The year was 1980. My family was moving from Japan to Hawaii. My parents had left me to watch my two younger brothers. In an international airport. In the dead of night. “Stay here, don’t move, don’t get in any trouble. We’ll be right back.” I don’t remember where they were headed or why scuttling off was so important but I was 9. I knew how to take care of myself. Plus, I was wearing my biggest rodeo belt buckle.
A lovely woman, pictured above, locked eyes with me from a dozen yards away. I’m thinking, whoa. Earlier that day, I’d complained the matching jersey thing was UNCOOL. Clearly my mom had been right this time. I was irresistible. The woman was pretty and she had luggage and jewelry. She walked right over to me. “Would you handsome young men like to take a picture with me?” she asked. I knew she was just being polite to my brothers. I could feel the electricity. I expected to meet my first real girlfriend in Hawaii, but I’d already chucked that plan. I’d have gotten on any plane with her right then and my whole life would have taken a very weird turn.
But she didn’t have travel plans that day, friends. She was a model for a French magazine called Mode et Mode
and some of the magazine people thought it’d be interesting to pose the four of us as a cosmopolitan traveling family. She was supposed to be my mom. Total. Buzzkill.
Fine, we’ll do it I said. If she wasn’t going to be the “one”, I’d take a sweet spot in an international fashion magazine as a consolation prize. Let’s do this. Lights flashed like crazy as we assumed various ridiculous poses. Even at 9, I could tell how hopelessly ridiculous the whole concept was. We looked like we’d just walked off the set of “Leave it to Beaver” and she was very fancy and she smelled like cinnamon. We smelled like hot dogs and hadn’t slept in probably 18 hours. My mom and dad finally returned to find us encircled by lights, magazine people, some strange woman, and a growing crowd of mostly Japanese onlookers. The whole thing could barely have been more preposterous but it’s all true. My derelict parents had a chat with the magazine people, signed releases, everybody bowed and smiled and said goodbye. They promised they’d send us the photo-spread when the issue came out. I’m not going to lie, even though my ego was bruised, I was still pretty excited about my debut in the glossies.
Cut to Hawaii. Maybe 8 months later and the magazine is in our mailbox. I’ve already decided by now this shoot would be the catalyst for my Hawaii-based modeling career. I’d spend half my time on the Island and half my time in Milan. When my dad slapped it down on the table, I rifled though it. (From back to front, Japanese style). My heart sank. Surely I’d missed a section. Maybe there were more pics of me in the back (their front)? Nothing. Just my youngest brother, Chad, my almost first girlfriend, and wait … hold on … YES … BOOM. Pretty much my whole left arm!
You already know the rest. I became a lawyer and newsletter writer. But that’s not even the worst part. Chad lords this picture over us. At the weirdest times and apropos of nothing. He’ll throw in some line about how he’s the only handsome brother and there’ll be a copy of this ridiculous picture in an envelope or in a text message or God knows where. Sometimes he just sends me a cropped picture of my arm. It’s pretty creepy, frankly. My only riposte is to remind Greg he’s not in the picture at all.
Have a nice weekend,