A couple of years ago, I saw a simple paperback book listed on eBay, which was selling for over $200. I was intrigued as I had got into a little buying and selling, so I’ve always kept my eyes out for this book: The Japanese-Jewish Sex and Cookbook and How to Raise Wolves by Jack Douglas. I’ve never seen the book, but I have found a few other books by the author and I have finally got around to reading one- The Adventures of Huckleberry Hashimoto.
The name of the book is based on a nickname a family friend gave the Douglas’ son, Bobby. Jack and his Japanese wife, Reiko, (20 years his junior) take their infant son on a summer tour of the Orient in the early 1960s. The family takes the train from NYC to LA, then a ship from the California coast to Tahiti, fly to Honolulu, then fly to Japan to meet Reiko’s family. If you can imagine what a comedy writer would write in the 1960s, that just about covers the bases. He [lovingly] complains about wife, kid, locals, etc. At one point he even calls a friend’s 16 year old daughter ‘sexy’. I hadn’t heard of Douglas before these books, but apparently he was a popular comedy writer in those days. He mentions a lot of ‘famous’ people he knew, but I hardly had heard of any of them. I think I’ve heard of Jack Paar, but I can’t be 100% on that.
Apart from the apparent change in taboo topics from that era, there were many funny parts of the book. He tells of the way strangers address each other when approaching on a cruise ship: “Well- We meet again,” (followed by a small chuckle), “You’re not walking a straight line,” and “Well- drunk again!” Douglas tells of a short anecdote of cold coffee in Tahiti. None of the coffee pots have lids, so it cools faster. The shipment of coffee pots was separate from the lids, and unfortunately, the lids ended up in Samoa where they were sold, then sold again to tourists as the top of Robert Louis Stevenson’s last coffee pot.
In Japan, Douglas told of how he learned to gain patience as the Japanese side of the family had many customs to adhere to. One involved the changing of shoes. Shoes worn outside are not allowed to be worn indoors, so slippers are worn when walking through hallways (bare or stocking feet only in bedrooms), the bathrooms have separate bathroom slippers, then the commode has built in ceramic slippers one has to stand in to do their duty. Another story involved Reiko buying a hair barrette. The announced her intentions to her parents, who discussed it with her for 15 minutes. It was decided. They would buy the hair barrette (four cents). Then another 15 minute discussion was presented to find where they would go to buy the barrette, and another 15 minutes to decide which store to buy it from. At the street outside, they had another 15 minute discussion to decide if they would walk the two blocks or take a taxi (walking was decided because it didn’t make much sense to spend more on a taxi than a barrette). When they reached the market, another 15 minute discussion took place to decide to go a few more blocks to the cheaper market, which upon arriving they found that a four cent hair barrette was no cheaper, and they did not have the gold colored one Reiko wanted. The shop owner provided drinks and they had another lengthy discussion and it was decided Reiko would get the silver barrette and if she was not happy in a couple of weeks she could return it with a full refund. They took the taxi home.
This was a book I had looked forward to, though there were some funny parts, I can’t say it was my favorite. I have another book by him, ready to read, but not necessarily at the top of my list at this time. It was a short book, a quick read, and I think I will read more of his work one day, but it might be a while before I ‘find the time’ for it.