Freed from a life of addiction, sin, and crime by an encounter with the Blessed Mother
Neither of us said goodbye to our parents. Neither of us left a note or gave any indication if or when we were coming back. We didn’t even take any money or any of our personal belongings, just the clothes on our backs. It was a pretty bold and cold thing for a pair of 15-year-olds to do. Looking back, it was also completely crazy. What on earth were we thinking? Although I had made up my mind never to speak with my parents again, I was determined to stay in touch with my friends at Atsugi. So as soon as we got hooked up with the girls and drugs, I began phoning friends to regale them with stories about our crazy adventures. As was the case with Nathan, sometimes I even invited them out to meet Tommy and me somewhere, just to show off and give them a taste of the wild lifestyle we were experiencing. And to give them a big pile of money, of course. But the Navy — not to mention my friend’s parents — began to get suspicious when questionable characters like Nathan left the base empty-handed and inexplicably returned with wads of cash or armfuls of stolen merchandise, especially guitars and surfboards. Initially, the Navy didn’t bother to take action, but when the Japanese government began to pressure them to get us under control, they realized that they would need to remove us from the Japanese community. Being in a foreign country without a legitimate occupation and scant knowledge of the native language — the only Japanese words I knew were the “bad ones” — crime was the only means we had to support ourselves. We started with petty crimes like stealing women’s purses and grabbing money out of cash registers, but it wasn’t long, a few weeks perhaps, before we ended up getting involved with a gang.
Not surprisingly, the Japanese gang immediately took a liking to both of us. We were Americans who thumbed our noses at authority and wanted nothing more than to live the gang’s fast-paced lifestyle and experience all the wildness they were involved in.
Meanwhile, committing crimes with members of the gang — mostly stealing from retail stores and running money to and from game rooms — seemed like a viable way of sustaining our- selves in Japan. Even if it seemed a little dangerous at times, it was hard for a teenaged boy to resist the perks. Music and drugs were everywhere, and their girls were extremely beautiful. Being fawned upon by 18- to 25-year-old babes made us feel like studs.
Under the tutelage of the members of the gang, Tommy and I were soon committing crimes that would be considered felonies in the United States. By day, we would scope out stores, looking for the easiest targets. Gaining access to stores in Japan is much simpler than stealing from the locked-down, alarm-protected businesses in America. Maybe things have changed in recent years, but at the time, it wasn’t uncommon for Japanese merchants to leave their establishments unlocked at night. Instead of depositing their daily cash receipts in the bank, some shopkeepers kept the money in a box directly below the cash register in anticipation of the next day’s opening.
At night, we would return to our chosen marks, either sneaking or breaking in to take whatever we wanted. We stole everything from amplifiers and electric guitars to skateboards, surfboards, and mopeds. Sometimes we were so brazen that we would rob a store during business hours, tucking whatever we could carry under our trench coats before walking out the door.
The only problem is when two Caucasian boys are seen running from a crime scene in Japan and hundreds of thou- sands, or even millions, of Yen are missing, it’s very obvious who is responsible. When it happens on an everyday basis, it becomes an international incident.