“In April 2010, the National Police Agency instructed police nationwide to begin cracking down more seriously on “small” crimes like shoplifting, littering, graffiti writing and other “behavior that could disrupt social order” as a way isolating petty criminals early and preventing from committing worse offenses. The aim of the effort was to make Japan “a society in which crimes cannot easily take place.”
I wish I could describe the feeling in the room without using a dated reference to “The Matrix” but I can’t. You know the scene when Neo finally does that gravity defying awkward lean backwards while dodging an insane amount of bullets? The near-stillness of the moving shrapnel fluttering around him that then suddenly speeds up? How the surrounding sound that was muted before filters rapidly back into a loud BOOM as Keanu goes from slow motion to real time?
That’s how I’ll remember it: the sloppy and pointless hiding of evidence and the failed erasing of internet posts that were already reposted and the coordinating of the alibis. The stressful rubbing of the forehead and the witch hunt for someone to blame that infected each of us. Well, we all agreed that it was Pablo’s fault: that fact was certain to us like the blue sky, but in the end it was all of our faults. Once we accepted that inevitable truth, as intense the moment was, it was over and everything settled like the dust after a fall out. We are vandals—international vandals now—we all knew the risk and the only rule we followed is every man for himself. Well, there are other rules (fill-ins over tags over markers and yadda yadda yadda) but in the trenches when those lights come on you’re nothing but a roach amongst many on a tenement apartment floor.
LOVE ME decided that he had enough for one evening and calls it early. M**T, exhausted from trying to rationalize all of this, followed suit. SERF and I were electric. We were in total vacation mode — far from the “lay low” mode we were obviously supposed to be exercising. We both needed drinks, something to suffocate and erase the memory from our frazzled nerves. I needed it more the comedown from the rush of almost being locked up was professional steel-cage wrestling match brutal. I received a text from N*W with directions to some bar not far from the hotel and thankfully in the opposite direction from the scene of the crime. Our responsible adult selves committed to being well behaved, banning the shenanigans like our 1st night in Tokyo and our 2nd night at the train tracks. Our manic, compulsive ignore-what-our-responsible-selves-just-committed-to selves grabbed some moremarkers and a couple more cans of paint.
I grabbed another camera to document it all.
The bar could have made millions in the Williamsburg part of Brooklyn. It had a seedy hotel feel with red velvet walls, plus a ski-lodge sensibility that came embellished with elk horns and exuberant antique picture frames. The chandeliers that filled every inch of the ceiling were as Victorian as they where dusty, although the dust took nothing away from their eloquent and dignified beauty. N*W was outside smoking a cigarette while Will and the two models, Tanya and Kamaryn, sat inside what looked like the tableau of a sexy high fashion gothic photo shoot. In the back of the bar there were a couple of older Asian gangster types smoking cigars, and a bald, leather-faced bartender that could have been the Japanese Vin Diesel. I felt his aggression in my heart when he told me I couldn’t take a photo in his bar. The disconnect between my heart and brain became apparent as I ordered a shot, turned the flash off, and marker mopped his entire bathroom.
I love tagging bathrooms.
Everyone chatted up the “Great Alaskan Escape” (Will and the two girls shared the same flight to Tokyo, which had to make an emergency landing in Alaska due to engine trouble, delaying their trip by a day) while I bummed N*W for a cigarette outside. Before we left the hotel room we all had agreed not to tell ANYONE about N**S’s arrest, as to not alert Tanya – whose mother just happened to be our host – and endanger the upcoming exhibition for And A and not get paid. Of course, after three drags off my duty free cigarette my diarrhea of the mouth made its appearance. I topped off the gossip with a “but don’t tell anyone else” cherry that decorated the N**S cake NAW would then slowly share with the rest of the group – and why not?! One of us was already in jail and most people would consider that important news. For someone whose sole means of income was based on keeping things quiet I sucked at being the clandestine person I should have been.
The more drinks we poured, the later the night went, and the more removed I was from our “Great Tokyo Escape” the more it set in. Excitement like that you just don’t hide. This was me receiving my Boy Scout adventure badge—and what was the purpose of having one if anyone doesn’t know? (This particular conviction won me a “what the fuck is wrong with you?” award from S**F – who stated this fine piece of contradiction as I played look out for him as he casually defaced half of Japan.)
We paid our tab and left what could easily have been—décor-wise—the inside of a Betsy Johnson purse for a better party with a clientele less “townie” and without the murderous edge. Le Baron, a well known “It” bar in France, had recently opened up a Tokyo outpost. We opted out of taking a cab and walked what felt like thirty blocks to get there. The girls skipped in their slender heels and giggled charming drunky girl stuff while the boys leaped-frogged over each other scribbling on any surface within reach. Our friend had been in jail for no less than two hours, and whatever lesson we should have learned from that fiasco we skyrocketed it out of Tokyo like a clown in the circus cannon.
By the time we got to Le Baron it was around 3 in the morning, and the Tuesday or Monday (in all honesty, by then I had lost track of the days, and I was only in Japan for two days) night lull had cleared out the spot, which was closing their doors. DJ LINO, a good friend of Z**T (whom we had not heard from since the “Great Hand Job” escape), who had a three-month DJ residency in Japan, met us outside the dead venue and suggested we all go to Club Jumangi in the Roppongi Hills District. It was “Models Night”, also known as “No Need to Twist Our Arms We Are Going Night”. I took a deep breath after vomiting bits of the previous night’s anxiety in my mouth – swallowed it – pulled up my jeans and we all split up into separate cabs.
There is some rule in Tokyo nightlife where if you are hired for a residency, you’re not allowed to appear in another competing nightclub. You’re not even allowed to walk in as a client. DJ LINO’s residency was at a club called Fiera, a spot rumored to have been owned by a member of The Yakuza, a very well known and feared Japanese mob or gang or whatever you picked up from any nineties action flick. None of this meant anything to this New York City DJ as he used his tongue to grant us free passage into a club we paid to get into the night before. Now we were being ushered into for free like visiting celebrities. Since it was “Models Night” any female model (or male? We never *ahem* got asked) got to drink top shelf liquor for free. We had two of them; both ethnic-looking with legs longer than the attention span a simpleton could have used to pay attention to calculus. The ladies received their magical free booze wrist bands and the men feverishly sent the ladies to the bar for drinks so many times you could have swore our models were over worked cocktail waitresses.
The activity in the booth we acquired for ourselves reached microwave popcorn levels of frenzy. DJ LINO and his imported Swedish model arm candy were the first to leave our 4am straight-out-of-a-movie – night – bowl of excitement. Before he left, he introduced me to a friend who was selling the coveted green plant I had been fiending for. Before he even told me the price, I was already pulling out yens like a sex addict at a strip club. His boy slipped me what I would normally pay $10 for on my block: an honest third of a gram. “Okay,” I tell myself, confident that getting stoned in Japan was going to be cheaper than my duty-free cigarettes.
“How much?” I asked, scanning the room as if I could spot a Japanese undercover cop.
The DJ might as well have stopped the music; everyone in the club might as well have turned to me and gasped in unison. I paid what equated to $75 for a $10 bag of weed. You only live once. Right?
Soon enough Will and N*W decided to leave with the girls in tow – leaving only S**F and I to troll the spectacle of a Tokyo “Models Night gone after-hours”. If I don’t mention how apprehensive I was about the intense one-on-one hang out time I was going to have to with him then I’d only be telling half the story. You would swear S**F was bipolar by the stories you would hear of him. He was known to be as charismatic as he was chaotic. Before I could find out if the rumors where true, we were approached by a bouncer, who upon finding us quickly proceeded to talk on his headset while shouting accusations none of us could understand. Then another bouncer followed, translating what the first bouncer was shouting at SERF.
“You graffiti up our bathroom!!!”
“Yo, what are you talking about? I didn’t even go to the bathroom.”
When we first entered the club a bouncer had searched the plastic bag S**F was carrying with him which still held a couple of full spray cans. The bouncer didn’t care- as long as it wasn’t booze and S**F promised to keep it in the bag. S**F kept repeating over and over that he didn’t go to the bathroom, but the bouncer wasn’t having it; he called more staff over and pointed to the hidden cameras located in the booth we occupied and in the surrounding nightclub. Exhausted from defending himself, S**F demanded to be taken to the bathroom and shown what exactly he was being accused of. I followed, knowing exactly what they are going to see: a huge S**TL**T tag I took a couple of minutes earlier with a Krink ink mop. The drips from the ink were still running wet down the wall, staining the fingers of a really pissed-off club manager.
From what I gathered we were being kicked out.
S**F led the pack with an intensity that could only be described as a General going to war. The entire staff of the club followed his march with me several steps behind like a curious but cautious shadow. Before we descended down the stairs that lead to the exit, I ditched the Krink that was seeping ink through my jeans like a Tell Tale Heart. S**F was still holding the bag of spray cans when we reached the exit and one of the Nigerian bouncers posted outside tried to snatch the bag from him. This prompted S**F to flail his arms around like he was defending a rebound he caught in a basketball game. The Nigerian then tries to bear hug S**F but couldn’t find a grip on S**F’s wiry frame and wound up hugging himself. Another bouncer, a chubby Ukrainian in a Men’s Warehouse suit, popped out of nowhere from the left of me and gave chase—but quickly fell victim to S**F’s fancy footwork. The bouncer lost his footing and landed on his face. When he fell every single item in his pocket and one of his shoes exploded from his person like an Andy Capp cartoon cloud.
S**F’s moves went from basketball court to Track & Field as he sprinted down the block—knees nearly touching his chest—as the Nigerian bouncer again joined the hunt and followed. The only thing missing from this montage was theme song from “Benny Hill”. Soon they both vanished around the corner to the right. I, under the disguise of feigned confusion, slowly shuffled to the left of the street, undisturbed in the opposite direction of the commotion. My only thought being “We just saw Pablo get arrested several hours ago—what the fuck?!”
It was 5 AM in Tokyo and the only person who knew where the hell we were – and who had the room key to our hotel room – was now gone. And I had weed on me; a drug I would find out later that’s very punishable by Japanese law, on my person.
I was in Japan, riding dirty, lost and alone.
But let’s fast forward for a minute.
(To be continued…)