This is actually happening features real experiences that often include traumatic events, please consult the show notes for specific content warnings on each episode and for more information about support services.
I really wanted so badly to spring into action, leap across the bar, down the aisle and out of the store, but just the opposite happened. I froze in fear and tell.
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My most profound fear in life was that I would lead an uninteresting life and I was forever in envy that other people would lead an interesting life. And I would. I came from kind of a prototypically normal New York City to kid Jewish family, my father was a stockbroker, and my father became over time, almost a perfect barometer of the stock market.
So he would come home in the evenings and his behavior was completely a function of how the stock market had done that evening. My mother, by contrast, was a much more complex individual who had been a market researcher at the beginning of her career and felt that no amount of questions she asked of her children would ever be enough. Growing up under my mother's careful observation was extremely close to the experience of being cross-examined by a brilliant attorney. So generally speaking, through my teenage years, she was a person to be diligently avoided.
This wonderful figure in my youth and my teenage years and eventually my college years was my mom's first cousin, who was Art Buchwald. Art Buchwald, my mom's first cousin, was America's preeminent political satirist in the 60s, 70s and 80s. He tried to hide as much as possible that he was highly aligned with the Democratic Party, but he, in fact, actually was and became the godfather of Bobby Kennedy's kids as Ethel chose him to help advise her and support her.
After Bobby Kennedy's assassination in 68, he wrote a series of, I think, about 35 books that made the New York Times bestseller list. He was syndicated in 700 papers, and he was an incredible force of personality. Everything about art was kind of exuberant, consciously or unconsciously, as I went through college. And I spent a little bit of time in D.C. where though I didn't live in his house, I tried to live as much as possible on his dime, soaking up as many free lunches either in his office or at Mason Bank, where he held court several times a week in his company just because he was both so funny and so connected in Washington society.
The closer my commencement from university came, the greater my anxiety grew that I needed to come up with something interesting to do. My experience upon graduating from university was a lot like the film The Graduate. I moved back into my parent's house and settled into what I think is for a lot of people, the most profound depression that they ever have to return to their parents home and to be faced with the prospects of organizing the rest of their lives. I moved back in and tried to come up with an interesting concept.
And the only thing interesting I could think of to do it seemed lucrative and it seemed my skill set were jobs on Wall Street. And since my father had spent thirty five years on Wall Street and was a good guy, I received an offer to go to work for Bear Stearns and the idea of accepting that offer filled me with horror. So one night upon accepting that offer, my mother and father took me out to dinner and my mother, in attempting to make levity of it, suggested that she would buy me a picture book of the world.
And this idea stopped me dead in my tracks, me sitting in a cubicle up two a.m. in an investment bank office and taking the book out from my desk and looking at pictures of Japan. I decided that Japan was my Paris. Paris was where Buckwald had begun his career. So this moment hit me like a brick and I never showed up and I never accepted the job or went to work through a series of connections. I found out there was a position open to become a newspaper reporter in Tokyo.
Naturally, I went to see my uncle about it. He said, You've got to go.
This is your moment. There's a travel agency on the first floor, get up off your seat. I'm going downstairs to buy the ticket for you, of course, through the rest of our to Art Egmont. And three weeks later, I moved to Tokyo. So this was, I think, the first days of November 1984. I think I had a sense of Japan as a series of old teahouses, rickshaws and geisha. So arriving in Tokyo into a metropolitan area of 25 million people, bullet trains, avenues with eight and 10 lanes of fast moving traffic.
It was kind of an enormous sensory overload. My job was to work for this newspaper, which was called the Asahi Evening News, and I used to refer to it as the contradiction daily because açaí means morning sun. So we were the morning sun, even evening news, and we were in fierce competition with the redundancy daily, which was the Mainichi Daily News. The Daily News.
Daily News. My job involved my alarm going off at about four, 20 in the morning in order to arrive downtown Enschede at five or seven in order to be at my desk at five 12 in order to produce the first edition of the paper by 7:00 a.m.. So the job mostly was an exercise in how fast I could work with a high degree of accuracy, and I think that's probably a skill that a fine American liberal arts education prepares you for is not at all.
First five, six months of Japan. Like the most amazing five or six months of my life mean it's just just like, you know, I've been blasted into outer space and every day was this unbelievable exploration wherever you went. You wouldn't believe now, but the way I made the books balance with a job that paid as poorly as daily journalism was, I had a side activity as a fashion model, which only shows how much my physique has deteriorated to the last 30 years.
But it was a good gig. I was, I guess, adequately handsome to do it and would pick up usually a modeling gig on the weekends, which paid almost as well as six days at the newspaper. The modeling agencies were run as generally shady businesses in Tokyo, and that's where I first encountered the woman who was the author of My Demise. I had had a small problem in January or February with the fashion modeling agency that was booking me into gigs and my weekend, a few weeks later, I I met on a train between the Punggye and Hedo stations, a very attractive woman who I introduced myself to who was approximately my age and worked for the same modeling agency.
And we had a short conversation about, oh, how clumsy they are and how often they screw up the bookings. And has this happen to you comparing notes. And then the train doors opened at Heathrow Station, where I got off to go to Japanese class in the evening and we did what any two people do on a short chance meeting in Tokyo. We exchange name cards. About two months later, I arrived in the newspaper at five, 12 in the morning with my usual mission very much affixed on my mind, which is get to seven o'clock in the morning, produce two pages of copy, typeset, pictures, layout done.
Get through that. Sprent arrived at my desk and I noticed that the newsroom was unusually quiet that morning. I didn't pay a lot of attention to this until shortly after the first edition was put to bed. A man named Jean, who was the sports editor of the paper, took me aside and said. There was a little problem here last night, about two hours before you came, I said, oh, what happened? He said, well, a number of members of the Sloshy gumi showed up here several hours ago, confronted eBid, supposin is Viterbo son was the managing editor of the paper who was clearly no match for a group of toughs at three o'clock in the morning who said I was having a love affair with the wife of the head of the mob, Mr.
Sooky Yoshida aggrieved party. And if I wasn't handed over to them for punishment, the thugs would wreck the printing presses and the equipment which the newspaper was prepared upon, and then things would get worse from there. Today's episode is brought to you by daily harvest this year, I'm refocusing on what it means to take care of myself, and it couldn't be easier than with daily harvest. They've been one thing that makes me feel better about myself my day in my life.
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That's promo code happening for twenty five dollars off your first box at Daily Harvest Dotcom. That's Daily Harvest Dotcom. Today's episode is brought to you by Audible. If you are looking for the best way to listen to audiobooks, podcasts and meditation programs all in one service, check out Audible Audible's, the leading provider of spoken word entertainment and audio books ranging from best sellers and new releases to celebrity memoirs. Language is True Crime and Now podcast Audible's excited to offer members a new way to explore their interests with the included plus catalog.
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First edition to bed, some breathing room, a chance for a second or third cup of coffee. I reach out to a bit Tebow, who works across a set of desks for me. And I said, what's the story? And he is unusually direct. He said, Well, it seems that your love life might be becoming a bit of a problem for fairly prominent mobster in in town. And we we had a visit at three o'clock in the morning and frankly, terrified.
I said, where where were you at one 45 in the morning?
I was asleep and the bits of OSB, so can anyone vouch for this, and I was embarrassed to say that no one can vouch for it because I'm a single man and I wasn't lucky enough to have company last night. So he says, well, what was the last time anyone can identify where you are when it's the first time? And I said, well, I went to Japanese class last night class and did at nine thirty. And I went with two friends from Japanese class to the Godzilla bar in Nishizawa, which was a particularly hot, cool underground bar at the Nishizawa Crossing where we had one, probably two nightcaps.
I showed intestinal fortitude to get up from the bar at eleven thirty so that I would get at least four or five hours. And so the only person who saw me was when I left the apartment at four forty in the morning. She was the first person to identify me at 440 and my two buddies from Japanese class were the last and my whereabouts were unaccounted for. You know, he's kind of looking sort of concerned. I said, well, what was I accused of?
Well, apparently the head of the mob's wife was seen getting out of your car at one forty five in the morning. And I said, well, there's a couple of problems with that. I don't have a Japanese license, driver's license and I don't have a car. I've been involved in this pretty exciting thirst for adventure coming to Japan, but I was surely not expecting anything so romantic or dramatic as being involved in a love triangle. I can't really believe that it happened or what's happening.
A Viterbo, who was a pretty outstanding journalist and an even better multitasker, did his job and simultaneously negotiated with Tsuyoshi and it was agreed that we would go after the final edition was produced at noon, we would go to meet with Tsuyoshi. We pull up at the resident of studio. We ring the bell, buzzed into one of the apartments. Ceilings are high. Rooms are large. Furnishings are fancy. So Yoshie is absolutely not what I imagined as a gangster, he's in the second half of his 30s, he's dressed in a Western format, Western clothes, fine tailored slacks.
His demeanor is not particularly aggressive, kind of composed. I do what is a relatively easy thing, which is telling the truth. I don't have a car. I don't have a license. I'm not having a relationship. You know, I don't know what you're talking about. After kind of a 30, 40 minute interview where dismissed to a significant degree of unsatisfaction on the part of Mr. Sérgio, she not much declined in a bid to show my managing editors degree of alarm.
And I couldn't figure out why he didn't believe me. The pressure stays on. I notice in the next day or two that my apartment is watched down the alley to a fairly hefty looking characters, said Park. Whenever I'm in the house, I notice a similar vehicle sits on the street outside of the place that I work and my legend is growing on the newsroom floor. I've risen to the level of folk hero among the copy boys. They're pretty convinced that that dude is the guy that's screwing the head of the mob's wife.
Rather than reveling in this notoriety, it only serves to elevate my anxiety. I'm looking around corners. I'm wondering when I'm going to have another encounter with a goon. I kind of don't know what's next for me. My limited amount of sleep is definitely encroached upon and my mind is racing that I'm in danger and I don't seem to be extricating myself from. I realize that this really isn't going away, and I take it upon myself to take action, so my action is to communicate.
I believe it was through a bit ago that I'm going to meet ciggie Ochi to talk about the problem again, man to man. And I'm instructed to go to his place of business, which is an antique shop that I had passed a couple of times near the Nishizawa crossing. And it was a place of business that I had passed a number of times before. And there are places like this all over the city, places of business that don't seem to be doing any business which were completely kind of convenient drop spots for mob related activities.
So off I went one afternoon after work and I decided I would take a dog for protection. I happened to be babysitting my buddy's dog for good measure. I took my baseball bat that year. I played on a softball team that had a great run and actually won the International League Softball Championship, thinking that it would make me look menacing and that the idea that will come from America, where a particularly dangerous country and these are basically peaceful Japanese, that to understand that I mean business.
And I arrive at his place of business and he's sitting on what looks to be kind of a rattan chair out front. When I arrived there looking fairly comfortable and I decided I'm going to seek to intimidate him. So I go straight up to him and say, you and your people are trying to scare me. You're out of line. And I'm really, really pissed. This has got to stop. I have nothing to do with your wife. I barkett have more words to that effect.
And he kind of the well rehearsed way in which someone who traffics in violence looks utterly unimpressed and signals for me to come into the shop and follow him to the back. So I do his high degree of confidence and the lack of impression that I made at shouting at him are beginning to unnerve me. And we walk by a long bar and we arrive at the back of this slightly dusty antique shop where nothing had been going on. When he turns very suddenly, Toby, and he's standing uncomfortably close to me and he takes out a very, very long, very sharp knife.
I really wanted to be at this point to be Ethan Hunt. I really wanted so badly to spring into action, kicked the knife out of his hand or leap across the bar, down the aisle and out of the store. But just the opposite happened. I froze in fear. And this might be the beginning of my last few minutes on the planet. Instead, he took out the knife and very, very slowly put the knife into the front of his shirt and gave me what I still can remember to this day, 30 years later, a terrible smile when he rapidly ran the knife down the front of his shirt, cutting off all the buttons and slicing his white sort of slightly silky shirt.
And half the shirt kind of flies open. And I can see he's covered in gangster tattoos. So I thought I was frightened before. I have now reached a new level of terror. I'm gasping for air and he says, I'll kill you, I'll kill you in a heartbeat. He's speaking to me in English. You've told me you're not involved and I don't believe you. And if I find there's any link between you and my wife. I'll kill you.
I begin to recover certain amount of circulation of my limbs. That I can now transport myself from the shop, collect my dog who's tied up by the front of the shop, my back, which didn't provide me with any coverage at all. And leave. It's beginning to gel on me that the woman is the woman on the train that I had encountered two months ago, exchanged a business card with and complained about the modeling agency. I now have no hope or no clear idea of finding her, but I am convinced that maybe he's associated with the modeling agency.
As I walk home, I begin to contemplate a plan to address my issues with the modeling agency. The next evening. After this incident, I decide that I'm going to go to the modeling agency and find my file and in my file I'm going to find out whether they've been tracking me, whether this modeling agency really is a front for the gangsters, as many of these businesses are. And so I kind of plan my attack. I'm going to arrive at the modeling agency about 11:00 o'clock at night.
I'm going to break into the modeling agency, finding my file and seeing what I can learn about my predicament. And so I do that. I enter the modeling agency and the front door is open. I turn on the light and I startle. A young man who's asleep, who is as terrified of me as I was of the gangster twenty four hours prior and sort of shouting at him in English and making threatening gestures, I say, don't move.
I go to where I know where my file is in the cabinet, where I visited the modeling agency before I grabbed my file. I make another threatening gesture with my flashlight, turn off the light and run for the train.
I'm appalled to find that there's absolutely nothing in the file. The file is exactly what you would find for a fashion model working for an agency. Utterly standard fare until I come to the revelation that this modeling agency doesn't have anything to do with it. Which leads me even to be more depressed about my situation. I'm all the time concerned that one of the goons will one day top me, so I'm in a funk for about a week and for some reason something compelled me to take the head of the Japanese school that I attended into confidence.
I'm sufficiently preoccupied with my mortality, my ability to be a good student in the evening is declining, but also to seek advice.
He was a really good dude after our middle class break, after an hour, instead of going back into the classroom. I asked him if he had a moment to chat, and I relayed the story of the mystery woman model and the trouble with the Japanese mob in B format. And after 10 minutes, he stopped me and he said, that woman takes class here.
And then it dawned on me that one of the reasons they don't believe me is we attend the same language school. Maybe, you know, this is a part of my story that's not holding up. We're having a secret tryst, you know, in the classrooms of the language school. So I ask him, when is her class and he said she's here on Tuesdays and Thursdays and her class runs from just after 10:00 until noon. I leave for the night.
I don't go back to class.
My mind is racing too much. I go home and it's Tuesday night. I have a day to prepare and I've got to figure out what I'm going to do on Thursday. Hey, I'm Brooke in America, and we're the hosts of Even the Rich, a show about the occasionally outrageous behavior of people who have a lot of money and a lot of feelings. In our very first year in special, we're going to talk all about how the uber rich handled quarantine this year and how some of your favorite celebrities went a little bit stir crazy from all the isolation.
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I can't carry on very much. I'm sort of in this heightened state of alert all the time, which is a strain on my waking life. My only course of action is to confront the woman and I don't think I can live through another weekend. So Thursday's my day and my plan is to show up at work on time to meet the seven a.m. and nine thirty first and second edition deadlines and then claim sick, at which point I would exit the newspaper by going down the back staircase and I feel reasonably confident that I can leap from the second floor into the loft behind the newspaper, into the back yard of the building directly behind us.
Travel through the alley and get back towards the station without being noticed by the goons out front. Things go pretty much as planned. Second, in addition to bed on time nine, 30, 10 to 15 minutes to make my excuses, feeling a little sick and off I go down the back staircase, 30 minutes later in here, I approach the school.
But this time I'm a little crazed. I'm sweating pretty good.
A combination of sort of scrambling through back alleys and anxiety. By the time I arrive in her classroom, I don't knock. But first the door open that I look at her and I said, You are coming with me.
We head into the back streets so that we're invisible. And I I explain what I've been through. Are you aware of what's happened to me? And she breaks into tears. You know, this is she she dissolves into a mess. And when the tears slow down a bit, I said I I'm sorry, but I need to know what happened. I need so much to be apart from whatever trouble that you're in. The story came pouring out of her.
She had come to Japan two or three years ago as a new face with an international modeling agency is one of the chic ones. I think it might have even been Ford for their Tokyo office. And they try all kinds of new names and new faces in their less established markets, principally Milan and Tokyo, before they try them in the bigger markets. New York, Paris. She appears for a season both of runway and print. She does OK, but not so great that Ford decides not to renew her contract.
They tell her, that's it, time to go home. And this poor girl, as she portrays herself, is so determined to build her career. And so she informs them that she's going to stay. It turns out the Ford Modeling Agency was dead, right. She was the wrong look for that season. Fairly pronounced, very attractive Western features, but by no means the look at the year and she's getting no work. She's also running up the bills, she's slipping deeper into debt.
And she tells me she begins to receive help from a neighbor, Hiroshi. Handsome and well-dressed, he lends her money to tide her over the occasionally go to dinner together and she comfortably becomes more and more dependent upon Hiroshi. After six months of this, Hiroshi asks her to marry her. She says, no, she wasn't really looking for that in the relationship, although they've become intimate. After a sure difficult few weeks, the relationship resumes and the dependency only increases on Hiroshi.
Another three months go by, and she demands her hand in marriage for the kind of support, and she agrees. Not too terribly long after that, her modeling career picks up, it's now a year later, it's a new season and she's beginning to be the look this season.
They're looking for a more Western look and she's beginning to work again. And that's getting her into a social circle until one night she comes home and he's packing a suitcase. We've got to be on the bullet train in 45 minutes. Get packing, girl. Hiroshi, I know him as Sérgio, she is not talking much, not telling much on a very, very rainy night. Just before midnight, they arrive at a coastal town on the Sea of Japan, on the other side of the country, and I ask her, what do you think this guy did?
And she said, well, I just thought maybe he was the rich son of a wealthy man who dabbled in this and not. And I guess I didn't really want to know. But of course, the next morning she finds out why she's there and who he is. His father, the senior CEO, she is the head of the Japanese crime family, one of Japan's two leading crime families, the CEO she gumi, has gone to war in the previous few months in Osaka.
And for the first time, this being a year prior in nineteen eighty three bodies are being left on the streets of Osaka and said, yeah, I read about this. I mean, it was pretty unusual. The Osaka police take it in their hands to make peace on the streets. The chief of police bringing the two men together and threatening much, much harsher action comes up with a solution that both heads of the crime syndicates are to retreat to ancestral towns, towns where their families had originally come from, far out of Osaka for the next three to six months, they'll let them know when it's called for a cooling off period.
There's going to be a crackdown, the likes of which the Japanese crime syndicate, also known as the Yakuza, has never seen before. It's now spring she's walked away in a Japanese house on the edge of town on the Sea of Japan, and she's now coming to terms and a clear understanding of the fact that she's married to the son of the head of the mob. It goes bad and I think probably the marriage, any basis of marriage is over.
The signal comes from Osaka that. Peace has been restored to the city and those can return to Osaka and Tokyo. It's pretty clear what Hiroshi is doing. He's building the Tokyo branch of the mob, I gather, over the last 20 years with pretty substantial success. They're free to go. She's in as much demand as she was before. In fact, her mysterious appearance only seems to lend intrigue to who she is and what her look is. And she's doing better than ever.
She's financially independent.
And she tells me she meets a couple of interesting men. A couple of months ago, I guess, on the night that they rushed into the newspaper offices and SKG, I was getting out of my boyfriend's car in Roppongi at one forty five in the morning when my husband's boys noticed me. He confronted me moments later, rifled my purse, and when he came to your business card at the bottom of my purse, I said, You are my lover.
I'm pretty enraged at this point. I said, how could you and she said, well, you know, the foreign modern world foreigners come, they're here for a season, the season ends, they move on. I figured by now you don't even live here anymore. It'll buy my boyfriend twenty four thirty six hours to avoid being killed. I didn't realize that you were actually a pretty committed to a career as a journalist and that they were going to find you at the newspaper.
I tell her I want my life back. It wasn't much of life here, but I was studying. I was writing, I was eating a lot of ramen because it was cheap. I was making a few friends and now I'm pretty much sort of 24/7 terrified.
She's sort of weeping sort of heavily again. And I leave to find a phone box to call the newspaper and I call the newspaper and I get it. It's about the managing editor. And I said, I'm coming in, call the police, call the US embassy staff. I want them all there. I want to take a statement. I want to prove that the newspaper has nothing to do with it. I have nothing to do with it. And whatever the problems of this woman, that'll be a problem for the police and the American embassy staff.
The statements are taken. The embassy staff is coordinated to take her into some element of custody in the embassy compound, where I gather from what is said, she'll be returned to the US and to U.S. protective custody. The squidgy police, a Viterbo and the American embassy staff said. There's going to be no problem. As spontaneously as my troubles began, they ended. It was an amazing moment for this time where I'm under pressure and I'm being hunted and followed and everything seemed to evaporate, all of a sudden I look out my window at night and there's no car there.
There's no black car watching me. There's no car in front of my office. When I go to the newspaper, this pressure that was on me exerted by the Yakuza disappeared as fast as it as it came about.
I left there that day and there's no car out front. I'm looking around corners for trouble.
But there there just isn't any nor is there anything in front of my house when I get home walking out to pick up milk at the convenience store without being followed. Just the simple things. And I'm free to return to my life of studying Japanese reading novels in the evening, having my limited social life at cocktail bars and playing softball on weekends. I was back to my romance with Japan and I made some changes in my life. I eventually left journalism for a job in finance and I decided that if I was going to live in Tokyo, I wanted to live decently, move out of my shoebox apartment, see if I could participate in the boom that Japan was in the 80s.
And that's why I sought my fortune in investment bank, where I wrote pieces much as I was doing before about the economy. There's a great theological debate that asks whether more tears have been shed over wishes granted or wishes denied, this was my wish. Granted, I had had my adventure. It had nearly killed me. In hindsight, I realize now just how much danger I was in. In the summer, I think it must have been about August, some point, my parents came to visit me.
My mom was hungry for something to eat, and so as we headed out to go, my father said, hold on a second and took from his luggage a package of things which was a present for me, a set of shoes that I needed for my new job working in in business. A couple of things from home that I treasured and a stack of magazines. He said, good night, mom, and I went out for a quick meal of yakitori.
It was kind of this moment of closure for me, I remember sitting there that night knowing my parents were there relaxing for a moment, no pressure on me. And I opened the package to look at my shoes. And my father had thoughtfully brought me several of the most recent Playboy magazines. And I took a look through them as I'm getting ready for bed that night and somewhere in the second one I flipping through the magazine and there she was. She was the centerfold, my my nemesis.
Her story was a little bit changed. She wasn't married to the mob, she had run off to Japan. The story told her that she was perfectly fluent when she was at the same language school as me, but it was her. And there she was in the on the pages. And I laughed. And I thought about my troubles and how grateful I was to have them behind me. And then I turned off the light, went to sleep.
From London. You're listening to this is actually happening, if you love what we do, please rate and review the show. You can subscribe on Apple podcast, Spotify, the Wonder App or wherever you're listening right now. You can also join a hundred plus in the one free app to listen ad free. In the episode notes, you'll find some links and offers from our sponsors by supporting them. You help us bring you our shows for free. I'm your host witness Aldine.
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