24 Kaikan in Shinjuku-sanchome
Unlike noodle shops, you are required to remove your shoes before entering the building. There are little shoe-lockers. 10 yen releases the key to your locker.
Like the noodle shops, upon entry, one buys a ticket for the services desired. Tickets are purchased from a machine with a grid of fifty buttons, and all except two are in Japanese. There is a pink one in English that says "Admission". It costs 2,400 yen. There's a ticket above it, in pink, same price, written in Japanese. Boyfriend selected the english ticket, and I wanted to get a japanese one, just to see what happened. But I just started my own business and I'm being very cautious with money, and was unwilling to risk buying the incorrect ticket. Also, I've learned that the japanese are not at their best when something does not go according to plan: had the ticket been for a fifty-pack of trial size lube bottles, I would probably spend a lot of time sorting the whole thing out.
After the ticket and shoe-key is purchased, you go to the front desk. A friendly guy gives you a little plastic tote bag with two towels and a robe, all in matching aqua. Everything is clean and new.
On the way to the locker room, there is a corridor with ten vending machines for soft drinks. There are vending machines for noodle dishes, complete with full-sized plastic models of the noodle dishes. I love this country.
I entered the locker room very nervous. This is only the second time I've ever been to a bath house, and it's the first time with my co-fiend. Boyfriend and I put on the littlest towel, which is like a handtowel that is long enough to wrap around one's waist. Wow, his ass is nice. The nervousness subsided.
It also helps because co-fiend is guiding me along the way. He does not even look at me to see if I am uncomfortable: he knows I am uncomfortable. At every turn, he turns to me, simply, kindly, directly, and tells me what I wish to know, the fact that will put my mind at ease. It is this form of love that I have the hardest time recognizing. Yet when I write it out here, I realize that he is sharing something with me, a place that belongs in his jardin secrete.
I can be so boring at times. I'm in the best shape of my life, people find me attractive, I'm in a gay place with dozens of men who find me attractive, and the place is clean, well-lit, and very pleasurable just to sit in. Yet why do I hesitate? What stops me? Language troubles? Lack of a sense of adventure? Lingering jet lag? Not good enough? I had entered a black box building above a parking garage. I left thinking if they were all like this, I'd be here every day. Sometimes, I need a gentle nudge to get past the fear and just get my naked behind into the tub. Time to have fun.
I. Did. With a cute portuguese guy who lives in Tokyo with his fiancee. We did not discuss anything else.
The nudge works, and I can take it from there. An accomplishment will be to learn from boyfriend's nudge and to do it myself next time. Next time we have this much fun, that is.
Last Wednesday evening, I was invited by a friend to visit MOMA. I strode onto 53rd Street it as if I knew where I was going. Once I turned the corner, and approached the building, I realized that I did not know where the entrance was. The entire block had been transformed. Even the original Durrell Stone building had been transformed: it was glowing with its original translucent facade. It was a big, New York block party.
There were people on the street. Some had tickets. Some were watching. Some did not need tickets. Some were protesting the cost of admission. Everyone wanted in. I did not have a ticket, but Greg did. We didn't need them: we were let in by some friends of some friends. A Rockefeller. The entry cuts through the block, traversing 53rd street to 54th street. One turns off this axis to enter the museum, views the sculpture garden, and then ascends the stair. In short, the sculpture garden has become linked to the public space of the city.
There is always someone in the world who knows the location of the place you're seeking. (I remind you that "place" includes state-of-being.) You may not be close to these people at all. Yet if you find them, an incredibly intimate thing happens when they point you in the direction you wanted. In a way, they show you the future you asked for. It is a succinct demonstration of the situational power people have in each other's lives.
Once the museum, I met the director. A curator. Collectors. Artists. Friends. The interior, filled with artists, and their works, is unlike any place in Manhattan. Vertical. Large. Art. Museum. There are multiple routes. There are diagonal views that cross the vertical axis. There are interesting curatorial ideas. There is Rosenquist's F111. Except for the older donors, and an exuberant, if uneven, contemporary art gallery, there is nothing which suggests old-MOMA, or, the MOMA of Cesar Pelli. The people there were young, and interested in MOMA as something new and transformative. Even the sculpture garden, nominally there after Pelli's renovation, but weirdly encroached upon by that work, has been restored in such a way as to suggest that it has been newly unearthed, that no one knew that they didn't know it was there.
There are also places that no one knows about. Which means, of course, that no one knows that no one knows about them. They are perfectly concealed from our lives and by our ignorance. Greg made a small film about one such place, except it was imperfectly concealed from us. Arriving at these places is a breakthrough, a discovery, a miracle, a gift, a big bang, an expedition that expands the boundaries of human knowledge, and therefore an expansion of the possibilities for all of us.
Assuming, of course, that you bother to tell the rest of humanity about where you've been.
I was in a corner of the sculpture gallery on this night, watching the power elite of the city float around on the various levels, and the workmen finish other parts of the museum. I was breathing in the cool night air, relaxed and uncrowded: an experience of luxury for this frantic and dense city. New York itself began to unfold and revolve around this glass and stone museum. Even the protesters dressed as twenty dollar bills could not resist being in orbit. I felt like we had all discovered this place again, MOMA, New York, NY, 10019. In that moment I imagined the building as a charged house for art long after everyone at that party is dead, and our names forgotten, in 2104.
You have told me all about the places you've been. I never knew their names. I never cared. But as I search for them myself, I am grateful, on this little thursday, that there's a beautiful, generous, and powerful man next to me who knows where I might venture.
Taniguchi invites us to enter this new place. We've begun to ask where it is, and had no clue it even existed. Yet unlike other architects, and other current important projects in this city, he is willing to accept that we may not care, and has nothing at all to proclaim about his work. This may be why some found the building dry. Yet the architect is not going to force us to appreciate it, and this maturity gives him an immense freedom: free of form, detail, space, and sequence that must service a declaration, or a text. Despite the attempt at public relations, the building has no story to support, no cast of characters, no denoument, no finale. For once in New York, no one needs to explain it to us. It is new, yet occurs as already part of New York. It seems to only draw one further into it, as if the discovery of its true nature is always hidden beyond the next turn. What occurs after several of these turns is the discovery that there is no future discovery: we are simply in it, looking at art, and telling each other about it.
Two days ago, I lifted the window shade on the plane, nearing the end of a fourteen hour flight, and thought oh. the sky is blue over Japan, too. Never mind that I had no idea what new color to expect of the sky: I had simply expected something different.
My boyfriend is at business meetings all week, while I am navigating a new an unfamiliar city on my own. Because of this, and because we are staying in the hotel that Lost in Translation was set in, I have wondered when my lost-in-translation moment is going to happen. I thought it walking around Ginza yesterday. In Shibuya. In Aoyama. In Mukagaoka-Yuen. At the park of minka-en. I even have little thought sentences that attempt to spur on a grand whistfulness about my life, and how the fact that I don't speak Japanese, or read more than 10 kanji, or read zero hiragana or katakana, may be taken as a metaphor that my lover does not understand me. The voice says hey! that was your lost-in-translation moment. But my life is not a movie, or an audition for a movie, and so this moment has not happened. It will surely come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that none of the conditions that were documented in the film apply to me. I'm not unhappy that my boyfriend has business here: business is what enables us to visit, and to stay in such a spectacular hotel. I'm not alienated by being the only gaijen on a commuter train: after all, I live in New York, and it's not uncommon for me to be the only Caucasian on a train. I'm not frustrated by not speaking or reading the language: even my French is poor enough for me to be mostly mute when I'm in Paris. And again: I live in New York, and it's not uncommon for me to be amongst those who speak no English. I have no desire to meet a washed-up soap actor at the New York Bar and Grill on the 41st floor of the Shinjuku Park Hyatt.
Today, while looking under a thatched roof, I was trying to ask a little lady where to buy a hon (book) that I liked. She knew exactly what I wanted, and patiently explained to me that I could purchase it in the bookstore where I bought my ticket. It took me a couple of minutes to gather this from what she was saying. During this time, my little voice spoke, assuring me surely, without a doubt, that this right now was my lost-in-translation moment. But I was really Present with how this lady was so extremely polite, and how helpful she was being, and I noticed immediately that she had no trouble at all comprehending what I wanted, despite the fact that I only knew how to say book in her language. I noticed that it was I who had failed to comprehend. Nothing had been lost in translation: it was being lost in my poor listening.
Tokyo understands me perfectly, much like my home. I understand Tokyo less, but I'm aware of the fact that this is my problem, not Tokyo's.
When I was young, I played with picture-puzzles. One of these puzzles was a psychedelic composition not unlike something you'd see in Heavy Metal. Each of the pieces was fascinating in and of themselves, because the drawing was so detailed that each puzzle piece contained complete little pictures. When snapped together, the puzzle formed a larger composition, and these little pictures simply became texture for the larger whole. Same with the Muppet Movie puzzle we had.
When I returned from Mukagaoka-Yuen, while walking through Shinjuku Station, leaving the Odakyu rail line, emerging into the Odakyu department store, I began to make new turns, not knowing where they would lead, making my way through another department store, and another, and finally emerging on another street with no name, and not knowing where I was headed. Yet I kept going forward, following my nose and the hair on the back of my neck, and Tokyo did not disappoint: there was something to see at every turn. In Europe, or New York, I might have considered myself lost. But here, the concept of being lost has become useless. There is no Lost, there is only being-where-you-are. The city, like the vernacular buildings I toured today, is composed of a bunch of puzzle pieces, assemblages that join together with no nails, details that I am content to study before I know where they belong in the larger picture. Each store, street, and cyclist is a picture unto itself. For me, just emerging from my jet lag, the pieces aren't strung together, except the four conjoined department stores I walked through today, and the pieces that were still together when I dropped them from the box. The continuum is implied, but not yet visible. In short, the picture already exists, but putting it all together is simply a matter of time and careful observation.
You are like this puzzle. Our episodes are all here for me to see, flopped out on the table. Sometimes I can see the bigger picture, but more often than not I can only see a powerful sub-picture that either delights or distresses me. Yet the details fit together with no nails, and they are beautiful because of that. And I've begun to realize that when I quit trying to figure out what you Are ahead of time, when I quit translating my listening and I just listen, I am in love.
Vote for John Kerry, please.
ps all work in this domain is copyright chad the minx.