09 November 2007

photobooth friday

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:

weaker vessel
second spring
pinky doll
story of my life
mrs. pleasant
karen michel


  1. this is an awesome story and slice of life relived. i know, i get overwhelmed when i think about travel... it's such a dream and seems to fade, but then explode in color when you break out the photos!

  2. what an incredible story! i lived in japan for an entire year and i don't think i had as much excitement as you did in that one wonderful hour. =)

  3. I can decide if I come back, again and again to your site because of the writing and the stories or because of the photos...
    Yesterday the photo, today this story.
    I really do think it is a little of both.
    have a beautiful friday Andrea


  4. you are awesome.
    you are awesome.

  5. it's wild that we've all survived our adventures as kids, huh? now as a mom myself i don't think i've got the guts my mom had to let us go off and do things. we'll see i guess! i posted a few photobooth shots to the group too, yay!

  6. i bet you could make an hour almost anywhere good.

  7. What a great story -- so vivid and colorful. You have completely captured what it feels like to travel abroad alone (alone in the sense that you aren't with your parents) -- and that delicious freedom and sense of adventure that awaits you.

    I myself did a semester in England, and traveled a bit in Italy afterwards, when I was 19. It was pure magic.

    Thank you for this post... you've inspired me to perhaps try and put my own journey into words... a feat I haven't ever really been able to do.

  8. What a wonderful story!

    When I was 17 I spent a week in London on a class trip. They would turn us loose every night without any supervision. Now I wonder to myself why I didn't do more exciting things on those nights.:)

  9. i love your words, sorry i don't comment as much as i should friend...i'm intimidated by your hordes of fans;)

    i will talk to you soon...and we'll have to make a date for after the new year. our january all day art date is jan 12, maybe you can come up for it.

  10. i tried so hard this week, i really did! i dragged my mom and the girls up to the mall with me and we all crammed in and smiled times four. and then we waited and waited and waited... OUT OF PAPER!! or at least thats what the 15 year old that answered the trouble call number said. you know that i called. and i tried my hardest to not scream at her, and to make her understand that i didnt care about the money. i just wanted my STRIP! and couldnt i just meet the technician there? she could call me anytime and tell me when he was going. seriously. finally i was reduced describing the strip, the sexy granny, two cutie toddlers and myself and she said that if he were to see a strip like that he would mail it to me. or my three dollars. so i am crossing my fingers that someday my strip will just show up in the mail.

    ps. i love this story. i just had a sparkle of and idea the other day, of letting collette go live with a family in france in high school. wow.

  11. Wow, thanks for sharing such a great story. It makes me think of my own littles stories like this, like when I danced with an old man on the steps of the Shanghai museum... I have a picture to prove it, so maybe I should break that story out into the blogland, too! Thanks for the inspiration.