Once a year my art publishers organize an exhibition tour of my recent paintings in Japan through a distributor called Art Collection House based in Tokyo.
This year the tour started in the U.S.A. with three shows on the West coast: Newport Beach, Beverly Hills and Universal City. Then on to Japan for three weeks, returning to the States via a show in Hawaii.
Two months ago in late June I had total knee replacement surgery, my rehabilitation has been satisfactory but this marathon tour would certainly put it to the test! I estimated that I would be trapped on a plane for a total of forty two hours during the month of travel.
My doctor was concerned that sitting for long hours on the various flights would not be the best for the knee; it was not advisable after the kind of surgery I had undergone. He advised that I wear surgical stockings and although I would be thought of by my fellow passengers as having an exceptionally loose bladder, I should use the bathroom as often as possible!
The journey from Nantucket to Boston was just about as perfect as it could be. No fog, no rain. One of Cape Air’s young, virile pilots (crooked smile but straight teeth) floated us into Logan right on time.
Waiting the arrival of the shuttle to the Hilton Hotel was distinctly Orwellian. Non-stop diesel buses and trucks, blackened and snarling, grudgingly ferried hassled travelers with mountains of luggage, children, and dogs to their various car rental depots or accommodations. This is all very serious stuff, no time for smiles here; it's a battle. We are in the trenches of modern travel. It takes one’s breath away after the peace and tranquility of Nantucket Island. How lucky I am to live there.
The Hilton is a very pleasant hotel though, and I spent a comfortable night there. Stage one completed and none the worse for it so far!
United provided me with a wheel chair and a most courteous lady to push me through security. This took a while since it seems that if one has a metal knee the person to whom the knee is attached is destined to be singled out for a thorough shakedown. The man with the wand did stop short of any kind of bodily insertion but it was a close call. The flight was long but I managed to exercise the leg as instructed by my therapist and I arrived in L.A. a half hour a head of schedule thanks to a tail wind. I was met by the limo driver and we began the drive to Laguna Beach.
Jet lag being what it is found me falling asleep at dinner around five thirty but I managed to hang on till around eight. (That’s eleven o’clock our time!) This of course means that one is up and ready to rumble at around 4 a.m. their time. I have to tell you that there is not a lot of rumbling going on at that hour of the morning. Starbucks opens at five thirty; bless their lattes.
A rather amusing incident occured during my stay at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica.
The building has fourteen floors. The Penthouse is a restaurant but is being renovated so they have moved the operation to a quite spacious terrace and dining area on the second floor for the time being.
I decided to have a light supper on the terrace and I was seated at a small table against the wall of the main building. I was half way through a tasty hamburger relaxing in the afterglow of a lovely relaxing day, when the table, my meal, and myself were drenched in a sudden torrent of liquid. I leapt up spilling wine and the rest of my dinner all over the chair and table. It was quite a mess. I was quite a mess. As luck would have it the liquid was (we think) water. Looking like a drowned rat I went inside to report the incident.
The manager was suitably impressed, assured me that this was indeed a first for him, and said he would get onto it right away. My clothes were sopping but I decided to treat the whole affair as an unfortunate mishap and ordered a coffee and a cognac. The rest of the diners were most sympathetic. I could probably have drunk for free for the rest of the evening. It must have been quite hilarious for them. A group from Edinburgh came over to report that they had spotted a water stain below a window on the seventh floor. Sharp eyes these Scots!
Well the management comped me the meal and promised to find the culprit (probably a small toddler tossing water out the room window, but who knows!)
I thanked them and suggested that an awning of some kind might be a good idea. Not all their guests are as good natured as me.
So, onward to Japan!
Flying times become longer as one’s age increases. There is quite likely a mathematical formula that could prove this to be absolute.
We swooshed into Narita either yesterday, today or perhaps tomorrow at around four o’clock in the afternoon Tokyo time. One of the flight attendants explained that passing through (or is it over?) the international dateline adds one day to one’s age. I hope this is not the case. Has anyone ever actually seen the international date line? What does it look like, a large line of pontoons awash in the Pacific Ocean? Union Jacks on large poles? A very skinny shopping mall that encircles the Globe?
Mr. Tatsui met me at Narita and we plodded off to Rappongi and the delicious ANA hotel. Took about two and a half hours. I was, as always, pretty knackered I was too tired to sleep; hopefully CNN will send me off to noddy land!
The first 'show' was amazing. A huge facility in downtown Tokyo was booked and clients flown (yes, flown) in from as far a field as Kyushu. Quite staggering. An all expense trip to Tokyo to meet the ‘great man’ and buy my paintings! Scores of Kimono clad sales girls buzzing around at tables and supplying beverages of choice and ear to ear smiles to prospective clients.
But I have to say that Tokyo is fun. New York, Boston et al should send a team over here to learn how to run a city! It is remarkable.
Tokyo is very big; very crowded, very noisy, and very smoggy, but somehow it doesn't feel that way. I think it is to do with the Japanese mentality. Everyone takes a great deal of pride in a) being Japanese b) doing what ever they do with abundant commitment c) showing consideration for each other. We in the west could take a page from this book!
I went to a large department store the other day. We used the elevator to reach the 100th floor. A beautiful young girl in full Kimono was the elevator operator.
Now, all she does all day is to push buttons. Up down, up down. Probably one of the most boring occupations one could imagine and not guaranteed to engender a happy disposition.
But this little lady was thrilled to have us use her elevator. Smiles all 'round. We were informed that this was not just any elevator; this was her own personally managed elevator (note flower arrangement on wall preese). She assured us that she was indeed a fortunate young woman to have such a fine piece of equipment to take care of. ‘Preese enjoy your shopping and hope that you will use my elevator to return to street level. In the meantime I assure you of my courteous attention’.
I mean really, can you imagine anyone doing that at Bloomingdale's?
Everyone seems to take this kind of pride and enjoyment in their work, from road sweepers to executives. It all contributes to the overall quality of life.
Japan is refreshing. There is a certain elegance to life here that weaves a reassuring tapestry to the daily grind. Excessive politeness is a damn site better than overt indifference. Even with questionable dental work the Japanese always seem to do their best to be presentable!
The over-the-top punctiliousness can become a little difficult at times though. For example, I had an amusing experience this morning.
I was due to be collected at 12.30, so I had to have something to eat before leaving the hotel. I ambled into the 'Cascade' on the ground floor and asked if I could get eggs and bacon, sort of a late breakfast.
The lady was thrown in to an immediate catatonic kerffuffle. This was something that she had been dreading. It is eleven o'clock. Breakfast officially stops now. (The array of breakfast goodies were still on display right where they had been at 6.30 when I took my first breakfast!)
Now it is lunch.
O.K. Can I get bacon and eggs for lunch?
The lady is getting in a right puckyaki: Oh! Christ what do I do? Here's this damn Gaijin who doesn't understand that it is lunch. Breakfast finished already. Best ask manager, he'll know how to deal with this. Oh! Oh! Oh! Why me? These wretched foreigners are forever messing up the smooth running of restaurant life.
There ensues an ernest debate between hostess ladies, manager, floor supervisor and a couple of waiters putting in their two-penny's worth.
Finally a decision is reached. The Manager replete in full morning suit approaches me and beams his greeting.
So sorry breakfast finish at eleven (it is now 11.20) but Hallam-san may partake of lunch if he wishes.
O.K! I thank him and I am seated with much fuss and palaver.
The waitress arrives and thankfully speaks English I order coffee.
I know that it is now officially lunch but I figure one last ditch effort: why not?
Can I get eggs and bacon? I ask.
Sure, says the waitress, how do want your eggs?