John Szczepanski teaches marketing and business storytelling in Portland, Oregon, and frequently travels to Japan where his attempts at humor are met with blank stares. He is currently researching authenticity in foodie narratives, an excerpt of which is shared in this edition of Upstream Ideas.
OVERHEARD OVER A LATTE:
A: Have you been to Ikegami’s?
B: You mean the place on Hawthorne? Not for a while. I stopped going when they got
A: What, you mean they subscribed to Sirius satellite?
B: Ha! As if. No, Toshi still plays vinyl. It was fun watching him interrupt his sushi-making
to change albums. But the guy’s committed to his music, and you can taste it in his
A: I was impressed by his collection – quite a few Prestige disks. Classic jazz.
B: Yeah, I really learned how to appreciate yellowtail by listening to Thelonious Monk.
A: Really? Me too!
B: But as much as I love Toshi, I couldn’t keep going there after he sold out. He went
A: You mean – ?
B: Yeah, he started accepting credit cards. Even Amex!
A: No! I didn’t realize it went downhill so fast. But I kinda sensed he was heading that
way when he set up a web site.
B: That’s usually the first sign. A restaurant gets a few positive reviews on urbanspoon
and then they think they need to advertise.
A: Urbanspoon! I used to read that, but only ironically.
B: What made you bring up Ikegami?
A: Oh, I found a place that kinda has the same vibe, back when Toshi was real.
B: What’s the name?
A: No name. It’s all about the art. No edifice.
B: Where is it?
A: It’s not. Guy moves around. Runs it out of his car.
B: Mobile sushi… I like it! What kind of car?
A: It’s perfect: a Volvo 240. Has an original “John Anderson for President” 1980 bumper
B: The dude’s got it dialed in! Who is he?
A: He won’t tell anyone his name – that just shows how real he’s keeping it. He used to
drive a taxi in Yokohama and surfed on the weekends. Chucked it all and spent five years
in a monastery, then went to culinary school.
B: Awesome backstory. So now he’s making sushi –
A: – out of the back of his Volvo. He just drives around till he senses the mood is right.
Pulls over, gets out and sets up his gear. Within a few minutes people are tweeting all
over the place, and there’s a mad rush to get to him.
B: That is so awesome!
A: He’s got a cooler with choice cuts of Pacific halibut, albacore tuna, Alaska salmon –
B: – Wild? Line caught?
A: Of course! Caught in the Norton Sound by a co-op of blind, lesbian Inuits.
B: Dude! I heard about them on NPR!
A: Trouble is, he’s lying low these days. He got busted in NoPo, just because he didn’t
have a so-called “license.”
B: That’s so typical. The corporate-industrial complex is so out to kill artisan food
A: You know it. Twenty three cases of e-coli and the whole bureaucracy comes down on
B: There’s no respect for authentic food.