The funeral follows. He is cremated and he came back home in a small box in my arms, writes Miki. Months later in August, Miki along with her uncle and Yastaka’s friend Mike travel to  lake Nikko, where Yastaka and Miki used to go fishing. They scatter some of his ashes around one of his favorite spots in the river. At other time, Miki and Mike spend hours fishing at a smaller lake nearby, and sprinkle more of his ashes. They don’t catch any fish. They begin to raw back to the shore. There is a hawk hovering up above their heads. Just as they are about to reach the shore, they watch the bird dive down to the surface of the water very close to them and snatch up a big fish in its claw and fly away. Stunned, Mike and Miki decide the hawk is a better fisherman.

On a different stretch the next day when Miki is fishing alone, she notices another hawk lingering up above and then suddenly diving into the river in front of her, passing just above her head, the bird catches a brook trout and off flies up, up and away. It must have been Yastaka. Thinks Miki. The thought of him turning into a hawk and flying freely in the skies of Nikko from the mountain to mountain and to the lake to the river is really soothing and nice to me.

Fittingly, Ray Falk wrote to his friends in his brief report about Sasaki’s funeral. The picture of Sasaki at the funeral featured a big fish—-Lake fish were his favorite. There was a fishing rod near the coffin and a guitar at the other end.

Shah-san, I remember my husband talked about you sometimes. Very recently (like early February). The episode that I remember well that he told me was the trip that you and my husband went to Kanazawa city in northern Japan many years ago. You two had no interest what-so-ever to the touristic spots like the very famous historic Japanese garden which most tourists usually visit when they go to Kanazawa, but you two headed straight to the local market where they sell all the fish and vegies and interesting stuff. Shah-san loves market hopping anywhere he goes, that’s what he said, if I remember correctly, reminisces Miki.

In response to my mail to Ray Falk, he writes back:

Dear Haresh,

Thanks for your interest in Y. Sasaki!

If you had not left PLAYBOY, this might not have happened. He was a great Haresh Shah fan and would have listened to your advice on life and living.

That’s a heavy cross to bear, but flattering nevertheless.

© Haresh Shah 2015

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

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On Friday, May 22, 2015

TO HELL AND BACK

When I was fired for the second and the last time from Playboy, included in my severance package was a stint with one of the most expensive outplacement firms. Not knowing exactly what the hell they did for you, I plunged into it head first, to the extent that I must have been the only executive to have a unique distinction of being fired by an outplacement firm. And the rage that erupted. Thinking of it still gives me shivers 🙂

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