Discover more from The World of Tosh Berman
Saturday, October 2, 2021
“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” This evening was me wandering around the ground floor of the Shinjuku station with my eyes closed and just having the crowd pull me in the direction of not my choice. For once, I didn’t want to be conscious of where I was going, and closing my eyes at the point when everyone is leaving the station after the trains arrived was an excellent way to look for direction.
I opened my eyes to the staircase that leads one to the east exit of the station, and I felt “human nature is like water. It takes the shape of its container.” So this is where I’m, and this is the direction I should take. I walked up the stairs and came upon a series of neon lights. It was close to 8 in the evening, and I found myself at the Kinokuniya Bookstore on Shinjuku-Dori. Without a thought in my head, I found myself on the sixth floor in the English books section. It seemed that they had every edition of Graham Greene’s “Ways of Escape,” and I found this passage in the book: “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic, and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” I have to say he makes a good point. As I read on, among the crowd there, I came upon another quotation: “But it is impossible to go through life without trust; that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself.” Alas, that is true, but I can only find solitude and happiness when I’m, or what one calls, “oneself. ”
I’m stranded. As a fellow spy, Graham knows that the world of solitude is the only place one can feel at home. Happy at home? Happiness is an illusion, and I don’t believe in magic unless it’s connected to Jack Parsons, a fellow traveler of pleasure. To project oneself by the power of the mind and imagination is not that different from taking an object and making it go to outer space.
“Death is the mother of beauty. Only the perishable can be beautiful, which is why we are unmoved by artificial flowers.” The great insurance executive Wallace Stevens wrote that, and he’s correct, but then again, has he heard of Shinjuku? Artifice is death, but it’s imagined by someone who’s alive, and there lies the irony of feeling alive and being attached to the real world. If one can stay conscious of both the artificial and the natural world, then you can beat the odds of not getting lost. But once you fully accept one over the other, then you’re a lost soul. “It's great to be anywhere as a writer. It saves you from implication in the ugliness of the place and justifies your being there. You can spend all day jerking off as long as you describe it well.” That statement alone is why I'm such a huge fan of Richard Hell's work. All my life I have lived on the margins of society, and even though I can touch the world, it is clearly a landscape that doesn't want anything to do with me. The beauty of rejection is similar to wander around Shinjuku. As long as they keep the neon lights on, I can exist in one's private cell.