No nation embodies better the hybridization so characteristic of modern life than Japan, and on Friday, by boarding a plane, I’ll touch down on its frozen soil late Saturday afternoon for my tenth trip over. I get filled up, ironically, by its silences, by what is left unsaid there, and the unspoken phrases and observations help lead to improvisation and recollections. No wonder old school jazz is the rage in Japan as well as a backwards look at confining, rigid traditions.
The plan is to bathe a lot and nap a lot on matted floors and see friends and try to come up with the place needed to establish authority over troubling stories of loss. That is the next book, and that is the challenge: How do you write about tragic events while creating a safe place for others looking in?
The great jazz musicians did it, from Armstrong through Ellington and the Count, to Coltrane, Miles, Pepper, and Evans: Until the mid to late ’60’s the music was not cacophonous; the events around it were.
Food certainly is the sound we’re talking about–the pleasure needed to embrace the loss. But what about going directly into the depths of the loss that inspired that need for pleasure?
Does the result have to be a noisy barrage of histrionic anthems or self-referential rant?
That’s where Japan comes in: Return to nothingness, find an originality and start from that point and take small steps towards precise observation.
Open your heart and close your mouth.