For this month’s Answers & Advice column, we invited Hisashi Iwakuma—the Mariners’ new relief pitcher, making his major-league debut with Seattle after a career in Japan—to send Roderick a few queries about his American hometown.
Hisashi: What’s your favorite seating location in Safeco Field to watch the Mariners?
Roderick: Welcome to Seattle, Hisashi! I’m guessing from your first question that you had a little coaching from the Mariners organization in preparing things to ask. That’s understandable. I’m sure you do a lot of press and get asked a lot of these same questions yourself. I know what that’s like, since I am a famous rock star. Anyway, since this is probably the only time we’ll get a chance to chat, I’m going to read between the lines of your questions a little bit so we can really get the most out of our conversation.
Who is your favorite all-time Mariners player?
Professional athletes sure get paid a lot of money, don’t they? I’m not saying you’re not worth it, but it must have a profound effect on your sense of taste. Most baseball players live in crappy mansions with 15 bathrooms and no furniture, dating women whose looks fall somewhere on the scale between a gazelle and a catfish. Doesn’t that sound like something you’d only do on a dare?
How come more baseball players don’t just live in normal apartments, reading magazines and making spaghetti? That’s pretty much the definition of happiness right there, no matter how much money you have. Eventually, all our baseball stars move to Florida to be “closer to their families,” which is code for them just wanting to be around other crass people in a warm swamp.
What is your favorite moment in Mariners history?
Have you noticed that Ichiro is like a character out of Kafka? Every time he goes to bat he puts down his invisible briefcase, takes off his invisible black suit jacket, singles to center, steals second base, and then the Mariners lose! He’s caught in an endless Groundhog Day, where it doesn’t matter whether he learns the piano or kidnaps the groundhog and drives into a gravel pit, the Mariners lose! Seattleites love resignation in the face of futility—it’s one of our defining characteristics.
If you were a professional baseball player, what position would you play?
Baseball is considered by many people to be the most intellectual sport, but isn’t it sad that most other “intellectual” things are considered snobby? Like, artistic dancing is also very athletic, both modern and classical, and the dancers I’ve known haven’t been any smarter than baseball players, but going to a dance recital seems like a very elitist thing to do.
Why is that? Is it because no one wins at dancing? Look at figure skating—it’s like dancing, except one person wins and the losers go home in tears. You’d think that figure skating would be a big hit, but nobody cares about it except Russians and some really brassy moms.
What is your favorite place to watch a Mariners game with friends (besides the ballpark)?
Seriously, though, you’re moving to Seattle and you’ve got some money to burn; I think you’re going to have a blast. I’m sure the Mariners want you to have a good time and enjoy a little bit of the high life, but that usually means they squire you around in a white Escalade to some gaudy steakhouse bar called “The Cosmopolitan” or something, where everyone is weirdly tall and some bald Ukrainian guy with a $25,000 wristwatch keeps slapping you hard on the back while his teenage girlfriend looks at you like a halibut.
Does that sound fun? You need to get away from those mutants!
Favorite sushi restaurant in Seattle?
I know you’re already 30, you’ve been in the Olympics, and you’ve probably been around the world, but I’m guessing that baseball’s been your whole life until now, right? With this big move to Seattle, to the major leagues, you can really expand your horizons.
I don’t know how it is in Japan, but in America a professional baseball player retires sometime in his 30s and ends up co-owning a Pontiac dealership in Silverdale with his father-in-law. Did you ever want to learn pottery? Or boat-building? Seattle has so much going on. Sure, you can drive around in a white Escalade eating sushi and dating blank-faced girls, but when you retire you’ll probably still be a young guy, and the bad news is: Pontiac went out of business!
What is your favorite Seattle landmark to take guests from out of town to?
You mean ladies, right? I’ve seen pictures from Japan—I know you guys are into some wild stuff in the love-times department. My suggestion is that you get a three-day pass to one of Seattle’s many comic-book/video-game conferences, and maybe you’ll meet a nice girl who likes to dress up as a sexy blue panda and play underwear games. Seattle girls are very open-minded when it comes to Star Wars–themed lovemaking.
What is your favorite local band?
Why do baseball players all wear those gold neck chains? Don’t they always fly up in your face when you’re running? My policy has always been never to wear any kind of jewelry that an angry woman might use to haul me to the floor, but then rock and roll is different.
You might be surprised at how many musicians in Seattle LOVE the Mariners. We can really relate to that resignation-and-futility thing I was talking about before. If you want to come check out some music, I suggest you comb your bangs down over your forehead and grow a creepy little mustache, just so you blend in.
What is your favorite coffeehouse?
Hey, I don’t want you to get in trouble while you’re here. There are a lot of unsavory types in this city who will lead you astray. Heed my advice: Stay out of the coffeehouses!
What would you recommend doing when the team has an off day in the summer in Seattle?
I recommend this to everyone who visits Seattle in the summer: Don’t fall in love! Seriously, it seems like some kind of earthly paradise here during baseball season, such that you might make decisions you’ll come to regret while intoxicated by the perfect temperatures and clear blue skies. Don’t be fooled. It’s a fever dream.
When they talk about the “mild climate” of the Northwest, what they mean is “all the worst kinds of comparatively mild weather strung together in an unending cycle of despair.” When you have an off day during the summer, you should stay inside and read. Close the blinds and watch some old episodes of Upstairs Downstairs.