Letter from Ben Stainer to the Segals

Dear Mr and Mrs Segal,

I am a British friend of Anton's from Japan and heard of his tragic death. I hope you are pulling through this difficult time. Here in England, as I am sure you know, Anton had a group of friends for whom he was one of the most fun-loving and magnetic characters. We all heard about your idea for Anton Stories. I wrote 3 and sent them via Nicky and Darren, but I've not heard if they were sent on/ received or what, so forgive me if you have already seen them, but here they are again. Darren sent a circular telling us to send them direct to you. I am still looking to put more down. Capturing the fun we had on paper is difficult. But I think we're all trying.

"The Thai Bar" was a place in which I hadn't been blooded. It was Robbie from whom I heard about "The Thai Bar" first. A gang of Wakayama JETs had stumbled on it late one night, including Kelly, Anton, Robbie, and maybe one other. The place achieved instant notoriety - just another legendary night among many when seen over the longer perspective, but for a little while, "Rico's" as I think it was called, became flavour of the month. It was like a little club that I wasn't a part of. There were those who had been to Rico's and there were those who hadn't. Some knew what it meant, and then us others were scrabbling for scraps under the table wishing that we'd been there during the feast. By all accounts, a kind of "Fill your boots" mentality had descended upon the lucky few who'd entered the place stories hinted at, depths of depravity allured to, all the stuff of testosterone tales that a man of twenty-two In a foreign land needs to get his Viking blood up. A few re-visits to the bar were sampled through stories from here and there, visits which often led somewhere else, and which engendered in me a feeling of being a boy among men. Then one night when I was in Wakayama the bar came up in discussion and I think Anton saw that I didn't feel comfortable and so he asked me to go. The novelty had worn off for many, but I wasn't about to turn down my rites of passage. So the two of us left the doubters behind and went off into the night. On entering there were cries of recognition for Anton, and for me an involuntary and face-squashing encounter with the Mama-san's breasts. Brief as it was, this forced sampling of the fruits on offer knocked the stuffing out of me. Anton and I were ushered to seats and allocated girls. Beer was ordered and I realised I was seriously out of my depth as a girl sat on my knee and started speaking broken English to me. "God help me, I'm not in the mood" I thought as she ran her hands up my thighs and placed my arm around her. The bottle arrived just as I realised I'd lost mine. I looked across at Anton who had already got a girl on each knee and was an immediate centre of attention. "Yes baby, you make me very very happy" he laughed, presenting his lips to each of them in a hilarious pucker. I was at this time engaging my girl in some tedious chat about where she came from but I was so aware of this complete "natural" sitting next to me, I had no faith in my own ability to generate a good time. It struck me that this was all that any of us in the bar wanted. Just something to laugh about. And as I sat back and watched Anton growling and crooning at the girls as they slapped and pinched him, him laughing and them laughing too at the ridiculousness of it all I really thought "He knows and they know how to talk to each other. They're all having fun" There were no nervous, condescending or ashamed looks, suddenly nothing furtive about the barriers of decency which are supposedly being crossed when you enter a place like this. Instead there was pure fun. I did my best that night, but perhaps I hadn't had enough to drink. It's not the kind of thing your average strait-laced English bloke can do easily - step out of the constraints. But then I was lucky enough to be with someone who really knew what letting it all hang out after midnight was about.

We were kipping at Donna's in Tanabe. The night before took place somewhere, but that's about as much as I can recall. The morning after was calmly proceeding up to the point where Anton noticed the treasure in his cup. "Hey man, look at this cup. There's some stuff in it." It was a cup with a false bottom and some colorful beads or such like in the space. A relaxed hangover breakfast was about to be interrupted. The cry went up first from Anton. "Treasure!! In my orange juice! Shiver me Timbers and Up the Jolly Roger. Kill the Landlubbers" The moment passed and the table went calm. The cup was refilled. But it wasn't over and we knew it. Anton drained the orange to the last drop and the blood-curdling shout went up again. 'Treasure in my Cup!! Avast Matey, my fortune's made!" If you know Anton's face then you'll be able to imagine the bug-eyed roar as he spluttered into the orange juice. I think he had a bandana on his head. Or maybe that's my imagination. All it needed was a cutlass to complete the picture.

We were in the German restaurant in Tanabe. "Bayern" I think it was called. There were a load of us and we were chewing over the meaning of the word Shimatta I!! This word gives the nuance of regretting something after you've done it, and I think it was Anton who first realised the most appropriate use of the word. He shared his realisation in an engaging way. The build up made Meg Ryan's salad scene look timid as Anton stood among the German Sausages littered all around the table and with a bellowing crescendo appeared to let loose his frustrated sexual tensions, finishing with a quizzical facial expression and superb quiet delivery of the word "Shimatta. Gomen" (Indicating regret and apology). The idea then did the rounds and we realised that where premature ejaculation is concerned, Japanese is a very rich language for expressing yourself, although of course I wouldn't dare insinuate that they need to express themselves in this situation more than any other nation, perish the thought. We did the rounds with "mo.... ichatta". Then "Chotto chotto.. .gomen", (indicating an effort at restraint and then a resigned apology) "AH…ah…zannen da! I" (Bad luck) and then finished off the idea with a frank "Boku we kimochi ga yokatta kedo, chotto gomen. Kondo da ne" (It was good for me, sorry you didn't make it. Maybe next time) I have the photo's to go with this last story at my family home in Essex Also I have two of the AJIP newsletters which Anton edited with some others in Japan for the Wakayama JET community. Maybe you already have some of these. They are unrelentingly hilarious but also close to the bone. I'll try to dig them out but it will take a while.

Yours,
Ben Stainer