Purple Magazine
— F/W 2006 issue 6





As always, it began at the movies: The samurai travels the road of carnage, every inch skull and bones, and it is on the night before we die that we are most cheerful, for life is but a light thing after all, to be shrugged off like a kimono, a thing that passes, a cloud, a film. And when I chose this demon life, I too became ready, be it alone and forsaken at the gates of hell or among falling cherry blossoms and girls who float backwards like dreams, to slice a ninja in half like a bamboo stalk, run a man’s belly through like a sack of rice, and lay a foe’s skull open like a peeled orange to split the pulp within. I studied in moldy 42nd street theaters and practiced at home in a bathrobe, wielding an umbrella: Japanese courtesans once wore a dozen layered kimonos, with only an inch of each showing, and some probably not at all. Women dyed their teeth black. If a yakuza shamed himself, he might have to chop off his own pinky and present it like a gift. There is a style of flower arranging devoted to tossing blossoms into the vase to achieve a natural look. There is a beautiful and proper way to pour tea, to slice open one’s own guts, to spray a victim’s jugular blood across a paper wall. If a man and wife oppose me on the path, they will die. If Buddha himself stands in my way, I will slay him. The way of the warrior is: live to die, for samurai are like cherry blossoms: always the first to fall.


My ex-wife and I had a clothing line, and we were there for a week meeting with stores, on our way to Bali. We were stunned by the courtesy: In one department store, the employees were lined up bowing. Giggling, we walked up and down, trying to bow back. Then they gave us a gift of beautiful paper, wrapped in more beautiful paper. A young executive and his girlfriend picked us up from the hotel at midnight to see the cherry trees. Everything, everywhere looked great: I had never been in such a designed environment where each object, scaffolding made of bamboo, packs of gum, the wrapper on a pair of socks (“Rousing!”), had so clearly been thought about. I tended to think of non-Western places as either old or poor, but here was a city, supermodern, very rich, and yet nothing like New York or Paris or London. The taxi drivers wore white gloves. In front of the parking garage, a man in a top hat bowed to thank the traffic that stopped to let cars merge. Girls walked around in Daisy Duke cutoffs with blonde hair and weird fake tans, or dressed like Holly Hobbits with lace aprons, bonnets and umbrellas. The guys in the 70s soul record shop had Ike Tuner outfits, afros and black make up darkening their skin. My wife had designed sweaters with custom lettering on the front. She used my name on the sample. A Tokyo shop ordered a dozen and when we asked what they wanted the lettering to read they said, “David.” So for one brief, glorious season, twelve chic Tokyo girls had my name written across their chests. At a fancy restaurant, I was brought a small sliced tomato on a bed of ice. I shrugged, big deal, and ate it: It was the best tomato of my life.


In the old Japanese paintings, over noble ladies laughing behind fans, samurai shooting arrows, courtesans offering their lovers a pipe, and kabuki actors dancing, over the tea houses and restaurants and pleasure boats, the artist washed the world in gold, signifying time’s cloud: This is ukiyo-e, pictures of the floating world. At the Grand Palais’s exhibition, when I saw these pictures for the first time, it was hard to tell the clouds from the damage, the mold, stains, and peeling paint from my own breath on the glass. Cracks appear now in the ancient paper worn thin as a veil. The image of the passing world also passes. You translated and explained it to me, your light voice whispering in my ear, in your strange Japanese French, your French English. Later, you’d scream over the phone that you didn’t understand what I said, that I in turn understood nothing, about you, about love. No doubt you are right. We don’t even have a term for it in my language, but there is one in yours, which I am certainly misunderstanding: mono no awaré – the sadness of things.

[Table of contents]

F/W 2006 issue 6

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