Thursday, 25 November 2010

giving thanks

 Japan celebrated Labor Thanksgiving day last Tuesday, another public holiday with no discernible ceremonies attached to it. I was fortunate enough to spend the day in the company of these fine folks in an old ship factory in the outskirts of Osaka dressed like a mischief-maker out of Alice in Wonderland.

MY WAY: A fashion show/performance piece organized by my friend Yu (standing beside me --->) and her compatriots as part of an all-day event of art, performance and music under the auspices of ONDO, an experimental music group out of Osaka.

How does a mild-mannered American like myself end up at such an event? The tale is long, with a few twists and turns, but here's the short version: Yu, who I met last summer, recruited me to model the clothes of one of her friends at MY WAY. (A talented artist herself, Yu also made her own outfit complete with headdress)

The venue

Alas, I didn't have much time for photographs during the event itself, but suffice to say that it involved purpose-made techno music, a large number of water-filled plastic bags, live painting, toilet paper-tossing, skipping, dancing, and general mayhem. I followed my instructions ("hmmm..... act like a dandy!"), honed over weeks of practice, by prancing around the scene and striking dramatic poses as if I were a 17th-century European princeling having my portrait taken.  

Needless to say, it was loads of fun. 

I witnessed many interesting/bizarre performances that day during lulls in preparation: A dance troupe flailing as if tossed about by a typhoon, a kimono-clad woman writhing on an oversized freshly painted scroll, a lively 3-piece punk band, and of course, the hosts themselves, ONDO. To their pulsing techno beats the lead singer added guttural chants and high pitched yelps, distributing drumsticks to the audience and inviting us to bash the cymbals strategically placed throughout the room to our hearts' content. Discordant, yes, but very, very danceable :)

As I write this, many of you in America are probably waking up to the real Thanksgiving. Christmas, with its potent blend of yuletide cheer and orgiastic consumerism, will always be king of the holidays. For me, though, Thanksgiving holds many of the warmest memories -  easy, chat-filled hours of vegetable cutting and pie-filling in my Uncle Roland's kitchen, the gut-busting gloriousness of the meal itself, the warm, pleasant stupor that follows. The idea of giving thanks, of appreciating the bounty of relationships as well as material wealth we are all blessed with, also appeals to me deeply despite my equally deep agnosticism. 

With that in mind, let me give thanks. For the fortunate accident of material bounty, yes, but far more so for the interpersonal wealth I've been blessed with all my life, For my large, loving, almost comically diverse family, of course. But also for friends and lovers met in far-flung places like Maryland and Massachusetts, Hawai'i and Japan. For those ties that endure through the years, and for the serendipity of bonds freshly formed. 

This last point brings me back to MY WAY, to my new friends who dressed me in tights and welcomed me with warmth and humor despite my clumsy Japanese and clumsier modeling gait.  Thanks to them, Tuesday became for me an occasion to marvel at the small mysteries of human togetherness. So has tonight :)


  1. Thank YOU, Carter! I miss our New York Times-reading and whaling-discussing mornings, but your blog provides something of a substitute for your always insightful comments and spot-on interpretations of everything from tights-clad Japanese men to the meaning of Thanksgiving.

  2. And thank you Carter for forcing me to learn new words with every post....damn you and your extensive, elegant, humanities-driven vocabulary.