Dicky was from Winnipeg and was without a doubt the most eccentric person I’ve ever met in my whole life.
Just before Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge back in early 1975, my girlfriend’s (at the time) parents sent her some money to get out of Cambodia, because they were worried about the deteriorating situation there. Instead of flying back to Australia, like my girlfriend’s parents wanted her to do, my girlfriend spent the money on two one-way tickets to Japan via the Philippines for the both of us.
When we landed in Japan, we had very little money, so we started looking for work teaching English straight away. I didn’t let the fact that I hadn’t finished high school, stop me from thinking that I could teach other people. We both found some work fairly soon, but the stress of travelling together wasn’t very good for our relationship, and we broke up not very long after.
At the English school I was teaching at I met an English fellow called Simon, who was in Japan studying shotokan karate. When Simon found out that I needed a place to stay, due to my break-up, he said I could come and share a flat with him and his friend Dicky. Simon struck me as a pretty sensible guy, so without a second thought, I jumped at the chance because of the expense and difficulty of finding accommodation in Tokyo at that time. Back then, you had to pay, what was known as “key” money as a deposit when you wanted to rent accommodation. The trouble was that the “key” money was usually about $1500 US and I was told that you didn’t get the money refunded when you left. It was a huge amount of money at that time.
The apartments in Japan are quite small by Western standards, and Simon’s two room flat was no different. Simon and Dickie shared the bedroom in the back, and I slept in what was laughingly called the living room. There was a very small kitchen about the size of a galley on a sailing boat, and there was no bathing facilities. Each night, we used to go down to the public bathhouse with all the Japanese.
Dicky was also in Japan studying karate at the same dojo as Simon, plus he was also studying kickboxing. Dicky told us that he didn’t go to high school and we later found out that he struggled to even read a comic book. It used to take Dicky about a week to read his Bruce Lee comics.
The fact that Dicky was almost illiterate didn’t get in the way of him being quite successful in business. He told us that he started off mowing lawns in the summer as a kid and then when he saved up enough money for a snow blower, he used to blow snow in the winter. When he made enough money from his mowing and snow blowing he started buying old Cadillacs and Corvettes with his brother and fixing them up, reselling them for a profit. Dicky was a real go-getter in many more ways than one.
When it came to women Dicky was amazingly fearless. I had seen him on numerous occasions, when I was on the subway with him in Tokyo, just walk right up to the local women and start prattling away to them in his broken Japanese. I remember on one hilarious occasion, he walked up to this young woman and whilst adjusting his glasses, tried to tell her that he thought she was cute but he mispronounced the word. Instead of saying “kawai” (cute) he said kawii (afraid) much to the embarrassed confusion of his prey.
As is obvious by the photograph, Dicky was very proud of his physique and was totally un-ashamed of his nakedness. The Japanese are fairly blasé about nakedness and Dicky would think nothing of walking from his apartment to the top of our apartment building, with just a towel wrapped around his waist to go sunbathing naked on the rooftop.
Because of the scarcity of land, there was no yard for the tenants to dry their clothing, so all clothes drying was done on lines up on the roof. One day Simon and I went up to the rooftop to hang out our washing and we found a naked Dicky on his knees, with his forehead on the ground, with his backside poking up into the air towards the Sun. We asked him what he was doing and he said he was trying to dry the pimples on his backside.
Seemingly oblivious to Dicky and his odd pose was a housewife who was hanging up her clothing with her little girl (about 4 years old). As Simon and I were questioning Dicky, the little girl walked over to Dicky’s rear end and stuck her finger into where the sun was currently shining, whilst naively asking the question “kore wa nani?” (what is that?).
Dicky and Simon used to hang out with Kame (Turtle) who was the middleweight kickboxing champion of the world at the time. Kame used to come over and spar with the boys and they would put on quite a show. Dicky just loved the whole idea of being a human weapon. He would regularly shave off the top layers of skin of his knuckles with a razor blade to form thick scar tissue so he could hit harder without damaging his hands. He used to tell us that he was thinking about getting castrated because it thought it would make him a better fighter, like one of those eunuch generals from Korea or China.
Eventually Dicky had to go back to Canada, and his barely legible letters, back to us in Japan, were hilarious.
It would seem that Dicky spent most of his time going to bars and beating up football players. When Dicky wasn’t beating up football players, he told us that he’d go into other karate dojos and challenge their instructors. Another thing that amused Dicky, was to go to fortune-tellers, expose himself and proposition them during readings. Dicky was afraid of nothing, be it people’s opinion of him or the consequences of his actions. Now that I’m older, I’d say he was a borderline sociopath.
One of the last letters that Dicky sent us was about how he went to the doctor’s. His description of the doctors visit went something like this. “I was taking a crap, the other day, and when I looked between my legs I saw all this stuff hanging out of my arse so I went to the doctors”. “I said to the doctor, I’ve got these things hanging out my arse every time to go for a crap”. To which the doctor replied, “don’t you mean your rectum?” “No, no, my arse!”, was Dicky’s reply. Dicky then went on to tell us that he came very close to punching out the doctor for making fun of him.
So it was from Dicky’s letter that I learnt that it’s possible to get tapeworm from eating sushi.