An email from Lee MacDonald, roommate in Japan in the 1970s


Subject: Lee MacDonald email

>From Lee MacDonald, 4/5/02
Memories of Bruce

Jeff,
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me last night. It's all been
quite a shock, and the more I think about it the more acute and painful
the loss becomes. I couldn't quite manage to write something from my
office this afternoon, so I'm sending this from my wife's home email
account (mine is leemac@cnr.colostate.edu').
With Bruce there are so many stories it's hard to know where to
start. I met Bruce in late February 1977, as I--like Bruce--had just
arrived in Tokyo and was looking for a place to liive. He found a house
in a tiny Tokyo suburb, which we shared for 18 months or so. When the
owners decided to live in it, we then did some part-time sharing of a
two-bedroom apartment in a homey little neighborhood in Shibuya, which is
a sub-center within Tokyo. Since I knew virtually no Japanese when I
arrived and had never been in Japan, Bruce was both a great companion and
a great help. We rapidly became part of the local neighborhood culture by
frequenting a particular hole-in-the-wall tonkatsu restaurant, and the
patrons would go on twice yearly drinking and bathing sojourns to some
resort outside of Tokyo. Bruce and I were always the source of
entertainment and the recipients of very solicitous care, and Bruce was
most helpful in sharing the conversation when it progressed beyond my
growing but still very limited Japanese capability.
Since Bruce was a very difficult word for Japanese, he was always
Stone-san. Similarly, my last name of MacDonald was very difficult, so I
was always Ree-san (my name is Lee, but Japanese generally can't
distinguish between L's and R's, which can lead to some hilarity with
words like election).
Although I am mostly a swimmer, Bruce would run most days and I would
occasionally accompany him on weekends. He would usually slow down for
me, but whenever we were going down stairs I learned that I had to take
them two at a time in the downward direction if I was to have any hope
of keeping up with Bruce. No doubt thisi was a legacy from his many days
of running stairs for rowing, and this is a skill that is still very
useful when I'm in a hurry and trying to stay one step ahead of everyone
else. I also fondly remember a couple of multi-day hiking trips to the
Japanese alps, and a slightly perilous climb up the spear poiint of
Mt. Yari. I recall an unspoken agreement that we had to do each leg of
the journey in 1/2 to 2/3 of the stated time in our guidebook. Bruce's
penchant for pushing right along meant that we occasionally had to keep
going in the last light of day along the ridgetop trails in order to reach
the next hut, even though I would have been quite happy to have stopped a
bit earlier. We then had the amusing task of hoping that the hut would
not fill up so that we would have more than our allocated space of one
tatami mat, as one mat is just wide enough but not nearly long enough to
accommodate our 6-ft plus Western bodiies; it's hard to sleep after a long
day of hiking when one can't even stretch out.
Living with Bruce required one to have an open mind, as he was not one
to conform to the usual constraints of things like night and day. I had a
"normal" 9 to 5 job, while Bruce was on a fellowship and supplementing his
income by teaching and sometimes playing poker. The more lucrative
English classes were taught in the afternoon and early evening, so after
Bruce got back from his teaching we would wander down to our local
tonkatsu restaurant and enjoy a few large bottles of Kirin. However,
sometimes Bruce would stay in town after his classes to play poker, and
then come home later in the evening to continue his studies. Once he was
in his poker playing mode, he tended to stay later and later, so I often
would not see him before I went to bed, and he would be asleep when I got
up and left for work. Since I was also travelling on some weekends, we
could go for a couple of weeks without ever seeing each other despitie the
fact that we were living in the same house! When we would finally cross
paths at the railway station or meet at home, our greetings and
conversation was exactly like that of friends who had been living quite
some distance apart. The other interesting part was that Bruce, like many
of us, had a circadian rhythm that was longer than 24 hours. As he got
into his poker-playing cycle and came home later and later, he would
finally get to the point where he was just coming home when I was getting
up. After a couple of days of seeing each other only at breakfast time,
he would decide that it was not reasonable to sleep from dawn to early
afternoon, and just stay up until it was the normal time to go to
sleep. He would then be on a "normal" cycle for a few days, and would
spend the evenings eating sushi or tonkatsu and drinking Kiriin, and then
slowly he would start staying out later and later and eventually repeat
the whole cycle.
During some of these cycles I would get up and find Bruce both drinking
beer and studying. His claim, which I have yet to fully verify for
myself, was that he didn't get too sleepy or tired after his late night
poker sessions as long as he kept drinking. He claimed that it was only
after he stopped drinking that he would feel sleepy and unable to continue
studyiing. I would be interested to know if any of you have the same view
or can verify this by your own experience!
My other strong recollection of Stone-san was that he was the most
well-rounded person that I have ever known. Books, music, art, language,
travel, geography, philosophy, sports--Stone-san was an unbelievable
conversationalist in any field that one wished to bring up, but he never
used his knowledge and recall to make you feel inferior. Although he
sometimes could be moody, he had a nearly unparalleled knack of getting
along with people, regardless of their position or culture. In short, I
feel very lucky to have shared part of my life with Bruce. The world is
poorer for his loss, but his memory will remain strong with all of us
that knew him.

Lee MacDonald,
Professor, Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO
leemac@cnr.colostate.edu





Bruce back in Japan (1996 ?)


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Bruce's friend Koichi who owned the tonkatsu shop on the outskirts of Tokyo,
whom Bruce met on his first trip to Japan in the 1970s - here Bruce is visiting
him again 20 years later when he returned to Japan in the 1990s to work with
Sumitomo Bank for RMT. It's October 1996, up top in a park set up as a traditional
Japanese village (a destination to show first time visitors -- Julie in this case); down
below at Koichi's place for dinner.

After some persistent gum-shoe work over the course of several trips to Japan
kicked off by a map of a suburban Tokyo subway stop scrawled by Bruce on that
1996 trip, Machiko and I were finally able to track him down after Bruce died.
He could not believe the news.