrion Jack Nicholson from “The Shining.”
“My sanction is GO,” said this 53-year-old metalhead, sweat glistening connected his arms arsenic helium stood extracurricular his business. “It is an grant to conscionable you, Mr. Mark. Where is your home?
“Colorado,” I replied.
“Colorado! The precise celebrated ‘Shining’ edifice is there!” exclaimed GO Nakajima, arsenic stoked arsenic if helium was gathering novelist Stephen King alternatively of an ink-stained wretch from Denver. “Redrum! Redrum! Redrum!”
He inserted the cardinal successful the fastener of his constitution successful the Golden Gai, a web of constrictive alleys known for the top postulation of dive bars successful Japan. Opening the doorway of a tavern lone somewhat bigger than a instrumentality shed, GO waved maine wrong with large fanfare.
“Welcome,” helium said, “to Deathmatch successful Hell.”
I was successful heaven.
“I emotion pro wrestling and dense metal,” Nakajima told maine successful English honed portion pouring shots of whisky to visitors from America. “So I wanted to sanction my barroom thing that sounded similar the rubric to a B movie.”
For astir 3 weeks successful Tokyo, I had felt arsenic caged arsenic a hamster successful a hermitically sealed maze, bouncing wrong the Olympic bubble, bombarded with changeless warnings to instrumentality my COVID-19 tests, enactment disconnected the streets of a fascinating metropolis and ne'er effort to marque a caller person by talking to strangers.
And that’s the existent crying shame of these Olympic Games. Because if they aren’t 1 large party, past what amusive is spending $20 cardinal connected bare diversion venues wherever Hoda Kotb of “The Today Show” tin marque a screaming spectacle of herself arsenic a self-appointed Team USA cheerleader.
I’m convinced it was the astir stressful Summer Games successful history, due to the fact that much than 11,000 athletes and an service of volunteers fundamentally had to unrecorded nether location arrest, wherever it’s casual to consciousness emotionally adrift successful solitary confinement, with small institution but show anxiety.
After winning the 10th medal of a superb track-and-field career, portion desperately missing her 2-year-old girl backmost successful the United States, sprinter Allyson Felix stated the halfway situation of this contention with poetic simplicity: “This is an Olympics dissimilar immoderate other, due to the fact that successful immoderate of the hardest moments, you’re conscionable by yourself.”
In the combat against the pandemic, a authorities of aesculapian exigency shuttered Deathmatch and watering holes crossed Tokyo passim the Olympics. “I could enactment unfastened and service chicken, but not alcohol. That’s a problem. I don’t navigator chicken,” Nakajima told me, laughing astatine his plight. “Before COVID, erstwhile I opened the barroom each nighttime astatine 8, determination were already 5 radical lasting extracurricular waiting to travel in. And by 8:15 it was packed. Sixteen customers and me. Now the authorities gives maine astir 350 bucks a time to enactment closed.”
But protocols were meant to beryllium bent. So 2 days aft receiving his archetypal dose of the COVID vaccine, GO invited maine to instrumentality a backstage circuit of the astir splendid spread successful the partition I’ve ever visited.
With lone 7 barstools crammed against the counter, this drinking constitution is Nakajima’s homage to dense metallic and B-movies. Every quadrate inch of the associated is filled with gory Halloween decorations and VCR tapes of flicks with titles similar “The New York Ripper.” Crammed against 1 wall, a Chucky doll stands adjacent to a life-size Stormtrooper from “Star Wars.” Twisted Sister and Pantera blare from tiny speakers, arsenic the proprietor and lone worker of Deathmatch bobs his caput to the thumping metallic anthem “We’re Not Going to Take It.”
The sensory overload of GO’s pridefulness and joyousness deed maine hardest successful my pandemic fatigue. I thirsted for a changeable of bourbon and the shared laughter that cuts done each connection obstruction astatine the Olympics. But these were the No Fun and Games. Muddling done them without surrendering to 101 mundane adversities is worthy of a medal, which travel to deliberation of it, besides applies to each kindergarten teacher oregon ICU caregiver that has walked similar heroes done the pandemic.
The intelligence toughness to not fto COVID interruption you reminded maine of thing Australian manager Brian Goorjiam said aft his squad blew a 15-point pb to Kevin Durant and Team USA and mislaid successful the semifinals of the Olympic hoops tournament: “If you can’t grip disappointment, don’t beryllium progressive successful sport. Don’t consciousness atrocious for yourself … Get up successful the morning, lavation your look and determination on.”
I asked Nakajima his content of an Olympics wherever sometimes the champion anybody could bash was enactment 1 ft successful beforehand of the other.
“I’m not a large sports fan, truthful I don’t person overmuch involvement successful golden medals. I cognize radical telephone it a cursed Olympics and Japan wasted a immense magnitude of money. It was ridiculous spending 150 cardinal U.S. dollars for a boring opening ceremonial with nary anime, Nintendo oregon Godzilla,” helium said. “But I respect the athletes. And I deliberation the organizers are doing well, if not the best, successful a specified a unspeakable situation. But I conjecture that is simply a number sentiment successful my country.”
GO sighed, but rapidly turned his exasperation into a smile. Nakajima gave maine impervious that beyond the Olympic bubble, determination is simply a metropolis of large hearts.
“I person met thousands of people, welcoming maine to my barroom since I opened successful 2006,” helium said. “Business is horrible. It’s the bottommost now. But aft the pandemic, I volition invited thousands of radical again, for galore years to come.”
Checking the timepiece connected my cellphone, I was starting to hazard the information of missing a media autobus to the gorgeous $1.4 cardinal way stadium, wherever a fistful of Tokyo citizens person stood extracurricular with longing successful their eyes, snapping photos from down barricades due to the fact that nary spectators are allowed inside. With his barroom acheronian for yet different night, Nakajima needed to drawback a bid backmost to his location successful the suburbs.
We talked astir however chill it would beryllium to conscionable again, aft the pandemic passed and the barroom was again packed.
“Will bargain you a drink,” I told GO.
“I volition I play you songs by Napalm Death,” helium said.
We bowed, arsenic is the customized successful Japan, and walked distant from Deathmatch successful Hell, moving successful abstracted directions down the constrictive alleys of Golden Gai, vowing to stock a laughter astatine our adjacent chance, but knowing afloat good it’s improbable our paths volition ever transverse again.
The Olympics successful the clip of COVID are a batch similar beingness during the pandemic. You tin either curse each the bully worldly missed. Or observe due to the fact that you’ve recovered 1 crushed to grin each day.