Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fancy Dresses and Experiencing Feedback


Thinking about Aima made me think of a party she never attended, but one in which I was mostly there the whole time. Ever have one of those nights you can't forget, simply because of the lunatical larceny of normality?

Every moment was robbed of ordinary, and every event surreal enough to sear itself across time, clinging to chemicals inside your brain, carried along inside of oneself like a treasure, to be given out but never given away...

This photo was taken of my skinnier self, somewhere in the crystal clear blurr of that most wondrous of evenings spent at home...

Well, home away from home. Sort of...

I lived in Tokyo for nine months at one stretch when young, and had an apartment for the first six. Since I knew I was leaving, and making good money, I wanted to live as cheaply as I could for the last three months so I moved into a dormatory style accomodation called "Japan House" in a suburb called Kamata, far enough from the bustle of the "districts" to achieve cheap rent. There were about ten of us there at that time, two to a room, and we all decided to have a "Fancy Dress" (costume) Party and invite a lot of people.

My roomate was from England and his name was Paul. Paul decided he wanted to be "Equus" the horse figure ( he was a theatre nut) and asked me if I'd help him fashion together a horse mask, which we did out of cardboard, black paint, and some pretty fancy cutting. It looked great. As an added touch, I put a "doot dee doo" (a paper towel tube we all used to hold to our lips as kids and go "doot dee doo" into to scare the cat) inside of the mask running into more tubing that tee'd into the nostrils of the horse. I explained to Paul that during the party, he could take a drag from someone's cigarette and blow the smoke through the tube beneath the mask and make it look like Equus was snorting steam and smoke from his nostrils-- a cool effect...

My costume was as you see. A skinny Sumo with a carefully folded sheet as my "apparatus" (can't remember the proper name for the traditional attire, but mine ended up looking like a diaper. I needed to hang decorative "sticks" (another lost word) from the diaper down my thighs like the real guys do, so I went out and bought a bunch of sparklers, which were sold for some festival (more memory loss) and were similar to what we use here in the states for the 4th of July, only bigger. Some of the girls pulled my hair up into a bun and gave me a more Japanesey look via make-up. I guess one might call it a metrosexual moment, if that is how the word is used...

Some great costumes showed up. I could spend time describing many of them, but my patience is less than your patience so I won't. However, one American girl showed up as a rosebush, complete with paper-folded-roses and shrubbery clippings covering her entire body. Her face was painted leafy green, as well. From fifteen feet, you couldn't tell there was a girl in there, and it was she and in this costume, that ended the evening nicely.

But I'll get to that.

For those who have ever attended a Fancy Dress Party, this one had all the prerequisite oohing and ahhing over ingenious costumes (there were many), and was over-stocked with beer and gin and sake and harsher-than-thou punch and finger foods (Japan is famous for its finger foods) and slurring words and bad jokes and flirting and posturing and music played too loud and couples sneaking off and returning and cops coming in to check on things....

Oh yeah, the cops. In Japan, back in the eighties (I won't speak for now) there was little crime and the cops had little neighborhood "boxes" where they spent their shifts, ready to find the owner of a lost wallet, making sure the sidelong strides of the drunks led them to their doorsteps, resolving noise disputes and keeping children from breaking windows with their shenanigans and balls... I remember when I first noticed a pair of them wandering through our party, their eyes all squinted into the most quizzical, confused looks, their mouths trying to look grim but in reality suppressing smiles and laughter with all their might. The sight of space aliens and Japanese blonde bombshells, smoke steaming horses and talking rosebushes, diaper-wearing Sumo wrestlers and hula girls, had these two guys thinking surreal thoughts and made them look like two young Japanese men dressed up as cops for a Fancy Dress Party, having a good time, checking out the ladies and the girls...

They came every half hour, wandered through the party, pointing and laughing amongst themselves, and bringing a new face with them each time they came. I kept gettng the feeling that they were radioing other cops, inviting them over for a piece of their beat, knowing the mundane nature of their jobs and knowing that this was a treat for tired cop eyes.

They had a wonderful time, you could tell....

Now Paul was a dfifferent story. The trouble with Equus Paul and his doot dee doo tube for blowing smoke out his nostrils, was that Paul didn't smoke. He drank, and drank a bit this night, but he never smoked before and this was the first night he ever tried, and he wanted to be theatrical in his horse's head costume so he kept grabbing cigarettes and taking ill-advised puffs, hacking and coughing into his tube, (which amplified the hacking and the coughing), giving his whole Equus thing a surreal, almost anti-smoking commercial feel to its' performance, smoke indeed puffing out of his nostrils with each hack, Paul sort of doubling over to aid with each coughing fit.

Paul got through about forty minutes of the party. Somewhere between the cops' first visit and second, Paul left Japan House and went wandering the back alleys for some air and a place to yawn, technicolored, trying to keep his shoes clean, (an event a Japanese friend of mine, not knowing the actual term, described as "experiencing feedback"...) Paul returned and became the party's first casualty, crawling into an empty futon and sleeping the night away.

Somewhere toward the end of the cops' fourth visit (they were starting to really loosen up) a guy with a chrome bowl on his head and a red cape (lower right hand corner of above photo...)discovered that my "sticks" hanging off my diapers were sparklers, and lit two of them (one on each side) while I wasn't paying attention. They lit easily, apparently, and the two lit sparklers lit the remaining sparklers, and there I was... in a foreign land, wearing make-up, wearing what was supposed to be a manly Sumo suit and instead looked like a makeshift diaper, a dozen sparklers burning brightly over my naked thighs, doing an "I'm on fire!" dance while a bunch of strangely dressed individuals gathered to watch, three Japanese cops laughing and pointing at me, the sparklers singeing leg hairs and sparking off in three different colors, half my butt cheeks hanging out and getting pinched by opportunistic butt pinchers, oohing and oohing like a guy on fire...

Remember when you were a kid and someone handed you a sparkler and you lit it and it sparkled and you wrote your name and you thought the whole thing was kind of cool until the sparkler quite suddenly and way too abruptly went out? Remember how you felt a little cheated. You thought "THAT'S IT?"

I never thought that.

In fact, I was probably more relieved that that was IT than anybody there. The guy with the chrome hat and red cape was now a hero to the crowd, and I was a smoldering young man in what looked like diapers and make-up, trying to save a little face and make sure my sheet wasn't harboring a cherry red coal and that everything was "tucked in" after all that oohing and oohing. I think it was....

For the next two hours, maybe three, the party raged on. Many things happened that I can remember to this day, the cops bringing more puzzled cop faces... but I want to skip to the end of the party because I haven't told you about the rosebush and how she came in and grabbed me late into the night, asking me if I'd come outside and down the alley and help her clean something up. She had been sick and experienced feedback. She had experienced feedback right in a perfectly manicured Japanese rock garden, and this made her feel guilty and even more awful. We all knew the garden she was talking about. A little old Japanese man had taken great care to produce a wonderful effect in his smallish front yard. Every swirl of rock had been thought out. Every planting Zen-like and pristine. His yard was his afterlife, you could tell, and we all imagined how bad he would feel in the morning, waking to find vomit splattered over his masterpiece.

I gathered four or five people, put on some trousers and a shirt, and we all headed off with washing implements-- sponges and buckets, mostly-- feeling somehow ashamed and drunk and in great spirits and "dutiful" as we followed the rosebush down the alleys to his swirling rock garden which was AS PRISTINE AS IT ALWAYS WAS. We asked and asked the rosebush girl if she was SURE she had tossed it here. She said she was sure. I held this pole... I leaned on that rock. I did it here and here and here....

I believed her. In fact, I believed her so much that I started laughing. The lunacy of the night (lots of crazy stuff too cumbersome to tell) all reverberating within the resonance of my laughing. I laughed and laughed until tears were running down my cheeks and I could barely talk, and I needed to talk because everyone was asking me what was so damn funny.

"Imagine", I said. It's one in the morning. You're sound asleep. You hear this noise out in your yard... It's a retching, horrible sound... You don't dare turn on the lights... You look out your window... And you see... a ROSEBUSH puking all over the garden that you've spent a thousand hours caring for...

The guy would have been out here not two minutes after you left, scrubbing and raking...

"Revenge Of The Rosebush. Na nahhh! NAH na na..." "

Like I said. Seared across time... clinging in chemicals... given out but never given away...

A treasure.

11 comments:

carol said...

did she get you thorny,so to speak??
We once had an idea, which unfortunately never reached fruition, of holding a Twin Peaks party. Have you done that and who were you? we were going to be Big Ed and Nadine, of course.
If this is too British for you, tune out,but if you're familiar with the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy then I am sure you will agree with me that Jim Morrison was,in fact,a Vogon. Especially on "An American Prayer." just wanted to lay that theory before you before I forgot. where are all your commentors?

Scott from Oregon said...

Hi carol! SHE was thorny, perhaps, yes, now that you mention it.

Jim Morrison was a Vogon?

I had a chance one time to chat with Ray Manzerak (no fair making me remember how to spell his last name.) He was perforoming with Robert Hunter, the lyracists for the Grateful Dead. I was... well anyway, he said that the one thing that people didn't know or forgot about Jim Morrison, was that he was a clown, always laughing, and very funny. Oliver Stone took his movie way too seriously. I missed out on the twin peaks phenom because I was mostly out of the country, but I read The Hitchhiker's guide back in 82, I think, and can't remember what a Vogon was/is...

Commentors? I need to advertise. How did you find me?

PeteS said...

In need of comments? Here's one. I've been meaning to say that your writing is way cool. Of course the ribald bits -- as you refer to them -- are a little alarming to my Catholic sensitivities. But I like your style!

Scott from Oregon said...

Hey Petie! Thanks, coming from the land of linguini and verbiage, that really means something! (Not sure what...)

Tired of hammering and yammering about Iraq and jihad and the price of bread? Stop by and spin a yarn.

No holes barred...

Honest...

Scott--

PeteS said...

A Texan rancher comes to Ireland and meets a Kerry farmer.
The Texan says : "Takes me a whole day to drive from one side of my ranch to the other."
The Kerry farmer says: "Ah sure, I know, sir. We have tractors like that over here too."

***

The same Kerry man's wife was killed in an accident and the police were questioning him about it.
"Did she say anything before she died?" asked the sergeant.
"She spoke without interruption for about forty years," said the Kerry man.

***

The Kerry man and an American were sitting in the bar at Shannon Airport.

"I've come to meet my brother," said the Kerry man. "He's due to fly in from
America in an hour's time for me wife's funeral. It's his first trip home in forty years".

"Will you be able to recognize him?" asked the American.

"I'm sure I won't," said the Kerry man, "after all, he's been away for a long time".

"I wonder if he'll recognize you?" said the American.

"Of course he will," said the Kerry man. "Sure I haven't been away at all".

carol said...

the worst form of torture was being forced to listen to a Vogon's poetry, of course!
after al hamedi shut down I saw the link to Sabra and you appeared on one of the comment threads.
don't tell me you toured with the Dead...I missed out on seeing them in London though my husband told me what a fool I was being, all because I had an exam the next day.Which I failed.
it's Ray MANZAREK.

Kris, Seattle said...

Hi Scott,
Too funny. Without the picture, I'm not sure I would have believed it was true.

I second what PeteS said. Your writing is way cool. I think I might have mentioned that to you once or twice before.

Scott from Oregon said...

carol--I debated the E/A thingy for a bit. You say MANZARAK I say... boo...

I got 'involved' with the Dead when Vince joined the band. Arty Carpentry, mostly. Vince, by the way, commited suicide recently. He was a very witty, shy, and sensitive guy. His wife was/is bipolar. She would blow up at some poor kid I had pouring cement, storm off and go smoke a joint, and then come back and sheepishly apologize, handing us all a cold beer... The coolest thing about backstage passes was no lines at the toilet, and meeting Osley, the original blue dot Acid man...

Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! »

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting site... »

amusing said...

That rosebush? Very "Alice in the Land of the Rising Sun"

I caught fire once.