A few hours before the concert, my grandfather was resting in our dojo. He called me into his room and whispered a secret. "Alongside Jerry Garcia, my second favorite maker of music is the witty, sarcastic piano man Randy Newman." He then slid out his harp from under his cot and sang me a sad Randy Newman song titled "Bad News From Home." I sat quietly in a dark corner and listened as the words drifted from his tongue. He slowly repeated: "You can run but you can't hide/ You can run but you can't hide/ You can run but you can't hide." These lyrics made me tremble, because I often feel as though I am a wild black tiger pouncing through the moonlit brush, escaping from those who do not understand my ninjitsu. Tonight would prove to be no different.
Punctuality is of great importance, so I arrived at Bimbo's nightclub 30 minutes prior to showtime. Upon entering the main room, I was surprised to find almost no seating available and the majority of the tables being hoarded by a gang of balding, Caucasian men. Many of them were wearing full sweatsuits, others had V-neck sweaters on. I stood out like a swollen thumb.
The usher guided me towards some seating in the farthest, darkest rear corner. I followed her, yet I knew full well that I could not stay in such poor seats. The first golden rule states: Danger lurks in the shadows. There were shadows all over these crappy seats and I was so far from the stage that I couldn't see a thing. After the show, my grandfather was depending on a detailed report. I was determined to head closer.
As soon as the usher turned her back, I leapt into position and tippy-toed down the aisle, toward the good seats. I could feel the baldheaded audience members eyeing me. As I passed, I could hear audience members muttering comments about me to their wives. Then one of them said, "What the hell is he?" and pointed to my traditional ninja garb. I was insulted. I had pressed and cleaned my ninja suit prior to the event. Angered, I exploded into an attack stance. My fists were clutched and my legs anchored firmly into the carpet. I scanned the crowd to see who else had the gall to test Rock Ninja! No one moved.
Suddenly, a security officer's arm came from the shadows and clutched my shoulder. He led me out of the main room and into the lobby. This officer passed me to another, larger, security guard. I stood before the large guard. He was a six-foot-five African-American man with his head cleanly shaven. The second golden rule of ninjitsu immediately popped into my head: Do not challenge those without hair. Although I had the urge to rip his ears off with my bare hands and break both of his kneecaps with my teeth, I resisted. He escorted me outside and interrogated me. I told him that I was merely a ninja who enjoyed the pleasant sounds of Randy Newman. I also informed him that I was here to watch the show, not to battle the gang of middle-aged accountants in the audience. Surprisingly, he let me back into the concert hall. I had sweet-talked him into re-admittance, with only my tongue as my sword! My mental ninjitsu had worked!
I settled into a new seat just as Randy Newman was taking the stage. Randy was a roundish man who liked to talk about his children between songs. Although many of his pieces were political mockeries and jokes, some of them included sweeping melodies that transported me to an ancient time when life was simpler. As he launched into the song "Bad News From Home" I found myself stirred emotionally by the chorus: "You can run but you can't hide/ You can run but you can't hide/ You can run but you can't hide." A tear rolled down my cheek, but luckily it was absorbed into the Japanese cotton of my ninja mask.
Just then, the same giant security officer rudely interrupted me again. "Please remove your mask, sir," he commanded. Golden rule number three clearly states: Never take off your mask. There was absolutely no chance of me de-masking. It was time for me to exit. I calmly replied to the guard, "This mask is part of my clothes. It is an ancient, traditional garb from Japan ... and I am Rock Ninja!" He was no match for the wild, bombastic ninjitsu that poured from my mind. I was able to elude him with ease. Without as much as a shuffling of my slippers, I scattered quickly into the night air like a rattlesnake scurrying into pond water.
Upon my return to our dojo, my grandfather could see that I was visibly shaken. "What is your dilemma, son?" he asked. I sat on the floor near the pine boards that I had broken with my head earlier that day. As I began to tell him about the tall security officer, he stopped me mid-sentence. He calmly asked me, "Did you enjoy Randy Newman's performance?" I nodded my head. "Then that is all that counts," he added.
"Some people are the cancer of earth," he continued. "They will try to break you down, but you must be true to your ninja styles and focus on what you know deep within your heart." I dropped my head and reflected for a moment. Then I said to my grandfather, "I hate people."
"Hate is too strong a word," he replied. "But, I'll have to agree, most people are assheads."