Tokyo Damage Report



This is an odd dream in that I have really good recall of all the episodes (for once!) but I can’t really recall the sequence. It’s almost like a hologram where the same images (themes) reflected in each tiny section. Maybe there’s no sequence to the vignettes because there’s only one vignette and as you turn it different ways it expresses the themes using different visual metaphors. You know, like a hologram. Anyway….

I am suddenly awoken by voices singing sexily in my ears. It’s Corbett and Dan, from the band The Children MacNuggets, singing the Sausage Song. Without opening my eyes, I chime in, improvising a third, contrapuntal melody and it sounds sweet. I open my eyes, and here we are inside a tent, just as we’d planned. We’re in the tent section of Sears, inside a huge Sears room, except not only are we somehow sleeping in the tent, but we’ve got a recording studio in here and boy is it cramped. I’ve put the Roland 8-track recorder on an upside-down comfy chair, since the bottom is the most stable surface a comfy char has. I’m vaguely afraid about getting kicked out of Sears but there seems to be an unwritten rule that we can use the tent two days in a row, as long as nobody sees us. We cluster around in the near-darkness, and record all day.

I wind up at (my high school pal ) Chris’ parents’ house. It’s like the condo they actually own, but bigger and dimmer: one big room with tilted ceiling and a bunch of arbitrary walls that jut out from the edges of the room, but never go far enough in to subdivide it into smaller rooms. I’m dragging Chris to the TV, saying, "You gotta see this! This is the funniest shit ever!! I got this for a quarter…." And pop in an info-mercial videotape from the very early history of info-mercial-dom. It’s poorly done, poorly thought out, and even the color is all washy and grayed out. Adding to the patheticn-ess, it must of cost the makers a ton of money to make, money which was wasted because neither one of us had ever heard of the product being advertised. Also the obvious irony and hubris of seeing obsolete technology being touted as ‘the latest thing.’ It’s set in what’s supposed to be a ritzy, high-class black-tie dinner place, but the high-class restaurant is actually back at Sears. They just brought 8 tables in and sat some rich folks there.

The MC is Robin Williams, who’s doing his manic shtick, alternately pestering the diners and touting this bulky, early-style Radio Shack videocamera. Presumably the infomercial was filmed with this videocamera, and that’s why it’s all washy and gray. Williams is all coked-up and keeps calling the camera the "Motherfucker-1000" which, bizarrely, is sometimes overdubbed with the real name of the product in what’s pretty obviously someone else’s voice, and sometimes left in, for example: "Hey, mister, you with the nose, have you ever heard of the amazing ‘Motherfucker-1000?’"

Suddenly I’m in the video, seated at a table, watching this fiasco unfold in real-time, and I notice, off to the sidelines, my old art-school chum Lucy. She’s toting a clip-board and I get the feeling she’s producing the infomercial. She’s got short hair again and is in her usual Smart Black Dress. I walk up to her and say, "Oh man, you’re doing an amazing job here. This is tremendous. I’m speechless, really." She comes back to my table as the crew is packing up the props and so forth, and we start talking. As we talk it becomes apparent that she’s incredibly drunk, and also quite depressed. She starts sobbing and, in a gesture of complete hopelessness, puts her face down in a prop plate of half-eaten food. I realize my jovial mood has been insensitive and totally inappropriate, and I’m overcome with compassion and, and start stroking her hair saying, "There, there, it’ll be ok," and things like that. She responds by raising her (somehow unbesmirched by sauce) head and looking at me with huge moist eyes and I start caressing her face.

Suddenly, I realize it’s time for the second day of recording, and that I’ve left the Sears tent unattended. Seized by fear, I rush to the tent section, where, sure enough, all the recording gear is strewn about by the tent. Customers are touching shit, distortion boxes with batteries have been on overnight, etc. I run around, tidying up but then give up when I realize the overwhelming effort involved in getting everything to somehow fit in that tiny tent, and get set up again.

Frustrated by the turn this video I’m in has taken, I somehow come back out of the VCR and into Jones’ parents’ apartment. His dad comes in with this short, plump, middle-aged Asian woman with gray hair cut in a bob and a matching gray cotton dress. Chris enthusiastically greets her by saying "Hi, Mom!" I realize that we’re in Tokyo and his dad has remarried, and Chris doesn’t seem to realize this!
I can’t think of a tactful way to bring it up with his folks standing there, so I just keep mum. We leave the apartment and go out on the streets. It’s very dim and gray there, like everything’s in a twilight because the sun can’t get past the skyscrapers. This doesn’t affect our mood, as we laugh and joke about the infamous Motherfucker-1000. Chris suddenly ducks inside a tiny store. I have no idea what they sell, or why he ducked in without telling me. It’s more colorful and cheery than the surrounding street. It reminds me of the stores on the bridge of the Japan Mall in S.F.: tiny and with a sliding glass door that covers the entire front of the shop. I don’t know if I am allowed in because I have some uneaten food with me, but the shopkeeper– sort of a younger version of Chris’ "Mom"– beckons me in with a smile.

Later I’m walking through Tokyo by myself and I see Steve Settle, another high school pal, sitting on a 5 foot high concrete embankment surrounding one skyscraper. He’s got a notepad. I step up and reintroduce myself… "Remember me?" and so forth. "What are you doing nowadays?" I ask. He says "Drawing." "Can I see?" He shows me his pad. It’s got pencil drawings, and it’s about 9×12". The main drawing is of a very gray city, with four or so major tall-ass skyscrapers, and on each of the major skyscrapers is a giant squid. It’s ambiguous whether the squids are being impaled by the top of the buildings or they’re eating the buildings. During mating season, the male squid will grow a sort of penis on the end of its largest tentacle. In Steve’s drawing, each giant squid has its ‘penis housing’ arm sticking out at a 45 degree upward angle, and there’s a little man impaled on the squid arm somewhat the way the squids are impaled on the skyscrapers. To take the analogy even further, each impaled man’s penis stretches out from him at a 45 degree angle also. What impresses me the most is the full-bleed, skillfully gradated sky that turns from light in the center to super-dark in the corners, all done with this very patient ‘little overlapping curlicues’ technique they taught me in design school for doing non-smudging gradations. I compliment Settle on his scaling-scaling.


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