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Melancholy: an appetite no misery satisfies
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
“I’ve invented nothing; I’ve simply been the secretary of my sensations.” As I walk around Asakusa, I found the theater where Lenny Bruce performed, entirely in English on Rokku-Broadway. It’s an area that is full of small theaters, and it is regarded as the home of 19th and 20th century Japanese comedy. Bruce, being the king of American stand-up comic, decided to do a show here in the late 1950s, but did his act in English. Ten or so years after Japan surrendered to the United States, this series of islands had to cope with another alien invasion. What I have read is that he bombed at the Toyo Gekijo theater. It wasn’t his subject matter, but the fact that he insisted on doing the entire act in English, which in the 1950s, was not a common second language in Japan.
Nevertheless, to be honest, it is not what he says that is so great, but how he says it. I rarely follow his narratives, but instead, I’m glued to the visuals of the man on stage. The way he snaps his fingers, in critical lines, it is virtually done to wake one up in the audience. In other words, he’s absolute music to me. But as a visitor or tourist, I have a tendency to like to see performances in languages other than English. And English is the only language I know. And what I know beyond language is music and visuals. So in that sense and my thinking, Tokyo is the perfect landscape for me. Here, I can enjoy my misery in peace and quiet, because chaos is all around me. I can’t figure how to work with anything here. Toilets are impossible. So many push buttons to push, but all in kanji, so I can’t read what it is for or even why. But on the other hand, “Chaos is rejecting all you have learned, Chaos is being yourself. ”
I went to the “Band of Outsiders” cafe in Shibuya, which is a venue devoted to Jean-Luc Godard’s film “Band à part.” It’s an exciting place because all the customers here are encouraged to speak only lines from that film (in Japanese), and of course, at 9 PM every Tuesday night, there is the famous line-dance done in the film. Sometimes there are up to 15 people doing an exact imitation of the dance done by Anna Karina, Sami Frey, and Claude Brasseur. With a few glasses of sake, I get the encouragement to join the dance. In my mind, I just try to imagine Lenny Bruce doing the dance as well. I snapped my fingers like everyone else in the dance, but my thoughts are not on that film scene, but Lenny as he performed in front of an indifferent Asakusa audience.
“The fact that life has no meaning is a reason to live — moreover, the only one.” Therefore I venture into the night and try to find substance, but alas, even that, is just an illusion. Yet, the beauty of the moment of getting lost, or having the most of the rain hit your face, is truly what to live for. “Melancholy: an appetite no misery satisfies.” I go to Disk Union Shibuya, down to the basement in their jazz store, to hear the melancholy playing by Art Tatum, and suddenly remembered that my life is full of right turns, when I’m obviously left-handed. No wonder I don’t connect to this world. And happily so.