09 November 2007
they let us loose on the streets of tokyo, they did. something like 9:30 at night and they said go, see, explore. you have two hours. be back on the bus in two hours. we were just teenagers so what were they thinking? I could hardly believe it. and now that I'm a mother and have seen the world with my own two eyes, well, I still can't believe that they let us loose like that. a lot can happen in a couple of hours, you know. especially where 18 year-old girls are involved.
it was the summer of 1989 and I'd just graduated from the cincinnati school for creative and performing arts. our music theatre/dance company had been invited by the city of gifu (cincinnati's sister city) to travel to japan and perform and off we went. it was my first time on an airplane, in a foreign country, and performing abroad. when I think of my time in japan, I think of small things: slender pink cans of strawberry juice, narrow streets lined with paper lanterns. I think of how shy I was to bathe in the traditional japanese bath house, how I relaxed once the I saw all the women laughing and pouring buckets of hot water over the tops of their heads. I think of how school girls asked for strands of my hair, how they formed in delicate swarms around me when I said yes. I remember how they spoke such perfect english and how embarrassed I was that I spoke such poor japanese. I remember exotic fish dishes and poached eggs for breakfast and how it seemed like every car in japan was white. when I think about those two weeks, it comes back to me in full color and all at once. and I feel deliciously overwhelmed.
but today is about that last night, those two hours we were let loose. tokyo is very much like times square times ten with every color possible everywhere and all of it electric and noisy and people for days and days. there were about thirty teenagers in our group and we scattered like confetti in every direction once the green flag was raised. my two friends and I took to the back streets and I am faint thinking of an 18 year-old ava roaming the back streets of tokyo. but that is exactly what we did. we wandered into a tiny dark bar (nightmare of all parents) and flirted with the patrons (more parental nightmare material) until we noticed the wall behind the bartender covered from floor to ceiling with paper money from all over the world. I scribbled hearts onto an american one dollar bill and felt terribly important as I watched the bartender tack it up there with all the rest. I fell in love with the idea that I'd left a little something behind in tokyo. I wonder, is it still there? wouldn't it be something if it was still there?
we managed to fit a great deal into those two hours. we wandered in and out of offbeat boutiques and I spent the last of my money on a pair of neon pink tights. mostly because they reminded me of all that electric tokyo neon and I wanted to say that I'd bought something from a high fashion clothing boutique downtown tokyo. plus, tights were all I could afford. and then the three of us crammed into a red wooden phone booth and posed for photographs and then yes, even better-- we found a photobooth. after that, we bought packages of dried seaweed and squid because it looked cool and it seemed like the right thing to do. and then it was time to go. we got on the bus and immediately cut our photobooth strip into four different frames. miracles of all miracles, we all made it back onto the bus, every last one of us. no one got lost, or went missing or showed up drunk or high or ended up arrested. a miracle, is what it was.
I like to think we really milked those two hours in tokyo. squeezed the most from one of the most exciting cities in the world. funny, all I have to show for it is this tiny little photobooth frame. I fell out of touch with the two friends in the frame-- last I heard, one was performing small parts on and off broadway and the other was working as a musician in nashville. I wonder, do they both still have those tiny photobooth pictures? do they occasionally look at the frame and remember that night like I do? I wonder. girls, if you're out there: here's to two hours and tokyo and us.
and here's to photobooth friday:
story of my life