Last night, I had a dream. I was stuck in western Tokyo with no passport or plane ticket, and only a few thousand yen in my pocket. But fortunately, all the signs on the train platform where I was standing looked like this:
The sun was going down, and the train doors were open. I looked at the warmth of the Japanese light, then took a moment of quiet in which I could hear my own rapid anticipatory heartbeats. As usual, these forced me to focus and take the first step of the journey.
Then I got on the train. And the sun went down as the Chūō Main Line shot through the long dark dream night and brought me back home. I have not had this dream again.
(Picture taken at Nakano Station, Tokyo in March, 2008)
You’ll figure it out…
Red City is a visual poem or “artoon” I devised when I was doing graphic design and marketing work for EDS Japan in Tokyo in 1988. Red City isn’t hand-drawn. Using an IBM PC at my job (an AT or an XT, I forget which), I drew each panel in a program called GEM Draw+. Then I printed the entire work on a Hewlett-Packard 7475A plotter. I still have the original GEM Draw+ files on a 5 1/4 inch floppy disk. But with no way to read the disk anymore, I can’t access the files.
I created Red City for myself, out of boredom (my EDS job was not always demanding). But I showed the “artoon” to my Canadian girlfriend, who thought it was marvelous. She convinced me to enter it in a UNESCO-sponsored art show in Ueno, Tokyo, which I did.
Admission to the show was ¥500. Yeah, I know. The price I put on Red City for this art show was dipshit insane. I was 24 and didn’t know what I was doing.
This is the certificate I received for participating in the art show, which was in October of 1988. My name is on it in katakana. Honestly, I think I could have submitted a kindergartener’s refrigerator drawings and been accepted. But after all these years I am still very proud of Red City, of this certificate, and of the effort I made to participate.
And I hope you have enjoyed exploring Red City. Keep in mind, I created this in Tokyo, where isolation and loneliness was, and still can be, very profound. Put Red City in that context, and take from it what you will.
(Also published in modified form on Scholars and Rogues.)
I am to embark upon a journey soon. To another planet, a planet I have visited before.
A planet where I once lived,
and felt comfortable.
I left under a cloud of things which can only be described
by fanatical men in bowties made of glass.
They reflect the things they observe, therefore they see very little.
This is the way of things where I live.
I see people I know in the streets of my town.
I know their names and ailments and favorite types of heart bypasses.
And I have grown tired of caring about their problems. I need a break from them.
I want to go someplace else and misunderstand another culture’s problems.
It’s easier that way.
I have to go pack my bags, for I always take part of my world to another.
So while I get ready to leave my world, I will listen to what I assume will one day be
considered classical music much as Brahms and Scott Joplin are today.
And I will wonder what it would sound like if
Elton John had sung “Rocket Man” in Japanese.
More words and pictures forthcoming from
What it is is a palindrome, and hopefully not some heinously offensive word in Japanese. See, I used to draw quite a bit, but nothing all that great or accomplished. I’ve never had any formal art training, and it shows. For example, if you look at the drawing below, you’ll see that the banners with the Japanese text on them are flying the wrong way over the heads of the samurai. At least, those are supposed to be samurai heads. And the business ends of decorated yari (spears).
Anyway, this is one of my favorite drawings I have ever done, so I figured I should post it and tell its story. It comes from a sketchbook I used and completely filled a long, long time ago, after I lived in Japan and had been in California for a few years. The Canadian woman I dated for a time in Tokyo gave the blank book to me. The simple but beautiful leather-bound, Japanese-made sheaf is the only thing of any weight or substance that survived the relationship.
This is the sketchbook▲, currently sitting on my desk waiting for me to do something with it. I’m currently reading A Drifting Life by Japanese mangaka (comics artist) Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and found in that story some inspiration, if not courage, to dust off and promote my old drawing work, and perhaps get a new sketchbook in order to create new work.
Hmmm, leafing through the sketchbook again. There are actually some good graphic design ideas in here. Stay tuned.
I did pretty well at university, considering I changed my major a few times. After some ups and a few severe downs, I managed to graduate from a pretty good school with a B-minus average. Still, my mind was not always on my studies, and sometimes in a seminar or a lecture my thoughts would wander and I drew doodles in the margins of my lecture notebook pages.
And some of these doodles, I thought, were pretty good. So right after I graduated in January, 1987, I went through my surviving lecture notebooks and clipped those little bits which I wanted to save from the pages. Most of the doodles came from notebooks for classes I took in 1986 in order to get enough credits to graduate, but were not part of my major academic requirements. As such, I chucked the notebooks and kept the doodles, using tape to array them on a piece of paper into the goofy collage you see below.
I know, this ain’t hall-of-fame art. But there are still some cool ideas here, the products of a younger man’s brain. I’m glad I kept them. This and my diploma are the two most valuable pieces of paper I took from college.
Click to enlarge the image to full size, and have a look around.
The essence of Daruma does not require that you see him in color.
The power of Daruma does not object if you conform his appearance to suit your own warped reality.
But the hopefulness of Daruma would really love it if you grabbed the pink one to go next to your Hello Kitty™ clock, and maybe the yellow one, since it would go with your bathroom decor.