The Sunday Series
Sunday, August 30, 2015 (Izu Ōshima, Tokyo, Japan)
I began to write my own obituary, because I don’t feel I will make it off this island. The fact that the local (and prominent volcano) Mount Mihara is fully active and ready to blow at a second’s notice, and on top of that, there is a major earthquake fault underneath the island. Every where I go on this island I’m reminded of death. On a walk, I came upon a monument and a little shrine that announced a plane crash that took place here which killed 30 people. In another walk, there was another shrine that honored the 35 people who were victims of a mudslide due to the typhoon that hit the island three years ago. And just before we arrived here, a plane went down and crashed into a house, killing the occupant, who by chance, just moved into the house. The volcano itself, attracted hundreds to commit suicide by jumping into the lava filled crater. The cruel joke is that one wished to be swallowed by the earth, but in fact, when you jump in, lava keeps you floating and you just burn to death by the steam coming out of your body. Death here is no joke.
So, if you look at this statistically, I have a 50/50 chance of making it alive from Ōshima. To be on the safe side, and concerned about not having the last word on my life, and not having the time to finish off the full memoir called “Tosh’s Unfortunate Life,” I decided to, at the very least, to write my own obituary. Here it is:
Tosh Berman (August 25, 1954 - Sunday August 30, 2015)
Born in Los Angeles and died in Izu Ōshima, Tokyo, Japan
“Tosh Berman was a writer, poet, publisher, and gentleman. The son of Wallace Berman and Shirley Berman. He went to school, but the school denied that he was ever a student. Nevertheless he never let a locked door stop him from getting a full education. In school, Tosh had a deep interest in whatever was happening outside the classroom. This leads him to fail Kindergarten, and he had to take that class twice. By the second time, he realized that the school world wasn’t made for his liking. At eleven years old, he wrote his own book of poetry “My Life, My World, My Everything” that was published in an edition of one on a notebook that his parents gave him. Due that the hand-printed manuscript was extremely hard to read, the author is the only one to actually read the book of poems. Even with that, Tosh gave the book a superb blurb in the back of the notebook: “Poetry is real, and this is the real deal” - Tosh Berman, Poet (author of “My Life, My World, My Everything.”)
As a teenager it could be thought of that he discovered girls, but the fact is, girls discovered Tosh. They found him peeking through various keyholes and windows in selective residences where pretty teenage girls were found to be residing. Being caught on a regular basis, Tosh learned to use language as not only as a tool, but also a weapon. The girls became wary of him when he claimed he was looking for his glasses in various suspicious locations. By the age of seventeen, he was lead tambourine player for the band “Knock Knock Who’s There.” They were the no. 1 band at Louisville High School in Woodland Hills and had a sizable female audience, due to the fact that it was an all-girl school. Tosh became a fixture at this educational institution, and his one goal in his life at the time, was to become a janitor at the school. Fate had other plans for him, for instance, he was kicked out of the band due to his reckless dancing, and insisting on having a microphone on stage, which in fact, he didn’t sing at all.
Tosh, it was reported, was a very bitter young man. He seemed to drink only liquids that had a tang taste, and usually had a puckered gesture around the mouth area. That look was quite iconic on him, and eventually many people imitated his look by holding their puckered lips together. Since then, Tosh started to have a following - mostly guys who couldn’t function in the world, and were often called dreamers by the local High School football team. Tosh was known for his militant “no exercise” stance, that he kept up till his death. He deeply felt that one should read a book instead of doing exercise. Or if one needs to do for exercise, they can clearly do so by reaching for a book on the top shelf, or do deep knee bends, when the book is located on the bottom shelf of the bookcase.
It was only at the age of 21, Tosh decided to get a job, due that the parents refused to feed him till he found occupation. He went to the first record store, and got the job there, when he could name every member of Freddie and the Dreamers (Roy Crewdson on guitar, Derek Quinn on guitar and harmonica, Peter Birell bass, Bernie Dwyer drums and of course, Freddie Garrity on lead vocals and lead dancing). Tosh was profoundly moved when he read a quote from Freddie saying “The Dreamers and I have always been daft. You couldn’t call me a sex-idol, could you? Collectively, we’re no glamour boys.”
Tosh worked at a record store on Sherman Way in Reseda from the beginning of March 1975 to the end of March 1975. He often commented on the enjoyment of various porn actresses who worked as a stripper on the side, would come in to get music for their act. Tosh showed choreographed talents when he recommended the would-be strippers on how to do some of the movements. He was eventually let-go of the job due to his naturally suggestive sexual movements while working at the store. Customers and the fine-looking women who worked with him didn’t complain, but the city council of Reseda took notice, and requested that he be removed from the job. Normally something like this would discourage Tosh’s love of music, but alas, it only became stronger, when he devoted his life to various punk rock clubs around Los Angeles.
It was at this time, he became a professional friend to bands such as DEVO and The Weirdos. He would make sure the right drinks were in the right glasses, and kept the bands safe from the Los Angeles Police Department as well as the over-zealous female fans. He would often read poetry out-loud in the dressing rooms to calm the musicians’ nerves before hitting the stage. It has been noted that DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh would request Tosh to read Frank O’Hara’s poem about drinking a coke. To add to the effect, Tosh would serve Mark a glass of Coke as he read the poem to him. Tosh realized that this wasn’t a good career move, due that there’s no payment in what he was doing, so he decided to devote himself to the business world of making and writing poetry. Here he made his fame and fortune.
Tosh as an adventurer (both sexually as well as a world traveler) became an obsessed collector of rare petrified mummies that were caught in the lava flow of various volcano eruptions. His obsession with Mount Mihara, on the island of Oshima, one of the seven Izu islands off of, but still part of Japan, had an active volcano. In fact, a girl he was dating with at the time, Kiyoko Matsumoto, jumped into the flames of Mihara, when he refused to take her out for shaved ice near the black beaches on the island. She survived the suicide attempt, even though she did lose some inches in height wise.
Tosh settled down in the town of Moji-Ko, and married a girl from the area. Here, he found a publisher, Cole Swift & Sons, who had offices not only in Moji-Ko, but also in Bombay, London, and Paris. With them, he produced his first book of poems “The Plum in Mr. Blum’s Pudding.” The entire book was written in Moji-Ko, with a broken typewriter that couldn’t type the letter “E” due to the malfunction of the typewriter. It became the first book of poetry that doesn’t use the capital letter “E” nor a small “e.” This of course, caused a great deal of controversy in the Poetry World. For a little awhile it was banned in all countries that have a letter E in their country’s name. The scandal even touched Tosh personally, when for about a month or two he was known as “Tosh Brman.” (The “e” was removed from his last name).
Banned from writing poetry and told to be kept away from all workable typewriters, Tosh decided to start up a press TamTam Books, that focused on post-war French writing. At the time, he started this press, no one was interested in the writer Boris Vian, so, he devoted his finances and time to promote the works of Vian. Not surprisingly, no one was interested in Boris Vian when he closed his press. Therefore it was a major disappointment for him when he got turned down the highest French medal of honor, but also he couldn’t get a visa to visit France. In fact, he became banned in France. With that in mind, Tosh wrote his last book “Sparks-Tastic” that became an instant classic for the Kindle set. It seemed that Kindle would malfunction whenever it tried to download the non-fictional work. With a string of failures in his background and clearly, nothing was going to happen in his future, Tosh decided to move to Izu Ōshima, where he became a manager of the Innomaru House, an inn and a house of loose women who served not only the local population but also customers from the mainland. It was here when he….”
This is where I had to finish off the obituary, because at this time, I’m not sure what or how my “ending” will happen. Fate often knocks on my door, and it is that fateful moment where I either go with the wind, or against it.