Call me Ivan. As a young man growing up in the salty marshes of Long Island, I felt a calling, a longing. I knew I was meant for great things, and not just a bar mitzvah, as my parents saw it. No, my fate would not be an appearance before the torah, followed by studious years of secondary school, followed by a liberal arts degree from an elite university, followed by a law degree from Harvard, followed by a clerkship followed by an associate position at a big firm, followed by a marriage to Doborah Berkowitz, followed by children so the whole miserable thing could repeat itself. No, such things are meant for fools. I was meant for something greater.
And so I left the salt marshes and crossed the salty sea venturing east. Finally after many weeks my ship approached a mass of land, Japan. I ended in Tokyo and took residence beneath an underpass in the Tokomo Prefecture. Soon I was starving and I had no choice but to join one of the many gangs of pickpockets who turn over their earnings to Boss Kyoko, who in return gave us the honor of bowls of rice doused in spoiled soy sauce and a promise of safety from his Samurai Riders, his squadron of loyal henchmen who rode the streets on their bicycles and chopped down any ingrates or threats.
One day a cold gray rain poured from the sky, and I admit I was thinking that the torah and Debbie Berkowitz were seeming not that bad; I saw a shimmering light flowing out from a small shop hidden in an alleyway. I entered and was struck by a most rich, intoxicating fume, or should I say fumes. There was a luscious liquid simmering in a giant cauldron which smelled of deeply concentrated meats and flavors, while the slightly sour aroma of fresh noodles simultaneously penetrated my curious nostrils. Men were hunched over a counter slurping bowls of this inviting liquid and noodle concoction.
Before I knew it a small man with intense eyes and scruffy chin hairs pushed a bowl in front of me, and I was so mesmerized I could not think, all I could do was sit and eat. I had never tasted anything like it. The broth was masterful. It had layer upon layer of surprising and savory flavors. The noodles were perfect. They were chewy and actually had taste, rather than a million noodles which seem to be squishy nothings. My soul left my body and I lost myself in that bowl of noodles.
"What is it?" I asked.
The man with the chin hairs and intense eyes who had served me answered:
I knew what my calling was.
To be continued...
For Part II, go here.